Saturday, February 23, 2013

Spring cleaning

As I work on enjoying my last week of "unemployment", during which I have been variously employed in several enjoyable ways I have allowed myself more time to work on things that I normally reserve for free time. During my rummagings at OCB I found a used Shimano "29er specific" 12 to 36 tooth 9-speed cassette... which aside from being roughly the same weight as a sea lion seemed like a fun thing to play around with. My Orange Bike had a bit of a nest of cables and hoses going on at the front and I had been considering ditching the front shifter and putting the cable for my 'dropper seatpost through the guides instead of duct-taping it to things. 

The original arrangement with a nest-full of cables
Partly inspired by Nikki's inventive "two chainrings the same size" setup on her cyclocross bike, I decided that it was time to try out a single ring on Orange Bike. I did briefly try this before when I gave someone my granny ring just before a two-day off-road ride from Whistler to Squamish. This act of generosity taught me that whilst a 36-34 low gear is pedallable up hills, it isn't much fun. With my 12 to 36 cassette craftily switched to 11 to 36 with an old sprocket from my toolbox and a 32 tooth chainring I would have 32-36 low gear, which is almost like I took the same numbers as before and switched them around. Now I don't even know if I put the numbers in the right order. Still... all these numbers clearly prove that this is an excellent idea so I went ahead gathering the widgets I would need to get the one-ring circus into town.

The next stroke of luck was a new-old-stock chain device which promised to elegantly stop my chain falling off and not weigh too much. I figured the gigantic mass of my new cassette might just be offset by losing the front shifter, cable, and derraileur.

A natty chain-retaining contraption. I've got a shiny stainless-steel chainring coming in the mail too.
The actual assembly of this fandangle was complicated by my decision to put on some new grips, change the tires, fit some new bearings to my bottom-bracket, and do the clever cable routing with an in-line adjuster for my seatpost. Several hours and a large cup of coffee later the Orange Bike stood ready for action, then this morning the sun came out - clearly an auspicious omen.

With the sun, all the mountain bikers in Vancouver also come out and I ended up sharing my solitary ride with various friends and trail-acquaintances I bumped into along the way. In the past I used to go to the pub to find my friends, but here it seems I'm more likely to find them on a muddy trail somewhere on the North Shore. The ride turned out rather longer than expected and with some new trail combinations I haven't tried before. It's good to ride with different people.

So... the verdict? It certainly works fine. The big gear (32-11) is a bit twiddly on the road, but not ridiculous. The 32-36 climbing gear was just fine for grunting up all the climbs I did today and low enough to finesse (yeah, right) up the slippery, rooty technical climbs. It is really nice to get the whole range of gears from one shifter and the dinky little 32 tooth ring up the front doesn't bang on rocks and logs as much as the 36 tooth... which is just as well seeing as I don't have a bash-guard for it. I also liked the 2.0" Crossmark tire I put on the back. Having been used to a giant tractor tire that I've had on for the winter, the Crossmark is really smooth rolling and light. Amazingly it seems to grip too... I don't know how that works.

Since I fitted a -1 degree headset to the Orange Bike I've had a chance to ride it a fair bit and I'm liking it. The bearings went all grindy, which seems to be a common complaint, but I greased them up and they're smooth enough again now. The angles, using the probably vastly inaccurate angle finder app on my iPod are 66 degree head angle and 71 degree seat angle. This sounds really slack, so I'm not convinced it's right. It seems to work well though, whatever it is. All in all, I'm happy with my new simplified drivetrain, tidy cable routing, and fast tires. More than all of that though, I'm happy about sunshine and meeting people on trails.