5mm hex and a putty knife

Nearly bare bike frame leaning against a work bench

Following hot on the heels of yesterday’s success in removing the seatpost, today I started stripping down Ol’ Paint’s frame. Everything came off today with a single 5mm hex key, a wire cutter and a putty knife.

Bike frame with rear brake attached and with rear brake removed
Removing the rear brakes

Rear of bike frame with derailleur attached and with derailleur removed
Rear derailleur

Bicycle fork with front brakes and with front brakes removed
Front brakes

Bicycle frame with front derailleur and with front derailleur removed
Front derailleur

Bicycle handlebar showing removal of grip and brake lever
Grip and brake lever

And like that, in just five minutes, I’d removed everything except the handlebars, fork, crankset and chain. I’ll need to bring special tools (which I have at home) for the crankset and chain. I’ll take off the handlebars and fork, but I’m still thinking about whether to replace the handlebars (which are too wide) and stem (which is weathered). I’ll probably keep the headset bearings unless I find they’re worn.

I may also reuse the handgrips, if they clean up nicely.

Miscellaneous bike parts ready to be disposed
Going to the bin

Next I picked up a putty knife and set to work removing some of the nameplates and stickers. Most of them came off quite a bit more easily than I had expected.

Scraping nameplates off a bicycle seatstay and top tube with a putty knife
Seatstay and top tube

The nameplates on the downtube were still in fine shape, but less is more. And if I keep them they may begin peeling off at any time, like the others.

Scraping name plates off a bicycle down tube with a  putty knife
Down tube

It may take a bit more scraping to get off the rest of the glue residue.

Glue residue left on bike frame after scraping off name plates
Ooey gluey

Scraping off the nameplates and some of the glue residue took less than 10 minutes. In all the stripping (what’s done so far) took less than 20 minutes.

The next steps are to remove the broken water bottle cage bolts, and to start sanding. I’ve already ordered the necessary tools for this.

Removing the seatpost

Bicycle mounted upside-down in a vise

Yesterday, I didn’t have any success loosening Ol’ Paint’s seatpost with a vise.

Seatpost in a vise
Seatpost in a vise

Today, I asked a colleague to lend a hand. We were just causing the vise to twist in its mount. So my colleague pushed against the vise’s handle while I pulled on the bike frame, and after a moment we heard a crack. The seatpost definitely had moved within the frame. So we reversed grips, and I pushed on the frame while my colleague pulled on the vise. Another crack and more movement.

I sprayed more apple cider vinegar on the area where the seatpost joins the frame, and then things moved more easily. With the two of us twisting the frame first one way and then the other, applying upward pressure the entire time, the frame soon came off the seatpost completely.

Bike frame showing rusty seat tube
I’ll need to sand that out

With that done, the work can truly begin. I’ve ordered the paint (although there’s a lot of work to be done yet before that’s needed) and it will arrive tomorrow.

May be over before it’s started

Bicycle leaning against work tables

As a first step in rehabilitating Ol’ Paint, I got her into the workshop today. I removed the pedals because those, at least, are keepers.

Then I removed the wheels and saddle, turned Ol’ Paint upside-down and stuck the seatpost in a very large vise. I tightened it as much as I could. And then I started twisting the frame. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture at this point.)

Result: by twisting on the frame, first I twisted the vise in its stand, and then I ended up moving the table that the vise is attached to. It’s a heavy table, supporting a drill press as well as the vise. It was all I could do to move the table back into position. The seatpost didn’t budge in the bike frame.

I tried a few times, with the same result. I’ll probably try again later with one or two guys holding the table in place. But if that seatpost won’t budge, then it’s time to give up.

Bike dissassembled on workshop floor
Ol’ Paint after the vise attempt

Relacing and truing a wheel

Bike in workstand and tools on narrow balcony
Cramped workspace

Following my mechanical during Lejog, I’ve been wanting to redo all the spokes on the rear drive side. The replacement spokes arrived earlier this week, and today was forecast to rain. (We haven’t seen any yet — what’s up with that typhoon?)

Before starting on the wheel, I readjusted the headset. This was a bit loose on my first ride after Lejog, so I just retightened everything and confirmed it was all good. Then I wanted to retighten the bottom bracket bearings. I got out all the relevant tools, only to discover the self-extracting screw had gone missing. No doubt it will be discovered by future archaeologists shoveling through tons of mud in the land once known as England. I’ve ordered a replacement, but meanwhile I have no way to remove the crankset to get at the bottom bracket bearings.

