Everything Isn’t Cycling

The 1985 film, Turtle Diary, and the book by Russel Hoban upon which it is based, may not be to everyone’s taste.  The film’s plot, which revolves around freeing captive sea turtles, would likely resonate much more today than it did in 1985.  However, when I viewed the film back then, one of the lines in the movie, spoken by actor Ben Kingsley to his co-star Glenda Jackson – “everything isn’t sex” – was a bit of a shock, both to the characters in the film, as well as to viewers.  The odd syntax and brutal honesty of this simple statement probably destined the film (and book) to our culture’s nether regions.

Western society focuses on extremes:  the longest ride, the highest mountains, the fastest race times.  This focus has a chilling effect on “normal” cyclists, who use their bikes for transportation, exploration, and communing with nature.  When asked by friends and other cyclists about the day’s ride, the most frequent question is “how many miles did you do?” or “what was your average speed?”.  Not “tell me about the ride” or “what wildlife did you see today?”.

Most cyclists enjoy other activities:  hiking, running, walking, birding, gardening, children, cooking, wrenching…the list goes on.  We don’t “live to ride”.  Instead, the bicycle is simply part of our daily lives.  We don’t need to do a century every weekend, nor one-up each other with tales of amazing descents and all-out sprints (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Our bicycles are an amazing tool, allowing us to explore our surroundings while invigorating our bodies and spirits.  Everything isn’t cycling.  But cycling is a transformative experience upon which many good things are based.


Shimano Saint Pedals: a heavenly review


Shimano Saint Pedals

As part of my ongoing quest for cycling Nirvana, I have been thinking about replacing the $9 bear trap on my Panasonic winter bike, shown below, which have drawn blood from my shins a few too many times.


Bear Trap pedals with sharp teeth

There’s nothing really wrong with these bear trap pedals, other than their sharp teeth, which provide grip for rain riding, and have therefore been forgiven for this sin.

One criteria I require of all pedals that I buy is that they must be fully rebuild-able, with cup and cone adjustment.  And, I want a steel axle for a long lasting component.  I have often used MKS pedals when vintage pedals are not available or appropriate for a particular application.  I have found MKS pedals to be enduring and reliable, but they are often shipped very dry, and with a too tight bearing adjustment.


So, I was fully expecting these Shimano Saint platform pedals to be totally dry and adjusted too tight when I received the shipment.  Not so.  The pedals had so much grease applied that it was oozing out of the Cro-Mo axle. The cones felt a little tight, but not excessively so.  And, if you really want to geek out, the pedals come with alternate pins, washers and an Allen wrench to help you fine tune this pedal for your riding application.


The Shimano Saint pedals are overall very similar in size to the bear trap pedals I had been using.  So, I was skeptical about them at first – what could they offer at $70 that would be better than the $9 bear claws?

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The Shimano Saints weigh 9 oz per pedal as compared to the bear traps, which weigh a mere 6 oz.  Surely, this meant that I would feel sluggish and bogged down using these heavier Shimano pedals, yes?


In practice, the opposite was true.  I enjoyed riding these pedals.  I felt that the weight on my feet was being more evenly distributed, and I did not experience any unpleasant hot spots as I rode out today on a beautiful Portland winter morning.  Did I mention how much these pedals weigh?  Ha.  I was sure that the extra weight would be noticeable.  Instead, I found myself tackling hills I don’t normally undertake, and enjoying every minute.  If you are looking for a nice platform pedal with adjustable cups and cones, and fully customize-able pins on the pedal surface – these Shimano Saints are for you.

Braking News


Recently I overhauled a few of the Mafac Racer brakes I had in my bin. Why? Perhaps to keep the demons at bay.  Anyone involved in the vintage bicycle “industry” (an apt word involving boatloads of industrious activity) knows that Mafac centerpulls are the best.  However, Mafac Racer brake calipers are ubiquitous, and therefore of very little re-sale value.  In a few thousand years, archaeologists will find these brakes in their dig sites and ponder their significance.


One of the nice things about Mafac Racer centerpull brakes is that they can accept these little T.A. front racks, which bolt directly on to the arms.  On the above brake I have added a vintage looking battery powered headlamp, which clamps conveniently on to the supplied T.A. bracket.  The little rack is really only good for strapping on a rain jacket, loaf of bread, or tiny tool kit, but it does come in handy as a light mount, and looks very elegant.


Mafac Dural Centerpulls

Overhauling brakes is really a very easy process, and simply involves disassembly, cleaning, polishing, lubrication, and reassembly.  I won’t detail the steps here, as there are many other resources on the web and in print (Dr. Coles to the rescue), to help you through the process.  If you want to spend far more money than your brakes will ever be worth overhauling your Mafac centerpulls, you can purchase a restoration kit from Compass Cycles for about $125.00 or so.   As I was overhauling these Mafac brakes, I found that I didn’t need to replace any parts – they just needed to be cleaned and lubricated. Mainly, the steel bolts and nuts can rust, and sometimes the red washers can disintegrate – although that is pretty rare.  These brakes were meant to last, and they do.  I didn’t need to replace any parts on the brakes I overhauled – including the washers, which really held up well over many decades.


Mafac Raid Centerpull Brakes

One exception to the devaluation of Mafac brakes is the consumer demand for and rarity of Mafac Raid brakes.  These are extra long reach brakes that can be used to accomplish a 650b conversion.  It is difficult to find these brakes, and I have horded the few sets that I have on hand.

One of the things that fascinates me about Mafac brakes is how un-glitzy they are.  The stamped logos are odd and unprofessional-looking, and it seems strange to me that their model names include quotation marks.  Yet, engineering-wise, these are far superior to many of the competitors out there.  A rare example of substance over form.