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Tuesday
Aug222017

Muc Off: Bike clean and lube products

I love riding my bike, but hate cleaning it.

It wasn’t always like that, I remember in my teens and twenties, Saturdays would be spent tearing my bike apart, cleaning every little individual part, then re-assembling, using fresh oil and grease.

This was a weekly ritual done in preparation for Sunday’s race, because everyone knows a clean bike goes faster. 

I still know that to be true. A clean bike is more efficient, and there is less wear and tear, especially on the drive train. Sand and oil mix to form a grinding paste that wears down moving parts. I should clean my bike more often, but it is a chore I hate. After all I’m retired, who has the time?

So imagine my delight when a company called Muc Off contacted me asking if I would like to try out their line of specialist bike cleaning products. I’d heard about Muc Off, team Sky uses their products to clean and lubricate their bikes.

An English company, founded in 1994. I love the name, but wondered, will all Americans get it? I can just see some pronouncing the “U” as “You,” as in Mucus. It is Muck Off, without the “k.”

The dictionary definition of Muck is “Wet animal manure.” But the Brits use the word where Americans would say “Crud.” In fact my initial thoughts were, the name should be Crud Off for the American market. But no, Muc Off is telling the nasty crud in no uncertain terms, to leave my bike.

By the time the product arrived there was plenty of nasty crud or muck on my bike to give it a real test. In the past I’ve always cleaned my bike with a little car wash detergent in a bucket of warm water.

What I immediately liked about these Muc Off products is, they are biodegradable, it is safe to lay the bike on my lawn to rinse off. I followed my usual procedure and removed both wheels to wash them separately.

Supplied was a Fast Action Bike Cleaner, and a separate Drivetrain Cleaner. Both cleaners come in a handy trigger pump bottle. My drivetrain was particularly disgusting, covered in a thick, black, oily sludge that was caked on solid in some places.

I laid the bike down on my driveway, (Minus the wheels.) and sprayed the chain, chainwheels, and front and rear derailleurs with the drivetrain cleaner. The chain came clean right away, but after waiting a few minutes and rinsing off with water at a low pressure from my garden hose, it became obvious this caked on crud would need a second go round.

The rear wheel cassette too was pretty much filled in between the sprockets with black, dried-on sludge. This too got a second spray with the drivetrain cleaner, and I used a brush to get between the cogs.

Above is a before and after picture, I was impressed. I decided to remove the rear derailleur pulleys and clean them separately, as the crud was really caked on and was not really accessible with the brush.

Here’s a tip, either break the chain and disassemble the rear derailleur, or if you are limited on time as I was, remove, clean and replace one pulley at a time. The bike either needs to be in a workstand, or simply turn the bike upside down.

By removing one pulley at a time, the second pulley holds the derailleur back plate, and chain in place. Each pulley consists of, a plastic pulley, a bronze bush and two little side washers.

After cleaning these separate parts, fresh grease will provide lasting lubrication, and hold the center bush and help keep the side washers in place. As it is, you will need a steady hand to keep these little side washers in place as you replace the pulley on the correct side of the chain, and insert the tiny socket screw.

After cleaning my drivetrain, I cleaned the rest of the bike and wheels, (Still separate.) with the Muc Off fast action bike cleaner. Pink in color, and in a trigger pump bottle, I liked the fact that it covered my bike in foam, so I could see if I missed a spot. Once over and a rinse was enough for the most part with a little touch up, just on the tough spots.

I used Muc Off dry lube on my chain after cleaning. It came in a handy squeeze bottle. The lubricant was a milky consistency which was good as I could see where I had been as I applied it link by link. I turned the crank a few times to work the lube in, then wiped off the surplus.

MO-94 is a multi-use, aerosol spray with a plastic tube to direct it where it is needed. It lubricates, expels water, and prevents dirt adhesion. This would be good to use between cleaning, especially if riding in wet conditions.

