Sunday, April 24, 2011

Journey of the Boardwalk: Part 7 (Handlepost & Handlebar)

Just got back from Desaru! It was a great trip, with lots of fun and good food along the way. The slopes were challenging to some of us, but everyone managed to conquer the slopes eventually!

It was also the first time I have really tested the new handlepost which I got for my Boardwalk. Previously, I had only tried it on shorter rides such as the one at Punggol. I am pleased to say that this handlepost feels stiffer and stronger than the original adjustable one, especially when climbing hills and coasting down slopes.

You can see from the picture below that the black fixed length handlepost is about 3cm longer than the length which I usually set my adjustable handlepost. Overall, the fixed height handlepost is 42cm from the top of the clamp to the bottom of the part that fixes to the frame. Because it is 1-piece, this means that there will not a a problem with the top part of the handlepost rotating with respect to the lower portion. Also, because there is no joint in the middle, it also flexes much less when it is pulled. Crucially, this handlepost also folds inwards for compact folding. The outward folding kind would be shorter and even stiffer, but because it folds outwards, it makes the folded package significantly wider and harder to carry or store.

Weight weenie info: Stock handlepost is 790g, Mu Uno handlepost is 660g.

To match the handlepost, of course I have to get a matching handlebar! Took the chance to upgrade the handlebar, and decided to get a lightweight ControlTech Scandium Handlebar. Point to take note is to find a handlebar with a diameter of 25.4mm, so as to be compatible with the handlepost clamp. Road bars are usually 26mm, while MTB bars are 31.8mm or 25.4mm.

Differences between the stock handlebar and the new handlebar:
1) New handlebar is 560mm, slightly shorter than the stock 580mm.
2) New handlebar has a gentler rise/sweep back of 6 degrees, compared with the stock handlebar's 9 degrees rise.
3) New handlebar weighs 130g, half the weight of the stock handlebar's 260g!

Look at the difference in tube thickness! The walls of the scandium handlebar may look very thin, but it is really strong and stiff. A carbon handlepost will weigh even less, at maybe 110g. But carbon can fail suddenly, and it can easily be damaged if the bike falls on its side. It can also be crushed by clamps or barends if they are overtightened. It would also cost double for a carbon handlebar.

Super strong, super light!

One thing not so good about this new handlepost/handlebar set up is that the things on the handlebar need to be rearranged. For example, the bell has to be shifted to the right hand side, or else it will get in the way when folding. The longer handlepost also puts the handlebar closer to the magnet, which barely clears the handlebar when folding. As seen in the pictures, you basically can't put much on the left side of the handlebar.

Initially wanted to write a review about the Biologic Air Horn, but decided not to after I found myself using it less and less. It is not required, but is just a good thing to have. On my rides I usually find myself using the horn at least once, such as when a car cuts across my path, or other situations where you want to make your presence known. But I find it quite troublesome to fix or remove the horn for folding, even though I made a removable clamp for the air bottle.

Me and my Barang-Barang. Thanks Taiwoon for the great pic!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lezyne Micro Floor Drive Review

Most people bring along a portable pump while riding, along with a spare tube or patch, in case they meet with a flat. But many times, the pump is unable to do a satisfactory job of pumping up the tires, especially for high pressure road bike tires. I have tried some road pumps that claim to be able to reach 160 PSI. However, the max pressure that is realistically possible is probably 80-90 PSI. To go beyond that you would probably need the arms of a bodybuilder.

Not too long ago, I tried out many Lezyne portable pumps at MyBikeShop, and one of them stood out for its excellent performance. The Lezyne Micro Floor Drive, High Pressure version was the best that I have tried thus far.

First of all, this pump looks and works like a mini floor pump. It comes equipped with a long rubber hose, which makes attaching the pump head to the valve much safer. Unlike pump heads that attach directly to the valve, this hose will prevent any stress due to pumping from breaking off the valve on the tube.

The pump also comes with a nifty little metal clip to step on while pumping, to help stabilise the pump while pumping. Although it may look flimsy, it does its job of keeping the pump upright.

Nice polished surface gives a quality feel to the pump. Pump handle may feel small in the palm, but the floor-pump-like action of the pump more than makes up for this little inconvenience.