Crankset showing missing self-extracting screw
Something’s missing

Putting that aside until the replacement arrives, I removed the wheel from the bike, and then removed the cassette and brake disc from the wheel. This exposed a rather muddy bit of the hub that I hadn’t cleaned up during Kuroko’s recent bath.

Bicycle hub covered with mud, and again after cleaning
This still needs cleaning

Tire partially removed with tire levers in place
Panaracer tire levers working nicely

With the tire, tube and rim strip off, the wheel was ready for the work to begin. I started from the valve hole and worked my way around to the right: remove each spoke and replace it, one by one.

Bicycle spoke being measured against wheel
This goes here

Bicycle hub showing mangled spokes
Making sure to tackle the correct side

I used the first spoke I removed as a tool to keep the old nipples from falling off within the rim as I unscrewed them, and to guide the new nipples into place.

Managled spoke
Maybe I won’t reuse this

Threading a spoke through a bicycle hub
Threading the spoke through
Tightening a spoke with a round wrench
Tightening the spoke

Wheel with new spokes and detail of hub
All the new spokes in place

As I worked my way around the wheel, I plucked each new spoke as I tightened it, roughly matching the pitch to the existing spokes so that I could be sure the tension was roughly equal. (There’s a tool to measure the tension, and I should probably make use of it if I’m going to be truing my own wheels.)

Loose spokes after removal
These can be reused
Damaged spokes after removal
These can’t

Finished wheel ready for truing
Finished wheel ready for truing

When all the spokes were in place, I temporarily mounted the wheel back on the bike to use as a rough truing stand.

Ol’ Paint before the work begins

Ol' Paint before the work began

Ol’ Paint has been sitting unused outside the Halfakid’s apartment since he bought his new bike in January, while I’ve been planning a total refurbishment — including a new paint job, naturally. Today I picked her up to get the project rolling. We’d already cannibalized the pedals, so I brought along some that I’ve had sitting in the parts bin.

Battersea from Spray.Bike
Battersea from Spray.Bike

I just rode her to my workplace, about 7km, where the stripping and painting will be done. These photos are a record of how low she’s fallen before the work begins, as well as showing some of the components before they’re replaced.

Hand grip, brake lever and shifter
Hand grip, brake lever and shifter

It took me a couple of tries to remember how the shifters work!

Broken water bottle mounting bolts
Broken water bottle mounting bolts

Triple crankset
Triple crankset

Shimano 8-speed sprocket and Deore derailleur
Shimano 8-speed sprocket and Deore derailleur

Top tube showing paint chipping
Top tube showing paint chipping and peeling name badge

The top of the stem has faded in the sun
The top of the stem has faded in the sun

Rear triangle with paint chipping
Rear triangle with paint chipping

Detail of paint chipping and quick release lever damage
Detail of paint chipping and quick release lever damage

Torn saddle
Torn saddle

Bottom bracket and crankset
Bottom bracket and crankset

Peeling name badge on seatstay
Peeling name badge on seatstay
Name badge on headtube
Name badge on headtube

Broken saddle from twisting
Broken saddle from twisting

The seatpost is stuck in the frame. We’ve tried penetrating oil and riding the bike a couple of months without the seatpost bolt — no luck. Today I sprayed the area with apple cider vinegar (which I’ve read is good for this aluminum-to-steel corrosion). Then I turned the bike upside-down, stepped on the saddle and twisted the bike frame. After some effort I felt something give. Closer inspection revealed that I’d done nothing more than break the saddle.

On Monday I’ll put the seatpost in a vise and try twisting the frame again. If the seatpost won’t come out, there’s no point in continuing the project.

Lejog on a penny farthing

Richard Thoday, Penny EndtoEnd, is on his way to break an 1886 record for Land’s End to John o’Groats on a penny farthing!

When this first came to my attention, courtesy of Mark Beaumont, holder of the world record for cycling around the world in 78 days, and the one-hour British penny farthing record, Thoday was approaching Kendal. In the time it took me to decide to blog about his ride, Thoday had passed Kendal and surmounted the following climb, my nemesis on my recent Lejog attempt with Joe Lejog (aka Fearless Leader Joe).

