Thursday, March 26, 2015

One Ring to Rule Them All . . .

I've been riding the Pug Ops for three months now and I've come to the realization that, during this time, I may have used the large front chain ring less than a handful of times!! The bike came with a 36/22 setup on the front with a 11-36 cog on the rear. Regardless of the riding conditions, I seemed to always find myself in a very small range of gears - none of which included the 36t front ring. With a little poking about and asking some Surly gurus, I decided to ditch the front 36/22t  combo for a single Wolf Tooth 30t Drop-Stop Chainring. But in choosing to do, this I would be losing some of my lower range gears. Enter the Wolf Tooth 42t GC - a rear cog that is basically the size of a small frisbee!!  Combined with the 30t front ring, the low range is pretty close to stock. So, with the new setup, the range from high to low is pretty much the same - there are just only 1/2 the number of gear steps within the range. Hopefully, no biggie but I am sure it will require some changes in riding!! Stay tuned for that!!

The Pug Ops in stock form!!

I ordered the parts from Wolf Tooth Components based out of Minnesota. They are a small company that manufacture all their own products. The order was placed on March 18th, shipped within hours of initial contact and showed up in my mailbox on the 24th. I have NEVER had such quick shipping from the US before!!

The Goodies!! 
When you add the 42t cog, you need to remove one of the smaller ones - usually the 17t. Wolf Tooth offers a 16t that you can add to the range to smooth out the shifting. In this case, you remove the 15t and 17t and substitute the 16t. The 16t is the small silver cog in the above image!

Time for the conversion!!

First order of business is removing the crank so that I could remove the chainrings!! My bike has the Surly OD crank which makes removal a snap - no special tools required!! Simply loosen two small allen head bolts on the left crank arm, pull it off the splines and slide the whole axle assembly through the sealed bottom bracket bearings! Easy Peasy!!

Pulling the crank out of the bottom bracket.

Removing the chainrings.

Removing the chainrings did have its moments of fear!! Most of the bolts were very hard to remove and I was worried that they would either strip or, worse, snap off in the crank!! Using the extra leverage from the handle of an adjustable wrench, I managed to break them loose. And here is why they were so hard to remove . . .

 . . . Loctite on the threads!!

With the old rings off, it was time to do a little weigh-in. Not the primary reason for doing this conversion, but you know folks are going to be curious about the weight reduction!! Appears there is a 84 gram weight savings with the single ring!

Old rings - 132 grams

New ring - 48 grams

The new ring all mounted up and ready to go!!
Popping the crank back on the bike was simply a reversal of the removal. I can certainly get used to this setup - especially after having fought, many times in the past, with stubborn cranks and crank pullers that were just a royal PITA to work with!!! 'Nuff said!!

The people at Surly certainly are a different crowd and they let you know it - sometimes in very subtle ways!!. Check out this little message that was stamped on the inside of the crank arm right next to the pedal! I assume it means to not over-tighten your pedals!!

Is this actually a torque value?

While working on the bike, I had to have a bit of "tunage" playing. What is more appropriate for the job than Jethro Tull's Songs from the Wood album?

One of my favs!!
With the chainring and crank all taken care of, it was time to tackle the cassette! I managed to dredge up my old chain whip from way back when. It's been languishing out in the shed (with a host of other old bike tools) so it was showing it's age and subjection to lots of moisture!! I could not find my cassette remover, so a 10.00 purchase was in order. No biggie, I know I will be using it again sometime!!

A piece of the past!
As per the instructions, I rebuilt the cassette - removed the 15 and 17, replaced it with the 16 and then installed he Mother-of-all-cogs - the 42 toother!!  As expected (hoped) it all went without a hitch!!

All together again!!
When breaking the chain, I pushed one pin too far and, plop, it ended up on the floor. Damn!! No way to put that sucker back in. I simply took out two more links, popped it back together and, by chance, I think it was just the right length I needed. Must have a horseshoe hidden somewhere in my body, I guess!!

The new setup - and a VERY old bike stand!!  (See below**)

With a bit of tinkering with the "B Screw" on the derailleur and bit of tweaking with the limit screws, I managed to get the thing shifting pretty much as good as stock!! Some field testing is still required but I am confident that things will be just fine. The derailleur is certainly not protesting with the jump from 36 to 42 and it does not appear to be overtaxed with having to accommodate such a large cog. Fingers crossed!!

