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Monthly Archives: January 2016

The First 30 on My New Trek… And How to Fix Skipping Gears

It didn’t take long to get my first ride in on the newly repainted 5200.  We put in a great 30 miles yesterday…  Thank God for El Nino winters!  If the rain holds off, and it’s supposed to, we’re meeting this morning to put in another 40.

My wife and I had to move some things from one church to another first thing yesterday morning so while my friends all started at 10, my wife and I couldn’t make it until 11 so the fellas looped back and picked us up less than a mile from our house.  We then headed south into a ridiculously heavy wind 15-20+ mph wind.  Normally that’s maybe enough to sniff at but yesterday it was pretty tough (I think not all winds are created equal – some are heavier than others).  I got wow’s all around from my buddies on the new paint job, Mike, Phill and Chuck and we formed up and headed into the southwest wind…

Just a mile and a half down the road and Mike starts looking over his shoulder. Then he moved a little to the left, which I’m good with because that’s the direction the wind is coming from anyway so it’s a little easier to draft. Then he called Phill to come up and he started talking about ride plans for tomorrow so I’m just sitting in, paying just enough attention to be safe in the pace line…

And Phill made a move for a town sign. I was caught unaware and had no chance. Mike had me perfectly boxed out. I gave Phill a deserved fist bump when we caught up to him.

The group moved fairly well considering the wind and we didn’t miss much since the close of last season. We just fell into our places. Six miles later and I set myself up for a good one… Gaines Twp has two signs, maybe 300 yards apart and I was going to take both.

I was second bike behind Chuck and he’d been up there for a while so I tried to bide my time without waiting too long… I launched early to catch everyone else off guard. I passed Chuck pretty handily and pounded the pedals but I noticed Chuck’s wheel to my right, he was going to give me a run! That’s when my gears started skipping.

When I saw Chuck’s wheel I reached down deep for another gear and went for it. I realized quickly that the more aggressively I pedaled, the worse my gears skipped so I tried to round out my stroke. When that didn’t work, I just hammered it, gears be damned. I held Chuck off by a matter of inches – and almost felt guilty… his effort was plenty tough after pulling for more than a mile.

We both dropped from 25 mph down to about 12 to catch our breath and let the others catch up… Then I surprised him with a second weak sprint before the others caught up. Perfect, two down.

We resumed normal cycling till we hit the Byron town sign but I was leading out into a gnarly cross headwind and had nothing in the tank for a sprint. Mike ate me up, and I let him (hey, sometimes I’m the sprinter and sometimes I’m the lead out). The rest of the ride was pretty tame but my gears were slipping a lot more now… and I figured out the problem about four miles from home.

When I put the Trek back together I went with 5 mm housing instead of 4. This gives a better shift quality but the 5 mm housing caps I was given are too tight for the rear derailleur cable boss. I tried my best to jam it in there but it must have worked loose. As I get into the smaller (harder) cogs on the back, the cable slacked, allowing the cap to come out of the boss… this meant the cable moved and changed the tension on the derailleur so it tried to shift into another gear. Thus, what felt like the gear slipping was actually the derailleur trying to shift.

After I got home and showered up I went to the shop and picked up a different cap. I took three minutes to take the cable apart and change the cap, put the cable back together and voila, no more slipping. It’s crazy that something so simple could cause so much trouble, but there it is.

I knew my chain and cassette were good, I just replaced them about 500 miles earlier, so it had to be in the cable. All bikes that have externally routed cables have attachment points where the cable and housings are kept to the frame:

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Now let’s zoom in…

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Now just a little more…

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Okay, so you can see what I’m referring to… you see three distinct pieces of metal (not including the cable). The piece on the left, that’s the boss and it’s bolted to the frame. Then you have that odd looking lever** in the middle, then the housing cap. That cap is pushed into a corresponding hole in the lever… this is what it looks like when it’s right:

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You should be able to see that a lot less of the cap is showing in the photo above… Without getting too technical, derailleurs work by being pulled into position by a cable. The smaller the gear (this holds for both derailleurs), the less tension there is on the cable. As the gears get bigger, tension increases on the cable. When I’m cruising at 18 mph, in the middle ring up front and the middle gears in the back, everything is okay because there’s tension holding the cap in that hole… When I shifted to a harder, smaller gear for that sprint into Gaines, I decreased the tension on the cable and there was a little bit of slack at the cap. When I hit a bump, the weight of the housing pulled the cable to the ground, creating a lever or more precisely a fulcrum at the end of the cable housing cap and the hole in the lever. When that cable dropped, for a split second the tension on the cable was increased and the derailleur tried to shift to an easier gear. Thus, what felt like a slip, it was actually the derailleur doing what it’s designed to do.

Knowing my way around my bikes pays off again. And now I also know that all caps are not created equal.

