ice ice baby

 

It was always going to happen, I suppose.

Sooner or later you have to crash every bike you own. I remember my dad once swearing me off motorbikes by telling me “It’s not a question of if you come off, it’s when and how badly”; I suppose the same could be said for bicycles.

Since you’re reading this, it means I’ve finally managed to crash the Troll. And, since I’m able to type this, it means the crash wasn’t too bad at all; it certainly could’ve been an awful lot worse.

You see, it’s been rather chilly up here in t’ North for… well, forever, but particularly so the last couple of weeks. Has this stopped me cycling? Am I some kind of lettuce? Do I only get my bike out when it’s warm, dry and breathless out there? Hell no! I ride all year round in whatever weather happens to be out there.

I will admit to slowing down a little and not hammering through corners quite as much as I normally would in this colder weather with the roads as greasy and unpredictable as they are. Even still, I just about survived a two wheel drift scary enough to stop the traffic a few days ago; that was a close one.

And so, after mincing all the way to work this morning, dodging white lines, shiny manhole covers, tram tracks and hundreds of Mancs, I made it to within 100m of my office door. I was in the bloody car park leaning into a right hand turn I must’ve taken a thousand times when I suddenly realised the bike was still going forward…

I slid with balletic grace for a good 2 feet before the rear wheel also lost traction on the ice and I hit the concrete; stupidly, I put my hand out to break my fall which sent daggers of pain right up my arm all the way to my shoulder blade. As I lay on the ground, guessing how many bones I’d broken, the kindly cyclist following me in picked up the Troll and checked I was OK before heading off to complain to the building managers about the lack of grit.

After I’d hobbled down to the nearest NHS walk in centre, I was assured the only damage done was a bruised elbow and matching ego. Having broken a collarbone before, I know all too well just how lucky I was today…

It won’t stop me cycling and neither should it stop you but it just goes to show you can’t let your concentration slip for a second in icy conditions.

 

Anyway, it’s Thursday again so it’s time for my new feature: ‘Stuff people have been searching for when they landed here’. Catchy title, eh?

  • First up this week: “fitting SKS mudguards to Merida bike disc brakes”
    • Well, it very much depends on whether your bike has mudguard eyes; if it does, full wrap mudguards like SKS Commuter may work but your disc calipers are likely to cause interference issues. I’d recommend having a look at SKS Beavertail; I’ve used the regular ones (good for narrower tyres) and the XL ones like I had fitted to my Merida (good for wider tyres). As they mount just from the brake bridge, you shouldn’t have any problems with your discs and you’ll still get plenty of coverage.
  • Who’s next? Ah yes: “Marzocchi fork makes a dinging noise”
    • Dude, that’s not good. Get it to a bike shop right away and no, don’t ride it there. Having said that, it could just be a stray brake cable knocking against the fork legs or, if you’re running disc brakes, they may be adjusted too close which could also be causing a sound like that. Hopefully, it’s not a small crack about to turn into a face plant inducing failure. Best of luck!
  • Time for one more? Well, how could I resist this one: “my tracksuit is made”
    • Err… good. Yeah. Mad fer it. etc. etc.

So there you go; I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s insight into just some of the visitors to life in the cycle lane – tune in next week for more!

Oh, and stay off the ice!

patience

 

Do you remember that feeling you used to get as a child when you’d wake up early, scamper down the stairs and ever-so-tentatively open the living room door to see if Santa Claus had been and left you some presents?

Every day this week I’ve had that exact same feeling; arriving home from work, opening the front door and seeing…

…absolutely nothing. Postie has brought me nothing but bills and junk mail this week. Until today, that is.

Easily 4′ tall, about 2′ wide and probably 1′ deep, this has to be the biggest box I’ve had delivered that didn’t contain a complete bike.

Naturally, I barely managed to get my post-ride stretches done and my helmet off before I was reaching for a knife and attacking the sellotape. Inside, there were 2 more boxes and, inside each of those, more boxes. Inside the increasingly little boxes, little plastic bags. And, inside those little plastic bags, 17 hundred million little bolts, washers and other assorted bits of hardware. The exciting things, however, the things I’ve been waiting for all bloody week were the reason for the comedy oversize box.

Yes, dear readers, it’s time for my faithful old Merida to hang up its commuting hat and retire. Or, more likely, get listed for sale on eBay so someone else can put a few more thousand miles on the clock with her.

The long awaited Surly Troll Monster Cross Commutourer is finally ready for daily Manchester based commuting abuse. The last few bits I was waiting for (bottle cages and pannier racks) have finally arrived.

As with all things, I agonised over which racks would be right for me; even going so far as to order a Lezyne Power Rack Elite only to have a regular Lezyne Power Rack arrive so, despite it being a very nice thing, it had to go back to the shop for a refund. Sigh.

