Tag Archives: bicycle maintenance




I got lucky today! One of the men at running club offered me his old mountain bike for parts to repair the one that fell off the back of the car. I was expecting an old hunk of metal so was pleasantly surprised when I went to collect the bike. It’s a nice little entry level full suspension machine. Sure, it’s heavy and a no-name brand but it is in good condition (and it was free). The rear derailleur is bent so it catches the wheels when in the granny gear, and the rear derailleur and brakes are sluggish (probably just a matter of new cables). But these should all be easy to fix. It could also do with a new set of tyres (but they are consumables anyway).

My MTB needing repair

My MTB needing repair

So this is the current state of my normal MTB. It’s looking a bit sad. I don’t know whether you can see how badly bent the handlebars are from the photo. I’m hoping to go to RecycleWorld tomorrow at the rubbish tip to see whether there’s a suitable parts bike there for next to nothing. I’m particularly keen to get a rear wheel and now a rear derailleur so I can fix up both MTBs. The rest of the parts are relatively cheap and I have been offered a set of brake levers / brakes by another running friend.I am very keen to get this bike working again because I just love riding it. There will be races where it’s better suited to the course than the full suspension bike, which loses a lot of power in the suspension.

Who knows, I might soon have three bikes: my road bike, full rigid MTB and full suspension MTB. Then all I need is a second set of clipless pedals for the new MTB and I’ll be on my way.

A couple of rest days

I’ve taken the past two days off training because my sacroiliac joint is giving me trouble. I whipper snipped (I don’t know the non-Australian-slang term for this activity) the borders of my lawn yesterday for the first time since May. It only took half an hour but it did enough damage to make walking painful so I wasn’t keen to try running. My partner has a similar back injury to me and she later told me that she doesn’t whipper snip for the same reason.

This evening I replaced the brake cables on my mountain bike. That felt like quite an accomplishment after riding all year without brakes.

As 2012 draws to a close, my partner and I are taking stock of our current life and financial situations. Our lifestyle has changed drastically the past three years and the dreams we had back then are vastly different to those we have today. We are starting to feel more certain about the direction we would like to take for the next half decade and, without saying anything more, 2013 is going to be a huge year of exploration for us.

I’m going mountain biking tomorrow morning. The physical exercise will do me good.

Upgrading my MTB part 1

Unlike the update to my road bike, my MTB update will have to happen in stages.

Upgrade 1 complete including new white grips

I’ve slowly been installing the new components and accessories I bought for my MTB. Normally I’d be keen as mustard to get them all installed to try them out. But I’ve not been able to ride and won’t be able to until the weekend at least so I’ve been taking it slowly.

New vs old

I started by replacing the tyres. The old set had a lot of miles on them and were better suited the road. My new sets are an off-road set that promise to give me better performance now that I’m using the MTB as an MTB instead of as a road commuter (which is how I was using it when I bought the old tyres in 2009).

The old cassette

New 7-sp HG-50 cassette

I replaced the old 7sp Shimano HG40 cassette and chain with a 7sp Shimano HG50 combination. The old cassette was totally worn out and filthy. And the chain was destroyed. At one point I had let it rust after riding in mud and not cleaning the bike while it sat in the garage for about 12 months before the Adventure Race Australia event earlier this year. Since then I’ve just been dropping heaps of lube onto it and ignoring it creaking. I can’t wait to feel how good the bike moves now that it has a new chain and cassette.

Partially stripping the bike back to clean the frame

The filthy crankset

The cleanest the crankset’s been since I bought the bike

Disgusting rear derailleur

The derailleur wheels can spin again

To say the bike was filthy is an insult to filthy. My old MTB had not been properly washed since I bought it. Sure, I’d hosed it down after Adventure Race Australia in May and the Tre-X Off-Road Duathlon in July. But that was all I did: hose it. I didn’t get in an wash it properly or remove more than the outermost layer of mud.

The crankset and rear derailleur were a seemingly permanent shade of brown, rather than the black and silver they should have been. The jockey wheels on the rear derailleur didn’t even move anymore because the mud and grass were blocking them. I’m sure I’ll notice the difference in my first ride.

New tyres, pedals, chain and cassette

I can’t wait to ride the beast now that it feels like a real bike. I have new grips to replace the sticky mess that I used to have to hold (great thing I learned about the hairspray trick because otherwise they would never have got on). I also have finally got clipless pedals on my MTB rather than the flats I used to use.

