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What It Feels Like When Your Rear Derailleur Is Going Bad. The Venge Gets Fixed.

I got home from the office an hour earlier than normal, yesterday. It was a hard week so I took a bit of liberty so I could sneak in a ride before bowling. My wife called shortly after I left to inform me my order from JensonUSA showed up, too. Two new Shimano 105 chainrings and a new medium cage 105 10-speed rear derailleur.

I had the new parts on and derailleurs adjusted in less than a half-hour, and I won’t lie, I was pretty stoked at how quickly I got the parts on and derailleurs dialed in. I dressed and headed out for the test ride. The test was perfect. I hit every gear quickly, no lag in any gear, and the new chainrings were an excellent upgrade to the aftermarket chainrings I’d had on the bike.

Unfortunately, I’ve got something that’s creaking wildly when I get out of the saddle. I installed the pedals from my Trek when I got home to see if the pedals had gone bad (not it), so the next logical issue is the seat post. I removed it, cleaned it, hit it with some carbon paste and installed it again late last night so I’ve got my fingers crossed that’s the issue.

If not, it gets expensive.

Now, I was fortunate. I spend so much time tinkering with my bikes, I knew something was amiss a few weeks ago. The shifting was still quite good, but the derailleur was finicky about the barrel adjuster setting. It had to be just right, within a quarter-turn, or the chain would skip lightly in certain gear selections (it sounded like the barrel adjustment was just a touch off). New cable housings, expertly installed so as to avoid friction in the cable, didn’t help and once I knew the cable and housings weren’t an issue, the need for a new derailleur was a no-brainer. The chainrings were an added bonus. I was assuming that’s what was causing the gravel grinding sound when I got out of the saddle. I was incorrect, but drivetrain-wise, I’m set for at least another five, maybe ten years once I get the source of the noise corrected.

Where this gets fun and exciting for me is what’s next for that old Ultegra 10-speed derailleur. Next, I’m going to try to refurbish it with a new kit to see if I can’t get it back to working like new so I can put it back on the Venge and save the 105 derailleur for “just in case” either the 105 on the Trek or Ultegra on the Venge goes kaput in the future.

I’d have taken a new photo, but to be honest, it doesn’t look much different from the old photo… and I was way too busy having fun to bother…

More later.

The Hylix Specialized Venge Seatpost: It FITS, and I Like The Saddle Attachment Bracket Better Than The Original…

I cracked my Venge seatpost during a seated sprint late last season. I heard it go as I passed 33-mph trying to hold off a friend going for the Durand City Limits sign. It was actually quite the excellent battle. I didn’t have time to stand when I noticed my friend trying to pass on my left. I’d started ramping the pace up a more than a mile earlier, expecting I’d have dropped everyone (or at least convinced them not to bother trying to come around). Jonathan, however, had been busy much of the summer and hadn’t been riding much – he was feeling spunky. I put everything I had into the pedals. It was about the third revolution I put some serious @$$ into it and heard the faint crunch. I did pull away from him well before the line but there was damage…

The owner of our local shop had a look at it and said as small as the crack was, it’s orientation on the seatpost, and with all of the good surrounding fiber, it’d likely last me decades without a problem.

So let’s say it lasts a decade. How many Venge seatposts are going to be floating around out there in a decade, now that the entire line has been discontinued? That’d be approximately zero. A few weeks ago I decided to try to locate a replacement. I struck out with a Chinese exception on eBay. My extensive search produced the Hylix Carbon+Ti Seatpost for my bike and a couple of others.

I hesitated to pull the trigger for more than a week, hemming & hawing about whether or not to risk it. I imagine I could have gotten an original from Specialized for a few Hundred Dollars, but the allure of saving more than $200 and wondering if I’d someday have to mothball my favorite bike finally proved to be too much. Even if I doubted it would fit properly.

I bit the bullet and ordered the Hylix and crossed my fingers. The link above is to the seller I bought mine from. 100% flawless sale.

It came in the other day and I dig it immensely. The saddle clamp is tricky at first glance, but once I figured out how to use it, I like the idea better than the original. We’ll have to see how it works out on the road before I’ll render final judgement. After the visual test came the fit test. It fits exactly as well the original. The carbon layup is sharp and it’ll do nicely once it got its Punisher sticker.

The packaging was more than adequate and the matte, naked finish is quite cool. On the other hand, it won’t quite match my bike as it is, no matter how cool that may be…

I’ll have to think that a bit, though. The naked, no paint look is growing on me… it matches the wheels, too. I ended up swapping out the seatpost last night after looking closer at the crack in the original with a magnification app on my phone. It looks like the damaged area was growing. I may try to have the original repaired, though I think that’ll take a little more than some epoxy… In any event, the new seatpost is on the Venge and the saddle’s been dialed in and I gave it a go on the trainer last night to make sure the saddle clamp would hold the saddle solidly. The only minor wrinkle is that, unlike the original saddle clamp which is self-centering, you have to watch to make sure the Hylix mounting system holds the saddle straight. Mine was off by a lot the first time I set it… it won’t self-center perfectly. That said, once it’s in and cranked down it’s solid. I didn’t experience any problems with the saddle moving throughout my 45 minute workout. There is also one component that the replacement post exceeds Specialized’s: The Hylix’s 7x9mm oval mounting clamp better fits the rails of a carbon saddle.

