Posts Tagged 'Wheels'

Incomplete cycle maintenance

Planet-X returned my Model B rear wheel on Tuesday with a new spoke and all trued up.  It was good of them to fix it free of charge and it’s nice to have it back so I can finally fix the bike up properly and get back on the road.  I dedicated the evening yesterday to bike maintenance so that I could ride today.

First I removed the front wheel and stripped off my saddle bag, lights and other attachments.  Then I removed the cranks.  I gave the bike a once-over with a soft brush to remove loose dirt, and used a slightly harder brush on metal bits.  Then I gave the whole frame a nice wipe over and cleaned up all of the components.  I replaced the brake pads, front and back.  I then removed the worn out bottom bracket and replaced it with a new FSA MegaExo with the help of a borrowed spanner (thanks Simon!).

After replacing the wheels and cleaning the chain and cranks, it was time to install the new rear derailleur, a Shimano Ultegra 6700.  This is a replacement for the previous Shimano 105 which was damaged as a result of a spoke snapping on the Planet-X wheel and getting dragged into the gear mechanism by the chain (it was quite an upsetting experience).

I attached the derailleur to the gear hanger, as described in the instructions, and set the right-limit screw so the pulley was directly in line with the smallest cog on the cassette.  I then attached the gear cable to the derailleur and attempted to shift to the largest cog to set the left-limit screw.  Shift one – nothing happened; shift two – nothing happened; shift three -nothing happened.  On the fourth shift I felt the cable tighten a bit.  The next few shifts produced some derailleur movement, but didn’t get me more than half way across the cassette.  I thought I must have been doing it wrong.

As I hadn’t gotten any movement on the first few shifts, I went back to the beginning and reattached the cable a little tighter.  But when I tried shifting across the cassette again, I got the same results.  I tried making the shifts with my fingers on the cable so I could feel it progressively tighten, but there was nothing for the first three shifts.  That got me worrying that there was something wrong with the shifter.  Could the shifter have been damaged by sudden cable pull when the derailleur was damaged?  I have no idea.  I’m quite inexperienced when it comes to shifter/derailleur mechanics.

After a lot of persistant effort, the cable finally snapped at the shifter end.  When I tried shifting the lever with no cable attached, it would only shift three steps in either direction, so I’m quite concerned now that I need to do a lever replacement as well as the rear mech.  I jumped on the CycleChat forums to see if I could get any advice and was told to get a new cable, thread it through the shifter without attaching it to the rear mech, and try shifting while pulling the holding the cable firmly in one hand.  I should be able to feel the shifter progress the full range in each direction.  I’ll pick up a new cable on the way home and try it tonight.


FNRttC: London to Brighton and back

Friday 26 March saw the biggest and smoothest ride in the recent history of the Friday Night Ride to the Coast.  This write-up is a few days overdue – I’ve been a bit sleepy and a bit busy since Saturday to get this written, so sorry for the delay.  Anyway…

I got home from work on Friday and settled down for a couple of hours sleep.  I never get any real sleep when I try so early in the evening (even after avoiding caffeine all day), but lying down for a rest does help a bit.  I got up about 20:30 and headed downstairs for a double espresso and pasta with tuna, then checked the weather forecast.  On Thursday, Metcheck had been forecasting a dry night with a very light southerly, which was quite favourable, but during Friday the forecast had started to indicate rain.  It was still showing some rain, but not terribly much. That kind of forecast makes it difficult to decide what to wear and what additional clothing to carry.  At least I knew how cold it was going to be – no less than 4C.  The almost complete cloud cover would prevent it getting any colder than that.

By the time I’d had a shower it was 22:00 and had started raining quite heavily outside.  The rain only lasted a few minutes, but it meant that the ground was going to be wet and more rain could be coming, so I slapped a race blade over my back wheel.  I didn’t want to carry a bag with me so I set about organising my pockets to squeeze in my waterproofs, phone, keys, money, short-finger mitts and a bunch of gels.  Spare tubes, CO2, other tools and things were safely stowed in the little bag under my saddle.  Just one more espresso required.

I set off for Hyde Park Corner about 22:40, riding across Richmond Park and up through Barnes, Hammersmith and High Street Kensington.  The crowds were already building up under the Wellington Arch as dozens of cyclists arrived from around London and the local railway stations.  This FNRttC was a little different to usual.  About 60 regulars were attending and escorting a contingent of 65 riders who were fundraising for the Martlett’s Hospice.  This made the ride an official CTC event rather than an informal ride, so everyone had to sign in.  We had a quick safety talk and then set off at midnight around the Hyde Park Corner one-way system, through little roads to Sloane Square and across Battersea Bridge towards Clapham Common.