** The lever… In those zoomed photos, that lever that the cap sits in is a very special lever designed to be used in the event that the rear shifter breaks and cannot be used to shift the bike. There are three positions. The current resting position, then you reach down and twist it away from the frame… this changes the tension in the cable enough to give you two more gears. Kind of neat actually. Most bikes don’t have this feature, it just appeared for a short time in the past – whether it is exclusive to Trek or not, I do not know.

Rebuilding My Trek, A Confession and Apology…

I had big plans for the rebuilding of my 5200.  I thought about doing a YouTube video of the build.  I scratched that idea for several reasons.  There aren’t a whole lot of photos on this site of my full face without sunglasses and a cycling helmet on my melon.  Maybe a half-dozen over the four years and change I’ve been writing this blog…  This is by design, and a requirement of my recovery.  It is what it is.  Then, why would anyone want to bother watching me build my bike?  It just didn’t make sense to me.  Then there’s the time into editing a video and getting it ready to upload…  I’m way too busy to go through all of that.  Too much work, too much going on.  Oh, and it’s tax season.  No way I can mess with it right now.

I started building the Trek back up.  Put the saddle on, put the handlebar on, brakes, the wheels…  I took photos of all of it for a big photo illustrated build post:

Look, I’m already not fast when it comes to this stuff.  Well, that’s not exactly right either;  I’m not “mechanic” fast, I’m everyday Joe fast.  Taking photos of everything adds about 30 to 50% more time into completing repairs, for something this big, that’s a lot of extra time.  It became apparent early on that this was going to take too much time if I kept at it this way, so I did the selfish thing and quit with the photos so I could get the job done.  There isn’t going to be a big write-up about how I put a bike together, I just got it done.  So, Sue, Bri and anyone else who would have been interested, I am sorry for taking the quick road on this one.  On the positive side of this, instead of having to slog along on the Cannondale with the guys today, I’ll be able to take the Trek out for it’s first road ride.  In about four hours as a matter of fact.

Complete rebuild time was about three, maybe four hours including all adjustments and a few trips to the bike shop for a few things that I needed.

For Posterity’s Sake; It’s Doubtful My Trek Will Ever Be this Clean Again…

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Oh, and this is what it looked like when I bought it:

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Sadly, I was inside before I realized I was in the middle chain ring…  Don’t let the sunshine fool you, it was cold enough I didn’t care, I wasn’t going back outside.

Before and After, What to Expect from a Professional Bicycle Paint Job

This is my 1999 Trek before a $400 paint job ($305 for the paint job, $75 for the decals):

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This is after:

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Now, unfortunately when I took the “new” photo, the bike was a little dusty still – my excitement and exuberance at just how awesome the frame turned out got the best of me.  It is what it is.  Still, you can’t miss the stunning difference between the two photos.

Now, I could have sanded that frame down myself (you can’t use a chemical stripper on a carbon fiber frame for obvious reasons, they have to be hand-sanded).  I could have tented off a corner of my garage with a few tarps for a make-shift “spray booth”.  I could have gotten my hands on some high quality spray paint and painted the frame myself.  Then I could have scuffed the paint up with a Scotch-Brite pad and applied the decals and hit it with two coats of clear coat.  Add in the new bottle cage bosses….  If I had a different day job – and it wouldn’t have turned out that well.  In other words, it was worth every penny.

To wrap this up, $300-$400 is not a lot of money for a professional paint job that takes a frame that looked like the one in the old photo and gave me the one in the new photo.  If you’re in the market for a simple paint job and you’re being quoted ridiculous prices (I know guys who paid thousands for a bike paint job), the shop that did mine takes bikes that are shipped to them.  Check out their price list any other pertinent information here – scroll down to see the paint prices.

I should add, watch the incidentals and add-ons. They add up in a HURRY. Definitely best to take the bike apart yourself and just ship the frame and fork…

It’s Done! My 17 Year-old Trek is a New Bike!

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Oh, and the red?  It matches perfectly!

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Saddle’s on…

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Then the handlebar…

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Then the brakes…

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And wheels…

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Then the derailleurs and crank…  Brand new cable housings… and all that’s left is to run the cables.

I’ll post the finished photos tomorrow.

YES!

Fixing that Voice Inside My Head that Says, “You’re not Good Enough”…

Yesterday was one of those miserable days where you simply can’t figure out what you did to piss off the powers that be but you know you certainly pissed them off.  It was one of those “career flashes before my eyes” days, it was that bad.  Well, technically it started at the end of the business day on Monday (makes sense when I look at it that way).  In any event, I spent a lot of time over the last two days making sure we would salvage the day.

