Archive for the ‘groupsets’ Category

Brooks Saddles, My Current Ride and My Final Ride!

June 7, 2013

I know, I know.  After my last post, I’m going to be asked what you’re riding now.  This is where I’ll tell you and of course the title tells you about my current and last bicycle saddle I’ll ever ride on.

My current ride is a 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker (from here out I’ll just say LHT).  It’s not stock anymore however.  I’ve changed the original Onyx brakes to Avid Shorty 6’s.  The handlebars and stem have been changed to a shorter stem (35 degree 80 mm stem from Dimension).  The handlebars are the European type touring bars for more hand hold positions.

Though not a bad bar, I’m not truly fond of the European touring type handlebars.  I miss what I had on my 2004 Gary Fisher 129 Dual Sport (flat bar with a Profile Designs Century aero bar).  It’s comfortable for most riding but not as easy for my gorilla arms when going down into a aero position for riding down hills.  Thus my next bike will have the same as the Fisher if I don’t do it to my LHT.  The only other option I’ll consider is getting what is no longer made.  They are the Scott AT-4 Pro handlebars that are no longer in production.

The reason I changed the brake is that the Avid Shorty 6’s were a bit lighter and actually had better braking ability than the Tektro Onyx, not to mention cartridge pads.  With these brakes I added a set of Avid Speed Dial 7 Brake Levers.  I’ve had these levers before on another bike.  They are ultimately adjustable and fairly light where as the original road Tektro brake levers weren’t adjustable.

Getting to my pride and joy, I’ll go a bit more in depth.  I’ve tried several saddles via the last few bicycles.  I can honestly say they don’t hold a candle to the Brooks I currently ride.  No it’s not the venerable B17.  It’s actually the B67.  I considered the B17 but opted for the B67 because of spinal issues.  Total comfort from shock was required.  Yes, all Brooks saddles are heavy.  But on a touring bicycle weight isn’t the factor.  Comfort is.

As to treating the Brooks saddles (all models), there are many theories.  Mine is somewhat out of the ordinary yet pretty typical.  My lubricant/treatment of choice is Proofide developed by Brooks themselves.  Below is how I treated my B67 saddle:

1.)  Right from the box turn the saddle upside down showing the rails on top.

2.)  Open the small can/tin of Proofide.  You either bought the 25 or 40 gram variety(at least I hope you didn’t forget a good leather treatment substance).  I bought the 25 gram.

3.)  Take a clean rag and apply liberal amounts of the Proofide to the bottom of the saddle.  Don’t worry about using a lot.  The initial treatment is the most important.  I used roughly half of a 25 gram can/tin.  If you like you can also put a thin coat on the opposite (top) side of the saddle.  Just remember to wipe the excess off before you ride it if you do this particular top coating.  Also, initially treating the bottom of the saddle makes it less prone to water damage from dirty water spun off the wheel.

4.)  Mount as you would any other saddle.

5.)  Take the spanner wrench you received with your saddle and tighten down the nose till you have approximately one fourth of an inch between the wires above the rails and the leather.  This will give your saddle ample give while you ride and prevent from bruising your nether regions on the wires supporting the leather.

6.)  Ride your saddle for at least 500 miles.  By then it will be form fitted to your posterior.

Special considerations with the Brooks saddles I’ve heard.  Some complain about the saddle bowing outward at the sides like a butterfly.  This is a natural effect to suspended leather.  There are fixes that I’ve heard but I suggest you leave it alone as it conforms to your thighs while riding.  Be very careful just how much tension you put on the nose nut of your Brooks.  Too tight and you may be returning the saddle to Brooks for repair.  Too loose and you’ll bruise your nether regions.  Leather that is treated correctly will soak up the treatment like Proofide or your personal favorite leather treatment as well as stretch (not all in one direction either (it’ll stretch in all directions).

Re-treatment should be done as necessary.  Time between treatments will vary depending on your climate for the most part.  Don’t let the leather become dry and brittle or back to Brooks your saddle will go.  Also, if you want to keep the top black as my B67 was when it came from the factory use only paste type shoe polish like Kiwi paste.  DO NOT USE LIQUID BASED SHOE POLISH FOR ANY REASON!  If you prefer an antique finish on a black saddle just ride it for a while.  The polish will eventually come off and you’ll get the natural coloring of the leather.  Continual treatments will give it the rustic horse saddle finish of old.

