Thursday, September 29, 2022

methuselah of chains

 I gotta crow about the effect of paraffin lubrication on my bike chains.

I've found sources that say you should expect your chain to last 3,000 miles (see here and here). Now, I started waxing chains in January of 2020. I bought two inexpensive chains, cut them to length, cleaned them down to bare metal (I'm updating my procedure for that after ruining a batch of wax; look for another post about cleaning chain if you're the least bit interested), immersed them in melted paraffin, mounted one on the bike. When I got about 500 miles on the first one, I put the other on the bike, then cleaned the first and immersed it in the melted paraffin and saved the chain; I continued to replace, clean, and re-wax every 500 miles.

Since I started the process, I've put about 8,500 miles on the Yellow Maserati. Let's subtract the 500 miles for the Sensah Empire 11-speed experiment; that leaves 8,000 miles on the original chains, so each chain has about 4000 miles on it. I measured them today... and they still show less than .75% wear; they're still within specification. I plan to change them if they last to 5,000 miles, because, like, don't push it too hard.

Now, I like doing bike maintenance (as most riders probably don't), and I don't find either the cleaning process (my old method is described at the bottom of the "waxing the chain" page) or the waxing process to be onerous. Most of you will decide that your regular lubrication process, and changing chains (and maybe cassettes*) as you do is fine for your purposes. But this clean-and-wax thing has done wonders for my chain life.

*I'm still using the same cassette over all that time, too; there's been no reason to change it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

back to basics

 OK, enough with the indexed shifting on the bike, with the noise and the need for perfect adjustment. I've reinstalled my Gevenalle 10-speed setup, and set the shifters to friction. 


The 11-speed Sensah Empire group will go on The Excellent Wife (TEW)'s bike the next time her Tiagra set needs adjustment. 

She'll probably appreciate the 34-tooth granny gear more than I. I'm glad I had it when we were going up that 200-feet-in-a-quarter-mile wall on Easton-Trenton Turnpike, but I've never needed it prior to that. Maybe I'll get the bigger cog the next time I replace. 

Maybe I won't. The steps between the cogs are bigger, making it harder to find a comfortable cadence. And I use that far more often than the easy gear.

I also gotta do something about my crappy bar-wrapping skills. It took me three tries this time, and it's still not very good.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

herardine, joanne, and scott (and tew)


I really like that one of Joanne.

The Excellent Wife (TEW) went on last year's Farmland Ride and was so smitten by the route that she saved it and had us adjust it so it starts at a municipal park, and then after Hurricane Ida laid waste to a substantial part of the route (which has, a year later, still not been substantially rebuilt), she had us adjust it again so we could still do it.

Today, she and I went out with two of her work associates (and the partner of one of them) to do the route.

Scott, below, has a lovely old Bianchi, above, with all Campagnolo Veloce.

 It's a hilly route, mostly in Hunterdon county. We were in no hurry, and stopped frequently for prettiness, curiosity, wardrobe adjustments, and photo ops, some of which are below.

Above: Yard Road, one of my favorites.

 At one of the many stables along the route. 

 There was a dog outside that side fence, and we noticed the horses kept moving to where they could see, and be close to, the dog. We think they're all pals.

The route goes past the Carousel in Ringoes, and then we turn onto Wertsville... but just beyond the turn is this other deli we wanted to try. I've been on a gazillion rides up this way, and never stopped at this Ringoes Country Deli.

It was FAR cleaner and more pleasant than the Carousel. And while there was an "out of order" sign on the toilet, the proprietor allowed us to use it (we made a few purchases; it may be that the sign is a defense against riff-raff). Even though this place doesn't have the front porch that the Carousel does, I'm planning to start lobbying for stops here instead.

We continued meandering through the rest of the route, and afterwards, we went into Flemington to review to offerings; there's a sort of farmer's market (where I got a completely acceptable empanada) near the Factory Fuel, where TEW and I got latte's. 

Ride page.

On the way home, we found a place where the local eggs are cheaper than most of the factory-produced eggs in the supermarkets, so a couple dozen found their way into our fridge. A good day.

Friday, September 23, 2022

with the change in the weather...

 The weather has turned cooler with the arrival of autumn, which means I'm back to being that guy who puts on a blazer and bow tie to go to the grocery.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

good closing speech

 Youtube recently fed me a video from Psychic Derailleur through my feed. I watched it and liked it, and watched another, and liked it, and another, and now I'm smitten.

