Tsukuba-Kasumigaura Ring-Ring Road

Two cyclists posing in front of Kashima Jingu Nishi no Ichino Torii

Last weekend after some rather elaborate planning, we loaded the bikes into a rental van and set off for Ibaraki Prefecture and the Tsukuba-Kasumigaura Ring-Ring Road. I’d originally planned a couple of rides using Kasumigaura as a home base, but it turns out there are no onsen there to relax in after the ride. After a bit of searching I came up with Itako as a base, with two rides — Kitaura and Kasumigaura — using that as a launching spot.

It was a long weekend, with holidays on Thursday and Friday. We decided to beat the rush, though, arriving at the hotel on Sunday and doing the shorter of the two rides — Kitaura — and then staying through Tuesday. This turned out to be the winning plan. When we arrived (after enduring a couple of deluges of rain on the way) it seemed we were the only guests at the hotel. There was plenty of parking space, and we set about decamping the bikes and changing into our riding gear.

Two cyclists assembling a bike against the backdrop of a van
Assembling Tomo’s bike

Tomo had packed her bike into a travel bag in order to meet us at the car rental agency near home, and so we need to assemble it — simply a matter of putting the wheels back on and making sure all was in order. Meanwhile, the Halfakid had ridden his bike to our flat in the morning (in pouring rain, it should be noted) and so no assembly was required. On the other hand, we noticed that his headset was loose. As I coached him through the process of tightening it up, it became apparent that the tightening bolt had been only finger-tight.

Two riders tightening a bicycle headset while an onlooker with bag looks on
Fixing a loose headset while Nana’s mother supervises

Three cyclists in helmets and masks posing at start of ride.
And they’re off!

With the mechanicals sorted (or so we thought) and the course loaded in the Garmin, we set out to circumnavigate Kitaura. Within 1km, though, it became apparent that Kuroko’s tires were too soft. I’d just filled them in the morning before setting out in the rental van, mindful that they were still seeping air following the conversion to tubeless tires. Here we were, a scant five hours later, with the tires below 30psi. I quickly pumped them up again to 45psi, at which pressure they’re nice and firm, but I worried if they would hold the pressure through two days of riding.

Two cyclists posing in front of Kashima Jingu Nishi no Ichino Torii
Kashima Jingu Nishi no Ichino Torii

We made good time under mostly sunny skies, at first, and came to our first break at Kashima Jingu on the eastern shore of Kitaura lake. Our progress at this point was neither outstanding nor worryingly slow, but just right. Soon after this stop, though, the sky turned dark under the shadow of an enormous cloud with a black underbelly, and we worried about the weather we might encounter. For the most part, the weather held, and we soon outpaced the big scary cloud.

We continued on in hot, steamy, occasionally windy weather, until we came to a convenience store in the middle of nowhere (but not far off the path) and stopped for a lunch of Nana’s world-famous onigiri supplemented by convenience store treats such as ice cream to beat the heat.

Well, a little bit of rain after all

We felt a few sprinkles as we stood outside the convenience store scarfing onigiri, but the rain didn’t really start until we’d rounded the top of the lake and began the trek home. In the end, it could have been worse. We had about 15 minutes of steady rain, and that not heavy enough to soak us through. Just enough to legitimately say it had rained.

Close-up of bicycle bottom bracket spattered with mud
Some muddy bits

The rain added to the puddles we’d encountered in the stretches of gravel path. For whatever reason (the Halfakid suggested unscrupulous contractors), there were often gaps in the pavement at each inlet onto the lake, with a stretch of 100-150m of gravel, usually featuring more than a few potholes filled with muddy water. I was fine with my fat gravel tires, but Tomo and the Halfakid had a bit more challenge on their skinnies.

Rainbow above a lake
End of the 40-day rainy season — promise!

We took a rest in a pavilion just as the rain was letting up, and then continued on without issue (although sometimes into the wind) until we found ourselves back at the hotel. We were about half an hour behind our predicted time overall, but still in plenty of time to relax in the bath before dinner.

