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Changing a Bike Chain in Ten Minutes… And What You Need to Know About Connector Links, Missing Links, Power Links and Old Worn Chains.

I do my spring maintenance on the family bikes throughout the winter to have something to tinker with.  Yesterday, after we rode on the trainers, showered and ate lunch, was dedicated to chains on the good bikes.  My Venge, and my wife’s Alias.

I use high quality chains for the good bikes.  A SRAM Red 11 for my wife, and a PC-1091r for me.  Why SRAM chains?  Simply because that’s what they carry at the shop.  I know, KMC makes a better chain, and yes, I’m fully aware I can save $20 online but I choose not to, because I want my local shop to stay open.  It’s actually a little tricky justifying doing the work myself in the light of that last sentence, but whatever.  I can live with it.  I LOVE tinkering on my bikes.

I get a full season out of the chain on my Venge because I take care of it so well, and that bike rarely sees a drop of rain, let alone a deluge.  My wife goes through two a year, but she rides her good bike through everything.

A few tidbits about chains:

  1.  They don’t come in the right length out of the box – your chain size will depend on your chainset and cassette combo – they make them big enough to cover all of the combos, so you’ll have to trim a few links off your new chain.
  2. You need a chain break tool for this.  I use a simple breaker on a cycling multi-tool (and an adjustable wrench or channel locks if you need extra leverage).
  3. SRAM chains come with a connecting link that is only meant to be used once.  When used more than once, the opening stretches and they don’t hold as well.  If you’re one who likes to remove their chains for cleaning use a Whipperman  ConneX chain connector (and you shouldn’t need a tool for this one).  SRAM’s links do fail if you reuse them (I don’t worry about once or twice, but more than that, no way).  It happened to me on a chain I used to take off every time I cleaned the chain, 15 miles into a 100 mile ride, downshifting from the big ring to the little to climb a hill.  Boom.  Slack.  Just like that, the link popped.  My friends rode away (after I called SAG) as I was looking for the other half of the link.  I did, miraculously, find it and caught them at the next rest stop.  KMC says you can reuse theirs two or three times before they need replacing.
  4. You want to replace your chain before they’re really sloppy.  Waiting too long will round out the cogs on your chainring set ($85 – $275) and your cassette ($35 – $310).  If you want to get every last second out of your chain “because the man is lying to you about how long they last to get you to buy more chains” (at $30 – $75, ahem), well go right ahead and use ’em till they brake.  While you’re at it, replace the chainrings and cassette, though, because now your shifting will skip when you put a new chain on if you don’t.  It’ll skip because you’re a knucklehead.
  5. Buy a chain checking tool and use it.  
  6. A new chain will shift crisper than a worn out, dead one… unless you let it go too long, then see #4.

So, to change your chain quickly, assuming your old chain was the right length, use a pair of chain pliers to remove the chain and set it down on a 6′ long stretch of paper towels, so it’s straight from one end to the other.  Take your new chain and set it down next to the old, lining up the links.  The new chain will be slightly shorter because the old one stretched out with use, so with your pointer finger, count each link together on the old and new chain till you get to the end of the old.  Then make a bend in the chain.  Remember this; you’re going to want to break the new chain so the outer plates go away.  I always go left to right, so the inside plates on the left, outer plates on the right at the bend.  Use your chain tool to break the new chain.  Clean the chainrings, cassette and jockey wheels, shift down to the smallest cog in the back, and install the new chain with the provided link.

If you screw up and break the chain at the outer plates, you’re going to have to push the pin back in using your chain tool.  Doing this is very bad.  If you don’t get it just right, your chain could fail on you.  If you do get it right, though, you’ll probably be fine.  I just took a chain off that I changed whilst hungry (not recommended, ahem), thus breaking the chain a half-link short.  You’ll have to get the old pin started in the hole to get everything lined up and back in the chain too.  You can press it in with channel locks or needle nosed pliers (this is not easy).  You just want to get it in there far enough it won’t move when you put everything in the chain tool.  Once you’re satisfied everything is lined up, crank it down and run the pin back in.  Don’t run it too far, either – you want the pin to set EXACTLY like all the others.  The important word in that last sentence is exactly.  Make it so… and hope for the best.  It worked for me, though pro mechanics will tell you to get a new chain.  It’s up to you, but I’m WAY too cheap for that.

