Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's been a long road.  My old Aragon 10-speed has gone through yet another metamorphosis.  OK, that's an exaggeration but it has been upgraded again, maybe for the last time.

There were some things I have wanted to change for a while but simply didn't get around to it.  Better brakes, shifters, etc...  Finally I had a reason to do it.  That's a story for another post.

It started with the front fork.  I screwed up the threads on the steerer tube while replacing the headset.  Not a disaster.  I already had a new spare sitting around.  Then I decided I wanted another new one, one with double eyelets for mounting front racks.  I found one in a local shop and picked it up.  I cut the steerer tube to the same length as the original, but for some reason it came up a little short.  Perhaps the new headset was a little different.  I could use it but the lock nut wasn't holding enough threads to suit me.  It also was chrome, not my first choice, so I got online and ordered a new black one with double eyelets.

I'm a little fuzzy on the order of the rest of the changes.  They happened rather quickly with a great deal of overlap.  I am not sure how I managed to keep it straight, so many changes in a short amount of time but it came together.

I changed it from a 10-speed to a 14-speed.  I had a never-used Shimano 7-speed freewheel I planned to use.  Then, since my crank was drilled for a triple I chose to make it a 21-speed. Easy right?  Not really.  I pulled the crank and installed the new 30t chainring I had ordered and it was too close to the chainstay.  I needed a longer bottom bracket axle.  I bought a 127mm bottom bracket to replace the 113mm unit and now it would fit.

One problem though.  As I was reinstalling the crank I noticed the crank was cracked.  Another setback.
 I looked online for a replacement crank, not really finding one that suited my purpose at a price I wanted to pay, and suddenly it occurred to me.  I still had the cranks from my old mountain bike.  I wonder if they used the same bolt pattern as these chainrings.

They do.  So I swapped the rings and put the cranks on the bike.  Now the chainrings were too far from the frame.  Back to the original 113mm axle and all is good.

Of course the front derailleur was made for two chainrings (double) not three (triple) so now I needed a different one of those.  Again, looking online and in shops before remembering I still had that part from the old mountain bike as well.  There was, of course a design issue there too.  It did fit the frame and would work well but for the fact that the derailleur I had used a cable housing stop that the mountain bike part did not have.  I tried to find a separate stop but nothing was available.  At Home Depot I looked around for something I could use.  The best I could find there was a u-bolt and a shelf bracket.  I cut the bracket, drilled and tapped it to install an adjuster barrel and voila I had a stop.

 It's not pretty but it worked.  I didn't like it though.  The ugly aspect didn't bother me too much but I doubt it would hold up long term.  Then, one day at work, I noticed a shaft collar on a machine and had my solution.  I ordered an aluminum shaft collar and, after it arrived, drilled and tapped it for the adjuster barrel.  It looks much better and I have little worry of it failing me.

I also wanted to get rid of the stem shifters  Though I really like Suntour this bike was shaping up to be a touring bike.  If something should happen to fail out on the road it would be best to have a little better availability of parts.  I looked for bar end shifters but they tend to be a little pricey.  I tried to find a downtube shifter setup using either a clamp on set of Shimano or a clamp that would accept braze-on shifters.  After looking everywhere I could fathom I stumbled across Sunrace.  They make a 7-speed Shimano compatible clamp-on downtube shifter.  The only downside is that it is indexing only, no friction mode, but I can live with that.

One other thing that makes the bike less attractive for touring is the wheel size.  27" wheels, very common in the '80s are extinct apart from the old relics rolling around.  The selection of available tires is really slim.  And being such an old bike I thought I would have to build my own wheels, at least the rear. The 126mm dropout spacing with a freewheel is quite obsolete.  For this wheel I had a specific need.  A 126mm hub that would accept a british threaded screw-on freewheel, 36 spokes and a 700c double-wall rim.  Looking online for a hub online I found mostly expensive NOS parts or old stuff in questionable condition. Then I ran across a site selling new Wheelsmith wheels using Weinmann  700c double-wall rims laced with 36 spokes to Origin8 126mm (rear) and 120mm (front) hubs.  And...cheaper than I could build them myself.

