April 29, 2010

GXP Bottom Bracket Binding - My Problem, My Fix

I have the SRAM 900 crank for my Quarq powermeter. Lately, I have been switching it quite a bit between bikes. I don't know if this is the cause or not, but when I tighten the crank down, it definitely starts to drag. Getting that last bit of play out of the crank arms leads to a noticeable increase in drag when I spin the crank, even with the chain on. This problem was evident on 3 different bikes, one of which was brand spanking new, so it is not just an overwide bottom bracket issue on a single bike.

And before you get too excited, check to make sure you don't simply have the seal off the previous bottom bracket jammed on the drive side crank. That does happen fairly frequently and it will also make your bearings bind when tightened. It is fairly obvious when you look at the drive side bearing and there is no dust seal, just the exposed cartridge bearing. Then when you look at the crank you see a metal ring on the crank axle jammed against the chain rings.

I did try using locktite and not tightening the crank quite all the way up. The locktite did make the crank bolt reassuringly firmer to tighten. But the result? Crank came loose in about 15 minutes of riding. Tried it twice. No success. The second time I was in a group ride and just before I pulled over to tighten it, I was left with a crank arm dangling from my shoe. Very odd looking and everyone thought it was quite amusing. Except me.

Looking around on the web led to no useful tips. People asked the right questions, but they didn't get the right answers. At least no useful answers for my issue.

Time to sit and ponder the problem. Since the crank arm is putting too much pressure on the sides of the bearing cups, that pressure has to be reduced. Looking at the crank arm, it appears that a very large hex wrench could be used to change the position of the crank arm relative to the position of the crank bolt. But what home handyman has a wrench like that? It's huge! With a little more ponderin' I realized that probably just holds the crank bolt in the crank arm. Nope, not the answer either.

It is really only the last turn of the crank bolt that pinches the bearing. Looking at the crank arm, there is plenty of extra material there. And huge clearance between the crank arm and the chain stay. So.... Why not grind down the face of the crank arm a bit? I probably have at least 5 mm extra clearance and only need to remove about 0.5 mm to get the pressure off the bearings.

Got out the flat bastard (Don't you love that name?), clamped it in a vice, and carefully filed down the crank arm. File, file. Rotate 90 degrees. File, file. Only took off about 0.5 mm max. Guess what? It worked. Took the bike out for 2 hours 15 minute ride and everything worked as planned with 0 pit stops. Crank spins easily, crank arms did not loosen up during ride. Maybe not the most elegant fix I said as I patted myself on the back. But I'm a bit of a bike butcher machinist at heart and I like it.

May 30, 2010 Update: Still works just fine after quite a few more km and lots of bike switches.

April 26, 2010

Cavendish - Needs a Tooth Fairy

First of all, who ever heard of a Brit with bad teeth? I guess Cavendish must have been sensitive, now that he has been travelling out of Britain and has seen what teeth look like in the rest of the world. And really, who can blame him. Teeth that were probably in the top 5% in Britain, didn't pass muster when he travelled to America where there is no limit to the money spent on appearance. Must have been quite embarrassing, being famous and seeing your crooked yellow teeth in print, over and over again.

But embarrassing enough to go to Paraguay for a dentist? I didn't know that the Paraguaians were leaders in the dental world. Because someone making 7 figures a year wouldn't take the trouble to travel somewhere that "ranks as the second poorest country in South America" to get your teeth fixed unless they were getting the very best, would they? And no way you would get an infection from Paraguaian surgery. Right? Wouldn't British dentists be the best in the world at straightening crooked teeth? After all, look what they have to work with. Then again, do the British actually have dentists?

Of course, there is more to the story than that. Last year, Cav had all the other sprinters totally intimidated. They thought they were going to lose even before the sprint started. Like all sports, when you win the mental game, you win. But now... People have been winning races without Cav. And the few races Cav has done have been unimpressive. So that mental advantage has pretty much evaporated, like steam from a dentists drill. Cav might find that the other sprinters think they can beat him. And his leadout train is not what it used to be. And Greipel and Cav seem to hate each other (Other teams seem to be trying to enhance that conflict. Do Armstrong and Bruyneel comments indicate planting the seeds of discontent with Greipel is planned? You decide.). All of which means Cav may find 2010 results are very different, even if he gets back on form. But everyone needs a dose of humble pie now and then or their head (presumeably including their teeth) gets way too big. Part of growing up.