Kitaura Route
Kitaura Route

Same shit, different lake

Cyclists wave at camera as they set off on road next to river
Au revoir!

On Monday morning we set off immediately after breakfast with the goal of circumnavigating Kasumigaura, a longer route of about 135km total. Mindful of Tomo’s struggles in the wind around Kitaura, we were keeping in mind a number of contingencies. The first was to take the only shortcut available, across the Kasumigaura Ohashi (bridge). Eyeballing Google Maps in the morning, we estimated this might shave 20km off the total. And we resolved to have a break every 5km, and to turn back whenever Tomo said she’d had enough.

Protected fishing area at edge of lake
A day of promise

The going was smooth, although the wind remained an issue at times. There were no gravel sections separating the bike path from the proper road as at Kitaura. We came across Kasumigaura Ohashi just a couple of kilometers after Google Maps had told us to expect it, and stopped for a brief palaver.

Cyclists pose in front of Kasumigaura Bridge
Kasumigaura Ohashi

We had a few options at this point (apart from attempting the entire 135km route): continue on our selected path, and then turn back when we’d had enough; or crossing the bridge, and hence cutting perhaps 20km off the route, but still trying to circle the lake (and alternatively still turning back when we were tired). Tomo suggested that the Halfakid and I continue on the original route, while she crossed the bridge, knowing we would catch up with her at some point. But I said we should stick together. In the end we crossed the bridge, lopping off the northeastern lobe of the lake, and picked up the path again.

The going remained smooth, with perhaps a bit less fighting the wind. We continued to stop every 5km to rest our hands and backsides for a couple of minutes before continuing on. I was starting to feel hungry, but — thinking it was still about 10 a.m. — I didn’t say anything to the others. At the next rest break I handed out snacks I’d bought at the convenience store in the morning: baum kuchen. As she nibbled on her cake, Tomo said she was starving. I checked the time and it was already past 11:30. So we consulted Google Maps and found a convenience store just another 8km ahead, nearly to Tsuchiura. The Halfakid guided us from the path towards the shop, but we found that all the direct routes were little more than gravel-and-mud ruts for farm vehicles to pass between the fields. We eventually found paved roads, adding another kilometer to the distance traveled to get lunch.

GPS route of Kasumigaura cycle ride
Kasumigaura Route

After lunch we had another consultation. Thinking we’d shaved off around 20km by crossing Kasumigaura Ohashi, it looked like we were facing at least 65km remaining if we continued around the lake vs 45km if we turned around. Tomo didn’t take long to decide: let’s take the shorter route home! And so we doubled back.

Having made our choice we stuck with it, although it was soon obvious that Tomo was feeling quite a bit stronger after having had some food. Our average pace increased from 15km/h to nearly 20. (It’s also possible we were benefiting from a tailwind at this point.) There’s also the psychological “We’re heading home!” factor that I first saw in Tomo at the Tour de Tohoku last year, when she kicked it up to 30km/h in the final stretch. In this case, though, we still brought it back to 15km/h during the stretches where we faced a headwind.

In the final 5km, the Halfakid announced his intention to go ahead and continue past the hotel to reach a round 100km. He shot past us and was soon a dwindling red speck in the distance. I remained with Tomo, pacing her through the remaining kilometers, and we pulled up to the hotel just half an hour later than our original estimate. I touched fists with her and then said, “Actually, I … ” and she finished for me: “You want to do 100km too.” So I sped off after the Halfakid.

In the final 9km (4.5km out and back) I turned up the heat and was soon averaging 25km/h and going as high as 28. It felt good to stretch out and bear down, and I knew I could keep the pace up for the paltry few kilometers remaining. With less than 2km to go before my final return to the hotel, the Garmin beeped with a message from the Halfakid: “Where’s Guy?” Followed by a response from Nana: “Oops.” Fortunately the Garmin lets me reply (choose from a list of canned replies) without stopping, so I messaged, “Be home soon.” And then there I was, rolling up to the Halfakid who was waiting in front of the hotel for me, 101km on the clock.

What mechanicals?

