Finishing Hyro’s audax prep work

With the December 2022 Subic-Masinloc-Subic 200-kilometer audax looming ever closer, and all my physical drama largely taken care of, I thought I had better finish preparing my trusty steed Hyro for our second shot at it.

First on the list was replacing all the shift cables and housings. This is always an…interesting job to do on my particular vintage of Giant’s TCX, especially because replacing the run of rear shift housing brings with it a chance of dislodging the shift inner cable liner that runs along the inside of the drive-side chainstay. When that happens, it massively complicates the job – and it happened this time. Oh joy.

The upside is that I seem to be getting the process of recabling Shimano’s cam-/linkage-action 11-speed front derailleurs down pat, where in the past I always used to struggle with the built-in cable tensioner. I still have to refer to the manual, but now I can do it without getting lost or wasting too much time.

Along with the shift cables was a chance to change out the bar tape and clean out the handlebars themselves. My friend John-John Torres of the “John-John Bikes” YouTube channel recently had to abort one of his rides because the bar clamp on his SRAM control levers had broken underneath the bar tape, corroded from sweat. That’s not something you want happening on a ride, so he went home straight after.

Learning from his experience, I loosened the bar clamps on my Shimano ST-RS685 control levers to clean out the corrosion that had built up underneath my bar tape with some isopropyl alcohol. Afterward, I coated the handlebars and bar clamps with some Boeshield T-9, which is one of my chain lubes of choice, but is also meant as a corrosion preventative.

Handlebars cleaned, I took some of my old bar tape and rewrapped it around the short length of bar leading to the “shoulders” or “elbows.” I meant this as a way of adding more comfort to the front end, without the unwanted bulk of a full double-wrap of bar tape. I then wrapped my handlebars as usual with fresh black-to-orange-fade bar tape, which was a slightly worse match to Hyro’s current color motif of black-to-bronze-fade, but is close enough.

Note the bulkier run of bar tape just behind the brake hoods. The “elbows” are double-wrapped.

Next was taking care of the seized saddle clamp on my D-Fuse SL seatpost, in the hopes of liberating the Selle SMP Hell saddle I had refurbished earlier this year. As much as I like the Italian firm’s more premium Drakon model, the Hell’s slimmer profile makes it a little more compliant and better suited for a long-distance ride like this, and thanks to the refurb job it now has the top cover material it arguably should have had from the beginning.

Note the tightening torque spec on the original saddle clamp. Click to enlarge

The problem was that the single bolt securing the saddle to the seatpost had seized into its receiving nut. It should be able to rotate on its threads away from the nut; what had happened was that any attempt to loosen the bolt also spun the nut along with it. So the Hell spent months stuck on the seatpost, unrideable through no fault of its own. My first idea was to drill the bolt out, but it was too long, too strong, and would take too much time.

It took some help from my handyman father-in-law to finally solve this puzzle. He had used an angle grinder to cut two slots into the captive nut’s head, turning it into a large screw that could be held in place by a large flat-head screwdriver, while the bolt was loosened on the other side by a 5 mm hex key.

Exploded view of all the parts of the D-Fuse SL seatpost’s saddle clamp.

Anticipating some destruction of the current saddle clamp would be necessary, I had bought in advance two spare saddle clamp assemblies from in the UK, and used one of them to rebuild the seatpost. While I was doing so, I noticed the new saddle clamp had a different tightening torque range. The original unit was supposed to be tightened to 15-18 Nm; the new clamp brought this range down to 13-15 Nm. I suppose this would help prevent a repeat of such bolt seizure situations in the future.

The new saddle clamp has a lower tightening torque range.

The Hell has since been reinstalled onto the rebuilt D-Fuse SL seatpost, now with 100% less chance of unwanted sliding around under power. Little dots of white paint had stuck to the leather from the repainting of our house earlier in the year, but otherwise the Hell has been a peach to ride on. That took care of comfort at the rear; I decided to address the front of the bike as well.

