Are disc brakes really dangerous??

It’s been a while that disc brakes have been seemingly considered dangerous, and are occasionally permitted and banned in professional road bike races.

Personally, I never really understood the cause for concern, and RJ the Bike Guy’s latest video does a really neat job of clearing this up.

Check it out.

Velobrico Workshop: BMC Fourstroke FS04 (update 2)

While looking for info on the bike on the web, I found it’s sleeker, lighter road bike brother.

So mine’s definitely a 2006 model, given near identical paint scheme. Not quite so clean as this one though!

Velobrico Workshop: BMC Fourstroke FS04 (update 1)

I recently bought a tired BMC Fourstroke FS04 mountain bike, which had seen plenty of action and not enough maintenance.

I saw potential (or as much as anyone can from a couple of mobile phone photos…) and brought it home to breathe new life into it.

Sometimes you get lucky and there’s not much wrong with a bike. And sometimes there’s some skeletons in the closet, though finding them can also be fun.

I’m always itching to give new project bikes a good wash. Often so quickly that I don’t get any “before” photos… I’ve got to learn some patience!

Washing a bike gives you the chance to look at it closely and spot things you previously overlooked. The BMC was superficially lightly dirty, but chain, chainrings, cassette and jockey wheels were well overdue a de-griming. Is half of restoration actually just cleaning?

Now funky shaped frames are great, but who wants to clean their bike with a toothbrush after every muddy ride?

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Overall, the bike is sound, frame is good, components all there. There’s a few dings, but no visible evidence of crash damage – especially important for aluminium frames. Brakes are ok (if a bit spongey), rotors are true, headset is fine, BB has no wobble.

The front hub was loose, so I stripped and repacked it with new grease. Bearings were fine, races good. This was sorted very quickly and only minor adjustment was needed to the disc brake caliper to avoid rubbing against one pad after tightening the cones.

The rims are slightly out of true. Usually I use rim brake pads as a makeshift truing stand, to see minor wobbles and where to adjust spoke tension. Truing wheels on a bike with disc brakes will be more tricky, so I’ll leave that for later…

The biggest fault the seller mentioned was the twisted derailleur and chain. The derailleur looked ok, so I removed the hanger with the intention of replacing it with a spare from the Steppenwolf, but found it was a slightly different shape and wouldn’t fit.

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A trip to the bike shop later, the mechanic told me he didn’t have any spare hangers in this shape, but he could bash it straight for me. Back home I reinstalled it, stripped the derailleur, serviced the jockey wheels, reinstalled the derailleur and chain (minus one link), and wouldn’t you know it – it worked perfectly! ūüĎć

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If you read my earlier post, you may recall the seller mentioned his local bike shop quoted almost twice what I paid for the whole bike to sort this out (presumably replacing derailleur and hanger).

Turns out that was pretty poor advice as I sorted it in two hours (including an hour’s walk to the bike shop and back with the kids), at zero cost (a contribution to the tip jar was all they would accept – but I also bought some cleats). Some adjustment needed for perfect indexing, but 80% there. Result!!

Next I adjusted the handlebar position, flipped the riser stem down and adjusted brake and shift lever positions, taking the opportunity to lube/grease all the screws that hadn’t been loosened in years.

While poking around I found a couple of other issues: a sawn off seat post (kids, just don’t do it…!), a loose pedal spindle and some broken chainring teeth, but overall this is turning out to be a nice little restoration project.

Watch this space for the next steps!

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What makes for the best commuter?

Mountain bike, hybrid, road bike or fixie?

As far as I can tell, cycling in cities is becoming more popular. I have commuted by bicycle to work for the last 8 years or so, first in Paris, then in Singapore. Over this period, I have the feeling there are a slowly increasing number of people riding to work.

Cycle commuters seem to come in various flavours.

Some choose vintage road bikes that have seen better days.

Some use fixies or single gear with freewheel, with or without brakes, coloured chains, aero wheel discs etc.

Some use purpose built hybrids with mountain-bike style frames, often¬†front suspension and larger than 26″ wheels with skinny tyres.

Some choose Dutch-style town bikes, usually with a basket somewhere and sometimes with backward pedalling brakes.

And some choose old mountain bikes, that have probably never seen a mountain…

I fall into this latter category and, for the most part, rode old, ugly mountain bikes to death work for much of the last 8 years…

I have had the good fortune to commute in countries where public transport is efficient and cheap, so cost was never a motivator.

For me the main incentive¬†was that I enjoy riding, that it got me to work faster than public transport and that a little bit of exercise doesn’t do you any harm.

Cycle commuting is something that takes a little time to get used to. And in that time, one probably changes the route taken, clothes worn, equipment used, the bike itself and the attitude to other road users.

For me these choices were generally driven by the principle of “I don’t¬†want to die”. Crashes aren’t nice. Everyone has had one (or more), and would like to avoid them as much as¬†possible.

For a time, I commuted by 1980s road bike. It was exhilarating and fast, but it didn’t take long before I had enough close shaves to figure out it wasn’t sustainable. Also I find the dropped position on the handlebars limits visibility and comfort (on the neck), high-pressure 23mm tyres on cobble-stones are like riding a pneumatic drill, and 30 year old brakes and drop handlebars aren’t the best way to avoid getting splatted.

So while a 90s MTB isn’t the coolest way to get to work, it’s safe, comfortable and bulletproof.

That said, if you’re going to spend a lot of time riding, you may as well enjoy it. So maybe spend a bit of cash and get something decent looking instead…

So I’d say, whatever you’re riding, keep safe, and enjoy your commute.