Our two days of riding were blissfully trouble-free. After we assembled Tomo’s bike and tightened the Halfakid’s headset on the first day, our only issue was the slow seeping of air from my not-quite-yet-sealed tubeless tires. I took care of that in a couple of minutes at the start of each ride, and then once again on the way home during day 2.

Egrets, I’ve had a few

All along both courses we were treated Sunday and Monday to the sight of egrets — sometimes in pairs — in the rice paddies, occasionally taking wing as we sped by. Unfortunately I was never quick enough with the smartphone to catch one.

The only other (r)egret of the ride came when I checked the course again after returning home to Tokyo. By taking the Kasumigaura bridge on the second day, we’d actually shortened the route by 30km rather than our estimate of 20km. Which meant we’d have had just about the same distance to go by pressing onwards around the lake rather than doubling back as we did. Well, it gives us a reason to return to the Ring-Ring Road at a future date.

Ride Between the Raindrops

Bicycle in front of Imperial Palace moat and building

It’s two weeks since my last ride, and what’s come in between is a nearly unbroken string of rainy days. The initial forecast for today had been for rain as well, but this morning the rain cleared off and the forecast turned to sunny. The Halfakid was not available to ride, so I pumped up Kuroko’s tires, slathered on some chamois cream and sunblock, and set out solo.

What the hell am I doing?

Bicycle in front of fountain at Meiji Jingu Gaien
Meiji Jingu Gaien

It didn’t take long (probably the first climb of note, up to Akasaka Palace) for my thighs to remind me we haven’t been out in two weeks. “See here, chap,” they said. “Just what do you think you’re up to?” That climb is followed by a sharp descent, then another good climb. I reminded myself that I don’t enjoy fixing up bicycles just to satisfy my hardware fetish (a lot of other machines could do this) but that I actually enjoy riding. After that I settled down and enjoyed the ride (and put the climbing behind me for a couple of dozen kilometers).

Tokyo Tower viewed through foliageTokyo Skytree with bicycle on bridge over Arakawa in foreground
The Two Towers

My first real stop came at Shiba Park, overlooked by Tokyo Tower, where I filled up my water bottle and sent some photos to Nana. I didn’t stay long, though, and was soon on my way back across town to Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace.

Bicycle in front of Imperial Palace moat and building
Kuroko at the Imperial Palace

There were lots of police out today — sometimes it seemed there was one or two on every corner. A lot of them were not wearing masks (neither was I). I obeyed the traffic laws and they ignored me.

Hunger games

From the Imperial Palace out to Tokyo Big Sight, the sun shone strongly and the temperature started climbing. I was getting hungry — it was past noon and I’d eaten breakfast about 6 a.m. The closer I got to Tokyo Bay, the stronger the wind got. But I continued on, motivated by the promise of a convenience store for lunch once I reached Big Sight.

Rainbow Bridge
Breezy Rainbow Bridge

Pigeons and sparrows flocking on flagstones
Nobody move or the burrito gets it

The moment I sat down in the shade with my lunch, I was besieged by a gaggle of beggars. I ignored them and savored every last bite before continuing onwards.

At this point I had roughly 30km done and the same amount to go to get back home. Most of the way back it’s flat, but I could feel my energy ebbing with the heat. Crossing the Arakawa in front of Tokyo Skytree, I was soon climbing up towards Ueno Park and then Tokyo University. There were dozens of firetrucks lining the climb up to the university and an acrid smell of smoke in the air. As I slowly crawled up the hill, a large firetruck passed me on its way home, so I guess I missed most of the excitement.

I hear screaming

It’s a long downhill past Tokyo Dome and the Korakuen amusement park, where I could easily hear the roller coaster riders failing to scream inside their hearts. (Nana says it’s just as well she can’t watch the Giants play at Tokyo Dome, because there’s no way she could stop herself shouting during the game.) Despite my fatigue and having waited for a red light at the foot of the downhill, I still made good time past Tokyo Dome: within 3 seconds of my PR on this segment.

