Hobbled hubs?

As a bike ridden in all weather conditions, Hyro, my pet Giant TCX, has generally done himself proud. The cyclocross lineage means the bike just laps it up and asks for more, despite my previous reservations surrounding its press-fit BB86 bottom bracket shell.

One problem has crept up with increasingly worrying regularity though: the stock S-X2 wheelset’s hubs have weather sealing that’s gone south pretty quickly this past year.

The weather seals on the rear hub are still in relatively good shape.

The S-X2 hubs are relatively simple items, relying on a cup-and-cone system of loose bearings that allow for easy adjustment. The design is such that Shimano employs it on pretty much all of its hubs.

Around the ends of the hubs’ axles resides a pair of rubber cones that acts as the weather sealing for the bearings. This is where things go funky, and where it’s obvious that costs were cut. It is much too easy to make the edges of these seals sink into the innards of the bearing races, actually aiding water ingress instead of hindering it as they are meant to. In addition, the longevity of the rubber material used is itself a little questionable, as the seals’ edges now have cuts and divots along them.

The cone-shaped rubber weather seals get deformed and sink into the hubs like this from time to time. When this happens, the chances of water ingress increase greatly, washing out the inside grease and causing premature damage to the internals.

On the S-X2 hubs or any other design (Shimano’s included) that relies on loose ball bearings, the hubs themselves are wear items, as they contain the bearing races that the ball bearings run and spin in. Abandoning their maintenance leaves you with pitted races, making for rough-spinning and gritty-feeling wheels. Spending a little more on hubs usually gets you better bearing seals…or a move from loose bearings to cartridge bearings, which are easier to maintain because the hub shell and its parts are no longer subject to bearing-related wear.

Currently I don’t have the tools nor the knowledge to service these hubs; I have only one size of cone wrench, and it doesn’t really fit the locknuts so well. (There are four sizes that are most often used, and even then, the migration to cartridge bearings means these wrenches are slowly going out of fashion.) Now that I’ve highlighted the weaknesses of the S-X2 hubs, I figure I might as well replace them with something else, and have the wheelset subsequently rebuilt, before they terminally fail on me and paralyze Hyro.

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You tell me what “strong” looks like

There are stereotypical physical builds that reflect a person’s suitability to many sports. Rock climbers and long-distance runners, for example, tend to be wiry and thin, as their sports call for minimum body weight and joint loading. Female gymnasts and figure skaters tend to be short of stature, as this helps them perform axial spinning maneuvers easier and faster. Long limbs and great height are assets in basketball, volleyball, swimming, and racket sports.

All of this got me thinking. What does a strong cyclist look like?

As one early episode of the road cycling anime “Yowamushi Pedal” mentions, cycling is one of the only sports where competitors are freed from supporting their own body weight. The bike frees cyclists to put all of their muscle and sinew into forward propulsion. So you’ll find that great cyclists come in many shapes and sizes.

Let’s look at the professional road cycling peloton first. As glamorous as multi-day Grand Tour races like the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España are, they are actually multiple competitions happening all at once.

Jerseys of the Tour de France. I skipped the white jersey in this post, as it is for riders under 25. Photo credit: probikekit.co.uk

The main one is the “general classification” or “GC,” where the rider with the cumulative fastest time through all of the stages of a given Grand Tour (e.g. 21 for the Tour de France) is declared the ultimate winner. For this prize, each second counts, because it all adds up. As the event progresses, GC leaders are given the yellow jersey (“maillot jaune”) in the Tour de France, a red jersey for the Vuelta a España, and a pink jersey (“maglia rosa”) for the Giro d’Italia.

Traditionally the domain of spindly climbers – cyclists who tend to look like they can be blown away by the wind, but can ascend like nobody’s business – is the “King of the Mountains” (“KOM”) competition. The mountain passes in each stage are given ranks or categories, based on how steep and how long they are, and they are accordingly assigned a points value. Riders who can finish climbing these mountains first are awarded maximum points, and the one with the most of these KOM points at the end of the Grand Tour is the KOM winner. For the Tour de France, the white jersey with red polka dots, or simply “the polka dot jersey,” is worn by the current leader of this competition. There is a similar competition in other multi-day cycling races.

Finally we have the general points classification competition of the Tour de France, which is the domain of muscular sprinters and puncheurs, and symbolized by the green jersey (“maillot vert”). Similar to how mountain climbs have points to be awarded, there are intermediate sprint competitions that happen within a particular stage, and there are points waiting at the end of each stage as well. The first rider to cross the “finish” of an intermediate sprint or the stage finish is awarded maximum points. At the end of the Grand Tour, the rider with the most number of these points is the green jersey winner. Again, there is a similar competition in other multi-day cycling races.

Climber Chris Froome shaking hands with sprinter/puncheur Peter Sagan at the start of Stage 20 of the 2015 Tour de France. Froome is in yellow; Sagan is in green. Note how different their physiques are. Photo credit: Zimbio/Getty Images

So, obviously, the three Grand Tours in professional road cycling account for different types of riders and their respective strengths. Nobody expects a heavy, muscular sprinter like Peter Sagan or Andre Greipel to win on long mountain climbs against the likes of Chris Froome or Nairo Quintana, who are both very lean and prioritize power-to-weight ratio. Conversely, Quintana and Froome are outside bets on an intermediate sprint or a sprint finish.

That’s great, but what about outside professional cycling? It is here that arguably there are even more surprises to see.

The large man with the Corima deep-section wheels is David Charlton, CEO of the David’s Salon chain – and a known triathlete. His appearance belies his riding ability and speed. Photo credit: KulitRunner.

