December 19, 2010

Lubing the Bike on the Trainer

I am always in a bit of a dilemma when I need to lube the chain on my bike while it's on the trainer. Even though it isn't getting dirty, it seems the lube is gradually lost over time and the chain feels rough, not smooth. So time to lube.

Problem is I hate the smell of the petroleum products on my chain. In the enclosed space of the basement bedroom, it really bugs me. Sure I could take it to the garage, lube it and let it sit overnight to gas off the really volatile stinky organic carbon molecules. But that would take planning, work, and I'm really just too lazy and don't plan ahead like that. I only remember to lube my chain just before I ride. And I don't feel like removing the bike from the trainer.

So what can I use for in situ lubrication that doesn't stink? Tough problem. Today I came up with a solution! I lubed my chain with canola oil from the kitchen. I figure that if I can eat it, it shouldn't off-gas molecules that are too harmful. I'm sure it lacks the aromatic hydrocarbons essential for properly bonding with metal surfaces, but who cares. I'm not riding on the road and there is no dirt in the basement.

Seems to work. I had my ride in olfactory peace for 1 3/4 hours today. I thought I could faintly smell popcorn for a while, but I'm sure that was my imagination.

Jan 21, 2011 update: OK, so that wasn't the perfect solution. On the plus side, it doesn't stink. On the minus, does drip a bit. Drivetrain is not as smooth as with real lube. Overall, I can see why I shouldn't use canola oil except in this very specialized application.

Jun 5, 2011 Update: Its official, canola oil sucks as chain lube. On the road this stuff turned to sticky, dirt attracting crap that was hard to clean off with enviro-friendly bike chain cleaner. Took several cleanings to get rid of it and I still think there is a bit on there. Live and learn.

December 12, 2010

Velox Rim Strips versus Plastic Rim Strips

So it is the season. The season to ride my Schwalbe Ice Spikers, that is. But I'm having bad luck with them this year. Both the front and back tires went flat on me - on two separate days thankfully. Now these tires are built like tanks and it is virtually impossible to get a puncture. The problem in both cases was the rim strips.

In the first wheel, I was using some generic rim tape that isn't actually designed for bike rims. It is some black cloth tape that is very tough and the bike stores seem to like to use it around here. Cheaper. How did it fail? Well it gradually worked its way to the side of the rim, exposing the rim spoke holes. Now to be honest, I haven't touched these wheels for years. Haven't had to until now. And the tape was a touch too narrow for these rims. After the front wheel failed, I wasn't too concerned and attributed it to the cheap tape. I just patched the tube, put in a plastic rim strip, put everything back together and kept a ridin.

Note: if you have to patch the inner circumference of your tube, the problem is likely your rim strip. Check it. Punctures tend to occur on the outer circumference.

About 2 weeks later, the second flat was a pain because I didn't have a pump with me. So I had to push my bike about 7 km home. In this case, it wasn't some generic product that failed, it was velox tape. That stuff is made for bike rims. Same problem, it had crawled off to the side of the rim and actually had exposed multiple spoke holes. In this case the rim tape was wide enough to cover the entire rim from side to side. It had folded over itself in places and crawled up the sidewalls of the rim as well. When I peeled it off, the tape still had some stickiness to it, but the glue had degraded somewhat.

I expect the problem was the length of time the tape rim strips were in place without getting a flat - probably several years. But I have other wheels that have seen a similar lack of flats, have a lot more hours on them, and never had a problem. I believe the advantage of the plastic rim strips relates to how tight they fit. Really, they rely on their tight fit rather than stickiness to stay in place. They should not have a tendancy to crawl up the sides of the rim or fold over. At least I have never experienced that problem. FSA, Vittoria, Ritchey, etc. make the plastic rim strips.

No more rim tape for me.

December 06, 2010

Kurt Kinetic Trainer Review

So my Tacx didn't work out as planned and I didn't feel like sinking a bunch of cash into fixing it. Instead I sank my cash into a Kurt Kinetic trainer near the end of last years trainer season. It was cheaper and I was pissed.

Well, this year's trainer season is well underway now where I live. And I have been spending some quality time with my Kurt trainer. Here's my take.

First, I didn't bother with the fancy Kurts. I just need a workout, I don't need the big flywheel or one that swings side to side. I'm more interested in getting to my target heart rate, being able to stand and pedal to give my butt a break from time to time with decent resistance, and a unit that holds together.

Well, I'm happy to say that the Kurt is working well on all fronts. It is a pretty heavy duty unit. Heavy steel construction. The basic flywheel is pretty large compared to your run of the mill trainer. And the fluid unit is nice and quiet. It does get warm, but not ridiculous (you are unlikely to burn yourself) and I have no fear it can take it.

As for feel, the unit is very smooth and feels more like riding on the road than previous trainers I have used. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but the feel is different - in a good way. I find it fosters a high cadence versus the mag trainers which tend to make me slow down my spin and mash. I like spinning over 100 rpm on this trainer and tend to go there naturally, which is my natural road cadence. I don't have to concentrate on spinning and can focus on the workout intensity. Which is great for my limited attention span.

In terms of resistance, I can stand at about 60 rpm in the 53x12 and that requires about 215 watts and I'm going about 20 mph which seems just about right according to the chart. Great for taking breaks from the seated grind from time to time. Lots of resistance room for intervals too as resistance increases quickly as speed increases. Something like on the road, wattage versus speed is not a linear relationship. Overall, I would say that the resistance is similar to flat road feel on a windless day on a mountain bike? Kurt has designed the trainer to respond with a resistance curve like the real road and it seems to work although I haven't plotted the graph out myself. I do know that it doesn't take me over 400 watts to go 25 mph on the road, but that's OK. High resistance potential is a good thing in a trainer. Theoretically, you can hit much more than 1000 watts, although I cannot verify this personally - unfortunately.

Don't forget to check out their warranty. Lifetime warranty plus a crash replacement warranty? 25$ as long as you don't destroy it so badly it can't be rebuilt. How do you crash a stationary trainer you might well ask? Well, you might crash on a crazy ass interval I suppose - trying to beat the graph and hit 2000 watts for example. I believe your bike will give out before the trainer will. It is much more solidly built than any bike weighing less than a tank. Or maybe the warranty covers car crashes when you're driving to a bring-your-own-trainer spin class? Regardless, a very decent warranty.

Now you can buy a fancy, shmancy computerized trainer like that Tacx POS. Or for about the same price you can simply watch movies, and ride the Kurt with a powermeter.  The advantage of the Kurt is far fewer things to fail, far better warranty, and the powermeter is useful year round. The thrill of racing comic book characters wore off fast for me anyway.

Pretty happy with my Kurt. As good as they get. Maybe I'll go watch an episode of Prison Break on it right now.

January 15, 2014 Update: The Kurt works as well now as it did on day one. Absolutely flawless.