18 Feb 2012

18th Feb 2012

18th 40F, 4.5C, breezy, heavy overcast with continuous rain. I'd hoped it would clear up but it hasn't. During a bored moment, while tidying the shed, I weighed Mr Higgins again. Exactly 20kg without my carrier bag of bits and pieces. (camera, wallet, reading specs, etc.)  Say, about another lb. So the trike weighs 45lbs (in old money)  road ready. I sometimes carry 20lbs of shopping for ten miles home! Yikes! It's really no wonder this poor old fart can't keep up with the boy racers! :-)

The Brooks Professional saddle has been drawing unnecessary attention to itself of late. Not so much uncomfortable. More that it exists when and where it should not. A good saddle should go quite unnoticed.

 A builders level showed that it was rather nose high and sagging in the middle. Levelling it out again with a smidgin of nose high was easy enough. The sag required the correct Brooks spanner (wrench) which I do not own. I finally found an old spanner in my vast collection which fitted without effort. I gave the adjusting nut a half turn. I have absolutely no qualms about doing such things.

Those who worship Brooks and make genuflections to Olde England and a big fuss over maintenance didn't buy my particular NOS Professional saddle! After years of hardening in a warm storage space it still owes me something for causing much unnecessary misery! It was highly asymmetrical in both thickness and stiffness between the two points where I rest my ischial tuberosities!

Though I did learn a good deal about modifying leather saddles during that period. Hint: Use local wet cloths, soft rubber pads and g-cramps to shape it your own sit bones! Then let it dry overnight to hold its shape before riding it again. It will go that shape anyway after another year of torturing your tender bits. So why wait?

The top of the saddle was given a new coat of Brooks Proofide. First in ages and who can tell whether it needed it? The thin, white grease was well worked in with the bare fingers. As it is still cold in the shed. Even though the Pro has very thick and stiff leather it still splays at the side skirts when a load is applied to the spine. Were it a rigid plastic, even with the same form, it would not have this much give. So the leather must provide some suspension to the rider's nether regions in the absence of true springs. Just as the original Brooks patent claimed. The leather continues to show remarkable healing properties to any scuffs or marks. Note that I am talking about the Professional. Not the Brooks Team Pro of later years. The images above are from a year and a half ago. It was well over 10k miles younger back then. Nothing much has changed since. 

It looks as if some moron has practised their butchery on one of my back tyres. A perfectly straight, fine cut has been made at right angles deep into the tread! There is no way this could have happened accidentally or as a result of running over a sharp object. I wonder how they managed it since the trike is rarely left unattended for long . How did they get at the tyre with mudguards fitted? Perhaps it happened outside a supermarket. There is no favour which goes unpunished.

It never did clear up and the wind picked up to a roar later. A useful rest day. Hopefully I will be all the stronger for it. Even though I hate the lack of a ride.

19th 38F, 3C, blowing a gale, cloud slowly clearing to full sun. I managed the wind direction rather well until the last short leg. Then I was in bottom gear on the drops at 8mph. I took off the Aesse at half way as I turned downwind. The very thin Giordano jacket was (mostly) warm enough after that.

Gears jumping badly on the 38T chainwheel whenever I apply pressure. I was hoping to see the last of the road salt washed away before changing the chain. 3500 miles from new. Is that reasonable over a winter? The saddle was back to unnoticeable again. Except for a slight stickiness at first from yesterday's Proofide. This was despite a quick polish with a clean rag before leaving.

I saw no other cyclists today. Though I did see a large flock of perhaps 200 Whooper swans foraging on a field. A dozen took off and passed low over me. Why do they call all the time they are in flight? Geese are the same. Perhaps the young ones are asking: "Are we nearly there yet?" 31 miles.

20th 31-37F, -1+3C, blowing hard, full sun. Odd, considering the forecast was overcast with wintry showers. I enjoyed the hilly ride with the wind behind me but it was a real fight coming back. It is supposed to gust to 40mph later. There was a lot of ice on the roads from melt-water run-off. I became fed up with the wind and the jumping gears and headed home early. Only 20miles.

I changed the chain after lunch and cleaned the trike with an oily rag. The Spectra chain extractor is a bit different in use. The drilled backing bolt has to be backed off each time to free the chain when the rivet is driven inside it.  Cheaper extractors have a slot so the link with the protruding rivet just lifts free. Not a problem with the Spectra provided one is aware of the need to back off the bolt. The bolt is easily returned to the correct position once the chain is placed back into the tool for resetting the rivet.

The Spectra extractor is nice to use and not particularly heavy. The shiny one in the middle is a total piece of crap. It constantly wants to fall to pieces and the materials are very substandard. The old, galvanised extractor, on the right, is functional but needs a bit of finger strength at times.Though it has the advantage of being small and lighter to carry in the touring tool kit.

I see that some of the cheapest extractors have now been modified to place the link locator nearer the thrust surface. This overcomes the problems with narrower links which I experienced when moving to 9 speed for the first time. The Spectra extractor is completely effortless in use. No finger strength is required. The drive bolt with its large Tommy bar freewheels back out with a light flick. So much nicer to use than the cheap things I have been using for decades. Like the one on the right above.