In the end, I decided that scrimping and saving really wasn’t the answer, threw caution completely to the wind and asked myself:

“What kind of pannier racks should I fit to a Surly?”
“Err… Surly racks.”
“But. But. But… They’re £100. Each!”
“Yeah. And?”
“And… She’ll kill me. Kill me dead.”
“Nah. It’s only 4 months’ bus fare.”
“Ah, well, when you put it like that…”

And so, the decision was made. Surly racks it would have to be. Front and rear. All 4 months’ bus fare worth. But, wait. What’s this? ‘Ragley’ you say?

It turns out there’s a dude called Brant Richards [Brant, really? Who calls their kid Brant???] who markets front and rear racks bearing a striking resemblance to those made by the good people over at Surly. Sold to me by the evil Chain Reaction Cycles with a considerable discount and an extra £15 off voucher, I bagged front and rear racks for a ‘mere’ £105.

Primarily, I built the Troll for commuting duties so, for now, I’ve only fitted the rear rack and I reckon it looks pretty good. A full review of both racks will follow once I’ve given them a few months’ testing.

don’t stop me now

 

Part of me always knew the Troll wouldn’t be put together in just a couple of days. I was optimistic that maybe, just maybe, everything would just bolt together and work perfectly; alas, that’s just not the way with custom bikes. Particularly if you’re obsessive about these things; like I am.

One of the things that has gone well with the 2nd stage of the build: The new 11-34 Shimano Deore cassette arrived and looks great with the 160mm disc on the other side of the rear hub and, now the rear wheel is in the frame, I see no good reason why it needs to come out again in the foreseeable future. Oh, by the way, if you’re planning your own Surly Troll (or Ogre) build with full wrap mudguards, you’ll need to undo the lower mudguard mounts to be able to get the wheel out thanks to those horizontal ‘dropouts’.

Also working out beautifully was the installation of the bottom bracket and chainset. I had these lying around from a previous mountain bike build and, quite frankly, I just love them. I remember the Race Face bottom bracket setting me back £60 once upon a time and, do you know what, it was worth every single penny. The chainset with gorgeous Race Face chainrings was an eBay bargain and, despite the overall colour scheme being orange and black, I think the silver crank arms actually look really nice.

Front & rear derailleurs are brought to you by the Shimano Deore Shadow range and fit really neatly to the frame with some rather clever cable routing designed to avoid bits of trailside foliage, small children and the like from getting caught as you ride along. Again, these were lying around from the aforementioned mountain bike which just happened to have a different diameter seat tube than the Surly. Do I still have the correct shims for fitting the front derailleur? Of course I don’t! Happily, Rich over at Keep Pedalling had the ones I needed lying around in his parts box.

Next up is the dreaded job of cutting the steerer tube down to length. Now, this is a job that really shouldn’t be attempted if you don’t have the right tools, the right knowledge or a large pair of balls; once you’ve cut it off, you’ll struggle to stick it back on again so my advice here is to always, ALWAYS err on the side of caution and leave more than you need because you can always take a little more off if you need to. For me, that meant 20mm of spacers below the stem and then an additional 10mm spacer above the stem to give me a little bit of tolerance (even though I knew full well I’d never need it). So, once you have all your spacers and stem in place and you’re confident the headset is nicely seated against the crown race, mark the steerer tube above the upper spacer with a sharp flat-bladed screwdriver or something similar to give you a line to cut to. And, as the great Norm Abram would say “Measure twice, cut once”.

With the upper spacer removed, you can see the litte mark left by the screwdriver blade. Removing the wheel from the fork, the fork from the frame and putting all the little loose bits of the headset somewhere clean, I lined up my specialist saw clamp against the mark I’d made and then wriggled it down the steerer about 3mm; the reason for this is that you don’t want your top cap resting on the the very top of the cut steerer, rather you want about a 3mm gap. More on all that in a dedicated ‘How to…’ blog entry a bit later on.

And so, the moment of truth. With that little bit of excess steerer tuibe cut off and the star fangled nut installed (another ‘How to…’ blog entry and more specialist tools required here), I went ahead and cannibalised my poor old Merida for its bars, stem and shifters. Now, I know what you’re thinking: drop bars, bar end shifters, mountain bike gearing, disc brakes and fat road tyres??? Well, yes. Surly has never been conventional and neither have I. Have a little faith, it’s all going to work. I think.

Now, the reason why this blog entry isn’t ending up with the fully completed bike is simply down to the brakes. Like the derailleurs and chainset, the Avid BBDB (precursor of the legendary BB7) calipers came from my old mountain bike and are, sadly, shot. Which means the Cane Creek Drop V brake levers which were eye-wateringly expensive are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.

Cue another not-so-good-for-my-mental-state 5 minutes.

Ah well, that’s custom bikes for you.

The solution: I bagged a pair of Avid BB5 Road calipers for… well, a less eye-watering price which are winging their way from the US as we speak. What this means for the rather sad looking Merida is that it’ll also now be losing its Cane Creek SCR-5 brake levers too and I’ve decided to go completely off the wall and fit a massive 203mm disc to the fork (also winging its way as we speak) so I should be able to throw myself (and probably a fully loaded BOB Yak) over the bars with the application of just 2 fingers. Yay!