Next? I changed the brakes.  The original brakes worked OK but did leave a lot of room for improvement.  The old Schwinn-approved style single pivot brakes are probably not strong enough for loaded touring.  And with the new wheels of a slightly smaller diameter, they barely reached the rims.  They did work but if they flexed they might damage the tires.  After a bit of research I found the Tektro 559 long-reach nutted brakes. They seem to be as close to ideal for the purpose as possible without a torch.

For good measure I ordered a NOS set of Dia-compe brake levers and after some postal issues I ended up buying two sets.  I placed a black set of levers on the handlebars with black hoods and topped them off with some old-fashioned foam handlebar grips.  The bike is now nearly complete.

The front rack was yet another challenge.  I needed a high-mounted front rack which is something rarely seen today.  The best I could find for a reasonable price was designed for attachment using the quick-release skewer.  I wanted to attach to the for eyelets.  My option was to get the rack and scrap the QR mounts, then rig up a mounting setup for the eyelets.  Again, it isn't pretty but it works.  I used a reinforcing bracket and a couple of p-clips per side.  I was a little concerned about the durability of the setup but a 200 mile loaded tour on unpaved rail trails showed it to be strong enough.  There are a couple of minor changes I may still make in the future, I can't seem to leave well enough alone, but fundamentally it is done.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Strange.  I have been cycling for decades, some years much more than others.  In the early years the bike was simply a mechanism, a tool for playing in the yard.  Then it became transportation, freedom for a preteen.

Then I got a ten-speed.  More complex with all of those gears and brakes you operated with your hands, it was the coolest Christmas present I had ever received.  So began my love for gadgets.  I had always been curious about the workings of things, from the time I cut the music box out of the back of my stuffed gingerbread man as a young child.

While many of the people with whom I ride know little of bicycle maintenance I enjoy much of it.  Hooked on the gadgetry, I enjoy eBay and accessory sites and catalogs.  I find it interesting, all of the clever goo-gaws people invent to solve problems or just make the ride better, faster, different, or whatever.  I have spent hours and dollars changing my rides in various ways - some good, some not so much but always a learning experience.

I bought some shifters that I didn't previously know existed for an old road bike that turned out to be the best ones I have used.  I put a Montague Octagon adjustable stem on my old mountain bike, a rather ingenious design, that I think will really add some versatility.

It dawned on me recently that I like playing with the setups as much as riding, if not more.  That is probably why I have so many bikes, one of which I rarely ride.  I probably should sell that one but it is a doo-dad.  Can't have too many of those, right?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Autumn Riding

The Great Pumpkin Metric was a great ride this year.  Fantastic weather.  I rode the Paramount on the 100k route and felt great.  Even the hills I hated most in years past, Burdette and St. Phillip, though tough were much easier than in years past.

Last weekend was Hilly Hundred weekend.  It's a great ride with a lot of riders.  Saturday was chilly with a high of 55° and gloomy, including some rain.  Sunday was also cool but sunny, making it much more pleasant.  Probably not too difficult for people who live and ride in Colorado, Tennessee, etc... but challenging for many of us flatlanders.  I rode the Cannondale on that ride.  I wanted to try out my upgrades in gearing and brakes this time around.  It was tough but the improvements were apparent.  It probably would have been somewhat easier had I ridden the Paramount though.

Looking back down Mt. Tabor

I recently ran across another good deal.  I picked up a Diamondback 29er priced at 1/3 off.  I have been wanting a newer, more capable MTB for some time.  Those 29er wheels look huge next the old one's 26's.  The bike just looks big.  Sitting on it, the front wheel simply looks massive when I'm accustomed to looking down to see a front wheel, this one's wheel looms much more prominently ahead.

It will be interesting to try out the hydraulic disc brakes, as well as the massive gearing, on the trail.  On my short jaunts around the neighborhood it appears that if I can keep the front wheel on the ground, I can climb it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Return of the Great Pumpkin

This past Sunday I participated in The Great Pumpkin Metric Bicycle Tour for the 15th time.  It was a great ride.  I remember the first time, back in 1985, when I was new to the organized tour scene.  Back then 50k (31 miles) seemed like a long ride.  I rode hard that day and was exhausted after I finished the ride.

