Home » Gravel Biking
Category Archives: Gravel Biking
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)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.