Winter is Getting Short, I’ll Be On the Venge in Less Than Two Months

We’re going through our normal February cold snap, but unlike the normal two-week stretch, it’s only going to last a few days. It was -5 when I went to work yesterday. And that’s with an “F” after it. With a “C”, it was -20 (this morning is a balmy 9 or -13 C). My buddy, Chuck still managed to ride outside yesterday even though it only got to 17° (-8 C) during the warmest part of the day. I rode, happily, on the trainer. If spring were to start tomorrow, and it most definitely will not (c’mon global warming! absolutely, I believe it’s real, but I side with real science over politicians on the effects, little to no bad, LOTS of good), I’d be ready to go. I’ll use the few remaining weeks to lose a few more pounds and get used to pushing harder gears, though.

Mrs. Bgddy and I are signed up for three of the six major rides we’ll do this year. DALMAC, which is entirely sold out for the first time in a long time, and a couple other favorites. I’m also signed up for the Dawn Farm Ride for Recovery, the only single-day ride I’ll sign up for in advance (even if the weather is crap I want them to get the money, I’m obviously behind the cause). I’m getting a little stir crazy, though. I want to get out on the road. The weather outlook is favorable, too. Just about the end of the month it should be in the 40’s (5 -8 C) – more than warm enough to get me out the door.

The Trek is riding as good as it ever has while I’ve owned it and the Venge is even better, and with new compact chainrings. If I get a nice stretch of weather on one of my road trips this year, it just might make a showing.

All is well this winter, and I’m excited to get 2020 on the road.

“We Can’t Think Our Way Sober”

From the Daily Reflections, yesterday 2-13-2020

To the intellectually self-sufficient man or woman, many AA’s can say, “Yes, we were like you – far too smart for our own good…  Secretly, we felt we could float above the rest of the folks on our brain power alone.

I won’t lie, I was never so afflicted.  In reality, I was so scared straight, with the exception of having some trouble getting through the fourth and fifth steps (the second or third time, but the BIG fourth, nonetheless), I didn’t care much about my ego, I just wanted the straightest path to getting better.  I accepted that I knew nothing, and that helped me immensely.  As they say, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

In any event, I was lucky enough to attend one of the most rigorous in-patient treatment centers in the State of Michigan.  During my stay, they completely broke me down so they could build me back up.  They told me what was happening, and, for the most part, I let it.  One of the first lessons was, “Your best thinking landed you in this treatment center”.  The point was, if you are afflicted with believing your intelligence means anything in here, you may want to guess again.

Self-knowledge is just about as useful as self-will or willpower in recovery.  I know where my lane is, too, and I don’t bother trying to sneak out of it.  While the uninitiated might think because I’ve managed to put together a couple of decades and change in continuous recovery, that I’ve got “willpower”.  This is mistake.  I have the willpower of a potato.  I make it seem otherwise by living a life of consistency and discipline.  One little slip-up in either, and I could very easily find myself in a gutter – and the fact I’ve been away from it so long would mean I’d crash twice as hard and twice as fast.  Disastrous is a good word.

Looking at intellect as a plus in the recovery equation is just as problematic.  Those who believe they’re of superior intellect, and indeed, often those who actually are, can suffer an over-inflated ego along with that intellect.  This can lead to arrogance which, in turn, causes one to believe they may be above certain aspects of the recovery process by decree.  Those who don’t possess that inflated ego simply accept that which the intelligent individual must suffer till they submit.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is chock full of stories from those who went before and proved the point.  Intellect, used properly in recovery, is a potent gift.  Used to justify skirting recovery’s principles is a fantastic opening salvo to one’s next drunk.

As a Cyclist, Typically You Only Hope Your Legs Look Good…

I’m 26:02 into my 45 minute trainer session. I glanced at the clock because it’s the first time I want to quit. I’ve been pushing the hard gear since I started pedaling and the effort is starting to hurt.  I’m just a few days away from up-shifting to a harder gear and I’m not exactly looking forward to it… I make February’s brutal so I can enjoy March and April.

