Thursday, January 07, 2016

Wave a Flag, Ride a Bike

It occurred to me recently, as I've been experimenting more and more with commuting to work by bike, that the bicycle is a curious instrument. When I'm not on it, and just discussing it as a general concept, people seem amazed by the level of commitment it must take to ride 22 miles each way to work. They marvel at the risk, the hills, how I must smell throughout the rest of the day, and how early I must have to get up to get to work on time.

But when I'm actually ON the bike, the reaction is different. Now I'm that thing on the right side of the road that's going to make you 7 seconds late to work. I'm that idiot who doesn't understand that roads are made for cars. I'm that asshole who's using your public roads for free. I clearly have no respect for my own life or the needs of those around me, and why the hell won't I just pull over and stop so you can pass me?

And to some, I'm a game. Can you scare me badly enough to crash? Yay! Hospitalizing people for a giggle is so much fun.

But in spite of people's best and worst reactions to the experience, I've come to realize that cycling is the most Republican form of transportation. Yep: cycling makes me a good conservative.


No reliance on foreign oil.
Cyclists are self-reliant and self-made.
Manliness--20 miles and 1500 feet of climbing stand between you and your destination? HTFU.
Cyclists support the economy locally by stopping for coffee & snacks, and more globally by constantly buying new kit and components.
Cyclists are fitter and generally healthier than those who never exercise, keeping insurance premiums lower.
Cycling sidesteps ethanol/methanol mandates and gas taxes. Good conservatives HATE these.

So the next time you're rollin' through the country with your "Jesus & 'Merica" bumper stickers, blasting Skynyrd from your jacked up 1994 pickup, instead of swerving at me and seeing if you can hit my helmet with your mirror, consider a thumbs-up instead, because while you're sucking down 10% ethanol with a $.45/gallon tax @ ~14mpg, I'm making America great again.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

FrankenBlue, Part 2

After having the night to think about it, I decided that since I'm planning to race this bike this season and log many, many miles on it, I don't want to start down that path with parts of questionable vintage in the most important places.

As such, this morning I ordered the Praxisworks BB30 conversion for Shimano cranks. I opted for the more expensive unit with ceramic bearings because dammit I want to be done repairing this thing. And since the crankset has to come off to install it, I picked up an Ultegra 6700 39t chainring to replace the old 5600-series 105 ring.

It was kind of crazy pricing out inner 39t rings, as both the 5700-series 105 and 6700-series Ultegra came in at about $12, but the Dura Ace 7900 was consistently $50 all over the Internet. I'm not so big a Fred that I have to run Dura Ace on an inner ring, and $12 is a pittance to ensure longevity.

Almost immediately after hitting the "order" button I flew into a bit of a panic. I've replaced so much of this bike...should I have just gotten a new one back in August? Because I am exceptionally anal, I was able to pull together every single receipt for parts and labor, and while I've spent almost as much repairing it as buying it, I'm still riding a hi-mod carbon bike below the purchase price of a similarly-equipped new bike from ANY of the mid- to high-end brands on the market, already fitted with crazy light wheels. And best of all? It's gorgeous. I'll take that any day.

In other exciting cycling news, yesterday was 'free money day' at Performance Bicycle, as they dropped the price of my winter bike by $100 for the second time in the 3 months since I bought it. Yay free money!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


Getting to know this bike has been quite the learning experience. I really didn't want to become anything close to an expert in cycling components, but alas, the journey continues...

After replacing both derailleurs, shifters, cassette, all the cabling, two spokes, freehub, tires, saddle, headset, and stem, everything seemed just about perfect. The bike is light and agile and FAST.

But she's still a smidge noisy in the bottom bracket area, and some poking tonight may have revealed...yet another hack to this already-hacked up bike.

The whole drivetrain that I replaced back in October turns out to have been older than the bike itself. No bigs, as the guy who owned it worked at a LBS and likely just grabbed compatible parts out of a bin to keep it running. But that's not even close to possible with what was done at the cranks.

Blue made the Axino to support a BB30 bottom bracket, which is not compatible with Shimano's Hollowtech II components. This bike, though, is running a very Hollowtech II Dura Ace 7900 crankset. Given that many "conversions" are just cheap adapters, that's likely the reason why it rubs on the front derailleur ramps when I'm at either end of the rear cassette.

And a quick check of the Interwebs tells me this is what is likely installed. A cheap Delrin reducer ring that's probably been mashed into place for years, taking hundreds of watts of force for hours at a time. Plenty of wear & tear on that guy, I'm guessing.

How did I stumble upon this today? What other way: by throwing money at the bike. I finally took the plunge and ordered a Stages power meter and was looking at what the installation would entail. And that revealed another damned hack to this drivetrain that I'd previously missed: the inner chainring is a Shimano 105 from the 5600 era.

So I'm super stoked to have a power meter on the way, but now I'm almost wishing I'd just ordered one for an Ultegra 6800 setup and replaced the whole damned thing. It would have been almost identical weight with a known timeline for the components. As it is, I'll probably have to see if Carytown Bikes can replace the hacked BB30 conversion with something respectable and STILL hate knowing I have such mixed components up front.

So after this is done, the only moving parts on that I won't personally have replaced (yet) will be the rims and brakes, neither of which are OEM components for this bike.

The good news is that if I decide the mixed pedigree of the crankset is just too much to handle, the Stages power meter will mate to any Hollowtech II setup, so I can just throw an Ultegra crankset on this bike and call it a day. It'll look funny, but given that the Dura Ace left arm is ~20g lighter than the Ultegra, and the power meter adds ~20g, it should be a weight wash (though the 6800 crankset comes in just a tick heavier overall at 765g vs 735g). And if I'm gonna go to that trouble, I might as well swap the Oval 520 cranks on the winter bike with some Shimano goodness so I can get power data from that guy, too.