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Cycling with Friends: Part 147 Bucket List Ride Through Harbor Springs, Michigan

No salt, no teeth… It’s not for the weak-hearted, though!  The water is CHILLY – even in August.

The ride from Petosky State Park, through Harbor Springs, to the Tunnel of Trees into Cross Village and back is one of the most amazing rides in Michigan.  52-ish miles of the best Michigan has to offer.  If you ever find yourself in a camping mood, you can stay right at Petoskey State Park and ride right from there.  If you’re not into camping, try a hotel in Petoskey, or better, rent a house in Harbor Springs.  Pick a time between mid-June and the end of August for your best shot at phenomenal weather.

You can find the route on Endomondo by clicking (here)

You can fin the route on Strava by clicking (here)

Specialized Turbo Pro 24 mm & 26 mm Tire 15,000 Mile Review

My first of bicycle tires were Continental Gatorskins.  I know one of their attorneys, and am good friends with her husband, so she was happy to set me up with a set at their cost.  I still almost choked at the cost.  I also had a lot of trouble with them.  Two flats and a busted belt rendered them useless after a couple thousand miles.  Then I went to Specialized Espoir Sport tires.  They were excellent tires, no flats.  Next, I went with Bontrager AW1’s.  Those featured spectacular flat protection but they were slow – so ridiculously slow you could feel the difference between those and the Specialized tire.

Then came the Specialized Turbo Elite, now the Turbo Pro… and salvation.  The Turbo Pro is only slightly less fast that the S-Works Turbo, but is vastly more durable.  They’re all I ride nowadays.  I’ve got tens of thousands of miles on Turbo Pro tires and I can’t say enough good about them.  I’ve since gotten a few flats, a piece of wire from a radial tire belt here, a piece of glass there… look, if you put enough miles on a bike, you’re going to hit something catastrophic – it happens.  What hasn’t happened, though, was wrecking a tire so bad it couldn’t be fixed with a patch and a Dollar bill.

Folks, if you want a solid, well built, fast tire that’s good on flat protection, you can’t go wrong with the Specialized Turbo Pro.  I even use them on my Trek (shhhhh… don’t tell Mike, he’s never noticed and he’ll flip his lid over putting Specialized tires on a Trek).

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Well, if I hadn’t properly staged my wheels in the top photo, you’d be able to zoom in and see the logo.  Unfortunately, with the stems properly in the 6 o’clock position and the tire logos correctly splitting the stem, well, that means the grass covers up the logo.  Cursed bike photography rules!

Anyway, 15,000 miles is short of what I’ve got on these tires, but I had to put something down for mileage…  Look at it this way; they’re what I put on my wife’s bikes because I trust them.

Cycling with Friends: Part 6,491

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Perfect Shifting on a Shimano 10 Speed Drivetrain Requires Perfect Cable Housings, Ferrules, and Fresh Cables

I’ve written before, in a disjointed “update” fashion, about my adventures with Shimano’s 10 speed shifting problems but after yesterday’s adventures, it’s time for a full post. Necessity is the mother of fixing a road bike’s drivetrain is how the saying goes, methinks.

First, Shimano’s 10 speed drivetrains (105, Ultegra, Dura Ace) are notorious for poor shifting quality if there’s any drag in the cable system. And by “any”, I mean any. No drag? Fantastic. Drag? Read on… I won’t be dealing with the normal culprits in this post, things such as dirt, grime, wear, excessive lube, installing the cable improperly on the pinch-bolt of the derailleur, frayed cables, sweat and sport drink-caked cable guide, etc. This post is for a more nefarious issue.

If you’ve got drag in the cable system, here’s what it will present as, in two different scenarios – each on a different bike, with a different component line (Ultegra and 105).

With the first, you can get the shifting dialed in, but it’s hard. One quarter-turn either way and it’ll shift good going up the cassette or down the cassette, but not both. You’ll get a hesitation on one or more gears while others will work just fine. If, however, you get the barrel adjuster dialed in just right, it’ll shift perfectly. It’s liable drive you up a wall, too, because the cause can be tough to track down – it was for me.

In the second scenario, and worse, you’ll get clicking gears, almost like you’re half-geared, going up or down the cassette, but not both. Motherf****er, I’m getting worked up just thinking about it. It gets worse; it’ll happen on specific gears only, upper, lower or middle of the cassette depending on which way you’re adjuster is misdialed. Oh, it gets still worse. You can get it dialed in just right in the big ring, but it’ll click in a couple of gears when you shift to the little ring. We’re going to deal with this scenario first, because it’ll drive a person mad. It did me.