April 23, 2010

Dang! First Road Rash of the Year

Believe it or not, I crashed all by myself. No group ride. No race. Just me and my bike on the highway. What happened you say? Don't exactly know. Hammering up a short hill and shifted while standing. Done it a million times. What gear was I in? Don't have a clue. But threw the chain somehow which really threw me for a loop since I was standing. Tried to recover, hit the gravel at the edge of the road at a wild angle and crashed. Not a bad one, nothing broken (Great way to check bone density!). Derailleur hanger was bent so the derailleur could hit the spokes. Bent it back carefully. Not too hard to bend back since it is only aluminum. Which also means that it is now pretty weak and I need to get a new one. Note to self.

When I started riding again, I realized that I had bent the derailleur back so nicely it was shifting great. Just needed a little trim. So I decided to keep riding to get in my 3 hours+ and did another half hour instead of turning back.

Now for the road rash. Here is what I do. When I got home, I scrubbed up - hands were pretty greasy from repairs. Then I carefully scrubbed the wound with soap and water in the shower so the clotted blood got a chance to soften up. Basically, making sure to get the dirt and small rocks out of the scrapes. It hurts when you start scrubbing, then it gets a bit numb and you can go at it a bit harder. I had one puncture type wound I had to carefully clean as it is deep enough that it is difficult to see what might be in there. That one is a bit ugly and we will see how it turns out. Had one like that last year from a branch poking into my knee that took forever to close over. When the skin is gone, it takes awhile.

So once you are all cleaned up, it is time to bandage up. You really have to gauze up the big scrapes. They heal far faster that way. Keep them from scabbing up. Scabs keep cracking and tearing the healing skin. Takes much longer to heal if you let it scab. Typical road rash can heal up good enough to drop the bandages in a 3-4 days if you don't let it scab.

I like to put ozonol on my wounds. I used to like the old stinky ozonol. But the new version doesn't stink. Oh well. Neither version stings and they seem to prevent infection. The big road rash type wounds get large gauze pads. The small scrapes get bandaids but only if they are a bit deep. Shallow small scrapes that are unlikely to form large scabs get nothing. And the deep gash gets lots of ozonol, gauze cover and tape. I change the bandages twice a day - once in the morning and once at night.

So far this approach has worked well for me and my periodic cycling skin grating. And over the last 25 years I have used it lots of times, believe me. Most years road rash happens at least once if you are racing and training lots. Interesting that I shaved the winter fur off my legs for the first time just today - although only with the electric beard trimmer. I was in a hurry and wanted to ride after all. Was that a premonition? Or was it because this was the first ride warm enough that I didn't have to wear leg warmers or tights? An unsolved mystery.

April 20, 2010

Nitrile Gloves - A Cycling Toolkit Necessity

About a dozen years ago, I was given a truckload of boxes of latex gloves by someone going out of the latex glove business. The gloves were very handy for many years and I gave many boxes away as I had more than I could use. I still have several boxes and they are starting to get a little bit of mold on them. More importantly, I have developed an allergy to them - itchy hands and eyes when I use them. I thought this might be the mold, but I got the same reaction at work from a fresh box of brand spanking new gloves. So no more latex gloves.

I know latex isn't the best when you are around grease and oil, but it's better than the way they used to work on bikes - no gloves at all. Check out Ole Ritter's mechanic (about 1:20 in). He didn't have options, you do. Now I am sold on gloves as I am sure the various petrochemicals are not great for you. I recently bought a box of nitrile gloves made by Park Tools - or at least branded by them. I really like these gloves:
  • They are way tougher than latex, 
  • I find I can reuse them a few times,
  • They are more resistant to solvents, oils and greases.
  • No powder,
  • No latex,
  • No allergy.
They are less than $25 for 100 pairs. Use them and be healthy.

August 27, 2011 update: Truth be told, I like the Canadian Tire version better. They are noticeably more durable which works great for cheap types like me. And easier to get (if you live anywhere in Canada). I'm sure equivalent versions exist for mechanics in other places as well.