I’m at the end of a documentary on Carroll Shelby (Shelby American 2019 on Netflix – if you liked Ford vs. Ferrari and want to know the rest of the story, this is a FANTASTIC watch) and I look up from my Garmin as the credits begin to scroll down the screen… and that’s when I see it. Against the black screen. The back lighting must have been just perfect to pick up the reflection of my leg because I’ve never seen my reflection in my tablet’s screen before. Every chiseled muscle in my left leg popping against the effort. Muscles I knew were  there, but never knew were there.

You hope they are, of course. You train hard and eat pretty well, but unless you’re outrageously vainglorious, with your favorite floor mirror propped before your trainer, you never really know if your legs look awesome…

Until you catch a glimpse of your glorious leg bobbing up and down as you pedal, because the lighting was once in never, just perfectly so.

You know what happens next;  I picked up the pace and pushed harder against the increased resistance.  I cursed progressive resistance and settled into my pace.  As the light outside died, the reflection went with it and I’m left watching Terminator 14(ish)… the one with Christian Bale as John Connor and Sam Worthington as the Terminator turned good guy until the timer hits 45:00.

Training is going well.  We’ve got just 36 days till spring and I’m ready for it.

Only Drug Addicts Have a Stigma Equal That of Vegans… And The BBC Entirely Misses the Simple Gist of Why That Is.

An article written for the BBC claims:

People love to moan that vegans are annoying: research has shown that only drug addicts inspire the same degree of loathing. Now psychologists are starting to understand why – and it’s becoming clear that the reasons aren’t entirely rational.

And that’s just the headline! The best part is, and you won’t find this in their article, that loathing is entirely rational, as I’m about to demonstrate.

So why do normal, rational people have a disdain for vegans equal to that of people who cheat, steal, and lie to remain the dregs of society? Well, don’t bother clicking on the link to the BBC article to learn something useful, you won’t. Truthfully, I’m surprised vegans don’t inspire more loathing than addicts and alcoholics do… that would be entirely rational, too.  At least in an addict, being a scourge is a part of a disease…

To understand this, because I happen to be one who holds a special disdain for pretentious vegans whilst not losing my $#!+ about it, I’ll be able to let you in on the secret the BBC wasn’t able to discover.  Now, as a disclaimer, I know there are quite a few upstanding vegans/vegetarians who read my blog regularly – you are not of the pretentious variety and should not take this post to be directed at you – it most certainly is not.  For the aforementioned secret, we need only look at a typical vegan’s actions from the perspective of looking at the actions of a newly recovering addict or alcoholic.

Imagine an addict who found, miraculously, recovery. They found the answer to their unique dilemma and completely changed their ways.  By unique, to use alcoholics as an example, only 10% of the drinking population end up an alcoholic. 90% of drinkers have no problem whatsoever…  They then, in their exuberance, decide to push others to work their recovery program, not just to help other addicts, but normal people as well.  Not to present an environment in which those others can understand what it’s like for we addicts and alcoholics to recover from our addiction(s), but to actually push normal folks to accept and work a recovery program in their lives because the addict/alcoholic thinks it would be good for others to live the way they do because, in the estimation of that addict/alcoholic, normal people just aren’t living up to the addict’s standards – they’re not living right.

Then, and this is the fun part, for those who resisted (as any normal person should), the nutters break into their homes, steal and/or break their stuff, disrupt their family lives and way of life with the hope the normal folk would cave and follow their way of life… This is what vegans do and why normal, polite society has a disdain for them.  As for the normal vegetarians, they get the short end of the stick due to a bit of guilt by association.  The nutter vegans are so loud and horrible, as soon as you hear “I’m a vegetarian”, it triggers instant daymares of the “allow me to tell you why you’re living wrong, you animal murdering bastard” conversation to follow.  We, as they say, simply turn and run for the hills.

That’s the level of pretentiousness exuded by vegans. That’s why vegans are despised. It’s not just that they are just pretentious, obnoxious, hateful people. It’s that they demand others share their idiosyncrasies and wildly misplaced and supercharged guilt. They’re typically ignorant as hell, while maintaining that pretentiousness, and won’t rest until others follow their chosen way of life no matter how wrong it is – and that’s maddening to normal folk who want to have peace and eat their bacon, too.

