Yay to the threaded bottom bracket!

Cycling Mountain Bike-96One of the key things I love on my Santa Cruz mountain bike is the threaded bottom bracket. Most other bike manufacturers had moved to press-fit bottom brackets over the years but I, and a few others, were not convinced that press-fit BBs where, as a whole, better than threaded BBs for most people. I really appreciate the easier maintainability of threaded BBs and that they don’t tend to squeak!

A recent BikeRadar article describes how there now seems to be a trend amongst manufacturers to return to threaded BBs. Of course Santa Cruz’s steadfast loyalty to threaded BBs gets a mention :)

United Kingdom knife laws, and the Topeak Alien II mutli-tool

The UK’s knife laws are quite strict, especially on fixed-blades and locking folding-blades carried in public areas. These laws and their interpretations are described here:

Unfortunately, a lot of multi-tools, including those for bicycles, have locking folding-blades which can cause legal problems. I have the Topeak Alien II bicycle multi-tool with a locking folding-blade which I take with me on longer bicycle rides. I have recently become uncomfortable carrying this even though the tool is at the bottom of my bag, and even though it takes MUCH effort to lock the blade into its open (active) position.

In order to avoid any legal issues, I was able to dismantle the tool and, through a grinder, removed the ridge on the blade so that it was no longer lockable in the open position. After reassembly of the tool, I now have a non-locking folding blade on the Topeak Alien II. In use, the blade stays in place much like a traditional slip-joint on a penknife so that it is still practicable.

On a related pointed, it would be really awesome if manufacturers can sell us all the individual tools separately so that we can then build-up our own customised multi-tool. I predict a huge market for this!

My new road bike

I purchased a new road bike earlier last month. A Boardman Elite SLS 9.2.


It’s very light and is fitted with Shimano Ultegra 6800 wheels, gears and brakes. Boardman call this a “sportive” bike in that the geometry is a bit more relaxed compared to a pure racer, and the rear is a little more compliant, so is relatively comfortable and suitable for road endurance cycling; these were the main factors in helping me to choose the new bike. Here’s Chris Boardman himself talking about the SLS platform:

It’s been a great bike so far, but having come from the mountain biking side of cycling, I’m still trying to get used to riding in the drops. Riding on the hoods are not a problem except that I need to learn how press the brake handles a little bit harder; a proper bike fitting is really required. I’ve also swapped out the tyres to 25mm Schwalbe One tyres which have held up well (no punctures!) even with gravel off-road cycling. Yes, this bike is doing fine.

Helmet for road cycling

I’ve been mountain biking for a while, but have recently bought a road bicycle to use on those those trips that increasingly entail significant road travel. I had tried to use my existing mountain bike helmet for road cycling but I found that it was not ideal in this role; the helmet is relatively heavy compared to road helmets, it has a visor that can get in the way when in the road cycling position forcing you to crane your neck upwards (especially when in the drops), and the colour is rather low key which can make it difficult for other road users to notice you.

So I decided to get a new helmet specifically for road cycling. And here it is: light, bright and visor-less! A Kask Mojito.


Amusing Schwalbe on road tubeless

Whilst recently researching the suitability of tubeless tyres for road bicycles, I came across Schwalbe’s document “Technical Info – Bicycle Tires”. This is the latest version direct from their website, and appears to have been written no later than 2011. It’s a very useful document but this bit from the manual caught my eye:

Why are tubeless tires only available for mountain bikes?
In offroad terrain, tubeless systems offer a clear advantage. Tires can be operated with lower inflation pressures, which improves the grip and the rolling characteristics. On the other hand, on road, a high inflation pressure is an advantage and the current tubeless system, as found in MTB’s is unsuitable for high pressure. Pressures above 4 bar would blow the tire off the rim.

There have been numerous attempts to offer suitable high-pressure tubeless tires and rims for racing bikes. Such tires are very hard to fit because the tolerances of both rim and tire must be extremely accurate in order to achieve an airtight fit. Because there are no apparent advantages, we do not see much sense, nor a future, for such systems.

