Monthly Archives: May 2012

Wharncliffe Woods… Mud and Glory

Wharncliffe Woods… Mud and Glory

There is much to smile about on this sunny Thursday May evening. I’m going on a ride, it’s not raining, it’s not cold and I have fixed my bike.

I went out with Lambo last weekend on the Inbred 29er and we relived our first ride, the Win Hill, Blackley Hey loop. This was I think only my second ride with out a fall and it felt like hitting the reset button on my confidence after my disappointing performance on Snowdon.

Before this ride I put more air in the fork, this performed much better for it. I also spent an afternoon with the gears, tweaking and adjusting and finally got them shifting predictably. The only problem left was the headset, I couldn’t get the play out of this no matter how tight I made the top cap. As the ride progressed, the more the headset wobbled. Upon my return home it was clear that the movement had mashed this component and it was time for a new one. I bought a Cyclus headset press and a Chris King headset in mango. I installed the headset and found that there was still play between the bearing cap and the top cap… bollocks.

After having Gav and Jim take a look before the ride last Thursday, we all agreed that it wasn’t worth destroying another headset and I dragged the Dawes out again. With brakes dragging on the back wheel, frequent chain stuck and the chain stuck in the middle ring due to front derailleur issues I slogged my way round Houndkirk and Cabbage Bench, cursing my luck and the bike I found myself on.

I was on the cusp of giving up and taking the Inbred it to the LBS, but on reading some forums I discovered a theme running through threads about problems with Chris King headsets. Many posters claimed that the issue with the bearing cap not seating is often caused by the quite deep top cap bottoming out on the steerer tube and not applying the preload fully to the stem, spacers and bearing cap. Rather than trim the steerer I bought some oddly sized spacers (12mm, 6mm and 3mm), these increased the stack height by 1mm to 21mm. New spacers installed, top cap tightened, stem tightened, front wheel on and… NO PLAY, HOO RAH!

So I have a working bike and Lambo, Chadders and I are off to Wharncliffe woods, this involves a half hour ride over to Hillsborough to meet the lads and then another half hour on the road until we reach the woods. Fire roads crisscross the woods and make the climbing easier, although there is a short, very steep section at the start to get up that only Lambo cleaned, a trophy climb that will be mine one day.

Wharncliffe now has a sign posted, designated red route for bikes that is a mixture of swoopy single track interspersed with bits north shore, rocky slabs and muddy pits. The first section contained a tricky roll off followed by one such bog that we all approached with some trepidation. The expectation was that one of use would fly over the handle bars and skid to a halt in a patch of slop. With saddles dropped down and balls pumped up we all cleared it. We briefly lost Chadders but found him amognst the blue bells, berating his newly aquired clipless pedals – they do take some getting used to.

A short techy climb and muddy descent brought us back to fire road and after losing height for 2 minutes we decided it was time to find a more interesting way down. Slinging our testicals over our shoulders we rolled into the unkown.

We descended a very steep bank with wheels locked up and tails drifting. We popped a nose around the first corner, Lambo froze up so we parked the bikes to take a look. We’d found a step, that wouldn’t have caused too much bother if the run in was straight and the runout hadn’t be a large berm and a narrow exit between two trees. This was going to take some bottle. Lambo went first and did a good job, I made a start but lost my nerve and decided to start my approach again. Chadders wisely walked it. When I did go for it I rolled it whilst sitting on the back wheel, I remember thinking “surely my front wheel should have hit the ground by now?” as visions of a face plant into a clay berm flashed through my mind but I took the corner and stopped by the tree framed exit, not a catastrophic attempt, it will be easier next time.

More mercifully dry technical trail followed as we descended through the trees. The trail seemed to gradually increase in difficulty as went and as each section was cleared with out damage or injury our confidence grew. The last large drop off needed inspecting, after satisfying ourselves that it could be rolled, Lambo took it, I went next but Chadders stalled at the top and he walked it after common sense prevailed.

Thoroughly pumped up we made it back to the fire road and found some more fast single track through the woods to take us back to town, avoiding most of the road. We met Jim in the New Barrack tavern, he’d been on his own adventure on Houndkirk and had then ridden across town to meet us. Two pints and it was time for Jim and I to take on the hills of Walkley, Crookes and Greystones.

I checked my headset for play upon returning and the bearing cap was still seated snugly in the top cup, I will sleep well tonight.

Building a mountain bike for the first time.

Building a mountain bike for the first time.

It’s about a year since I bought my first mountain bike, a brown On One 456 with a 140mm Rock Shox Revalation RLT Ti fork, full Shimano SLX drive train and Avid Elixir 3 brakes and about 5 months since it was stolen. Since then I’ve been trying to decide what to ride next, first it was a carbon 456, then it was an On One Lurcher, but I’ve ended up with an Orange Inbred 29er frame because I was told that the Lurcher was not available until May, as it turns out that wasn’t true and I could of had one.