The clicking problem presented itself on my Specialized Venge. Shimano Ultegra 10 speed. I switched housings, cables, almost everything and couldn’t find the damned gremlin. Then I gave the mechanic at the shop a crack at it. He made it better by installing new cables all the way back, but I still had to have it dialed in just right… and I still had the big ring/baby ring problem, though as little time as I spend in the baby ring, it was livable, at least. Still, it bugged me to no end knowing there was something off.

In the end, I got lucky finding the problem. The mechanic at the shop ran the rear derailleur housing exiting the handlebar and entering the down tube about a centimeter too long. It drove me nuts seeing it not symmetrical with the other side. I decided to tinker with it one Saturday to get that cable length corrected. When putting it back together, the ferrule (end cap) was a coated plastic… I didn’t like it and swapped it out for a metal end cap before putting everything back together. After HOURS of monkeying around with it, shifting perfection was achieved at long last. It was that one little freakin’ plastic ferrule that gummed up my shifting so bad, a pro couldn’t figure it out.

Second up is the hesitation in the shifting on my Trek, Shimano 105 ten speed drivetrain. Now this was a little trickier to pin down for one fun reason. The whole bike, from the ground up, is new except for the frame, fork and chain ring bolts. I chose the cable housing lengths myself, based on a guess. I threaded the housings through the handlebar ports. I put it all together myself, brakes, shifters, housings, end caps… all of it.

So let’s just say there was a lot I could have messed up and leave it at that.

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I checked everything and was simply flummoxed. No plastic ferrule, no bad housing, no drag in the system… in fact, I went so far as to leave the rear loop alone because if it worked on the old 9 speed system, why mess with it, right?

Guess what I found out Sunday night? Yep, it was the rear loop that worked perfectly on the original 9 speed system. It was the only thing I hadn’t changed and before I messed around with changing new stuff, because I’d finally had enough, I just wanted to make absolutely sure. I cut a new length of shifter housing (there’s a difference between brake and shifter housing, by the way) and put two brand spankin’ new end caps on each end, threaded it on, connected the cable to the derailleur, dialed it in with the barrel adjuster… et voilà. Doh! Perfect.

The problem inherent in the ten speed system was corrected in the eleven speed drivetrain. The fix for a ten speed system can seem complex, but with a little sticktoitiveness it can be dealt with. The tough part is figuring out where the drag is in the system.

If, by some unlucky stroke, you run into this on your bike, the best advice I can give is run the whole cable system new back to the derailleur. New housings, new cable, new end caps (and be sure to use metal caps)… no frayed ends on the shift cables, too. The problem is drag on the cable, even the slightest little bit will throw the system off, so I wouldn’t use a heavy lube on the cable, either. In fact, if you’ve got decent housing, I’d stay away from lube altogether. Modern shift cable housing doesn’t require it, though check the manufacturers instructions for yours, just to make sure.

This post assumes, of course, that all other issues are dealt with, like a gummed up cable guide (under the bottom bracket shell), the cable is on the proper side of the pinch bolt, the cables aren’t frayed or rusted, the housings aren’t gummed up, etc. etc. etc.

Mechanical Cheating on a Beautiful Sunday Afternoon

It was so abso-freaking-lutely beautiful yesterday, I had to ride outside. I didn’t want to, I wanted to put my 45 minutes in on the trainer and be done… but 39° and mostly sunny, after it was 2° just the other day? No chance. But I wanted to ride the Trek, to see how the changes I made felt.

I knew everyone else would be on gravel bikes.

Still, I wanted to ride my road bike and I figured the dirt roads would be way too gnarly…

So I did.

I prepped it, changed rear wheels, and marched it right out the door. And Doc Mike showed up with his fat bike. Oh, did I feel like a putz! I even turned around to swap bikes, but I’d have had to change shoes and over shoes or swap pedals. It would have taken a minute or five, so I walked it right back out the door.

What a fantastic ride. We averaged 17.2-mph and it was easy the whole way, even into the ample headwind. Mike must have been hurting, on that fat bike, though. Even on pavement, 17 on a fat bike?!

We were out for a glorious 1h:9m:17s. I wanted more, but I also wanted to call it good – I wanted to walk in the door with a smile on my face.

And a smile on my face I had. Mechanical doping? Yep.

Worth it.

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.