Of course, Schwalbe do now offer tubeless tyres for road bicycles; I use the Schwalbe “One” tubeless on my road bike! Their website describing the Schwalbe “One” tubeless technology says:


There are hardly any tubeless tires for racing bikes. In practice, however, this system offers outstanding benefits. The rolling resistance is noticeably lower than with conventional folding and tubular tires because this system minimizes friction losses. At the same time tubeless systems are extremely safe and a sudden loss of air is almost impossible. There are no longer any tubes that can overheat and burst. A puncture protection liquid seals punctures within tenths of a second.

Now it would be easy to laugh at Schwalbe, but it’s a good sign that companies are always looking at technology and the market. It was probably Hutchinson’s success with road bicycle tubeless tyres that caused Schwalbe to do a re-think. It may perhaps have been better if Schwalbe had worded their original pre-2011 statement along the lines that current technologies do not appear to be suitable but that Schwalbe were actively involved in research.

Easy peasy! Going tubeless on road bicycle wheels

I’m more of a weekend-warrior mountain biker but, recently, I decided to try road cycling to complement the mountain biking. So last week I purchased a fairly decent road bike. After the first few rides on the heavily potholed roads around here I was sorely missing the comforts that a full suspension mountain bike provides!

I have a two-pronged approach to increasing comfort on the road bike:

  • Phase 1: go tubeless using lower tire pressures (with puncture resistance benefits too).
  • Phase 2: purchase a new seatpost to take the buzz out of riding on rough roads.

Phase 1 was completed today!

The road bike came with Shimano Ultegra wheels; these can be run in a fully tubeless configuration if needed. There’s no need for any rim tape as the rim bed is solid with no spoke holes; kinda like the Mavic UST rims for mountain bikes.

To configure the wheels to run tubeless, I used the following:

  1. Schwalbe One tubeless tyres (700x25C) for front and rear (bought new).
  2. Stan’s NoTubes Universal 44mm Tubeless Road Valve Stem pair (bought new).
  3. Stan’s NoTubes sealant (I already had some for using on my mountain bikes).
  4. Schwalbe “Easy Fit” tyre mounting fluid (bought new).
  5. Stan’s NoTubes valve core remover (I already had this for the mountain bikes).
  6. Stan’s NoTubes sealant injector (I already had this for the mountain bikes).
  7. Lezyne floor pump.

Now, I’ve seen videos, and read of people in forums, who have had the most difficult time in trying to mount a tubeless tyre to an Ultegra wheel; way too tight! Shimano warn not to use tyre levers on the Ultegra wheels, probably because the rim may get damaged or warped, but these people were getting desperate and some had resorted to tyre levers.

With that in mind, I soldered on pretty confident that I could overcome any difficulties. Starting on the front wheel, I installed Stan’s NoTubes valve stem. Following that, I applied Easy Fit liquid to the tyre beads and the rim. Starting opposite the valve, I installed the tyre onto the rim making sure that the tyre bead was sitting in the centre of the well. Getting the last bit of tyre onto the wheel was a little bit difficult but it took me only around 20-30 seconds to do it, and certainly not using any of the extreme efforts that I’d seen on YouTube, and definitely not using any tyre levers! The Easy Fit liquid certainly helped, but you could probably use soapy water as an alternative (it’s what I do for my mountain bike tubeless configuration).

And then one more application of “Easy Fit” to the tyre bead and also to the inside of the rims to allow for easy inflation. Using my floor pump I had the tyre pop into the rim walls in seconds, and I took the tyre pressure to 100 psi. The rear tyre went on just as easily.

Making sure that both tyres had popped correctly, I deflated both tyres, removed the valve cores, and added 30 ml of Stan’s sealant into each tyre using the injector tool. Re-inserting the valve cores I re-inflated the tyres, this time to 80 psi. I’ll experiment over the next few days to determine the optimal pressures for me (speed vs comfort).
Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Note that Schwalbe recommend the use of their own Schwalbe “Doc Blue”sealant in the first instance but they do also unreservedly recommend Stan’s sealant (both are made by Stan’s NoTubes!).

This tubeless malarkey on road tyres/wheels was not hard to do, especially if you use a proper tubeless wheel. The application of preparation and technique, both finely honed from my mountain biking tubeless experiences, allowed me to feel confident that I could overcome any challenges and not panic; brute force is not the way to go.

Once the 25mm Schwalbe One tyres are worn out, I might try the 28mm version. If I can run it at the same pressures as the current 25mm then I should have lower rolling resistance giving me a larger comfort/speed envelope.

