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Ben Folsom
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Rules 5 and 9
Rules 5 and 9

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1982 Trek 728: Old Brake Tech (cont’d)

This bike came with a fairly rare and well-regarded set of brakes, the Dia Compe New Gran Compe NGC 450, these centre-pull caliper brakes had excellent stopping power, a shiny, polished anodized finish and appear generally to be associated with higher-end production bikes and custom builders from the early 1980's. Everything I have been able to read about these brakes says I should try and keep them on the bike.

Unfortunately, these brakes debuted just as centre-pull calipers were going the way of the dodo bird, they were an elegant and functional solution in a bicycle braking world that was rapidly moving away from centre-pull brakes and toward cantilever brakes. By the mid-1980’s centre-pull calipers were all but out of production. While eBay (and bicycle co-op bins the world over) attest to the one-time popularity of centre-pulls, they have experienced no real resurgence, despite Dia Compe reissuing these (more on this as well), along with the classic 650 and 710 centre-pulls.

These brakes appearing on the scene late and being selected out by nature would not be a big deal, except for the fact that they sought to introduce a new brake pad-post standard. Existing smooth-post brake posts are 7.0mm, while the NGC 450 pad holder has a 6.0mm diameter. Since these brakes and their ilk died before catching hold, no one ever made smooth-post brake pads or pad holders with a 6mm post.

That means if I want to use the brakes, I need to use these pad holders, which is no problem except that the rubber brake pads in the holders are original, meaning they are 35 years old, they are worn down from use and hard from age. I do not prefer to use these pads.

Off to the internets I go, where I discover the Kool Stop pads for SunTour Superbe brakes are the closest match, in that same thread is a discussion of how to get the new pads in the holders. I ordered a set of pads, they arrived yesterday and I set about the work.

The first step was to get the original pads out of the holders. I used a small flathead screwdriver to pry the rear edge of the pad out (these holders and pads are symmetric, so ‘rear’ was arbitrary), then used a larger flathead to pry the rest of the pad out. I used pliers to bend back the rear edge of the holder. While the tutorial I found suggested to break if off and file down the edge, in economy of activity, I have simply opted to leave the flap in the ‘down’ position.

The replacement pads are very nearly the same as the originals, slightly shorter, and the anchor portion (the angular portion of the pad that holds the pad in the holder) was a tad too tall. I remedied this by getting out my exacto knife and taking off a millimeter from the back. Liberal application of rubbing alcohol to pad and holder made things move, and soon I had four new brake pads, ready to go back into the brakes. I am no fan of kluging, so there will be extensive testing to ensure the pads are seated safely in the holders and will not rip out on hard braking.

My brake troubles, however, are not over yet. This bike came with 700c (622 BSD) wheels featuring a SunTour standard thread-on freewheel. The Bike Shed is lousy with vintage Helicomatic wheels, however they are all 27-inch (630 BSD). The next order of business will be to install the presumptive new wheels, reinstall the old brakes and be sure they reach properly.

I can never do anything the easy way.

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In the past few years, Dia Compe has reissued the NGC 450 brakes, they look very nice but are quite expensive, Dia Compe is definitely targeting the boutique and retrogrouch sets. They also make and sell the pad separately, so I simply tried to find a set. However, through multiple contacts with UK outlets and Dia Compe themselves, I have learned that the pads are not distributed separately into either UK or US, which begs the question, Why would I pay $200 for a set of brakes that feature a proprietary standard for which there is no availability or market substitute?

The answer tells me at once why modern NGC 450 pads would not work for these old brakes, and also why the pads for the reissued brakes are not sold widely: They redesigned the new versions of the brakes to work with standard 7.0 mm smooth posts.
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4/30/17
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Summer 2017 Bike Tour - A route emerges

Note: Planning mode only, this is not final itinerary.

When these things come to me, they come hard and I have a hard time putting them down. Since my last post two days ago, I have drawn up a route and rough schedule for the as-yet-unnamed summer 2017 bike tour. This tour is still in planning stages, though things will settle quickly once I sort logistics. I hope to have tour mates, if you are interested in doing this ride, set this collection to give you a notification.

What: We are going to ride across the US state of Missouri, west to east.

When: TBD, but looking a lot like this ride will start when August does, and will take a full seven days for all activities.