I got on my bike around lunchtime yesterday, shortly after noon, to do my 45 minutes on the trainer.  The more I pedaled, the harder it was to keep my mind on my workout and off of work.  What was meant to be a hard ride ended up being quite easy. Every time I’d get a decent groove on, the phone would ring and the mess would get worse.

I wrapped it up after just 30 minutes.  If I made it 9 miles, it would be a shock.  I barely broke a sweat.  18 mph on a trainer is a joke, I’m usually between 24 and 26 mph on a decent effort.

I knew three things:  1)  That workout was lame, 2) That was the best I could do given the circumstances, and 3) That this was just one of those times where life was going to intrude on what I wanted to do – it happens.

The steps I’d taken the night before paid off and everything worked out better than I’d hoped was possible.  By the end of the afternoon I hoped I was out of the woods but wasn’t sure of it yet.  Last night was a lousy night of sleep.  Maybe three or four hours.

Today, everything is fixed and back on schedule.  Right as rain.  The work I did over that past two days paid off.  Only once during that time did I get the inkling that I was not doing everything I could to ensure the best possible outcome for my corporation:  When I was on my bike, even though it was lunchtime.

By lunchtime the next day, not only was everything right, my guys found a new gear and actually beat an insane deadline by a day…  I did my job so that my guys could do theirs and if I hadn’t done mine there’s no way my guys could have done theirs – this post would have been very different.

We all have that voice in the back of our head that lets us know when we’re messing up, that we should be doing more, that we have to do what is uncomfortable for things to work out in our favor…  Ignoring that voice or finding a creative way to ignore it by doing something unrelated is what leads to the “I’m not good enough” voice (or thought).  Whether it’s work or a workout, the only way the notion that I’m not good enough can survive is if there’s some truth to it.  Either that or we’re dealing with False Evidence Appearing Real.

The fix is truth.

Not self-knowledge or awareness, that’s not good enough, at best it only helps.  I’m talking about the truth, unvarnished, unpoliticized* and devoid of falsity.  Truth.

The truth was that I had to let go of what I wanted to do in order to get done what needed be done.  My next workout was phenomenal, as one might imagine.

This also applies to my workouts.  If I phone it in, if I whine about every little tweak and minor pain I have, if I take it easy when I should be going hard, if I wait until all of the stars align and nothing hurts, not only will I not progress, eventually I’ll start falling back.  This is when that thought, that I’m not good enough is right.  That has no place in my life.

It’s only when I can get a lid on that fear so I can do what needs be done that I can beat the thought that I’m not good enough…  It’s only when I know that I am that I find peace.

Just a thought for the day.

*Politicized Truth is a simple enough concept.  Politicians practice it every day.  They tell you the good part of what they want to do and leave out the bad part.  Sure, let’s all demand government run healthcare!  WOOHOO!  That’s the part they tell you.  You can keep your doctor!  You can keep your current plan!  These are political truths.  The other half is; No you can’t keep your plan – your monthly premiums are going up by 80% and your deductibles will cost you twice as much at the same time.  You can’t keep your doctor because you can’t keep your plan and a lot of doctors who could afford it, retired to escape all of the ridiculous regulations.  There really is no free lunch either, so if we do this whole hog, it’s wait lines as far as the eye can see and it’s going to cost half of everyone who works’ paycheck to fund it ($4.1 Trillion dollars a year as proposed by Bernie Sanders – and if you think taxing the wealthy is going to cover that you’re an idiot…  EVERYONE will feel it).  Real truth is an honest assessment of the whole thing as it is, not as we want it to be.

Why We Do What We Do…

I push my guys pretty hard, there’s no doubt about it.  There are a few who really take it and run with it though and I take care of them…

Today one of my best guys asked if his wife could pick up his check for him because he’s working late.  Obviously I said that was fine.

So she walks up to the door to grab his check and, with tears in her, “Thank you Jim, God Bless you from the bottom of my heart, for all you do for us”.

I didn’t know what to say.

I finally stammered out, starting to choke up myself, that Vince was one of my very best guys and I don’t know what I’d do without him, that he makes my life easier so it is my pleasure to reciprocate…

She stuck out her hand and I shook it.

She said, “Well I don’t know but you are the man.  Thank you for taking care of us”.

The thing that saddens me is that we conservative people get a bad wrap when it comes to things like this, especially if you listen to our hack of a President (or virtually anyone from the Democrat side of the aisle).  The truth is, I go out of my way to spread what wealth I do have, around – and I don’t need a frickin’ government bureaucrat or some ass-hat liberal politician to prod me into it.  We take care of the people who take care of us because they make our lives better, and this is exactly as it should be.  This was an example of why I do what I do.

Anyway, enough politics for one week… and I apologize for writing this post to make that point.  It’s one of those fine lines between tooting one’s horn (which I despise) and getting out something that needs to be said.