Wear and Tear

Portland grown tomatoes

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.

Deore hubs

Ritchey rims

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.

Ebike Schmeebike

Atop Mt. Tabor

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?

1980s ALAN

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.

11 tooth smalll cog

Wear on the splines

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.


Courtesy of Sheldon Brown

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.

1980’s Custom Meral

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.

16 thoughts on “Wear and Tear

  1. Enjoying reading your posts..Don’t ride a regular bike anymore because of balance issues (75 years young) but do have a old schwinn trike also been kick scooter for a while..always look forward to your emails..Thank you!

  2. I own a pair of Tektro 559 dual pivot brakes and they keep breaking the one return spring. Almost always in the same place. These brakes are really good rim brakes overall except for the spring issue. You were wise to pull those rims out of service. My weight means I have a lot of experience with inadequate rims. I love CR-18’s and some Velocity products. I use 26″x1.5″ road tires on my Ryan recumbent and was able to buy one a while back with out issues. Sorry to hear about the 1.25″ width disappearing. I also use 27″ wheelsets but there are still good tires to be had for that sizing. I always buy the belted tires due to their toughness and good flat protection, but I’m heavy and could drive a fingernail on the ground through my tire casings. I have two bikes with 20″ wheels. The Ryan recumbent which gets good service from the 20″x1.5″ tires I put on it. The front wheel on my Ryan is lightly loaded and I think that is why it lasts so well. I also have a Worksman delivery bike with the 20″ wheel. That bike sees lots of weight over that wheel. I use 2.125″ wide tires and they wear out very fast. I have to buy e-bike tires in order to not have the tire fail from the weight loads. Lighter duty tires would literally break the casing. For a while I bought tires that the folks riding BMX trick bikes on the big ramps would use and they held up pretty good. Sorry to hear about your leg muscle problems. Going through one right now myself. Easy 10 mile flat land rides, no sprints or hill climbing. No hills in the great central valley of California. Love your blog, keep up the good work.

  3. Thanks for the shout out, Nola. I will say that sourcing 26″ x 1 3/8″ tires is difficult but not impossible. Alloy rims, though, that’s going to be tough since Sun stopped making rims in this size, and they were pretty much the only game in town.

    As for your Brompton, do you find the ride of a non-electrified Brompton harsh? I’ve owned my (non e) Brompton for two years and have not felt that it’s a harsh ride, at least the more recent ones. It’s definitely different, and you can’t ride with the abandon of a bike with big wheels, but I haven’t felt like ride quality was bad.

    • The e-Brompton has very short front spokes due to the front motor, a heavier less flexible fork and less than ideal ergonomics. That, combined with the “washboard” effect on rough pavement means constantly trying to pick a line(as in single track) that does the least harm. To me the ride quality is close to unbearable.

  4. Nola , great to see your post. I hope your recovery continues . I have been off my bikes for a little over a month after falling while leaving a concert in Ojai , California. The venue , in their infinite wisdom , decided not to light the pathway leading to where our car was parked. I ended up falling off a 14” concrete drop and land ing on my left side, breaking my hip . The surgeon was able to repair it with 3 – 7mm x 95mm screws . I can walk with a cane and I’m slowly getting back . Tomorrow I will set up my cycling trainer and try pedaling . I can’t wait to get back to my cycling , I am used to riding a couple times a week , about 50 miles total. I guess I have some catching up to do! You writing is inspiring me , thank you. Joe

  5. Love the post Nola. Vintage bikes do need a lot of love, don’t they? Looking at a long winter’s worth of work here on the frozen shores of Lake Erie. As for the26x1-3/8 tires (I use quite a few) your local bike shop can order them if they don’t carry them. JBI distributor carries them.

  6. The trials and tribulations of life on two wheels!
    I’m curious about the Aventon transaction. It worked for the test ride then didn’t work from that point forward? I’m a little shocked your acquaintance didn’t perhaps offer a refund or… something? That just seems like bad business. Or someone who may not be held in high regard any longer!

    Then again, I’m reminded of what my father told me about buying anything mechanical that is in used condition (in the case of our discussion, he was talking about vehicles): “You’re buying someone else’s problem(s)!”

    • E-bikes are the new department store bikes. They’ll be churned out with accompanying too low prices then tossed in the landfill when they inevitably fail. As for my acquaintance, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him as I know he would be horrified and would insist on refunding my money.

  7. I am sorry to hear about your injury but I’m glad you’re recovering.

    You are right about ebikes. Also, unless they are better-regulated, they will be banned in some jurisdictions because of the fire hazard.

  8. Panracer still makes the 26 X 1.26″ Paselas, apparently, in non-TG and “Protite” or TG versions. These might be the non-TG because of the claimed weight: https://www.amazon.com/Panaracer-Pasela-Tire-Black-1-25-Inch/dp/B00B01L7I2.

    I commuted on them for a number of years until I found the Schwalbe Kojak which seemed to me to roll as easily and was certainly more durable and flat resistant. They’re a wee bit wider; say 31 mm instead of 29 mm on roaad-width rims. They’re about the same price as the Paselas. https://www.modernbike.com/product-2126246312?TID=394

    But perhaps your Bridgestone might take a ~40 mm tire? If so, the RH Naches Pass in one of 3 casing types might work; I got an Extralight pair to fit my 26″wheel Riv road custom under normal reach single pivots, measuring 39 mm new, with room to spare; the crowding was between the rear chainstays but even there there was room for another mm or so of expansion. This was an experiement and I went back to the RH Elk Pass, but the NPs are the standard tire on my 26″ wheel road errand bike, under 50 mm fenders using cantilevers.

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