It was an extraordinarily gorgeous summer here in Portland. We didn’t have super hot days, nor tons of wildfire smoke. It was dry, as is true of the last several summers, but sans apocalyptic occurrences like pandemics, heat domes, and unbreathable air. In short, this summer was a welcome relief from the past few even though we had very little rain. While my flower and vegetable garden thrived,this also seemed to be the season of various equipment failures, including rims, tires, cassettes, an ebike motor, and my own muscles.
What seemed to start it all off were the Ritchey rims that I had been using temporarily on my Terry. These are 80’s rims that came off the Bridgestone and in a long convoluted story of wheel and tire swaps, they ended up on my Terry, replacing the wheelset I had originally built for the bike.
I never liked these un-eyeleted rims, but they were laced to a smooth as glass Deore hubset that really made the bike whiz around impressively. So I tolerated the fact that I had to true them with some frequency, which is definitely not normal. Finally I decided to take a closer look at the rims and discovered that some stress cracks were beginning to develop around the spoke holes. That explained the truing problem, and made me worry that the rims were on the verge of failure.
This led to a lengthy process of trying to source either an appropriate 26 inch wheelset or a set of narrower 26 inch rims to replace the Ritcheys. As part of this process I also noted that my tires (26X1.25 Pasela Tourguards) were looking pretty bald and worn. And that involved another lengthy process of trying to source 26X1.25 tires, which are now nearly non-existent in the marketplace. (Note: The Society of Three Speeds Blog recently posted about the difficulty in sourcing 26 x 1 3/8 tires and rims, which are used on many vintage 3 speed bikes. This is a different size than used on my Terry, but also sad to note.)
I finally found some non-belted Paselas on eBay, and a set of CR18 rims from good ol’ Bell’s Bike Shop. The regular Paselas ride a bit nicer than their belted counterparts, but offer less flat protection. Also, they measure 28mm wide mounted to my rims as opposed to the 32mm wide Tourguards. I was hoping they would plump out after use, but sadly – no go. While waiting around for rims, I really wanted to keep riding the Terry so I stole the wheelset off the Bridgestone, and now the Terry is back to the wheelset I originally built.
All was well and good until I pulled a muscle during an over-vigorous and un-warmed-up climb and then had to stop riding altogether for awhile. When I got the go ahead to cycle again, I needed to take it easy (impossible due to the hills around my house) and that meant using the dreaded…Brompton e-bike.
So, am I being too harsh in my dislike of this bike? I still own it and would happily sell it. I think it was a mistake to to offer an e-bike version of the Brompton without making critical changes to address the harsh and bumpy ride (bigger tires, bigger wheels even?, front suspension?). I would forgive all of this bike’s other disappointments if the ride quality could be improved. Nonetheless, I rode around on this bike while recovering from my injury. The one upside: riding to the top of Mt. Tabor with energy to spare.
While my spine suffered abuse bouncing around on the Brompton, my muscles did heal, and finally I was back to riding my regular bikes. During this time, an acquaintance let me know that he was selling his e-bike (not a Brompton but an Aventon) to upgrade to a new e-bike. His bike looked about right for a family member that expressed interest in getting back into riding. So, I bought his bike (which did not have a transferrable warranty) and planned to tune it up and pass it on to my family member. Even though the bike worked fine on my test ride, it failed to operate as soon as I brought it back to my shop. I then took it to the dealer, who though it was the controller cable gone bad that was causing the failure. After waiting months for a replacement part, it turned out the that motor itself had failed, after only 11 months of use. With no warranty, the cost to build the new motor into the wheel just didn’t make sense. While I could have done it myself, at this point I didn’t want to throw good energy after bad money. So, I gave the bike to the dealer. So much for quality control.
Freehub too free?
During the rainless summer days, I was able to ride the ALAN with more frequency. This bike was built as a cyclocross machine but I converted to commuting duty. It’s got 24 inch wheels, and was built as a “Junior Racer” which may describe me as well.
But yet another equipment failure occurred with the ALAN: my gears began slipping in the higher gear/smaller cogs. While this was happening my memory was prompted to think about the freehub: it’s from the ’80s; and it’s weird. I started to remember that either the freehub couldn’t take an 11 tooth small cog or that something else was odd about the freehub.
Upon getting it into the shop and removing the cassette (which was adequately torqued) I saw that it was one of those early threaded 8 speed freehubs which could accept both Uniglide and Hyperglide Shimano cassettes. I looked at the cassette and could see damage to the shoulders of the splined sections. Then I took to the internet to read the Sheldon Brown articles about freehubs of this era. Not only is this freehub threaded on the outside and the inside, it’s one of those non-11 tooth cog compatible hubs. Basically, no matter how much you torque the lockring on the cassette, there will still be too much free play in the cassette if you use an 11 tooth small cog. So, the solution is to NOT use an 11 tooth cog. Once I figured this out, I ordered the correct 8 speed cassette and now (hopefully) I’ll never have this problem again. Another more expensive option would be to replace the freehub, but I’ll save that for another day.
On a positive note, I sold my Meral to a reader of this blog – wishing Mike many happy miles. I’m looking forward to some splendid Fall cycling on my fun vintage machines. And, while it can be tedious to keep our beloved bikes on the road, I think the payoff is always worth it.