Now my final bicycle of choice will surprise many.  No the LHT will not be my final choice even in the disc brake model.  Personally, I’m eventually going to get a Surly Troll.  Two reasons for this.  When I had my Gary Fisher Dual Sport 129 I enjoyed the geometry better than my LHT.  In many instances it was more upright and a lot more durable off road.  Yes, I know.  The Fisher has a suspension fork where as the LHT has a solid fork.  With the Surly Troll I get a bike with a more mountain bike geometry as well as a suspension corrected solid fork (think less maintenance here).  The second and most important reason for choice of the Surly Troll is configurability and wheel size.  The Troll like it’s bigger brother the Surly Ogre can be outfitted with just about everything including the kitchen sink.  The wheel size on the Troll is 26″ and is very easily found in any store that sells bicycle goods including Walmart.  You can’t say that just yet with the 700C size wheels.

This is but the beginning.  I plan on configuring my Troll with a Shimano SLX kit in 2X10 instead of 3X10.  I don’t see the need in a very large tooth number on the front chainrings.  Speed is not of vast importance when touring anyway.  Yes, I’ll outfit my Troll with disc brakes vice rim brakes.  I’ve ridden both and prefer the discs for several reasons.  No, I won’t be going hydraulic after looking up the freezing and boiling points of mineral oil that is in the fine SLX hydraulic discs.  I intend to use Avid BB7 mechanical discs for on the road service capabilities.  The Avid BB7’s are a good compromise between rim brakes and hydraulic discs and fall between them for braking power.  Other components my Troll will have are riser bars with a Profile Designs Century aerobar for steering and a set of B.O.B. nuts for the mounting of my B.O.B. Yak trailer which I intend to pull behind me as well as panniers front and rear.  I found the flat bar or riser bar with an aerodynamic type bar like the Profile Designs very comfortable for my kind of long distance riding.  It provided me with many miles of happy riding when I had a similar setup on my Gary Fisher.

A little more on the B.O.B. nuts thing here.  If you haven’t pulled a B.O.B. Yak or Ibis trailer (the Ibis is more for off road loads as it has a suspension rear), B.O.B. makes two different mounts for the tongue of those trailers.  One is a custom skewer for your rear wheel or the B.O.B. nuts which mount on the framework of your Troll/Ogre.  They also mount on the axle of non quick release wheels as well.  The main reason I’m using the B.O.B. nuts is that I’ve bent two of their stainless steel skewer type mounts (probably overloaded the trailer and had too much tongue weight).  With the nuts mounted on the frame of the bike instead of through the skewer it will keep me from replacing skewers frequently.

As to racks and panniers, I prefer the Surly Nice Racks. They are well built and strong.  The panniers, I’m still looking into.  I know, people will tell me to try this that and the other brands.  I’ve tried Jandd’s panniers.  They are very durable (I currently have a set of Jandd Large Mountains).  I’m not enamored with the mounting system though.  I love the Arkel mounting system but I’m not enamored by the liberal use of zippers of any quality level.  Perhaps I’ll stick with the Jandd’s and just get the mounting rails from Arkel and mount them to the Jandds.  I’ll just have to look at that when the time comes.

Yes, I know some will ask why I intend to use both panniers and trailer.  Why don’t I use one or the other?  Simple.  The panniers are for my clothing while the trailer will be strictly for my camping gear as well as storage for a small laptop.  I don’t intend on putting a large amount of weight besides my own on my bicycle.  Clothing will be enough in the panniers.  Also, both panniers and trailer singularly put up wind resistance.  Not just against the wind or with the wind either.  You’d be surprised at what either will do with a cross draft from either side.  With both, I hope to alleviate cross draft drift by going with smaller loads on each instead of having a large cross section with just one or the other.  However you do it you need to check out the physics involved.

Now my one choice that some don’t care for.  I’m going to run clipless pedals.  Most choose not to run them to avoid having to keep two sets of shoes (one for walking and one for riding).  Myself, it’s another choice for performance over useless effort.  I’ve found that clipless pedals are much more efficient over standard toe clips.  You can put upwards of 75% or more power into your pedals with clipless vice 50% or less with standard toe clips.

Hopefully this article has been if nothing else entertaining.  I know several won’t agree with my choices.  That’s all a part of personal preferences.  For those that are not familiar with touring, I hope some of the information will be enlightening.  The best thing you can do if you plan on touring is to make your own enlightened choices of what works and what doesn’t.  However, the more you research (either while you ride or while not riding), the wiser choices you can make.  My personal choices are based on where and how I ride both locally and while I tour as I prefer to keep only one bicycle at a time.