It had been some time since I last removed the faceplate of my Redshift Sports ShockStop stem, behind which lie the swappable elastomers that are key to its vibration-fighting ability. The last time I fiddled with these, I had put in a pretty stiff combo of the 90A (black) and 50A (yellow) elastomers. My recent 100-kilometer ride experience informed me that such a combination would be untenable over double the distance, if the aim was to save my hands and palms from vibration-induced numbing. I decided I wanted more movement and compliance out of the stem. Based off Redshift Sports’ online guide, removing the 50A elastomer and leaving the 90A in would be equivalent to three steps cushier, so that’s what I did.

Even though it feels like I’ve had the ShockStop stem installed on Hyro for what seems like forever, I’ve never actually used it on an audax ride, as I rode in December 2015 with Hyro’s original rigid aluminum stem. If all goes well, the upcoming December audax will be its greatest challenge – as is the case with many of the things I’ve bought for and installed on Hyro within the intervening seven years.

Living with Livi: the first two months

My wife has been quite happy with her bike, the 2022 Liv Alight DD I gifted her with last Christmas. We’ve taken a few rides around with it and she’s really come to enjoy riding it, graduating from the 20″/406 mm wheel size of my folding bike Bino.

That said, there are a few tweaks she’s asked for, mainly to make the bike more her own. For starters, she gave her new steed a name: “Livi.” Also, I got her some name and flag decals to stick on the Alight’s frame, courtesy of VeloInk. Most of the first set of decals I bought from them in 2014 still look great today, eight years later. Even with the rigmarole of ordering from overseas, they were a very easy repeat purchase – and I got three dozen or so of them this time around.

The two bikes mounted to the Minoura Vergo-TF2-WH transport rack inside our GUN143 Toyota Innova. The wheel holder strut has to pivot to an angle to fit both front wheels, but otherwise this works great.

One persistent issue for her is a way of carrying small items and knick-knacks aboard. She’s never really been comfortable with carrying stuff in pockets on her person, and these days it’s also unwise to set out on a ride without spares for puncture repair. So on went one of my old trusty Giyo GP-61S mini pumps, plus one of my Topeak Wedge Drybag saddlebags to store her spares. Nestled inside are 700C inner tubes with Schrader valves – rather hard to find locally. I resorted to Amazon to keep a small stash of these on hand.

For small item storage, I got her a Revelate Designs Mag-Tank top tube bag. I’ve had very good results with mine, so this was a viable solution for her. She opted for one in purple for an added dash of color, and I took some extra steps to protect her frame’s paint from the grippy rubber dots that help keep the bag from sliding around. I bought strips of frame protecting tape (informally called “helicopter tape”) and cut them to size to sit where the Mag-Tank would. Some time with a water spray bottle later, the Alight’s top tube was fully protected from any ugly marks the Mag-Tank’s rubbery underside would leave.

If only I had thought of this when I got mine two years ago…

For improved visibility, I hooked up a Cat Eye Rapid Mini rear light, but was concerned as my wife’s saddle height is quite low. Any saddlebag-mounted light with this low of a saddle height runs the risk of getting obscured by the rear wheel. The Rapid Mini isn’t powerful enough to act as a main light in these scenarios.

The Cygolite Hotrod 90 rear light as mounted on my bike Hyro. This thing is seriously bright.

I decided to add lighting to the chainstay via Cygolite’s Hotrod 90. This made-in-USA item is very, very eye-catching due to its 90-lumen output, which is impressive for a rear light. At its higher intensity modes, it can be borderline annoying if you had to look at it while drafting another rider – it’s that powerful. The flip side is, this strong flashing output makes it a very good safety light to run in the daytime.

Look closely at the top tube and you can just about make out the helicopter tape I added.

After all this, there is still some scope for improvement on the Alight.

I’m waiting on a set of full-length fenders to fit onto the frame; that should arrive soon. As nice as the freebie bottle cage is, it’s not ideal given the Alight frame’s tight front triangle – especially with the short seat tube. A pair of side-loading bottle cages is a better fit. Third, the supplied plastic pedals are definitely going to break at some point.