Bicycle against railing overlooking Chidorigafuchi moat

At Kudanzaka, I put Kuroko down into her lowest gear and just inched my way up the hill. At the top I took a photo of Kuroko posing in front of Chidorigafuchi, and then sat on a park bench in the shade and listened to a white-haired gent playing harmonica to a group of admirers. I checked my water bottle (half full, still cool) and messaged Nana that I would be home in 30 to 45 minutes. I left as other musicians were arriving to join the harp player.

The ride home is flat — after a couple of small climbs immediately after Yasukuni Shrine — and was uneventful (apart from the usual deal with taxis speeding up to pass me and then slamming on the brakes as they cut back into my lane). Instead of turning to pass in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings as I usually do, I continued on beside them and then came around the opposite end of Central Park. I hit 43km/h on the descent back towards our condo tower, but I’d arrived just short of 60km total. I did a couple of laps around the block to bring the clock up over the mark and then brought her home.

Mechanicals? What mechanicals?

GPS route of cycle ride around central Tokyo
Ride between the raindrops

Apart from my fatigue (probably heat-induced), there were no mechanicals of note. I’d had to inflate the tires at the start of the ride, but they were fine after that. There were no issues at all with the shifter and cogs, no chain mangling, and nary a peep from the bottom bracket. The front brake gave out little squeaks on occasion, but there was no return of the Howling Discs. (Could be that they only perform in the rain.)

Having said that, I now need to anoint a broken spoke on the altar of the Mechanical Gods, and their leader, Booker T.

Sorting the bidons

Profile of bicycle with mismatched bidons against garage wall

During a recent bit of maintenance, I rearranged the bidons on Kuroko, moving one from the seat tube to under the drop tube in order to free up some space in the main triangle. As I noted at the time, the bidon under the drop tube is subject to having a lot more mud and grit splashed into the mouth, and I would be looking for solutions to the problem.

Bicycle in profile with matched but uncovered bidons against garage wall
Kuroko’s unprotected bidons

One of the challenges in fitting Kuroko for water bottles is that her frame is quite small. Not only is the main triangle a tight fit, but there’s very little clearance between the front wheel and the drop tube, even with the new, slightly narrower tires. In fact, at low speeds in tight corners, I have to be careful that my toes don’t bump into the front tire.

Rogues’ gallery

Four grey water bottles, two shorter ones and two longer ones with covered mouths
Two of these things are not like the others

In my quest to find bidons with covered mouths — but without increasing the height — I soon came across the CamelBak Dirt series. They looked ideal: bottles in the same size as what I’ve got on Kuroko, but with covered mouths. I checked the capacity carefully to make sure of the match: 21 oz. Amazon had them in stock in black (dark grey), and so I soon had a matched pair winging its way to my house.

As the picture makes clear, though, the new bottles are significantly taller than the current ones. What I overlooked in my eagerness is the fact the Dirt series are insulated. Normally, this is a good thing. Kuroko’s non-insulated, dark grey bottles quickly heat up on sunny days to the point the water is not refreshing; in fact it’s warmer than body temperature! Unfortunately, as the picture clearly shows, the insulated bottles must be larger on the outside to achieve the same capacity (and CamelBak does not offer a smaller capacity).

Taking a deep breath

Twin bidons on a bicycle frame, with the lower bidon touching the front tire
That’ll be a “no” from me

There was nothing for it but to try the fit. And, as expected (once I saw the larger bottle size), there’s just not enough room under the drop tube — much as I like the look.

So how about putting one of the new lids, with the covered mouth, onto the current bottle? That works just fine. Running with mismatched bottles, on the other hand — sacrilege!

Profile of bicycle with mismatched bidons against garage wall

This would also imply drinking from the lower bottle first, at least on hot, sunny days, before the water warms up. The insulated bottle above should remain cool for a couple of hours longer at least.


And so now I’m faced with a number of choices:

  • Ignore the derision of the Velominati and continue with mismatched bidons.
  • Swap the lid for the other bidon as well and have matched, non-insulated bidons with protected mouths.
  • Move the spare bidon to the fork (plenty of mounting points, but resulting in asymmetry — unless I mount a third bidon … ) or a handlebar mount.
  • Move the tire pump to another location, thus freeing up space in the main triangle for two insulated, “Dirt” series bidons.