Finally the kit came with Bike Protect, an aerosol spray on treatment that assists in repelling dirt and water. I will have to save this for a future project, as it called for the masking of all braking surfaces, and time does not permit me to do that at the moment.

I could remove the wheels and brake shoes and apply the protectant to the rest of the bike. Also worth remembering, if this prevents dirt and crud from sticking, it will also prevent paint from sticking. So if your bike is in need of paint touch up or has engraving that needs to be detailed, do that first.

However, I do have a white Catlike Whisper helmet that shows dirt. It has a matt white finish, which would not have been my first choice but was all that was available at the time.

I cleaned the helmet with the pink bike cleaner, then sprayed it with the protectant. I will have to wait to report results.

One small suggestion, the printed instructions on the product is tiny, and difficult to read even with a magnifying glass. A separate printed copy would be nice.

To sum up, I was impressed. Muc Off did its job of cleaning under extreme conditions, my bike was pretty filthy. Bike cleaning will still be a chore for me, but hopefully now I have proper stuff to use it will be less of a chore, and who knows, I may clean it a little more often. I know I should.

For more info in the U S go to: https://us.muc-off.com/

Worldwide distributer list:  https://muc-off.com/pages/distributors

Or just Google Muc Off

 

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Monday
Aug142017

Drillium and Bottom Bracket Cutouts

Most vintage bike enthusiasts know about cutouts in frame bottom brackets, but some, especially newbies don’t know the reason. Someone recently asked me why I didn’t put drain holes in my bottom brackets? I was baffled and asked, “Who does that?” He listed frames that had “Drain holes,” and I realized he was talking about bottom bracket cutouts.

It was a fashion gimmick of its time, that’s all. There was no logical reason. Think about it, it is a poor drainage system. The bottom bracket is in direct line of fire from water spraying up from the front wheel. These large holes let in more water than they let out again.

For those who don’t know, here is a history lesson. In the 1970s a craze started amongst cyclists all over Europe, later referred to as “Drillium.” (Picture left.)

Drilling holes in component parts to reduce weight. The fad was huge in the UK, especially amongst time-trialists, who were forever looking for ways to save weight. And of course removing metal reduces weight.

The amount of weight saved by drilling holes in aluminum components was miniscule, but it didn’t matter.

It was a way to customize a bike and a few more holes than your competitor was a psychological boost if nothing else.

If your bike had so many holes, it had no shadow, you were a winner, in style anyway.

Component manufactures were quick to follow this trend, and for example, a seat post that was previously round and smooth, now had flutes machined in them. Frame builders too got on the band wagon. A large hole cut out of a bottom bracket shell, was a considerable chunk of steel that was no longer there.

Of course all these holes and flutes created more aerodynamic drag, but no one thought of that at the time. Aero bikes would be a future craze.

Frame builders used a special die and a press to stamp out these cutouts in seconds. Holes were similarly stamped in lugs before the frame was assembled. It also gave framebuilders an opportunity to individualize frames with cutouts in the form of their logo. It was done for brand recognition.

My newbie inquisitor was still not satisfied. “If these are not drain holes in the BB, then why weren’t they engraved?” I’ll tell you why. Holes can be stamped out in seconds, but engraving takes time, and is super expensive. Especially engraving on a curved surface.

I know this because I had my name engraved in the top of the BB shell.

It had to be done with a special fixture that rotated the shell as the engraving progressed, so the router bit that does the cutting is always at right angles to the curved surface of the BB shell. (Picture right.)

 

It is a highly skilled operation and is one of the reasons my custom frames cost so much. If you see what appears to be engraving on the bottom bracket of a production bike. Things like lettering, a logo or grooves. It was most likely cast that way. The design was in the mold.

Just as my custom frames had my logo engraved in the crown, whereas my production Fuso frame had the name cast in it. (See above.)  I had to buy 1,000 crowns to get that feature. So why did my Fuso not have a cutout BB? By 1984 when production on the Fuso started, the fashion had run its course.