Total distance: ~350 miles / 563 km

Route types: ~60 miles on roads, ~270 miles on crushed limestone rail-trails.

Basic itinerary:

Day One
Fly in to Kansas City, Mo. Retrieve pre-shipped bike and gear from shipping recipient (likely the hotel or a FedEx service location). Put bike together, ride to hotel in downtown KC. Get a good BBQ meal, hang with +Noah Axon, drink some whiskey and sleep in a bed.
Day's accommodations: Hotel
Day's est. mileage: Five miles, around town
Total est. mileage: Five miles

Day Two
Depart hotel to the southeast, ride ~35 miles on the road from downtown KC, through Lee's Summit to Pleasant Hill. There, remove helmet and get on the newly-minted Rock Island Trail, an in-development Missouri rail-trail that will complement the established Katy Trail. Ride the Rock Island ~47 miles to Windsor, and plant for the night in the Farrington City Park on the east side of Windsor.
Day's accommodations: Camp
Day's est. mileage: 82 miles
Total est. mileage: 87 miles

Day Three
Depart Windsor to the northeast, now on the Katy Trail. Ride 89 miles to Columbia, a super-fun college town home to the University of Missouri. Arrive around dinner, check into a downtown hotel on the strip, get a meal and drinks, enjoy the local scene, sleep in a bed.
Day's accommodations: Hotel
Day's est. mileage: 89 miles
Total est. mileage: 176 miles

Day Four
Depart Columbia, following the trail spur south back to the Katy, turn east. The agenda starts to get fuzzy from here, and if there will by any 'stealth' or 'wild' camping, it will likely be over the next couple of days. Towns are small and sparse, and we can ride as far as we like. I bird-dogged this day at 63 miles to Portland, which has an RV campground with tent sites, and bar and grill in town. However, we could just as easily ride another ten miles to Bluffton, which has two campgrounds, but no discernible food service establishments. Alternatively, we could always pack down anywhere in a secluded area off trail and wild camp, eating out of our own pantries. Any miles we do over/under the estimated 63 come off of/go on to the next days' rides.
Day's accommodation: Camp
Day's est. mileage: 63 miles
Total est. mileage: 239 miles

Day Five
Depart Portland, or wherever we ended up, continuing east on the Katy Trail. As with day four, we can largely be flexible with ride length and accommodation, knowing that the far end of the ride is firm. Once again, towns are small and far apart, this day is roughly scheduled for 50 miles to Augusta, which has a brewery, wineries, camping and at least five B&B's, it looks like a community out of a touring cyclist's dreamworld. Alternatively, we could cut the day 11 miles short at Marthasville, which has camping, food, a winery and three B&B's. As with the previous day, miles over or under will be accounted for in following days.
Day's accommodation: Camp or B&B
Day's est. mileage: 50 miles
Total est. mileage: 289 miles

Day Six
Heading back to the city. Depart wherever we ended up and continue east on the Katy Trail. From Augusta, it is 25 miles to the Page Avenue Bridge across the Missouri River, this is a suspension bridge with a separated bike lane. From there, it is 25 miles on the road into downtown St. Louis. Check into our hotel, clean up and enjoy some St. Louis nightlife.
Day's accommodation: Hotel
Day's est. mileage: 50 miles
Total est. mileage: 340 miles

Day Seven
Check out of hotel, box up bikes and gear and get them to the appropriate shipping point. Make our way to St. Louis airport for afternoon/evening flights. Be sure to get our stories straight before separating. Group hug, go home.
Day's accommodation: Your own bed
Day's est. mileage: 5 miles
Total est. mileage: 345 miles


I have been able to glean from records of other bike tours and websites of the towns, municipalities, campsites, businesses, etc. along the Katy Trail that the communities along the trail are VERY welcoming to bike tourists and the economic input they bring. The route is dotted with small towns with little general stores, we should have no problem staying provisioned, and accommodations capacity (the number of bed and campsites along the way) appears generally to be in line with demand, meaning we can be flexible and spontaneous in our accommodations. And having reviewed every mile of this route while creating the map, there are looooong stretches where we will be in the middle of nowhere. If we get off schedule, slowed down or leap frog our day, stopping to prepare dinner on a park bench, then camping in the trees off the trail will not be a problem.

