Haneda and maintenance

Selfie of two cyclists in front of Haneda peace shrine torii gate

Today the Halfakid had to be home by noon (for a virtual nomikai, as it turns out), so that pretty much ruled out all destinations apart from Haneda. I left home at a quarter to 8 and soon met up with the Halfakid. He was ready to go (for a change) and we were soon zipping through traffic on our way to the Tamagawa cycling course.

The weather was very warm and somewhat windy. It was nice when the wind was with us, of course, but at other times we had difficulty keeping our average speed up. The crowds on the paths presented another challenge. We didn’t encounter as many people overall as we did on last Sunday’s charge up to Otarumi Touge, but I think we ran over came across more father-son groups, with five- and six-year-olds zig-zagging across the path in front of us while Papa’s attention was on a passing jogger.

Selfie of two cyclists in front of Haneda peace shrine torii gate
Just me ‘n’ Thomas De Gendt chillin’ at Haneda

Despite these obstacles (and a detour caused by construction on the path) we made good time to Haneda, arriving in less than 90 minutes. We had an early lunch of Nana’s world-famous onigiri, with the Halfakid wolfing down three in less time than it took me to eat two. We were soon up again and on our way home, alternately being helped and hindered by the wind as we dodged pedestrians and slower bikers.

At the only climb of note on the course, rising up out of the Tamagawa valley and Futako Tamagawa, the Halfakid rocketed past while I shifted to progressively lower gears. When I caught up with him at the top of the grade 500m later, he said he hadn’t shifted down at all — just powered through it. We rested briefly before continuing home in traffic. I dropped the Halfakid off at his apartment at 11:30.

Cleaning and adjusting

Tomorrow we have rain in the forecast, so I thought this is a good chance to do some cleaning and adjusting. Koroko’s shifting performance has been error-free since I installed the Sugino crankset and matching bottom bracket. The front disc has been making a grinding noise during braking, though, so I thought it might be time to replace the brake pads. (I just replaced them in July last year, following the Lejog attempt.

Bicycle fork without wheel; disk brake pad inspection
Wheel off and brakepads out

It just took a minute or two to get Kuroko into the workstand and remove the front wheel, and another minute to get the brake pads out. The pads have plenty of thickness left, so obviously this is not the problem. I decided to put the pads back in, clean the brakes and adjust them.

Spray brake cleaner over bicycle brake disc; brake lever secured with rubber band
Disc brake cleaning and adjusting

The brake cleaner warns to use it in a well-ventilated area, and they are not kidding! Anyone who has wasted a childhood gluing together plastic model kits will be familiar with the smell, and the cleaner has it in a very concentrated dose. Fortunately the Workshop in the Sky is open to the air and the fumes cleared quickly. After spraying it’s just a matter of waiting a minute or two for the cleaner to evaporate, then wiping the disc with a clean shop cloth. After that I put the wheel back on the bike and adjusted the brake. I got a thick rubber band to hold the brake lever while I adjust the brakes, and this worked out well. Since I was already cleaning and adjusting the front brake, I did the back as well for good measure.

Finally, I loosened and readjusted the new crankset. It’s been working fine, but now that I’ve got nearly 200km on it I’m sure it’s had a chance to bed in a bit. Once I’d done that I gave it a couple of test spins, and sure enough I’m getting an additional revolution or two of the cranks now than when it was new.

GPS route of Haneda round trip ride
Haneda with the scion

Quarantine-busting climb

Fujisan partially obscured by clouds

The Halfakid and I set out Sunday morning up the Tama and Asa rivers towards Mt Takao and Otarumi Pass. This was my first big ride since I replaced Kuroko’s crankset and bottom bracket (for what I hope is the final time). Furthermore, the last time we came this route, the Halfakid suffered two flats within 10 minutes of each other and we ended up walking several kilometers to find a bike shop. As on that occasion, we had quite a bit of wind to contend with. But I’m happy to say we had no mechanical issues or flats, and we (eventually) reached our goal.

Two bicycles leaning against a park railing
First rest stop

With the beautiful weather, Tokyoites were ignoring the stay-at-home recommendation and the paths were jam-packed. On more than one occasion we had to shout warnings at people who ignored the repeated rings of our bells. The cream of the crop was a fellow trying to photograph dogwood blossoms as he was riding his bike, and another who was walking backwards (without looking) over the path to position himself to take a picture of his wife (who was tugging on a branch covered with dogwood blossoms).