In any event, you can see more care went into the layup and construction of the original Specialized seatpost (lower right photo, the original is on the left). The side wall on the original goes thin while the Hylix sidewalls are almost the same thickness as the ends. Interestingly, the layup for the outer layer is quite close to the original.

The important part is, the Hylix seatpost fits as well as the original. The only question that remains is how well it holds up to my @$$ on the road. If it’s near as good as the Ican wheels I’m rolling on my good bikes, I’ll be a happy cyclist.

Boa Replacement Laces for Cycling Shoes and the Key to Installing a New Set to Make Them Work Properly.

Boa laces are possibly the best cycling shoe tensioning system ever devised. I’ve tried them all; Velcro straps, ratchet straps and Boa laces. Velcro is Velcro. Enough said. Ratchet straps are reliable, but they lack panache. Boa lacing systems are slick, have panache in spades, but the coated cable laces will eventually fray and snap. They’re guaranteed for life, though.

My first lace broke after a year of constant use on my Specialized Torch 2.0 shoes. I filled out an online replacement form at Boa’s website and they sent me two replacement laces with new dials. Free of charge. The down side, they had to be tied and assembled. A YouTube video made the process easier, but it was still intricate work.

The replacements worked for another year, but there was something off… the dials and lacing system just didn’t work like it did, new. I noticed the right lace fraying again, just last week.

This time, rather than wait till the lace snapped to get my replacement (you have to submit a photo to get a right and left replacement set), I decided to look around at other options. Sure enough, Specialized sells full sets for $10. I bought two sets, one for my shoes, and a replacement set for just in case.

The best part, these came pre-assembled. No tying, no screws or special screwdriver tool, you just loosen the lace, unwind it, thread it around the eyelets, and snap the new dial in (you removed the old one with a flathead screwdriver, per the instructions)… I thought that did the trick, one worked perfectly. The other was close, but not quite. So I did a little sluething and figured out what went wrong. Or more to the point, what I did wrong.

The trick is getting the cross-over lace on top. In the following photo, the right shoe is correct, while the left shoe is wrong – the cross-over lace runs under the other:

So, specifically, the “cross-over lace” is the lace that goes from hoop to hoop.  The other goes hoop to dial.  If the hoop to dial lace is on top, when the system tightens, you end up pinching the cross-over lace to the shoe which binds it up as illustrated with the shoe on the left.  The right shoe tightens up evenly and without binding.  To remedy this, just pull the loops, making sure when you lace everything through the hoops, the cross-over hoop-to-hoop section of the lace is over the hoop-to-dial part of the lace.

One other interesting tip when installing the pre-tied system; you start with the boa dial upside-down.  This way, when you cross the laces over, the dial is right-side-up.

Friends, in my humble opinion it’s worth paying $10 for the set, to have them pre-assembled and to be able to have a spare set waiting should you break a lace and need the replacement immediately.  Instead of 10-15 minutes extra per shoe, trying to get them tied right, installation takes less than a minute.

My rule for spare time goes as follows; if I’m saving $150 an hour, it’s worth my time because that’s what I value my free time at.  A set of pre-tied dials costs $10 and saves me 20 minutes, or 1/3 of an hour.  1/3 of $150 is $50.  In other words, worth it times five.

Death of A Shoelace; Fixing a Broken Boa Lace on a Cycling Shoe

My very first pair of cycling shoes had three Velcro straps, just like the good old days when tennis shoes came with them. My second pair, a triathlon shoe, were Velcro as well. My first pair of legit road shoes had two Velcro straps and a ratchet strap. By then I knew all of the cool kids had Boa closures for their shoes, but I got a great deal on the ratchet strapped Specialized Road Pro’s. Finally, I bought a pair of Specialized Torch 2.0’s and found out why the Boa’s were so popular. They’re almost infinitely adjustable on the ride and they’re simple.

I also learned, when a friend’s lace snapped, that it’s good to have a backup pair of shoes and that Boa laces and ratchet systems are guaranteed for life (the laces appear to be some sort of plastic covered metal). I like guaranteed for life.

Last week, a lace broke as I was putting on my shoe to head out for a ride.

I put on my old backup ratchet strap shoes and rode. Later, I went to Boa’s website, and registered to get my free replacements. By free, I mean free. I didn’t even have to pay postage (though I could have upgraded shipping for less than $10 to get them express shipped). Three days later, they arrived in the mail.

I fixed the shoe myself. My friend, Chuck, said it wasn’t incredibly easy, but it wasn’t too bad, either.

First, fixing a broken Boa lace isn’t easy until; 1) You understand that the most important part is the “under/over” of the loop shown on the instruction diagram. 2) You’ve done it once. 3) You realize the diagrams are actually pretty decent and simple to follow. 4) I took a photo of how the lace was threaded through the shoe – an excellent idea most people don’t think to do.

At that point, it’s a snap.

My shoe is good as new.

The Boa closures are worth paying to get to the upper level of cycling shoes, even more so now that I know how to fix them.