My Winter Bike Should Be Dialed In Just In Time For Spring

Last week I mentioned “nature’s spin cycle” (or maybe “rinse cycle” is more like it), the phenomenon by which a period of warm temperatures and rain followed by freezing clears out all the snow and then freezes the trails into a state of firm rideability.

Well, last Friday night what actually happened was that all the rain froze up before the water had a chance to go anywhere, so when I hit the trails on Saturday morning they looked like this:

Certainly frozen, crystalline trees tinkling in the breeze imparted a sense of Narnian wonder to the proceedings, but just when you started to let into it you’d round a bend and encounter another large patch of ice:

Then once the sun got high enough in the sky the ice immediately turned into mud:

Temperatures remained frigid through Sunday:

So the situation wasn’t much better:

Though at least there were plenty of Ice Cthulhus to admire:

On Monday it warmed up, but it rained once again, though not quite enough to dissuade me from riding:

When I first took delivery of the RockCombo I noted that the brakes were a bit wanting for retarding force, but I’m pleased to announce that between lowering the cable yolk and switching to Kool Stop lox slabs this is no longer a problem:

The shifting is also dramatically improved:

This is thanks to the new wheels I just got from Classic Cycle, and more specifically to the Hyperglide drivetrain the Shimano hub allows me to use:

It’s pretty amazing how much just changing the cassette and chain has transformed the feel of the bicycle, which now shifts quietly and effortlessly, even under load. Indexing may have taken over bicycle transmissions completely, but as far as maximizing shifting performance goes it’s incidental at best , and it’s really shaped cogs and chains that are doing all the heavy lifting in that department, literally and figuratively speaking. Now there’s just one tiny problem, and it has to do with the derailleur:

Specifically, as you can see, the bolt head for the derailleur pulley is on the inboard side, and it protrudes quite a bit:

Or, if you can’t see, here’s a closer look:

I had to back off on the low limit screw in order to let the derailleur shift to all eight cogs (the previous wheels were seven-speed), and the upshot is that when I’m in the lowest gear that bulbous bolt head will contact the spokes just a teeny weeny bit when I’m climbing–not enough to scratch or gouge anything, but enough to be ever-so-slightly audible. It’s not a problem of alignment, and indeed if you look at newer derailleurs you’ll note the inside of the cage is quite smooth, presumably to minimize the likelihood of this sort of thing ever happening.

In order to solve this problem, it seems I had several options:

  • Replace the derailleur
  • Replace the bolt
  • Replace or modify the cassette
  • Leave the cassette as is and lock out the largest cog
  • Ignore it

Unfortunately, all my spare derailleurs were short cage, and I couldn’t find a suitable bolt. I also found the remaining options unappealing, since the whole point of a Shimano hub and friction shifting is that you can use pretty much any cassette you might possibly have on hand, regardless of speeds, free and unfettered. (As far as ignoring it, even I’m not lazy enough to risk my derailleur going into my spokes, though I suppose I could have included “Install massive pie plate” as a possible solution.). This would mean I’d need to go derailleur shopping.

At first I considered various vintage derailleurs on eBay, but ultimately I went with the wagon wheel-pulleyed Shimano Altus, because not only is it ridiculously cheap, but Grant Petersen endorses it, and at this point in my life I’m ready to just stop thinking and do whatever Grant Petersen says:

Actually, that should just be Rivendell’s official slogan at this point:

Rivendell: When You’re Ready To Stop Thinking And Just Do Whatever Grant Petersen Says.

Anyway, hopefully it solves the problem, and hopefully I can live with a comically oversized hybrid bike derailleur on my otherwise period-correct bicycle.

In the meantime, today we’re enjoying nearly spring-like conditions:

So I enjoyed the first dry, non-frigid ride in quite some time:

The drivetrain may still need tweaking, but a little warmth and sun was all I needed to get myself back into adjustment.

Powered by

Up ↑