A Brace Of Soma Mixte Bicycles.

The latest bicycles to leave the store this week are a pair of Soma Mixte framed, light touring bikes. I was approached some time ago to come up with a bike design for a couple in Arizona who are long time cyclists, preferring the drop bar style of riding but wanting something a little different and more relaxed. The Mixte design surely fits the bill… This frame design has always been a favorite of mine, there is just something about the twin top tubes and the multiple triangles that I have always liked. The design itself has been around for decades, I think I am correct in saying it is of French origin, certainly the name is French, “mixte” meaning mixed, which refers to the fact the bicycle was for both men and woman.

IMG_3635.jpg
IMG_3638.jpg

Over the years the design has remained pretty much unchanged. Most of your major bicycle companies have had a ‘Mixte’ bike in their respective catalogs. Raleigh even have a couple of options at the moment, the ‘Carlton’. However, the geometry usually employed is very much of a recreational nature. Here is where the Soma frame really shines as it is more of a well thought out design with geometry lending itself to a drop bar build. So with the frames decided upon, here is what we did.

IMG_3652.jpg
IMG_3654.jpg

Firstly pairing the frame to a matched carbon fork with a rake that further enhances the ride qualities that we are after. Obviously disc tabs as we will use a disc brake setup.

IMG_3661.jpg

Wheel choices next. For the ladies bike we went for Shimano XT 8000 hubs. 135mm qr at the rear and 100mm qr at the front. Spokes are DT Swiss Champion, custom cut and threaded, nipples DT Swiss brass. The rims are DT Swiss R500’s. The gentleman’s bike is the same configuration except for the rim, which is a Velocity "‘Dyad’. The rotors are centerlock 160mm front and rear. All laced up 36 hole and 3 cross pattern.

The gearing is different between each, the gents bike runs an traditional compact double 50-34 and 11-32 cassette. The ladies bike runs a smaller chain-ring setup of 46-30 as she is more of a spinner.

IMG_3736.JPG
IMG_3719.JPG

Disc brakes are Shimano hydraulic units running mineral oil. These have been plumbed into the levers using Jagwire high pressure hose and modified fittings, the gold fitting onward. The hose color is orange on the mens and blue on the ladies.

IMG_3737.jpg
Soma Mixte-38.jpg

Now you can see the color schemes in all their glory. The Brifter units are Shimano non series RS 400s they are mechanical shift and hydraulic brake. I picked these particular units as the ergonomics suit the handlebar design, which are Salsa Cowchipper II. Incidentally, the shifters are a new design and have a unique pull ratio and have particular requirements for rear derailleurs, of which there is only one, some frustration on my part before I realized this…We all have off days.

IMG_3730.jpg

Another essential requirement for the ladies bike was some form of dampening, We did not want a standard suspension, that would give a much to squishy feel and ruin the ride completely. Just something to mellow out the vibration. Initially the idea was to use a Lauf gravel fork. For anyone familiar with those you know how good they are for just this kind of situation, unfortunately they did not make a fork with a rake and steerer tube to meet our needs here, so, we did something a little different we attacked the problem at both ends. On the stem we have used something relatively new, a “ShockStop” stem from Redshift Sports. These things are pretty neat and are tunable to rider weight using a mixture of different elastomers in various configurations inside the stem. We have set this one up perfectly for the rider. They come in many lengths and angles and for anyone looking for a little bit of dampening at the front end they are perfect. At the opposite end we have something else completely new, this time from the good folk at Cane Creek. For anyone that doesn’t know Cane Creek are suspension specialists, they have some very high end bouncy stuff, some of which will feature in our next set of builds, stay tuned for that, in this instance though it is their latest “eeSilk” seat post. These things are fantastic, again it is not what I would call a suspension post with that full bouncy feel but more of a dampener, just there to take out the vibration. Again, this is also tunable with the use of various elastomers and has been set for the rider. A little side note here, you can play around some with these elastomers, I set the elastomers for the riders weight using the manufacturers guide and then I test rode the bike. I outweigh the new owner 2 to 1 but honestly I did not find the setup too soft, so my takeaway from that is you can tweak the compliance to your preference a little softer or a little firmer. Anyone interested in making a gravel or trail bike a little less jarring needs to consider these two devices, they really are great additions to the bike. Just come in or call me if you want to know more about them.

IMG_3732.jpg

These bikes certainly deserve the title ‘unique’, however they hit all the design parameters. They have the responsiveness of a road bike, are very comfortable and I mean extremely so and they have the low stand-over height. The frame sizes are 61cm and 58cm, that is effective not actual. The 61 fits me like a glove and the Cowchipper bars give multiple hand positions. All in all I am pleased with the result and they are a good example of what is achievable with the many frame options out there today. Just got to think outside the box a little.

Soma Mixte-55.jpg
Soma Mixte-12.jpg
Soma Mixte-60.jpg
Soma Mixte-27.jpg

Just a note on pronunciation; Commonly in the USA we pronounce Mixte as “Mix-Tee”, two syllables with plenty of hit on each one. In French it really should be pronounced as “Meexed” more softly and one syllable.

Soma Mixte-42.jpg

My favorite bike of the year so far…

Posted on May 3, 2019 and filed under Soma, Cane Creek eeSilk, Redshift Stem.

A Mountain Bike Gets A Re-Design.

Most bicycles rolling around this fair land were purchased as a complete, ready to go bike. Any bicycle emporium, ours included, has a selection of Hybrid, Road, Mountain and Comfort models that are great choices to get you out on the trails and the pedals moving. The next step, once the bug has bitten, usually involves another offering from the rack in a slightly higher grade and often to a more specific type of riding. Fast forward a few years, look in your basement and you will see a dozen bicycles that chart your progression through the sport. Most people tend to clear out once in a while and move some of those entry level Hybrids and MTB’s to new homes, others, like my good friend Tom, look in that basement and think ‘what can we turn those into’…

Case in point. Recently Tom decided to re-purpose a pretty standard Fuji mountain bike. The bike was about as generic as an entry level mountain bike could be. Twenty one speed 3 x 7 drive-train, component level that was the common mix of high end hybrid to low end mountain and a very basic mass produced wheel-set. The main feature and plus point of the bike being the frame, more specifically the geometry is actually pretty well designed for the purpose, also it is 27.5 wheel size, of which I am a big fan. So into the workshop it came and out came the clipboard.