More to come. Comments and input welcome.
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A plan begins to form...

* Ship bike and gear to Kansas City, Mo.

* Fly to Kansas City, Mo. sometime between 1 and 5 August 2017.

* Pick up gear and bike, put bike together.

* Stay in quirky Kansas City boutique hotel, find whiskey bar.

* Ride 35 miles on the road to Pleasant Hill, Mo.

* Ride the next 252 miles on the Rock Island and Katy Trail bike trails.

* Ride 25 miles on the road to quirky St. Louis boutique hotel, find whiskey bar.

* Pack and ship bike and gear back home.

* Fly home from St. Louis. sometime between 7 and 12 August 2017.

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On holiday without time or access to give this a proper pithy writeup, so posting it for my own future reference. Shorter university study:

1. All road users break the law.

2. Cyclists do so for reasons to do with their own safety, while drivers do it to save time.

3. Lack of penetration of utility cycling in society is the main source of asymmetrical friction between drivers and cyclists.

This confirms what we all know, on many levels, and reinforces my opener in conversation with someone new on the topic of 'The Scofflaw Cyclist.'

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Buh-bye to the winter carry for another year

I carry all my commuting gear, supplies and victuals in a Topeak trunk bag, the big one with the fold-down panniers. In the warm months, I can carry four set-ups (dress shirt, underwear, t-shirt, dress socks, towel, washcloth) at a time, two in each deployable pannier. In the cold months, one side pannier is devoted to a full-time winter weather carry, dropping my set-up capacity down to two at a time.

In my first winter of bike commuting, I tried to pick my gear for the day, and too many times botched it, either wearing too much or too little, or not preparing adequately for the ride home in the evening. So I started carrying anything I might need for any cold-weather conditions, at all times on all commutes. This has two main benefits:

1. All the winter gear is in one place. In the morning I check the weather and pull out what I need. I can do the same thing at the end of the day without fear of forgetting something at home.

2. If conditions change or were not as reported, I can add, shed or change my outfit on the fly. A few times I have been happy to have lighter gloves on me, and a few times I was happy to have a heavier head covering.

With spring in D.C. upon us, it is safe to pack up the winter carry for another year. A walkthrough, left to right:

Back row: Bontrager super-heavy crab-claw gloves (15F and below), Pearl Izumi heavy gloves (16 to 29F), Gore medium gloves (30 to 39F), Gore light gloves (40 to 52F), wool glove liners.

Middle row: Gore shoe covers (29F and below), Vaude toe covers (30 to 39F), wool cap (20 to 32F), wool baklava (19F and below).

Front row: Nashbar leg warmers (39F and below), SmartWool merino boxers (32F and below), self-contained Gore gore-tex cold weather rain kit (jacket, pants, helmet cover, gloves, shoe covers).

Not pictured are the things that roll in and out on a daily basis, such as long- vs. short-sleeve base layers, technical boxers for windy and cold but not freezing days, long-sleeve jerseys and riding jackets. What you see here is what I carry on the bike every day from about November to about April.

Over the years, the winter carry has stabilized, I have not made significant changes to the configuration recently, with the exception of adding the crab-claw gloves two years ago. Much of the gear is five years or more old, I will be on the hunt for warm-weather deals on cold-weather gear.

I love riding my bike to work.
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Looking in the wrong places

This month is two years since Josh and Will tried out and, for a short time, joined a competitive cycling club here in northern Virginia. By every single measure, every single one, it was a horrible experience. The club leadership were generally assholes, the program was not welcoming, there was no apparent strategy for rider retention and growth, and the training rides and races were way far out of the way. It was a horrible experience and we quit before the first race.

And here is the real upshot: If you cannot get the bicycle-mad Folsoms 100 engaged, you really have a shitty, shitty program. We ride as a family, A LOT, I coached the boy's lacrosse teams for six years, I do all my own mechanic's work and can keep a training pace with youth riders. I would have been able to tolerate great imperfections in a youth cycling program and contribute a great deal of time and effort before tossing in the towel, and the club just made it clear again and again that my two 12 year-olds were not hardcore enough and not wanted. See below for a link to the long-form series I wrote on this experience last year.

