Tag Archives: Maintenance

Tips learned this winter #cycling

I’ve been a bit lazy recently with writing anything down, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been cycling or indeed discovering new tricks and tips.

Tip 1

This winter I loved my toe covers, cheap, easy to fit and I just leave them on my shoes with minimal hassle compared with overshoes. I own two pairs now. They keep my feet warm enough and even some water out too, enough to keep my toes dry on a wet commute. £9.50 at time of writing… http://www.wiggle.co.uk/dhb-toe-cover-overshoe/

Tip 2

Base layers are expensive, but don’t necessarily need to be bought from a cycle shop, you can save money by looking around. I recently bought four from a DIY shop at £8.49 each, unfortunately they are £9.99 at time of writing… http://www.screwfix.com/p/helly-hansen-kastrup-baselayer-crewneck-black-large-42-chest/55368

Tip 3

Disposable gloves for bike maintenance. I like nitrile ones at just under 8p per glove… http://www.screwfix.com/p/skytec-utah-nitrile-powder-free-disposable-gloves-blue-large-100-pack/1705g

Tip 4

Never give up, just because your gloves don’t keep your fingers warm, you just haven’t found the right ones yet… I like the look of lobster neoprene gloves… maybe I’ll try them next year.

Tip 5

For every rubbish tool you have there’s a good one that cost just a few pounds more, not every tool is worth the extra, but I’m definitely glad I spent the extra on decent wire cutters, chain whip, floor pump and tyre levers to name but a few. Last weekend I used my wire cutters again and I remembered how much I appreciate them every time I use them.

Tip 6

Muc Off or similar top brand of degreaser and bike cleaner. Degreaser is so good, I don’t use a lot over the course of a year, but every time I clean my chain and bike I’m glad I have it and can’t imagine how I ever cleaned it without it.

Tip 7

Ignore and pity the fools with mega expensive road bikes that don’t ride all year round, they may go fast in summer, but fast is expensive and a whole load more maintenance and hassle. Buy yourself a cheap and really awful road bike, try riding it to put yourself off the idea of wasting a lot of money on one.

Tip 8

Rags and old socks, don’t throw them in the bin, they are perfect for bike maintenance and cleaning, as are old scrubbing and tooth brushes.

Tip 9

On a slightly icy Monday morning, do be careful in the office car park, they won’t have gritted it…

Tip 10

Check brakes frequently in winter, a sticking caliper can be enough to help you loose traction on that office car park…

Happy cycling, spring is on its way!

Clippy pedals #cycling

In all my years of cycling I’ve whimped out at the thought of clipless pedals (a.k.a. clip-in pedals). The price of them and shoes seemed to be putting me off too.

But it turns out there are cheap ones available and £60 will buy you shoes, SPD (Shimano) cleats and pedals. Before Christmas I purchased the shoes and cleats with a view of fitting to my single sided touring pedals that I’ve had in stock since I bought a bike several years back, that didn’t happen. Then I acquired some double sided SPD pedals from my brother, so I then had a couple of options that didn’t happen.


  • I cleaned bluebell before swapping winter tyres for normal ones (she was pretty dirty and it’s a good idea to clean a bike before swapping tyres because you can then store the clean tyres).
  • I degreased my chain and tightened up the eccentric bottom bracket.
  • I fitted new brake blocks.
  • Re-indexed my gears…. Only kidding, I ride Rohloff 🙂

Then, I got carried away and in a fit of madness I fitted the pedals and put on my new shoes, cleats as loose as possible… Test ride around the garden… I don’t know what I was scared about!

These Shimano SH56 cleats allow easy sideways slide, twist or angled disengagement (I said it, it must be correct). The SH51 cleats are not for me and scare me, they are not for a learner like me. Since the cleats are cheap I may one day switch to them, but I can’t see why I would.

Other brands may be better or worse, I just went for what’s cheap and popular.

Here’s my attempt at a video showing my hand pulling and pushing the shoe in the right directions and then angling my foot (fishing???) to detach the shoe from the pedal:

First and probably last video! The birds in my back garden were mocking / heckling me.

Don’t fear cleats, just get easy release ones and setup the pedals for easy release.