More recently was the year when the temperature was up in the 90's, a bit hot for October.  Another year the high was in the mid 50's and windy.  I was probably more exhausted after that one than any other ride I have taken.  It also took me hours to warm up after that.

This year the weather was perfect, the best I can remember.  High in the mid 70's, calm and sunny.  I don't know if I am in better shape now than in the past or if it's due to the newer and lighter bike, but it was definitely the easiest that ride has ever been for me.  I believe it was a combination of the two.  My average speed wasn't really faster than in previous years, but the hills, even the worst ones, weren't as painful.  The real test is coming up...the Hilly Hundred.  100 miles over two days with some nasty hills.  Fun though.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Photo Ops

I did a bike ride on July 4 this year...well part of one.  I didn't make the while trip.  I was in a group riding to the fireworks display in Carmel.  On the return trip one of the other riders had a chain derail at an intersection.  I stopped to wait for her to get going again and, as we started off again, I had a mishap.  I got up to about 10 mph or so and my rear wheel locked up.  After uttering profanity and getting off the bike I discovered my rear derailleur had committed suicide by diving into the spokes of my rear wheel.  My ride ended there and I waited 45 minutes for her to return later in her car to pick me up.

So the wheel I had built, at great expense, and the other upgrades were for naught.  Okay, maybe it wasn't quite catastrophic but my Cannondale was out of commission for two months.  I had to have the wheel repaired (six new spokes and trued) and the frame aligned.  Then I had to again find a new derailleur on ebay, a part that seems to be getting more rare by the day.  Fortunately, I was able to find one that was better in quality than the one that broke from a seller in London.  Including shipping it was still cheaper than any I could find in the US and appeared to be in better

There was no crashing involved in this incident but it got me to thinking.  I am not a great one for being ready with the camera and saving images for posterity.  I did take a couple of pics of the damage but they are not too exciting.  But crashes I have had in the past might have made for interesting viewing.  When I first got my 10-speed for Christmas I couldn't wait for spring to ride it.  Blasting down a hill I intended to turn into a subdivision and hit some sand.  I was left in the middle of the street whilt the bike had tumbled into someone's yard.

Years later I bought a mountain bike.  A friend and I rode up to the top of a parking garage.  On the way back down I was going too fast and the wheels slid out and I crashed, fracturing my left wrist.  When I came to a rest my bike was standing upside down on handlebars and seat as I lay next to it with one foot still in the toe-clip.  That would have been a neat video to watch.

A year later I was again on my mountain bike trying it out on a bmx track.  I crashed when my front wheel hit and turned on me.  I came down on my shoulder and the side of my face.  The bike was OK.  My collarbone was completely separated from my shoulder.

Some years later I was participating in a club ride on my Cannondale when a dog got into my wheels and flipped me.  At least that is what I was told.  The severe concussion I got from that pretty well wiped out all memory of that day.  I just know I awakened the next day at my parent's house with bruised ribs and a lot of road rash.  I discovered a week or so later I had also sprained my shoulder, the same one I had previously torn apart.  I see arthritis in my future.

These days I am wary of letting my wheels lost contact with the road...and dogs...but I still enjoy riding.  But I really should start taking a camera along and taking pictures along the

Monday, February 13, 2012


The old Cannondale still has a lot of life left in it.  I have had it for about 20 years now and it has been a great ride.  Through many rides and an altercation with a dog of indeterminate breed it is still in good and reliable shape.  The new Schwinn was purchased in part because the Cannondale has obsolete components that work well but cannot be easily upgraded.

Most modern road bikes have brifters - integrated brake and shift levers.  These are made by brands like Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo, etc...  My Cannondale has Suntour shifting.  It is not compatible with the other brands.  Suntour closed up shop in 1995.  They were small and couldn't compete with the giant Shimano, though their quality was arguably superior.

After taking the new Schwinn on a couple of rides I came to a surprising conclusion.  The bike is a pleasure to ride and its Shimano 105 gearing shifts well, but...not as well as my 20 year old Cannondale's Suntour. What little research I have done revealed that Suntour does indeed shift more precisely by design but is more likely to be finicky about being properly adjusted.  Maintenance requires a more diligent mechanic.  In the decades of ownership, however, I don't recall ever having adjusted it apart from installing new cables.