So now, USA Cycling 'wants us back.' They want to improve penetration into the non-racing areas of the demographic with services, in the hopes of increasing their funding base and putting USA Cycling in the same advocacy and organizing conversations as other, larger or higher-profile cycling-related entities, such as the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and People for Bikes.

It's all wrong, still all wrong.

=====

Here is what you do: Take every bit of that $4 million and focus it on creating youth clubs and leagues in dense areas. Don't bother trying to close roads for races, find a mall or a commuter lot or a decaying field track and hold criterium races. Make it social first, engage families to staff the leagues, make it a learning experience about the discipline and where cycling fits in society.

Those youths will grow up to ride bikes everywhere. Some will become racers.

What USA Cycling is trying to do right now is to increase the awareness of the brand, not improve the quality of the racing. We can do both if we start early and breed a larger pool of racers. Our family loves cycling and the biggest club in the mid-Atlantic could not keep us for 90 days. How many kids that might find joy in riding a bike are never even considering it because it is a boutique sport with high entry costs and that one bike guy in their neighborhood is telling them not to bother?

Background:
The long and awful story of the Folsoms' foray into competitive youth cycling:
https://plus.google.com/+BenFolsom/posts/GXykda5V5aw

Specific detail on how USA Cycling should go forward to engage youth ranks properly (hint: It looks a lot like youth soccer):
https://plus.google.com/+BenFolsom/posts/RYo1yZS72G7

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Having ridden all 184.5 godforsaken miles of the C&O Canal Towpath from Washington, DC to Cumberland, Md., I can safely attest that turning it into a High Line-style elevated and landscaped multi-use path and artspace is going to be awesome. These development timelines seem optimistic, though.

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1982 Trek 728: Bottom Bracket

Another day, another hard-to-find tool for a vintage bike, this time the bottom bracket.

In 1982, SunTour released the SS series of bottom brackets, these were innovative cartridge bearing units, and while my knowledge of bike tech is far from complete, I am not aware of a cartridge bearing bottom preceding this unit. While I have yet to remove the item in question or see a picture of the inside of one, I understand them to use standard cartridge bearings of an as-yet-undetermined size, contained in the shell you see in the picture. Mounting rings thread into the bike's bottom bracket shell to hold the bearing assembly in place against the spindle, snug against the bearings, and a lockring on either side keeps it all in place.

Of the many specs available for old bikes at Vintage Trek, bottom bracket type is generally not one of them, and I typically only learn by removing them. This bike has that bottom bracket. It is extremely rare and held in high regard for its age, it is rare enough that an example (and therefore current market value) is not currently available on eBay.

But again, I had no idea it was in the bike. I got the pedals and crank off, my trusty Park Tool HCW-5 lockring wrench got the lockrings right off, and I was confronted with a mounting ring spline pattern I had never seen before. It has 8 wide splines, rather than pin spanner holes or 3mm wrench flats, as do most of the mounting rings of similar vintage. Despite all the goddamn money I have spent on tools, I definitely do not have the tool to remove this bottom bracket.

Off to the internet. John Allen, at sheldonbrown.com, references the unit, and notes the ring installation pattern was proprietary SunTour and not adopted widely, but that the Shimano FR-6 BMX freewheel removal tool will fit the splines.

Glad I did not go ahead and pull the trigger on an FR-6 right there, as that guidance turned out to be wrong (the FR-6 splines are too wide). A good bit of additional research (frankly, more than I am used to even adjusted for the age of the gear I am typically searching) later tells me these units were only marketed by SunTour for three years, and the spline pattern is present on these units only and never spread to other SunTour or SR-branded bottom brackets. There is a SunTour-branded removal tool (the TA-230), it is ultra-rare and the standard was never copied or licensed by other makers. Like much of the old tech I prefer to ride, it was an evolutionary dead end.

Back to eBay. There is a guy selling two, so I bought one. Because of course. You can go ahead and start laying down your bets as to how long I can stare at the listing for the other without cracking and buying it.

There were three bottom bracket models, I presume this one, on a bike with a triple crank, will have the widest chainline. My plan is to use the new tool to get it out, pry out the bearing cartridges, clean up the body and spindle and either reuse the existing bearings (the action feels very smooth) or else measure the size and buy some new ones, they are less than ten bucks each.
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1982 Trek 728
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1982 trek 728: On the stand

Five years running, I have done an independent, as in self-supported and not part of a larger, organized, bike tour, these tours always happen in the summer, mainly due to ease of scheduling; my kids are out of school and stewing in a hot broth of summer camps, visits to grandparents, and hopefully this summer, work.