Anybody that comes into the store may well have met Tom at some point and, if you have ventured into the workshop you will have seen one of his myriad projects in progress. His projects are always far from routine, they always make me think, they are never easy, they usually involve blending cutting edge modern technology with something that is the opposite. They take me to the verge of insanity before they are finished and yet, when they are and we roll it out for a test ride they put the biggest smiles on my face. These projects are all born the same way, usually on a Sunday afternoon Tom will utter forth the phrase' “ Can we do …..”. I then dutifully pick up my pen and notepad and grab the extra strength Advill. Thus was the start of the Fuji.

On the face of it , a large part of this project was removing stuff. The wheels were going, they were cheap machine built units that had already been trued many times and the hubs were also far from smooth. The front and rear derailleurs and shifters also in the trash. Tom is not a fan of derailleur systems but is a big fan of internally geared hubs, so item one was to use an 11 speed Shimano hub as the gear source. No derailleurs to bend out in the woods. He wanted the biggest tires we could get in the frame and tubeless specific rims to run low pressure. Everything else was pretty much routine, mainly a crank and bottom bracket upgrade to a external bearing two piece crank setup and a Race Face narrow wide chain ring.

The wheels obviously first to build, using the aforementioned Shimano 11 speed internally geared hub. Front hub is a Shimano XT hub. Both hubs are disc brake options. Spokes are custom cut to size and threaded and I used DT Swiss nipples and spoke washers throughout. The rims are Velocity Blunt 35’s and Tom wanted them custom finished in white.

Now here you may be thinking what is the big deal, why all the fuss about a simple wheel build, I see no problem and you would be correct. Tom, however, has a penchant for throwing in a little side note, a kind of codicil if you will. In this case, said wheels needed to not only work on the Fuji frame but would ultimately be used on another frame, a “Soma Riff”. Which of course runs modern 142 x 12 spacing and a thru axle 100 x 15 front. The solution was to machine spacers for the rear and make custom angled key washers for the bolt on hub. The front hub is a standard Shimano XT 100 x 15 thru axle with a machined converter running through it and built in end caps to run a standard quick release skewer.

The next hurdle was a method to adjust the chain tension as we no longer have the rear derailleur handling that part of the equation. Internally geared hub bicycles are basically a single cog at the rear and a single chain ring up front. The chain wraps around both and there is no need for any slack. Frames that are built for this setup will have a method of adjustment at the rear enabling the wheel to be moved fore and aft enabling the chain to be correctly tensioned. The Fuji, obviously, did not have that, which meant a method of adjustment was needed.

20190329_174215.jpg
 
The New Crank-Set

The New Crank-Set

20190329_174146.jpg
20190329_174239.jpg

This is not an uncommon occurrence, lots of comfort and hybrid bicycles have been converted in this way and there are a few devices available for this purpose. Unfortunately they are not up to the rigors of MTB’ing. However, a small company in England makes a heavy duty unit which is up to the task. Sadly, this is made for quick release wheels using standard MTB chain line and not solid axle, bolt-ons which are not using MTB chain lines. More filing and drilling, a few hours and a lot of scrap aluminum later and the unit is re-spaced and able to bolt onto the axle and hanger. Also the chain line issue is corrected front to rear with the addition of a couple of spacers on the new Shimano ZEE crank-set and external cup Hollowtech II bottom bracket.

tommtnalfine (6).JPG

As you can see from the pictures, a mountain bike without derailleurs makes a lot of sense. It just looks a lot cleaner for one but you can immediately see the benefit of not having delicate gear changing devices bolted on to the right side of the rear axle. Lots of frame manufacturers are producing frames that are able to take advantage of hub gears and these obviously make it easier however, with a little patience, a few files and a big pot of headache pills most anything can be done…

Posted on March 31, 2019 .

Cable Issues.

One of the most common problems modern bikes develop and, one of the easiest fixes, concerns indexed gear shifting. Modern derailleurs, especially rear ones, are nothing less than engineering marvels and we have all grown quite accustomed to the flawless and smooth gear changes that grace all today’s bicycles. As with most things, the more refined and technical something becomes, the easier it is to disrupt its operation. Here we come to the easiest way to upset a derailleur; friction.

When you push, pull or twist a gear shifter you are pulling an exact amount of cable that stays constant all the way to the derailleur, which in turn moves the derailleur in or out the perfect amount to facilitate a perfect gear change. Any time you are pulling on the cable for a gear change you will overcome any friction or resistance in the system because we can exert any extra pressure required to move said shifter. However, when we are releasing cable at the shifter end all that is pulling on the cable is the relatively small return springs in the derailleurs themselves. Now we have a problem.

So, what causes a once perfectly operating system to become a non functioning, frustrating, irritant that drives you to the edge of insanity. In short, contamination. Dust, water, sweat and mud. If you look closely at a bicycles cabling you will notice that there are sections of bare cable and also many sections of housing, the stuff the bare cable disappears into to navigate a bend in the system. Some systems have lots of bare cables and short runs of housing and others will run long lengths of housing. It makes no real difference, one is no less susceptible to contamination in the long run, (no pun intended.) Dust and moisture always gets dragged into the housing and will build up friction and stop the cables sliding gracefully in and out.

DSCF1601.jpg
DSCF1602.jpg

On the left a standard mtb brake cable. Above a standard shift cable.

Now we come to the fix. There are a few things you can do to get things moving again, loosen the cables and slide off the housing and flush with a light weight lubricant such as Tri-Flow. After flushing wipe the cables down and apply a thin coating of bicycle grease. This will get things loosened up again but in my experience is a short term fix. The best way to deal with the problem is to replace. Cables and housing are relatively cheap and just replacing them will make the shifting like new again. Whenever we do a tune up and most any full overhaul, will see us replace the shifting cables and housing and usually the brake lines as well. Whilst on the subject of brakes, they suffer exactly the same issue but tend to cause less problems when the release slows down, therefore people tend not to notice the issue as much as with the shifting.

