Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Unscrambling an egg

--> There was a time when you could build up a complete bike, starting with a frame and a box of bits, without too many stumbles on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  You’d even have time for a spin round the block.  That time, it appears, has passed – at least that’s been my experience of building up a new Canyon.

I got a hint that modern frames are a little tricksy when replacing the Mudge’s rear derailleur cable on her Avail.  Unlike the R5, where cabling is all externally routed, the Avail has everything running through the frame.  Fortunately, an inspection port under the bottom bracket shell facilitated pinpoint threading of the subterranean wire in question – but it took quite a bit of fiddling (and swearing) to get right.

The Canyon frame-set arrived some 6 weeks early, and I was keen to throw the thing together.  Like the Avail, all cabling is internally routed.  The frame was fortunately plumbed with plastic sheaths connecting the entry and exit ports for brake and gear lines.  As the ends of these plastic tubes extend beyond the portals, it was clear that whilst they would initially guide cable passage, they would then have to be removed.  Should you subsequently want to remove a cable to facilitate, for instance, trimming the external housings to the correct lengths, the cables would first have to be re-sheathed with the guide first so that the cable could once again be chaperoned out the correct port.  In order to have a tidy arrangement under the handlebars whilst permitting proper rotation and limited cable-sheath rubbing (on frame or each other), this can sometimes take numerous re-threadings. 

Needless to say it was all quite fiddly and testing my patience somewhat.  With everything in place I finally got round to installing the press-fit bottom bracket – yet another BB standard I’d not used before (BB86).  Fortunately, the one I’d ordered on-line fit like a glove.  On went the cranks, pedals, rear derailleur, chain, and in no time I had the chain dancing up and down the cluster with precision.  Don’t you love it when a plan comes together.  And don’t you hate it when you’ve screwed it up all by yourself.  I was then ready to install the front derailleur but this should, of course, have happened prior to setting the chain.  This wouldn’t have been an issue if Shimano supplied more than one connecting pin per chain, which used to be the case.  I’ve tried punching out then re-seating standard pins with narrow chains but it’s hard to get right, compared to the 7 and 8 speed chains of old, where it was standard practice.  I was just about to throw the thing in the bin when the Mudge produced a SRAM 11 spd magic connecter, which did the re-set nicely.

By this stage it was dark and I’d conceded defeat, resigning myself to the concept of giving the Wombat one last trundle on the Sunday morning.  Morning arrived, and with no third party teed up for a ride we opted for a sleep in, before having another crack at getting the new bike finished.  If this happened quickly, then I’d take it out after all.

However, try as I might I couldn’t quite get the tension of the front derailleur cable dialed.  Ordinarily there is a tension adjuster attached to the frame housing.  However the cable port was too narrow to accept a standard barrel adjuster, and I’d foolishly eschewed installation of an in-line barrel adjuster, which I now conceded I’d have to introduce somewhere under the handlebars to have everything “tickety-boo”.  Hampster, if you are reading this don’t make the same mistake! 

This, of course meant the cable would have to be sacrified and a new one installed and re-cut, but not before re-threading the guide sheath!  Not a biggy if you are dealing with swaths of extra length of an uncut cable, but less trivial if the cable is already short to begin with.  Sure enough, I had trouble threading the guide sheath through the U-turn round the bottom bracket shell, let alone having it re-emerge, and when I tied to pull some cable through to help its passage I inadvertently sucked the end of the wire down the other rabbit hole, never to see it again.  It just wouldn’t come out.  Damn and blast!  (insert more swearing).

All appeared lost, as was my appetite for a Sunday spin at all.  I’d now have to remove cranks and (expensive) press-fit bottom bracket so that I could re-thread a new cable.  Normally removal of press-fit shells requires extreme violence in the form of a screwdriver and hammer, which I was preparing myself for, as well as a trip to the LBS for a new BB, as I sucked down my coffee. 

It then occurred to me that I might, in-fact, have a tool for such a removal, even though I’d never installed a BB86 before.  Sure enough, some years ago when contemplating servicing press-fit bearings, as well as purchasing an Enduro Hub Press (beautiful piece of kit, BTW), I also purchased a BB86 cup tool (I think for the Mudges mtb).  After rifling through my chest of knick knacks I found the box.  The BRT-003 was still in its wrapper.  Ikarumba!  The cups were eased out as smoothly as they went in, and are hopefully undamaged.  Time will tell.

Already long story short – the rest of the bike went together and got tweaked, including another “aheadset” variation I’d not used before (“Acros iLock”).   

Even though I’ve previously put numerous bikes together, this one really was a notch more complicated – and it didn’t even have junction boxes and electronics to consider.  Hopefully by the time I succumb to electronic shifting wireless will be all the rage and there will be fewer cables altogether.

With C24 wheels it weighs in at a touch under 7.2 kg – which is a little heavier than the similar vintage R5 (7.05 kg) kitted out with the same wheels, bars, saddle,pedals and Ultegra mechanical 11 spd groupset.  Some of this extra weight is in the frame itself (the R5 is a particularly light frameset), and some is in the crankset – Ultegra is, I suspect, a little heavier than the Rotor equivalent on the R5.

The ride.  As with the R5, I jumped on this after an extensive spell (in this case 4000K) on the Wombat.  Whilst I found the R5 harsher than expected, which consequently took me a while to warm to, the Canyon is plush and probably the most comfortable road frame I’ve ever straddled.  No breaking-in period required.  Hopefully I’ll steer it free of garage doors for a long time.
 As clean as it'll ever be
Yes, clearly I've yet to get red highlights out of my system.  
In commuting mode.