Remember to keep the drive pin in good order. Or it can mushroom over time and stick in the chain link side plates during use. Easily fixed with a file (or bench grinder) after removing the thrust screw. The cheaper extractors don't use hardened pins so can be easily filed.

21st 35-40F, 2-4C, windy, overcast. The gears were jumping like mad on the new Spectra chain. So I rode into town for a new chain. No 9 speed chains in stock. I can probably get one tomorrow. 18 miles.

The dealer pointed out that the teeth on my cheap and nasty, secondhand, steel, triple chainset rings were completely knackered. Which raises the ugly spectre of having to find another chainset. I'd prefer to stick to a square axle, 170mm, triple. Preferably a compact or MTB ring sizes. I doubt I have used the 48T outer chainring more than twice in the last year. Both times descending steep hills. I could just as easily have used the 38T with the smaller sprockets. So there's absolutely no point in using a big ring just for show. Even though the road sets Sora, Tiagra etc. are much prettier than MTB. I also detest safety rings on chainsets!

42,32,22T chainring sets seem quite popular in MTB but are usually in black. Or with a silver crank and black rings. The cheaper ones will only go to 8 gears. The mid-price to 9 speeds. 10 speeds only on the priciest. Sticking to the square axle and Shimano is rather limiting my choices. For some reason I am choosing 170mm without a clue why. I used 6 3/4" cranks in my youth. Now 175mm is popular. Will my knobbly (old) knees still whirl round just as fast with 6.9" cranks? It ought to depend on leg length, surely?

My Shimano sealed axle probably still has plenty of miles left in it. Adding a new axle pushes up the price. I've looked at the scrap mountain bikes in the shed but none of the chainsets look very pretty. So I'm doing my window shopping homework online. Preferably before I knacker the new chain with the worn out chainrings.

Now I've found an old but serviceable Shimano TX MTB chainset in the shed. 170mm cranks, square axle, 42,32,22T. Whoopee! Having stripped and cleaned it all thoroughly I even managed to remove the old pedals.

Now I can't undo my SPD pedals from my secondhand chainset! I know I greased them well before fitting them. My only chrome vanadium 15mm spanner isn't up to the job.   The jaws have splayed and burred. My thin Campag cone spanners won't do much good here. Now I'll have to buy a proper pedal spanner as well! But which one? If I can get the pedals off at least I can save the cost of a new chainset right now. If they won't come off it's the cost of a new pair of pedals as well as a new chainset. And a pedal spanner.

Call me a sceptic but I've now watched every pedal removal video on YT.  I'm beginning to believe every single pedal was removed, greased and replaced just prior to the videos being shot! As will be noted by the number of comments from frustrated cyclists asking about firmly seized pedals! One chap even removed his pedals from a completely rusted hack with a small adjustable wrench! I've also browsed the bike forums and pedal removal advice on cycling websites. Heat and a long lever. I used a 4' tube on the spanner. And a hammer. The blowtorch is next! Differential thermal expansion in polite company.

I've just put the old chainset back on so I can reach the bike shops tomorrow. I like good tools but how often will I need to take off any pedals again? I have boxes of car tools which I only ever used once! They saved me paying a mechanic and I learned a lot of new tricks. Will a penny-pinching pedal spanner just round over the pedal axle flats? Or will it round over the pedal spanner first? Questions-questions. Aaarghhh! I just hope I can sleep tonight!  ;-))

There's a Longstaff, tandem trike conversion on eBay:

  longstaff tandem trike conversion

It has hub brakes on both wheels and six speed OWD. I can't say whether it would fit a normal bike. I would imagine tandem trikes are broader gauge compared with solos.


As always, any trike or conversion can be updated with Trykit parts. I'm not sure about 2WD on a conversion but a new Trykit freewheel adaptor will allow a modern, index cassette to run true. A Trykit index gear hanger will make the most of the new gear opportunities.

It sold for £132.

Click on any image for an enlargement.



  1. Brooks Pro: can't get comfortable on them myself -- can't get the tilt right -- but many give advice for rejuvenation:



    As for chains, I've used quick release masterlinks for the last 10 years or so to avoid the chain tool hassle.

  2. Hi

    Thanks for the interesting links. Nice to see others are happy to wet and reshape their Brooks saddles. That's the great thing about leather. It can be restored if one is careful and know the simple tricks involved. The forums are full of hype and nonsense about caring for them and breaking them in slowly. (and painfully!)

    The Professional may simply be too narrow for your sit bones. I thought mine was until I finally managed to dent it with water and clamps. Once that was achieved I stopped noticing I was sitting on it. I had no problem at all with a newly purchased B17. It was comfortable from day one but the leather is much softer and thinner than the Pro. Nor is it as pretty as the copper riveted Pro. I found some NOS Pros but they had been allowed to dry out for years. They looked brand new but were as hard as rocks.

    I have used the master chain links myself but the chain still needs to be shortened from new. ;-)