These are the specs for Scwalbe One tyre that I’ve installed:

Size: ETRTO 25-622 (Franz.Bez. 700x25C)
Typ: Folding
Compound: OneStar
Execution: Tubeless
Color: Black
Skin: Lite
Weight: 340 g (12 oz)
Pressure: 5.00 – 8.00 Bar (70 – 115 psi)
Maximum load: 70 kg
EPI: 127
Article number: 11700024
EAN: 4026495718226
Tube: 15, 20

DMR Vault MG Superlight

I’ve had Point One Racing Podium pedals (the original version) for a while and they’ve been really great and have taken quite a few hits. But the main issue that I’ve had with these pedals is that the o-ring seal is quite tight which results in a fair amount of drag. I’ve tried lightweight lube to make the pedal spin better and this has helped but not enough. These pedals are actually notorious for having a high rotational drag; some see this as a feature but it wasn’t really for me.

Although Point One Racing have brought out a new version of their Podium pedals which are lighter and with less rotational drag, I thought I’d try another brand. I had heard great things of the DMR Vault pedals so bought the MG Superlight version of these pedals. These have very good grip and are also very light made from magnesium with titanium axles. The only minus for me with the DMR Vault pedals is that they not as thin as the Podiums. Time will tell if this is going to be an issue with the sort of riding I do.

When I first saw the demo Vault pedals in the shop mounted to a board they spun quite freely which I really liked and is one of the criteria I used for helping me to choose a new pedal. However, when the new pedals arrived I was a bit surprised that they had a fair bit of rotational drag. So I dismantled the pedals and noticed that the axle was liberally covered in grease. I’m sure this grease is great for keeping the elements out but I’d argue that it’s not critical with an assembly consisting of sealed cartridge bearings and DU bushings. So I wiped off all that grease and applied a very lightweight grease at all the contact points; I trust the rubber seals to keep the elements out!

Anyway, these Vault pedals now have a really sweet spin to them. I really like!


Rear derailleur problems, again!

There I am, enjoying a mild and sunny December on my mountain bike today and I begin accelerating for maximum speed, clicking up the rear gears, and then a problem. It’s suddenly got awfully hard to pedal, and I try going down a gear but nothing happens. In dread, remembering the time when my Shimano RD-M980 rear derailleur had ended up in the spokes of my wheel this year, I stopped the bike and had a look at the rear derailleur (RD-M986).

The chain had become unseated from the jockey-wheel and was jammed between the cage and the outside of the jockey-wheel. Also, the Bionicon C.Guide had rotated 180 degrees so that it was now sitting above the chainstay, and one of the C.Guide barrel legs had snapped; the three remaining functional cable-ties meant that the C.Guide was probably still functional though.

This all looked fairly easy to fix, but when I managed to reseat the chain onto the jockey-wheel, the jockey-wheel would not rotate easily. To compound it all, I had neglected to bring any tools (this was only meant to be a short fun ride!).  The hub was still freewheeling, so I walked the bike home.

The first thing I did when I got home was to remove the jockey-wheel. Unfortunately, the jockey-wheel bolt/screw seemed to be stuck so the Allen hex tool just ended up rounding out the head on the bolt. Oops. I needed some help now but we managed to drill the bolt and remove the tapered head, which then allowed the cage to be removed, and then the bolt could be removed with pliers. Whew!

I could see why the jockey-wheel wasn’t turning. The bushing had been displaced by a couple of millimetres so that the jockey-wheel was off-centre and rubbing against the rear derailleur cage. This probably happened when the chain became unseated and had applied a force against the side of the jockey-wheel when I was pedalling (the jockey-wheel was heavily lacerated by the chain but still useable). Judicious use of a vice soon had the bushing centred correctly in the jockey-wheel. Of course I had sacrificed the bolt, but luckily I was able to scavenge a bolt from my older broken RD-M980 rear derailleur which fit perfectly. Result!

I soon had everything reassembled. But I decided to completely remove the C.Guide as I wasn’t convinced that it was really needed on a bike with Shadow Plus technology. Shadow Plus had arrived on my bike in the guise of the RD-M986 which had replaced my broken RD-M980 earlier this year. Anyway, I should really see how Shadow Plus works on its own, and I have a sneaky suspicion that the C.Guide had ended up on top of the chainstay as a result of it getting caught in my Five10 shoes whilst pedalling furiously, and that this had then unseated the chain from the jockey-wheel. It’s just a suspicion.

