Why I Love Cycling

1974 Touring Bicycle with fillet brazed joints – Photo credit – DeLong’s Guide to Bicycles & Bicycling.

In 1974 I was a high school senior, soon to graduate. I often rode to classes on my 5 speed derailleur bicycle, and that involved a number of steep hills, some of which I dismounted to ascend.  The bike I rode seemed incredibly incompetent, heavy, and badly geared.  At that time, I knew nothing about lightweight steel tubing, expertly brazed and filed lugs, and quality components.  I was riding the bike my parents purchased for me, after much goading on my part.  I can’t even remember if my 5 speed was a Sears or a Schwinn, but I think it was the former.  All I knew then was that I loved to ride bicycles, and wanted to be on my bike whenever possible.  My parents did their best to accommodate this odd request coming from their middle child – a daughter no less.

Baby blue Volkscycle

Upon graduation, my parents presented me with a beautiful blue Volkscycle. I was in heaven, as this was the nicest bike I had ever ridden.  After riding this bike in my college days in the late 70’s, I took a hiatus from school, and moved to the Oregon coast.  That was when my cycling energy surged. Every Sunday I mounted my blue Volkscycle and rode inland up Yaquina Bay, to Toledo, and back.  I rode this bicycle whenever I could, leaving my funky Datsun 510 truck in the carport most of the time.

After a while, I began to realize that the Volkscycle might not be the best bicycle out there for me. There was no internet at this time, so my knowledge came word of mouth talking to other cyclists, some of whom were part of the 1976 BikeCentennial.

Later, I acquired my 1976 Centurion Pro-Tour – a bike which really defined my cycling experience.  The frame was “too big” for me, and yet I toured all over the Pacific Northwest on this amazing bicycle.  I crashed it back in 1999, and that is what prompted a life long search for an equal partner.

But that never happened.  Instead, I ride on several bicycles regularly.  I have never found my one true love – the bicycle of my youth which comported me over miles of challenging terrain.  I don’t know what to think about why that is – but the upside is that I now enjoy riding a number of wonderful and interesting machines.

Back Out on the Road

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It’s been exactly three months since I’ve thrown a leg over and navigated a beloved steel framed bicycle.  That’s how long it’s taken for me to recover from my unfortunate mishap involving a ladder and my fibula. But once I got my doctor’s go-ahead to begin cycling again, I was anxious to get back out on the road, although also strangely apprehensive.

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At Benham Falls

The last time I was on my bike was in Central Oregon’s fall glory, enjoying the dry climate and the very nice bike paths leading to Benham Falls.  I was riding my Terry, feeling slightly under the weather due to a dodgy restaurant experience earlier in the day.  But, once my riding buddy and I arrived at the Falls, all was well with the world.  The bike paths were strewn with slippery pine needles which kept getting caught in my “over the top” fenders, but this was less worrisome than the gravel portion of the journey over lava rock and loose gravel.  Fortunately, the Terry handled well, with its 32mm Pasela’s and great frame geometry.

1987 Panasonic MC 7500

1987 Panasonic MC 7500 converted to city errand bike

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McClure Pass Tires

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Velo Orange 126mm freewheel hub

So, for my first adventure back in the saddle I decided to ride my 1987 Panasonic MC 7500 commuter bike.  It is a very forgiving bicycle, although a bit tall due to its high bottom bracket. Before my leg injury I had installed some new tires on this bike to replace the heavy Specialized Armadillo tires, which had literally split at the seams, with something a little nicer – Compass McClure Pass 26 x 1.5 ” tires.

I had been riding these tires for a few months before my mishap and was looking forward to reporting on their ride quality, which I can now do. These tires have allowed me to ride in one higher gear overall, as compared to the Armadillo tires I previously used.  They feature a bit of a tread pattern which can help on non-paved surfaces, and are very responsive and comfortable.  I’m sold!  I also wanted to provide an update on the Velo Orange freewheel hub which I used to replace the failed Quando sealed bearing rear hub – a hub which failed after only about a thousand miles of use.  My new VO is working perfectly, and shaved some weight off the bike due to its drilled flanges.

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Cardiff leather saddle.

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Gardening with the Panasonic.

