Saturday, December 31, 2011


Of course I'd like to be playing in the snow.  But I've also got a lot of details to figure out in the next 6 months, in advance of my planned cross-state tour on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, which I'm now pretty seriously committed to.  So one thing this dry weather affords me is the opportunity to get out and do some railbed riding on it much earlier than I otherwise would.  Today I  headed out to Cheney and the Columbia Plateau Trail, for my first taste of railbed fatbiking.

One of the things I've been wondering is what kind of average speeds I can expect, so I can plan my progress on the big trip. Today's outing was 21 miles at an average speed of just under 10 mph. I'm in terrible shape and that will have to change, but on the flipside, I wasn't packing any gear. At this point, I'm guessing 10 mph is a pretty reasonable number to shoot for on the big trip, on average. I still need to get out on some of the eastern portion of the JWPT though - it's a different animal than what I rode today. Soon I will.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Shimano Alfine Overhaul

I've been having trouble with the Alfine 8 speed internal gear hub on my karate monkey for quite a while and basically, the problem has gotten to the point where the bike is unrideable. The problem is that in 4th gear and only in 4th gear, the hub every once in a while "lets go", or in other words goes into freewheel mode.  It normally happens at the most inopportune times, like when the light changes and I want to get on it and hammer through the intersection - at which point I end up flailing wildly at the exact center of the intersection just to keep my balance, to the amusement of everyone else sitting there waiting for the light to change and watching.  I mentioned the problem to John who mentioned it to Alex who mentioned to John that I should try "dunking it", who mentioned it back to me.

I didn't know what this meant, so I looked it up and sure enough, there are about a hundred thousand online testimonials from people who have taken apart their Alfines and bathed them in automatic transmission fluid (I know, this is starting to sound extremely weird) and then put them back together to find that they work better than any bike or non-bike device in the history of the universe.

This post is in no way intended to be instructional.  Go to one of the hundred thousand other sites for that. The only thing I would like to point out, from my own experience, is that things are not always as easy as they appear to be on other people's websites.  Never does anyone mention accidentally spilling a small bucket of solvent all over the floor of their shop and then subsequently spilling a small bucket of brake fluid all over their work bench and then dropping part of the slippery-ass guts of the hub on the floor and having to get down on their hands and knees to look for roller bearings that exploded out of the carrier when it hit and could be anywhere in their shop. And that they probably came up one short.

I'm not saying any of this happened to me.

I'm just saying that something went down and it didn't go as planned and everything did eventually go back together and there are a few pictures. I don't want to talk about it other than that. I hope it works better now, but if it doesn't, I'm not going back in. Life is too short.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I'm seriously interested in taking better pictures.

Why is this thought bike-related? Because at least 90% of the  pictures I take are because of and end up on this blog.  Not that there isn't more to life, but extended-family-wise, we have some prolific photogs, so there's no real motivation for me to jump into that fray.  Although it would cool to be able to provide Patty with some higher-quality art of our immediate family. So there's also that.

I'm inspired by pictures like these (in no particular order):





And there are others . . . Hank, Rory, Andre, Vik, to name a few . . . all have given me valuable advice and lots of fine examples of their work to look at.

I'll never be as good as any of them, but they give me something to aspire to.  I think the 80-20 rule is in effect here . . . with some moderate effort I suspect can improve my images drastically.  I don't need to be bomber, just better.

So the first step in my quest is/was to buy a way-more-capable point-and-shoot, which turned out to be the Canon S95, which is at rock-bottom pricing right now because the newer faster S100 is out. The S95 is basically a highly-acclaimed cam that has/had a MSRP of $400 and can now be had for around $300. I could have scraped into one at $290 online, but one of our local retailers, Huppins, sale-priced them at $299 and even with tax added in, it was close enough that it's just something I wanted to buy local, in that tug-of-war of internet vs local.  As far as DSLR's goes, I'm just not at that stage yet for a coupla reasons:

1. Technically, they're a bit beyond where I'm at and have the ability to grasp and learn right now, given my schedule constraints.  Maybe, time and interest allowing, I'll progress there in due time.

2. Bike-wise, I'm still hung up on compactness and portability. I've thought long and hard with as wide open a mind as I could manage, and I just can't get to the place where I can envision lugging around and protecting a much more expensive DSLR for the majority of what I do.

So this is my new deal . . .

And I'm signed up for some instruction, because you can't learn every damn thing online . . .