Take, for instance, a recent example in which two vegans broke into a farm in Italy to “save” some rabbits. They liberated 16 bunnies but failed to understand that those bunnies were mothers. Liberating the mother bunnies caused the death of more than 90 little, innocent, baby bunny rabbits and reports say they killed another five trying to liberate the 16.  Point is, that woman and her team should be charged with breaking and entering, theft, then as a terrorist (same with eco-terrorists).

As for the ignorance, we only need know that vegan diets are typically woefully deficient in many nutrients that cause various illnesses unless synthetic, man-made, hyper-super-duper-processed supplements are taken to maintain some semblance of health.  Here’s a news flash – eating a balanced diet is actually quite simple, until you try to eat vegan.  At that point, you have to micromanage your diet to get the nutrition right.  It’s not supposed to be that way, folks.  Even then, science is beginning to show that people who rely on those supplements are at greater risk of developing certain cancers and illnesses.  Sure, vegans claim to feel healthy for a time, but eventually malnutrition catches up and they run into health problems.  Hair thins over time and starts to fall out, and eventually they become sickly.  Generally speaking, that’s a lack of iron, iodine and Vitamin D, and a few others, dears, and guess where you get iron, iodine and Vitamin D.

The BBC claims loathing vegans isn’t entirely rational? Bullshit. It’s perfectly rational. I’d go as far as logical, and trying to ignore the reasons behind this reasonable loathing, blaming it on something else, only helps to keep the perpetrators ignorant as hell.

If I described you, if you’re a vegan who would break into someone’s home, farm or place of business to stop someone else from eating a healthy diet you happen to disagree with, stop it.  You’re a terrorist and an idiot.  If I didn’t describe you, this wasn’t about you in the first place, and I’m glad you’re a normal functioning part of society along with the vast majority of everyone else.  If you got a chuckle, well, for that I am grateful.  I’ve done my job.

An Avid Enthusiast Cyclist Never Misses Leg Day…

every day is leg day1787471896493529504..jpg

Yes, by the way, that hill is so freakin’ steep it actually looks steep in a photo – and that’s saying something.  It was between 25 & 30% till you get around the bend.

Swap Meet Find of the Year; Daddy Gets a New Dome Protector!

I’m a cycling helmet wearer. I’m not above going out on a solo ride without one, on dirt roads, but when I’m riding with my friends, I wear a dome protector without fail. I also come down against helmet laws or compulsory “rules” requiring them, even if I do choose to wear one almost every time I ride.  Simply put, riding in a group, it’s wise to protect one’s melon.  And I do the vast majority of my riding in a group.

That said, I’ve had my eye on an S-Works Prevail melon cover for years. I just couldn’t justify spending a whopping $225 on a helmet when a Propero III ($140) or an Echelon II ($90), or even an Airnet ($150) would fit the bill just fine… and I was actually thinking about jumping brands for the new Bontrager Specter WaveCel ($149.99 – I like the helmets that won’t let bees into the vents as I’m slightly allergic).

Sunday was our local swap meet, though, and I managed to stumble on the exact S-Works Prevail helmet I wanted, in medium, and the guy only wanted $20 for it (it had been worn lightly, but not enough the pads, strap or shell show any wear whatsoever). Folks, that WaveCel melon cover is nice, but $20 for a Prevail simply can’t be passed up. It’s an older Prevail model with the red and white color scheme:


Even being an older helmet (no signs of wear or exposure to sunlight – a deal breaker in either case, no matter how cheap), it’s a bad@$$ brain bucket. Surprising, it wasn’t as light as I figured it would be. My Echelon II is only slightly heavier.

That said, the venting is vastly improved over the Echelon and Propero models, and the chin strap is much improved.

We browsed quite a bit, my wife and I, but I didn’t find much that really turned my crank. My wife walked away with a nice pair of fleece-lined tights, but a lot of the stuff on display was either junk, worn out, or overpriced.  There were two cool exceptions; a friend of mine was selling an adjustable track quill stem and handlebar from a 1939 Schwinn Paramount. It was spectacular… for only $700. Ouch! He also had a spectacularly restored 1976 Schwinn Paramount track bike for $1,500. The Schwinn was hard to walk away from, especially being a Bicentennial bike (USA Bicentennial, 1976). It was glorious, and I have the money in the bank.  Thank God Mrs. Bgddy was there with me.