Monday, July 25, 2005

Shimano Dual Control--please don't break on me.

A friend of mine recently had a minor crash. It was so minor, he barely had to unclip. Unfortunately, this crash involved his Shimano Dual Control Shift/Brake lever hitting the ground. This shouldn't come as any surprise. There have been many times that I've hit the dirt and have had to re-adjust my brake lever to get it back to the right position. My friend, however, had to replace the whole shift/brake assembly. Because it is one integrated (read: Shimano) unit, this isn't a cheap proposition. Shimano LX Dual Control levers for hydraulic brakes cost around $215. That's LX, folks. I shudder to think of the cost of XTR. Makes me long for the days of good ol' forged aluminum thumb shifters. I mean, if we are putting burly chain guards on our heavy-duty freeride bikes, why not make the shift/brake levers a little more durable?

The good and bad news of this story is that it broke after only 6-months of use. Because my friend bought the bike at a local bike shop, they replaced it for free. Better luck next time, eh?

Friday, July 22, 2005

This is the same shot, only metering off the field so you can view my surroundings better. This is more realistic, as I wasn't really riding in the pitch black. Road biking is really addictive. Posted by Picasa

Red sunrise over Mt. Timpanogos. I saw this while out on a morning ride. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Alpine Loop

I am currently reviewing a Cannondale Synapse. This is Cannondale's performance-comfort all-carbon road bike. Watch for my upcoming review. This is a very comfortable bike. One thing I really like about it is the compact double crankset (two chainrings, but they're smaller than a standard road crankset--which leads to lower gearing) it came with. Most of my riding involves hills, but I never wanted to switch to a triple, so I was excited to ride a compact double. One ride I always wanted to try, but was scared of is the Alpine Loop. This is a 45-mile loop from my house that goes to the top of American Fork canyon and over the summit and down into Provo Canyon (by Sundance Ski Resort).

I'd like to say the time was right for me to go on the ride, because of the Synapse, but the day I went, the time wasn't right. I had some things to do outside on Saturday, so I didn't get on my bike until 1:00 in the afternoon. That put the temperature right around 100 degrees. Though I started out with two large water bottles, I knew there were plenty of water stops up American Fork canyon.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a computer, gps, or altimeter with me, so I had to drive it later and get some estimates.

my house = 4725'
mile 10.6 (base of American Fork canyon) = 5013'
mile 21.8 (top of the canyon) = 7730'
mile 30.8 (base of Sundance/North Fork canyon) = 5160'
mile 45 back at my house.

Okay, those numbers can't convey how hard this ride is. I am relieved that the only other rider up there had a triple crankset. I think I must have started the day a little dehydrated (from my working around the house outside), because I ended up downing about 6-7 water bottles full (4 of which had Elete). It hurt so bad. In truth, I never thought I'd make it to the top, but I think delirium and sun-stroke set in so I just kept going. I actually felt really good on the way back, though the last two miles I totally bonked (again).

According to my HRM, I burned 3167 calories. I should have brought more energy gels with me, for sure.

Will I ride it again? Maybe not with a compact double--though, now that the pain has worn off some, it doesn't sound so bad. One thing I can say is that Cycling is really addictive.

Cycling and the Tour

Here we are, most of the way through the Tour de France, and Lance is on his way to a historic 7th victory. Most people I am friends with don't understand my obsession with the Tour, or with cycling in general. For the most part, they don't complain much, though. My wife, though not a cyclist, whether truthful or just good at acting, loves to follow the tour with me, and has been extremely supportive about my obsession (as long as I keep the gear purchases down as best I can).

While reading about the Tour, and perusing some of my favorite cycling web sites, I stumbled across this article. Reminds me of how my wife must feel.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Are you sure you threaded that pedal on right?

Parts fall of bikes. This shouldn't happen, but often does because most of us don't take the time to check bolts before every ride--or even every month. Pedals, however, shouldn't come off. Whenever the founding fathers of cycling got together to make pedals, they made some wise decisions: "Thus let us counter-thread one of the pedals. Therefore, whilst pedaling, thy pedal will tighten and won't have measure to loosen with the motion of rotation." Very wise indeed. That's why pedals have a definite left and right side--they are designed with a tendency to tighten while pedaling. In fact, most people complain that pedals are a bear to remove and suggest greasing the threads first.

For my part, however, there is a strange magnetic field surrounding me which actually has the ability to reverse the threads while I'm riding. At least, that's my theory. How else can you explain that, although I've never met anyone who has lost a pedal before, I have had it happen twice. I know what you're thinking: "This guy put the left pedal on the right side and the right pedal on the left side." Wrong. Not only are you wrong because I verified the pedal after it came off, but you are also wrong because you can't thread a counter-threaded bolt through a normal nut (or, in this case, the crank arm) without destroying the threads of one or both.

So, strange as it may sound, after installing some new cranks for a review (really nice cranks, watch for the review here), and tightening them nice and snug, my pedal came off while pedaling. Strange? Well, unfortunately not for me.


I have never broken a handlebar, though I know someone who has. This person was particularly hard on bikes, and, in an era when everything was light-weight aluminum, his bars just couldn't take it. I remember him bending the aluminum and then--I still shudder when I think of it--turn them upside-down so that next time it would bend them back to the normal position. Perhaps this made him an early pioneer of riser bars--but only temporarily.

It should come as no surprise that after a few of these bending-turning over-bending back episodes, his bars failed and broke right near the stem clamp.

Well since that time, I've not heard of a failure (not even with him). Handlebars these days are very strong. If you're really tough on bikes (freeride or downhillers), then you can even get chromoly bars. In fact, you can pretty much pick your bar material and weight these days--all with the assurance that they are tested better, and are much stronger than yesteryear.

Why 31.8?

Well, undoubtedly, a bar with 31.8 mm diameter at the stem is going to be stronger than 25.4 (mountain bars) or 26.0 (road bars). Unfortunately, I can't put my computer, GPS, or any of my bike lights on that size of bar. And guess what (this may come as no surprise): I don't feel like my cockpit is any more stable with the larger bars. I'm sure the bars are stiffer, but I never had a problem with my bars before. In fact, I prefer to use
carbon bars because they damp out vibration and make for a more comfortable ride--something large-diameter aluminum just doesn't do. Another problem I have with the size is that it is significantly larger than the normal grip diameter, so the bar has to taper radically which, again, leaves an area of the bar which doesn't work well with accessories (computers, lights, etc.).

There is, however, one good thing that has come of this change. As I stated above, road and mountain bars have different diameters--that is, until now. At least now, we are moving toward a standard size. This should make things cheaper for manufacturers and give people more options. (Like
Moustache bars on a mountain bike.)

Like it or not, these industry-wide decisions are generally made without consulting me, so I'm certain 31.8 will continue to gain in popularity. Perhaps soon the computer and light manufacturers will catch on and come up with better mounting options soon. Let's hope.