PS:  highlight of the Sunday afternoon twitch at the Chiltern Track (apart from loads of Scarlet Honeyeaters) was a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater vying with a New Holland for stag supremacy.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Wombat Rides Again

It was bound to happen – the combination of bikes on roofs and underground parking met at an inevitable (perhaps) convergence.  We’ve been so good all these years…until just recently, when the R5 was put to an early grave, with just shy of 30000 km on the dash.  Ironically only weeks before I’d replaced all the bearings in the wheels and swapped out the press-fit bottom bracket.  Upon hearing the crunch the Mudge and I turned to face each other, and simultaneously exclaimed, “bike!” The force of the impact was sufficient to push the saddle rails through the top of the saddle (the point of impact), and the claw punctured the down tube.  Lucky there was just one bike up there and not three, or we might have pulled the roof off the car as well.

Remarkably, the “transportables” component of my house-and-contents insurance coughed up exactly what I paid for it.  However, life is too short to ride the same thing over and over, not to mention the price of a new R5 frameset being astronomical, so I’ve opted for something a little different, and considerably cheaper, although am sticking with the charcoal/red colour scheme which I’m (surprisingly) enjoying.  So, until Mr Canyon arrives I’m back on the olde Wombat and 10 spd technology.  Might even have time to get the odometer up to 50K before finally putting this one to rest.

UltraGiles UltraTrail

Helping Sara, Moira and Anita crew for Giles at the Ultratrail Ultramarathon was an eye-opener, confirming that there are whole other worlds of crazy out there to explore.  The event was impressive on numerous levels; the brutal course, the volume of runners whom partake (~1000 do the 100 km option, which sells out in hours) and the organisational logistics that must go into the hosting of the event.  Imagine a 3peaks-Scott24 fusion, but without bikes to complicate proceedings.  Add another couple of thousand who crew into mix and you get a feel for the scale of the circus. And as Sara pointed out, for an event that ostensibly only requires running shoes, there is an awful lot of paraphernalia that adorns not only the runner, but also the kit and kaboodle brought by each crew to the checkpoint pit areas.  In this case it was crammed into two large plastic tubs and an esky, accompanied by a few chairs.  Much of it mirrored what is found in the pit of a 24solo, but it has to be transportable, from one transition point to the next.  At each of the 3 crewed checkpoints once Giles arrived he was on a clock; clothing is changed, lube applied, noodles, tea, chips and watermelon consumed, depleted hydration and food supplies in the running pack exchanged for new, each in its correct place, light sets swapped, and all those other little points hopefully addressed before they are forgotten, only to be remembered once the mayhem of the checkpoint has been left behind.

I love the sheer romance of the event; the spectators cheering as the runners come through, even if reduced to walking late in the piece, or even early in the piece.  Bloodymindedness is perhaps the most important quality.  Makes you just want to throw on a set of sneakers and run back to Sydney the next day.  Of course, the reality is a tad more sobering, away from the adoring crowds, strobes and trance-disco soundtrack....100 kms of snakes-and-ladders bush running that pummels romance into survival.

Giles ran a solid race despite have food bounce (= throwing up) for the first 7 hrs.  Damned heat.  A little behind schedule he also managed to leave the first pit area sans poles, which would have been helpful tackling the thousands of steps to the next checkpoint.  But he ran a strong second half to finish close to his original schedule, approx 40 minutes quicker than last year.  Chapeau!  And not too damaged the next morning either. I've dabbled in a few half marathons previously and experienced sufficient knee pain to know I'm probably not a runner.  But bearing witness makes me want to be one nonetheless.

Sunday proper afforded a titanic sleep in.  Come the afternoon we departed palatial Cascade digs and headed off to try to twitch a couple of choice birds on the way home.  Destination Woodford had us ditch the car and embark on our own trail walk of 6 km with bins in tow.  In short, we ticked one of them, a bird we've only seen once about 8 years ago.  Hello again and thanks for great views....Beautiful firetail.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Whiskey under a cave under the stars

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together, even if that plan is so vague as to only reveal itself as you play along?  So it was with a much anticipated weekend escape in the mountains with some olde climbing mates.  Gooches crater and cave became the focus (great suggestion Ian), which required some deft navigation (hats off Ian and Tony), with the promise of a fire and dry digs at the far end.  We weren’t anticipating a party of 19 showing up at dusk, but by this stage the beer antics had largely worn off, the whiskey was kicking in, the fire and wood pile were stoked, and amusement was provided by the assortment of minimalist campfire cooking on display – from the chemical experiment requiring no fire at all, to naked sausages slowly turning to ash. 

When we finally did get round to cooking it was a feast that wont be forgotten in a hurry.  Neil’s marinated steaks were simply magnificent, complemented by roast spuds, sautéed mushys and veges, red wine, more whiskey, puddings and marsh mallows.  A fantastically starry night gave way to morning drizzle, which eventually cleared by the time bacon and egg jaffles and rounds of coffee and tea had been put away mid morning.  The walk out was easier courtesy of light packs and a refreshing swim in the creek.

One of the best weekends I’ve had in a while.  Must make sure more years don't slip by before we find an excuse do it all again.  Thanks chaps!