My next upgrade will be my brakes and brake levers. I was thinking about getting a set of Deore levers and brakes but might just start by replacing the cables and seeing whether that fixes the stickiness that I’ve currently go (I have to push the levers back out to release the brakes). Though I still might just replace the whole lot if I find a spare $100. I used to run Deore on my old MTB and loved the groupset. Eventually I want to upgrade my whole groupset to Deore but it’s easier to do it bit-by-bit on my MTB because the brake and gear levers are separate.

Anyway, I can’t wait until I can hit the trails on the MTB. If my back keeps responding to treatment it should be find by Saturday, which would mean I could get back on the bike next weekend (I want to leave a week between the pain subsiding and getting back into training because the SIJ takes 2-3 weeks to heal after the pain ends).

The Tiagra groupset is sweet!

1996 Trek OCLV with new wheels and groupset

I realised I haven’t yet shared my joy at having my bike upgraded with a new Tiagra groupset and Shimano 501 wheels.

Tiagra 10sp double groupset

The bike originally came with an 8-speed Shimano Ultegra 600 groupset, which was top of the line at the time.

The bike went into storage in about 1999 only to come out about 8 years later when Mum started to ride it. She eventually replaced the cassette with a Shimano HG-41 MTB cassette so that she had a granny gear.

When I started riding the bike last year, I replaced half the groupset with an 8-speed triple ring Sora groupset from a 2005 Giant OCR3.

But now it is adorned with a full 10-speed double ring Shimano Tiagra groupset.

Shiny new 10sp cassette and rear derailleur

It’s going to take a while to get used to the new gear ratios. Especially because I don’t have any double-up in the middle of my range like I used to. But once I’ve ridden a few times I’ll be set.

New view over the front of the bike: check out the cool white tyres

I even got new brakes with the new groupset. No more panicking when I ride too fast.

I can’t wait until next week when I should finally be able to take my sweet new-ish ride out to see how she handles.


Tiagra 4600 10sp groupset

Tiagra 4600 10sp groupset

With the death of my 2005 Shimano Sora 8sp triple front derailleur I have embarked on an exciting new cycling journey: a 2012 Tiagra 10sp double chain ring groupset journey.

Avanti Plus in Fortitude Valley has a whole groupset available for $AU450, which is only $70 more than it would cost me to buy the groupset from my usual UK-based suppliers. For an extra $200 I am getting my old groupset stripped, new groupset installed (including cables) and new bar tape. I also get a free service to adjust the gears after my initial ride.

While I could have bought the tools to install the whole lot myself, I decided that the price for installation is reasonable compared with the cost of buying the necessary tools. The swap will be taking place while I’m away sailing at the Whitsundays so I just have to drop my bike off in the city on my way to the airport tomorrow morning and collect it again on my way home on Saturday afternoon.

Bring on the 200km Audax Australia Bedrock 1 ride next weekend when I will effectively have a brand new bike.

I do hope, though, that this is the last big spend for my bike because I’ve been bleeding money into cycling since getting back into these past months. Still, it’s been a lot cheaper than buying a new bike … and I love my Trek OCLV frame.

Death of my front derailleur


The dead front derailleur

I was excited to cycle to work this morning because I have a new set of wheels on my road bike. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. My front derailleur seems to have died a sudden and mysterious death. It won’t shift at all anymore. When I disconnected the derailleur cable the shifter seemed to be working so I believe the problem must be in the derailleur itself.

I suspect there is a bolt that has come off the side of the derailleur because there is a hole with threading inside it that is currently empty. I don’t know whether or not there ever was a bolt in there because I’ve never checked. But at this early stage of ‘investigations’ I’m fairly sure it’s worked loose somehow.

I am running an 8-speed rear cassette and derailleur with a Shimano HG-50 chain. I’m not keen on replacing the whole drive train yet because that would be expensive. I also currently have a triple chain ring and front shifter on my bike. I can’t find any suitable components online because the Shimano Sora series is now only available in 9-speed and 10-speed, while the only 8-speed triple derailleurs are all designed for flat-bar bike gearing systems.

I guess in this instance I am off to the bicycle shop to find out what my options are. I wouldn’t mind switching to a double chain ring on the front but am concerned the shifter might be expensive to replace. At least this gives me an excuse to replace the bottom bracket and crankset because my smallest chainring is rubbing against the frame protector and the whole crankset is sitting at an awkward (non-parallel) angle to the bike.

Given that I couldn’t cycle to work this morning, I might try another walk/run this evening.

