Sunday, October 27, 2019

650b gravel conversion, The Supple Life, endless issues


"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
—Mike Tyson

I had a plan. I want to ride a gravel tour next summer. I have a bike I’m using as a commuter bike that’s sold as a gravel bike, so perfect, right? I’d even swapped out the compact (50-34) crankset for a 46-30 already, giving me reasonably low gears But I wanted bigger wider tires, having been seduced by the Path Less Pedaled wonderful youtube channel (and also their web site.) I wanted The Supple Life, as they call it. 


With that supple dream in mind I bought a set of FSA 650b wheels. They’re smaller in diameter than the normal 700c wheels that come on road bikes, and my commuter/gravel bike as well. The idea is that you can run big ol’ tires that provide a smooth ride over unpaved roads on a bike they wouldn’t otherwise fit. Disc brakes means there are no worries about matching a rim brake surface as the discs are in the same place on any wheel size. What a great idea. 

I chose, after entirely too much agonizing, Specialized Pathfinder Pros in 47mm width in beautiful natural gum sidewall glory. They come in 38 and 42 as well, but I’m seeking supple, so 47 it was.

I’ve learned lots thus far and still have a ways to go.
  • New wheels do not come with discs (as in disc brakes), which are essential to stopping, so one needs to buy them separately.
  • Mine are held on via “center lock” rather than “Six-bolt.” which means I need a special tool to install them. The good news (you won’t see much of that here) is that the tool is the as same tool for installing cassettes, which I already had. Yea!
  • The wheels came with tape for the insides so I could run tires without tubes. Or so I thought. After exploding a new tube (twice) I realized I needed the tape even if I was using tubes so the tube wouldn’t expand into the recessed dimples inside the rims where the spoke ends are and then blow up.
  • “Seating” the tires is much harder than seating road tires. They just don’t want to be even all the way around, which makes them budge oddly, which makes the ride just stupid. Apparently inflating them to a higher pressure than you’d ride at helps seat them. It also exposes the inner tube to the previously mentioned spoke indentations. Boom.
  • New rotors don’t alway align exactly the same as the old rotors, which necessitates brake adjustment.
Eventually I had the rim tape on, the tire on and seated reasonably well, and the cassette installed. My bike has fenders installed for commuting, and I knew the wheels would be a tight fit with the fenders on if they fit at all. That's OK, it’s just a test. 

The fenders are really too narrow for these tires to work completely as fenders, but there was still room to mount the wheels. 

But.

You knew that was coming, right? Even though there’s enough room “north and south” for the tire/wheel combo, the large tire barely clears the chain stays. As in just a couple of  millimeters. I’m guessing that isn’t enough for the real world where I would expect the tire deflect a little over bumps, expanding to rub the stay.




Ironically the chain stays have small indentations just out of where my tire ends. If I’d used 700c tires the same width they might have actually fit. Maybe.




Now what?

I could just pretend it fits, but that’s stupid. 
I could get new less wide tires and sacrifice some of the much heralded supple life. Then eBay the 47s at a loss. Will 42s fit? Who knows... Or just get a 42 for the back because the 47 in the front is just fine?

I could give the tire wheel combo to my wife to use on her Salsa Vaya. She’d get the 640b supple life advantage and I’d have to figure out how to install the end caps for use with her thru-axel. At least the caps were included.

Update from hell

I'd put a tube in the front wheel and pumped it up to seat it. I did this before realizing the tape was important, but the at least the tube didn't pop. I deflated it to remove the tire and install rim tape. Alas I cannot remove the tire. It is apparently exactly where it's supposed to be. I can't get a tire lever under it, I can't roll it sideways. I was going to try a screwdriver, but it's too tight for that as well, and probably not a good idea anyway. How is it possible to remove this tire? I am so stuck.

If I ever solve this I’ll try to figure out if my 32 tooth cassette is low enough, or should I go to 34 or even 36. And if I do that, do I need Wolfstooth Roadlink, or a new derailleur line Shimano’s GRX 810 that is speced to handle a 34. But could it be stretched to take a 36?

I haven't actually signed up for the gravel ride yet. I've not put down a deposit. Maybe this is a message from the bike gods telling me I'm a roadie and need to stay in my lane and get out while I've only wasted money on wheels, discs, tubes and tires and not a new chain, cassette, derailleur and tour fee.

Update from heck

I finally got the tire off, the rim tape on and the tire back on. I may have figured out how to do it; by squeezing the bead into the center and swearing loudly.

I'll be riding to work Monday with this set up to see how it rolls. I'mm still concerned about that tiny 1mm or so of not-reallly-enough-space for the tire.



Saturday, September 07, 2019

Worst helmet ever or just more Antioch weirdness?

I can not explain this. He rode past as I was waiting at a stop light.No shirt and a sock or something over his head. Maybe it's just the worst helmet ever. Feel free to weigh in with your interpretation.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Riding around Lake Tahoe

I've always wanted to ride around Lake Tahoe. But I waned to do if off peak tourist season and mid-week to avoid as much auto traffic as possible as possible. With my school starting the semester later this I finally got a chance. I invited old friend Dan aka Lance Oldstrong to ride with me because fun is better shared.

We drove up on a Monday, stayed neat the "Y" in South Lake Tahoe and started our clockwise loop early enough to miss heavy traffic over the first climb between the stunning Fallen Leaf Lake and Emerald Bay. I've driven it, and it's terrifying. You feel like you're on a knife edge, ready to plunge off the road on either side. It's not so bad on a bike.