The pump head comes as a flip-flop kind, where one side is for Schrader valves and the other end is for Presta valves. To switch valve types, just unscrew the metal head as seen above, and screw it in from the other end. Also, the pump head screws on to the valve, instead of using a locking lever to lock it on. I personally prefer this screw on type, as it reduces stress on the valve due to the strong clamping action of a pump head locking lever, and also prevents any air leakage due to poor fitting of pump head to the valve.

This particular pump comes in two versions, one with a pressure gauge and one without. I had previously bought the one without the gauge, but upgraded to this one when I came across it. The red line on the gauge will indicate the pressure, and although it may not be very accurate, it does give a good idea of the pressure. Usually, tires that are pumped up to 60 or 80 PSI can feel very similar when it is squeezed by fingers. This gauge will give a more accurate pressure reading.

The pump extends out to a pretty impressive size when fully extended, and it can be seen that it really looks like a mini Lezyne floor pump. Pumping my Kojak tire to 60 PSI is a piece of cake. Going up to 80 PSI just requires a few more strokes. Going on to 90 PSI is still achievable, albeit with more effort required. I can safely say that this pump is one of the few that can go up to 100 PSI with no problems at all, unlike small hand pumps that struggle to even reach 80 PSI. With the floor to push against, it is much easier to reach high pressures.

Weighing in at a relatively low 187g, this Lezyne pump is a pump that really does what it says, and is perfect for road tires that require high pressures. Mounting on the bike is easily and unobtrusive. As seen below, the pump comes with a little bracket that mounts under your bottle cage bolts. It also has a little velcro band to help hold the pump securely in place.

I highly recommend this pump for anyone who wants a pump that can reach high pressures easily. It comes with a pressure gauge that is rare for a portable pump, and has a screw-on pump head and hose that will prevent any broken valves from pumping. For more info, you can check out the pump at ChainReactionCycles here. There are also some local bike shops that carry the Lezyne brand, such as MBS or Gee Hin Chan.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Preparing the bike for Desaru

Desaru trip is coming! Just a few more days to Good Friday, when I would join LoveCyclingSG for a cycling trip to Desaru. Finally found some time to buy degreaser today, so that I can go clean my chain properly.

Called up Rodalink to check if they have those kind in a bottle that can be poured out, instead of those sprayed on type. Unfortunately all the Rodalink stores nearby had run out of stock on that. Had to go all the way to Gee Hin Chan at Bugis to get degreaser.

Reached home and wanted to clean the chain, but the first thing I noticed was that...the tire was flat AGAIN! The front tire was flat, super sian diao. My first thought was that it must have been punctured by a stone or something. In fact the bike was fine just a few hours ago, because I had just rode it home last night at 1am after watching Arsenal vs Liverpool.

Found a small stone embedded in the tire, as seen below.

Flat tire with stone embedded in tire.
Took a sharp pin to dig it out, and it came out easily without much prodding. Next was the most dreaded part, fixing the flat. The problem is that the tire fits very tightly around the rim, which makes it extremely difficult to remove or put on the tire, even with tire levers. This tightness is in part due to the extra rim tape that was put on previously, when I had a problem with flats happening for no reason. See the previous post here.

Spent like 10mins wrestling with the tire before finally getting it off. I can't use too much strength for fear of damaging the rim or the tire bead, but without using strength it is impossible to pry the tire off. Pulled out the tube and pumped it up to see where the puncture was.

Found that the puncture was not on the outside, as suspected earlier. The stone which I earlier found embedded in the tire actually did not penetrate the tire and puncture the tube. The puncture was actually on the inside, the side of the rim tape. Exactly the same problem as before. This time its even more worrying because it still happened even with the extra layer of rim tape!

Checked the layer of rim tape very carefully, and found absolutely no visible holes. At this point I suspect the problem might be with the tubes. Maybe there is a defect in the tubes that makes it vulnerable to punctures. By the way, these are "good" quality Schwalbe tubes that cost $11 each.

Before going on to put in a fresh tube, I decided to check the surface of the tire for more embedded stones. In fact I found a lot of stones!

One of the many stones found embedded in the tires.
As seen in the picture above, there are many small cuts on the surface of the tire, some of which still has a stone inside. In total, I found at least 8 such stones of this size, and many more smaller ones! I am not exaggerating; there would be quite a visible pile if I had gathered all the stones together. It is quite shocking when you suddenly realise that you have been riding around with all these stones in the tire, yet did not get a single puncture while riding. This proves just how good the Kevlar RaceGuard used by Schwalbe is. So many sharp stones, and none of them managed to penetrate the kevlar layer. Quite amazing. On the other hand, the tubes are not so good, and all my punctures have actually happened while I was not riding, and the bike was just sitting at home.