So hopefully, there will be some better photos coming your way soon. And if not, hopefully you'll understand that I spent a spent a buncha money on something that didn't pan out and not pour salt in the wound. Although, why would I expect you to change, knowing you as I do.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Misc Images From The Holiday Hang

Nobody likes a shutterbug. But nobody wants to see this formal-atire event go unphotodocumented, either. I'm pretty sure. You can't have it both ways, people. You know you love it.

Crank removal

Yes, it says what you thought it did.

Draw your own conclusions.

John is pretty sure the demand and therefore the value of this tie will spike at some point.  Contact him directly if you want to invest.

These last shots comprise the shoe and pantleg section of this post. No I do not have a shoe fetish, thank you for asking. I have the eye of an artist.

And with that, I'm out for a coupla days. Mercifully.

Hope you have a great holiday season.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

All Wound Up Again

Someone posted a link to this over on the fatbike forum.  Shit like this just totally kills me - now I'm gonna be awake half the night, head-a-buzzin.  Great.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

9:Zero:7 Chain Rub Problem Solved

This is a particularly long and nerdy post, so if you're not all that interested and wanna blow it off, I totally understand. Catch ya next time. If, on the other hand, you're needing a good nerd fix, read on . . .

I haven't talked much about it on this blog yet, but the process of buying my fatbike has been long, problematic and frustrating. By "process", I mean the period of time between placing the order (Oct 19th) and having the bike in my possession, assembled and working correctly to the point that I feel it's really ready to go get busy, which is today (Dec 18).

During a bike hang a few weeks ago, I was talking to Joe2 and I mentioned that I was having some problems and he told me that he thought I really should let people know, because based on what he had read on this blog, he had assumed that everything was smooth as silk and that if he or someone was interested in a 9:Zero:7, I was doing them a disservice by not telling the whole story. I think he made a good point, but I also knew that I was still processing it all and wanted some more perspective before I'd be ready to write about it. I guess I got ready enough this past week, because a new thread that appeared on the fat bike forum at prompted me to reply with the details of my experience. If you're interested, you can read about it here. I'm not going to re-hash those issues in this post. What I am going to talk about is the chain rub issue that I have had, and what I found out in the process of correcting it.

Chain rub is a common issue with fatbikes, because you're trying to cram a lot of tire width into a space that's limited by the chainline, which is constrained by the rear wheel's OLD and a reasonable Q Factor. That's a bit of an oversimplification, but for purposes of this discussion, it's a sufficient statement.

So within the relatively new world of fat (the Surly Pugsley, which was the first version of what we currently know as fatbikes, came out in 2006), some workable standards have developed. The standard I opted to base my purchase on was a 170mm OLD rear spacing, combined with a 100mm bottom bracket and an FSA Alpha Drive, and Surly's Endomorph rear tire. I thought that this was a sufficiently tried-and-tested setup that I wouldn't have any chain rub worries. So I was disappointed to find that I did. And oh yeah, it bugged the hell outta me. So I set out yesterday to find out what was causing the problem and to see what I could do about it. A lot of the detail in here is included for the benefit of those who might be coming over from because they're experiencing similar problems - I had a lot of trouble finding this kind of data.

One of the things I wanted to know was whether any part of the problem was caused by frame misalingment. In order to find out, I needed first get some good, accurate baseline measurements.

This photo shows the problem - in the lowest gear, the chain rubs on the tire both above and below the chainstay.
You can see the wear mark developing on the tire after just the few miles I've ridden the bike so far.

I checked clearances in some of the other gears, just to get a sense of how much space I would need to gain back in order to eliminate the rub and have a little clearance.

Upper chain clearances:
0 mm - Largest cog
2 mm - 2nd cog
3.5 mm - 3rd cog
5 mm - 4th cog

Lower chain clearances:
0 mm - Largest cog
1 mm - 2nd cog
2.5 mm - 3rd cog
4 mm - 4th cog

Based on these measurements, it looked like the upper was just barely touching and that the lower was interfering by .5 to 1 mm. Ideally, I'd like to have at least a couple mm clearance, so that would mean moving the chainline over by 2.5 to 3 mm at the tire.

I also wanted to check and see how well the tire was centered in the frame.  Just eyeballing it, I could tell it was close to being centered.  I found piece of steel to use as a spacer that was about the right thickness and used it as a gauge.  It was slightly tighter going in on the drive side and I used feeler gauges to estimate that the  difference in gaps was .5mm or maybe just a little less.  So this means that the tire might be sitting .25 mm closer to the chain than if it were perfectly centered.  So not much of issue here.

