I figure it’s about time I wrote something… of course given that I’m not on the road at the moment it probably isn’t going to be anything interesting.. after all my spare time has settled down into a normal routine of surf/kayak/bike (not necessarily in that order)… and the endless round of DiY that comes with owning a 200year old cottage (but enjoying angle grinders and hammers and stuff again)… so.. what to write about…? Hmm, I know.. fixed gear, haven’t touched that topic at all yet this year:-) I was thinking about it today while out racing* around the lanes on my DeSalvo… A couple of weeks ago I realised that the drivetrain was worn out.. well, chain and sprocket anyway. It’s something I’d never paid attention to given that there is no gear shifting quality to deteriorate or skipping on small sprockets and that in theory a good quality 1/8″ chain and sprocket should last for ages…. I just really began to notice that the chain was noisier than it used to be and that a drop of lube wouldn’t fix it. I got my rohloff chain stretch gauge out and found it was well past it’s sell by date. Being a bit of a cycling nerd I suppose my riding log has a little feature for recording equipment use and ‘events’ in the life of that bike.. it told me that the DiD track chain and Phil Wood sprocket only lasted 6000km… for sure it’s more than I’d expect to get out of a 10/11spd chain and titanium cassette but nothing like as good as I expected. From a basic engineering point of view it’s explained by the hills around here… cranking a 72″ or 75″ gear up and down Cornwall’s hills puts a hell of a lot of stress on the chain/rings/sprocket such that the interfaces between teeth and chain are carrying a huge load, and the chain itself is bound to wear quickly under that stress too. It wasn’t enough just to replace the chain.. the teeth on the Phil sprocket were showing a noticeable ‘hook’ in their profile so that has been replaced also. It was too shiny and expensive to throw away so now it’s an appropriately nerdy paperweight… those sprockets are about 40 quid at present so given the relatively short lifespan it’s been replaced by a boring, not very shiny but highly functional Miche sprocket (£12) and matching chain £7… Mind you even if I had spent another £40 on a cog it’s still inexpensive cycling compared to the large wedge needed to replace a worn out 10spd cassette and chain :-)
Yeah, so how dry was that… hehe, I haven’t quite finished with the fixed gear yet though.. I’ve been finding my regular 48×18 72″ gear rather under-geared around here recently.. except on the very steep hills so have switched to a slightly stiffer 48×17 or 75″ gear that I can still get up the really steep bits with yet enjoy a faster cruise on the bits in between.. some folk will be wondering how soon it’ll be before I destroy my knees.. thing is I don’t think I will.. I used to suffer knee trouble before I started riding a lot of fixed.. 6 years ago, wow… getting old… . and now I have none.. my theory is that the use of my legs for braking, especially on steeper descents plus the need to develop a very smooth pedal stroke to cope with the hills round here efficiently has developed the muscles supporting my knee such that it is now a much more stable joint than it ever could have been riding solely on gears.. . having said that though I will take it easy on the steeps to begin with… probably….
There’s been other less obvious benefits too.. since leaving the gears and stuff behind I lost interest in the never ending race to keep up with the latest innovations and light weight kit that make bike nerdiness/weight-weenyism such an expensive pastime.. the body is incredibly adaptable and since finding I can happily fly all over Cornwall almost as fast without gears, riding a bike with heavy track hubs and a relative boat anchor of a crank (but very very stiff) it has saved me a large wedge of cash :-) Even the large initial outlay of cash for a custom titanium frame is starting to look like incredibly good value as I think I’ll be riding it pretty much forever… Stiffness in the drivetrain, wheels and frame has proven to be far more beneficial than light weight… oh, and it’s made me stronger too.. and I don’t ever have to spend ages cleaning it…
ya, anyway enough of all that, very dull.. but some folk might find it mildly interesting ;-) I’m hoping for some good waves tomorrow – I still haven’t really used my helmet cam in anger.. I did take it with me to Sennen last night but the waves were indifferent and the weather cold and gloomy, no-one bothered to hang around for a BBQ after– it was a case of kayak on car and racing home via the chippy.
next week I’ll write about paint drying.. or something…
* I felt sluggish and tired when I came home from S America… but now I’ve got past that recovery stage I have good legs.. very good legs in fact and I’m really enjoying it :-) I doubt I’ll race this year though, season hasn’t got long to run and I seem to spend most Sundays afloat… next year ;-)