As with the chainrings, I am sure that people are interested in the weigh loss when you remove the front derailleur and shifter. The package comes to a total of 331 grams. This was a SRAM X7.

Another quirky thing about the Pug is that all the cables are held in place with open braze-ons and by nothing else other than  . . .

. . . cable ties!!

Just another utilitarian aspect of these bikes - they are meant to be easy to fix/maintain while using easy-to-find parts.

All ready to hit the trails again!!
The whole operation took less than 2 hours but I was in no hurry. I was just enjoying working on bikes again. It's been a while!!

Which brings me to . . . 

**   The old bike stand that I am using is a piece of St. John's bicycle history. I am sure that many of us, of a certain vintage, remember Pike's Cycle on Springdale Street? Well, this old stand came from that very store. That store closed many, many years ago but in 1990, a "new" Pikes was opened on Kenmount Rd. A lot of the old equipment and tools ended up coming out of storage and into the new store. This rack included!! I worked at this store as a mechanic when it first opened and was there a year or so later, when it shut down. One of my parting gifts was the old stand and all the tools - including a very expensive Hozan truing stand - from the new store. It was a treasure trove for an avid biker but, alas, over the years a lot of the better stuff disappeared. I still have a whack of old tools but you'd be hard pressed to find a bike that they would still work with!!  Anyway, it was nice to put a new bike on the old stand and go back in time - if only for a few hours!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Fat Biking to Brock's Head

I have paddled to Brock's Falls a number of times in my sea kayak but I have never been to the source of the falls before. That is, not until today when a group of us left Hibb's Place (just off Bauline Line) and headed overland to Brock's Head via fat bike!

It was a lovely morning. The thermometer in the car read -5 on the drive down. There was a bit of wind but not enough to be uncomfortable. Here's a brief account and a few images from the day!

Forming up the group!
The 20.4 km ride was a varied combination of fields, wooded trail, open barrens and the crossing of five ponds!  There was a lot of exposed ice on the ponds, so studded tires were the shoes of choice.  This was my first real test of my DIY studded tires and they worked most admirably!

Crossing the ice!

Just small specks in a vast whiteness!

And yet another crossing.

Ron entering the woods.
Following Dean.

And Ron!


The whole group minus your's truly!

Two small crosses at the mouth of a small river. A forlorn reminder of, presumably, a tragedy in this spot.

We stopped at the end of one pond and left our bikes to hike the short distance to the head of Brock's Falls.

The end of the "road" to Brock's Head.

An opportunity to take shot of the bike in its natural setting!

Walking out of the woods out onto the edge of Brock's Head revealed the most interesting ice formations on the trees. I assume that they are the result of the wind pushing the water from the falls back onto the trees where it froze. This was a great spot to take some great shots!! And yep, we were pretty high above the cold ocean below!!

After a short walk back to the bikes - and, no, none of them were stolen!! We are a trusting bunch leaving what was probably the equivalent of 15,000 worth of gear alone in the open!!

Ron and Loyal back at the bikes!

The ride back was much quicker than the one out eventhough there was a lovely hill that we had to hike-a-bike!  The reward was on the other side with a wonderful swoopy downhill!

All in all, it was a great morning on the bike with a great bunch of people. Seven of us left and seven of us returned, so all was good. I hope we get another chance at this ride before the season's out.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Passion Returns!

Back in January of 2012, I wrote a blog entry (Will the Rubber Hit the Road . . . Again?) about my purchasing a fluid trainer for my bike and actually wanting to get back in the saddle. Well, I am glad to say that back in July of 2014, I finally went through with the idea - albeit, more off-road than on-road!!

But how about a bit of back story - with some pictures for good measure?

I started off as a road racer back in 1984 - my last year of high school. Some success at the local level qualified me for some training/racing on the mainland and my road career culminated with competing at the Summer Games in 1985.

I was working in a bike shop as a summer position during the period from 1985 to 1989 and it was at this time I was introduced to the next "big thing" in cycling - mountain bikes (MTB)! I went through a number of bikes during this time - some good, some bad but my favourite was my Raleigh Technium Chill which I purchased in 1989. This bike had an aluminum frame with no welding but rather "space age" adhesives that held the frame together!! Of course, there was not much in the way of suspension at this time. but I did actually have a Girvin Flexstem and you can see it in the image below!!  All it did was dampen the jarring transferred up the super stiff Tange Big Fork!!

