18 Aug 2014

18th August 2014

Monday 18th 55F, 13C, gales, heavy cloud, strangely dry for a couple of minutes. Another day of heavy rain forecast. It hardly paused from blowing and pouring yesterday. I went shopping for a file [amongst more normal fare] in a rare outing for the car. It never stopped tipping down but I still passed a young chap out training in only shorts and jersey. The roads were deep in freshly washed gravel and standing water as I gave him as much room as possible in case I sprayed him.

It sounds completely ridiculous when already soaked from head to toe but every cyclist knows how unpleasant it is to be further drenched by passing vehicles. The gritty deluge quickly rips away the slightest warmth still clinging to the rider's body. Why is it even legal for lorries to use the roads when they are wet? Their mudguards are absolutely hopeless at containing a vast plume of spray. Which they drag along and around them like some filthy comet from hell.

Mind you, you have to laugh at the total inadequacy of 21st century cyclist's wet weather gear. You can pay hundreds of pounds/dollars for a flapping, bum-freezer jacket which makes the rider sweat so much they might as well be in a mobile sauna. Take it off and it's instant hypothermia! Even at the summit of tour racing the riders have pathetically inadequate protection and no mudguards to stop the tyre spray in the peloton. Top riders were dropping out of the rain like wasps in a jam jar. As temperatures plummeted and not a single team car could provide fingered gloves for its riders. Many riders were still wearing the obligatory dark sunglasses provided by their sponsors! This at the multi-million Euro level of professional cycling? Really?

Judging from the casualties "racing" tyres slide around on anything worse than a light overnight dew from sometime last week. The flimsy rubber gives up the ghost as soon as it notices a single flint several kilometers ahead. Despite the road resurfacing and endless sweeping any sharp object stands on end in the wet and flimsy tread to bore its way rapidly through. Often to completely undo hundreds, if not thousands of miles of agonizing effort. And often involving the taking of countless, life-threatening risks on high speed descents. All for a few seconds and media glory for their sponsor. All undone in a brief few seconds more. And these same tyres cost how much exactly?

Isn't it time the UCI looked back on its withered laurels? Remember a time when riders could be thrown off a Tour simply for having somebody else pump the furnace at the local smithy? We'll ignore the deadly warning signs of chronic heroin, cocaine and arsenic abuse amongst riders of the time. Merely a foretaste of a century more of chemical cheating for fame and a bunch of flowers.

What about throwing riders off a tour for taking a new wheel? Or for swapping bikes when their carbon ghost expires before its brief, useful life has hardly begun? Nah, there's far too much dirty money involved to force some real progress in safety and equipment longevity for all cyclists. The irony is that many early racing bikes and wheels can still be ridden a hundred years after they were last abused on often unmade roads and mountain passes. Where will be the fossil record lie for the present plastic trash? Being non-recyclable one presumes the carbon era waste will be dumped at sea. To join the rest of humanity's worthless, ephemeral detritus.

Is a tyrant a cyclist who constantly practices a cross between a tirade and a rant? Just asking.

The Campag front changer cage is now concentric with the chainset. I wish I could report that it has improved matters but not yet. While struggling to get the chain onto the large chainring the cable broke inside the lever. So I spent an hour replacing it between heavy showers. I need a carport or some kind of a canopy to work under. Only a short ride between torrential showers today. 7 miles.

Tuesday 19th 55F, 13C, windy but bright and sunny. The forecast for potentially thundery showers continues with strong, gusty winds up to 40mph later. It was sunny and windy for my 3 mile walk and getting windier as the day wears on. Though without the promised showers so far. Now I am ready to go out the sky has darkened and the trees are bending. It stayed dry but was very windy at times. Mostly a  crosswind but so turbulent it was often hard to tell where it was coming from. Only 10 miles. Large flocks of birds are gathering. Sparrows and even swallows in large numbers.

Wednesday 20th 54F, 12C, rather breezy, heavy overcast. Showers forecast again but with lighter winds today. It stayed mostly dry and bright yesterday. The bad weather streamed to the north and south of us. The sky has now largely cleared of cloud but the wind is picking up again. I was dodging showers and hiding under the top tube when head on gusts came along. Front changer refusing to shift up or down. Only 18 miles.