Black, gloopy, smelly silt!

Had a quick blast on the mountain bike yesterday. Part of the ride was next to a river which sometimes gets flooded when the river breaks its bank. Going down hill and around a corner, a quick glimpse ahead indicated that the area was not flooded although it looked a bit damp. No problem. Except that I ended up in three inches of accumulated river silt; the black, gloopy and smelly kind! Having misjudged the situation going in, I did not have enough speed or momentum to take me through this gloop and out uphill. I soon ground to a halt and had to walk my way out. Oh my poor Five 10 Impact shoes!

I got out of the gloop soon enough, trying not to slip walking uphill, but now both the bike and myself were like mobile masses of glue; leaves and other plant detritus sticking to us and not shifting! I normally don’t mind riding through mud, it’s a lot of fun actually, but this black gloop was something else!

Come to think of it, I hadn’t been this way for a couple of months and I do recall that the area had been flooded for an extended period of time…it’s entirely possible that it has remained flooded until quite recently, and that this has given enough time for the black, gloopy silt to accumulate and trap the unwary or foolhardy.

When I got home I immediately washed everything down; that decaying stink had to go! The Five 10 Impact shoes will take longer to dry out being the older model that soaked water and never let go, like those super absorbent kitchen towels. I do have Teva Links shoes that I can use in the meantime.

I guess it’s also time to change my tyres to something more suited to wet winter conditions. Rather than go for an all-out mud tyre like a Specialized Storm Control or Continental Baron, I’ll probably try a Continental Mountain King II 2.4 ProTection on the front in a tubeless configuration to replace the X-King 2.4 RaceSport, and leave the rear on the X-King 2.2 RaceSport (also in a tubeless configuration). The Mountain King II can be used in a wider variety of conditions than the Baron and I really do not want to constantly keep changing tubeless tyres for specific trail conditions. Last winter I used a pair of older Rubber Queen 2.2 UST tyres but I’d like to see how the Mountain King II stacks up.

Why don’t the police care about bike thefts?

I’ve seen quite a few reports over recent years indicating that the police do not care about bike thefts. Even if the victim goes to all the trouble of tracking down the stolen bike or the thief, there just isn’t any positive reaction from the police. The post below is one such case:

Just a heads up really, I took a last minute decision to go and ride at Swinley tonight. I pulled into the car park and parked up. Got changed and then got the bike out and lent it against the back of the van. I noticed whilst i was getting changed that an red Ford Fiesta pulled into the car park and drove up to the visitor centre which i couldn’t quite see from where i was, then within a couple of minutes left the car park. I thought the car looked dodgy but I didn’t really think anything off it too much. I then knelt into the back of the van to get my shock pump and i suddenly realised that a guy in a black beanie was getting on my bike. I shouted and instantly took chase. Luckily it was in a lowish gear so it took him a while to get going and I managed to grab his arm as he shifted under massive load making the gears jump! I pulled him down on to the ground. The downside was i also ended up on the floor and he managed to get up quicker being on the opposite side of the bike and leg if off down the car park! I probably then should have given chase to get the scum bag but just decided that I was very lucky to still have my bike!

I then decided that I may be would still go for a ride but I would move the van into the Water World car park, I drove into the car park and couldn’t believe my luck but the Fiesta was in there with the guy who tried nicking the bike being in the back seat still wearing his beanie along with another 4 people. So i got the registration number and called the Police, who didn’t seem that bothered even though I mentioned they was CCTV in The Lock Out car park that would have captured all this!

I got the impression that they have tried to do this before (may be even been successful) so don’t leave your bikes unattended in the car park at night. I was half a metre at the very most when he grabbed it! If you are on your own take extra care as it makes you a very easy target because there is no one to give chase on another bike.

The car registration number was T608 PRJ – Colour Dark Red.

If you also know anyone this happened to please let them know about this post!

My own interest in this, apart from being a bike owner, is that I do use Swinley for cycle rides although not at night. Are our police forces so stretched that they are unable to investigate even if all the work has been done for them? Or do the police have a standing policy of not investigating ANY bike crime as 9 out of 10 lead nowhere?