The bigger concern is the front shifting. I believe I’ve set up the Shimano Tourney front derailleur as well as I could, but upshifts are simply harder and more inconsistent than they should be. I can shift to the big ring just fine on the workstand, but my wife may not necessarily have the thumb strength needed to do it successfully and/or consistently. I find it’s due to the stock Prowheel crank, and the shift ramps and pins on the inside of its big chainring just not doing their job well. This is one item which I think is ripe for an upgrade, but at the same time I don’t want to stray too far from its beginner-friendly 46/30T gearing.

Bike shopping for my wife, part 3: New bike day!

The lavender-and-brown bike box arrived just over two weeks after I had placed my order with Cycle Express. After three years, I was finally able to gift her her own bike!

Pulled out of the box, the Liv Alight 2 DD Disc was about 70% pre-built. The saddle and seatpost, front wheel, front brake caliper, handlebar, and side-mount kickstand (!) came lashed to the rest of the bike, but not assembled to it; these are simple enough to install. Smaller but more important things like shift cables and hydraulic brake lines were pre-installed, although these would become the subject of more involved final preparation later on.

Like with Hyro, my TCX, Giant/Liv throws in a smaller box of odds and ends with the Alight, combining important items like the front QR skewer and rear derailleur cable housing, with more optional accessories such as reflectors and a dinky bell.

To Cycle Express’ credit, they threw in a bottle cage and a basic but large water bottle for free with the Alight – both Giant-branded items.


Looking at the frame reveals interesting details I didn’t spot in photos. Even at this low price point, Liv saw it fit to offer partial internal cable routing on the Alight, the shift cables and rear brake hose disappearing into the left side of the head tube and reappearing just before the bottom bracket shell. Unlike with Hyro, however, there appear to be no inner guide tubes for the shift cables after they enter the head tube – it’s just a straight shot along the downtube.

From there, they run through the cable guide and continue zip-tied to the chainstays, the rear shift cable containing just a short length of housing before it hooks to the rear derailleur. Again, unlike Hyro, the Alight isn’t meant to accept full-length shift cable housing.

The Alight in XS size has a rather small front triangle, but still has bosses for two bottle cages. A pair of side-exit bottle cages would be a better fit for this bike.

Liv’s supplied kickstand bolts onto the end of the chainstay near the dropouts.
That plate between the chainstays serves as anchor point for both a center-mounted kickstand and a full-length rear fender.

Somewhat evident in Cycle Express’ Facebook photos is the bike’s ability to accept a kickstand. Liv throws one in the box, attaching to the non-drive side dropout directly via two bolts. What isn’t obvious is that the Alight also readily accepts kickstands that mount between the chainstays. If preferred, the LitePro double-leg kickstand will work here just fine.

Cushy 38 mm tires with puncture protection. All good…except for that confusing name.

Lastly, Liv says the Alight frame has clearance to swallow 700C x 40 mm rubber. The bike comes shod with 700C x 38 mm Giant “S-X2” tires on Liv’s GX wheelset. This naming convention is confusing and a little funny as Giant has previously used the S-X2 moniker for the wheelset, but hey, okay I guess. The wheelset is basically a Liv-branded copy of Hyro’s stock wheelset with 19 mm internal rim width, although the hubs have slightly taller flanges, there are 32 spokes instead of 28, and the rims are drilled for a Schrader valve instead of a Presta one. Such fat tires allow more air volume and lower tire pressures – I inflated these to 60 psi front, 70 psi rear.


As advertised, the Alight in “2 DD Disc” form came with a 2×8 drivetrain, combining a Shimano CS-HG31-8 cassette with a Prowheel 46/30T crankset with 170 mm arms attached to a square-taper bottom bracket. A Shimano Altus RD-M310 rear derailleur handles shifting at the rear, while a Shimano Tourney FD-TY710-2-TS3 front derailleur shoves the chain between chainrings. Both mechs are hooked up to Shimano’s own SL-M310 trigger shifters.

Shimano’s “MegaRange” cassettes and freewheels for 7- and 8-speed bikes emphasize the 34T cog as a bailout gear, with a large jump from the next smaller cog (11-13-15-17-20-23-26-34 in this case).
Don’t let the rough finish fool you.
The front shifting was a challenge to adjust and get right. I suspect most of it lies with the crank and bottom bracket design though.

