Just Another Old Crank

Firstly, I’ve got a new Outside column:

In it I make the point that every shoe is potentially a cycling shoe, and that when it gets cold you can save yourself a lot of trouble just riding in hiking boots. Meanwhile, as it happens, I saw this comment on a cycling-related website yesterday, and apparently it was sincere:

It’s fascinating how people need special permission to use things on or near bikes. If I had any brains I’d be sourcing cheap hiking boots, putting an ironic alt-cycling brand name on them, and selling them at a 300% mark-up. It’s about time I launched that Mudbunion marque, come to think of it…

Secondly, I gotta get off Twitter, it’s hurting my brain:

The short answer of course is that everybody’s different, even people who ride bikes. You might as well ask, “Why can some people ride their bikes to work every day yet remain wholly uninterested in racing?” It’s not complicated.

The longer answer is that we all want to be happy, and some people are fortunate enough to be perfectly happy with the way things are. Indeed, it’s entirely possible to ride 5,000 miles a year and enjoy every single one of them without feeling the need to fight for justice. Maybe they don’t encounter the stuff that compels some people to become “radicalized,” or maybe they do and it simply doesn’t bother them all that much. Some people encounter a driver parked in the bike lane and want to put the system on trial, while others just ride around it without even thinking about it. The former doesn’t necessarily make you a better person, and the latter doesn’t necessarily make you complacent, and to puzzle over why someone might remain “wholly uninterested in any political movement for better infrastructure” is like walking into someone’s home and wondering how they can live there and why don’t they just remodel it?

Before I made the biggest mistake of my life by becoming a semi-professional bike blogger instead of starting a bullshit bike company like Mudbunion, I was very much in the “rides lots, doesn’t think about advocacy for even a second” category (well maybe for a second when a driver cut me off or something, but then I’d forget again), and in fact if I mentioned advocacy at all on this blog in the early days it was mostly to make fun of it. What changed for me was that the more I wrote about cycling the more I learned about all the awful stuff that happens that I don’t directly experience, and you could say that I was “radicalized” in the sense that I began to see things differently, and became more acutely aware of the negative consequences of automotive ubiquity.

At the same time, after awhile this growing awareness began to undermine my own happiness, because it’s awful to walk around (or ride around) thinking the world is your enemy, and when you focus too intensely on everyone else’s mistakes and transgressions and convince yourself you’re right at all times and everyone else is wrong you can lose sight of the joy cycling (and life!) gives you, at which point negative experiences and interactions become a foregone conclusion. Of course we need advocates and advocacy, but when too many of those advocates are angry they can undermine cycling in the same way we can undermine ourselves when we lose perspective and humility: confronting drivers, ranting on social media about how we’re all going to die from climate change if we don’t build another bike lane, and all the rest of it. There’s taking a stand and then there’s throwing a tantrum, and unfortunately the nature of online discourse is far too conducive to the latter. You certainly can’t blame the people for not wanting to be a part of that.

So thank goodness there are people who can ride thousands of miles a year without getting “radicalized” and ride simply for the love of riding. The future of cycling depends on it. It’s hard to think of a better way to screw up bikes than predicating participation in them on joining a radical movement.

And yes, we all ride differently and for different reason, and once you start to recognize that you find you love cycling even more. I can’t believe people want crabon bikes with electronic shifting, and they can’t believe I want a steampunk fop chariot like this…

…and yet it doesn’t matter, because it’s totally possible to enjoy your time in your own tunnel without completely surrendering to tunnel vision:

Speaking of Platypussies, they appear to be in stock in all sizes:

Though if you’d rather pay more for one fortunately there’s always Craigslist:

Remember the PistaDex? Perhaps it’s time for the PlatyDex.

Finally, today I did some work on the Normcore Bike:

In particular, I wanted to address some crank-related stuff:

Last April, I changed the bottom bracket, which turned out to be just a bit shorter than the original. As a result, when climbing in the lowest gear, there’s a *teeny* bit of chain rub on the derailleur, even with the limit screw all the way out. (In fact even with the original bottom bracket it seemed like the derailleur wanted to come inboard more than it could.)

Furthermore, while I will always love Biopace (say: BEE-yo-pa-CHAY), I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not so crazy about it for climbing. I freely admit this may all be in my head, but it seems to me that it feels really good when you’re pushing a big gear at a low cadence, but not so good when you’re pushing a little gear at a higher cadence. (Not like I’m exactly spinning my way up climbs, but still.) I think the ideal setup would be a Biopace big ring and a regular little one, but I didn’t have a spare little ring in the appropriate BCD, and was disinclined to buy a new one.

And finally, I’ve been getting a little bit of clicking in the drivetrain, and while it seemed unlikely to be the bottom bracket since I’d just installed a new one with plenty of grease not too long ago, I figured all this stuff together warranted some component-swapping and maybe I’d silence it in the process.

At first I was just going to re-install the original bottom bracket to regain those extra millimeters. But then I began to contemplate this Campagnolo Veloce (I think) specimen, which had lived on the Ironic Orange Julius Bike for many years:

The matching bottom bracket was hopelessly seized in the aforementioned frame. But then I thought about what Sheldon Brown has to say about mixing JIS and ISO cranks and bottom brackets:

While the bottom bracket I’d installed last spring was a bit short for the Shimano crank, maybe it would be just right with the Campy. crank Plus, I had the original rings for it in perfect shape:

So on it went:

The crank definitely sat further out on the spindle, but not excessively so:

The chainline also seemed fine, at least to the extent you can eyeball these things:

But most importantly, the front derailleur was much happier, with both the high and low limit screws right in the middle of their range with the derailleur properly adjusted, and the cable no longer resting on the spring when in the little ring, which it did even with the original bottom bracket:

Then I headed out for a ride, stopping briefly to photograph this run-of-the-mill bike in front a suitably humdrum monument:


The round 39-tooth inner ring feels great, there’s no more chain rub, and the front shifting is much improved, which is probably mostly due to the more modern ramped-and-pinned chainrings, though the round shape and better derailleur position couldn’t hurt. As for the ticking…well, it was still there, even though I did check to make sure the bottom bracket was snug while putting on the crank. But then I messed around with the pedal tension adjusters and it seems like maybe that helped because the bike was pretty quiet after that. We’ll see. In any case I still don’t think it’s the bottom bracket, and if it’s not the pedals it’s probably something similarly stupid. I chased a similar sound on the Milwaukee for at least a year and it turned out to be the shifter cable touching the raised logo on the downtube in certain gear combinations, go figure.

Anyway, it’s possible to transcend the mayhem out there on the roads, but tiny sounds are another story. Those’ll drive you crazy.

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