I’m sure other options will occur to me as I allow this thought to fester …

Hot (and wet) (and windy) Haneda

Selfie in cycling helmet in front of Haneda peace shrine in the rain

I hadn’t planned on riding today because the forecast was for rain. But when I checked again this morning, the forecast showed little chance of rain before late afternoon. Nana checked Yahoo and agreed — it should be OK to get in a quick ride.

Before I set out, I had to refill Kuroko’s new tubeless tires. It’s been less than two weeks since they were seated and they’re still not fully sealed. Unfortunately, the Garmin doesn’t count the calories I expended with the portable tire pump before the ride began.

I want to talk to the manager

I got through the city down to the Tama River without incident, feeling good if quite hot. It was just shy of 30C at this point. But as I was crossing over the river into Kanagawa, I felt a couple of drops of rain. Well, no big deal. I’m not going to let a few drops of rain slow me down.

By the time I reached 15km the rain was coming down pretty steadily. I still had hopes it might pass over quickly — after all, the real rain isn’t supposed to come until late afternoon. But then before I hit the 20km mark, the rain was driving down in the wind (a headwind that was already cutting into my progress), nearly blinding me despite my shades.

Decision point

Wet bicycle leaning against tree on a rainy day
Brief shelter out of the rain

At this point I could turn around and head for home, or ignore the rain and continue onwards. At 20km I’m about one-third of the way into the ride. If I turned around I’d have another 20km before I got home, while if I continued it would be another 40km. Either way, I’d arrive home soaking wet.

You can only get soaked through once*

Fearless Leader Joe

* Once per ride, Guy Jean hastens to clarify

As I’ve already established during the Biwako ride, and confirmed in England (although not as thoroughly as FLJ confirmed in Scotland), I am not made of sugar. Since I was going to be just as wet either way, I decided to continue the ride. This wasn’t an intentional invocation of Rule No. 9, as the forecast had been for overcast skies with rain later in the day, but I feel good about the fact I didn’t turn tail at the first few raindrops. The only impact the rain made on my plans was to make me take things a bit easier, cut my rest stops short, and cancel my plan to stop for a snack at a convenience store along the way.

Instead I continued pushing on through the rain (which at least slacked off enough it wasn’t being driven into my eyes). Kuroko’s brakes set up a howling each time I used them, higher pitched on the 140mm rear disc than the 160mm front, but they worked fine. The bell on the other hand was muted by the raindrops which clung to it, so the Howling Discs (a great band name the rights to which I freely grant to the first comer) served the double purpose of warning people I was coming and slowing me down before I ran over oblivious pedestrians and little leaguers on bikes.

Now do it the other way

Selfie in cycling helmet in front of Haneda peace shrine in the rain
Are we having fun yet?

Despite the rain and the headwind (and the crowds of joggers, dog walkers and slower bikers on the path), I reached Haneda in pretty good time. I didn’t want to sit there long in the rain, and I didn’t have any of Nana’s world famous onigiri to eat (as we’d thought last night that I wouldn’t be riding today), so I messaged Nana that I was on my way home and set out again after a very brief rest.

The going on the way home was a bit easier as I had a tailwind, and the rain had brought the temperature down from nearly 30C to a steady and livable 21C. On the other hand, a lot of the little league games were breaking up and so the paths were crowded with gaggles of boys on bikes with baseball bats hanging out to the side and no conception of the rules of the road.

I had a very brief stop shortly after the 40km mark, and messaged Nana that I had another 20-25km to go. But by the time I’d climbed up the hill at Nikotama and stopped for the last rest of the day, the rain made it impossible for me to send another message to let Nana know I was OK and on schedule. The phone is waterproof, but there were too many raindrops on the touchscreen and it just wasn’t detecting my finger taps. And so after a very brief rest I continued on my way home.