Some Italian framebuilders continued doing cutouts, but remember they had dies to stamp the holes. I was not about to invest that kind of money for the tooling and a press, for fad that had run its course, and was dying out anyway.

 

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Monday
Aug072017

Is youth wasted on the young?

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (Above.) is generally credited with the quote, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I see the quote as a truism, our physical ability declines with age, as our knowledge through experience increases.

Take relationships for example. All the screw-ups and mistakes made in the past make us knowledgeable. We learn what to do, and often more important what not to do. We learn which types of personalities and situations to avoid in relationships.

So imagine if we had all that knowledge when we were young and still had our good looks and energy. But that is not how it works. The quote cannot be turned around to read, “Age is wasted on the old.” Even if we take age to mean wisdom or experience. Because wisdom or experience is never wasted.

The reason I keep writing here, it is exercise for my mind. Activity, both physical and mental are so important, even more so as one gets older. Writing here causes me to think. If others come here and read my sometimes inane scribblings, and it makes them think, that is a huge bonus. I learn through the feedback and comments of others, and even have been known change my thinking.

My last piece for example, about short attention span. I came to realize, there is so much information on the Internet that we can’t possibly take it all in. If I read something that doesn’t inform me or entertain me, I will not spend time reading it, but will click away to something else.

“We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Another good one attributed to Shaw. Deepak Chopra ran with a similar idea,

“People don’t grow old, they become old when they stop growing.”

The only way to grow mentally as I see it, is to change my thinking occasionally. If one clings to a certain mindset, there can be no possibility of growth. Keep an open mind so there is room to put new stuff in it.

Every generation has its ruination. Today it is cell phones, in my day it was Rock ‘n Roll. By the 1960s they had added Sex and Drugs to the equation. Back in the day safe sex was a padded headboard, and the worst STD you could get could be cured with a shot of penicillin. I feel sorry for today’s generation in that respect.

The drug induced haze lasted through the 1970s and into the 1980s. Still goes on to a certain extent, no wonder the world is a mess. It’s not that Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll, were inherently bad, it was overindulgence that was the mistake. The same is true today, the Internet, cell phones, and social media are not essentially bad, it is overuse to extremes that is the problem. 

If a person can’t turn a phone off and set it aside for a short period while they drive somewhere, they don’t just have a problem, they have an addiction. 

Today’s younger generation is not going to listen to an old guy like me, any more than I would have listened to my elders in my youth. But they should, because a person can learn from their own mistakes, or learn from the mistakes of others.

Learning from the mistakes of others is all gain without the pain. If you are young hang with old people, and if you are old like me, hang with young people. But the key is, young or old, to hang with “Interesting” people. Try to visualize the future and realize there is a life after 30 or 40. In fact the older you get the better it gets.

Or rather the better it can get. Happiness is there for the taking, but you won’t find it through drugs, sex, money, job or relationship. Happiness is a choice, so simply choose it, and all else will fall into place. All it takes is the right attitude.

“Life is a journey, and attitude is like a bicycle. A good one makes the ride easier and more enjoyable.”

That is one of my quotes, 

 

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Monday
Jul312017

The Haunted Fish Tank

Scientists tell us a goldfish has a memory that lasts only three seconds; how they figured that one out, I don’t know.

Did they sit and talk to a goldfish, ask it questions, while holding a stopwatch?

I am beginning to wonder if some Internet users have the attention span of a goldfish. 

I have a little thing on this blog called Statcounter. It gives me useful information on people visiting this blog.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t tell me who you are, where you live, or what you had for dinner last night. However, it does tell me how you arrived here, search keywords used and how long you stayed once you got here.

Many people arrive here via a Google search, and what I find strange is when people ask a specific question, arrive on the page that has the exact answer, and stay less than three seconds.

For example, one recent visitor got here by using these keywords “replacing tube lugged bike.” Which led him to this page. There on the screen before his very eyes, step by step instructions on how to replace a tube in a lugged frame. Length of visit: 0 seconds. Anything under three seconds registers as zero.


