23 Feb 2012

23rd Feb 2012

23rd 41F, 5C, breezy after a windy night, still rather cloudy.

I was up early to check the gears before leaving on my proper ride. I removed the rack so I could see better and take some more photos.  The trike now weighed 14kilos (31lbs) road worthy bare but with the mudguards fitted.

Alignment looks fine with the chain on the centre sprocket and centre chainwheel. The trike  feels incredibly light without the bag, tool kit, waterproofs and rack.
The proof of the pudding is to ride it. To see if the chain hops over the sprockets. SPD pedals don't work very well with carpet slippers. So I'll just put my Tahoe shoes on first. Wish me luck! :-)

I went off to test the gears on the nearest hills and lanes. No problems at all. I tried every gear from an incredibly low, 23" crawler gear to a 94" comfortable top coming downhill at 25mph. The 42T chainwheel feels much more natural compared with the previous "heavy going" 48T.

The middle chainwheel, now 32T, had me using smaller sprockets than previously. I often felt slightly over-geared on the previous 38T if I strayed too far from the 2nd or 3rd sprockets from the left. This only left me the option of bottom gear or changing to the smaller chainwheel. Which also forced a gear change at the back just when I wanted to maintain momentum. The 32T chainwheel offers several more steps down at the back before I need the smallest 22T ring.

The trike feels so lively without its usual burdens. Now, if I could only do something about the westerly gales! And my aching back after yesterday's shenanigans. It always hurts the following day. Whether I crouch beside the trike to work on it. Or lift it onto the stand. Usually a bit of both. The odd thing about ageing is that the ground seems to get further away.

Later: 43-47F! A semi-tropical 6-8C a week after snow and ice! After a leisurely coffee and rolls I tootled off to the bike shop where I bought the chainset yesterday. I didn't have the tool to tighten the protective cap on the left crank. No luck with a tool to purchase but the owner came out and checked the tightness with his own workshop example. I had used a strip of metal but was afraid to mark the cap by using brute force.

I had left my ten year old, plastic pump behind at home. Which left me vulnerable to a long walk if I punctured on escaped farm gravel. So I bought a stumpy one to help save Mr Higgins' deteriorating paintwork. I detoured back past the other bike shop too but they didn't have the correct splined tool either. It was still blowing a cold gale but I seemed to be going quite a lot faster today! I took off the Belstaff after a while and put on the Giordano. It was almost warm at 45F+ riding with the wind. On the way back it was very different. On the exposed main road the gusts were cruelly cold through the thin cloth. 

A high tech riding crop? Will Mr Higgins appreciate it? :-)

The gears are working very well. With only the occasional hop on the 4th largest sprocket. Which is odd, considering I never used that one much with the last chainset. The gear change is the best I have ever experienced. Probably due to the new chain. I left the rack behind too and just hung the bag from the saddle pin. Thanks to the stiffness of the Higgins mudguard stays the bag remained in place. I could even add a couple of cord loops to attach the bag to the stays. Belt and braces style.

The Sealskinz "Activity" gloves have finally arrived 9 days after ordering. Ironically the temperature has risen dramatically today. In XXL they are still rather close fitting even on my slim fingers. Not at all loose and bulky as I had imagined. (and half hoped, to allow inners in extreme cold) I seriously doubt I can fit my tights-skinny polyester gloves in there. Any more than I can with my 40gr Thinsulate ski gloves.

The really weird thing is that they can't be machine washed. Nor may the goatskin leather palms get soap on them! So how, on earth, are you supposed to wash them? There are no instructions on either of the attached cards! Except in the negative! What is the laundry symbol for: "Don't even go there!"

Just for scale, my previous winter gloves are shown here with the new Sealskinz "Activity"  on the right. The pale grey, Thinsulate 40gr, ski gloves (cost £10) are really only good enough for a couple of degrees of frost on a bike. This is despite their thickness, stiffness and bulk. The problem is not the padding. They simply have no windproofing worth discussion. Though I have worn them, with considerable discomfort, down to -13C this year.  Oh, the exquisite pain! NOT! Washing them is a week-long affair to get them dry again! I have two pairs and can only swap them as soon as the other pair is dry. The bulk makes them sweaty despite their transparency to icy cold winds. But let's be fair: They are cheap ski gloves.

The "Gel" gloves, at left in the picture, are cheap and cheerful supermarket special offer, cycling gloves. Very comfortable without bulk. Just about warm enough down to (say) 35F but certainly no lower. Windproof is not their middle name either. They have proved remarkably long lasting despite being machine washed after every use. I have two pairs to keep them rotating through the wash.

The Seal Skinz are the new unknown quantity. Graded as "4 out of 5" on the manufacturers own thermal scale. Which means precisely nothing in real terms. -5C? -10C? Lower still? Hopefully I shan't be able to discover this until next winter. Meanwhile, am I supposed to get them all sweaty, or not?

 The cuffs really are ridiculously narrow. A malnourished skeleton would struggle to get any overlap (at all) on the rather pointless, Velcro straps. (note they also have elasticated cuffs) My wrists are not remotely in the "Arnie" class. Yet I only managed a very slight overlap before all the blood ran out of my fingers! (I'm joking of course but you get the picture)

The gloves feel instantly warm. Which made my hands "sticky" in just a few seconds. Enough to start to draw the liners out against the manufacturers strict instructions not to. One must deliberately hold the glove finger tips to stop this occurring while withdrawing one's hands.

I was in two minds whether to return them for a refund as foolishly undersized, badly designed and hygienically impractical. Having already paid £6.50 for a 9 day delivery service (they were not despatched for 6 days!) they had better perform as promised! Retail in Denmark is over £60 despite having "Made in China" on the label! I find myself resenting paying just half that price to an Amazon, online dealer. 25 miles on a wild goose chase. No offence intended to real geese.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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