Change your sealant!

Latex sealant seeping from pinhole in bicycle tire

With rain in the forecast for today (although it has yet to materialize) I thought it would be a good chance to try my new Stan’s sealant to see if I could get any better result than the poor showing I’d had from the previous stuff.

I gave the new bottle of sealant a good shaking and then removed the seal. I prepped the tire — the one with the pinhole that’s turned into a nightmare — by unseating one side and using paper towels to mop up the remaining sealant there.

Once that was cleaned up, I poured in a like amount of new sealant, reseated the bead, and gave it a blast with the tire pump. The tire seated immediately, and air started leaking from the hole in the tread. I quickly rotated the wheel until the hole was pointing downwards. There was a brief spray of latex and then it held.

Detail of bicycle tire showing sealant leaking from hole, and sealant bottle
Stan the Man!

After reinserting the valve core I pumped up the tire once again. As the pressure increased, there was another brief spray and then it sealed again. There was a further spray when I reached 40psi, and at that point after making sure the latex was sealing and set the tire aside. I’ll keep the hole pointed down and let it sit for at least 24 hours, and at that point I’ll try getting it up to 60psi. If that holds for a couple of days, I’ll consider it a usable tire once again.

Latex sealant seeping from pinhole in bicycle tire
That’s holding!

Rinse, repeat

With the rear holding, I turned my attention to the front. This is the one with the small leak at the base of the valve. I followed the same steps as with the rear and it all went smoothly. This time when I pumped up the tire after changing the sealant, I didn’t even hear any hissing of air. It was only after I finished inflating the tire that I noticed a small dribble of sealant.

Detail of bicycle tire vavle showing dribbles of sealant
Simply doing its job

I finished by inflating the tire to 60psi and swirling the sealant around inside. As with the rear, I’ve set it aside and will check again tomorrow to make sure it’s holding.

The tension is palpable

With the leaky tires taken care of, I turned my attention to the ticking spokes I’d noticed on yesterday’s ride. I got the wheel off the bike and into the truing stand, and then I measured all the spokes with the tension gauge. There were a few on the non-drive side that were lacking in tension, which was probably the result of the spokes seating in during the first few hundred kilometers of riding.

Measuring bicycle spoke tension with a gauge
Tense situation

I went around the spokes and tightened each one a bit at a time until they were all up to snuff, and then I spent some time retruing the wheel. Once I was happy with the trueness, I measured all the spoke tensions once again.

As a final step, I put the wheel back on the bike and then cleaned and oiled the chain. The next time there’s a gap in the rainy weather we’ll be ready to roll.

Hot and still

Bicycle in front of Tokyo Disney Resort fountain

Saturday was our last promised rain-free day for more than a week, so I was up early and on the road with a saddlebag full of onigiri. I wanted to be home in plenty of time for our dinner plans, but I was also feeling it wasn’t a day for big challenges.

It was nearly 24C when I set out at 8 a.m., with a promised high of 28-30. My goal for the day, apart from getting in some easy kilometers, was to keep my UV-block mask on. It was a windless day, so this immediately presented a challenge as my sunglasses began to fog up at each traffic light. I was fine when I was moving, but the moment I stopped it became a race between the cycle of lights and my breath clouding up my lenses.

Bicycle leaning against sign for Arakawa cycling course
My favorite Arakawa sign

I’m happy to report that I arrived at the Arakawa without incident. (I did pull my mask down at the lights where it was making a problem, but then pulled it up again before I began moving.) For the next hour, foggy lenses were the furthest thing from my mind as I spun my way 25km downstream. Without pushing myself, I was averaging 26-27km/h on the flat, broad pavement. That’s a good enough speed that I wondered if I had the wind at my back, but the tall grasses along the path were standing straight and still. I stopped once at my usual spot in the shade to rest my hands and drink some water.

There were lots of other bicyclists and runners on the path, and of course the baseball fields were overrun by little-leaguers, but I didn’t encounter any marathons, for a nice change.

Bicycle leaning against sign with river and bridge in background
Shinsuna, at the mouth of the bay

I arrived at Shinsuna at 10 a.m. and made a note of the time. I wanted to see how long it would take me to get from there to Disneyland and then back to the river. In November when Fearless Leader Joe accompanied me to this spot, I’d estimated an hour. We decided on that occasion not to continue on the Disney jaunt to ensure that FLJ could get back to Saitama before the sunset. On this ride, though, I knew I was well ahead of schedule.

Rickety-tickety

I’d been hearing a quiet ticking noise on my way down the river, and by the time I arrived at Shinsuna I’d figured it was time to check the spokes on the new rear wheel. I gave them all a squeeze and sure enough I located one that had quite a bit more give in it than all its neighbors. I gave it a few turns with the multitool and checked the wheel for roundness. It all seemed good, so I continued back to the bridge that takes me across the river and on towards Disneyland.

Bicycle in front of Tokyo Disney Resort fountain
I wanted to jump in
Bicycle leaning against tree in park
East of Eden

It was 10:30 when I arrived at Tokyo Disney Resort, and considerably hotter than it had been when I left home. I was also getting hungry. On my way back to a park by the river, I was hallucinating about the onigiri in my saddlebag. I took a shortcut back to the river and arrived at the park at 10:45. I tucked right in to the onigiri and finished all three in less than 15 minutes, putting me back on the road at 11 with just a few swallows of water left in my bottles.

