After more than a month of gathering up various bits and tools, I was finally ready today to do some maintenance and upgrades on Kuroko. I’ve got a fairly ambitious ride coming up in less than three months, and I need to make sure everything will work together before sticking Kuroko into a bag and boarding the plane. So I brought Kuroko up the elevator to the Garage in the Sky, laid out the tools and rolled up my sleeves.
(This will be Part I, as there are still some accessories that haven’t arrived.)
The squeaky wheel
During my ride to Yokohama on Sunday with the Halfakid, Kuroko started squeaking. It just got worse as the ride progressed. (What would a ride with the Halfakid be without some sort of mechanical?) I was pretty sure it was coming from one of the wheels (there was no difference if I was pedaling or not), and I was hoping it was a brake issue rather than a hub bearing.
As soon as I got Kuroko in the work stand, I gave the wheels a spin and determined the problem was the back wheel. A quick look showed me that the disc caliper was off-center, causing one of the pads to drag against the disc.
I found a video explaining how to adjust the caliper, and it’s very straightforward: loosen the caliper bolts, squeeze the brake lever and then retighten the bolts while continuing to squeeze the brake lever. It probably took longer to find the right size hex wrench than to complete the job, and when I was done there was no more squeak!
Chip off the ol’ dropout
The next order of business was to touch up a paint chip that I found on the rear dropout (visible in the photo above). This must have happened the time Kuroko fell over after I’d propped her up against a rock while I was helping the Halfakid fix a puncture.
Fortunately, I got a couple of bottles of touch-up paint with the bike. I just wiped the chipped area down, waited for it to dry, shook the bottle and had at it. The results aren’t perfect, but it’s better than leaving that bare metal to rust.
There are a few other places with minor scratches in the paint, but none of them seem to go through to the bare metal. If I find any are starting to show a glimmer (or worse, actual rust) then I’ll just get out the paint bottle again.
While I was waiting for the paint to dry, I started assembling the pannier rack. I’m hoping that the pair of panniers I have already will be sufficient for our two-week trip. (I’m planning on packing light, but will still be carrying a tent, sleeping bag and mattress, along with cooking gear and a couple of changes of clothes.)
Fitting the rack took a bit of persuasion. It’s a very light but sturdy rack from tubus, made from tubular steel, so it took a bit of effort to bow the stays. But in the end everything came right.
My existing saddle bag fits over the rack, but I may want to put a tent or sleeping bag up there. We’ll see when it’s closer to the tour — I plan to take at least one fully loaded ride from home as a shakedown before boarding the plane. In the meantime, I’ll be adding a taillight to the rear of the rack, so if the saddlebag has to come off I’ll still be well lit.
I saved the most challenging part for last: replacing the crankset. I need lower gearing to get Kuroko up the steeper hills, and having 10kg or more of luggage on the back is only going to make that more of a challenge. I’d already replaced the rear cassette and shifter and gone nearly as far as I can with that. So the remaining option was to go to smaller chainrings, and that means replacing the entire crankset.
I wrote last month about the replacement I’d found, and how it meant replacing the bottom bracket as well. Since then I’ve been reviewing the instructions and gathering up tools while waiting for the crankset to arrive. I’ve also had to gather up my courage, since (as the videos at that link point out) it would possible to screw things up pretty badly if I wasn’t careful.
I’m glad I remembered from the start to remove the pedals, as this wasn’t mentioned in the videos.
There’s a special tool to remove the dust cap from the left crank, and then a couple of hex bolts have to be loosened.
With the left crank off, the rest of the crankset just slides out from the bottom bracket (after removing the chain), although it did require a bit of “persuasion” courtesy of the mallet.
The next part was one of the tricky bits. The press-fit bearings need to be hammered out of the bottom bracket housing, and here’s where the videos warned that I could ruin my frame if I wasn’t careful. There’s a special tool just for this one purpose which slides through from the opposite side and then expands against the inner face of the bearing. With a few raps from the mallet, the bearing eased out of the frame. And then once again for the opposite bearing. In the end, it took a lot less effort than the videos had led me to expect.
Below are all the parts and tools after the job was done. In the center are the crankset and dustcap, along with the tool required to remove the dustcap. The crankset bearings at bottom center cannot be reused (although they seemed to come out without any damage). The tool at bottom right is the one used to hammer out the bearings. (I’m keeping the pedals — they go on the new crank once it’s installed.)
With the bearings out, I cleaned up the bottom bracket housing. I was a bit surprised at the amount of rust, most of which seems to be from the screw that holds the cable guides on the outside of the housing. (Note that screw: we’ll be coming back to it.) I used bicycle chain degreaser to clean it up as much as I could.
After I’d given the degreaser a chance to do its work, I continued by inserting the new bearings. There’s another special tool to press the bearings in while making sure they’re going in absolutely straight and flush with the faces of the bottom bracket housing. As always, a liberal application of grease eased the job.
Before I could fit the new bearings in, though, I had to back out that screw! It’s at least 5mm longer than it needs to be. I’m going to have to file or grind off the end, but for now I’ve just left it sticking out a bit.
With the new bearings in, the left crank and axle slide into place (with a little grease and a little more persuasion). I checked twice that I had the proper washers and spacers on the correct sides before fitting the crank in.
Finally, the moment I’d been waiting months to see: fitting the right crank over the axle splines and tightening it up with a torque wrench. I was glad to have the torque wrench for this because the job required a lot less force than I would have expected. I’m sure I would have over-tightened it if I had just gone by feel.
And with that, the job was done — or nearly so. Of course, I had to add on the pedals. Then the derailleur needed to be lowered into place to match the smaller chainrings. I still have some adjustment to do to make the shifting effortless and to prevent the derailleur needlessly rubbing the chain. Once that’s done, all that remains is a shakedown ride to make sure all is in order.