I use the Panasonic a lot for around town errands.  To make this bike a little more comfortable I added a Cardiff leather saddle, replacing the the old vintage Avocet touring saddle I was using.  I like the Cardiff saddle as a Brooks alternative – the saddle rails are a bit longer allowing for greater adjustment nuances, and there is something about its shape and geometry that seems to work well for me.  My first ride today went very well.  I didn’t experience any mysterious lapses in “bike memory”, nor did I have trouble climbing or descending.  Although it is winter, I’m looking forward to some enjoyable riding on the warmer and drier days which can sometimes appear unexpectedly. See you out there!

Quando/Quanta Hubs Long Term Update

Quando/Quanta hubs

Last week, while getting ready to climb a steep section of my route home, I vigorously shifted into my lowest gear while riding my 1987 Panasonic MC 7500 winter bike.  That resulted in my chain over-shifting and falling into the spokes.  Uh oh!  It took about 15 minutes for me to dislodge the chain and ride home, after turning the bike upside down for diagnosis and repair.  I had to remove my Paul’s chain keeper in order move the chain, as it had gotten wedged between the chain keeper and chain ring.  Still, I wasn’t worried because I stopped the bike the minute this occurred, and didn’t expect that I had done much damage.

I had built this wheelset about a year and a half ago using Quando cartridge bearing hubs, laced to SunRims CR18 rims. For the few weeks preceding this mishap, I had been hearing a clunking noise in the rear of the bike, occurring while pedaling and coasting, but louder when riding at speed.  It took a while for me to clue in to what the noise might mean.  At first, I thought it was the saddle rails or seat post, because I only heard it when working hard at accelerating. But then I began hearing it while coasting.  Then I thought it was the replacement freewheel I was using – perhaps the freewheel cover plate was coming loose and the body was clunking around.  Bicycle noises can be maddening to diagnose!

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Spoke damage.

When I finally had time to get the bike into the shop stand, I was saddened to see that the chain had damaged all the drive side spokes in my little mishap.  Doh!  Good thing I checked.  So, I proceeded to disassemble the wheel, all the while wondering whether I had the right length replacement spokes (that’s why you always buy extras…), and questioning whether I was up to a wheel building experience on this nice sunny afternoon.

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Once I had the spokes out, which I removed very slowly and methodically (spokes under tension are dangerous projectiles), I examined the hub body.  It looked pretty good.  Okay, let’s build the wheel again with some new spokes.  Fortunately, I had 9 spokes on hand of the exact length needed.  In a sort of thoughtless way I began turning the hub axle, perhaps in an attempt to delay the inevitable.  That’s when I heard a strange grinding/clicking sound.  I held the hub close to my ears to listen further.  Finally, the sound stopped, but was replaced by a very tight spot when turning the axle of the hub.  Very tight.  Not normal!  The source of the clunking was now illuminated.  But, what to do?

I could attempt to diagnose the cartridge bearings, or I could try to find the right rear hub with 126mm rear spacing (mission impossible?).  The latter turned out to be the best course of action.  Velo Orange sells a 126mm rear hub with freewheel threads and 36 holes – just what I needed.  Mission accomplished.

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Meanwhile, I removed the dust covers on the Quando hubs.  Perhaps with this winter’s especially rainy and muddy rides, bad stuff had made its way into the cartridge bearings and could be simply cleaned out.

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No such luck.  The bearing grease (which has been removed in the above photos), was pristine.  Undaunted, I decided to clean the bearings and re-grease them, to see if by some chance that would change the hub’s tight spot (which was illogical of course).

The bearings on these Quando hubs are either bad, or not properly adjusted, or the races and cups in the hubs are damaged.  Cartridge bearings do not work in the same way as cup and cone style bearings.  The latter’s adjustment is achieved by the correct position of the cone against the cup, something most experienced mechanics can do easily.

Cartridge bearings are engineered differently.  The preload adjustment is done by the factory when the bearings are pressed into the hub.  If it is wrong, correcting it can be a problem.  A cartridge bearing hub’s races can also be damaged by improper installation (or removal).

While it may be possible to have these hubs diagnosed and repaired by a mechanic with the right equipment, the cost to do so is not justified here (throwaway technology strikes again).  Now, I will try to look forward to rebuilding the rear wheel with my new VO hub, when it arrives.  The front hub spins just fine and has no issues, for now.  But, given this experience, I will plan to monitor it in the future.