The paths seem rather popular today.
Zowie! Where did all these @#$% people come from?!?!
Bicycle leaning against railing in front of Goma Bridge sign
Taking a break at Goma Bridge

Fortunately we managed not to kill anyone on our way to the big climb — although it was touch-and-go in a few cases. As we approached Takaosan Guchi, where we usually take a lunch break, the Halfakid asked if I wanted to continue up the climb and eat afterwards. Not on your life! I was already hungry and I knew from experience that I needed the carbohydrates to make the climb. We stopped at our usual spot and loaded up on food and water and then set out up the climb.

Things were going smoothly for me and I felt good as I dropped onto the smaller chainring and spun my pedals up the mountain, with the Halfakid directly behind. The road is mostly narrow and surrounded by trees, so we were sheltered from the wind. I kept dropping to lower gears as we climbed until I was averaging 10-12km/h, still spinning and not mashing my pedals. After more than 1km of climbing, though, my speed started dropping to the 8-9km/h range as my energy level sagged. Finally we came to a spot with some shoulder room on the road and I waved the Halfakid on as I stopped for a rest.

The first thing I noticed after catching my breath was that I still hadn’t reached the lowest gear (which is apparent in that photo when it’s zoomed in). I remounted and quickly moved into the lowest cog, and with that I was able to maintain a 6-7km/h pace without mashing on the pedals. Having already failed to make the climb in one go, I had no scruples about stopping another couple of times to rest during the remaining 700m or so I had to go before reaching the top. I put on the steam for the last 400m and rounded the final bend to Otarumi Pass.

Road sign marking the top of Otarumi Touge
Otarumi Touge, elev. 392m

The Halfakid was there waiting for me at the site of the Fujiya ramen shop just over the top of the pass. We rested in the sun at a picnic table and enjoyed vending machine drinks before setting off for home. Needless to say, the descent went a lot more smoothly and we made it back to Takaosan Guchi in five minutes, averaging more than 40km/h without breaking a sweat.

Fujisan partially obscured by clouds
Fujisan (behind clouds) from Otarumi Touge

The ride home was a repeat of the ride out, dodging lots of pedestrians, photographers, kite flyers and other cyclists on the paths. The wind was still strong and we were fighting it at times, but it wasn’t holding us back to nearly the extent as the crowds on the paths were. My thighs and neck were aching and my bum was sore, but I looked over my shoulder and saw rain clouds gathering. That provided me with the motivation to keep pressing onwards, with just brief stops to rest our hands and backsides and drink some water.

I’m happy with that!

Our final leg home is in traffic, so we were dodging cars rather than pedestrians for a change. I acquitted myself well on the few climbs remaining and soon left the Halfakid at his apartment and turned Kuroko towards home. I’d messaged Nana that I expected to be home about 5:15, but in fact it was 5 on the dot as I rolled up to our tower mansion. (Don’t tell her but I always give myself a lot of extra time on those estimates so she won’t worry if I fall behind.)

I haven’t yet made the Otarumi Touge climb in one go (although it’s hardly a challenge for the Halfakid: youth!), but I wasn’t disappointed with the day’s result. We’d made it without any mechanicals and got home before the rain started. In fact, Kuroko’s new crankset and gearing worked flawlessly. There’s only one part that’s still not performing up to snuff …
Cyclist relaxing between two bikes on bridge over canal
Your humble narrator, chillin’ at Splatt

(Well, it seems like it’s time once more to replace the front brake pads, but that certainly wasn’t holding me back on the ride.)

GPS route of Otarumi Touge cycle ride
Otarumi Touge and back

Sweet success

Bicycle frame laying on newspaper with screwdrivers and destroyed bottom bracket sleeve

In the two and a half weeks since my last ride, I’ve been trying to swap out the crankset on bottom bracket on Kuroko. The FSA that I’d installed in preparation for my Lejog attempt had chewed through another set of bearings — in a scant three months this time — and I knew that it had to go. Fortunately, in the time since returning from England last July, I’d located a replacement candidate from Sugino which offered me the same small chainrings but with a standard 24mm spindle. This allows me to use the bottom bracket bearings that Kuroko is designed for, rather than the undersized and troublesome bearings needed to fit the FSA’s 30mm spindle.

Sugino crankset after chainring replacement
Sugino crankset after chainring replacement

Sadly, the bbinfinite BB I’d just installed in January had other ideas: It was locked in solid. I used a number of press tools in an attempt to remove it, and even ended up fabricating my own accessories from pieces of PVC pipe. Nothing worked, and I finally realized I was going to have to employ drastic measures.

Hacksaw inserted in bicycle bottom bracket
Drastic measures

Screwdriver prying a cut sleeve out of a bicycle bottom bracket
A chink in the armor

Bike mechanics regularly use hacksaws when setting up new bikes, but certainly not in this fashion! (They use them to cut the steerer tube to the correct length.) I knew I could saw through the bbinfinite sleeve, but I was terrified I would damage Kuroko’s BB shell. And that would be GAME OVER.

