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Monthly Archives: December 2018


Why I Switched from a 52/42/30 Triple to a 50/34 Double Drivetrain on the Rain Bike

When I upgraded my Trek’s drivetrain, I could have gone a different way. I could have kept it simple, the nine speed triple was working fine, but I got my big brain workin’ and the idea of the new setup just seemed cool. Black crank, black chainrings… the thought was, to pull out a word from my teenage days, “tasty”.

In the end, I dropped about a pound and the cool factor of the bike went up by an order of magnitude – but, while the cool factor is important, what really mattered was how much better the bike is for the change…

The cool factor does matter but not enough to dictate purchases (well, that’s actually debatable).  I wanted simple and a triple isn’t that. The triple is clumsy and requires too much shifting. On the plus-side of the ledger, 30/25 was a nice gear for climbing steep grades. I could ride up mountain roads that were hard to walk up. However, 34/28 isn’t too shabby, either.  In fact, the 34/28 is surprisingly close to the 30/25 granny gear from the triple.  Having ridden the Trek almost everywhere, I’ve yet to run out of gears with the new double setup – high end or low end.

If that wasn’t enough (and it is), I’ve come to find that the 50/34 chainring setup works better with an 11-28 cassette than a 52-36 because of a hole smack dab in the middle of the cruising gears.  There’s a three tooth jump in the cassette, so with the 52/36 you’ve got a hole from 18-1/2-mph to 21-mph.  With the 50/34, that hole is between 15 & 18-1/2 so you rarely get put in a situation where you can’t make do with one or the other.  With the 52/36 I run into situations all of the time where I’m having a tough time picking a gear.


The 50/34 works so well with the Trek, I’m actually contemplating putting the same on the Venge.  It’ll either be that, or go with an 11-25 cassette instead, to avoid the big 3 tooth jumps in gears.

In fact, to get ultra-geeky on the gearing, I wouldn’t even want to use an 11-26 SRAM PG 1050 cassette – it’s still got the three tooth jump exactly in the wrong place… also, I just don’t know how much I want to get stuck on an 18%er with a 36/25 granny gear.  That just doesn’t seem all that much fun… besides, if I put new chainrings on the Venge, I can go with black.  Now that would look spectacular…

The main gist of the post is this:  You don’t have to settle for the gearing that came on your bike if it doesn’t work for you.  While it’s not always easy or cheap to fix, gearing can be tailored to suit your desires and your riding style – you just have to know what you’re doing when you start changing things.

That’ll be for a future post.


It doesn’t matter how one gets sober…

I read a great post the other day, and it prompted a comment. My friend wrote that he hadn’t originally sobered up for “a will to abstinence” but for “the fear of misery”.

Friends, I see this as splitting hairs.

Whatever it takes to get us from where we were to where we are is all that matters. The impressive part isn’t what got us to finally quit. It’s that we made it at all.

And good on us for it.  Enjoy it like it’s going out of style.  First, not many are as fortunate as we are, to actually find happiness after what we’ve been through.  Second, it shows others what works without having to say a word.  It’s the best advertisement there is.  You’re a living, breathing, walking miracle.  Own it.

I read another post that encapsulated it perfectly in a neat little quote:

“Most of us feel we need look no further for Utopia. We have it with us right here and now.”

Bill’s Story Page 16 of the Big Book.

I feel that on a daily basis. That’s not to say life is perfect, but from what I came from to where I’m at… it’s really, really, really super-freakin-awesome.

What Would I Do if I Ran Out of Words?

I read a post from a blog I just started following a short time ago. It tickles my funny bone to think of the question, posed to a writer:

What do you do when you run out of words?

Now, I don’t necessarily consider myself a writer, but in some respect I know I’m close enough for government work. That said, I do post prodigiously. I think I’ve posted almost every day for the last four or five months – I just checked.  I only missed two days since June. It’s a rare day I run out of words, but what if I did?!

This is very simple…

I’d buy a new bike. But with disc brakes this time.

Or I’d put a new crankset, stem, handlebar, pedals or wheels on that bike:

Or I’d paint an old bike, and outfit that old, majestic beauty to bring it back to its former glory… to make it even better than when it was new:

Or I’d go on a cycling trip with my wife and friends:

Problem solved. I don’t know as I’ll ever run out of words… just in case, there’s the one thing that makes all of that awesome stuff possible:


Yep. That’ll do. I’m good. Chuckle.

Bicycling: Watch: Driver Tells Cyclist He Can Safely Use Phone, Then Crashes

Bicycling: Watch: Driver Tells Cyclist He Can Safely Use Phone, Then Crashes.