Overkill for commuting?

Perhaps this wheel is overkill for commuting?

Perhaps this wheel is overkill for commuting?

Whenever I see people cycling through the city and suburbs on their race wheels, all I can think is ‘What a w**k**r’. I know it’s harsh but it seems a bit pretentious to me to be riding around the city on carbon fiber deep rims or, worse, full discs. However, this morning I had to become one of those riders … and I felt a little embarrassed about it. I felt very strongly that riding to work with a Zipp 530 on my bike was a bit overkill.

Do you see the problem?

Do you see the problem?

Unfortunately, I had no choice. Last night I was almost home when I heard a big ‘bang’ from the back of my bike. I didn’t know what it was, initially suspecting the bottom bracket had finally packed it in. On closer inspection (I was actually cleaning my bicycle) I discovered a broken spoke. After much swearing I grabbed my trusty laptop and researched options for replacement / repair.

I concluded that it was probably more economical for me to replace my wheel set than to get the spoke replaced. Why? The wheelset on my bike is the original 1996 wheelset that has not had any maintenance so I anticipate that more spokes will pop. And a full new Shimano 501 wheelset only cost me $137, which is relatively cheap compared to the price of repairing one (or more) broken spokes.

So that’s how I ended up cycling to work this morning on a wheel that is certainly overkill for commuting. And why I can’t wait until later today or tomorrow when my new wheelset should arrive.

Total: 12.9km cycle commute each way to and from work.

My new tyres and pump arrived

My new Continental Ultra Sport tyres

My new Mini Morph frame pump

After a long hot day in the saddle yesterday (the maximum temperature hit 35’C / 95’F), I was rewarded today with a big box from Wiggle.co.uk. The box contained my new white Continental Ultra Sport tyres, Mini Morph frame pump and Leyzene tyre levers.

As I’ve mentioned before, my old road bike tyres are so old I can’t remember buying them. They almost disintegrated when I took them off the bike; I think it was just the tubes and road grit holding them together 😉 . Tonight I replaced them with my new white tyres. I still haven’t decided whether the white tyres look super cool or really stupid. Either way, I really like them because I like ‘different’.

The Continentals are a 700 x 23 tyre, which is the same size as the tyres I replaced. I prefer skinny tyres; they feel nice to ride on. I used to ride on 700 x 18 tyres when I was a junior triathlete. It was scary at first to ride on such slim slivers of rubber but over time I’ve become used to it to the extent that anything wider on my road bike feels slow and clunky. I can’t wait to hit the road tomorrow morning to test them out properly.

I also bought a new Mini Morph frame pump to use in emergencies. I decided to buy the version that doesn’t have a pressure gauge because I’m hoping never to use it (one must have positive thoughts). The pump can be mounted either on the drink bottle lugs or using cable ties.

Our summers here in Brisbane are long and hot. For the next 6-7 months we will consistently have daytime temperatures ranging from 28’C (82’C) to 35’C (95’F) so I don’t want to give up any of my water-carrying capacity (I can carry four biddons on my bike). Instead, I used the cable ties. At first I attached the pump under the top tube but I found that restricted my ability to access my biddons. Instead I went against convention and mounted the pump on top of the bar. It fits well and doesn’t get in the way there.

The only customisations left to make this bike perfect for me are a spare light set (necessary for most Audax Australia rides) and either a handlebar bag or seatpost bag (necessary to carry rain jacket or jumper). I need to get the lightset before 10 November when I have my first Audax ride. The bag is a lower-priority item that I’ll think about some more.

For now, I’m just excited about having new tyres to go with the new chain and cassette. Bring on tomorrow morning’s ride.

Pimping my road bike


1. Removing the old cassette


The filthy old hub and cassette mount


2. Clean hub and cassette mount


New cassette installed. Compare to old cassette

My first ever bicycle mechanical repair went well. I successfully replaced the cassette on my road bike. The process was mostly easy. The only difficultly I had was getting the old cassette off because it was so tightly stuck on the wheel. But it was nothing that a few love taps from a hammer couldn’t fix.

The new cassette is a 12-23 Shimano HG-50 8 speed cassette. The old cassette was a Shimano HG-40 mountain bike cassette with super easy granny gears, which I am sure I’ll miss when I start climbing some big hills. I think the biggest cog on the old cassette has 31 teeth.

After seeing all the road crud on the cassette, hub and cassette holder, I am going to try to clean this one more regularly to keep it running smoothly.


