Saturday, May 28, 2011

Surly LHT Update May 2011

My LHT showing off its new components.

You know, aimlessly reading through the internet can be an expensive hobby. You find things that you didn't know existed and don't need, and then you start researching the stuff and then you find a really good price...well, to make a long story short, I found a great deal on Tektro CR720 cantilevers on Amazon, so I got 'em. Now, mind you, I had some decent brakes before, Shimano STX's. Nice looking units, but they were they are the mountain bike style "compact" brakes, which reduce the leverage of the arms a little. 

Anyway, the Tektro's are the old-school style with the longer arms that stretch straight out. They can be a leg clearance problem if you have a short wheel base bike, and they may get in the way of panniers, but neither of those two issues are a concern for me.

 Front canti installed!

They went on about as easy as a cantilever can. I still had a little trouble centering them. The cut rate discounter ships only the components, no packaging or even instructions, but you can easily install these without them. You can download them, but there are no great secrets. Just google them.

 Rear brake installed. Note the D/C "roller yoke".


As I began installing the rear Tektro, I found the wheel was out of true. I was testing the spoke tension and found that 2 were completely loose. They weren't broken! The hub flange had!

The old Shimano hub had finally given up the ghost.  I guess I can't complain, I got over 10 years of hard service out of it! I had to come up with a replacement. I came up with a Nashbar sealed hub I had lying around. It was lying around because I don't have a huge amount of confidence in it. When I first bought it, about 10 years ago, the first one I bought broke a pawl spring after a few hundred miles! This was the replacement, which I never installed.
"New" Nashbar hub.
I rebuilt the wheel, but I retained the Shimano quick release. This is a road hub, so its spacing is only 130mm, not perfect for my Surly's 135mm, but it'll do for now.

So...after rebuilding the rear wheel, I was able to install the rear brake. No problems here. On both the front and rear, I chose to use the old Dia Comps "roller yokes". The Tektro's are pretty neat looking, but I had trouble centering the front brake with it, so I used the old ones. The Dia Compes are pretty neat anyway. My riding buddy, Todd, had them lying around and I think they're cool.

Thought I'd share a couple of other update to my LHT that were not in my original post about it. I originally built this bike with Shimano 8 spd bar end shifters, and used them for several years with no problems. Twice in the last couple of years. though, the bolt holding them together loosened and I lost the indexing alignment. Had to reassemble them to get them working properly. I was starting to long for the simplicity of down tube shifters. I like the clean look of a bike without all those wires hanging off the handlebars! So I took 'em off and stuck on a pair of Rivendell "Silver" shifters. 

Silver down tube shifters.

 I think they work fine, and look great. The final change was the pedals. I've decided to give Nashbar one more try; I got their "Gavia" SPD pedals on sale.

 Nashbar Gavia SPDs

Not bad, a little trickier to get into than the mountain bike pedals I usually use. We'll see how they hold up!

So, here's an overall view of my LHT as of May, 2011:

Did I mention the VO aluminum fenders? Nice huh?

Cheers everybody!

5/30/2011 - Thought I'd add a few comments after I put a few miles on these new far so good. I found the new Tektro's to be wonderful brakes! Even with the original pads on them, I found their grip very good, and they were absolutely silent! Very happy with them

The rebuilt wheel held up fine, no hub failure yet! It's one loud freehub though, the ratchet clicks are quite loud in the garage...but I don't really notice it on the road.

7/23/2011 - Update; I'm starting to notice something weird  going on in that rear Nashbar hub. Twice I've had the chain seem to jump off the cogs...I think the hub might be starting to go, the same problem I had with the original hub!! I just ordered a Tiagra from Universal Cycles, I think I'll try to swap the axle and spacer from the broken hub to the Tiagra, in order to have a 135mm width again. I'll post the mod here when it happens!

8/24/2011 - Maybe the Nashbar hub is not the culprit here. I was getting a lot on noise in my drivetrain lately, so I took a good long look at the chain and sprockets. The chain was beat, I can't remember how old it was! The chainwheel teeth were very worn and some were starting to hook. and the rear cassette's smaller sprockets didn't look too hot either. I removed all of that and replaced the chainwheel with a less worn one, plus I installed a virtually new cassette and chain I had lying around. The result is a much quieter drivetrain and no slipping gears, (yet!). So, I'll run this for a while and see how it goes. Meanwhile, I've got a Tiagra hub on the workbench, converted to 135mm. I'm going to get some new rims and spokes and build a new wheelset for the LHT soon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tour of California comes to Wheatland!!

The peleton swoops through downtown Wheatland.

Today is day 2 of the Amgen Tour of California. Day 1 was pretty much wiped out by the unseasonable snows in the Sierra yesterday. Even today, the original start in Squaw Valley was scrubbed for a midday start in Nevada City.

The stage route took the race through Wheatland on its way to Sacramento. I thought I'd ride out and see if I could get a glimpse of the race. I left the house at a little after noon, (about the same time the race was starting in Nevada City!). The weather was still kind of lousy, windy and cool but at least it wasn't raining. That wind probably allowed me to make it to Wheatland just in the nick of time. I pulled up to the cordoned off Rio Oso road literally 5 minutes before the group arrived!