Thoday has since passed Carlisle and is on the verge of entering Scotland. You can follow his progress here, and donate to support BBC Children in Need here.

Getting back on the horse

Bicycle leaning on railing overlooking Chidorigafuchi

Having recovered from saddle sores, given Kuroko a bath, and fixed both a broken spoke and a broken shifter cable, today finally marked the first time back on the bike since my ignominious return from England and Scotland.

The day dawned cloudy and dismal. The forecast chance of rain was low but not non-existent. I decided to give it a go, regardless. I’d already decided on a shorter ride and one that kept me within Tokyo in case there was any further mechanical trouble.

Grey skies behind line of gingko trees at Meiji Jingu
Threatening skies at Meiji Jingu

I’d gone a bit softer on the tires today as they’re designed for it, and until now I’ve been riding them at maximum pressure. From the moment I started I thought I had another flat in the rear. But I stopped and checked, and it was nice and firm. OK, so that’s how it feels when it’s run soft: a bit squirrelly, as if it’s running flat. I decided to continue on, giving the lower pressure a try to see if I adapted to it.

The next thing I noticed was some vibration in the front when I was breaking. I determined that the wheel was in securely, but then found the fork had a bit of play. When I got to my first stop at Meiji Jingu, I tightened it up. It was fine after that.

Meanwhile, the rear derailleur, which had given me so much trouble recently, was fine. All shifts were immediate and sure, there was no extra noise from the drivetrain, and there was no double-shifting required. I was very pleased with the result.

Tokyo Tower under rainy skies
Tokyo Tower under rainy skies

Meanwhile it had begun to sprinkle a bit. Nana had checked in, warning me that the forecast had changed to rain. It wasn’t bad and so I decided to continue. In fact it just sprinkled for a few minutes and then let up again. I don’t even think the pavement got wet. But with the sky so dismal and grey, I didn’t stop as often for photos as I usually do.

As I pressed on, I was still getting used to the tires feeling a bit spongy. Combined with the new, padded and more flexible saddle, occasionally the bike would start to pogo a bit, very gently, a bit like a car with soft springs and no shocks. At times I had to wonder if the rear wheel had gone out of round, but it was fine. I think for the next ride I’ll add back some of the pressure, try to find a happy medium.

Like the tires, my thighs felt a bit spongy. I don’t know how to account for this. Since abandoning in Carlisle, I’ve followed a strict training regimen for four weeks consisting of lots of beer and potato chips, and not a speck of exercise. Surely my legs should be fully recovered by now!

I’ve followed a strict training regimen for four weeks

Guy Jean

Anyway, it was not my goal to set any personal records today, and I’m happy to state I fully achieved that. I just wanted to get back on the bike, and discover if my recent repairs had worked and if there were any remaining gremlins.

Rainbow Bridge failing to live up to name

I stopped to rest and eat at Big Sight, and after that my thighs felt better. I knew I was still a bit off my usual pace, and didn’t know whether to blame that on the softer tires or something else.

Luck is more capricious bitch than Lady, in my experience.


In terms of mechanicals encountered en route today, Luck was neither a perfect lady nor a chrome-plated bitch. More of a lady who whispers a catty remark about the hostess in your ear, rather than saying it loud for all to hear and ruining the party. In addition to the loose fork, which was quickly remedied, I had the drivetrain lock up midway up one of the steeper climbs. I got the bike off the road and gave the pedal a few kicks, and it started turning again. I have no idea. A while later on I noticed the rear thru axle had loosened. It’s possible the chain had locked between the derailleur and sprocket when the wheel was loose. I’m not sure. I tightened the thru axle and didn’t experience any repeat of the lock-up.

Tokyo Skytree
Skytree in the mist

Finally on the way up the Arakawa towards Skytree in the second half of the ride, the crankset bearings started making some noise again. So I’ll need to tighten those up once again.

Apart from the one lock-up, I didn’t have any trouble with the climbs today. I usually don’t on this route. I took it nice and easy up Kudanzaka past Budokan and took a brief rest at Chidorigafuchi. I knew there were just a couple of more up-and-downs until I was home, and so I messaged Nana that I would be about 40 minutes more. After a few sips of water, I mounted up again for the final leg of the ride.