Working as slowly and methodically as possible, I cut a groove through the bbinfinite sleeve and only made a very shallow scratch in the BB shell. From that start I was able to get a screwdriver blade under the sleeve and start hammering and prying the sleeve away from the shell.

It took more than a bit of hammering even so. I managed to split the sleeve along the cut I’d made for about 80% of the total length, and from there hammered and pried using several screwdrivers and a liberal application of WD-40.

Screwdriver prying a cut sleeve out of a bicycle bottom bracket
Making progress

Finally some dirty WD-40 poured out on the newspaper under the bike, and I knew I’d broken through the full length. From there it was a few more hammer whacks and then the whole miserable, smashed, rusty thing dropped out of the frame. Sweet success!

Bicycle frame laying on newspaper with screwdrivers and destroyed bottom bracket sleeve
Free at last

Now for the installation

I spent a few minutes cleaning up the inside of the BB shell with degreaser and inspecting it for damage. It just had some surface scratching from the sawing and prying. I used a micrometer to make sure I hadn’t bent the shell, and it measured out round.

I took a moment in the middle of all this to weigh the various pieces. I knew the aluminum Sugino would be heavier than the carbon fibre FSA, but as I’ve said before: It’s not saving weight if it doesn’t work. Including the BB, the Sugino came it at 96g heavier, and I’m happy with that.

Bicycle cranksets on scales
Weighing the difference

Sugino’s recommended tool for BB installation happens to be the Shimano that I already had on hand (from when I first installed the FSA crankset), so I happily greased up the bearing cups and pressed them into Kuroko’s newly empty BB shell. There was absolutely no problem with the installation.

Photos showing a bottom bracket being pressed into a bicycle frame
New BB goes in smoothly

The crankset spindle was already greased, and it slid into the bearings with hardly any force. (I’d gotten used to smacking the FSA into place with the flat of my hand or with the mallet.) I had the recommended tool on hand for the adjusting screw and so the crank was on in a matter of moments. Finally, I tightened the crank bolts to the recommended torque.

Adjusting a bicycle crank and tightening with a torque wrench
Adjusting and tightening

I gave the new crank a few spins, and it happily turned round and round for me.

Finishing up

With the new crankset in place I had to adjust the front derailleur. I’ve gone from a 46-tooth outer ring to 44, so the derailleur had to come down a bit. When the adjusting was finished I ran through all the gears. On the bike stand at least, it’s shifting smoothly and quietly.

Bicycle on balcony overlooking city
I’m happy with that!

I’ve been joking for the past month that I’m “working” from home. With Kuroko back in action and the weather behaving, I may soon be “working” from “home.” I’m looking forward now to the first ride with the new gear.

Running out of drawing boards to revert to

Bicycle bottom bracket with tool and PVC pipes

I’ve missed out on a weekend of riding (and several nice weekdays besides) since my last loop around Tokyo. I’ve been struggling since then to replace Kuroko’s crankset and bottom bracket with this beauty from Sugino:

Sugino crankset after chainring replacement
Sugino crankset after chainring replacement

The hold-up in this process is removing the bbinfinite bottom bracket that was my latest (and now last) attempt to fit a 30mm spindle for the ill-starred FSA crankset into a bottom bracket shell designed for a 24mm spindle (such as the Sugino, and Kuroko’s original Shimano 105).

bbinfinite bottom bracket and tool
bbinfinite bottom bracket and tool

Memory is a funny thing: it’s not until I went looking for that post that I realized it has been less than three months since I installed the bbinifinite part, and it was already giving me trouble. But as the great Hambini points out, what I was trying to do isn’t a good idea even if several makers offer ways to accomplish it.

Bigger hammer

Shattered bbinfinite press tool

After several attempts to hammer out the the bbinfinite BB as it is came to naught, and using the installation tool together with a bearing press just resulted in a shattered installation tool, I set about building up a war chest before the next attempt. I got several cans of compressed air to cool down and contract the BB, and a heat gun to expand the BB shell — the part of the frame that holds the bottom bracket. And then I got serious and added a Park Tool bearing press and removal tool.

Park Tool bearing press, removal tool and hacksaw on a wood floor
Bearing press, removal tool and hacksaw

I also got several pieces of PVC pipe. My idea was to remove the bearings one by one, and then use the PVC together with the bearing press to push the remaining sleeve out of the bottom bracket shell. The first step was to cut a larger diameter PVC pipe to fit snugly around the frame, taking the place of the shattered installation tool. It took me a good 10 minutes or so with the hacksaw to achieve a passable fit.