It amazes me how bad things will get before people seek a solution. I have had systems seized completely and the bike has effectively become a single speed. Many times the force that has to be exerted on the shifter has resulted in a complete failure, expensive. More often than not people just quit shifting, which is sad and a little silly honestly. So if you are experiencing these issues get it fixed.

At this point, having been informed of the benefits of new cables and housing, I will issue certain caveats to be aware of when choosing replacements. Not all cables and housing is created equal. Standard derailleur cables are 1.2mm in diameter, brake 1.5mm. The cables are made of smaller wires in a standard twist bringing it up to the required diameter. At the ends are the various different slugs which interface with the brake, shifter etc. A cheap inferior cable will stretch easily and can be quite rough on the exterior, which defeats the object of replacing it. There are many different makes and our favorite brand in the store is Jagwire. We have found their slick sport cables to be superior to others in every way. They are pre-stretched which removes a lot of the initial bedding in stage and they are also mandrel drawn. This is a process of smoothing the ridges on the exterior of the cable formed by the smaller wires. They make the cables in both stainless steel and a zinc coated steel. Both are highly recommended. The housing we prefer is also by Jagwire and has a superior inner liner to what we find on other brands. It also comes in all manor of colors for those of you who like to have a touch of style and coordination. Bottom line, this housing will let your cables slide around in there like a greased penguin on pack ice.

DSCF1603.JPG


A zinc coated cable is the shiny one of the three above. Stainless steel tends to be a little darker and dull. Both work well, the stainless are a little more expensive than the zinc coating. The zinc will eventually wear away to reveal a bare, unprotected steel but, by that point, the housing would be gummed up and locked solid anyway.

DSCF1608.jpg

The above picture shows the two common housing types, brake at top and derailleur at bottom. I have revealed the individual layers to each. The exterior protective layer, the main wire arrangement for strength and the inner slick guide tube. The inner tube is the key to the performance of the system and it is this component that causes the problems when it gets clogged or wears through. As I mentioned earlier, the Jagwire liner is my recommendation but it will wear out eventually too.

Other manufacturers that are worthy of a mention are.

Sram Gore, Shimano, Promax. Nokon. All these are good brands and produce fine cables and housing, we have used all of them, however Jagwire still has the edge. Whilst on the subject of recommendations I will give you a big one. Never, ever, ever and one more time EVER use a cable that has an exterior coating on it, apart from zinc. Many years ago now some idiot woke up in the morning and during the course of frying his eggs and bacon in a frying pan with a Teflon coating decided, that if Teflon made his egg slide onto the plate without sticking it would do the same on your shift cable. On paper this sounds like a fantastic idea, however in the real world rarely has there been a worse one. Any bike mechanic that has been at his post a while will regale you with stories of Teflon coated cables. The worst thing about them is the fact that they are still being produced in vast quantities. I often open a box of new shifters and find a pair nestled in the corner for my delectation, honestly I’d rather find a severed thumb. What, I hear you cry, is the problem, well I’ll tell you. Teflon may be great on your frying pan but on a cable it just peels right off in a fuzzy birds nest immediately wedging itself in the housing, causing more friction than dust ever could.

This is a brand new, unused coated cable. I’ve seen less hair on an Aberdeen Angus.

This is a brand new, unused coated cable. I’ve seen less hair on an Aberdeen Angus.

This is what they look like in there natural habitat. You will see them in various colors, Regardless of hue, avoid them like the plague.

This is what they look like in there natural habitat. You will see them in various colors, Regardless of hue, avoid them like the plague.

This tumble weed was dug out of a piece of derailleur housing

This tumble weed was dug out of a piece of derailleur housing

Over the years plain Teflon coatings have progressed into all manor of wonderful concoctions and exotic blends and all are equally bad. I cannot overstate how abysmal these things are or, explain why they are still being made and recommended for use by such big names in the industry. I can only imagine that it is like the Emperor’s new clothes, nobody wants to tell them they have been an idiot. Anyway, bad ideas happen and Teflon cables won’t be the last and they certainly are in good company. Two that spring readily to mind are; Nikola Tesla’s earthquake machine and, my personal favorite, Alexander Graham Bells six nippled sheep. What kind of mind must you have that segues from inventing the telephone on a Thursday to deciding that Friday would best be spent increasing, by four, the nipples on a sheep. These are the questions that keep me awake at night. And, for anyone thinking I made up these last two ideas; I did not, they are absolutely true, you need to look them up, Quite fascinating…

Posted on January 31, 2019 .

Classic Mountain Bike

Bringing a ‘Schwinn 4 Banger’ back from the brink.

Towards the end of 2018 the door to the shop opened to a guy wheeling in a bike that definitely has a place in the time line of mountain bike evolution. The bike in question is from 1997 and had been owned by the gentleman since new. Nowadays when we say the name Schwinn we do not tend to think of cutting edge design and quality but, back then they were always pushing the edge of the envelope.

When you see mountain bikes from the 90’s alongside modern day ones they always look very small and delicate, however that was not the case when the Schwinn 4 Banger was parked in the showroom. Everything about this bike was designed to be ridden hard. A full suspension design, it sports the most solid looking swing-arm I have ever seen on a bike and, added to that, it is made out of carbon fiber… This is back when carbon was not that well understood but we knew it was cool so used it anyway. Nowadays we lay-up carbon using varying amounts of layers at different stress points and following a very light and hollow structure using shape and design for strength. The method back in the day was to make it thick and solid and then add some more carbon to it. Then, when it was finished add another layer, then one more for luck. After lunch a meeting would be held and a decision would be taken to add 3 more layers. The next morning, after sleeping on it, the design team would hold another meeting and voice their concerns over the carbon issue and another 4 layers would be added. This would continue for some days until finally the factories stock of carbon fiber had been completely used up. I may have exaggerated slightly but you get the idea.