Despite its quaint looks, the Altus rear derailleur is perfectly serviceable. Setup and indexing adjustment are as straightforward as a 105 5700 rear mech, with action that’s just as good. On the other hand, the front gearing as a whole isn’t as nice. Adjustment was strange until I learned that setting the low limit properly is 75% of the process. Even then, there is chain rub that I just can’t trim out or silence. The crank is the likely culprit, as shifts to the big ring can be hesitant, and the shift consistency of cranks for square-taper bottom brackets is at the mercy of their friction fitment.


I’m still shocked at how small the caliper mounting bolts are.

Tektro covers braking duties with their HD-R280 hydraulic brakeset, clamping down on their own 160 mm rotors front and rear. Like my old TRP Spyres, these calipers use the Shimano B01S pad shape, and come supplied with resin brake pads.

This is my first experience with any Flat Mount hardware and frames, as Hyro is a Post Mount bike. As mentioned, the front brake caliper shipped away from its fork, so I had to mount it up. I was surprised at just how short and tiny these brake mounting bolts were, but I guess it makes sense given how they only need to secure the Flat Mount adapter and not the whole caliper.

The Alight had pretty nasty brake rub out of the box, and Flat Mount certainly made the caliper alignment procedure fiddlier compared to Post Mount. Eventually I got both front and rear brakes to a rub-free point.


A Liv-branded saddle comes stock, perched on a “D-Fuse” D-shaped seatpost. You can just about make out the two bolts on the saddle clamp.

The stock saddle on the Alight is a standard-length item, about 3 cm longer than the Specialized Power installed on my folding bike Bino. This has a touch more give to its padding, but retains firmness and support past that point – which is promising and shows Liv know effective saddle construction. My wife hasn’t gone on long rides with this bike yet, so the jury’s out on whether this will work for her or not.

Giant’s D-Fuse seatpost appears here in a bid to increase ride comfort even further. The D-shaped profile encourages the seatpost to bend rearward, acting as a cantilever or leaf spring, and this technology works better when more of the seatpost is exposed.

The final item of note is the strange saddle clamp. While a two-bolt design, it doesn’t appear like it allows adjusting saddle angle independently of saddle setback. For all intents and purposes, this is almost identical to Bino’s saddle clamp, where loosening the mechanism lets the saddle move unconstrained.

The trigger shifters are okay. No trim position on the left one though.

The 600 mm handlebars are just 20 mm wider than Bino’s, making for a compact, familiar profile. This bike is too small for me to ride comfortably, but I’d guess the larger wheel and shorter steerer tube length would make for a more stable steering feel despite the almost identical handlebar width. That stability is helped by the XS-size-specific 78.2 mm of trail, which is on the high side and bodes well for jaunts on gravel. I did have to loosen the headset a little, as there was too much preload and the steering felt unnecessarily strained out of the box.

Liv finishes the bars with simple slide-on rubber grips, and throws in a pair of cheap plastic flat pedals. It’s a nice cockpit given the price, but there’s lots of scope for improvement as well, especially when things start to wear out with use.


Apparently the “DD” in the designation stands for “double diamond” – a reference to the frame shape.
The “normal” Alight is a quasi-mixte frame with a lowered step-through top tube.

The 2022 Liv Alight 2 DD Disc is not a shabby bike. At first blush, I think it’s a solid package for general getting-around and fitness riding, and my wife is very happy with her Christmas gift.

If she were so inclined, though, there are lots of areas for performance improvement – and the frame is smartly designed to accommodate them. If my experience with Hyro’s stock wheelset is any indication, the (identical) wheelset here is pretty heavy (accounting for 2 kg of the bike’s total weight), and a swap to a lighter pair will unlock some more ability. Personal-fit things aside, I think the other major area for potential performance gains is the crank. Switching to a two-piece crank would greatly improve the front shifting, as doing away with the square-taper bottom bracket will also greatly reduce the inherent variability in chainring position. FSA makes applicable “adventure” crank options that will retain the 46/30T gearing.

That’s all up to her, though. After all, this bike isn’t mine. I’m glad to report that she enjoyed her maiden ride on it – just a short jaunt around our village.