Though there's traffic along the North Shore it isn't horrible and I always felt like I had room to ride.


I was thrilled with the new bike path near Sand Harbor. That part of the road has been a dangerous very dangerous for cyclists. Now it's a delight, with smooth riding, no cars and stunning views.

I was enjoying myself right up until we got to Highway 50 to return to South Shore. I'm glad we picked a low traffic day, because there is either almost no room for cyclists or really no room for cyclists along that busy section. I was very concerned. Thankfully the drivers were kind, with many changing lanes to give us more room. But had I known how little space there was I might not have started this ride.

In the end, we made it back with not even a close call. But still...


Saturday, August 03, 2019

Pedalfest Oakland 2019

We missed last year's Pedalfest and sure didn't want to miss it again. The 2019 edition was even better than the previous ones we've been to.

It's a real cycling celebration. As commuters/roadies/tourists/commuters I generally think we're pretty up on all sorts of cycling. But we've missed all sorts of fun cycle sorta things. The festival had unicycles, big wheel unicycles, amphibious art bike races, amazingly cool lowrider bikes and bikes I'm not even sure what they are, all being ridden about by actual people, and not just on display. There were stunt demos to watch and eBike and cargo bike demos to test ride. They even had a pedal powered music stage where the amps were powered by stationary bikes. It was a delight to see all kinds of bikes and all ages and flavors of people enjoying the day and bicycles.


Plus, there were so many interesting booths, most cycling related. I got bike trail map from East Bay Regional Parks, and a Bay Trail map. And I heard about a lot of rides I may be interested in.


There were also more than a few vendors selling not-your-usual-stuff. Tricia and I both bought bags from EoGear that were "just right sized" for us. Tricia bought an interesting book — "Understand and Report the News in Your Community" — from the Microcosm Press booth a Portland-based publisher that puts out "Bikes in Space" anthologies and other feminist bike oriented books. I even got a couple of Continental Grand Prix All Season tires at an amazing price.

We also renewed our Bike East Bay memberships and got a bag of swag that included an Oakland A's ticket.

All in all, a wonderful event. The only snag was that we elected to ride to Antioch BART and take our bike to Oakland, then ride to the event. BART had work on the tracks delays so it took us over two hours to get there.

Usually this blog is all about the photos, but the light at noon is horrible, and I only had my phone. So...




A post shared by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on
Unrelated to biking, we tried Souley Vegan right near the event. I give it a thumbs up!



Sunday, June 09, 2019

Coming soon: Germany and into Austria ride.


We're almost ready to leave for another bike ride. with Peak Tours. Two weeks across Germany and into Austria where we'll finish in Austria and hang out in Vienna for a while. This is the cover for our binder of info we'll take on the trip. 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Summer is here. Time for new cleats.

I waited until my semester ended to put new SPD-SL cleats on my Sidi shoes. I don’t know why I made that a thing. But I did. Looks like I almost waited too long.

These lasted about a year. I guess they are just another consumable, but I'm always surprised how quickly I trash them. With each new install I promise myself I'll be careful, use cleat covers more often, and try to not walk in them. Then I break my promises.

Cleat covers are a pain. They almost, but don't quite fit in a jersey pocket. And when I use them I inevitably try to ride again without taking them off. (It doesn't work.)

My prediction: I'll repeat the same process with these.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Bike maintenance day: Tires, chains, pads, cleaning

Yesterday I spent way too much time working on Tricia's bike and my bike. It took hours and hours to do what pro could do in an hour.

  • Used the ultrasonic cleaner on our cassettes (very clean now!)
  • Installed new tire on both bikes 
  • Install new chains
  • Installed new brake pads
  • Cleaned
  • Adjusted as needed
That doesn't seem like much, but it was.

I finally gave in and am giving 25mm tires a shot. I bought Michelin Power Endurance. I wonder if I'll even notice the difference from my Michelin Pro4 23s.

Tricia has been using Gatorskin 25s, but I put Continental Grand Prix 4-Season Special Edition 25s on her ride. They are supposed to be more supple and better in wet conditions at only a slight decrease in puncture resistance. We'll see what she thinks.

When did chains get so expensive? I think $25 is an OK price, but $40 or even $80? That seems crazy. I'm sticking with Ultegra for now, but may drop a level or two, especially for the commuter bikes, which also need chains. It's so had to know what matters in terms of quality and lifespan.

UPDATE: Went for a ride to try it out and broke a rear spoke. No, I don't see how it could be related. It's just another annoyance. At least I have a spare set of perfectly fine wheels.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Primavera Century, metric version 2019

The weather didn't register in my weather app. It looked to be a cool but OK day. Instead, when we arrived it was misting heavily. But we'd paid, so we started.

We had an event that evening, so we planned on the 85 miles route. But with all the wet, and having finished the beautiful Calavaras Road section we said "Screw it" and jumped on the metric course. I'm glad we did,

The course runs uphill, parallel  to I 580 Dublin Canyon Road and the way to Palmaras Road. It's always an annoying joyless uphill grunt that seems to take forever. This day it had a massive headwind, so much that we had to pedal even when we hit the downhill section.

Still, fun was had, bikes were ridden, and the food at the end was really nice. And we did get 4000 feet of climbing in those 60 miles.