I have confidence that the tire will not be punctured easily by external debris, but I fear that the tube will be punctured from the inside. Hopefully it will not happen again, especially not when I am riding in the middle of nowhere. By the way it took a lot of effort to put the tire back on the rim again. Took me like 30mins to change a tube, which is far too long. Much of the time was actually spent wrestling the tire on and off the rim.

On a happier note, I managed to get the chain sparkling clean by using the degreaser to clean the chain. As shown by Taiwoon during the bike demo, the chain was placed in a container with some degreaser, and then shaken to wash off the dirt. In the background is the bottle of degreaser which I bought from Gee Hin Chan for $15. I am using a cheap disposable plastic container, so that I will not have to wash it after use.

After some shaking, the degreaser turns very black. Only a little degreaser is needed as the shaking will ensure that the degreaser washes the dirt out from every corner of the chain. It is best to do the shaking in the bathroom or outside the house as the container may leak.

Pulled out the chain and dried it with some rags, before placing it on some old newspapers for it to dry. It is important to leave it there for a while, so that all the degreaser evaporates. If chain lube is applied immediately, the degreaser will just neutralise the lube and there will be no lubrication for the chain.

Sparkling clean chain!

Currently, the front tire is pumped up to 80 PSI. I will leave it for a few days, and hopefully it does not get punctured for no reason again. Now I got to go get myself some more spare tubes for Desaru.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to carry stuff on cycling trips

Saw that Taiwoon has been sharing some tips on how to carry stuff on their bikes, and I'm inspired to also share some of the ways I carry items on my trusty Boardwalk.

The carriers that are always on my bike include the Topeak saddle bag and handphone pouch. The handphone pouch mounted on the handlepost allows me to quickly check messages or answer calls while I'm on the road. Of course I will stop before I do that, but having the phone in front allows me to hear the phone when it rings.

Handphone pouch mounted on handlepost
The saddle bag is another integral part of my bike, and the large volume makes it really useful to carry stuff. It contains a simple Topeak Mini 9 portable tool, which has most of the stuff that we need on the road, such as a screwdriver and various sizes of allen keys. I will also have a couple of ziplock bags inside, to protect my valuables in case of rain. On short trips, it will also include my wallet.

Saddle bag mounted under seat

When my bike is folded, the front lights and the blue rear light will go inside the bag. Sometimes, I will also bring along my spare tube and tire levers in the saddle bag. This will be packed together with the Lezyne mini floor pump, as seen mounted on the frame itself. The Monkii bottle cage is also mounted at the same place. The cool thing about the Monkii cage is that the velcro strap allows different sized bottles to be fitted easily.

Bottle cage and pump mounted on frame

When the bottle cage and pump is not in use, they can be taken off the bike in just a few seconds.

Less than 10 secs is needed to remove bottle cage and pump!

If more capacity is needed on the bike, I will use my Dahon Tour Bag, which is mounted to the front of the frame. This is especially useful as its large size allows me to carry lots of stuff, such as more bottles of water, a change of clothes or other things. The bag is also waterproof, and can be detached from its mount easily. Also, the mount is attached to the frame itself, and not the handlepost, thus it does not affect the steering of the bike at all.

Dahon Luggage Truss

Dahon Tour Bag

Inside of Dahon Tour Bag, with a bottle to show the scale. See how spacious it is!

Another new addition to the bike is a seatpost mounted bag. This comes with a quick release clamp, so that it can be easily removed or attached without tools. The bag is made of two halves that closes like a clam, and also comes with a waterproof cover.

Rear seatpost bag mounted below the saddle bag.

Inside of bag, with two similar halves that closes up.

Quick release clamp is secure and does not slip or rotate while in use.

With the additional capacity, it is now possible to go for extended touring trips, such as the upcoming Desaru trip. Although the total capacity of these carriers is still less than that of full-sized panniers and a rear rack, what I like about my bags is that they can all be detached easily when not in use. No tools or lots of time and effort are needed to put on or remove these bags. Compare the two pictures below: It takes less than 1 minute to remove all the bags from the bike, which is useful when I am not using the bags and want to keep the weight down.

