With Father’s Day here, and while sitting at the compoo waiting for the downpour to pass before we attempt our own personal Flying Wheels century route today, thoughts turned to last weekend and the shorter version SurlyLady and I rode with my poppa.
It had been a late start – we had several mechanical issues on SurlyLady’s Crosscheck, which explains this mechanical interlude. That previous week I’d taken her bike into the shop to have some changes made, putting on my Tiagra 9spd triple brifters from the Vaya and installing a new Sugino triple crankset and Tiagra front derailleur. The story of her ‘stock’ Crosscheck is a checkered one, with lots of cross-outs. When she bought it from Counterbalance, rather than sticking with the stock bar ends (I think those were stock then?) she got some Ultegra STI shifters, to match up to the compact crankset. Within the first year the gearing just wasn’t forgiving enough for a two-pannier commute up the Mountlake Terrace grinder hills, so we had Larry at Perfect Wheels put on a larger mountain-style 9-spd cluster and XT RD in back. Ever since then her gearing has been screwy. She’s pretty much never been able to use the next-to-largest cog; when tuned nicely it just skips over it, otherwise when sloppy there’s all kinds of stutter and hesitation, made worse under stress on the hills when she tends to want to go to that gear. I’ve worn out the barrel adjuster at the downtube stopper adjusting that thing over the years, to the point where it almost feels stripped out (I’ll replace it soon). I’ve taken it to two different shops and while they tune it in their minds, as soon as she gets back on the road it’s skipping and hopping cogs again. Looking at it system wise, I started to wonder if there was a mismatch somewhere in the, uh, chain of connections: Ultegra 10spd shifters, FSA compact crank, double front derailleur, XT long cage rear der, wide range 9spd cassette. It worked for the most part except in certain combinations. The wondering lasted a couple of years until recently I recommended, after watching her gamely struggle up the commute hills under her commute burden, that she get a triple set up. I’d put bar-ends on the Vaya, give her my brifters (the most expensive part of the equation) and we’d get her a new crankset with 170mm arms. And basically that’s what the bike shop did for us. Unfortunately, I also provided the shop a new Shimano bottom bracket in a 110mm spindle length, per Sugino’s instructions, completely forgetting the wealth of online advice about Sugino cranks, especially on Long Haul Truckers, Crosschecks and other similar ‘touring’ bikes, and how you generally needed longer spindles than what Sugino recommended in their crankset specs. The shop called to say everything was set, but that they thought we needed an even smaller bottom bracket. I went to pick up the bike and the guy showed me how, in the middle ring and at the extreme cogs there was a little ‘catch’ in the chain; the chainline wasn’t quite as perfect as he wanted. He thought maybe either things would wear in or we should get a smaller bottom bracket. This puzzled me, but I let it rest. It seemed very, very minor, at least on the bike rack. The next day, during our own 65 mile version of the Flying Wheels, the ‘Lady had all kinds of shifting problems, seemingly unrelated to the bottom bracket, just the same old shift-skipping issues. In sum, with the new parts and with new cabling, it appeared nothing had changed at all, the same old bad shifting habits were there, i.e. a skipping over rear cogs, loss of momentum up a hill while trying to settle into a gear. Frustrating!
So I ordered some parts online:
I knew, from the Vaya, that the Tiagra shifters, Tiagra triple FD, and Deore LX (the ‘Euro trekking’ one) rear derailleur worked well, so I resolved to recreate this combo on her Crosscheck. I also love the Deore LX as it has a barrel adjuster right at the derailleur housing, which I find much better than just at the downtube stopper. I also got her a trick new Deore XT cassette — I figured, I might as well get a new cassette and chain to match her new crankset and derailleur. First up, I swapped out her new Shimano UN54 bottom bracket with the former IRD one (at 113mm) to see if that helped at all; on the bike rack, nope it didn’t help the ghost shifting, but the ‘extreme’ chain line problems seemed gone. I hope that going to a longer spindle at 113 rather than going with the shop’s recommendation of a shorter (107?) does the trick.
[Edit 1] Well I feel pretty stupid… the 113mm spindle bottom bracket didn’t work, as it was so wide it prevented the front der from shifting to the big ring! Ooops. Well, in hindsight it’s kind of hilarious, right sweetie? Whap!! Interestingly, I put on the 110mm bottom bracket, snugged down the cranks, and now that sort of almost-wanting-to-skip-off-the-crank sound in the extreme cogs seems gone… not sure if I did anything different from what the shop would have done. The bad shifting in back still remains. [end Edit]
Other than that, I’m learning a lot, and yet can’t help shaking the thought that I’m missing something — and yet if so, then three bike shops (with some really good mechs) are also missing it.
I didn’t want to try too much troubleshooting at once and instead we’ll go through this in stages. Today, once this rain lets up a little, when we go for 100 miles we’ll definitely see how things shake out!
[Edit 2] Hmm, I didn’t really say much about our Flying Wheels last week, did I? Well it was fun! My dad did so great. The funny thing is SurlyLady was on fire, and was way out in front of us most of the way and my dad was taking off after her like a hound for the mechanical rabbit. We were just cruising around Lake Sammamish. At the rest stop (the one and only…) he looked pretty tired, but like he was doing better than expected. He asked, “is it really halfway done?” Later in the ride I mentioned something about maybe doing a longer ride next year, and he didn’t immediately balk. That’s the visceral thing about signing up for organized rides, and the ride itself: you place a marker on a calendar, you buy a ticket (obligation not to back out), then you train leading up to the ride… then on the ride you go from geo-spatial point A to point B, and at the end of the day you can look back and easily understand the accomplishment. Best of all, you almost always wind up wanting more. I’m thinking my pop might be hooked a little on the bike riding! [end Edit]