I have just read that 5 Danes have died from listeria while farmers are ignoring rules on the amount of antibiotics in pig production and ignoring their official muck spreading allowance. Meanwhile highly resistant MRSA is spreading amongst the general population completely unconnected with pig farming. I came home to be hit by stinking spray drift from pig shit spreading in today's gales. Simultaneously, they are spraying the harvested field across the road with an unknown, presumably toxic weedkiller, in the same 15 m/s 30+mph gales. The highly visible spray drift can be clearly seen crossing the road in a white stream like bonfire smoke! 10 meters of our neighbour's otherwise healthy hedge has suddenly died this year. Brown, dead patches are appearing on many trees and conifers in the area.

I have finally vanquished the Athena triple front changer. Yet again the design of the triple cage added completely unnecessary scrap metal. Metal which wanted to literally grind the tops off the teeth of the  middle chainring. See image alongside!

The Ultegra triple was just the same. Changing onto the large chainring always caused a collision with the middle chainring teeth. I have had to bend back the offending lower edge of the Campag triple cage. In fact a triple cage isn't remotely necessary. It's just another case of the triumph of design over function. A Campag double changer cage works far better than the triple! If only it would reach far out enough to clear the cage reliably when the chain is on the largest ring. The changes are smooth, silent and completely effortless. I've just tried an Athena double I bought in the wild hope of it working. I just can't get enough cable pull from the Chorus levers to make it work.

So why do they put a bent, perforated shovel on the back of the triple cage? Because it is expected? The only likely explanation is that the Campag triples are much narrower between the chainrings than the more agricultural Stronglight. This would allow the changer cage to lift the chain onto the large ring before the inner cage literally smashes into the middle ring teeth. With no Campag dealer nearby where I can go and ogle a triple I can only surmise the difference in width.

Unfortunately the Campag cage is hardened. So my arm wrestling to push back the lower protrusion has resulted in a crack in the cage. I can't fit the double cage on the triple changer mech because they are not compatible. I'll just have to hope it all hangs together. The cost of a new cage plus likely labour charges, even if I could find a Campag specialist, would be prohibitive. The long spiral spring is very powerful and probably needs a special tool to wind it back on safely. I can't even find a Campag dealer after Bikebuster gave up in Odense. Buying another front mech won't help because it won't solve the cage/middle ring, catastrophic impact problem.

The new Campag triple chainsets are very silly money even at the bottom of the range. Though older triples which fit square axles might be available if I look hard enough. Except that they have very silly tooth counts from a time before people learned to pedal properly quickly.

FSA had a more affordable triple with the right tooth counts and shorter cranks. Now I read that their cranks seem to fall in half. Though only for two customers who cared to mention it on one particular dealer's website. Further probing online offered no more tragic victims of metal fatigue. The FSA BBs have a very poor reputation but can easily be swapped for inexpensive, though possibly heavier, Hollowtech 2 bearings if the BB30s should begin crackling ominously.

All this talk of replacement chainsets is wildly optimistic. I have no idea if the chainrings are closer together than the Stronglight. I could thin the Stronglight spider where the bolts hold things together. Though it would not be a simple task to obtain suitable accuracy. Not even Stronglight can manage that! The rings wobble from side to side when I'm pedaling and the pedal threads were over-sized.

A suitable milling bit in the bench drill, employing a rigid height stop, might do it. The crank is far too long to swing in my lathe. Too fiddly to set up the job on the vertical slide with the milling bit in the lathe chuck. I could use a high speed fly cutter if I could support the crank axle firmly and truly in the lathe chuck.

I'll have to ponder on this some more before "the plastic" becomes anxious with anticipation and begins to overheat.

Thursday 21st 58F, 14C, occasionally breezy, heavy showers, mostly overcast. I went for a walk but spent most of the time sheltering under trees and watching the rain falling like bright stair rods. My ride wasn't much better. Under a leaden sky with gales and spots of rain I was in no mood to go far. 7 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


  1. Hi Chris, On hols and have been reading your blog top to toe. Hols ends today. I hope Geoff is paying you commission as you have inspired me to get my fleet up to date. My 1957 Higgins Ultralite will get the Trykit TWD my 1986 GL was repaired, plus my Higgins Roadster was rescued from near death. Nice hols but I miss my trikes.:-):-) Keep in touch. JD.:-):-):-)

  2. Hi JD

    Geoff would probably like to wring my neck! ;-)

    The poor chap can never rest.