Promo shot I took for my Raleigh!

As far as I know, the first organized MTB race ever held here was circa 1989. The course was near Snow's Lane (near Stavanger) but has since been developed!  The course was rather flat with no technical sections, so it favoured the road racers! Tom Lawlor was first and I came in second - yep, two road racers!!

One of the faves for MTB racing was the side of Signal Hill - just below where the Geo Centre now stands. It had some up and down hills (obviously), some water and a few technical sections.

Climbing on the Signal Hill course!

Cresting a hill and hitting a flat section!

Other MTB courses at the time included ones in Pippy Park (no surprise there), The Goulds, Petty Harbour and St, Anne's Industrial Park,  to name a few! 

In the early 1990's there was a pretty vibrant MTB racing scene but after 1991, I slipped away from the cycling scene altogether.

But not before I had a few more kicks at the cat for road racing!

In 1990 I was hired full-time as a bike mechanic for the newly resurrected Pike's Cycle/Sport store. Besides the perks of incredible deals on bikes and parts, the store also sponsored a cycling team.  This team raced both road and MTB.  Below are two pictures of the 1990 and 1991 road teams.

(l to r) Dan Haedrich,  Malcolm Simpson, Sean Dawe, Tom Lawlor and Todd Manning)

(l to r) Sean Dawe,Todd Manning, Spencer Campbell and  Darroch Whittaker)

My final road race was held on the Pouch Cove, Torbay via the Bauline Line circuit. It was a good showing but it seemed that the triathletes were becoming the next wave of racers and things were more like a time trial than an actual road race. 

The road bike was stabled and the Raleigh was relegated to commuting! Eventually, both were retired and saw no action for close to two decades!!  So hard to believe that what was once an all-consuming passion had simply slipped away - but such is life!!

But life has a way of turning things back on you and, luckily for me, I rediscovered the passion!!

Fast forward to July, 2014! I decided that I wanted to get the old Raleigh back on the trails/road. I found that the outer chainring had a few worn teeth and the chain would skip. A trip to a local bike shop showed that it is not easy to find replacement parts for a 24 year old MTB!! I walked into the shop looking for a chainring and walked out with a brand new bike!! Well, a 2012 Giant Anthem X3 but it was still in the box!!  The full suspension was sooo nice on my creaky joints and the precise shifting and hydraulic disk brakes were light years ahead of my old Raleigh. After a few rides on the new bike, I was hooked!!  The passion was rekindled!! Of course, not having ridden in years meant that I had to buy all new gear - helmet, shorts, jerseys, pedals, shoes, dropper post, tights, gloves, lights etc etc etc!! And oh, how the money rolls out!!!

Nice and shiny - Anthem X3.
But the money spent is worth it when you can get out for a ride that includes such scenes as below!!

Winter ride on the tracks near Seal Cove.

I did not want to limit my riding just to the trails, so I decided to drag the old road bike into the 21st century! Luckily, all I needed was a new set of bars and stem to allow me to attain a position more comfortable. Since the picture below was taken, I've added some new tires. I like to use to road bike to change things up a bit. Do you remember as a kid that you wore heavy boots all winter and then one spring day you put on your sneakers and went outside to play? I find that getting on the road bike feels just like that time you pulled on the sneakers!!

The old Miele ready for the road.

Well, now it's January and the temps have dropped and snow is imminent!!  How does one continue with the passion if your bike is not ready for the snow? I have my road bike relegated to the trainer once again but, as many know, riding a trainer is about as exciting as watching paint dry - maybe even less so!!

The answer is a fatbike! I rode one for a few hours back in early December and had one of those "I've-got-to-get-me-one-of-these" moments!!!

And I did!!

On December 30, I took the plunge and purchased a Surly Pug Ops! I guess I am ready for the snow now!! There'll be no cooling of the passion this winter!!

Surly Pug Ops

One Mean Mother!!

Pug on Ice!!

And since getting back on the bike, I am discovering that there is an incredibly active (and friendly) biking group in this area!! Heck, if they are willing to take on a relic like me . . .

Breaking in the Pug in Pippy Park!!

So, with bikes to cover all the seasons and all kinds of terrain, it looks like 2015 is going to be a great year!!