I rode to work and back without falling off too, so can you!

I love new brakes.

Rohloff gear slipping #cycling @Rohloff_DE

A couple of weeks ago one gear on my Rohloff started slipping. I don’t know which gear, the numbers don’t matter to me and wore off my shifter years ago, but a guess would be 5.

Anyway, the slippage didn’t go away and happened every time I attempted to engage that gear.

After a week or more I got fed up and eventually decided to do something about it. I drained the oil, filled with Rohloff cleaning oil then road it for a week (10 X 12.5 miles). During the week it appeared to happen less and less until I forgot about it.

I then drained and re-filled with 50/50 oil and cleaning oil until the weather warms up (it’s not that cold here, but the mornings can be below 0C).

Cleaning oil did seep out and even made it onto my rim – which made for very odd rear wheel braking, mostly overbraking and locking the wheel up. Anyway, I cleaned the wheel, nothing else of course.

Bluebell is back to full working order and maybe next winter I’ll add a little cleaning oil.

Today was a day for breaking records #cycling

Sure, nobody except me will be proud of these, but…

  • Today I cleaned Bluebell for the second time this year! And yes, it was raining at the time, she didn’t mind though. I even cleaned her chain with the fancy chain cleaning gizmo that I never bother to use, I can see why I never bother with the faffy thing.
  • Today was only the second time I have bought anything cycling related this year (total spend on cycling this year is only £64)
I can definitely say that Bluebell is very low maintenance and cost, so long as you keep the Rohloff oil changes as they advise and also occasionally check oil levels to make sure you don’t run dry. The only semi-regular maintenance she needs is brake tweaks (as they wear), chain oil and eccentric bottom bracket tweaks (as the chain wears).
I sometimes dream of a super speedy road bike, but I know I’m too busy / lazy to maintain it, so I will keep Bluebell and not needlessly waste money on some fragile carbon money-pit.

Rohloff chain replacement and grinding noises #cycling

I recently replaced my chain, I then notice a grinding noise coming from the Rohloff side of things. It’s nothing to worry about… but it is something that is must and can easily be fixed…

I’ve had this before when I’ve over tightened the eccentric bottom bracket, so I loosened that up a bit and tried another test ride. The grinding noise was still there under power / high tension on the chain.

The Rohloff sprocket is normally reversible (13T is the exception I think), so I took the beast (Park Chain Whip) and whipped it off, flipped it over and the problem is solved.

Why Rohloff? #cycling

Someone asked (well, kind of), so I thought I’d mention some of the reasons for wanting, owning and never getting rid of a Rohloff Speedhub.

Here’s what it’s like inside:
(Image source http://www.carbonaribikers.com/AlbumEventi/18%20-%20EuroBike%20-%20Set2009/PartsAlbum/imagepages/image115.html)

Gearing is quoted as 526% ratio, something like a 27 geared deraileur setup I expect.
Single chainring, no deraileurs at all, single rear (reversible) sprocket, single shifter and a shorter stronger chain always running in a straight line, you have to be impressed.

Indexing in the hub is wonderful, the only adjusting I’ve had to do is cable tension when installing a new cable i.e. the cable length, once done there isn’t any more tuning to ever have to do. I remember once trying to setup a deraileur, never again, no thanks. I also remember countless times a deraileur setup failing to change down under tension of a hill, again no thanks. The phrase “crashing gears” is one I am also no longer familiar with and I would like to keep it that way.

Most hub gears require the cable to be under tension, the Rohloff doesn’t, the cables are slack, so no cable stretch either. The key part here is there are two cables, twist one way you pull up a gear, twist the other then you are pulling the other cable and you go down a gear. Grab as many gears as you like while stationary and cycle away in the right gear, no rotation required as you have with other gears, you are always in the right gear! They come in QR or solid axle, most others are solid axle only.

Here’s an earlier post to balance the books: My Rohloff thoughts one year on – nearly perfect, but not quite

Right, now I’ve blogged this I will never have to go on about the Rohloff again will I? OK, maybe I will.

