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.

2014 Giant TCX: Press-fit bottom bracket replacement

It started with clicking as I pedaled away on Hyro aboard the indoor trainer.

It was always on the drive side, and it corresponded with applying downward pressure on the cranks from just beyond parallel to the ground. I wasn’t totally sold on it being a bottom bracket problem yet, as I could get it to go away with slight changes to my pedaling stance and force application on the pedal face.

The clicking got to a point where it became a regular occurrence and could no longer be ignored. One Saturday morning, I decided to finally get around to replacing the bottom bracket. Perhaps I was unconsciously putting it off, daunted by the procedure, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything. After all, it had been seven years on this current one.

At least I was prepared; I had a smattering of tools already in storage for this job. Accessing the bottom bracket always necessitates removing the crank, so I did just that. I would also need a new bottom bracket and the tools for removal and installation. A Shimano BB71-41B unit had been in my tool closet for years, and so was my Wheels Manufacturing PRESS-7 universal bottom bracket press and Park Tool BBT-90.3 tool set for BB86/BB90/BB92/BB95 applications. I had just never gotten around to using all of them until now.

With the crank out of the way, hammering out the old bottom bracket came next. Half of the BBT-90.3 is a remover tool, which is a steel tube closed at one end, and open with four flared fingers at the other. You push the remover tool through the bottom bracket shell, compressing the fingers until they go through the inside of the bearings and snap back into their flared-out position. Then you take a hammer and bash away at the tool’s closed end, its fingers pushing on the bearing cups with each blow until they fall out. I won’t lie – this feels totally wrong.

After some percussive persuasion, I got the old bottom bracket out and performed a postmortem inspection. Sure enough, the non-drive bearing still spun smoothly, but the drive-side one had telltale rusty brown traces in its inner race, and the whole thing felt rough and gritty to spin. This bottom bracket was truly well past its prime.

At this point I could now see into Hyro’s bottom bracket shell. As it had housed seven-year-old dirt and grit, it needed cleaning in preparation for the new bottom bracket, . A smearing of fresh grease later, it was now ready to accept a new bottom bracket – and time to truly test the PRESS-7.

Check out that funky green Shimano grease

While Wheels Manufacturing don’t recommend using the PRESS-7’s universal bottom bracket drifts for anything other than their own bottom brackets, they matched up nicely with the Shimano BB71-41B, carrying the bearings by their inner races. After assembling the tool inside Hyro’s bottom bracket shell, it was just a matter of turning the handles inward until the bearing cups sat flush on the lip.

Once the lip on the bearing cup meets the bottom bracket shell, you are done.

They got pressed in smoothly, simultaneously, and straight. Couldn’t really ask for more than that.

All that’s left is to reassemble the crank and ride the bike again – now free of clicking, creaking, or otherwise discordant noises as I pedal.

The tubeless transition: Some months after

About five months after committing to tubeless tire tech and making the conversion, I decided to top up the sealant in the American Classic Timekeeper tires. It was also a good time to address the little annoyances I had with the entire tubeless setup thus far, and evaluate the technology as a whole.

As far as tire pressures go, I started with the ETRTO’s 73 psi maximum prescribed for tubeless wheels without rim hooks, even though my H Plus Son The Hydra rims come with them. I simply figured it would be a good start point. With more rides under my belt, I’ve brought my tire pressures down to the 60-65 psi level, which introduces more ride comfort without any other vices. I might still experiment with lower pressures, but this is good for me.

In the interim, I grabbed a pair of longer 45 mm tubeless valves from WTB, and swapped out the old Stan’s 35 mm units. Removing the old valves and getting them unseated from their holes was a slight chore, but it also meant that they were as airtight as could be.

With the tire bead popped off the wheels to swap valves, I took a cursory glance at the inside of the tires. They were lined with sticky, dried-up Orange Seal Endurance sealant. I didn’t do any cleanup of old sealant; I peeled off only a little from the tire just to see how sticky it was. There was none of the problems Shane Miller had with the tire beads sticking to themselves due to the sealant. I injected another 40 mL of Orange Seal Endurance per tire, charged up my Bontrager TLR Flash Charger 2.0 pump to 160 psi, then let rip.

The added 10 mm of Presta valve length meant the pump had much better purchase on it for inflation, lessening the chances of its valve chuck spontaneously blowing itself off the valve. The front tire seated and successfully held air the first time. The rear, I had to seat twice after a slow leak, but otherwise went just as well.

All this is to say – I’m now a firm believer in tubeless tires for road bicycles. A lot of it is investing in the right tools and supplies, and part of it is also how well your tires and wheels play with each other. I have not yet suffered a puncture on this setup (touch wood), and the sealant maintenance aspect is a bit of a downer, but I suppose that’s also going to encourage me to ride outdoors more often.