The main front triangle is more traditional in design and build. It is crafted using a high grade aluminum with oversize tubing. The front suspension unit was also ahead of its time and used a design at the cutting edge from the top name in 90’s bike forks, ‘Marzocchi’. A double crown model and full open oil bath system in both legs.

20181114_171908.jpg

The swing arm in all its carbon magnificence. I would imagine the same amount of carbon as in your average passenger jet, although don’t quote me on that.

20181223_091714.jpg
20181114_171806.jpg

The Marzocchi double crown fork. This particular model is the Junior T. They made a Mr T as well as many other versions over the years. Anyone familiar with the TV show the A Team in the 80’s will get the link.

Although on first appearance the bike looked in good condition, it was clean and obviously stored inside, however, closer inspection revealed a few problems which later turned into full blown “issues”. Firstly the Hayes disk brakes.

The brakes are some of the original hydraulic units that Hayes produced and they were light years ahead of anything back then. The model is the Mag although there was never any logo telling you this on the things, just the purple Hayes logo. For that reason they had nicknames such as “Purple Stoppers” or “Purple Pullers” etc. the list is endless depending on your location and the creativeness of the local riders. As good as these things were, like any hydraulic system, service is essential. Even modern units suffer after a few years without a fluid flush and a clean, these poor little guys had not seen any love since being bolted onto the bike and whoever that was is drawing social security now. Problem 1.

I already mentioned the fork, however, this too was suffering. The open bath units are basically a system of springs spacers and shims that, ideally, should luxuriate in a bath of pristine oil. Needless to say the last vestiges of oil evaporated from this fork during the Clinton administration.

Lastly and perhaps the most serious of all the “Issues”, we found a crack in the frame at the head tube. Now, cracks usually signal the end of a bike project, next of kin are informed, tissues are handed out and the bodies taken to recycling. In the odd instance though, we have a bike that needs to be kept going, so we switch on the life support and break out the big hammers.

The bicycle was stripped down to a bare frame and the crack was project one. We drilled at the end point of the crack to stop it spreading, ground a recess and had it TIG welded. Pam then cleaned and buffed the area and color matched the paint and blended it back. You can hardly tell we were there at all. Next the fork. It was completely disassembled and all the parts cleaned in the parts cleaner. Needless to say no fluid was left inside after all the years and the only sign of oil was the dried on discoloration on the springs and shims. After everything was looking shiny we started to think about putting it back together. The weak links in any fork are the rubber seals. These are very delicate things that usually break down quickly and fail entirely when they dry out. I say usually because the one make of seal out there that bucks the trend are the old Marzocchi units. I swear these things have some alien origin and use a form of rubber only found in other galaxies. Come the apocalypse the only things still thriving will be cockroaches and Marzocchi fork seals. Thus it was with this fork, once everything was cleaned, reassembled and filled with new fork oil the fork was as plush and bouncy as new.

The last area of concern were the brakes. A phone call to our contact at Hayes confirmed what we suspected, no service parts are available for these old original levers. However, surprisingly you can still service the caliper units and replace the quad rings in there. So that is what we did. The front brake is completely original and fully serviced, the lever, or more correctly the master cylinder was disassembled, cleaned and rebuilt along with the caliper. There are a couple of options for replacement pads, sintered metallic, and both front and rear were replaced. The rear master cylinder turned out to be the permanent retirement of the whole renovation. When the unit was pulled apart the whole of the inner body, which is some form of plastic, had completely failed and wedged itself in the master chamber. So we looked at possible options for replacement. Matching calipers to master cylinders is a bit of a technical affair as all calipers have different requirements when it comes to fluid volumes and levers of different models push different amounts. In the end we settled for a Hayes “ Prime Comp” which we fitted to a high flow Jagwire hose and then retro fitted the rear caliper to take the new system. For any body out there with a similar problem and looking for a way to fix it, this works really well.

The original threaded caliper hose fitting.

The original threaded caliper hose fitting.

The new master cylinder ready to roll or stop rolling…

The new master cylinder ready to roll or stop rolling…

The new fitting, in gold, mounted to the original caliper. This picture also shows another reason these calipers need to be saved. The mount design. There is no modern equivalent to this mount, it was only used on these Hayes units and is no longer used by any manufacturer. The only other option would be to machine an adapter plate.

The new fitting, in gold, mounted to the original caliper. This picture also shows another reason these calipers need to be saved. The mount design. There is no modern equivalent to this mount, it was only used on these Hayes units and is no longer used by any manufacturer. The only other option would be to machine an adapter plate.

So, there we are, another classic saved from the scrap heap. Shame about the rear brake lever but some things are unable to be salvaged. I would probably have opted to replace both levers myself, as I think it probably won’t be long before the other one fails in the same way. Also I like symmetry on the bars. This was the choice of the owner however and he preferred the option of only changing what was necessary at the time, he felt it told a story and showed the bike had been ridden hard. I kinda agree, at least now it can write a few more chapters.

Posted on January 18, 2019 and filed under Renovation.

XD Hub Rebuild

Tis The Season To Show Your Hubs Some Love.

We are seeing a good many mountain bikes in the workshop at the moment. Lets face it, this is still a great time to be out in the dirt. As much fun as it is to be out in the snow, mud and slop it does also mean your trusty steed needs a bit more love. So, with that in mind I thought it would be a good time to look at hubs, more specifically XD hubs, I will cover the more standard hubs another time but, for now, as the XD drive is becoming much more common, I will concentrate on them. Also, they are all I have seen for the past week…

The XD Drive is not new, it has been around for a while now and was developed by SRAM with a lot and I mean A LOT of help from DT Swiss. There is nothing wrong with that, if you are going to get a partner to help with designing a hub it might as well be the “Grand Pooh Baas” of the wheel world. The XD hubs main purpose is to be able to run a smaller cog on the front of the cassette. All standard MTB hubs can only go as low as 11t for the high gear, with the XD you can drop down to 10t. It is a completely different design from the standard, so there is no swapping of cassettes between the two, strangely the same cassette tool works for both styles. I only mention this because the bicycle industry is not usually pusillanimous when it comes to introducing new tools, which is why we have 10 tool chests in the workshop, however I digress.