I had my lights on for visibility in traffic as I worked my way back through the city. Fortunately, traffic was not heavy. I came to the little shopping street / train crossing where Kuroko had thrown her chain on the previous occasion, but this time there was no trouble at all when I did the same upshift at the same location. The mechanical gods smiled on us today.

I continued on home, keeping the pace up but taking care of the conditions. The new tires handled the job with aplomb. The ride was comfortable, the performance of the tires was fantastic, and there was never once a hint of lost traction on the wet (and sometimes muddy) streets.

Soon I was on my final descent. I kept the speed low at first, mindful of the visibility and difficulty in braking, but then put the pedal(s) down when the lights changed in my favor. I soon rolled up to a stop at the foot of our tower and shut everything down.

A decent pace

GPS route of round-trip ride to Haneda
That’s not a bad time at all

I didn’t set any PRs today, but I did keep up a decent pace overall. Not shown in the results is the really good total elapsed time of 3 hours 34 minutes — aided by all those minimal breaks — which may be a record for me on this route.

Shorter brake arms, more stop

Shimano and Tektro V-brakes side-by-side, showing difference in length
Tools, bicycle parts and work gloves laid out in order
All my ducks in a row

Since completing Dionysus in late May, I’ve been trying to improve her soft braking power. (Everything else is working well.) I’ve increased the spring tension (which only affects the feel) and adjusted the pads to be as close to the rims as possible without rubbing. But there’s just not quite enough stopping power. It’s OK in normal riding, but it’s not up to the task of emergency braking (and possibly steep downhills).

After doing some research on it, I realized the problem was the long arms of the Deore V-brakes I’d installed. There’s nothing wrong with the brakes themselves in terms of quality, and they offer lots of tire clearance (plenty of room for fenders if I were so inclined). But with Dionysus’s 26-inch rims, the brake pads are quite near the pivot point, so there’s just not enough travel to bring the pads firmly enough against the rim for sure stopping.

Shimano and Tektro V-brakes side-by-side, showing difference in length
The long and the short of it

I did some looking around and found some shorter V-brakes from Shimano and Tektro. Tektro had the shortest arms among the brakes that were readily available. The brand is widely used and the price was very reasonable.

Bicycle rear V-brake with plenty of clearance
Dionysus already needs a bath!

Bicycle front V-brake showing plenty of clearance
The technical term is “gaposis”

It’s readily apparent the brakes have enough room to accommodate larger rims and tires, as well as fenders if need be. But with the brake pads so close to the pivot point, the long arms just don’t offer enough travel. Shorter arms will make for increased travel of the brake pads given the same amount of cable pull.

Loosening V-brake cable pinch bolt with a hex wrench
Trying not to break anything here

The new brakes came with all new hardware, including fixing bolts and noodles (the curved silver tube that guides the brake cable into the top of the V-brake). The new fixing bolts were considerably longer than the ones on the bike. It was no problem on the front, but on the rear one of them wouldn’t go all the way in. So I just kept the original bolts on the rear.

Tektro fixing bolts (L) and Deore (R)
Tektro fixing bolts (L) and Deore (R)

The Tektro noodles were much smaller than the Deore, and I thought the Deore were a better fit for this bike, so I kept them as well. Finally, the Tektro brake pads are much shorter. For now I’m going to keep them. If they’re not up to the job I’ll try the Deore ones or look for some aftermarket pads.

A knotted rubber band sets the toe-in
A knotted rubber band sets the toe-in

The replacement went smoothly apart from these small details. I found the rubber band I’d put in the toolbox for just this purpose — to help set the toe-in of the brake pads to prevent grabbing and squealing — and it worked great. I had a couple of minutes fumbling with the front to get the cable in the pinch bolt while holding the brake arms squeezed shut, but it all worked out in the end.

New V-brake installed on rear of bike
Back is done

Bicycle front V-brake in the process of installation
Prepping the front

The final steps were adjusting the brakes and trimming the cables to length before capping the ends. Before I started this job today, I’d gone to the bike shop and picked up a couple of new brake cables in case I needed longer cables after the swap. But as it turns out I trimmed 1-2cm from each existing cable. So the new cables will go into the spares box, along with the Deore brakes.

