Friday, September 28, 2012

Kris-Kross Will Make You Dismount, Run, and Remount. Or You Can Just Jump.

Kids these days with their video games and camera phones, backwards hats and baggy pants.  They are even riding fat tire road bikes now!  Back in my day we sent telegrams and took Daguerreotypes, and all of our road bikes had 21c tires.  We certainly didn’t ride them off road, let alone with beer hand-ups, dollar grabs, and cowbells.  What is this cyclocross all the kids are doing these days?  And why do their brakes never work well?

Let’s face it.  Cyclocross is blowing up, nay, has already blown completely and is now expanding like the post big bang universe in which we ride.  People everywhere are adopting wide knobby tires and complaining about their brakes.  Racing drop-bar bikes on the grass and mud in the mucky mid-Atlantic autumn is a lesson in toughness.  Cyclocross is far from an American phenomenon, though.  Like almost everything cycling related, its roots lie in Europe. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wheels and Reels: Off the Rivet goes to the movies

It’s time to face facts.  I can’t ride my bike constantly.  It’s just not possible.  The human condition stipulates that I at least take some of my time to eat, sleep, and have at least some, albeit usually awkward, human interaction.  So be it.  You can’t win them all I guess. 

Whether weather, scheduling, or unabashed laziness, there are circumstances that foil our best attempts to permanently fix ourselves to our saddles.  Don’t sweat it though.  I have a way to get your cycling fix from the comfort of your couch, or loveseat, or whatever luxurious seating apparatus you have at your disposal.  Get your popcorn ready; we’re going to the movies (not literally, though, don’t ask me to go to the movies with you).  

I multitask with the best of them—just ask my wife (don’t ask her)—so even while not riding my bike I immerse myself in the wonderful world of cycling through movies—all while still getting my chores done.  I made a list.  I crafted this list not as an end all list of cycling movies, but simply my favorites. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Winter is Coming or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fall

I came to a realization this past week.  I dug out my warmers, after months of easy wardrobe decisions, of simply throwing bibs and a jersey.  It wasn’t easy.  As I sat, assembling my ensemble for my morning commute, I had to be honest with myself.  This season is in its last throws.  As Ned Stark aptly warned, brace yourselves. Winter is coming. 

You needn’t worry like our friends of Winterfell though.  Luckily, Philadelphia off seasons are manageable—if you have the right equipment.  Like commuting, cold season riding can be miserable or wonderful depending on your preparation.  This week I’ll give you five oft forgotten things to get you through this transition to cold weather. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lubrication: A Common Sense Guide to Keeping Metal Things from Rubbing on Each Other

Lubrication is one of the most terrible sounding words I know.  No innuendo intended; I mean literally, the sound of the word irritates me.  Its shorter relative, lube, is even worse.  The end of that word, lube, is just awful—bordering on nails-on-the-chalkboard grating.  I will endeavor, however, to write an entire post around this affront.  Bringing you the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and even the rounds and rounds of lube. 

As fall approaches, the cyclist, the wild untamable south eastern Pennsylvanian cyclist to be specific, needs to prepare for the elements.  Lube is a big part of this.  Your bike will not survive a wet fall and winter of riding without some serious attention paid to keeping your many drive-train components on good terms. 

Morgan Blue: Maker of fine greases, lubes, and assembly compounds

Bicycles abhor friction.  It quite literally grinds their gears.  It wears their bearings.  It amplifies every little tick or tack, creak or crack in your bike.  Luckily for you, lubrication and grease rebuff friction’s every advance.  That is, provided that they are regularly used on your bike.  Regular lubrication and re-greasing are crucial to keeping your bike quiet.  Bicycles don’t fall under the “set-it-and-forget-it” category.  Like small children, they need regular attention to work correctly.  Also like small children, they can be taken away by the authorities if you don’t take care of them. 

Greases and lubes come in many different types. Choose the right one for your situation...or else.

So what do you need to know about lubrication to keep your two wheeled babies behaving as they should?  Well it really depends on how much you want to embrace your inner DIY home mechanic.  At the very least, every bicycle parent should be well versed in chain and cable lubrication.

First things first.  Proper application technique is crucial to having success when lubing your bike.  Lubing your chain may not seem like a process laden with pitfalls and opportunities for disaster, but it is suprising the problems that over-lubrication delivers. 

While your bike sits on a level surface, spin your pedals backwards and apply lube as the chain rolls over the rear cassette, like so:

Apply until the chain appears wet.  If your chain is squeaking, apply until the noise dissipates.  Don’t over apply.  We are not looking to coat your entire drive-train in this stuff.  A thin layer on the chain is fine.  Give the lube a minute or two to soak down into the rollers of the chain.  Left sitting on the outside of the chain, lube accomplishes nothing.  We want the lube to soak into the chain.  Wipe the chain clean with a dry, lint-free rag after the soak in period.  While pedaling backwards again, run the chain through the rag from the bottom side of the chain, like so:

This is probably the most important step.  Wipe until the outside of the chain appears clean.  Excess lube left on the outside of the chain attracts dirt like a magnet.  Clogging your drive-train with dirt only leads to bad things.  Don’t believe me?  Go to a cross race and check out what dirt can do to a bike. 

Apply small drops of thin chain lube to the pivot points of your derailleurs, brakes, cable ends, and pulley wheels like so:

Use the ProLink Pin Luber to make pivot points and cable lubing a breeze.  

Wipe away any excess lube.  That is just a general rule of life—bicycle life.  Heed it in everything that you do. 

So now that you have the technique down, we need to decide which lube is best for you.  All lube is not created equal, so unfortunately you will actually have to put some thought into what will be best for you.  Think of all lubes existing on a wide spectrum from thin and viscous to thick and goopy.  The general rule is that thin lube (Prolink, for example) is cleaner and easier to use, but needs to be applied more often.  Because it is cleaner, it is best used in dry dusty conditions.  Thick lube (Chain-L, for example) is quieter and lasts longer, but has the potential to attract a lot of dirt.  Because it is thicker, it stands up to bad weather well and does not get washed away quickly. 

Where do you fall on the spectrum?  Most riders fall near the thinner end, and would do well with a lube like ProLink or Morgan Blue Bio Bike Oil.  These thinner lubes should always be used on cables and pivot points, regardless of conditions. 

We love Morgan Blue Bio Oil.  Not only a great lube, but it is also friendly to the environment!

Thicker lubes will last up to 1,000 miles, but unless you pay close attention and wipe any excess often, they will attract dirt.  If you don’t mind the extra care, they often run wonderfully quiet and will protect your stuff through the heaviest weather.  If you’re an all weather rider, look into thicker lubes like Chain-L or Morgan Blue Syn Lube, especially for the fall and winter months. 

Grease has a similar spectrum.  Using the right viscosity of grease can be the difference between perfect and broken.  The grease that you use to rebuild a cup and cone hub may not be the same as the grease that keeps your BB30 bottom bracket silent.  Carry over the same rules we learned from the chain lube.  Thin is fast, but thick will keep the water out.  Use the most water proof stuff you can find to protect your bottom bracket from the most extreme elements. 

Different greases for different pieces. 

For the most part though, maintenance that requires grease requires some kind of mechanical knowledge.  Rebuilding bottom brackets, headsets, hubs, freehubs, cartridge bearings, pulley wheels, and the like can all be left to your LBS if you so choose.  If you do decide to dive into one of these though, choose your lube or grease—depending on the job at hand—wisely. 

So there you have it.  A bare bones rundown of the stuff that makes things move: lube.  Don’t brush it off.  It is important—but also, literally don’t brush it off, unless, of course, you plan on re-applying it.