Shimano, on the other hand, is less precise in shifting but is more forgiving when it comes to adjustment.  The shifters on the Schwinn remind me of the Rapidfire shifters on my mountain bike in the manner of operation.  It is a nice setup, don't get me wrong.  I can't say yet one system is better than the other.  They are simply different.

The only downside to my Suntour shifters was the mounting location.  In the early '90s downtube shifters were the norm.  Shimano and Campagnolo introduced integrated shifters at some time in the '90s, not long before the demise of Suntour.  The downtube shifters work really well but at times can be inconvenient.  Shifting requires moving the hands away from the handlebars.  When riding in large groups I prefer to keep my hands ready for braking and making evasive corrections.

I always wondered what would have happened had Suntour survived.  One day I stumbled across something on eBay that hinted at the direction they were taking.  Instead of being integrated with the brake levers the shifters are mounted on the handlebars just above the brake levers.  The mechanism actually sits right alongside the brake hoods so shifting can be achieved from the hoods, and supposedly from the drops as well.  They look like big wing nuts, which I like because it is a bit different from everyone else's gear.  I found a set and installed them but the weather has not been conducive to riding lately.  I can't wait to get out there and take them for a test run.

They were a little expensive.  I found them online, NOS.  17 years old , never even installed before.  Of course rarity can make thing cost more but there is also another reason.  Cyclocross racers like them.  Unlike other shifters on the road, Suntour's shifters were switchable between indexed and friction shifting.  In indexing mode they only really work with Suntour gears, and not all of them.  But when switched over to friction mode they will work pretty well with just about any gears you might have.  The downside is that the rider has to move the shifter to just where it needs to be.  The indexing is what sets the proper positioning on most bikes today.  The CX racers like them because the levers are convenient to use, yet their location protects them from accidental shifting due to bumping into other riders and crashes.

Friday, December 16, 2011


I have too many ideas and too little money and too little free time...not to mention motivation.  Unfortunately, many of these ideas escape me before I can flesh them out or, in many cases, write them down.  And the motivation???

I have a digital level.  It is a professional model with an rs-232 port on the back.  To those who grew up after the proliferation of the USB port, it is an older type of serial connection.  Anyway,  I often ride the bicycle on hills and wonder just how steep it is.  My thought was to get a little netbook computer, connect it to the level and  strap it on the bike.  I could then record the slopes of the route in real-time.  So far I have yet to locate a cable to connect it to the computer (I haven't tried very hard).  Then I would have to figure out how to sample the data, import it into a software program, etc...  That sounds like a lot of work.

There is a simpler solution.  Much less elaborate, but much cheaper and real time.  It is essentially a level, much like a carpenter would use, but with graduations indicating the grade of the slope.  Cheap, simple, small and lightweight.  It reads up to 27% grade.  It is the red and yellow object in the photo above.

The Road Warrior
Apart from that I have been doing little with the bikes lately, at least when it comes to riding.  I put a new rear wheel on the old 10-speed.  I know a lot of people who would ask, why bother?  It is an obsolete clunker.  I have had that bike for 28 years and it has been through a lot of miles with me.  I am thinking of getting it re-painted, maybe powder-coated.

I got it for Christmas in '83 and it has been through a number changes since.  The name on it was Aragon.  I knew a guy who had a Schwinn World Sport with all of the same components and the frame lugs were identical.  Does this mean it was made by Schwinn?  It is possible but I have no way of verifying this theory.  The only remaining original parts are the frame and brakes.  It looks heavy because it is.  As shown in the picture it weighs in at a stout 34 pounds.  It is a beast but the old steel frame is comfortable on long rides.

The Mountain Bike
One year I took the Road Warrior apart to repaint it.  One day I went out to the garage to do some sanding on the frame and discovered someone had dropped it.  The bottom bracket now had a flat spot on one side which would prevent me from putting it back together.