Hacksaw and PVC
Hacksaw and PVC

PVC stub fitted to bicycle bottom bracket
Happy with that

Once that was ready, I set about removing the existing bearings with a hammer and the bearing removal tool.

Bearing removal tool in bicycle bottom bracket
Still making good use of the hammer

The spread of the removal tool’s flanges isn’t really enough for this bearing size, so I had to move the tool from one side of the bearing to another as I hammered on the other end. At first I didn’t seem to be accomplishing anything, but after repeated whacking around the circumference of the bearing, it popped out. Amusingly, the bearings felt fine after I’d removed them and employed the ultra-precision testing method of rolling them between thumb and fingers.

Here’s where things go pear-shaped

PVC pipe inserted through bicycle's vacant bottom bracket
It isn’t supposed to do that

I was counting on the second PVC pipe to snug up against the end of the BB sleeve that remained in the shell, and I’d made a couple of efforts to find a pipe that would be just the right size. Unfortunately, the sleeve was much thinner than I had counted on, and the PVC just slid right through from one side to the other. The sleeve is so thin and fits so flush to the BB that I had difficulty getting the bearing removal tool flanges to catch on it.

I spent the next 15 minutes or so hammering on the edge of the sleeve with the bearing removal tool and a screwdriver, attempting to get the lip to curl enough so that it would catch the PVC pipe. I managed in the process to hammer the tip off the handle of the screwdriver. Finally I raised just enough of a lip that the PVC pipe caught on it, and I decided to give my impromptu bbinfinite removal press a go.

Bicycle bottom bracket with tool and PVC pipes
Improvised BB tool disaster

It took some doing to get all the pieces aligned and ready to go, but finally it all snugged up and I started turning the handles to add pressure. It all started pressing together more or less smoothly. There was enough resistance to let me know that the PVC wasn’t simply passing right through the BB sleeve again. After pressing things together for a good couple of centimeters, I backed off the handles to inspect my progress.

And that’s when I discovered that PVC had indeed passed inside the BB sleeve, instead of pushing the sleeve out of the shell. But the PVC was now firmly wedged inside the sleeve, with the lips I had created in the sleeve gouging deeply into the PVC and holding it firmly in place. I gave it a few tugs, but it wasn’t going to move easily.

The better part of valor

At that point I decided to call it quits for the day and retire to the drawing board. I was pretty well worn out from my efforts up to this point, and it was obvious that this strategy wasn’t working. I put Kuroko back in the workshop stand and cleaned up my tools.

I’m going to sleep on it before proceeding, but I think my next step will be to continue attacking the sleeve with the bearing removal tool and screwdriver (or maybe a proper chisel) until I can raise enough of a lip to allow me to cut the sleeve free (or whack it out of shape enough that it can be pulled out). There’s a small screw hole in the bottom of the BB shell (which you can see in the photos above) which I can hammer a screwdriver through to attack the sleeve from the middle as well. I’d previously contemplated whether I would have to hacksaw the sleeve out, but it’s far too snug to the BB shell for that. I’d be sure to damage the frame. (As it is, I’m likely to scratch up the shell more than a little bit with the prying and chiseling. But that shouldn’t be a big issue unless I actually distort the shell.)

Trying to resist the temptation to consider solutions that involve a welding rig …

A day of preparation

Sugino crankset after chainring replacement

Kuroko needs a little more work before she’s ready for the crankset and bottom bracket replacement, so today I prepared the new crankset with a chainring swap. The default chainring was 46 teeth, and I wanted to change this to 44 teeth to reduce the gap between the two chainrings.

The Sugino crankset was available with the 44T chainring, but at double the price. By buying the standard 46T crankset and a separate 44T chainring, I saved myself half the difference.

Sugino crankset box
Spirit of Japan

The bolts took a T30 and were surprisingly hard to break loose. Upon reflection, they’re probably held in with Loctite (and not coated with grease, as would be my first inclination).

Crankset with torx wrenches
More force needed

46T and 44T chainrings compared
Just a couple of teeth apart

I need a special tool, which will arrive tomorrow, to fully tighten the bolts. I’ll probably need to remove the inner chainring to do that, as well. (It would be a great Catch-22 if I then needed to remove the larger chainring to fully tighten the smaller one … )

Sugino crankset after chainring replacement
Sugino crankset after chainring replacement

I’m expecting other bits and bobs tomorrow to finish the removal of Kuroko’s existing crankset and bottom bracket. But I won’t know until I’ve tried if I can get the job done in time for the weekend.