The Design of the XD looks very different on the outside but once inside there is no doubting the DT influence. It is basically a DT Swiss Star Ratchet System. This hub is actually quite simple to service. The end caps pull off and once the drive side cap is removed the free-hub body slides free along with the two cone springs and the two ratchet plates. The bearings can be driven out with the appropriate bushings and everything can be cleaned. Simple. The shape of the hub and the relative ease with witch it is assembled does seem to let in a little more of the elements than a traditional design. This is just my opinion based on the many hubs of all designs that I see during the course of the year, I am not even calling it a flaw in the design, it is just “so”. Like all high quality components they do not take neglect and a little regular routine service keeps it all running smoothly.

20181205_113504.jpg

The images below and to the right show a traditional Shimano spline cassette and lock-ring.

20181223_092410.jpg

Image to the right shows inside the XD hub after the end caps and the free-hub body has been removed. You can see that a lot of moisture had found its way inside and brought along dirt and grit as well. All that contamination will create an abrasive past and really accelerate the wear. The orange seal visible at the back is one of the two cartridge bearings in the hub body, another two smaller ones live in the free-hub. All of the bearings can be replaced if they are worn.

20181201_113132.jpg
20181205_113046.jpg

In the pictures to left and above you can see the difference in the design of these hubs, no real lock-ring on the front of the cassette, just the almost hidden standard spline arrangement. A very short tab interface to the rear and the threads also at the back of the hub. The whole of the inner sleeve turns. You can see that there is more openness and moving parts over a traditional cassette.

20181223_092347.jpg
20181201_113229.jpg
20181201_113123.jpg

The full horrors of the inside exposed. All the goo is a combination of old grease, water and grit, basically the trifecta of death for any hub. All of this crud needs to be cleaned out and all the parts carefully inspected for damage and wear.

20181201_160811.jpg
20181205_112145.jpg

Apply a liberal amount of the grease, which actually looks and smells a little like bubblegum, to all the parts and re-fit the free-hub back together and slide back over the through shaft. Do not force it together it should just slide back and flush with minimal effort. If it locks up just twist it slightly and it should all fit together nicely.

20181205_112810.jpg
20181201_160901.jpg

After some wiping and buffing you should end up with some nice shiny bits and pieces. DT Swiss being the company they are produce a grease for use in their star ratchet systems. We are made aware of the need to apply this grease by the use of the word “Special” on the can… All other lube and grease manufacturers will put very technical names to their lubes, not DT their grease is special. I am a big fan of this type of labeling, I really don’t need to know whats in the stuff but tell me it’s special and I’m in. If I had a grease company my pots would be labelled “Magic Grease”. Anyway The DT stuff is good and works well in these hubs.

20181205_112459.jpg

There we are, job done. Just re-install the cassette and you are ready to roll.

Performing these kind of maintenance chores regularly really does help with wear and tear and prolongs significantly the service life of the components. Also it works better and rolls smoother, which is why you bought it in the first place…

Posted on January 4, 2019 .

Renovation of Grants Dragster GT

Dragster GT Muscle Bike. Designed and built by Huffy in 1970 to around 1972.

stevepestgrantsrono1 (15).JPG

Branded as Grants and only sold through the W.T. Grants department stores this is a very rare bicycle now, due to its short run and limited availability through only the Grants stores. This particular model was finished in a candy green paint and had the Carlisle Redline tires as standard. Originally I think it would of had a glitter seat and a short front fender as well. This bike has obviously had some use and is owned locally. The owner, who rode this when he was a young man, brought it to us to make it like new again for his Grandson.

stevepestgrantsrono1 (4).JPG
stevepestgrantsrono1 (12).JPG
stevepestgrantsrono1 (14).JPG

As you can see from the above images the bike was in a bit of sad state and needed some serious renovation. The bike was first stripped down to bare frame and fork and all parts cleaned. The wheels were in bad shape and the hubs have been completely rebuilt and have new bearings throughout. The coaster brake mechanism is all still original and works well. The spokes had all rusted so I have rebuilt the wheels using new stainless steel straight gauge, custom cut and threaded in the workshop. Duck tail fenders were found in a California bike shop and I have modified them to fit on new fender struts. The original rear fender has obviously been saved, Pam has removed the dents and buffed out as much of the surface rust as possible. The fender can be used again as an historical piece. The Illinois license stickers are an added bonus and date from 1972 and 1973.

The frame, fork, chain-guard and seat clamp were all media blasted and have been painted using a color matched green with a fine subtle metal flake. It sparkles very nicely in the sunlight.

Cycle Depot-138.jpg
 

The major parts ready to start the build.

Cycle Depot-142.jpg

The wheels fitted with some old school Tioga “Street Block” tires, 2.25 at the rear and 1.95 at the front.

Cycle Depot-159.jpg
Cycle Depot-244.jpg

After all the work is done a 70’s chopper rides again.

Cycle Depot-211.jpg
Cycle Depot-273.jpg

Obviously no renovation is complete without a test ride. If they ever do a remake of “Easy Rider”…Pam’s your girl. Born to be wild.

Posted on December 1, 2018 .

One More Custom Bike.

IMG_3342.JPG

The last full custom bicycle of the year has just been completed and rolls out of the store with its new owner. Anyone visiting the store over the last few months has probably seen parts of this build laying around the workshop and the frame had been hanging on a hook for longer than usual. Everything about this bike has been meticulously planned and built to create the perfect bike for the rider. A few teething problems along the way, as with all custom builds, however the end result, though slow in coming, has been worth the wait.