Everything on...

Everything off!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Journey of the Boardwalk: Part 6 (SRAM X9)

More than a month since I last posted here! Didn't seem that long, probably because I have been busy. I shall continue with the Boardwalk story, from where I left off the other time.

As said previously, I was very satisfied with the new 9 speed SRAM Attack shifters and the Ultegra RD. The shifting is faster and crisper compared to the stock components. However, I was later presented with a chance to upgrade and try other shifters and RD. This was because there was a new bike! My gf upgraded her bike from the Eco 2 to the Vitesse D7, very nice! Of course, I was also itching to zhng the Vitesse, and upgrade it to a 9 speed bike.

So how does this allow me to try another shifter and RD? It is possible because I would need to get another set of 9 speed components to upgrade the Vitesse. Some of the components include Kinetix Comp wheels, 9 speed cassette and chain, 9 speed shifters and a good RD. Also, her preferred shifter is a Shimano type shifter, that uses thumb and finger to shift the gears, unlike the thumb-thumb shifting of SRAM shifters.

Of course, this presented a chance to get new components! In any case, a set of new 9 speed Shimano shifters is needed, and the XT shifters fit the requirements perfectly. These XT shifters would have to be paired with a Shimano RD, and instead of getting another Shimano RD, I realised that I could just transfer the Ultegra RD over.

This leaves the door open for me to get a brand new set of shifters and RD! Also, the Vitesse would get an excellent gear system in XT shifters with an Ultegra RD.

As for me, I like the thumb-thumb shifting of the SRAM shifting system. It is only logical that I would go with a SRAM system this time.

Initially thought of pairing a SRAM MTB shifter with a SRAM road RD, but realised that they are not compatible due to different cable pull ratios. Therefore SRAM road and MTB shifters/RD are not interchangeable. This narrows the choice of system considerably, to two main choices:
1) SRAM MTB shifter+RD combo, or
2) SRAM DoubleTap 9 speed +road RD.

Checked out the 9 speed DoubleTap shifting system at MBS. For those who don't know what DoubleTap is, it is a shifter that uses the same lever for up and downshifts. Pushing the lever slightly triggers an upshift, pushing the lever further will initiate a downshift instead. I couldn't get used to it, because it was hard for me to consistently know how far to push for each type of shift. Also, this combo of DoubleTap and SRAM Force RD is more expensive than the other option.

Therefore, I decided to get the SRAM MTB shifter+RD combo. The X9 level is reputed to have an excellent performance to cost ratio, being only slightly below the level of X0, but at half the price. The X7 level is actually also pretty good, at around 70% of X9's price point. But I didn't want to have any regrets if I didn't get X9, therefore I went for X9 instead of settling for X7. With the metal bits on the X9 components, it also looks much better than the all-plastic X7.

What better shifter to pair with the X9 RD than the X9 shifters? Wanted to get just the right/rear shifter from CRC, but it was out of stock. It was not known when the stock would arrive, and instead of waiting indefinitely, I decided to get the whole set of shifters (left+right) from MBS. The X9 RD was bought from CRC though.

Installation of the X9 shifter and RD was easy. Adjusting the cable tension was a bit more tricky, since there is no barrel adjuster on the RD, and it has to be adjusted at the shifter. Also, the routing of the cable to the X9 RD requires more exposed cable. At the same time, the routing also cuts across the end of the quick release. This means that the repair stand, which I use to elevate the rear wheel for maintenance, cannot be attached easily.

The shifting performance has already been reviewed in a previous post, when I compared the XT and X9 shifters. Basically the advantage of the X9 shifters over the XT is that they have no free play (termed ZeroLoss) in the big silver lever when downshifting, which allows for even quicker shifts. The shifting quality is comparable with the XT shifting.

Very pleased with the upgrade, as it allows me to try both the SRAM and Shimano shifters and RD. I have also learnt how to install and adjust Shimano and SRAM RDs. It also works very well, with even more accurate RD movement across the whole cassette. Even though there is no gold bling on the shifter or RD, the silver portions still fit in very well with the overall look of the bike.

In the next post, more components are upgraded! This time, the handlepost and handlebar are upgraded, along with the addition of an accessory, the Biologic Air Horn.