A field of 125 riders is a lot larger than the FNRttC had seen before and given that half of the participants were new to the concept of night riding, with some on heavy and/or dodgy looking bikes, one could be forgiven for having a little apprehension about whether or not the ride would run to schedule.  The rides routinely arrive at the coast an hour behind schedule with half the number of riders, so how was this one going to fare?

Against the odds, this was probably the smoothest running FNRttC to date.  It must not be forgotten the Simon Legg is quite a legend.  He had beefed up the group of Tail-End-Charlies (TEC) so there was a high level of expertise available to anyone who suffered a mechanical problem.  Canisters of compressed CO2 were in abundance to speed up puncture repair (perhaps this should become a permanent feature).  There were plenty of wayfinders at the front of the pack ready to give directions at intersections and mark significant potholes.  Riders were appearing on Madeira Drive in Brighton by 8:00 am, which wss right on schedule.  It couldn’t have gone much better!  Let that be a lesson to my pessimism.

I did my share of wayfinding along the route and marked a big pothole in the middle of Lonesome Lane, just south of Reigate.  Standing in the middle of the road signalling for riders to go either side of me, I felt like I should have been blowing a whistle and holding a little triangular flag above my head, like you see in front of traffic islands in the Tour de France.  I was really impressed with all of the riders I saw coming past me while I was wayfinding.  Even towards the end people were looking fairly fresh and smiley.  The half way stop at the scout hut in Horley was instrumental in keeping both spirits and carbohydrates high.  The Martlett’s volunteers pouring tea and coffee, and providing sandwiches, cakes and bananas were marvellous.  It was a well deserved rest for everyone and well-timed as it came just before Turner’s Hill.

To the half way point there had been two drop-outs.  One was a Martlett’s girl who was clearly struggling from the beginning and ended up in the minibus (or sag wagon) early on.  The second was Charlotte, who I recognised from the ride to Bognor Regis in August 2009.  She had been riding a brilliant looking penny farthing, but had come into mechanical difficulty after one of her cranks fell off after descending Reigate Hill.  Despite some attempts, it was unable to be fixed so she unfortunately had to pull out and ride the sag wagon the rest of the way to Brighton.

There were some other interesting bikes on the ride too.  One enormous contraption fabricated from at least three bike frames set the rider about two and a half metres above the ground.  At the other extreme, a recumbent trike with a swept back windshield placed the rider’s head lower than the height of a 700c wheel.  My friends Wheeled Weenie and Cathy rode the whole route on a tandem, the first time either of them had ridden on such a bike.  Quite an achievement.

The tallest bike I've ever seen approaching the summit of Ditchling Beacon

The weather was dry the whole way to Brighton and it wasn’t too cold.  There were several stops along the way but none were too long.  Everything flowed nicely.

A few miles before Ditchling, I noticed that my front tyre had lost a lot of air.  It wasn’t flat, but was quite soft.  I decided to top it up and keep going.  By the bottom of the Beacon it had gone down again, so I stopped to change the tube and then it was up the hill.  I’ve ridden Ditchling Beacon a few times, but this time was the hardest I remember.  My fitness is just not what it was before the winter and it was quite an effort getting up there.  I resolved at that point to start featuring more big hills in my training.

After the Beacon, it was a nice ride past the golf club and down into Brighton for a full veggie breakfast (with hash browns) at the Madeira Café.  There I got chatting and managed to put a lot of faces to names I was familiar with from the CycleChat forums.  It was nice to meet lots of new people.  I also managed to meet on this ride another Willesden CC member who lives not far from me in Twickenham.  He noticed my club jacket while we were preparing to depart at Hyde Park Corner and came over to have a chat.

After some breakfast and chit-chatting, a bunch of us, about 12 I think, got ready to cycle back to London.  At that point I discovered that my front tyre was gone again.  It looks like a little flint stuck in the tyre must have been poking through to the interior just enough to cause a slow leak in the tube.  So I changed the tube again and with no spares left, we set off north.

We ascended what must have been one of the steepest streets in Brighton, up under the entrance to the railway station, and continued from there towards Devil’s Dyke.  Going down the other side of the Dyke was fun and I clocked about 75 km/h!  The route we took followed some beautiful little country roads that were a pleasure to ride through after having been up all night.  But there were a lot of hills and one of our number bonked half way up one of them, opting to stop for a long rest before finding the nearest railway station.