New V-brake installed on front of bike
Front is done

We’ve got a storm headed our way today, and rain in the forecast for the next week. So I’m not sure how soon I’ll be testing out the new brakes. On the workstand they’re great.

Another new chain

Chain breaker applied to bicycle chain, with crankset and wheel in background

When I was just 6km from home last week after having ridden more than 100km, my chain derailled on a shift up to the larger chainring. It was easy enough to get the chain back on, but then it was skipping gears on the back for the rest of the ride home.

Bent chain link shown against background of bicycle crank and wheel
That’s just twisted

Subsequent inspection showed a bent link in the chain, which is why the gears kept slipping. I’ve got less than 1,500km on this chain, having replaced it at the end of January, but I decided to go for a new one (not least because it would be too short after I removed the offending link).

Chain breaker applied to bicycle chain, with crankset and wheel in background
Unchain my heart

With my pro chain tool, it just took a moment yesterday to drive out a rivet and break the chain. I selected a point that was a couple of links to one side of the twisted link. With the chain off the bike, I moved a couple of links to the other side of the twist and popped out another rivet. That left me with a short section of useless chain (maybe OK for decoration) and a much longer section that is fine as a spare.

Segment of bicycle chain with twisted link
Too short for a bracelet

Bath time!

Pink spray bottle of bike cleaner and yellow portable power washer
Bike washing overkill

With the chain off I decided to give Kuroko a washing up before proceeding. I’ve had the power sprayer and bike cleaner for some months but haven’t used them yet. (At least not for the bike — I used the sprayer to wash the screens on the balcony windows.) The sprayer puts out a nice, gentle fan of water that’s perfect for this. In just a few minutes I had Kuroko gleaming.

Bicycle glistening with water drops on balcony overlooking city
Splish splash

Back to the chain

Chain tool, chain and gloves
Chain tool, chain and gloves

With the bike newly clean, I gloved up and measured the chain for fit, taking off a few links to get just the right size. I threaded it through the derailleurs and used the chain tool to insert the connecting rivet. After snapping off the connecting rivet’s pilot, I gave the cranks a few spins. All perfect, and that was the end of bicycle maintenance for the day.

Newly installed bicycle chain with wheel in background
On the straight and narrow

Follow through

Lower half of bike on workstand, showing drivetrain
The “Biggie Smalls” chain position

Today I spent some time adjusting the front and rear derailleurs, as well as the rear brake. The shifting is very smooth now (on the workstand, anyway) and I’ve made sure the chain won’t come off again.

Bicycle on balcony overlooking city
Just asking for trouble

I wanted to try one more thing before finishing for the day. Kuroko’s main triangle is small, and it’s very crowded with two water bottles and a tire pump. I moved one of the bottles to the underside of the downtube, and shifted the other bottle a bit lower in the triangle. It looks like a close fit between the front tire and the lower bottle — and it is — but there’s enough of a gap there’s no danger of hitting.

For those wondering about drinking out of a bottle that’s going to be spattered in mud and road grime, there are a couple of solutions. One is to cover the lower bottle’s nipple with something — a finger cut off from a rubber glove, for example. A second option is not to drink from this bottle, but to use it to refill the main bottle when that’s been emptied. I was also thinking of getting a bottle with a full cover for the nipple, but it doesn’t look like there’s enough room for that.

Gasping for air

While I was preparing Kuroko for that last picture, I noticed the front tire had almost no air left in it. (It’s not noticeable when the bike is on the workstand.) This isn’t a real surprise as I’ve only ridden Kuroko once since finally converting the tires to tubeless, so the latex hasn’t had a good chance to work its way into all the leaking areas. The tire beads were still sealed to the rim, so it was no problem pumping the tire up full again. I took the wheel off after that and gave it some swirling to get the latex distributed all around again inside the tire. Then I pumped up the rear tire again, although it was already holding quite a bit more air.

If the front goes down just as far in another week, I’ll add some more latex. But in the meantime I’ll try to find a day without rain when I can go for another ride.