This one is funny!

I must add though, I don’t condone riding between traffic, in the middle of the lane, just because we can fit.  Still, I had a nice laugh.

New Study: Sleep is Good, But Let’s Not Overdo It…

I just read a report on a new study that shows some serious adverse effects of getting too much sleep.

The researchers collected data from over 116,000 people who lived in 21 different countries around the world. They followed them for eight years and found that those who slept more than eight hours a night were more likely to experience a cardiovascular disease or death.

To be exact, if the participants in the study slept eight to nine hours, the increased risk was 5 percent. That’s not a huge increase, but the risk increases drastically from there. For people who slept nine to 10 hours a night or more than 10 hours a night, the risk jumped to 17 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

And naps?

It seems that naps are great, but only if you slept less than six hours the night before.

Friends, I’ve been a five to seven hours a night guy for decades. Decades. And for decades I wondered if I was slowly killing myself because I wasn’t hitting that magic eight. So the six to eight hours recommended in the study is a relief. At least I’m close.

As the report concluded, everything in moderation, my friends. Even sleep.

A Noob’s Guide for What to Look for In a New Bike; Components, Brakes, Shocks, and Just About Everything Else…

I read a post the other day that spurred me on to write this post.  A wife and husband are picking up new bikes and they chose gravel bikes with Shimano Sora Components… so I thought it might be neat to write about my extensive experience with much of the Shimano line… because I’ve got close to the full line between the bike room and the garage.

Specialized Venge:  Ultegra 10sp.
Trek 5200:  105 10sp.
Specialized Diverge:  Sora 9sp.
Specialized Diverge (wife’s bike):  Claris 8sp.
Specialized Alias (wife’s bike): 105 11sp.
Specialized Rockhopper Sport Disc 29’er:  Acera/Altus mix
Trek 3800 (mtb):  It’s a 2008 entry level…
Co-Motion Periscope Tandem:  105 10sp.

So, here’s the deal.  A lot of noobs get into trouble purchasing inferior components for the style of riding they’re looking for.  Myself included, right up until I bought my 5200 and Venge… and the Rockhopper 29’er – that was an important purchase as this post goes.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

Most noobs are going to go to the shop with a number for how much they want to spend and pick their bike from the price-range.  While one must keep an eye on the budget, this is entirely the wrong way to start a bicycle purchase, especially for the avid enthusiast.  This will work for a gravel bike, but definitely not a road bike and not a mountain bike – unless you’ve got the big bucks and you’re going high-end anyway.

2016 Diverge A1

Shimano Claris, on one hand and the line that came on my wife’s gravel bike, is gnarly stuff.  I wouldn’t put that on a bike if you paid me and I’m going to upgrade her out of that as soon as I can afford a better drivetrain.  The problem with Claris is that my wife and I have both ridden on 105 equipped bikes.  Once you’ve ridden good components, the Claris never seems like it’s dialed in quite right.  It’s not that it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work as well as what we expect.  Sora, on the other hand, a step up from Claris, and the line I have on my gravel bike, is surprisingly nice.  There’s a large gap between the two lines and even though I’m quite the picky enthusiast, I’m always impressed with how well my Gravel bike shifts.  I’d never want Sora on one of my good bikes, but it’s absolutely acceptable on the gravel bike.


To get off on a tangent for a second, another thing to look out for, especially on mountain and gravel bikes, is the brake system.  When I was looking for a new mountain bike, I wanted to upgrade from my entry-level Trek 3800 but I didn’t want to go too crazy.  My wife bought the Rockhopper Sport Disc 29’er for a few good reasons.  First, the upgraded fork.  The entry-level rigs come with a shock that isn’t all that tough.  Not enough for what I’d put it through.  As a cyclist gets stronger, their ability and willingness to hammer a bicycle increases, thus the weaker entry-level fork had to go – it simply wouldn’t hold up to the abuse I was capable of putting it through.  Next was the brakes…  Entry-level brakes, mechanical disc brakes are good enough, but hydraulic discs are the only way to go.  On top of that, the discs themselves are pretty gnarly at the entry-level grade.  If you heat them up on a descent then splash through a puddle, the cheaper discs can warp.  So rather than spend $460 on an entry-level mountain bike, I went for the $700 model and I’m really glad I did.  It’s held up great and been an enjoyable bike.

My Specialized Rockhopper Sport Disc 29er…  Beefier fork, upgraded disc brakes.

