The Bridgestone is Back!

It’s been a typical gloomy winter in Portland this year, with plenty of grey, stormy days.  Normally I ride my winter bike – a 1987 Panasonic MC7500 which I converted to a commuter bike quite a while back.  But this winter, the bike just didn’t speak to me as it has in the past, and I’ve decided to sell it and let someone else enjoy its funky delights.  I had previously stripped the Bridgestone MB-3 bike down to the frame a while back as well, as the build I did at the time also didn’t really stick.  I guess I am fickle!

So, for this iteration of the 1989 Bridgestone MB3, I decided to focus carefully on what would make the bike a keeper for me.  As I’ve aged, I find that I want lower gearing, and I’ve also come to prefer index-style rear cassettes combined with friction shifting.  For commuting and roaming weekend rides I love the silent and immediate shifting this set up offers.

Of course, that meant using some NOS Suntour shifters mounted on V-O’s thumbies, which allow you to mount any brand of shifters so you can be as creative as you like (unlike Paul’s thumbies which are brand specific).  I also used a new V-O Tourist bar, which has a nice shape without a huge amount of rise.  For this build I did not cut the bars down because I wanted a little more room in the grip area.

I also used some NOS Suntour brake levers that came complete with the original cables and special ferrules.  These brakes have reach adjustment and are spring loaded, with a comfortable cover over the lever portion.  Very nice.

Continuing on with my Suntour NOS theme I used the Suntour XC cantilevers which I had used on the original build.  The set up for these is a bit of a learning curve, as the spring tension is adjustable on only one side.  What I’ve learned is that positioning the brake arm on the adjustable side so that it matches where the other non adjustable side falls is the quickest way to get the tension on both sides to be equal.  Once properly set up the brakes are not grabby and easy to modulate.  For the rear hanger, I used a model that has an angle adjustment screw which really helps with setting up cantis and centerpulls.  It is a very short hanger, which works very well with smaller frames, allowing more cable travel from the straddle cable.  You generally need at least 20mm of travel, but I’ve got lots more than that by using this shorter hanger.

At this point, my love affair with Suntour had to end.  I had originally thought about using some NOS BL Black derailleurs that I had in my collection, but they did not work well with my chosen 8 speed 12-34 cassette.  So, I went with the excellent offerings from Shimano:  a new long cage Deore rear derailleur mated to a NOS 105 derailleur up front.  The crankset is a new V-O 46/30 double.  This gives me a gear inch range of 22-95.

The wheelset is one that I built a while back – Shimano Ultegra hubs laced to Mavic X221 rims.  I’m trying out these Schwalbe Kojak 35 mm tires, which are tread-less.  They are designed as a road tire, but with extra flat protection for commuting.  They are lightweight at 295 grams each.  And they roll very well, a bit faster and quieter than the Pasela’s I usually use for commuting duty.  So far, I really like them which is amazing as I usually have nothing good to say about Schwalbe tires.

This model Bridgestone was built with Ishiwata triple butted 4130 Cro-Mo tubes, with a Cro-Mo unicrown fork.  The frame is lugged and has a couple of degrees of slope in the top tube, enough to allow a large enough head tube for lugs in this small framed bike.  The understated (for the 80’s) black and grey paint is still in excellent condition and the bike’s logos are vibrant and intact.  There are two bottle cage mounts, as well as fender eyelets and rack mounts on the seat stays.

I decided to finally use this wooden fender set that was given to me many years ago.  I never had the right project for them so they sat unused in my fender drawer.  The normally torturous process involved in setting up fenders and racks was no less so with this bike.  The wooden fenders have an unusual stay attachment with a shouldered washer that was difficult to master.  The fenders were originally designed for 700c wheels, so I’m letting them bend into place before I cut down the projectile-like stays to the right size.  Likewise, the rear rack required a bit of problem solving as I wanted to use this classic Italian Vetta rack with its single brake bridge stay.  Unfortunately the straddle cable for the cantilever brakes landed right in the path of the brake bridge stay, so I got creative and found a way to use the bike’s seat tube rack braze-ons with this vintage rack. 

The relatively short chain stays on this bike (42.5 cm) meant that I needed to use a narrow pannier to avoid heel strikes when pedaling.  These older and very inexpensive Avenir bags came to the rescue.  Although small, they can hold more than it would seem at first glance, so I plan to use them throughout the winter, as they are also reasonably waterproof.

On the bike’s first test ride I had an unpleasant experience.  While riding through Mt. Tabor park, an unleashed Pitbull escaped from the off-leash area, charged toward me with bared teeth and proceeded to latch on to my ankle as I was pedaling uphill.  After kicking him off (along with various shouted expletives), the dog then went for my wrist and at this point I had to stop pedaling to avoid crashing.  Fortunately, the dog’s apologetic owner arrived on the scene and finally got the dog leashed.  Because it was a rainy day I was wearing rain booties over my shoes, plus rain tights, and thick wool socks and so thankfully I had no broken skin on my ankle or wrist, and no trip to the emergency room was required.  The bike performed very well through this emergency and I did not crash.

Is this bike a keeper?  So far I’m thrilled with the silent, stable ride, the smooth shifting, and the lower gearing for hill-climbing.  The bike looks beautiful and has already garnered compliments. Hopefully I’ve landed on a winter bike that will keep me going for the years ahead.  We’ll see!

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.

A Wee Jaunt to Tadpole Pond

Tadpole Pond, Oaks BottomI wasn’t feeling up to snuff today, but I could hardly not go on a ride – the weather was finally better, feeling positively balmy at 55 degrees.  There was only a light mist, and even though I donned knickers for the ride, I actually had to remove my gloves once I was underway because I got too hot!  I decided to take the funky winter bike as its slower speeds would match my sluggish cadence.  I started out on my usual perfunctory route out to Sellwood, through Oaks Bottom and back into town – about a 16 mile round trip from my house.  As I rode, I started to feel better and my spirits lifted.

Christmas trainOn Springwater Trail at the Oaks Park junction I was treated to a crowd awaiting passage on a bedecked Christmas train – the Holiday Express.  I had to walk the bike through the crowds, then re-mount to proceed back toward town.  As I approached the gully that hides the hiking trail turn-off I decided to take a side trip.  At first I was planning on parking the bike and walking toward the wetlands to view the wintering birds.  But as I was riding I spotted an area I hadn’t explored before – Tadpole Pond.

Tadpole PondLittle did I know that this tiny pond was restored to help bring back the Pacific Chorus Frog.  As I dismounted and parked the bike I quieted myself to see if I could hear anything resembling frogs calling.  Well, it didn’t take long before the frogs started in, with occasional bird calls to accompany them.  I made an audio clip which you can listen to here: 

Tadpole PondIt was an absolute treat to feel so close to nature after such a short ride, and to sense the vibrancy of these little frogs calling to each other.  There are apparently also red-legged frogs and long-toed salamanders that share habitat with the Pacific Chorus frog.  I didn’t spot any, though.  Maybe next time – I plan to return again.