Checking disc-side clearance between the tire and chainstay

Checking clearance on the drive side, with the same spacer.  It was slightly tighter on this side.

I also wanted to get an accurate width measurement of tires at different pressures, so that I would know if running at higher pressure contributed to the problem, as I have heard account of fat tires growing quite a bit with pressure.

The 27 TPI Surly Endomorph on the rear measured as follows:
20 psi - 100 mm
15 psi - 100 mm
10 psi - 100 mm
5 psi - 99 mm

It has nothing to do with the chain rub issue, but I measured the front tire, a 27 TPI Surly Larry, while I was at it:
20 psi - 101 mm
15 psi - 101 mm
10 psi - 101 mm
5 psi - 101 mm

It surprised me that the width of these tires was so consistent over this pressure range.

I measured between the chain-to-chainring and chain-to-cog points of contact to get an idea of the geometry involved with moving the chainline out at the chainrings vs moving it out at the cassette. This distance is about 18 inches, and the point of contact between the chain and tire is about 6 inches from the chainring end. What this means is that for every mm that you move the chain out at the cassette, you only move it off the tire by 1/3 mm. But for every mm you move it out at the chainring, you move it off the tire by 2/3 mm.

Next, was something I was really interested in - whether there appeared to be any frame misalignment. I clamped a straightedge to the rim, rested it on the bottom bracket shell and then measured from the edge of the straightedge to the edge of the shell, on both disc and drive sides, with these results:

8.3 mm - drive side
8.7 mm - disc side
0.4 mm - difference

This slight amount of difference was in the same direction and approximately the same amount as the difference in gap between the tire and chainstays.  This makes me think that the wheel dish is off by this small amount (I forgot to check this with a dishing gauge when the tire was off the wheel).  All in all, my conclusion was that the frame was very well aligned and that frame misalignment had very little if any contribution to the chain rub problem.

At this point, I wanted to focus on solving the problem by spacing the chainrings farther out from the center of the bike, rather than spacing the cassette out - the common method of doing this involves removing one of the smaller cogs and adding a spacer behind the largest cog. The effect is that you lose a gear, but move your largest cog away from the centerline of the bike by a distance equal to the distance between cogs.

The bottom bracket is an ISIS type and I thought I had the right splined tool to remove it, but the inside diameter of the tool wasn't large enough to fit over the spindle.  Luckily, Glen was in his shop and hooked me up with the right tool, along with a spacer, which I thought I was going to have to make on the lathe.  Awesome.

Difference between the ID's of the tool I had (L) and the tool that Glen gave me (R).

Drive side of the bottom bracket before removal.

The black piece below is the bracket for the e-type derailleur and it clamps between the bottom bracket shell and the flange on the bottom bracket cup. The plan is to add another spacer adjacent to the bracket, thereby moving the whole bottom bracket and crankset away from the centerline of the bike on the drive side.

Disc side of the bottom bracket before removal.

When I removed the bottom bracket, I left the disc side cup in place, so that I could make sure it would have enough adjustment to accommodate for the new shim. By eyeballing it, I could tell that it would, but in hindsight, I wish I would have bottomed it out on the threads and taken some measurements so that would know how much adjustment is available in case I ever want to add more shim for whatever reason.

Looking into the bottom bracket shell from the drive side.

Disc side bottom bracket cup.

Below is the drive side shot of the bottom bracket after installation of the shim. The shim thickness is 2.7 mm, so this should move the chain outboard at the tire by 2/3 x 2.7 = 1.8 mm. Initially, I was looking for 1.5 to 2 mm, so this should do the trick.

Disc side of the bottom bracket after installation of the shim.  If  you compare to the picture before removal,
you can see how much farther inside the shell the cup sits now.

I needed a spacer of approximately equal thickness for the derailleur upper mount point and ended up using three 5 mm washers.

Not sure why blogger decided to rotate this picture, but you get the idea.

Ghost auto-rotation in effect here as well.  This shows the upper chain-to-tire clearance
after adding the shim - it's about 2 mm.

This shows the lower clearance, which is about 1.5 mm.

Back in business, sans the rub.

BTW, I measured the offset of the cranks with respect to bike centerline before adding the shim and it was .6mm to the disc side. With the addition of the 2.7 mm shim, the offset is now 2.1 mm to the drive side.

It took a lot of time to go through the bike and figure out what was happening and then apply the fix, but I'm really glad I did - it feels right now. Hopefully this is the last of the hassles with the initial build and setup of this bike and I can go put some miles on it now.