The frame is a full custom design, built around the riders measurements and the geometry set for his personal style and intended use, in this case the design is for a very quick handling, light gravel bike. The frame is built in Titanium and was built by master frame builder Mike DeSalvo in Oregon. The wheels are hand built by myself using DT Swiss rims and modified hubs from White Industries. The shifting is by a cable actuated traditional setup but the brakes are hydraulic. Whilst on the subject of brakes, one of the biggest features on this bike is the braking system. The calipers are from Hope in England and are completely machined from one single piece of aluminum, obviously being from England they used Alumin(i)um… Despite the spelling this is a very complex caliper. Designed for use with a road bike lever they are small in size and lightweight but have fantastic stopping power but still maintain good feel and modulation at the lever. The calipers actually have 4 pistons and need a good amount of fluid, the hose was originally a braided stainless, specially designed to be used with these calipers, unfortunately we had a few problems with it and eventually a failure in the casing itself. At the moment we are using Shimano high flow hose but eventually we will switch to braided high flow hose from Jagwire. We just need to customize the fittings for the caliper end and the lever end to suit. The rotors are also from Hope and are their floating design that have been around for a while now. I will do a separate post on the reason behind this design of rotor at a later date.

DeSalvo-11.jpg
DeSalvo-37.jpg
DeSalvo-32.jpg

Wheels are setup to run tubeless and are running a 700 x 30 tire. The wheels have been laced using spoke washers at the hub and rim washers in rim along with the DT Swiss pro head nipples. Tension is maxed out on these rims obviously and the 32 spokes are laced in a 3 x pattern. As much as I love DT Swiss rims, spokes and hubs, I am not a big fan of their tubeless rim tape so I opted instead for Whiskey brand tape. I also departed from the usual sealants and went instead to Finish Line. Should have a little longer before it dries.

DeSalvo-117.jpg

Running a standard 50/34 chain ring combo however, we have gone to our favorite brand for rings, Praxis. This is their “Zayante” model. The derailleurs front and rear are standard Shimano units although you may be unfamiliar with the newer shape and, especially the cable routing on the front. The rear is a Shadow model and shares some characteristics with standard road and some mountain bike models. Ideal for this gravel application. These new models have fantastic chain wrap and engagement. Rear dropout is thru-axle and the less common Syntace style.

DeSalvo-46.jpg
 

So there it is, the last full custom of 2018. This bike has been in the workshop for so long I miss it now that it is gone. The owner is local so I will get to visit with it and if you are riding around the area keep your eye out for a glimpse but you won’t catch it…

DeSalvo-64.jpg
Posted on November 25, 2018 and filed under Custom Bikes.

New Site, New Blog.

By now some of our regular customers and followers of our Facebook page will know that Cycle Depot has a new Web-Site, finally. The new site has been a long time coming and part of the reason for that is there has also been a complete change of host for the site and blog. Swapping between hosts is not something I would recommend in the interests of keeping ones sanity, however, sometimes you just have to push the button and go for it. The end result and the rationale behind this change was to make the whole site easier to manage and edit. Our original sites were all housed on our own computers, edited and then transferred on block to hosts using ftp. This is a great way of creating web-sites and you can have a good deal of control over the look and design but, for a bicycle mechanic with limited web-site skills, not particularly easy to make changes and update. This new format is more web based, we have a little less choice and control over the design but changes and edits can be accomplished in minutes rather than hours.

Some of the original web content has been lost to the web pixies, no great loss as a lot of this content was outdated anyway. Gradually we will add the stuff that is still useful to various pages on the site. One of the areas that has become a little chaotic is the blog. So consider this first post a fresh start. I have transferred as many of the blogs from our old hosts to this new platform, unfortunately many have been lost. Those that remain are all a bit jumbled up but still have tags and are searchable. The posts that were “how-to’s” are the ones I was keen to keep and I would say there are about half of them here. I will gradually freshen up and re-post the missing ones over time.

So there you have it. Thank you everyone for your patience, I know a lot of people had given up on ever seeing a new web-site from Hartsburg Cycle Depot, I was very nearly one of them…

Mark

P.S.

This post is supposed to link to our Facebook page with a handy dandy link. “Supposed to” being the key words here. If anyone has problems let me know and I will fix it.

Also, the subscriber list is a new setup too, so even if you subscribed to the old blog and newsletter you will have to do it afresh. Again, any problems let me know and I will try and fix whatever it is I messed up.

Posted on November 19, 2018 .

Umlenker or Top Pull Device.

Recently had one of these wheel into the store and thought that it was a clever idea and worthy of a mention.

A company called Speen make this device called the "Umlenker" which translated means the top pull. Nifty little doo-hicky gives you a clean and simple method of running a traditional bottom pull road derailleur with a top routed cable. Genius, which being manufactured and designed by a German company is not at all surprising.
The device is just the silver bar bolted onto the top. They make a version for Sram, Campy Etc.

 Visit them online to see their gizmo's 

http://www.speen.de
Posted on May 11, 2014 .

A Freewheel Tool Is Finally Replaced

People are constantly surprised when they look around our workshop at all of the bicycle specific tools that they see. They are even more amazed when we tell them that rarely a month goes by without us buying more. Every time some manufacturer designs something new invariably there is the need for a new tool to service it. Also things wear out over time and just need replacing, I recently needed a new DT Swiss hub lockring nut removal tool to replaced a worn out one, the sucker cost me 40 bucks too! Sometimes however a tool needs replacing for a different reason. About 8 years ago I lent someone my Maillard freewheel removal tool. This is a splined widget that fits the matching splines on the inside of an old French freewheel that was quite popular in the 70s. Well long story short that tool never came home, now apart from pissing me off slightly, I did not make a big deal out of it and figured I would replace it down the line. Not so easy, every time I tried to source that thing nobody had one, they are rarer than hens teeth. Now, as I said it is not a common freewhel but about 5 or 6 times a year one will come through the door and I would wish a fresh curse on the swine that relieved me of the tool. No more though, a shiny new Var tool has been delivered. I bet now that I have it I will never see a Maillard freewheel again, Oh well it will make  a fine paper weight...
Var Freewheel Remover For Maillard Helicomatic And Super Plus Freewheels


 

Posted on April 27, 2014 .

Hydraulic Brakes. Make Them Like New Again.

