14 Dec 2015

14th December 2015 Beware of falling ice!

Monday 14th 32-37F, 0-3C, white frost, pink overcast, quite still. Rain forecast from lunchtime onwards. 

I was just thinking about yesterday's ride and how comfortable I was despite the "just above freezing" temperatures. As usual, I wore my cycling cardigan but it soon went into the saddle bag. Leaving me with only a long sleeved thermal vest under my warmest cycling jacket. I hadn't even worn one of my default racing jerseys over a thinner thermal vest.

The Dintex scooterists gloves were just right with a thin pair of polyester gloves as liners. The liners help to absorb moisture when the heavier gloves can't get rid of it quickly enough through the membrane. Damp gloves quickly lose their thermal insulation and can make one's hands feel horribly cold even in warmer conditions.

What works for a short ride is not remotely the same as one of five hours of continuous effort. I am always pushing along and frequently get out out of the saddle on small rises and even longer hills. Dawdling was never my style unless forced on me by tiredness or hunger or both. I try to maintain 90+ rpm and was even climbing at 110 rpm yesterday [while seated.] The downside of scooter gloves is their thickness hinders easy gear changes. 11 speeds offer such close ratio changes that it makes it much easier to spin. Obtaining lower gears with the MTB cassette and changer mean that I can maintain higher revs on many more hills.

Just my usual ramble loop up through the woods in an hour and half. A complete absence of birds until seven Whooper swans went over in stealth mode. Cold enough to make the mud uncomfortable and noisy to walk on but not firm enough to take my weight. Only a thin skin of ice on the puddles but 3/4" thick [18mm] on lorries shedding hard frozen puddles from the roofs of their trailers! Huge sheets had slipped off and smashed onto the road on the local S-bends. The damage they could do to cars, cyclist or pedestrians doesn't even bear thinking about! Nobody would survive a direct hit. A sheet of ice that size and weight, with typically sharp edges, would probably cut a cyclist in half!

Disaster has struck my Shimshramergo gear system! The right Chorus Ergo lever has given up struggling against the odds. They were 2013 models bought new in October 2012 and now with ~20k miles on the clock. The long lever failed to lift the chain beyond midway on the cassette today before getting stuck at the top of its travel. It wasn't the Shimergo ratio-changing arm hitting the BB after all. The pawls which drive the ratchets seem to have given up and the lever is now unable to return to top gear.

Following a viewing of the Campag dismantling video on YT I have emailed a Campag repairer specialist for advice on the economics of repair. Or whether replacement is a better, though expensive,  option. I can hardly complain given the demands I placed on the lever over the last three years. I often changed gear [literally] every few seconds to maintain my 90-100 rpm cadence on constantly changing terrain. The only maintenance the lever has ever received is a blob of Castrol LMP grease at yearly intervals if I remembered. The ratchets were looking a bit tired when I last replaced a cable. Probably not even a Campag example. Worse, I used a variety of non-standard changers. All completely unforgivable according to the manufacturer.

Still, I had no plans to claim under the manufacturer's guarantee so would/could not be dictated to. Had I wanted a perfect gear change I could have followed the expensive route and bought into the entire Chorus "Groupo" system and had my gears titivated by a skilled Campagnolo cycle mechanic. Then probably replaced the entire "Groupo" on an annual basis simply to satisfy Campag's relentless [annual] updating to ensure complete non-backwards compatibility.

Just finding Campagnolo components [and, therefore, skilled Campagnolo mechanics] in Denmark is fraught with difficulty. None of the bike shops in Odense stock it as far as I can discover. I was repeatedly told that demand is so low and prices so high as to be not worth stocking.

All I wanted was a high quality, 11 speed indexing gear/brake combo lever and low enough gears to match my age, high cadence, typically loaded tricycle weight and fitness level. Campagnolo would have me use a 34-29 lowest gear at the time I bought the Chorus levers. I could now have a 34-30 if I was really, really good and asked Santa VERY nicely. Though which groupo I'd need to invest in to get that 34-30 is another matter entirely. What I really want AND NOW NEED is 33-36 to spin freely on the steepest hills without wrecking my knees and having to give up cycling for good! Neither Santa, nor Campagnolo, are interested in delivering such low ratios. Hence Shimergo.

The Chorus levers provide rapid shifting up and down the cassette thanks to "Ultrashift." Another lifesaver for ancient knees which don't want to wait for the old fart upstairs to press the gear lever 10 times. Just to find a low enough "crawler" gear for when the road suddenly rears up. Nor do they [the knees] want to do 500 rpm when the trike just as suddenly "falls off a cliff" in the wrong gear on a descent. Been there, done that, don't like it.

The Chorus 'Ultrashift' is the perfect tourist's lever. It's just a shame that Campagnolo don't drop their half century old [drug abuser's] racing halo and sell some nice kit for those who prefer distance to absolute speed. Not that a company which demands £3500 for their top end "El-Groupy" is likely to find many followers amongst anybody but the [typically overweight] investment banker, weekend warrior for whom, supposedly, every gram matters. Perhaps there really aren't enough tourists and commuters to warrant the R&D necessary to build bomb-proof touring kit. i.e. That which can rely only on rain-soaked bread crumbs, mature Cheddar and/or jam for lubrication?  

Short, late morning ride for 7 miles under a leaden sky.

Tuesday 15th 39F, 4C, overcast, light breeze. Some sunshine is expected. I had better look at the Higgins to remind myself of its road-worthiness. It has hardly been ridden since I have had the Trykit. There is always the option to move the [rear derailleur ]10 speed Campag Centaur lever over to the Trykit. The lever is almost brand new from having so little exercise. It would be no hardship to lose top gear of the Trykit's present 11. It is only useful for 28-30mph downhill on the aero bars.

The 1954 Higgins proved to need nothing more than some air in the tyres and a saddle fitted. It looked strangely small as I wheeled it around. A blast of chain lubricant loosened up the gears and chain so I'm ready for the road. The Carradice Junior will provide a little space for some shopping aided and abetted by the latest sports bag.

Riding the Higgins for the first time in a couple of years [from memory] seemed very odd indeed. It felt twitchy, nimble and fast compared with the Trykit. Whether I was going any faster I could not tell because I had no computer fitted. The riding position felt very strange too. Almost jockey-like, with my legs folded under me and my arms stretched right out. Climbing and sprinting out of the saddle was also very different because of the rearward bottom bracket. Riding rippled camber was decidedly more "interesting" than on the Trykit. The triple front changer movements were abrupt and unforgiving. The sun never did show its face and the wind had picked up by the time I left, mid-afternoon. 14 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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