April 17, 2010

Jagwire Racer Cable and Housing Set Review

Built up my time trial bike on the weekend and used this cable set to do it. Nice cables and end caps. And it did have much better end caps than I remember from the last time around. Also, there were enough of them which was a switch. I used to run out of one type or the other with these kits in the past. The brakes required quite a few so it was nice to have enough. Especially since I picked white to match the Cervelo P3. We will see how white works out with my greasy mechanical maintenance.

Cables seem to work allright in terms of firmness and response. Nothing remarkable - no AHA that's what I've been missing. But perfectly adequate.

One major gripe though. There was just barely enough cable housing for the derailleurs. And I mean just. Two inches less and I would have been screwed. You get no second chances - you better cut them to the right length the first time. You won't have enough left to recover from any miscue. Actually, I used every inch of the housing. Come on SRAM, don't be so cheap cheap cheap. Add another couple of feet. These are expensive enough to get a decent length.

April 14, 2010

Library of Congress to Archive All Public Tweets! Even This One!

What a really great idea! The Library of Congress has decided to preserve for eternity the incredibly insightful tweets that EVERYONE posts. That way we can be sure that this piece of fine modern tweet literature is not lost from cycling history.

For the younger crowd Mario Cipollini was one of the greats who won just about everything a sprinter can win, numerous times. Of particular note, he invented the lead out train others like Cavendish are using now. Changing the game is a sign of true greatness. Not to mention his longevity.

Is it really SuperMario? Doesn't really matter and I don't really care. It is a great tweet. Firstly, it is the only thing Mario ever felt was worth posting. And the brevity, time of day, and 24 followers for a single two word tweet all make it perfect for his public image. It is definitely a short timely message as Twitter's banner indicates. And in character with his persona. After all, he did say "If I weren't a professional cyclist, I'd be a porn star" and "I want to die in an orgy".

Who in the peloton has the character for that kind of public profile today? Huh? Nobody, that's who. Put it out there. Political correctness is boring.

April 12, 2010

Stars and Watercarriers - 1973 Giro d'Italia Video

It would be easy to make smart comments about these vids, but that would be inappropriate and disrespectful where respect is what is due. A few observations only:

  • Merckx really was pretty incredible - winning through brute strength because he could.
  • Note how big the bike frames are compared to today's bikes, even today's conventional (non-compact) framesets.
  • Note how they climb. With only a few gears by today's standards (probably 5 cog freewheels), they used a different technique to power up the hills at low cadence. Lots of upper body movement grinding away on those steep slopes.
  • In contrast, note also how smooth and controlled they are on the flats, no hands, by the team car, etc. 

Tip: You can speed the downloads by starting, then pausing the video. Watch one while a few others are downloading. Helps avoid viewing delays.

April 11, 2010

Ugliest Protour Kit? Sky, Mostly the Color of Dirt.

Well I have seen a few photos of the Sky kit now and I have to say, that is the ugliest outfit I have ever, ever seen. Almost a no-name brand jersey. I'm sure some designer has a very good explanation for the choice of the color dirt. High quality black dirt to be sure. And Sky has so much money, they don't need any other sponsors, so the dirt doesn't even get covered up by logos. I suppose it makes it easy to hide in the pack - no one can see them against the color of the asphalt.

Maybe that's it? Road camo kit!

Where'd he go? He was here a minute ago.

Everyone knows you just have to get out of sight of the pack and they will stop chasing. Great idea! (racing on a closed road). Not so much if there is vehicle traffic. Not recommended for your Sunday endurance ride.

April 09, 2010

Garmin 500 versus Garmin 705 - Data Wars

As you may or may not know, I am the proud owner of two (2) Garmin bike computers/Ant+ receivers. I just thought the 705 was too clunky for racing, at least I do now that there is a choice. So I bought the 500 recently as noted here. Being an inquiring mind, I decided to ride with both of them at the same time. Actually, I had another reason. When I calibrated the 500 to my Quarq on a recent ride, I got a 65 thousand value. Now I know that is a bust for the 705 but I wasn't sure if the 500 was the same. It still worked OK - gave reasonable power values for my effort. So when I got home I calibrated them both at the same time. Still 65,314 for the 500, but -222  for the 705. Based on the 705 reading and parameters Quarq gives for the 705, everything is normal with the Quarq power meter. But I thought it would be a good idea to ride with both receivers and see how they compare.