Bicycle leaning on railing overlooking Chidorigafuchi

No additional gremlins poked their heads out on the remainder of the ride. I arrived home without incident and parked the bike. In the shower and with the prospect of a cold beer waiting, I took stock of the saddle sore situation. I have some mild aching under the “sit bones,” but nothing like the swelling I’ve been experiencing recently. Furthermore, the ache was evenly distributed from right to left, while previously the swelling was concentrated on the left side. With just 60km today it’s too early to make conclusions about a 14-hour, 150km slog, but so far it seems the new saddle is working out better.

Tokyo Landmarks cycle route
A familiar route

After I’d uploaded my results, I realized I should have made a couple of extra laps around our condo building to bring the total up to 60km.

Broken shifter cable

Partly disassembled bike shifter showing the broken end of the shifter cable

Following the big washing up last week, I put the wheels back on Kuroko and set about adjusting the rear derailleur. Things seemed to be going OK at first, if not brilliantly. I got everything lined up on the smallest cog, and shifting smoothly between there and the next few cogs down. But the derailleur came to a stop on the third cog from the bottom (largest), and it wouldn’t go further no matter how many times I tried.

I scratched my head and fooled around for a while with the cable tension adjustments — all the while taking care not to let the chain come off into the spokes again. And with some twists and some tugs, I got the derailleur to shift down to the lowest cogs. But then it wouldn’t shift up to the highest (smallest) two anymore.

Dirty bicycle sproket with degreaser, brush and tub of greasy water
Cleaning up the sprockets

I took a break for the evening. When I got back to it the next day, I decided to start by giving the cassette a good cleaning. Was it possible some grit between the cogs was preventing them snugging up together after I’d fixed the broken spoke? It didn’t take long before I had the cogs sparkling like new.

Bicycle cassette showing clean sprockets
Those are clean cogs

I got the wheel back on the bike, but the shiny cogs didn’t help the problem.

She was a fast machine, she kept her sprockets clean …


In fact, the derailleur would only move seven cogs now, and then six. More head-scratching. More cable tension adjustment. And then, with a popping noise, the shifter stopped moving the derailleur at all. It didn’t take me long to figure out what had happened: I peeled back the cover of the shift lever and there was the frayed, broken end of the shifter cable. I went to the shop and got a replacement, brought it home and tried to install it. But it wouldn’t go. And all the while something was nagging at me: where was the other end of the broken cable? At that point I decided to have another break and wait for the weekend.

Partly disassembled bike shifter showing the broken end of the shifter cable
That’s where the other end was hiding

Today I got to work. I’d done some research and confirmed that the screw I’d noticed on the underside of the shifter would allow me to open up a couple of covers and get at the works. There was also a warning about messing with the springs inside, and instructions to remove the shifter from the handlebars first. I was eager not to have to remove and rewrap the handlebar tape, so I figured out I could actually free up the shifter enough (once I’d loosened the brake cable as well) to work on it without unwrapping the tape.

Threading the brake cable through the housing under the handlebar tape
Threading the cable through the housing

And with the covers off, it was easy enough to see the broken cable end and to remove it. I started the new cable into the shifter and made sure the mushroom head caught on the pulley, and then started to thread the cable back through the housing under the handlebar tape. With that done I screwed the shifter back onto the bars, taking some time to line it up with its mate on the other bar, and pulled the hood back into place.

With the shifter reassembled and the cable pulled through to the downtube, I was eager to see if I’d been successful. I quickly threaded the cable under the bottom bracket and then through the remaining housing that guides it to the rear derailleur. I pulled the cable tight and snugged down the pinch bolt with a hex wrench. (I also retightened the brake cable and adjusted the brake position.)

Shift lever hood in place
Shift lever hood in place

Without putting the wheel on quite yet, I gave the lever an experimental flick. The derailleur moved. I clicked again, it moved again. I quickly verified it was clicking through all 11 stops. With that I put the wheel back on and set about adjusting the derailleur. It just took a few twists of the high end stop, and another few twists of the cable tensioner. I gleefully ran through all 11 gears, up and down, several times.

Trimming the shifter cable to length
Trimming the shifter cable to length

The finishing touch was to trim the cable to length, and cap off the cut end. And with that I removed Kuroko from the workstand and proceeded to the next step.