The leading motorcycle.

I had no sooner leaned my bike against a nearby wall when the peleton came through. It was quite a site, what with the CHP, motorcycles, helicopter, etc, etc. Quite a show, for about 5 minutes!

After this excitement, I had to head back home. That wind which had helped get me to town in time, now was  a strong headwind, so I had a long slog home.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Surly Years

A few years back, while surfing the web considering a replacement for my Mercian Audax, which I had sold due to sizing issues, I came across references about these bikes being designed in the States and TIG welded in China. The company, Surly was a quirky little outfit that made a few interesting bikes, all in steel!

They first created the "1X1", a single speed mountain bike, then the Steamroller, a single speed street bike. They now have a whole line of really unusual and imaginative bike designs. The first to grab my attention was an honest-to-god touring frame for 400 bucks! The Long Haul Trucker. It was also in a lovely, (to me anyway), shade of sage green. I ordered a big one, (60cm)so I wouldn't get stuck with too small a frame.
Long Haul Trucker
Compared to the bikes of the 70s and early 80s, the LHT has some remarkable features. Double eyelets for rack and fenders, 3 sets of water bottle braze-ons, low rider eyelets, completely set up for cantilever brakes, threading in the bottom bracket bridge for bolting on the fender, even spoke holders on the left chainstay! The bikes geometry is excellent for touring, plenty of clearance for fenders and for a stable ride. I really couldn't think of much more they could have put on this bike. Maybe a bracket for a bottle generator(dynamo), like I saw on practically every bicycle in Germany last year! Only thing I would change, the spoke holders were not really useful for my length of spokes. I've never been able to use them.  Also, it would have been cool to have them on the chain side, that way, if you could fit spokes into them, they would make a chain guard for the stay as well!
Initial set up of my LHT. Stem height and length would eventually change.

For what it is intended for, the LHT is a remarkable bargain. I've used it on several tours through the Northern Sierra, and its been a comfortable and reliable machine. 

On the Sunrise Highway, San Diego County, just north of Mt. Laguna.

At the summit of Monitor Pass. Fall, 2008. This shot shows my current
configuration of stem length and height.

Well, I guess you can figure out where this is. Fall, 2008.

*  *  *
For my next bike project, I needed a purpose built commuter. I had been commuting with a fixed gear for several years, so I looked at what was available in single speed bikes. There were beginning to be a lot of choices available in this field sine single speeds were becoming very fashionable. Out of several candidates I finally decided on the Surly for a couple of reasons: one, I was happy with the quality of my LHT, and two, I got a really good deal on this from Universal Cycles. I can't really remember the price now but it was pretty reasonable, less then even the LHT. Of course, there less stuff on a SS, so it should be cheaper I guess.

Posted by PicasaSurly Steamroller Commuter
Anyway, when the frame showed up, it was missing a fork! But the guys at Universal were very good about taking care of that little mistake. Well, I'm not going to gush over the Steamroller too much. It's a very simple bike, really no frills at all. But the geometry is nice, it was a nice riding bicycle. The one downside on this bike was the placement of the water bottle bosses. If you're going to go through the bother of installing them, why put the only ones on the bike on the seat tube as opposed to the down tube? I don't get it, if you use a frame pump, either you have to strap a bottle on the down tube, or you go without a bottle. I even wrote Surly about this but they are sticking with that design. I think it just make the bosses useless! Eventually, the lack of eyelets for fenders also became a hassle.

After about 2 1/2 years of riding, I started to notice a bit of flex in the frame. A close examination uncovers a large crack had developed at the weld and down tube near the bottom bracket! I suppose this was just a fluke, not a normal problem with TIG frames, I hope so, anyway. Surly and Universal bikes were very good about backing their warranty, they gave me a generous credit, for which I am grateful. 

I guess my overall impressions of the Steamroller are mixed. If it's just about the ride, no problems. But since I wanted a few more features for my commuting bike, it fell a little short.

*  *  *
My next Surly proved to be a real sleeper. I was checking out the Universal Cycles webpage one day and came across a clearance sale, they were blowing out Pacer frames for something like $250!!
It so happened that I was thinking about a somewhat sportier ride than my LHT, so what the heck! In a week I had a nice shiny frameset in the garage, and started to assemble parts for it. Mostly I used stuff I had from previous bikes. I did some research and discovered the perfect brakeset for this bike is the Campagnolo Centaur. Their reach is just a bit longer than Shimano shorties, they are reasonably priced, plus it was a chance to get some new Campy stuff! I also got some of the Tektro "Ergo" rip-off levers, Shimano 105 derailleurs, and some 7 spd indexed levers which you can force into 8 spd mode.

Near Lake Cuyamaca, San Diego County
I have to say, that while this bike is not the most exciting, it has become a favorite ride for me. Riding position is as good as it gets for me. It has all the right features for this type of bike. I'm even beginning to like the idea of black bikes!

Outside Mt. Laguna.

Look familiar? Same place as the LHT picture a few years earlier.