In 2014, I acquired my first purpose-built touring bike, the 2012 and 2013 tours having been ridden on a commuter bike modified for touring. It was a coveted 1985 Trek 620. I rode that 2014 tour with +Aric Smarra, that year we rode Skyline Drive through the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia.

In 2015, I managed to land a 1984 Trek 620. I overhauled it and rode 300 miles across Pennsylvania with +Scott Loveless and +Jeff Lesperance. In 2016, a scored a 1983 Trek 620 and rode the length of Maryland's and Virginia's Eastern Shore with +Sean Lally, +❨❨❨RJ Lalumiere❩❩❩ and +Chris Johnson. You see where this is going.

Yesterday the 2017 touring bike came to the front of the line, it is a 1982 Trek 728, this bike is the father of the legendary Trek 720, itself the rare and higher-end model of the 620 touring bike I love so much. And while the exact details of this year's tour are uncertain, all signs point to a west-to-east crossing of the state of Missouri as this year's summer tour, sometime in early August.

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And so we start the teardown. First off, best I can tell, this bike is all stock. There are/were a number of mods on the bike, though none of them affected the stock buildout. There were remains of a Cateye bike computer and a bolt-on dyno-light, they were incomplete, I have removed and discarded them.

Then I removed the wheels. The stock wheels on this bike are 700c / 622 BSD, which itself is interesting because 1982 was firmly in the realm of the 27-inch / 630 BSD dominance in the US. While European makers never adopted the 27-in standard for bikes sold in the Euro market, 27-inch was all the rage in the US. The 1982 Trek catalog features a 50-50 mix of wheel sizes, with 700c assigned to the higher-end bikes and 27-inch on the rest. Within two years, only the highest-end trek racing bikes still had 700c wheels, including the famous 720 and 620 workhorse touring bikes, which were converted in later years to 27-inch.

But the size is not the reason the wheels were removed. The stock rear wheel has a SunTour Ultra 6 freewheel, with the standard SunTour two-notch ring on the freewheel body. My strong preference for touring bikes is the Helicomatic standard, and I have managed to find a set of 700c Helicomatic wheels of about the same vintage. When the time comes, these wheels will come out of the box for evaluation and installation. If these wheels are problematic, I will explore 27-inch wheels, as I have a good set of Helicomatics in 27-inch.

Staying with the drivetrain, this bike came stock with Huret Duopar Eco rear derailer, this is a fairly well-known and loved/hated piece of old tech. It had a second, vertically-extending parallelogram inboard of the main, by dropping the cage vertically in tandem with the natural action of the main parallelogram, this derailer could accommodate extremely wide-range gearing befitting a touring bike. It suffered some inherent weaknesses though, that magnify with age and use, and the bottom line is that I hate it. I rode one tour, the 2014 tour on the 1985 Trek 620, with the stock Duopar, and it was much more trouble than it was worth. When this derailer came off, it will not go back on, and likely will be replaced with a SunTour VX-GT unit.

Continuing with the rear of the bike, the rack was installed with older M5 bolts, the mushroom-head type with the 3mm hex, these bolts do not age well. The two at the top, fixing the rack to the top of the chainstays, were rusted frozen. At 3mm, the hex is small enough easly to be rounded off, and the mushroom-head of the bolt, rather than a cylindrical head, makes it tough to get a hold of with pliers. I soaked the nuts in PB Blaster for an hour and worked them out.

The rack itself has some interesting artifacts. There is a Blackburn 'Racktop' accessory installed, giving the rack a top platform. Some sort of proprietary slide rail is installed on either side of the top edge of the rack, these are unidentified by make or model and appear have been a simple way to slide a pannier bag into place. There is a section of half-inch metal tubing fastened to the left rear of the rack, it has a mushroom-shaped opening at the top and is cemented shut at the bottom. I speculate this was for a flag or safety pennant. Finally, three spare rear spokes are electrical-taped to the inside of the rack, since I will not be using the stock wheels, these are not useful for me.

Next up: The teardown continues.
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3/20/17
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A clean workbench? Must be time for a new project.
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