This afternoon I replaced the chain on my Bob Jackson World Tour, I expect I have had approaching 2,500 miles from it in all weathers including heavy winter. I noticed last week it had just hit .75% stretch and didn't want to risk damage to the cassette or chainrings.
Although the running gear on my Bob Jackson is a mix of Shimano 105 and Ultegra, with a Sugino Alpina chainset, I installed another Dura Ace chain as I am convinced they are quieter running than 105 or Ultegra. This time I took the opportunity to install a Wippermann Connex link that allows the chain to be easily removed and replaced for cleaning. I always used them on my Surly Cross Check as it was easy to clean after off-road riding but for some reason haven't bothered on the World Tour until now. For chain breaking, I use a Park Tool Ct-5 chain tool, good value for money, excellent quality and easy to use.
Installation is straightforward, after breaking the new chain to match the length of the old one, just remove the outer plates from the other end, wrap and pop in the links. There is a correct way round, the outer plate should have the opening end leading and the flatter profile facing inward on the chainring, the picture above shows the view of the chain on the top side of its travel, between the cassette and chainring. Finally, a quick lube of the chain, I always use Chain-L as I find it very durable and gives me very quiet running. I also took the opportunity to remove and re-grease the jockey wheels from the rear derailleur, I try to do this annually at least. The whole job was probably about 20 minutes, just in time for the rain!
I built up Debbie's Surly Cross Check in March last year with drop bars, but due to neck and back problems, a rebuild was needed for a more upright and comfy ride.
The choice of bars was the biggest decision and I ended up choosing Nitto North Road bars. Other possibilities included Albatross bars which are very similar and Moustache bars, which I think would have lacked the comfort for city commuting.
So that I could keep the same Velo Orange stem, a shim was needed as the bar diameter for the North Road bars is 25.4mm compared to 26mm on the Deda drop bars fitted previously, Nitto make one specifically for the purpose. Brake levers and shifters were needed to replace the Shimano 105 STIs, for brakes I went with Tektro FL750s in silver, they are really nicely made and well finished - unlike most flat bar levers they take road cables - take note! Dia Compe 131 levers would make a good alternative. Shifters were a choice between bar end or down tube, ultimately I think bar end will prove to be more convenient and I fitted Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed shifters, they are a bit pricey but of excellent quality.
I have seen North Road bars with standard grips and bar tape, both would have worked, but bar tape seemed more practical and allowed the shift cables to be routed neatly under the tape. For the moment it is standard Deda cork tape but I will replace it with some Brooks leather tape to complement the saddle at some point.
The whole conversion cost about £150, which is not too bad considering all the components were pretty high-end. The verdict from Debbie is definately positive so far, on a couple of short test rides she has found the bike really comfortable and probably better suited for commuting in traffic due to the improved visibility from a more upright position. More proof that the Surly Cross Check is such a versatile bike, it really is well suited to a traditional "city commuter" build, now I just have to pursuade her to accept mudguards!
When I built my Bob Jackson World Tour in 2011, I also had a Surly Cross Check - I sold the Surly last year as the two bikes ended up being quite similar, the Cross Check was a bit more sporty perhaps and could do rougher off road trails, but I was not using it regularly. I started looking for a lighter bike for fair weather weekend road rides, the Bob Jackson is great with traditional touring geometry and good tyre clearance, but it’s not light and very much built for all-weather commuting.
As much as forums can provide ideas, the ultimate answer to the many “which bike shall I buy” threads is obviously to get out and try as many as possible. I tried quite a number, the final short list included:
Condor have a good reputation and I was very tempted by their modern steel frames, what tipped it for me was the full fitting and the outstanding service I received from Julian when I visited their shop in Gray’s Inn Road.
So the frame was ordered, a 55cm Acciaio frame with the upgraded Wave full carbon fork. The frame is always supplied with the headset fitted, I asked them to supply the frameset with the bottom bracket fitted too, the rest of the build I did myself.