So I’ve ended up with a bit of a compromise, an over priced compromise at that, as On One have just dropped the price of the Inbred frame by £60 which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and takes the shine of ones purchase.

Here’s the spec

On One Inbred 29er 18″ Frame – Orange
RockShox Reba RLT – Dual Air 100mm/29″ MaxleLite15 White MoC/PushLoc Remote Right Alum Ø 1 1/8″ Disc (100 max travel)
Avid Elixir 9 Carbon Lever Grey Anodized Front Disc Brake w/ 180mm HS1 Rotor (IS and Post Mount)
Avid Elixir 9 Carbon Lever Grey Anodized Rear Disc Brake w/ 180mm HS1 Rotor (IS and Post Mount)
Truvativ Stem Hussefelt 60mm 0deg 42mmheight 31.8 1-1/8 Blast Black
Truvativ X9 Chainset GXP 2x10sp 175mm Grey 39-26t
SRAM PG1050 10 Speed Cassette 12-36
SRAM PC1051 10 Speed Chain Silver/Grey 114 Link with PowerLock
SRAM X9 Front Derailleur 2×10 High Direct Mount Dual Pull
SRAM X9 Rear Derailleur (10spd) Medium Cage Carbon Grey
On One Smoothie Headset
On One Fleegle Handle Bar
Thompson Elite Seat Post
Charge Spoon Saddle
Supstar Grips
Rear Wheel – 29er CREST – EVO Black
Front Wheel – 29er CREST – EVO Black

Often it’s the jobs that you think are going to be hard that are very straight forward and the jobs that should be easy have been a bit of a nightmare. I’ll run through them briefly

Installing the bottom bracket and crank (easy) – with the right tool this was very easy. Grease the threads, screw in the two parts by hand to avoid cross threading and firmly tighten with a bb spanner.

Installing headset cup (f*&king nightmare) – Tried installing these with the bolt and washer approach as seen on you tube. First stab was with metal washers from B & Q and it was impossible to get the cups into the frame straight, and top cup did get a little damaged during the process but as these are not moving parts it hasn’t effected the performance of the headset. Next attempt was with this ghetto headset press which did work a little better and I eventually got both the top and bottom cups in. I spent about £20 on bolts and washers and I could have had the Cyclus Headset Press for £33.43 shipped with my Wiggle discount. So a bit of a false economy, if I were to do it again I would invest in correct tool for this particular job.

Installing the fork (fairly easy) – I bought this pipe cutting tool and it works brilliantly, I had a pratice with it by lopping of the top 10mm of the steerer, this went well so I measured it up by installing it with headset and required spacers (I’ve gone 15mm under the stem and 10mm on top) and chopped it. Getting this right is a little tricky and a few mm shorter is better than a few mm too long, especially as the tool’s clamp means that there is a minimum cut length of around 10mm. I’d cut just below your mark rather than on it or above it. This is a good video on how to cut a steerer tube.

 

Getting Tyres onto Rims (Hard) – This was very difficult due to a combination of Stan’ s Rims and Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres and lack of technique. For anyone struggling with their tyres, the first bead of the tyre has to be sitting in the groove in the middle of the rim, if it’s not you will not have the slack to get the second bead on. Even with this technique I still needed tyres levers to seat the last section.

Installing & setting up gears (Tricky) – There is a lot to go wrong here as there are many parameters and settings to consider. Finding the right combination of front deraileur and shim to make it fit a 28.6mm seat tube was the first big challenge. After tweaking limit screws for a couple of hours I worked out that the barrell adjuster on the shifter could be used to correct tension the cables, adjusting this also stopped the rear mech clicking. The problem is that it is seldom one thing but a combination of factors leading to unsatifactory performance.

Brakes (Straight Forward) - These have been fit and forget, at some point I will need to shorten the rear brake cable but as it is working at the moment I am reluctant to work my particular brand of fecal magic on it.

Overall it’s been a horrible nightmare, there are so many standards and compatibility issues that it’s very difficult to make the right desicions when buying. At one point I had 4 X9 front deraileurs on my work bench and the correct shim and I still could mount any of them. It seems often the manufacturers don’t know whether what they’re making will fit.

If you’re thinking of building a bike for the first time, DON’T, I implore you, it is, for the most part a soul destroying, time evapourating, hair extracting all consuming misery. If there is a hell I suspect it is filled will lawyers and BMW drivers trying to build bicycles from scratch. On the odd occasion, when I’m greasy and bleeding in the early hours of the morning, it goes well and there is a great sense of accomplishment. This usually evaporates in the cold light when the expensive part you slowly, lovingly fitted according to the intructions and with the right tools disintergrates because of some obscure compatibility issue, or you forgot to face and chase the deliniated nipple flanges or beacuse of plain bad luck.

If you want an overpriced bike that doesn’t work made out of tears and pain, build your own, otherwise I suggest using your local bike shop.