Hydraulic Brakes are one of those components that everyone wants to have and then, when things go wrong, they bail and become anti fluid and pro cable actuated. I will admit that there are some good cable actuated discs out there that are very good, the Avid BB7 for instance, however, nothing comes close to the feel and operation of a good hydraulic system. That is why it is a shame when people ditch them. Even some bike shops are more than happy to sell the hydro's but don't want to mess with them afterwards for service. A hydraulic brake system can be ordered as a kit, hoses attached and filled with fluid. You can always tell a system that has come this way as it will have 3 feet of extra hose in a big loop off the bar, just waiting to be snagged by a passing Moose or even a tree limb. Now sometimes this is just laziness on the part of the mechanic but often it is fear of cracking the system open. So here is a little primer on the hydraulic disc brake system...

I have already mentioned Avid above, apart from making the BB7 they also make some great hydraulic units, the older Juicy and Code plus the newer series of Elixir and Trail. All of these models are easy to service and durable apart from working very well. Shimano also make a range that are popular and again easy'ish to service and repair. Other companies that we are fans of are Formula and Hope, both of these produce disc systems that also qualify as works of art, sadly they also  have price tags similar to a minor work from Rembrandt...

So, back to my point. What do you do when things start to go sideways? Well you service them.  Below I have taken some pictures of the complete internals of a set of Avid Juicy levers and calipers. These brakes recently came to us from a customer at the Lake of the Ozarks and they were in dire need of some TLC. These brakes are very common but basically all hydraulic brake units are following the same principles, so with a spec sheet of your particular make and model you will be in good shape.

These particular units had developed one of the common issues of older neglected sets. They had developed the sticky lever syndrome. Another common issue is a soft lever which means air is in the system either through the need of a good bleed or the hose has developed a hole or an o ring has failed on a bleed port. The sticky lever however means that the internal plunger in the lever is in need of replacing or that the caliper pistons are beginning to stick and corrode. My rule is; do both, if one end is gummed up and failing the other ain't far behind.

Wear gloves as DOT fluid is not something you want to be bathing in all afternoon and a pair of safety glasses, you would be amazed at how often I have shot myself in the face with a full syringe of this stuff.

I usually start with the lever first and, with a new bag of the correct internals, start cracking it apart. Below is what you end up with, again this is a Juicy so you will have a different looking pile of bits but they will be doing the same job.
Once the lever blade is removed it will reveal the circlip that needs to be removed to slide out the reach adjust mechanism and the plunger.

Reach adjust mech is next. If yours is a more basic model this will be missing.
In this case the parts were worn
All the parts laid out ready to clean. In this instance everything is being replaced except the body the blade and the reservoir cap.
The main culprit of the sluggish lever return is the plunger unit, in the above picture it is the thing with the spring attached to it. However when you are pulling it apart you may as well replace all the bits as they are all in the rebuild kit anyway.

Once the lever is rebuilt I attack the caliper. Again disconnect the hose first. The only way to get into the pistons is to split the caliper body in half. this is achieved by undoing the three bolts. Once you have the body in two the fun begins. The way to get the pistons out of their press fit home is with the use of compressed air. You cannot get them out any other way so don't be jamming screwdrivers in there or you will damage the body itself and you will get fluid leaking out and the whole unit will become a paperweight. The compressed air does a great job of popping them out. Warning; Make sure you don't have the thing aimed at anything soft and fleshy, it will hurt...
Waiting to be cracked open like a walnut...
The main culprits in here are the quad rings (the square edged rubber washers) and the round pistons.All of which will be replaced.
Once the caliper has been rebuilt all that is left is to run new hose, to the correct length as mentioned earlier to avoid lassoing stray Moose... Also never re-use banjo fittings or crush washers. Once they have been tightened up they have to be replaced. That's it, job done. Go ride.
Good as new.



Posted on April 13, 2014 .

Custom Made Wooden Rims.

Over the last year we have been working on a couple of unusual projects. We have mentioned before the Bamboo bike frame that was completed recently, which we will feature here before too long, as a follow on to the frame project however we have a set of wooden rimed wheels.

These things are beautiful, we have dealt before with an Italian rim manufacturer, Ghisallo, but these new rims that a good friend of ours has had custom made are head and shoulders better. Our friend Tom, who has been the driving force behind the bamboo frame build, went in search of a craftsman to make these hoops and boy did he find one. They are made of white oak and have been stained and finished in a lovely medium brown that shows the grain.
The unfinished rim
 
The rim after being stained and laced up.

We used the Velo Orange Grand Cru front hub.Just visible are the DT Swiss brass spoke washers that we use.
The finished wheel.
The wheels will end up on the bamboo bike frame, at the moment though, they are hanging up in the workshop and have become quite the conversation starter...



Square Taper Crankset Woes.

The method of affixing crank arms to a bottom bracket spindle using a square taper system has been around for many, many years now and even though we have had lots of designs since it is a method we still see a lot especially on the comforts and hybrids and anything that comes from a box store.

Because we see a lot of these cranks on the cheaper bikes does not mean that it is a bad method, White Industries make a very high end crank set that uses a square taper fit and Phil Woods produce some of the most expensive bottom bracket cartridges ever in square taper format.

If the square taper crank to bottom bracket interface has ever had a problem it has been with installation and maintenance. The basic principle behind the method is that the crank arm gets tighter as it is drawn onto the square spindle because of the tapering. The most comon issue we see is the crank arm bolt coming loose or falling out completely and the bike is still ridden. Even though the crank arm is tightly fixed onto that spindle with the bolt gone the pedaling action will break the bond within a mile of riding. Now here is were it gets interesting. People just assume that a new bolt when they get home and a wrench to tighten it up will solve it. Wrong. When the arm gets loose and you continue to ride it the square hole in the crank arm just mushrooms out. The crank arms are made of soft aluminum and the spindle is steel. Once that crank arm hole becomes deformed it will never stay put, no matter how tight it feels when tightening it back up. The only cure is a new crank arm.
This is a typical example of a crank that became loose and was still ridden.
This is what they are supposed to look like
The above are pretty generic examples of the square taper cranks that you see on multiple bikes nowadays. Below is a picture of a White Industries VBC crankset and bottom bracket. This one was recently installed on a Ti Moots road frame and made a significant upgrade to the bike.
White Industries VBC crank set in anodized black.
The bottom bracket to match.
One slight issue that you have when using the white industries bottom brackets is the choice of spindle lengths or the lack of choices. In the event that a different length is needed then the Phil Woods bottom brackets are a great alternative.