The build spec was much simpler than the Bob Jackson, predominantly because I was happy to use a full groupset, in this case Shimano Ultegra 6700 in grey. I think wheels are the most important component and in my opinion there is no point second guessing the experts so a quick phone call to Harry Rowland with a chat on intended bike use ended with an order for Ambrosio Excellight rims on Ambrosio / NovaTec hubs with Sapim spokes 28 hole front, 32 rear, I think the weight is just under 1.7kg. I wanted relatively light wheels that were comfortable and capable of standing up to potholes and slightly rougher surfaces from time to time.
I originally fitted 25mm Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tyres - light (215g), grippy tyres and very comfortable, but they didn’t last suffering bad cuts very quickly, although no punctures. I replaced them with Continental GP4000s, initially in 23mm as that was all I could find, then recently 25mm - they are a slightly harsher ride than the Ultremos (and not as pretty) but seem significantly more durable with comparable grip in all conditions.
I tried a few handlebars, settling on Deda Newton Shallow bars, they are a really nice shape and seem to fit very well for me. In 44cm width they weigh about 200 grams, the matching Deda Zero 100 stem in 120mm weighs about 110 grams.
Initially I fitted the bike with a Fizik Cyrano seatpost, but despite meticulous greasing and reassembly, couldn’t solve the clicking and cracking noises so changed it for a Condor Supremacy Carbon post which has been fine. The Supremacy Carbon is a full carbon post and clamp, zero setback, weighing a mere 130grams.
Total weight excluding pedals has come in just under 8kg - not bad at all for a steel frame, more importantly it is a pleasure to ride, really comfortable and handles quickly but predictably.
Bits: I use an Arundel Dual seat bag which is one of the best I have found, I am not a fan of the wedge shaped pouches that seem most common, the Dual is smaller but because of its simple oval shape, holds plenty, in my case two tubes, patches, a small multitool and tyre lever - I use a Lezyne Road Drive pump mounted by the bottle cage on the downtube.
(Note: this article is probably a bit overdue, I built the Condor Acciaio back in Autumn last year so a couple of the component specs may have changed slightly since).
Over the last few years of cycling my body has changed a bit, I have improved flexibility both in my neck (partly due to some regular osteopathy for a non-cycling problem) and my pelvis, my thighs are a bit broader and I have noticed some changes in saddle comfort on my Condor Acciaio.
I originally built this up with a Fizik Antares saddle, this has always been quite comfortable but recently I have noticed some pressure on soft tissue particularly when riding in the drops and a bit of rubbing on my inner thighs on the fairly wide (45mm) and flat nose of the saddle. I have never suffered any numbness in the groin with this saddle, the only time I have had that was with a Brooks B17 when I first fitted it on a bike with bars significantly lower than the saddle, no such problems with the Brooks Team Professional I swapped to (the B17 now lives on my Brompton, for which it is a great match).
Whilst I admit to getting excited about choosing most bike components, wheels, tyres, etc., I hate saddles - there seems to be no real consensus on what makes a good or bad saddle as we are all built differently and “trial and error” is expensive with very few opportunities for saddle loans from retailers. I have had good advice from The Bike Whisperer historically and therefore take advice from Steve Hogg’s writings very seriously and was guided to the Selle SMP range. Other options up for consideration included the Brooks Swallow (too flexy) and the Specialized Romin.
The Fizik Antares, I have the kium railed model (I am guessing this is a hollow steel alloy) weighs 189g, dimensions are 275mm x 142mm. It is almost completely flat with a small amount of firm padding and some flex in the centre.
The Selle SMP Dynamic that I have chosen is shaped very differently with a large central cutout, high rear and dropped nose. Weight is higher at 260g (a carbon model is available at 205g) and dimensions are 274mm x 138mm. On unpacking, first impressions were of a really high quality saddle, stitching is perfect, minimal padding, long useable seat rails (about 9cm). Black SMP saddles are covered with leather so I expect it to be durable and easy to clean.