From casual observations while riding, both meters show almost identical data all the time. Sometimes they are identical, then they seem to get a bit out of sync and are slightly different. They don't seem to update the display on exactly the same time step. When they update at the same time, they seem to be identical. When they are off a bit, they report slightly different values for power. Which seems realistic, given that power jumps around a lot. Typically, I would say both are showing basically the same results for riding purposes - that is, when you are trying to target a specific power zone, both give you the same workout intensity.

So how do they compare when the data are downloaded into WKO+? Both are very close, but not identical and there are some interesting differences. I always thought the 705 was off for elevation gain. Compare the two and you see that the 500 elevation trace is much smoother. The result is that all those little jaggies in the 705 results really crank the elevation gain to make it plainly wrong. Both machines show the same basic ups and downs, but look at the totals -100 m total ascent for the 705, but only 35 m for the 500 for this 10 minute clip. The 500 is clearly more realistic because it lacks the little spikes and the resulting elevation gain statistic matches the elevation graph trend. Presumably a smoothed 705 would give you something reliable. You can smooth all the data (you can't pick one) in WKO+ Version 2.0 but it doesn't change the stats. Perhaps smoothing is all the 500 is doing as I find it hard to believe its receiver is that much more accurate. After all, it is smaller and cheaper so I doubt it is better. I had a look at some previous rides with the 705 a few firmware upgrades back and they were not this jaggie. So just one of those things that may change in the next upgrade (or not).

Now take a look at the velocity data and you see the same spiky trace for the 705 compared to a smooth one for the 500. If anything, it is even spikier than the elevation data. In the big scheme of things it really does not affect average values or distributions. Once again, rides from a year ago don't have these jaggies.

One place the 705 is better is in a slightly smoother heart rate trace. Doesn't really make a difference either way in the stats however. Power and cadence values seem quite similar for the two.

Bottom line. The 500 does a nice job on the GPS data, even if the calibration value seems a bit wild. But I still like the 705 for training rides. Bigger display is easier to read at a glance and the map is nice when you are exploring. I've been checking out lots of new roads lately for a bit of fun (Oh that's where that road goes!). I just have to remember to ignore the elevation data (or divide it by 3). I'm not as great a climber as I thought. Dang.

April 06, 2010

Garmin 500 Review - and vs the 510

Now I'm not going to go into every nuance of this device because someone has done a better job of that than I would do in my wildest dreams.. Holy cow he did a pretty serious piece of work and they didn't even let him keep the unit. That's cheap.

I can give you a list of pros and cons from my perspective though.

  • Cheap receiver for HR, Power, Cadence, etc. that has full download capabilities for tracking fitness and analysing your ride. Cheapest Ant+ receiver I am aware of actually.
  • Even more things measured and tracked than the Garmin 705.
  • Nice small package - nearly as small as a conventional bike computer.
  • Compatible with peripherals that the 705 used - HR strap, power meter, cadence/speed sensor. Which was nice since I didn't buy any of them for the 500.
  • Are you a data junkie? Three screens of data should make you happy. I'm having trouble figuring out what I want to see that could possibly fill up all the screens. I'm thinking one screen with Power, HR, and Distance and Time only - for redlining in a race. The other 2 are loaded with data.