He closes his videos with a little speech: "I hope something good happens to you today. Until next time, be nice; work hard; ride bikes; play music when you can."

I like it. I might steal it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

sensah groupset experiment at 500 miles


Last month, I announced my intention to check out the Sensah Empire 11-speed mechanical groupset. Shimano now has electronic 105, and while mechanical 105 is still available as I write this, my fear (and experience) is that higher-priced, novel technology tends to drive away older, tried and true technology (one of my old riding buddies, Ron S, once said, "If you find a saddle you like, buy ten of 'em, because eventually they're gonna stop makin' 'em.") The cost of entry to road cycling is already too high and isn't getting any lower, so I wanted to try this Chinese-manufactured groupset I'd seen on the internet, which was getting good reviews, and which is incredibly inexpensive.

I got it from the Ali Express Sensah Empire Store (there are other stores on Ali Express that sell it... but the Chinese are famous for violating patents and trademarks of foreign companies; why would I think they'd have more integrity with another Chinese company?). The store must have US stock available, because I had the box a day or two later.

I installed as explained in my installation post. I've had it on the bike for about 500 miles, and I'm ready to have a final opinion.

Installation: As I've already explained, installation was straightforward, except that the included clamps did not fit my larger-than-specification 80's-era Cinelli bars. They will fit drop bars with the current specification; for the rest of youse, invest in a couple of these. Other than that, it was the quickest, least troublesome install I've ever done.

Performance: Shifting is quick and decisive. I like them as well as I like any index-shifting system (I don't like the "cla-DUNK" noise that announces the shift, and I don't like the fact that I can't shift four or more gears at a time in the rear, as I can with my friction Gevenalle system, to which I will be returning). A few days ago, I found that the front derailleur was not dropping to the smaller gear reliably. A cable adjustment fixed this, and it's my belief that the bike knows when the hot weather is mostly over and cooler weather is coming, and signals this by requiring a shift adjustment; similar things have been happening to me for years. It's back to behaving nicely.

I went for the set that came with the 34-tooth large gear on the rear derailleur. I never used the large gear until a ride this Saturday, on which we had a climb of about 200' in about a quarter-mile. I've gotten religion and seen the error of my ways, and will be fitting a cassette with a 34-tooth large gear on the Yellow Maserati when time and finances permit.

Aesthetics: I like the look of the Sensah set. The front derailleur is nothing-in-particular; front-derailleur-undifferentiated-type, but I like the look of the rear derailleur and the controls. The hoods have some texture molded in, and the levers have a techie look to 'em. The rear derailleur has a carbon-looking sticker on, which I could do without, but the structure is handsome.

I like the feel of the levers when I'm riding on the hoods, too. The ramps on my bars point forward and down, so there's a bit of extra weight on my hands when I'm riding on the hoods, but they support comfortably.

Cost: $174 shipped. This included shifters, front and rear derailleur, cassette, and chain (11-speed, nothing-in-particular Chinese brand). I went for the all-alloy set; it's available in carbon for additional cost in cash and savings in weight.

Recommendation: Do it. Especially if you can do your own mechanicals, or if you can get it done and just do the adjustments yourself. If you don't need electronic shifting and the latest-and-greatest, this can definitely work.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

a tired 38 miles

 So after exhausting myself on a demanding ride yesterday*, I was not looking forward to the 38-mile "Annoying Hills" ride I'd scheduled for today (I gotta plan this stuff better), but there it was on the schedule, so I ran it.

*Note that I'm glad I did the ride yesterday; it was fun, I like the people I was out with, and the gathering afterwards was a delight. But I'm still tired from it.

The pics are from the start, and the stop at Thomas Sweet:

Ride page. Don't let the average speed fool you; I started out strong, but flagged, and the last bit was at an ambassadorial pace. On the subsequent ride home (which you don't get to see), I was getting passed by turtles, snails, and roadkill.

I need to take some time for wrenching instead of riding.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

a demanding ride, placating the goddess, and a party


Still life with bicycle and associated impedimenta.

Friend Bob N, whom I haven't see in months, had an idea to do a piece of the Sourlands Spectacular route this weekend (a week after the actual event). He contacted a number of the Hill Slugs, and five of us agreed and were available: besides Bob, we had Rickety G, Peter G, Laura OLPH, and yours truly. 

