Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Clé d'enfer

Yup, I saw my first MEC bike in the wild the other day. I gave it a quick look and was not impressed by what I saw. The "obvious"components; rear mech, brakes and the like were low end Shimano, and once you've seen that much Tiagra and Sora on display, you start to despair at what is hidden. You know, how the nominally Ultegra-throughout bike has a 105 bottom bracket? Well what's the BB spec on this beaut? Shinano Reject? Still, horses for courses and all that, and this little red monster isn't supposed to be a hard-core Koppenberg cross junkie. It's supposed to get it's owner safely to-and-from Starbucks, which is exactly where I saw it and so it was, apparently, doing it's job faultlessly.

We haven't had a cycling sock for a while, so I'll give you this beastie from today's ride. They were a gift, and to be honest, I do have soft-spot for them. True, tall and black but not Armstrong "births, deaths, weddings and court appearances only" tall. Plus, it was kinda wet out today, a mud-caveat day, just like at the 'cross, where adhering slavishly to the sock-rules (well rule) is just going to cost you a pair of socks. And sometimes that's no fun, not even to make a point! Besides, after what happened to my running socks in a sudden downpour last week, I didn't want to wreck another pair so soon.

Speaking of fashion points, I was called out wearing my orange triathlon socks at the race this weekend. True they weren't white, but they were swim-bike-run themed and I thought they'd fit the occasion, even if it was a duathlon and strictly a run-bike-run affair but I didn't have those socks.

Besides, I was wearing an all black top with orange accents (my shorts were black, naturally) and the colours matched nicely. Now blue swim-bike-run socks with the same top? I don't think so!

Anyway, back to those spanners. The whole spanners and flames thing was apropos seeing as I've had pretty much every bike that I own or have "mechanical custody" over on the workstand recently. Some needed a little tweak (new brake-blocks in the fixie) whilst others needed a complete triage to find out what's fatal and what's merely cosmetic (the Humber). I flatter myself to think that the socks refer to my "smoking spanners", that is quickly and competently doing the work. I can't help but feel they are more clé d'enfer and that the wrenching was more diabolical than useful. If a pedal falls out or a brake-cable spontaneously combusts next time I'm on a ride, then we'll know.

Something interesting happened when it came to Old Bess' turn. I dropped the rear wheel out to change the tyre from a 32-knobby to 25-smooth when I noticed something.

Did you ever do a climb on your bike that just felt ridiculously hard, harder than it had ever felt before? You clicked down and down again, all the way through the block and it didn't get any easier? You get out of the saddle and really haul on the bars and still go nowhere fast and wonder how you managed to get quite so fat and quite so unfit quite so quickly. Then when you top out and you finally have the energy to look and it turns out you were in the 53? Well sometimes, you're still in the 39 and the reasons are way more insidious, way more diabolical. And no, I'm not talking about the person I know who didn't put the sprockets back on the freewheel in order. But that's just funny. Anyway.

This was the freewheel on the wheel that came out of the drop-outs, still with a bit of mud from he last 'cross race on the tyres and between the spokes....

....and this was the spare wheel from the shed.

Notice any difference?

Yes, the one from the shed is a tad rusty around the edges. But other than that?

Yup, the one that was in the shed all winter, and all 'cross season too, has a 25T bottom sprocket. The one I raced on has a 23T bottom sprocket.

Yup, I raced the 'cross without a "proper" bottom gear. Now granted 36 x 25 (38 inches) isn't much of a granny (more of a maiden aunt kind of gear) but when it comes to 'cross, it's surely better than 36 x 23 (42 inches). No wonder it felt so hard!



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