“What bike frame size for my height?” is a question that gets Googled many times, and will land you on this page. You would think the words “Frame Sizing” in the title would be a clue to a person that maybe they had landed on a page that might have some answers for them. Length of visit: 0 seconds.

I could go on and on, but I’ll just do one more. “Centering side pull brakes” will land you here. Simple instructions, 107 words and 2 photographs. The only way it could be any easier would be if I came round to your house and showed you how to do it. Length of visit: 0 seconds.

In my native England, we sometimes refer to the television as “The haunted fish tank.” I think that name would be more apt for the PC. The only difference is the fish are on the outside, looking in. Maybe some people really do have the attention span of a goldfish, and by the time they click from Google to here, they have forgotten what they were looking for.

The Internet is supposed to make us smarter, sometimes I wonder. The information is there, but until scientists come up with a USB cable that plugs directly into our brain, it requires that we read the information to benefit from it.

In writing this piece, I came to realize this strange aspect of human behavior is really a metaphor for life. The answer to any question, any problem we may have in life is right there within ourselves. Our intelligence, knows the answer, if we just give the grey matter time to work.

We search for answers, but then we try too hard to find the solution. Instead of slowing down and allowing ourselves to see what is often before our very eyes, we click away and continue searching elsewhere.

 

Footnote: This article was first posted here over 10 years ago. Since that time hundreds more articles have been written with even more answers. Plus there is now a Search tab on the top right column of this page.

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Monday
Jul242017

Over bar the shouting

The 2017 Tour de France is over. Over bar the shouting, that is. There is much shouting about Team Sky’s dominance. Cries of, “It is unfair to have a $40 million budget, when most teams have to make do with a fraction of that amount.” The French crowd were booing Chris Froome, not because he had done anything wrong, but because he owed his win to the strength of his team

Yes it is unfair, but then isn’t life unfair everywhere? There are always those individuals and groups who have more than others. What can you do about it? I might as well say it was unfair when I built frames and had to compete with the large import companies who had a huge advertising budget that I could never match.

Such an argument would be as futile, as it is to blame Sky for their success in obtaining better sponsorship than other teams. The French AG2R team operates on a shoe string compared to Sky, yet they were still able to challenge Sky on several occasions.

If France is so desperate for a Tour winner, why is the French government not throwing in some money? France is not a poor country, there has to be some large corporations that could sponsor a team like AG2R.

The problem is professional cycling shot itself in the foot, by turning a blind eye to doping for so many years. Sponsors do not trust the sport any more. But the Tour de France alone must do wonders for French tourism.

Team Sky dominated the race, Froome did not. To me he looked vulnerable at times, and he never won a stage. Uran did remarkably well, considering he had little or no team support. Dan Martin too. Warren Barguil’s attacking style was a joy to watch. Of course if he had been closer in the GC standing, he might not have been given the freedom he was.

And what if Alejandro Valverde, Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte, and Jacob Fuglsang, had not crashed out, what a different race that would have been. Would Froome have won, with the extra work load of running down these additional great riders? We will never know.

Roman Bardet rode a good race, as did his AG2R team, the only challenge to Sky. His time trial performance let him down, and I was glad he hung onto his podium place by a scant one second. It would have been sad to see him drop off the podium.

Mikel Landa will have his day I’m sure, especially if he changes teams. Wasn’t Michael Kwiatkowski amazing? Rode himself to a complete standstill on the Col d’Izoard, then two days later had recovered enough to almost win the time trial.  Beating Froome and only one second off first place.

Fabu Aru got a lot of stick for attacking Froome when he had a mechanical. I thought it was funny as hell. I burst out laughing when it happened. Aru was another who had little or no team support. What a different race it would have been if Fuglsang had not crashed out. These two Astana riders would have worked well together.

We have had a good Giro d’Italia, and Tour de France. The sport is better for having a more diverse talent base, instead of one or two riders riding unchallenged. Young riders are improving and Froome is slowing down, not sure he can win another Tour

Looking forward to the Vuelta. What say you?

 

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