Bicycle saddle shown from above
Goodbye, Brooks!

While I was cleaning up Kuroko, fixing the broken spoke and trying to sort out the shifter, the new saddle arrived. It was time to replace the Brooks, which — although highly rated — probably contributed to the saddle sores which had me wash out of the Lejog ride. I was amused to find when I loosened up the seat post bolts that the English mud had worked itself inside!

Mud inside a disassembled seat post
That’s a dirty seat post

Bicycle leaning against balcony railing
Ready to roll

The new saddle, with additional padding, went on easily enough, and the job was nearly done. I put the saddle bag and cockpit bag on, as well as the tire pump. Kuroko is now ready to ride.

Bicycle bag and work stand
There she isn’t

There’s more cleaning up to do (such as folding the transport bag), but for the first time since I returned from England there’s no bicycle on our balcony. She’s back in the parking spot in B1F, waiting for the next ride. With luck, we’ll go out tomorrow and I’ll have a ride report for you.

If luck is really a lady, I won’t have any additional mechanicals to report … at least until the replacement spokes and brake pads arrive.


Muddy bicycle in a travel bag

I finally got Kuroko out of the bag and set to work cleaning up all the mud that she brought home from England.

Mud-covered bottom bracket
Crankset and bottom bracket

Muddy rear triangle and rack
Rear triangle and rack

Muddy bottom bracket and chainstays
Bottom bracket and chainstays

Muddy fork and headtube
Fork and headtube

Clean bike on stand, without wheels
Taking a break for the day

Clean bike wheels
These can go back on tomorrow

My spoke, she’s a-broke

Rear bicycle wheel showing broken spoke

As Ben noted when he fixed my broken spokes during the recent Lejog attempt, more spokes had been mangled and I should replace them as soon as I got the chance. (He didn’t have enough spares to replace them all.) I’m glad to report that I didn’t have any more failures over the next three days of riding, but when I got home and took the wheels out of the travel bag, one more spoke had snapped in transit.

I’ve ordered a complete replacement set for that side, but meanwhile I have a few spares. I needed a couple of extra tools to remove the cassette, but I had everything else on hand.

The first order of business was to remove the tire and tube, and then the rim tape.

Bicycle wheel with rim tape partially removed
It took some doing to peel off the laminated rim tape

Next I removed the cassette and the broken spoke.

Cassette and broken spoke next to bicycle wheel
Cassette off, broken spoke removed

Bicycle hub and spokes showing damage
Damage to the remaining spokes is apparent

With the cassette off, it’s easy to see the damage to the remaining spokes. There’s also some damage to the hub which I hope is just cosmetic. (Hunt doesn’t list hubs for sale separately on their site, but they do sell rims.)

New spoke laying beside broken spoke
Checking that the length matches

Tools and parts to replace a spoke
The brake disc had to come off, too

Putting the new spoke in meant verifying the direction and the number of spokes to cross. (I hadn’t checked until I ordered the replacement spokes: It’s 28 spokes, cross 2.) The only real challenge was getting the nipple to start to thread in, as the rim is rather deep and the nipple is not notched for a screwdriver. I’m glad I remembered a trick from a video I’d watched on wheel building: I threaded another spoke into the opposite end of the nipple and used that as a tool to get it started.

Bicycle wheel with spoke wrench
On and tight

Once I got enough thread in for the nipple to emerge from the inner portion of the rim, I tightened up the spoke until it felt about the same as its neighbors when I plucked it.

Replacement rim strip on bicycle wheel
Replacement rim strip in place — mostly

Pulling a thorn from a bicycle tire
I’m glad I checked

When I picked up the tire to put it back on, I had an additional surprise: there was a thorn through the tread! The tube proved to have a hole as well. This must have happened on the last day of riding, en route to Carlisle, but the tire was not flat on arrival, and I didn’t notice it had lost air when I packed the bike up for the return home several days later. (I let the air out of the tires when I pack the bike.) No problem as I still had one unused tube remaining.

Bicycle sprocket showing notched tooth
This notch turns out to be by design

Reassembled bicycle wheel resting against balcony railing
Ready for cleaning and truing

With a good tube on and the tire remounted, I put the cassette and brake disc back on. Now I’m ready to finish unpacking Kuroko and give her a good washing and lube, after which I’ll check this wheel for trueness.