Remove old chain


Install new chain incorrectly (it’s on the outside of the derraileur guide)


Get new chain pin and reinstall chain correctly

My second mechanical upgrade didn’t go quite as smoothly as replacing the cassette; though it also wasn’t a total disaster.

I was so excited last night that I went outside to replace the chain at about 10:30pm; well after my bedtime. I was feeling cocky so I didn’t pay enough attention to the way I ran the chain through the rear derailleur and I made a bit of a mistake. I fed the chain around the outside of one of the derailleur guides rather than through it. I spent the whole night tossing and turning trying to work out what I’d done wrong. When I went out to check on my bike in the morning I saw my mistake.

I stopped at my local bicycle shop on my way home from socialising at running club to get a new chain pin. They charged me $4 for a single Shimano pin. Needless to say I told them what I thought of that (and the price they quoted me for a 7-speed HG-40 Shimano chain and cassette for my mountain bike). I realise shops have overheads etc but there are limits as to what mark-up I’m willing to pay and I felt quite ripped off for being stung $4 for the pin.

Anyway, I bought it and fixed my chain. After adjusting the derailleur I’m happy with the result.


My broken and small old saddle bag


My new large Kathmandu saddle bag

My old saddle bag was great when I bought it in 2005 but since then one of the zips has seized, the velcro strap that holds it to the saddle snapped, and it only barely fits a tube and my wallet. Kathmandu have a big 50%-off sale so I bought a nice big saddle bag. It easily fits a tube, repair tool (which I also bought) and five food bars.

It’s the ability to carry food without needing a handlebar bag that really sold me on this little gem. It means I will be able to go riding all day without having to worry about running out of calories. I can still carry some food in my jersey pockets but now I can also carry extra for 200+km days (which I hope to be riding more regularly). I could also use it to carry a bicycle chain during my commute, when I don’t need to carry food.


My new mobile phone / wallet top tube bag

After the fuss at Bike Nirvana (my local bike store), I went out to 99 Bikes in Underwood (25km away). They are a larger chain of stores so have better buying power. I wanted to see what they had and how their prices compared with both Bike Nirvana and the online stores, such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction. By local standards, 99 Bikes were quite reasonable. I got three spare chain pins for $2 each, which is double the online price but half that of Bike Nirvana (I didn’t feel ripped off by paying $2 each).

I decided not to buy any parts from the shop because I just can’t justify paying double what I can buy parts for online. To be fair, the biggest issue is the 40% import duty and 10% GST. But I work hard for my money so aren’t going to throw it away unnecessarily.

However, I did get myself a cool impulse buy: a mobile phone top tube bag. It’s touch-pad compatible so I can use it for cycle geocaching and to see whether I need to bother answering the phone if someone calls while I’m out (I don’t always answer it but now at least I don’t have to stop to make that decision). The bag is also large enough to hold my wallet, keys and a food bar. It’s probably the coolest accessory I have, other than the Ayup headlight.


Ready for tomorrow’s 160-200km epic

So that’s stage 1 of my bike pimping done. I’m now ready for tomorrow’s big bike epic. I’m participating in a 100km mass participation ride from Brisbane to the Gold Coast with 10,000 (yes ten thousand) other cyclists. I’m cycling home after the event, which means I’ll ride somewhere between 160-200km.

Once I get my new tyres, frame pump and mirrors I’ll probably leave this bike for a while. When the chain needs replacing again I’ll probably also change the chain ring and bottom bracket. But they’re working well enough for now so there’s no sense rushing.

My first bike tools and components


My first tools and components

I’ve been cycling most of my life but have never had the confidence to perform any mechanical maintenance or repairs on my bicycle. I can identify a range of reasons for this, most of which filter back to a general lack of self-confidence. But in the past year I’ve thrown off those shackles by proving to myself that I’m a competent human being who can achieve my goals. Otherwise how could I have completed all those triathlons, marathon and ultra marathons so soon after returning to competitive sport.

My first order of bicycle tools and components arrived in the mail today so now I have something to do tomorrow (Saturday). I am so excited. I won’t know myself once I have the new chain and cassette installed. They are not just a much-needed, given that the current chain and cassette date to 2005 and haven’t been maintained. But they are also an upgrade from 8-speed Shimano HG-40 to 8-speed Shimano HG-50 components.

I’ll share my first mechanical experience over the weekend. I am sure it will be an interesting learning experience with moments of frustration but that I’ll be successful.