My first “real” bike, the 2008 Trek 3800 – plain entry-level in every way.

And this is really touching on the important point here; my wife and I are avid cyclists and, to put it simply, the quality of the Claris line simply isn’t up to our performance needs.  While there’s nothing really wrong with the line, it’s not up to the rigors we’ll put it through.  To be able to keep up with us, we need something sturdier.  I was hoping we might get away with saving some money on the gravel bikes but I was mistaken.  After all, a $3,000 gravel bike isn’t such a big deal in the scheme of things.  Buying two of them, well now you’re talking about some money.

Put simply, my friends, entry-level components are great for entry-level cyclists.

105 and Ultegra

It has been said, since long before I was a cyclist, that 105 is the base minimum for race-worthy Shimano components.  105, especially the 11-speed 105 components, are butter when compared against the lower component lines.  The line is also Shimano’s workhorse.  105 is the line for the abusive cyclist who puts their bike through the paces – even the person who tends to shift heavy (under pressure – not weight) can reasonably rely on 105 to work well for years.  Its only penalty is in weight.

My Trek 5200 – a 1999 vintage super-bike with a 2013 drivetrain.

Finally, we come to the limit of my personal riding experience; Ultegra.  The Ultegra line is almost as durable as the 105 line (not quite, but very close) and saves about 200 grams (almost a half-a-pound) over the 105 component line.  Where the Ultegra line shines is in its smoothness of operation.  The Trek above came with an Ultegra triple drivetrain and that component set was absolutely put through the ringer over seventeen years before the shifters started failing from use, abuse, grit and grime (the bike was beat up pretty good before I bought it).  Imagine your Thanksgiving turkey dinner.  Mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing/dressing, maybe a little salad…  though I left something out – the gravy.  That’s the difference between the 105 and Ultegra lines, the gravy.

My Specialized Venge with Ultegra components

The shifter/brake levers are carbon fiber in lieu of alloy, and the components work smoothly and flawlessly.  They’re light, wonderful and not even in the same continent as the Sora components.  105 is a good line of components, Ultegra is great.

Dura Ace

There once was a time when the Dura Ace line was ultra-light, but finicky to keep tuned.  Those days are long gone.  The line is ultra-light still, but it doesn’t suffer the old stubbornness.  It’s wildly expensive, but if you absolutely have to have the lightest bike possible, this is the end of Shimano’s line.  The only place to go after that is SRAM Red – not even Campagnolo can get under Dura Ace.  I have several friends who ride the Dura Ace line and I’ve never seen a missed shift – and I’ve spent days riding next to or behind Dura Ace bikes.  Dura Ace is as good as it gets.  The only downside to Dura Ace is cost.  I can get an Ultegra cassette for $50-$60.  A Dura Ace cassette runs $130-$140 online.  It could be worse, though the aforementioned SRAM Red cassette goes for double that.

The Conclusion

So there you have it, my friends.  Each component line improves in quality and durability up to 105.  After 105, the durability drops (though not significantly) with the weight, but the quality increases.  As a noob, you’re going to have to decide whether or not you’re going to become an avid enthusiast or not, pretty quick.  Cycling is, as you well know, an expensive sport to begin with.  It’s exceptionally expensive when you have to buy multiple bikes to get out from under the lower component lines.  It’s much better to swing for the fences early, if you know what I mean.

My March to 10,000 Miles…

I started out the 2018 doubtful I’d be able to beat 2017’s 9,392 mile total.  A lot went right last year and I had to ride a bunch just to make it to 9,000 miles (let alone almost 9,400).  Humorously, when I started out 2017, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to beat 2016’s 8,509 miles… That’s been a theme, really, since 2012.

2011-2018 Overview.JPG

Eventually (probably next year?) I’ll plateau, even drop mileage year-over-year, and I’m perfectly okay with that because now that I’m up in the higher mileage bracket I’ve realized something important:  The 10,000 mile mark, while ‘neat’, isn’t the important part.  What’s important is the time in the saddle I was able to spend with my friends.  I had a lot of fun this year and I’m excited for another packed full with great memories.

As a final note, for those who don’t consider trainer miles as miles ridden, for your count, I have 8,000 miles this year (almost on the nose).  As far as I care, though, I figure if I ride the miles, they count.  I’d happily ride outside if it wasn’t 15° F (-9.4 C) and dark at 5:15 in the evening.  Gotta love winter in Michigan.  In any event, with the days I’ve got left in 2018, if I average 15 miles a day I’ll have 10,000 in the bag – and that should be easy enough.

Ride hard, my friends.