Code name: Bluebell – the build #cycling

Here is the final photo of Thunder (Thorn Raven Tour), I didn’t even go to the effort of cleaning it:

The plan:
Move all components over to Bluebell (Thorn Raven Sport Tour)
Use new headset spacers because Thunder doesn’t have enough
Use new crank bolts because I can
Replace non allen bolts with allen bolts (e.g. mudguard bolts)
Clean and grease every bolt thread except crank bolts
Clean and grease v-brakes because they are old and need some TLC
Try and retain as much of the original filth on the other components and wheels as possible

Starting midday I could see the clock was against me, I first disconnected the Rohloff bayonet connectors incase there was trouble there, then I pulled the cables through and lined up Bluebell for a photo:

I really dislike the Rohloff transfer, I think it’s the yellow “look at me” colour, so I taped that up, the blue tape doesn’t match as I’d have liked:

So I was ready to begin, I undid the rear brake cable so all the cables going through the braze-ons were out. I was going to start with the rear brake, but I thought I’d quickly move the seat post first. Eert errr… it was stuck solid. I took the hammer and helped it out:

Nice and rusty!
A quick and gentle rub with some sandpaper sorted that out:

I fitted the seat post and then the rear brake. The rear brake was a bit fiddly to take apart, but once I’d done one side the other was easy. Next I removed the chain and cranks, gave the chain a good clean (nothing worse than a gritty chain) and put them to one side. I then incorrectly fitted the headset and handlebars, more on that later. Then the front brake, what a nightmare, the least said about that the better, needless to say it took a lot of fiddling to get it back together and working properly. Since it is now rearwards facing I had to swap brake blocks left to right. I’d run out of time and needed another day to get it finished, so I stopped before it got too late, I took the following day off work rather than driving in and depriving the wife of the car.

The following day I fitted the front mudguard, some adjustment was needed as it was now sitting a lot closer to the tyre, stuck the front wheel on and here we go:

I then realised where I’d gone wrong with the headset, it did seem odd that I had two thin headset spacers left over, I had bought the right amount hadn’t I? Well, I’d missed the bottom washer (seal, erm, whatever you call it) and I had two in the top. So I redid that and it felt better and all the spacers I thought I needed fitted as planned. It wasn’t that much of a mistake, Thunder actually only had one washer anyway.
Going back to the rear again I removed the wheel and set about trying to remove the mudguard, the bolt was so badly corroded it sheared off, doh!

The mudguard woes didn’t end there, the bolt holes didn’t line up:

I attached with a cable tie then taped the frame thinking that would protect rubbing, then I decided to trim the mudguard too:

I changed my mind about this, decided I needed a new hole, so I drilled one and fitted it:

Great, mudguards fitted, but I still wasn’t happy with the front one, it was very close to the headset, so I filed off a fraction of a millimetre just to set my mind at rest. I fitted the rear wheel and most things were done now, just the cranks, chain and a bit of cabling and tweaking I thought. It turns out the bottom brackets I had didn’t fit with my cranks as they weren’t long enough! Thunder had a Shimano BB-UN53 68 BC 1.37 x 24 MM110, Bluebell had the same sized Shimano BB-UN54:

Both these fitted Thunder:

But when fitted on Bluebell there wasn’t enough room for the LHS crank to turn. Fear not, that wretched Nexus bike was about to be useful again:

Muhahahaaa! I did check my cycle spreadsheet to find out what size I bought for it 3 years ago, so I was 99% confident it would fit. Comparing:

The bottom bracket was thankfully long enough! A Shimano BB-UN54 68 BC 1.37 x 24 XL118.

Next I fitted the chain, but it was two links two long, Bluebell having the bigger frame too!

Just goes to show the Thorn Raven Sport Tour has a tighter rear.
The final touch before tweaking and a test ride was the speedo (another thing taken off the Nexus), oh, aero spokes, doh! Fortunately the magnet fits really close to the hub:

I’ve no idea what the settings should be, but I know how far my commute is, so I can tweak those over the coming week or so.
Final (pre tweaks) pictures:

Some tweaks and then a fast 2 mile spring around the local estates to test Bluebell out, tomorrow she’s got to earn her money 🙂

See also Code name: Bluebell – The first ride