I’ve seen some of the most rotund people outride what most people consider the “favorites” from their external appearance, and many triathlete friends swear by this as well. I’ve seen fixed-gear riders outperform and outride Lycra-clad road cyclists in a 200 km brevet. I’ve seen what appear to be old, rickety guys with simple steel bikes hoof their way up Tagaytay faster than riders in their prime with all the bells and whistles to help them.

Clearly, you can never really tell how much ability a rider has just by looking at them. So the next time you are tempted to body-shame a fellow cyclist, keep this in mind. The only way to know for sure how strong a rider is, is by riding with them.

Now get out there, ride your bike, and you tell me what a “strong” cyclist looks like.

Velos at Vertex: Big bike brand presence in Singapore

After my inaugural visit to Decathlon’s super-sized store in Bedok, I hoof over to Eunos and Kampong Ubi to once again gatecrash one of my favorite areas. Hidden in the Ubi Vertex area, among an Autobacs car service station and several furniture shops, are a smattering of bike shops occupying the same huge building.

JH HOBBY CYCLE

JH Cycle is the comparative minnow in today’s tour, catering to a lower price bracket.

While they carry saddles, apparel and tools, I’m most impressed by their folding bike parts and accessories. Check out those wheelsets. The Decaf wheelset shown here, in particular, apparently sports deep-section carbon fiber rims.

There’s quite a selection of folding bikes, too. Most of them are built around the 20″ wheel size and made by a Chinese concern called Langtu.

SCOTT BICYCLES

Kian Hong Cycle Pte Ltd operates the Scott Bicycles big-box store.

The sheer amount of choice inside is rather mind-boggling. In addition to Scott, it stocks rides from French maker Look and the rising Indonesian player Polygon, both in mountain and road forms. Check out that full-suspension Polygon MTB in the foreground.

Scott’s road bike lineup is shown here. I noticed the absence of their cyclocross steeds, the Speedster CX and Addict CX, though.

Scott also makes helmets, and their current top-dog Cadence road helmet is shown here in black and green beside the mirror made from a Lightweight rim.

It’s amazing how many more brands Kian Hong carries. Sharp eyes will no doubt have already spotted Mavic’s screaming yellow helmets hung on this wall, too. Apparently they carry Effetto Mariposa tire and tubeless sealant products as well.

And what is Mavic without its wheelsets? Among this sea of MTBs is a display stand for them.

To cap things off, Kian Hong Cycle is your go-to place for Campagnolo components, Castelli road cycling apparel, Selle San Marco saddles, servicing Fox suspension parts…basically the only thing that seems alien to them is cyclocross.

The three remaining shops are literally smooshed right next to each other.

SPECIALIZED BICYCLES

Specialized has a Concept Store here operated by Tay Junction. Like other places of its kind, it’s basically a showroom for all of the brand’s high-zoot, high-priced bikes – especially in top-whack S-Works form.

In the foreground here with the orange trim is the brand-new 2017 S-Works Roubaix disc-braked endurance bike, now sporting the “FutureShock” suspension cartridge. I’m told that for Singapore customers, they’re all sold with the firmest spring option as the asphalt is pretty smooth.

While I’d agree, I’d also question the necessity of riding a Roubaix around Singapore in the first place. The bike was made to compete in the cobblestone-riddled roads of the Paris-Roubaix one-day race, for crying out loud – the suspension would be a waste here and would just add complication.

At the other end of the pallet sits the disc brake version of the Venge ViAS, the brand’s flagship aero road bike. When it first came out with its proprietary hideaway rim brakes, many complained that the brakes simply didn’t work well or feel great. The disc brakes should solve this problem.

What hasn’t changed is the price, though. At S$6000 (~PhP206,000), the Venge ViAS is still pretty expensive.

Climb a flight of stairs and you veer away from the S-Works stuff into cyclocross and fitness bikes. Shown here is the Crux, their cross bike, sporting a 1×11 SRAM Rival 1 drivetrain with hydraulic disc brakes.

GIANT BICYCLES/LIV

Tay Junction also takes care of the Taiwanese behemoth’s bikes in Singapore, under the name Cappa Trading Pte Ltd, as well as the Liv women’s-specific range. At the very back of this picture is a brand-new 2016 TCX SLR 2, which is a bit more expensive than in Manila at S$2000 (~PhP68,700).

Dangling from the roof is the Propel aero bike in top-spec SL Team form, at S$6200 (PhP213,000). The Venge ViAS Disc suddenly sounds like a better proposition.

We’ve got the Defy endurance bikes and the MTBs here too. I believe the Glory is Giant’s downhill mountain bike, built to take a massive beating bombing down trails at high speed. Cappa stocks Hollywood racks and adapters.

Finally we’ve got the Anyroad lineup, including the top-whack Comax model made out of carbon composite, sitting below the Trinity time-trial/triathlon bike. I’ve yet to see an Anyroad Comax in the Philippines; the S$2400 (PhP82,500) price tag should be indicative of what you’d expect to pay if it made its way to our shores.

In addition to the bikes, the store also stocks Shimano’s and Giant’s own cycling shoes.

CANNONDALE

My last stop on this tour is Cannondale’s big box store, managed by Cannasia.

They also sell other components under the Cannondale umbrella, such as Fabric saddles and multi-tools.

I have a soft spot for these guys because they have a good selection of Shimano parts…at a decent price. This was where I bought my SM-BB91-41B bottom bracket, a Dura-Ace-level part, for S$45 (PhP1550). Everywhere else I visited sold it for twice that.

Cannasia also sells entire Shimano road and mountain groupsets.