I followed Steve Hogg’s fitting instructions to the letter and following a short ride this morning, found only a couple of minor adjustment to the angle were needed to get what now feels like a perfect fit. Certainly the feel is different, you do sit more in the saddle than perch on it, but support is improved in all the right places and the curve of the saddle matches well with the pelvic bones as you tilt forward into the drops. A major improvement for me!
I have considered switching to a triple crankset on a few occasions on my Bob Jackson, it certainly wouldn’t be out of place on a touring frame, but I rarely “run out” of gears and on balance there have always seemed to be a lot of disadvantages for some infrequent benefits. I run a Sugino Alpina compact crankset (48/34) with a 105 12-27 cassette and although I rarely cross over completely, it will happily run through all the gears in both chainrings which is really convenient for lazy / rapid changes. With a 48 big ring in fact I rarely use the smaller ring. I don’t race or go full pelt on this bike so there would be no advantage in having the 53 ring of a triple it really is just for the odd loaded, tired, up hill.
Enter the Ultegra 12-30 cassette. I fitted this last night, it honestly took no more than a few minutes as it turned out to need no adjustment of my 105 short cage rear derailleur, I was fully expecting to have to do a minor tweak of the b-screw and had a new chain on standby as I thought I may be a link short.
This gives me a range on the big ring (in gear inches) of 108” to 43.2”, previously 48” - and on the small ring from 76.5 to 30.6”, previously 34”.
My obvious concern was the gap between the gears but in fact the transitions seem very sensible and well spaced, albeit that I will rarely use the 30, nothing wrong with 9-speed though!
On my Condor Acciaio I have an 11-28, the 24-28 jump feels pretty big, to be honest a 27 big sprocket would be a better match, but there is no such thing as an 11-27, only a 12-27 or 11-25 and I would rather not give up the 11 as a highest sprocket or the 27 as a large sprocket, so the 11-28 seems the best compromise.
In conclusion, for me this is a much better solution than fitting a triple, it gives me a 30.6” lowest gear, virtually identical to what I would have had with a triple and my original 12-27 cassette. Perhaps it’s also a viable and cheaper fix for those on a road bike with a standard 53/39 crankset needing lower gearing, giving a 34” lowest gear, where previously a compact was needed to get this low.
Shimano 10 speed sprocket configurations:
11-12-13-14-15-17-19-21-24-28 on Condor Acciaio
12-13-14-15-17-19-21-24-27-30 now on Bob Jackson World Tour
12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-24-27 previously on BJWT
Not wanting to be caught out again, I have just fitted Schwalbe Winter tyres to my Bob Jackson World Tour. These are the 700 x 30c studded tyres that are similar to the more popular Marathon Winters, but with about half the number of studs. Importantly they are available in 30mm width, the minimum width of the Marathon Winters is 35mm which most road frames won’t have clearance for.
Fitting on to Mavic A719 rims wasn’t too difficult for a wired tyre but I did need to use a lever and push the tyre firmly into the opposite rim recess for the last few inches to slide over the rim, but they seated nicely when inflated. They cleared my mudguards which are set quite close to the 700x32c Marathon Supremes that are normally fitted, but in snow rather than ice, I would probably want a bit more clearance so would need to adjust them slightly.
They roll as I would expect on ‘normal’ ice free roads, a bit heavy (805g each) and noisy but not worryingly so. On snow they are OK but don’t expect miracles - better than a road tyre but not as good as a 32c cyclocross tyre. However, on the remaining stretches of packed down snow and on the ice, of which there is still a fair bit around here, they were every bit as good as I expected, no problem starting, stopping or turning - you do need to be careful when you stop as I can envisage forgetting you are on an icy surface, putting a foot down and ending up in a heap on the floor. It’s also worth mentioning that they work well on loose gravelly paths as the tread is reasonable deep right into the shoulders and I would imagine would be quite acceptable for mild off-road use.
