Thursday, November 29, 2018

A bad night in the shop...?

I made an oopsie. Maybe more than one.

3 years ago my race bike, while new to me, was very very worn out. In a matter of about 2 months I ended up replacing most of the moving parts, and since I was tearing it all apart I decided to replace the cheap-o BB adapter with a nice ceramic conversion job. I spent money on it, and I've never regretted that choice.

But after about a year, water intrusion became an issue and it started sounding like a cheap Walmart bike. I tore the whole bike down to a pile of nothing and used some exotic automotive racing grease to repack the bearings, and it spun better than when they were new. It was so good, in fact, that I got into a 6-month routine of tearing down and repacking the bearings with Redline CV-2. That stuff is amazing, but it doesn't last forever, and I put a LOT of miles on that bike.

A couple weeks ago I started feeling a little notchiness in the drivetrain. I'd been cautioned that ceramic bearings do have a lifespan, so I was hopeful it was just time for another repack, but concerned that they might be at the end of their life. I tore down, cleaned, and repacked the drive-side bearing and it rolled smooth as butter. But the non-drive-side bearing, well, I didn't make it very far into the tear-down before things went sideways.

If you're not familiar with bearing construction, or you've never torn one down, a ceramic 2437 angular contact bearing is built thus:



Deconstruction usually begins with removing the seals, which is tricky because they're very thin and fragile, and basically will be damaged by the process. NBD if you keep them dry for the rest of forever.

Disassembly then moves to removing the retainer, which is wedged in place by the ceramic balls. It's not a load-bearing part: its whole job is to keep the balls evenly spaced. In mine, the gaps between the balls have little castellated crowns that hold and distribute additional grease. It's the center object in this pic:



These castellated crowns make a great engagement point for pushing the retainer out the back side (black seal) of the bearing. And that's where things went bad. These bearings had just about 11,000 miles on them, and even with grease they go through a lot of heat cycles. The tool pushed out the first one without incident, but the 2nd retainer snapped. Uh oh.

What broke off resembled the circled part below: enough retainer to carry one bearing, with backing over 2 others. The rest came out intact.


But the way it broke, I took a chance that my non-load-bearing component could be salvaged! Also I had no other real options available, and ordering new bearings--even non-ceramic options--was going to take a couple of weeks.

My thought was that, since the broken piece could firmly hold one ball and extend "wings" to cover two adjacent balls, it would not twist inside the bearing and destroy the whole thing. The larger intact portion would simply butt up against those two outer balls and its overall structure would prevent it doing damage.

So I cleaned everything up as best I could, put it all back together very carefully, and took the bike inside.

There's still a touch of notchiness that you can feel under load on the trainer, but it's undetectable on the road.

I've put about 250 miles on the bike since doing this bodge repair, but so far the whole thing seems pretty solid. There's no question the bearing has no future. It's ruined. But for now, and maybe for a couple of cold trainer months, it seems my "fix" will hold. Or at least I hope so. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Taking care of future me

I get on my son about it pretty regularly, but one of the few lessons I've successfully drilled into my own head is to take care of my future self. We'll save the discussion of finances for a later date, but I have developed a very stable routine of replenishing my supplies long before they are exhausted.

Usually this is as simple as making sure I have changes of clothes at my desk for when I ride my bike to work. About once a week I take the dirties home and bring in 3 or 4 fresh shirts, underpants, socks, and whatever else the weather dictates. That way I don't have to carry all that stuff both ways on my daily commute. I do the same with snacks for exactly the same reason.

Back over the summer, I bought a set of Reynolds tubeless wheels from a big box retailer, and they just didn't work. Couldn't get them to set up on the bead for anything. They'd hold 40psi in the rim bed. I tried tubes. I tried clincher tires. I tried near-detonation levels of pressure: nothing worked. The rim bed was just barely too large. So I took 'em back. But I kept the tires I'd ordered for them, because they'd get used some day.

Maybe a week later I blew a rear tire on my existing tubeless wheels. NBD: sealant to the rescue! Except apparently not, because the cut was slightly larger than what the sealant would handle. After every ride, I'd be covered in sealant and I'd have to wash the bike.