What do you guys and girls commute on? What do you enjoy most about your ride?

Retro Rescue: This is the ugliest bike I’ve ever ridden

Though saying that makes me feel pretty mean. Like insulting an orphaned child… After all, this sad, abandoned mountain bike was rescued from a bin and brought home to be resuscitated.

Something in me just can’t leave a bike in a bin, even if it does have a purple and pink-spatter paint job that I could never imagine being seen riding on.

My wife is (unsurprisingly) unsupportive of my “addiction”…

The initial light hose-down revealed the bike to be in decent condition. No major rust, no bottom bracket wobble, true rims, no major dings in the paintwork. The seatpost and saddle were missing, tyres were punctured, the front shift lever did not work and both derailleurs were not correctly indexed and limited. That’s it, pretty good going.

But it was still ugly.

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Not much on the frame to indicate manufacturer, and as I have previously seen on some mid 80-90s bikes, the name of the components is shown on the top tube (in this case Deore LX STI), but not the bike brand. But I did see a partially erased decal which I deciphered as “Creation Kristall”.

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Kristall is a small Swiss frame maker, based north of Zurich, in Kleindoettingen, near the German border. They have been building frames since 1945 and currently have a full range of city, road, mountain and electric bikes.

This one has a cro-moly frame (and is HEAVY), full Shimano Deore LX component group, Biopace triple chainring, STI shifters, cantilever brakes and fat (almost) semi-slick tyres. And apparently a custom paintjob.

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The Deore LX component group dates this bike as early 90s, and is described by Velobase as replacing “Deore DX, ranked below XTR and Deore XT”.

I’ve been keen to ride a Biopace chain ring for a while, to see the difference with an elliptical chainring. Though after a few weeks on this one, I can’t feel any difference to power delivery, or ride.

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However I’m surprised to report that I’m pretty surprised with the cantilever brakes. It’s the first time I have ridden with them, and fully expected them to be inferior to the v-brakes which replaced them. Nonetheless, they have great stopping power, good modulation and inspire enough confidence to ride pretty hard, and in some pretty bad weather.

For a 25 year old brake system, that’s pretty impressive.

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Also, it’s got a Deore XT shark fin, which is designed to keen mud off the tyres and stop chain suck. Though I can’t imagine this bike ever been ridden such that this would be an issue.

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The Deore LX component group dates this bike as early 90s, and is described by Velobase as replacing “Deore DX, ranked below XTR and Deore XT”.

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I previously wrote a post on repairing the front shifter, which would shift up but not down. I made the schoolboy error of dismantling the entire shifter when simply a bit of spray lube in the mechanism would have been sufficient to return full functionality. Lesson learned!

The tyres are Vredestein Mont Blancs, and honestly seem better suited to cruising a Pacific coast beach than a mountain. If they ever ended up on Mont Blanc, they’d be in serious trouble. A Californian in swimming trunks surrounded by snow.

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Either the tyres or the geometry give this bike generally a real “cruiser” feel. Slow and measured acceleration and steering, but comfortable at speed. Definitely not a true off-roader.

As this bike has a great set of mudguards and fat tyres (and my other mountain bike has a worn BB) I put the Kristall to work as a winter “beater”. I’ve added reflectors, a seatpost and saddle from another bike, as well as front/rear lights. To be fair, it’s doing a pretty good job at winter commuting.

There’s a great expression that “life’s too short to ride ugly bikes”. I’ve obviously completely misunderstood the essence of that here. Thus far nobody has pointed at me and laughed while riding it, but then the Swiss are generally polite. And it does get dark early at this time of year…

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There’s a couple of neat little touches on the frame, like the rear brake cable guide and the internal cable routing through the stem.

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This is probably the roughest “crystal” the world has ever seen, but I’m sure it’s happy to be ridden again after a few years of neglect.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

But just look at that paintjob…

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Retro Rescue: A wolf for halloween!

Definitely the best curb find yet, I recently came across an abandoned MTB frame, partly stripped and left by some bins. At first glance it looked like an unloved low-end mountain bike, but a second glance revealed some nice components which would never grace a supermarket bike.

I had never heard of “Steppenwolf”, which isn’t perhaps the most inspiring name for a frame. Nonetheless, a little research revealed they are a German frame builder, based in Munich. There isn’t much talk of them on UK/US cycling forums, but what little I did find was positive.

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The “Tundra” is one of their mid-level aluminium hard-tail all-mountain frames. This is a 2007 model, and was originally specced with a 100mm Reba front fork. Unfortunately, this one has lost its fork, wheels, stem, saddle, seat post and handlebar. So quite a bit of rebuild work needed! Still, scavengers can’t be choosers, right?

The aluminium frame has some nice braze-on cable guides, varied tube diameter, and interestingly allows for both v-brakes and disc brakes (not sure if this is normal in the MTB world, but it seems smart). The tubes have some fairly monstrous welds in them, and while aluminium does need larger welds than steel frames, the welding quality (or final grinding/finishing) on my 2007 Lemond Chambery does seem better. That said, a MTB will be subjected to more stress at the head tube, so maybe this is intentional.

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While the bike needs quite a bit of work and lot of new components to resurrect it, it is a terrific piece of luck to have found such an interesting frame, and will inspire a rebuild that would otherwise not have taken place.

What a great find for halloween. Werewolf or Steppenwolf? Surely the bike was “born to be wild” (sorry, I just couldn’t help it…), now it’s on the road to be re-born to be wilder… or something like that =)

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