  • The Garmin software, both Training Center and Connects are pretty sad for tracking fitness compared to something like WKO+. OK if all you want to do is see how you did - basic stats and graphs, I guess.
  • It's blue. We don't all want to look like Team Garmin. A more neutral color would have been better. I took a black felt pen to mine. Looks better, but damn, I can't get at the blue around the screen. Apparently a new neutral black and white version is going to be introduced in May at the Tour of California along with an even uglier orange and blue version - so wait if this bothers you (or you are a fanatical Garmin fan). Or buy a felt pen like I did.
  • Setting my power zones was a nightmare. You can't do it on the unit like the 705. You can't do it with Garmin Training Center either. You can do it with Garmin Connect. Why does something so fundamental have to be such a pain in the @$$ to set?
  • Same for HR zones. Supposedly you can set them in Training Center, which I did, but it didn't work. They reverted to the defaults when I connected the 500.
  • I spent about 90 minutes screwing around with this thing to try and set my HR and power zones between Training Center and Garmin Connects. Eventually I saw that tiny "Settings" link in the top right corner next to my name in Garmin Connects. When I set HR and Power and tried to download - ERROR. Had to disconnect the Garmin, quit Firefox, restart, try to remember where I found the power zones, rediscover "Settings", and SUCCESS. Probably a 2 hour exercise all told, trying the various permutations, combinations and failures of both Garmin Training Center and Garmin Connects. I just want to go out and ride, not screw with this thing for hours. In the Garmin 705, this was pretty intuitive. Not here.
  • Kludgy implementation with Training Peaks WKO+ V2.0. This isn't really Garmin's fault, it is Training Peaks' fault. But I have to run the Training Peaks Device Agent to download and convert the file to my drive. Goes to a directory called: C:\Documents and Settings\Main\My Documents\TrainingPeaks\Device Agent\saved\yourname. Then I drag that file to my WKO+ screen for import in the usual way. Sounds easy here, but took a bit to figure that out too. Once again, I don't want to spend my time learning some convoluted method, I want to work out. Do a (free) software update to eliminate this step for crying out loud. (Yeah I know I can buy version 3.0, but I don't feel like it right now).
So there you have it. Like the 705, the 500 is a great piece of hardware that suffers significantly from the poor software implementation. It is worth a look because of the small size and lower cost, but not really because of the great implementation. I was quite annoyed with how user-unfriendly the software was, both Training Center on my computer and Connect on the Web. Now I have it figured out, at least I don't have to relearn it. Just remember - the little "Settings" link at the top right corner.

By the way, I really don't want to do everything on the Web, I want to run my own software on my own computer that manages the device quickly and efficiently. I philosophically oppose pushing web software for managing my training info, but I also don't have web access everywhere I go. Some of my favourite training locales aren't connected, but I still want to download my daily workout and check it out. Plus the Garmin software is pretty useless for fitness tracking, more like toy fitness software compared to WKO+. Figuring out how to input HR and Power zones is not my idea of a good time. Garmin needs to focus more on making this stuff more intuitive and less on making a zillion bells and whistles, so I can get out there and train, rest, sleep, eat, anything but sit in front of a computer to figure out how to do some task that should be very easy. I do enough in front of a computer at work, but at least they pay me.

To make things simple for Garmin - here is a To Do List:
  • Include software utility on the CD that makes it easy to set the power and heart rate zones.
  • Make sure it also does Functional Threshold power and Lactate Threshold HR, and min and max HR
  • Training Stress Score and Normalized Power would be cool stats to have too.
That's it - not much to ask is it? Since their training software is far from state of the art, I really don't care what they do with the rest of it. Makes a fun puzzle for somebody to figure out I'm sure. But it won't be me.

January 17, 2014 Update: Still using that Garmin and it has well over a thousand rides on it. It's been dropped many times. But it keeps on ticking. I do notice that the software has been updated considerably and works much better now. TSS is a really nice add-on. The screen on this unit is easier to read with my sunglasses on than the new and improved Garmin 510. And compared to the 510, the simpler interface is kind of nice. Plus touch screen really isn't that great in the 510 - a waste of time really. As is the color screen - pretty bad. Also the 510 is too big.

There is only one problem I have found. In the mountains, it has trouble accurately tracking my path at times. On the road it isn't an issue, on trails in the open it isn't an issue. But on the mountain singletrack it often results in wildly inaccurate tracking and speeds (182.9 km/hr is my PB on the mountain bike). This is a real issue as it means you can do a killer ride and when you upload to Strava, you miss all the segments and don't get the bragging rights you deserve (although Strava will create new segments for your major hillclimbs and no one will ever beat  your KOM as there is no actual trail there. Of course you will always only be 1st / 1). So I did buy a Garmin 510 that uses both the US and Russian satellites to track. The 510 is bang on in the mountains and I get my kudos. The 510 boots up amazingly fast, but that's minor in the big scheme of things.Other than that, I like the 500 better.