We stopped for a while in a little village and grabbed some food and drink to keep us going, then we jumped onto an A road and picked up the pace past Crawley and Gatwick.  The group then split with four of us heading north-west and the others heading north-east towards Bromley and central London.  We said our goodbyes and Mistral guided us back onto quieter roads towards Dorking.  Along this stretch we encountered our first rain since leaving Hyde Park Corner the night before.  As it got heavier we stopped to neck some more gels and put on our waterproof jackets.  A little later the rain had stopped and I was starting to get a bit hot in the little sweatbag I’d zipped onto myself, so off came the jacket.

With Box Hill towering upwards on our right, we diverted left and took a nice narrow country lane towards Stoke D’Abernon.  We started to see a number of other roadies out for their Saturday training rides.  Mistral told us that there would be one last hill that is a little steep but not too long.  This last hill resides on Chapel Lane and its gradient is over 20% for a good portion of the climb.  After almost 200 km and no sleep, ‘not too long’ felt like it would never end and I had to summon every last bit of will power to keep myself going.  I got to the top in one piece and took a good long breather while waiting for the others.

We rode past Stoke D’Abernon towards Cobham and past the Chelsea FC training grounds.  The road inclined slightly as we approached a bridge over the railway line and then disaster struck.  As I put on a little acceleration, I heard a massive clunk, my back wheel stopped spinning and I couldn’t move the cranks.  I managed to unclip and get off the bike without falling.  My first guess was that one of the rubber straps from my mudguard must have gotten caught in the spokes, but on taking a look it was in exactly the right position and the straps were well clear of the wheel.  I took a closer look and then saw that a spoke on the non-drive side had snapped up near the rim and flown into the chain.  It had then been wrapped around the underside of the cassette and gotten trapped between the chain and one of the jockey wheels causing the derailleur to bend out of shape.

A non-drive side spoke snapped at the rim and wrapped itself under the cassette, becoming trapped between the chain and a jockey wheel and causing the rear derailleur to bend out of shape

I couldn’t believe it.  Not only was I almost at the end of the ride (about 20 km remaining), but the wheel was almost brand new, received from Planet-X in late February.  I really didn’t expect to get broken spokes so soon after buying the wheels and in normal riding conditions.  I’ve even been extra careful in avoiding bumps and potholes since getting the wheels as I haven’t wanted to cause them any damage.  I was gutted.

The four of us all stopped and had a think what we could do.  We removed the derailleur, which was bent well out of shape.  We managed to get the broken spoke out and then set about shortening the chain with a view to me riding single speed the rest of the way home.   That was no good though.  The wheel was way out of true, so that was the end of the road for me.  I thanked the guys and plodded off towards the railway station, which fortunately was quite close by.  A 20 minute wait got me onto a train to Wimbledon where I grabbed an espresso, switched trains and then walked home from Norbiton.

I got home about 17:00.  Recovery drink?  Bit late for that, should have had it just after I stopped pedalling.  Had a shower, got into my compression tights and cooked some more pasta to go with the remaining tomato/tuna sauce from the night before.  Visited Wiggle to see what a new derailleur was going to cost me.  I could always try bending the current one back into shape, but I don’t feel too comfortable with that.  Maybe I could use this as an opportunity to upgrade from 105 to SRAM Rival or Force (or maybe Red, are there any specials on?)  Of course I’d need to replace the shifters in that case (how much are they?  Hmm, quite a lot.  Been awake too long, starting to imagine silly things, spending money I don’t have.  Better stop looking before I press Buy.)  Felt sorry for myself and set my Facebook status accordingly.  Maybe I’d get some sympathy.  Opened a bottle of Gran Bombero, the older, wiser sibling of my favourite El Bombero.  That’s nice.

Managed to stay awake until 21:00 and even thought for while I might be able to have a cosy evening in with wife, wine and a film, but that was delusional.  My head hit the pillow and I was out in an instant.

Mechanicals aside, I had a great night/day out.  The FNRttC was phenomenal, the weather was ideal, the ride back was fun and I made some new friends.  It couldn’t have been much more enjoyable!  The Martletts riders were an inspiration and the charity director who came and shook all of our hands on Madeira Drive was overjoyed with the success of the event.

But I now have a broken bike.  I emailed Planet-X telling them what had happened.  Dave Loughran got back to me saying that they get very few problems with their Model B wheels but that he’d like to take a look at it.  I’m going to get the wheel and broken spoke boxed up tonight and sent back to them.  I hope they’ll be able to fix it up under warranty.  But for now, I’m off the bike.  I’ll keep you updated!

The route we took from HPC to Brighton can be found on Bikely.

Registration for the next FNRttC on 30 April is now open.  The route is to Southend-on-Sea.  More details here.