 We agreed on fifty miles, so Bob rejiggered the routes and came up with something. I was dismayed when I saw we were gonna pass through Zion both on the way out and on the way back, but Bob assured me that on the way back, the climb wouldn't be that bad. I was not satisfied; the guy who claimed three kinds of lies (lies, damned lies, and statistics) had obviously never heard of ride leader promises.

We left and were at the climb at Dutchtown-Zion in less than ten miles, and I'm able to report it's still a demanding climb. I'd forgotten, though, that the last chunk-of-a-mile of the subsequent descent is gravel. I gingerly dawdled through that, and at the bottom, we got to see the condition of the bridge that was washed out a year ago in storm Ida:

It may not be clear from the picture, but those arches are new construction: the mortar is clean and new; there are fresh planks on top, and the rebar shows no rust. The associated sign:

...shows work was to start over a year ago, before the storm; I'm sure the crews have had other priorities in the interim. I'm glad the bridge is getting attention, as, I'm sure, are the local residents.

On we went. A bit later, we had to turn onto Amwell Road. Now, I have a dispute with the goddess of Amwell Road; I had a bad crash on that road in 2015, and I have had a number of mechanical problems, as have riders on rides I have led. This goddess is a trickster: powerful and arbitrary, as all gods are. We had about two miles on this road. I tried to think of any other gods from whom I could ask for a favor, placating Amwell, but realized that my best hope was probably just to make obeisance to her, so I did that for the time I was on her road. After we turned off, I spent a few miles meditating on my gratitude for my good fortune in not exciting her ire. I'm not one for spiritual experiences; this was close to one.

A bit later, we turned off Sergeantsville Road onto the Easton-Trenton Turnpike. Peter swore when he realized where we were turning: this road climbs one hundred fifty feet in a little over a quarter-mile; it's reported to have an 18% average grade (I know it wasn't above 23%, because I can't keep my front wheel down on a grade of 23% or more). It wasn't the height of the Dutchtown-Zion climb... but that is spread over about four miles or more before the downhill.

We stopped at the Sergeantsville store.

On the way back, I went into a rant about friendships. We don't need to go into the source of it here, but it's become clear to me that one of the things important to maintaining health is making and maintaining friends. It's easy when you're working, or in school... but I'm an old retired guy, and there aren't places I just bump into people; I've got to make a point of being places where I can meet potential friends, and of building and nurturing those relationships. Our lives depend on it.

We returned to Bob's house, where we had a post-ride feed, and met his excellent wife, Helen.

If you get a chance to enjoy a stop there, I recommend you take it.

Monday, September 12, 2022

on riding the bike you love


This post has been percolating for a while.

Twice over the past few weeks, I’ve talked to people who had bikes they loved to ride… but weren’t riding. In one case, the rider didn’t like the downtube shifters on his older bike, but love the way the bike rode and the way it fit him. He didn’t know that a new groupset could be fitted to this older bike.

In the other case, the rider had a big-name custom steel-frame bike hanging in the garage, that he said he loved to ride… but he’d gotten a lighter, carbon-fiber bike, and now rode that most of the time. He didn’t like it as much, and was thinking of updating the groupset on the custom steel-frame bike so he could ride it more.

This second rider, especially, makes me stop to think. I wonder how many have bikes we love, that we don’t ride, because we’ve bought a new bike with the latest-and-greatest. Sometimes, I think, riders feel they “have” to ride the new bike to justify the cash outlay.

There are people who have the financial situation and the space to have a stable of bikes. That’s great, for those who can do it. But many of us only have two or three bikes, and if that’s the case, then I think we should make sure the ones we love most are the ones we ride most.

Bicycles are modular. Parts and groupsets can be swapped out, and parts are available to make newer standards work on older bikes. If you’ve got an older bike you love, and would like to ride it more, talk to someone who knows something about the mechanicals; it’s likely that it’s possible to upgrade the bike with newer parts to improve (and modernize) your riding experience.

