Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lightweight decaleur

Using a front handlebar bag on a randonneur style bike, a front rack supports the bag ok, but unless the bag is secured somehow at the top, it will flop around quite a bit. A "decaleur" is a rack support made specifically for this. They are sometimes tricky to set up and then you're stuck with it when you're riding without a bag.

Looking through and old VAR tool "Petit Livre Jaune" I noticed an illustration of a VAR lightweight decaleur support that loops over the bars. Inspired by this design, I made my own by bending a section of 5/16" aluminum round. I started out with a piece of a wire coat hanger to get the basic bend shape figured out and then used a tubing bender for the final shaping with the aluminum round. I filed and sanded the hook ends that fit into the opening in the back of the leather reinforcement strip of my handlebar bag, a Berthoud 2286.

I used handlebar tape for padding where the decaleur hangs off the handlebars. This mini decaleur supports the bag fairly good, strapping down the front of the bag to the rack with a piece of nylon cord makes this set-up excellent. When not riding with a bag this decaleur is easy to remove and store in the bag until it's needed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Simple Tools

My father worked as a machinist and made a number of tools for some of his other related hobbies. Here's a small mallet he made.

He took a standard bolt and machined the handle out of a piece of aluminum, turning the cross-check pattern (knurling) on the main handle that screws onto the original bolt thread. The other end of the bolt he tapped and made the hammer end out of a piece of brass round that screws onto this. I've always admired how my dad adapted an everyday object and made it into a simple tool like this.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Maxi CAR wheelset project

A while back I bought some rare NOS vintage hubs made by Maxi CAR, the renowned French hubmaker that operated from the mid 1930s to 1999. The name Maxi-CAR comes from a consolidation of hubshell designs from Maxi with hubs using annular bearings designed by Charles-Albert Ripet (C.A.R.) of Lyon. These are beautifully made and durable hubs that were standard on many early high-end Randonneur and tandem bicycles.

Today, I tried to build up a rear bike wheel the normal way with the Maxi CAR high-low flange rear hub that has buttonhole eyelets on one side. The buttonholes allow removal and replacement of spokes with the wheel on the bike. Trying to build the wheel up the normal way, all the buttonhole spokes fell out. Next time will build-up the left, the non-button hole side first.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why Cyclists Love Super Bowl Sunday

Most cyclists love Super Bowl Sunday. Why? Because it means there is almost no traffic on local roads that they usually ride.

Today with a break in the rain and super bowl fests occupying weekend drivers, I took the opportunity for a 35 mile ride including a favorite local climb. Page Mill Road climbs approx 2,200ft to Skyline boulevard and a springboard for a number of additional ride routes. You can cross directly over Skyline to Alpine Road down a valley past a fantastic grove of old growth redwood trees near La Honda and then to Pescadero or San Gregorio on Hwy 1 at the coast.

When I started out at 10:00am it was partly cloudy with some blue sky and on the way up and slightly warm in places. But towards the top it got colder with more wind. I was prepared and brought a lightweight GoreTex shell that cut the wind and kept me warm over two layers of wool I wore. I took it easy on the climb, considering going to the coast. Near the top at Monte Bello preserve I stopped to make a photo.

After I made the above photo I noticed I had a slow leak in my rear tire. A fencepost came in handy for hanging the bike while I replaced the tube.

I couldn't find anything in the tire and discovered later it was a leak at the base of the long valve stem. Most local bike shops seem to have an annoying preference for carrying long stem presta valve tubes (48mm) more suited for high profile aero rims for racing. These longer stems can wiggle around quite a bit when you're pumping them up if you have a normal profile rim like a Mavic Open Sport that has a slightly rounded profile where the presta washer comes in contact to the rim (note to self: only buy tubes with 36mm valves + make a washer filed out so the valve stem won't move around on longer stems).

I rode a 54cm Ebisu bike that I'd recently set-up with fenders as a lightweight Randonneur. Lately I've been favoring building-up bikes with double cranks, rather than a triple to save weight, paired with a very wide-range rear cassette. For this bike I have vintage Stronglight 49D crank arms with new TA Specialit├ęs Cyclotourist chainrings in 48/34 along with a 11-34 9-speed rear cassette. The bike with fenders and a front rack weighs just under 24 lbs. Not bad for a traditional lugged steel frame bike. The Stronglight/TA crankset combination is particularly lightweight and very responsive. Although I have a current rear Shimano 105 SIS index shift compatible rear derailleur, I prefer to use vintage Campagnolo Nuovo Record downtube friction shifters.

The combination of these shifters with the Shimano 105 rear derailleur provides perfect and **silent** shifting that you can adjust precisely unlike SIS systems. When you get the feel for shifting with friction levers, it's very satisfying to be able to shift almost effortlessly with no annoying clicks. To add to making the Ebisu more of a Randonnuer, I added lightweight Honjo aluminum fenders. These don't add much weight and are definitely worth it in winter and/or spring conditions. The Ebisu was extremely light for a steel bike before without the fenders, but even with them, it's totally worth it and it rides great.

Page Mill is a difficult climb in a few places, there's a few surprising drop interludes as you climb, making for a varied an interesting climb. I only used my lowest gear 34/34 a couple of times (bear with me, this is a traditional, lugged steel frame bike). When I got to Skyline boulevard the coast was looking very cold and gray and possibly rainy, so I proceeded north instead. About mile 16 I saw what looked like a dog on the side of the road running towards me. With reddish fur and a fluffy tail, I knew it was a fox and it quickly disappeared into the brush. On Skyline it's unique because in a few places you can see both west out to the coast and east to the Bay Area in places as you straddle the ridge road. I dropped down Old La Honda Road to avoid weekend traffic on hwy 84 further up. Once back in Portola valley the sun was out. Amazing the difference in climate just a few miles away. From there I took Mountain Home Road to Woodside then dropped back into suburbia via Redwood City/Menlo Park.

I'm looking forward to better weather and next time maybe riding out to the coast once again.