I gave up and put on one of those fresh new tires and completely forgot about the other one.

Then 2 weeks ago I got a chance to do a fast outdoor ride. I took my trusty race bike and generally had an amazing time with no issues other than glorious speed. Put the bike back on the trainer afterward and thought nothing of it.

But on the next ride--a 50 miler--I heard a lot of tire-slippage whenever I put down power. I didn't realize it until the next day, but the tire was flat, and apparently had been for about 40 miles of the ride. Pumped it back up and rotated the cranks and found it: a 1/2 inch vertical gash on the sidewall of the same wheel that had flatted before. 1150 miles on the expensive tubeless tire. Frustrated, I tossed the TT bike on the trainer and banged out a less-than-pleasant 40 mile ride.

And then it hit me at 1 am: I had another tubeless tire! After 20 minutes of searching for it, I found it hanging right in front of my face, and without having to spend a single extra dollar or wait 2 days for shipping, I had my race bike back in top form for the next day's ride.

Taking care of future me. Thanks former me!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Peer pressure is just the worst

My boss runs. It's kinda her fault that, when I wanted to lose weight 4 years ago, running was my go-to. I had soccer at the time, too, and used running to regain my speed, but truly it was her fault. While I wouldn't say she explicitly goaded me or even coached me, she helped me understand some of the barriers to my success, and I was able to work down to a pretty decent competitive pace, and even win a couple of local 5K races.

But when I went to bikes, I went whole hog, and basically stopped running altogether, revisiting the sport for brief forays into a half marathon in 2015, and then a full in 2016. Since that marathon, though, nothing significant at all. Maybe 2 or 3 runs a year, always when traveling to places too inconvenient to bring a bike.

The bike adds a level of mysticism and complexity that just isn't there with running. To run fast, one must simply train, wear decent shoes, and suffer. To ride fast requires training and suffering, but also infinite variability in equipment. That's my sweet spot for a sport: training must not be enough, but it must be possible get up to speed with "adequate" equipment while allowing me to endlessly tinker.

The bike also adds the critical ability to be used as legitimate transportation. I ride to work. Then I work, and then I ride home. I do not run to work. I do not run to anywhere except the place from which I started. Running is, therefore, pointless.

Swimming was just never on my radar at all. I hate being wet, unless it's sweat. I do not like the temperature of pool water, which is simultaneously too cold to get in, but too hot to swim in. Oh and swimming itself is just an inconvenient way to risk death while, again, going nowhere. Honestly, why would you even bother?

Except that my boss is now doing tri's. And one of our VP's is also doing tri's. And they're huddled over there, every day, right behind me, chatting about tri things. Sickening.

But also intriguing.

I have a TT bike, and only 3 or 4 events a year in which to use it. I *had* great running shoes, and if I'm going to get in the water, I'm already more comfortable in skimpy euro trunks than baggy American grocery sack shorts. And, weirdly, I actually already have a tri suit that fits.

So Friday I went and bought new running shoes. Saucony Ride ISO's. I've had great luck with the Ride series in the past, and so far I LOVE THESE SHOES. I ran a 5K that night at a 7:30 pace and felt great, then ran again today after riding to work and backed the pace down to save room for a swim later, doing just a tick over 5 miles at 8:14 average. There's pain, but it's normal adaptation pain.

Saturday morning I rode the TT bike to the gym (in the tri suit) and got in the water (NOT in the tri suit). Boy do I suck at swimming. I've watched a bunch of educational swimming videos, so I'm approaching it very much as a scientific enterprise rather than a sport, because I'd be right back out of that water in a heartbeat otherwise.

I made it 7 laps of the pool, about half freestyle and half side-stroke (my fallback stroke of choice). I was able to breathe for one full lap before it all went sideways, but I had to start somewhere.

I'll be back there again this afternoon, this time with goggles, to put in a bit more time working on breathing and getting more comfortable moving back and forth across the pool.

I'm not saying I'm a tri guy now--that would be a gross over-sell--but I am succumbing to peer pressure (again), spending just a few dollars, and exploring a new element to my sporting preferences. Whether or not it sticks will depend entirely on my relationship with water.