    April 03, 2010

    If I Use A 25-Tooth Cog on My Road Bike, Am I a Wimp?

    Many people ask me if a 25-tooth cog on their road bike freewheel makes them a wimp. Now I'm not talking about a cross bike here, I'm talking road bikes. (Mountain bike? What's that?). For cross a 27 is fine, most anyone would agree - assuming they are normal-ish and not afraid of mid-20th century technology (i.e., not riding cross single-speed). I tried to use a 28 once, but my SRAM Rival derailleur didn't like my SRAM freewheel. There wasn't enough clearance between the derailleur pulleys and the cog. Clash, clash...then shift like crap. Probably need a mid- or wide-range derailleur I guess. Don't want one on my bike and one tooth isn't a big deal at that end of the cogset - so experiment failed, but lesson learned.

    Back to the road bike. I read a very interesting comment in April's Cyclesport America by David Millar. Pros 20 years ago were overgeared. That's why they were slower up the climbs. They were using a 42x21 for racing. David says everyone around there (pros around Girona Spain I presume) train on compacts or on 27 tooth cogs.

    Then I read this: "SRAM technicians and Contador's mechanics work to build a custom cassette capable of offering the Spaniard a ratio as low as 34x30" - from an article by BikeRadar on SRAM's new cheaper Apex road group. What was he riding? A hybrid? And how many guys does it take to put together a cassette anyway? Hope one of them remembered to put on a long cage derailleur.

    All of this modern information raises a lot of questions and potentially creates a major paradigm shift:
    • 20 years ago when freewheels had only 8 cogs if you had a really good one, I trained and raced on a 42x21 lowest gear. 42x19 for time trials if they were flattish. Sure I struggled, especially when I rode in the mountains or the wind. But I always assumed that was due to my own inadequacy and that the pros could handle it. I wanted to be like a pro, so I used pro gears. Sure it was hard, but the smaller the cogset, the bigger the engine, right? I did a lot of standing. I guess the pros did too - just faster? They were masters of the low cadence, head bobbing, uphill grind that you don't see much today. Yeah it was hard on the knees, but the pros could take it. Suck it up and pedal better circles.
    • Even Contador needs a compact crank with a mountain bike cogset (11x30)? Sure the slope was 24% or so and gravel, but Contador? What? Does everyone have to sit down all the time? OK, maybe you do on gravel. He finished fourth so it mustn't have been all that great.
    • Don't they also go downhill on those steep hills around Girona? That 50 tooth compact chainring must be great for spin skills. Can you pedal 175 rpm? Apparently, pros in Girona can. The 27 tooth sounds like a better option and definitely more pro/manly.
    • I had a layoff from serious cycling for about a dozen years (virtually no racing). When I came back to racing, bikes came with 53-39 chainrings (versus 52-42) and 11-23 or 25 cogsets (versus 12-21, or 13-24 for wimps). With the 2 extra cogs, gear spacing was fine. I felt a little guilty not struggling so hard up the hills. But that was the modern way I guess. What could I do? Racing with the 11x23 is a blast (except in the mountains). Training with a 12-25 is awesome - Look at me ride that hill like I'm a pro! Don't forget the value of the 39t chainring to the overall experience.
    • One thing I don't like is the minimal overlap between the 53 and 39 chainrings. I tried to buy a 42t SRAM Red chainring for my SRAM Red crankset - couldn't even find one. Not much demand I guess. Shimano and others make them. Of course that is mix and match blasphemy!
    Since the pros are riding pantywaist gears now, (note careful use of thesaurus) I have no choice but to ride milksop gears if I want to look like a pro. Ride gears like that dork on the hybrid commuter. It's part of the unmanly-fication of society (are we even allowed to say "man"?). Go forth, comfortable in the thought that although the pros aren't as tough as they used to be, they are still tougher than you. And they ride sissy gears too. Just hope you are never teleported back about 20 years in time. Your metro-sexual ego will take a terrible beating.