I have two bikes: a road bike with a titanium frame, and a monstercross bike with a steel frame. I like the steel frame bike well enough… but I love the titanium bike; I ride it twenty times for every time I take out the other bike. I’ve been thinking about why I like the titanium bike so much, and a few things come to mind:

  • It fits me really well. I’ve been riding it for more than a decade, and I’ve fooled around with saddle height, saddle setback, bar height, stem length, crank length, and anything else I can think of; when I go on my solo rides, I have the wrenches with me to make adjustments, and I do (well, not often anymore, because it mostly dialed-in). It’s not the lightest bike (especially since I usually carry six pounds of water and seatbag gear), but I can ride for hours because of the fit. I’m not the fastest rider you’ve ever seen, but I can go up a hill pretty well.

  • It’s a neutral color. The frame is unpainted titanium; the other appointments are black and silver. Do I want to try some bar wrap in a screaming green? Can I get a good deal on a reddish-purplish saddle? Do I want to hang colored bandannas from the saddle? There’s no color on the bike to clash. (It helps, of course, that I have a lousy color sense; a more sensitive rider might be horrified!)

  • I change something on it fairly regularly, so it often feels like a new bike. I’m currently experimenting with the Sensah Empire 11-speed indexed groupset (at 400-or-so miles, it’s behaving very well indeed). That’s the fourth shifter setup I’ve had on it, and I expect in another 100 miles or so, I’ll go back to my Gevenalle 10-speed group, because I can set that up with friction shifting, which I like better than indexed shifting*. I recently changed the handlebar to an 80’s-era Cinelli Campione del Mondo (its third set of bars), after the no-longer-available Velo-Orange bar I had kept slipping in the stem. I’ve changed wheels, cranks, pedals, saddles.

(*Don't conflate friction shifting with downtube shifters. Friction shifters can also be on the bar ends, or, as on y Gevenalle set, on the brake levers.)

I can understand the folks who have a classic bike, and want to keep it all-original. But I can’t understand the people who have a bike they love… and ride something else most of the time.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

several mishaps


Wassily Kandinsky was a pioneer of abstract art, and is noted for having set himself a number of tasks with artistic limitations, to see what he could do. One of these was for his painting Several Circles, in which he limited his shapes to circles and stuck to pure abstraction:

On the ride today, we did not set ourselves a task of having a number of mishaps... but that's what happened anyway (luckily, none was particularly memorable or dramatic).

One of the things that was NOT a mishap was a visit from Tony G, who had gone down hard on a ride that I did not write a post about. He's healing nicely for his age (if not as quickly as he'd like).

Tony is known for having a collection of bikes, and apparently people just leave bikes with him. He's donated some parts and bikes to the New Brunswick Bike Exchange, where I volunteer. Today he brought a Columbia three-speed mixte that's gonna clean up nice, among other things.

I'm looking forward to the day he brings out another of his more-than-a-dozen gorgeous Italian bikes for one of my rides.

I had eleven, then ten, then eight registered for today.

I had heard that Rosedale Road is open in Princeton, and that Bayberry was recently chipsealed, so I adjusted one of my routes to take the former and avoid the latter. Rosedale is still a good downhill from Elm/Great Road, but the circle at the bottom means you can't just use all your downward momentum to get up the hill on the other side (it's still far easier the way I went, than going the other way). And when we got around to see the end of Bayberry... well, the chipseal is still loose.

Before we got to Bayberry, however,Eric caught a flat.

Once he and Pete had gotten things running again, we proceeded to the stop. Another incident: 75% of us stopped at the Boro Bean; the remainder went on to the Brick Farm Market. I don't know if that was a missed communication, or a mutinous decision.

So after the Boro Bean, we stopped at the Brick to pick up our two riders-errant, and continued along the route, turning right on Hollow Road... where we were stopped by the train that was stalled in the railroad crossing, showing no sign of moving. For all I know, it might still be there.

Space here for the picture of the stopped train, that I forgot to take.

We turned around, and headed back down to 518... where Eric had another flat.

At this point, a number of the riders decided to proceed along; Peter, Chris, and I stayed. Pete found a piece of wire in the tire; he had earlier found a small gash that he thought was the sign of the problem, but the piece or wire was more likely, as Eric was able to finish the ride on a full tire.

With time running later than I expected, I cut the route a bit short and headed straight back to the start. Chris jokingly complained about being cheated out of two miles of route; I advised him that if he complained to the PFW Board, he might be able to get a partial refund of his free registration.

Ride page. Despite everything (including some fast riders), we brought it in within the advertised pace.