April 29, 2013

Some would think I’m not really a bicyclist.  Actually I’m a die-hard bicyclist.  I quit driving in 2000 after having a second Ford product blowing up and remembering that if I took one more severe whiplash I’d look like Christopher Reeve.  My neck injury in a 1982 automobile accident is the cause of this diagnosis which I’ve ignored till 2000.

So let me tell you my experience of touring.  First off, my tour from Michigan to Florida.  I’ll cover my trip as well as the equipment I used for that trip.  Then, in a separate article, I’ll cover my trip from South Carolina to Michigan and back.  Lastly, I’ll cover my current bike and hopes for a future and hopefully final bicycle build.  Without further ado, I’ll start with the first of my bicycling articles.

In 1998, I lost yet another job and was not seeing a possibility of working again soon.  With the final check from a subcontracting job (not computer related), I purchased a reasonable bicycle (from Sam’s Club).  It was better than most from Walmart or the likes anyway, though not as good as the bike I once owned in California in my final two years in the Navy.

The bicycle I purchased was a Motiv.  I forget the model.  It was a twenty one speed mountain type bicycle with Shimano Altus components.  It really wasn’t all that much.  It didn’t have a rack nor at the purchase time did I have a set of panniers.  Those were purchased afterward at a local bicycle shop in my hometown of Three Rivers, Michigan.

From that point, I had to plan what I would take.  Since I was going to be pretty much homeless, I had to prepare for the trip with a minimalistic living style.  Of course I had a small tent and sleeping bag, but beyond that I had to have the bare essentials in clothing.  This amounted to four t-shirts, two pair of shorts, two pair of jeans, socks, and shoes for clothing (it was in the beginning of June that I left for Florida).  I didn’t pack much more than that because I had no room.  I was only running a rear rack and panniers for it.

Why Florida for my first choice of destinations you ask?  Simple.  My uncle god bless his departed soul had offered me two years before to come down to Florida to get further education at a branch of Florida Technical College where he’d become the only non-relative Dean.  The college was nationally certified and the head of it use to be Ronald Reagan’s Department of Education Secretary.  To me, that made this school a good bet.

The day I left Three Rivers, Michigan was a partly cloudy day that turned into a mostly cloudy afternoon.   I made good time the first day cutting across the northwest corner of Indiana and into Illinois.  My intention was to go visit my cousins in Pontiac, Illinois for a day or two before going on with my journey.  I made it into Valparaiso, Indiana before the bottom came out and rain ruined the rest of the day’s ride.  That night I spent a rather soggy nasty night under a park picnic area roof with the tent on top of a picnic table.  It was a rather stressful night to say the least.  By morning the weather had abated and I was off on my second day of travel.

The second day fared better.  I was finally able to make it to Pontiac where I was able to catch one of my cousins around and asked to stay a bit before moving on.  That turned out to be almost a week.  It was a time of discovery, learning, and re-association between myself and one of my cousins.  I still cherish that time I spent there and always will.  It was also a time of true relaxation.

After day two, days get jumbled together quite a bit.  However, I do remember rolling around St. Louis and down through and into Rolla, Missouri in about three days time.  I went this way in hopes I might meet up with a lady I’d talked to online.  Alas, it wasn’t to be so I continued my trek from there back to Kentucky and southward.  I pretty much followed the Mississippi after returning to the east side of it.  Crossing the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau, Kentucky, I continued from there through Tennessee avoiding Memphis altogether.

It wasn’t even a week after leaving Pontiac, Illinois, that I made it to around Montgomery, Alabama.  This was via Kentucky, Tennessee, and the northeastern corner of Mississippi.  I vaguely remember staying in St. Louis and Montgomery for two days each to do laundry as well as rest.  From Montgomery, I went through Dothan, Alabama via the southwestern corner of Georgia and into the Florida panhandle at Monticello, Florida.

From Monticello, Florida, I turned south and east ending my trip in Winter Haven, Florida where I visited my grandmother on my mother’s side for a week before my uncle picked me up and got me started at Florida Technical College.  I actually ended up in Jacksonville, Florida where I attended that college branch where my uncle was Dean of for a short time before going back south to open yet another branch.  I traveled from Winter Haven to Jacksonville via my uncle’s car so that doesn’t count as part of my tour.  In all, I spent thirty days on the road.  Of that, I spent twenty-one days riding.  I figured it out to be a shade over two thousand miles one way.  Average mileage per day ended up being around a century a day with on long day being over a century and a half.  Not bad for at the time a thirty-eight year old man.

Next up, my trip from Columbia, South Carolina to Centreville, Michigan.  Different bicycle and equipment for that.  Stay tuned.