They are clearly a very specialist tyre, I wouldn’t keep them on throughout the Winter as their grip on the typical wet and greasy roads is not as good as good quality road commuting tyres, but they are certainly worth the twenty minutes or so that it takes to swap them on for icy or snowy weeks. At less than £20 each they are reasonable value for money despite knowing that they will spend much of the year hanging on the shed wall.
Since I bought my Carradice Barley a year ago, it has lived on my commuting bike, but as the Winter has drawn in and I am using this bike almost all the time, I decided to replace it with something more compact for the times I was riding and didn’t need laptop, jacket, clothes etc. I have never got on well with the standard saddle bags - I have split two Bontrager wedges on my Surly and find the wedge shape generally impractical. On my Condor Acciaio I have an Arundel Duel which is perfect - two tubes, a tyre lever and a tiny Park Tool multi-tool, so it’s not the size, just the shape that seems silly.
I looked at the couple of different tool rolls on the market, but I didn’t find one that was sized to fit what I needed and I ended up making my own from some waxed cotton purchased from eBay. Despite my wife having a good laugh at me sitting down with needle and thread for an hour or so, it has worked out well and looks OK.
It attaches firmly to the seat rails with a leather toe strap and is completely vibration free. It will easily hold a large inner tube (for 700x32c Marathon Supremes in the Winter), tyre levers, tyre patches, multi tool and a mini pump together with a small wallet and keys - all of which it has kept completely dry in pretty foul weather. On the days when I need the larger capacity of the Carradice, I just stick the whole roll in it.
Despite having full mudguards on my Bob Jackson, the chain and running gear were still getting filthy on the muddy, wet roads so it was time to fit a mud flap. The more traditional options were either a Gilles Berthoud or Brooks leather mud flap or I could have gone with something home made to provide a bit more length. Tokyo Fixed Gear stocked the Brooks - it’s £15 - so it was an easy decision, the thinking being if it turns out to be a bit too small, I can keep the same fittings and just bolt on some heavy rubber cut to shape instead of the leather, though looking at it I think it will be fine.
The Brooks mudflap is essentially a treated 5mm thick piece of heavy duty leather with good quality fittings. It feels very stiff indeed but in fact softens quite a bit when wet. I am not sure it would work well on plastic mudguards, but with properly fitted stainless or aluminium guards it’s perfect.
It was easy to fit, the only challenge being drilling the slippery polished surface of the Gilles Berthoud mud guards - I made a small indent with a punch, then drilled two small pilot holes before drilling the final 5mm holes - it’s worth taking time over this to get them drilled just right.
First ride with it in place this morning in very heavy rain with some puddles several inches deep and the difference was very noticeable - I was still wet of course but much cleaner, particularly my feet and the chainrings, bottom bracket and downtube are completely protected from spray.
------ Update on 17th January 2013 -----
Don't forget the threadlock! The nuts will vibrate off quite quickly, easily solved with some Loctite 243 though...
I just replaced a punctured tube on my youngest boy’s bike and did some minor servicing and adjustments.
My boys are aged 4 and 7, over the last few years I have bought three bikes for them from two different bike shops, one being a well known high street cycle chain, the other a very well established independent. All three bikes were from major manufacturers and at the higher end of pricing for childrens cycles. What surprises me is how they let bikes out the door with set up that would not be tolerated on an adult bike.
The first bike, Ben's "MTB" had brake levers poorly adjusted for small hands and brake pads not aligned well at all so braking power was really poor.
My youngest, Noah's, first bike was a runner bike, one tyre was fitted with the incorrect direction, not a big issue at all but still shows a lack of attention, it was the most recent bike purchase that concerned me more.
This was my youngest's first proper bike, a Ridgeback. The rear brake was out of balance and adjusted so close to the rim that it rubbed on the out of true wheels. The wheel was poorly alligned in the dropouts and together with a rear freewheel bearing that was stiff to the point of being faulty, it would not have been much fun to ride. Finally the chain was strangely dry, it appeared to be completely missing any factory or other lube that I would have expected.
None of the bikes were dangerous but it does make you wonder what else could be missed with such poor quality control.