Yearly Maintenance. (The Bottom Bracket)

 This is the time of the year when the workshop is full of bikes waiting for their annual check up. Mixed in with the bikes that we see every year are the bikes that have just been dragged out of the barn for the first time in 5 years and were put up wet in the first place. Those bikes are always interesting to pull apart and really highlight what can happen to bikes that have suffered some neglect.

However it is just not neglected bikes that have problems, any bike that is ridden regularly and hard throughout the year desperately needs that overhaul before the new season starts. Recently we had just such a bike in the workshop. This bike is one that has been overhauled by us before, not yearly I think we did a frame up rebuild on it 3 years ago, however the bike always is cleaned and lubed on the outside by the owner and kept inside.

Below is a picture of what we found inside the bottom bracket shell, once we had used a breaker bar and 2 of us to get the cartridge out!


 Keep in mind that this is an aluminum frame so that is not rust from the frame itself that you are seeing however aluminum does create a powder like substance under the right conditions. This is a mixture of sweat and moisture that finds its way down the seat tube and also the cartridge itself being steel bodied can supply some rust to the mix as well.

Moral of this story is. "If it looks good and clean on the outside, it doesn't necessarily mean everything is cool inside..."
 
This is a bottom bracket tap. The threads were so damaged after removal we had to re-cut them. Not an ideal scenario but the only option at this point.
This is the material that was removed in the re-tapping.       
Posted on April 2, 2014 .

We're Back...

After a long hiatus from the blog I am back in the saddle, so to speak. Last year just did not seem to have enough hours in the day but I feel refreshed and ready to go.

There have been many projects and restorations over the past few months and I have documented some of the more interesting ones in pictures. Also, as visitors to the store will know, some bamboo has been experimented with and quite successfully I might add. So there is plenty to share plus, of course, some of the usual repair and upgrades that we get in I will share with you as I know from the hits I receive on previous posts, these are quite popular with those of you that are working on similar projects at home.

Mark

I
Posted on March 31, 2014 .

Pantour Suspension Hubs

           It is time for a clean out here at the store, an early Spring clean if you will. First up is a set of wheels with a matching front and rear Pantour suspension hub. These hubs were originally built, by me, as a set of demo wheels for the road recumbents we sold at the time. They have been hanging up and need to find a new home. They are built around a Velocity Aerohead rear offset rim and a Alex road 20inch front. The front could easily be laced to a matching 700c Aerohead if required for the ultimate road setup.
          If you have never seen these hubs before take a look at them at www.pantourhub.com they are very impressive. We can get new ones of course but take a look at the ebay listing for these ones and if they fit the bill you could save a few bucks.

Pantour website at www.pantourhub.com
Ebay listing at  http://www.ebay.com/itm/Custom-Bicycle-Wheels-with-Pantour-Suspension-Hubs-/321079451536?pt=Cycling_Parts_Accessories&hash=item4ac1d39f90
Posted on February 24, 2013 .

How Not to Treat Carbon

             I have written many times on the subject of carbon fiber and rarely does a week go by without someone thrusting a scratched or damaged carbon doodad under my nose and asking is it OK.  Well last week we had a bike come in for a full overhaul and prep ready for the new race season with a couple of good examples of carbon fiber that is definitely NOT OK.

             The parts in question are a carbon drop bar and a full carbon seat post. These two components are the most common to suffer abuse and these examples are the most common way to kill them. Over tightening the clamping pressure. The handlebars have been squashed in the stem to the point of cracking through all the layers on both sides of the face plate. The seat post has suffered a similar fate by being  over torqued at the seat clamp. Both these components are dead and will fail in a spectacular fashion if used further.
             If you only buy one tool in your life let it be a torque wrench.
Again, probably twice the specified torque on the stem face plate to cause this.
Carbon has been squashed so hard it has made a peg in the carbon.
Posted on February 20, 2013 .

Raleigh Competition Renovation

Recently we had a renovation project come through the doors, a 1973 Raleigh "Competition". This bike had been owned since new by the present owner and he had decided that it was time for a makeover.

Before the new paint and decal job.
What started as a simple pull apart, service and rebuild turned into a pull apart and update everything to a modern Campagnolo group and a custom wheelset.

First the frame was treated to a blast and full repaint including a new original spec decal set and three coats of clear-coat. The frame then had the lugs highlighted with gold pin striping. A new custom wheel set hand-built by myself and sporting a set of Eldon rims and a matched set of high flange polished Velo-Orange hubs.
Back from paint.

The customer wanted the build rounded off with a 10 speed compact group from Campy.

The conversion was not without its headaches and a lot of small shims and add-ons had to be handmade to get the new technology to work. However the end result was definitely worth it.

Complete and ready to go.

High gloss and gold pinstripe, classic 70s...

Posted on February 17, 2013 .

Team Sky Christmas Card Factory

          With lots to celebrate this year Team Sky got into the Christmas spirit by making their own cards. Not sure if this is going to catch on or if they plan to do print jobs on the side but they are sure offering a quick turnaround. Hopefully Staples will soon adopt this method in their printing shop...              

Neat little video showing how Team Sky prepared their Christmas cards this year.
Posted on December 20, 2012 .

Global Cycling Network

            Coming to the screens in January is a new cycling channel. Due to hit 'You Tube' on January 1st 2013 is the 'Global Cycling Network' a free original content channel for all things cycling. The initial feedback seems good and it promises to have all kinds of content covering the gamut of cycling. Take a look at the preview and add it to your favorites.


Posted on December 15, 2012 .