So I gave up on it and bought a mountain bike.  It was 1991 and mountain bikes were starting to take over the market.  The bike I chose was a Schwinn High Plains Aluminum.  It had a beautiful paint job, bright blue metallic paint with silver splattered on it.  Unfortunately, they didn't have my size and, since it was on clearance I bought the 21" frame.  It was fun for riding but really a bit large for any serious off road riding.

A number of years later I bought a frame from a catalog and transferred most of the parts to the new frame.  It weighs in at about 37 pounds but feels like   57.  I have a rack on it and have grocery panniers that I could use to make grocery runs.  I did do that once...

The Cannondale
A year after buying the mountain bike I felt the call of the road again.  I liked riding off-road but it just isn't the same.  I went back to the bike shop and saw a Bianchi on the sidewalk.  It was a used item for sale.  I liked it and put it on layaway.  A week later I went back to make a payment and saw a used Cannondale on the sidewalk.  A dark blue SR400, $50 more than the Bianchi.  It only weighs about 23 pounds and I found that fact appealing.  I asked if I could trade up and soon I had my new road ride.

A few years ago some friends and I rode in the Great Pumpkin Metric.  After the ride we loaded the bike into, and onto, his Tahoe and went home.  Upon arrival my front wheel had escaped from atop his truck.  It would be nearly impossible to find it and likely it would have been worthless after the fall from the top of his truck, at highway speeds.  Fortunately, my friend had an extra wheel and gave it to me as a replacement.  In reality, it was a significant upgrade from my old front wheel.

A couple of years ago, I broke a couple of spokes on my rear wheel.  It was showing its age and was due for replacement.  Unfortunately, this would be a challenge.  The rear wheel contains parts that must be compatible with other component of the bike to function properly.  Those parts are no longer made, haven't been since the mid-90's.  Ebay can be a great thing.  I found a hub and cassette NOS (New Old Stock) parts that fit the bill.  A little pricey but available.  I took those parts to my friendly neighborhood bike shop and had a wheel built.  I have been quite happy with the new wheels.

And as for the damaged frame on the ten speed...  A year or two after buying the Cannondale I looked at my collection of spare parts and decided, on a lark, to see if the frame could be repaired after all.  As it turned out, it could and the repair only cost me $25.  That is why the Road warrior is still with me.  Maybe I should call it the Phoenix.

The Super-cruiser
The N.I.T.E. Ride is an event that comes along every summer in Indianapolis.  It is a short nighttime ride through the streets of the city starting at 11PM.  Along with the ride are a post-ride meal, lighting contest and  door prizes.  I have participated in this ride every year since 2000.  One year I won the door prize...a beach cruiser.  What the heck am I going to do with a beach cruiser?

When I went to the bike shop to pick up my prize I did some looking around.  I had, for years, thought it would be cool to have a recumbent bicycle.  They had one on the sales floor so I asked if I could trade up.  It was a cheap one, the cheapest one you could get, but I didn't need it for serious riding.  I may try it on a substantial ride someday.  At 39 pounds, it is very heavy and the small wheels make it even more sluggish.  But it is a fun ride for local exploration and tooling around.

I have been wanting, for several years now, a modern bike.  The Road Warrior and the Cannondale have certainly been faithful steeds and I will continue to enjoy riding them.  But there are advantages to newer designs and I wanted something different.  I stumbled upon a pretty little thing in a shop here and took it for a short test ride.  The price was right, again an older model on clearance. But this time it was my size.  I know a lot of people will turn their noses up at it because it bears the name Schwinn.  But, unless one is to spend upwards of 2 grand, they won't find a bike made in the US,  The vast majority of all bikes sold are made in one or two Chinese factories.  Buy American?  I would if I could afford to...and justify the expense.

The latest addition to my stable is a 2010 Schwinn Paramount Series 7.  It is a blue and white carbon fiber beauty that weighs in at little more than 20 pounds.  It may be heavy by carbon fiber standards but should be a much smoother ride than the Aluminum Cannondale.  Whether it will prove to be as comfortable as the old road warrior remains to be seen but at 14 pounds lighter I'd be willing to sacrifice a little bit.  And being modern components, I can change things up to get to a gearing combination that suits my purposes.  that is nearly impossible with the others.