New wheels

Got my new wheels yesterday.  They are the Planet-X Model B and I got them on special at £99.  What I’ve really been wanting is just to find a cheap second-hand rear wheel that will fit a 10 speed cassette, with the intention of slapping a turbo tyre on it and using it for indoor training.

A barrier to getting me motivated enough to use the turbo frequently is that I’ve only ever had one set of wheels and switching to the Tacx turbo-specific tyre every time I’ve wanted to get on the turbo has been a little onerous (and grubby).  I know a lot of people use their regular tyres on the turbo, but after ruining two in a single session back in 2008, I’m much more comfortable using a tyre that’s fit for purpose.  So having a spare rear wheel built for turbo training and ready to be swapped on or off as required would save me lots of time and effort and keep me more motivated.

So I looked for a second-hand wheel.  Posted a wanted message on the Willesden CC website, no replies.  Checked eBay, several times over several months.  There were not many single wheels being sold, mostly pairs.  Most of the cheap, single rear wheels I found were also only 8/9 speed compatible (although I’ve since learned that any Shimano 8/9 speed steel freehub will also take a ten speed cassette).  The thing is, I didn’t want to pay much as I was only going to use the wheel for turbo – it didn’t need to be light, or aero, or even look nice.  I didn’t really feel like paying £80 for a pair of basic wheels when I only wanted to use the rear one, and only for turbo.
An alternative would be to get a new set of wheels for everyday use and relegate my existing rear wheel to tubro training.  But if I was going to do that, I might as well splash out on something decent and I couldn’t really afford to.  Then I discovered the Planet-X wheels.  It was quite by accident that I came across them, while researching some second-hand Xero XR-1s that were on eBay.  They were listed as a similar alternative so I thought I’d check them out.

Planet-X Model B

Planet-X Model B wheelset

The Model B is light, about 1,650 grams per pair with semi-aero rims and bladed spokes.  I’m not convinced of the overall advantages of bladed spokes, but they do look the part!  The wheels are recommended for fast training, road racing, triathlons and time trialling.  Fast training is something I do, when I can, and I’m keen to get some road racing and time trialling under my belt this year, if and when I find the time.  But at £99 (on special), are they not a bit cheap to be reliable?  I googled for as many reviews as I could find and they were all overly positive.

The only problems described were some slight shimmying when descending at high speed (although a lot of user reviews refuted this), and an issue with the the aluminium freehub splines becoming damaged.  The second issue, on further investigation, seems to be specific to Shimano ten speed casssettes (which have a slightly different shape around their contact points than their 8 and 9 speed counterparts) and is a problem that American Classic have worked around with their wheels by manufacturing special clips and pins to keep the individual cogs in a cassette aligned.  However, the issue does not occur with SRAM cassettes.  As I’m an SRAM man, these wheels should be fine.  At such a good price and with favourable reviews, I figured it would be a better option to get these and use them as my main wheels rather than spend just a little bit less on very basic wheels that I would only use for turbo.

I went out on them this morning on the way to work.  It looked like it was going to be a nice dry dash into the office, but instead it rained practically the whole way.  I don’t mind rain too much, but I’d just spent over two hours cleaning my bike at the weekend and to get it all mucky doing something as mundane as going to work is always a bit disappointing.  My first impressions of the wheels are that they feel very light and fast.  I can get up to speed on them very quickly and seem to be able to hold a slightly faster pace than my old ones at a comfortable level of effort (although that could be a complete placebo – perhaps I just had fresh legs, a nice clean drivechain, tailwind and a case of subconcious post-purchase justification).  They respond well to quick accelerations and feel like they maintain their subsequent speed quite well.  If it’s not raining at lunchtime I’ll head out to Richmond Park and see how they perform there.


I managed to get a lap of the park in for lunch.  My fitness is far too inconsistent at the moment for me to start making objective comparisons between old and new wheels, but the Planet-Xs do feel a bit faster and respond nicely to acceleration.  I find after giving a little kick I can hold the higher speed with the same percevied effort as prior to the acceleration for longer.  I tried to hold a steady 250-300 watts from Robin Hood Gate up to Roehampton, which was quite comfortable, the pace was good and the wheels felt very smooth (I suppose new wheels should feel quite smooth though!).  At about 35-40 km/h they also start making a little ‘cutting through the air’ type of noise, which my previous wheels didn’t.  Not quite like deep section aero rims, but a limited variation of that kind of sound.  Oh, and they also have a much louder freewheel than I’ve been used to, but I don’t think that will affect performance!

Me elsewhere


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