Routine

Selfie of cyclist in helmet, sunglasses and mask with Nihonbashi decorative lamppost in background
Nihonbashi

Crossing the bridge back into Tokyo just brought me into traffic, and lots of it. It’s a long stretch on Eitai Dori but nothing really challenging. Some idiot in his BMW honked at me when I switched lanes to go around a parked car, after checking for traffic and making a hand signal — he had another full lane to go around me, but just wanted to demonstrate what a spoiled child he was. Nothing more of note happened as I continued on, first to Nihonbashi and then up Kudanzaka to Budokan.

Tayasumon Gate with construction barrier
Tayasumon Gate: Closed
Bicycle leaning against railing with Chidorigafuchi in background
Chidorigafuchi

At Chidorigafuchi I sipped the last of my water and posted the requisite pictures before continuing on my way. I arrived home just four and a half hours after having set out, hot and tired and ready for a shower and cold drink.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Hot and still

Tool abuse

Two scredrivers, one broken

My Wera Kraftform Micro driver set has been incomplete since I broke the largest screwdriver while using it as a chisel and pry bar. Fortunately, I was able to buy a replacement for just the one broken driver, and at a price that reflected a proportionate cost to the total set price.

I promise to treat it better this time.

(Meanwhile, in a fit of alcohol-inspired Amazon diving, I’ve purchased the entire set again new. Rather than go through the hassle of returning it, I’m going to pass it along to the Halfakid. But ssshhh! It’s a surprise!)

The little sealant that could … n’t

With rain in the forecast today (although it’s since turned out to be fairly nice weather) I decided to have another go at the tiny leak on my rear tire. This is for the wheelset that is now my spare since I swapped the wheels almost a month ago. And that swap was prompted by this same leak, which vexed me on my recent ride to Yokohama.

The leak was originally a little pinhole caused in all likelihood by a bit of glass I ran over. It was a gradual enough leak that I didn’t notice it when I filled up the tires, but it would cause the rear to lose enough air over the course of an hour’s riding that the rear would be noticeably soft.

In other words, exactly the sort of leak that sealant should be able to fix up.

Man up and fix it

To date I’ve tried the following fixes, with identical results:

  • Adding more sealant, swirling it around and reinflating the tire
  • Putting a plug in the hole, adding more sealant, etc.
  • Leaving it sit for a couple of weeks and then trying again
Bicycle tire separated from rim, with tire boot on inner surface
Tire firmly booted

When I first picked up the tire in the Workshop in the Sky this afternoon, I was surprised to find it was holding a good amount of pressure. Not fully firm, but perhaps about 20psi at a guess. By contrast, the front tire (with a slow leak around the valve) was utterly flat.

Starting with the rear, I pumped up the tire as it was. Everything went fine until about 45psi, and then suddenly the hole opened up beneath the plug and all the air came whooshing out.

Right, then. Obviously this is not working. So I got my tire levers and unseated one bead. Pulled out the plug — it came out quite easily, which is not a good sign. And then I cleaned the inner surface of the tire and applied a tire boot. I pressed it on good and firmly all around. Then I reseated the tire, made sure there was enough sealant in it, and put on the pump.

The tire inflated immediately, popping onto the rim snappily, but the hole continued to leak as before. The boot had had no effect. I quickly tried to snap a photo of the sealant jetting out of the tire under pressure, but it was finished by the time I grabbed my phone.

This obviously wasn’t getting me anywhere. The hole in the tire was much larger than before, owing to the plug, but it is still well below the size at which it should be a challenge for the sealant.

Detail of bicycle tire against wall with sealant leaking on floor
That’s … supposed to be in the tire

Now it’s just getting stupid

I decided to fight another day. I cleaned up the spilled sealant and put the tire aside. Then I turned my attention to the front. It’s got a tiny leak around the base of the valve. It probably means I should retape the rim, but again, this should be well within the ability of the sealant to fix. I shook the tire to verify that I could hear sealant sloshing inside, and then I pumped it up. As expected, I heard a hissing noise from the valve.

I picked up the tire and swirled it around, shaking it back and forth to get the sealant in the valve area. After a moment, a small pool of sealant emerged around the valve. Air bubbled through the sealant. I shook and swirled a bit more, expecting that at any moment the sealant would take hold and the leaking would stop.

And … no dice. No matter how I shook and swirled, the air continued to hiss out from the base of the valve.

Disgusted, I put away my tools and washed up, thinking the while.

Change the sealant!

Is it possible my sealant is just crap? It’s from Schwalbe, a top tire maker. If they don’t know latex, who does?

Anyway, I decided to have a look, and I quickly came across this review of tire sealants. I’d expected Stan’s to be at the top, but a careful reading of the text showed this is not the typical Stan’s but a special formulation. The surprise in the test results (in which they poked holes in a tire and timed how long it took to seal) was that Schwalbe came in 4th place. That and reading that it’s in fact made by Stan’s (but isn’t the special sauce recipe that took first place in this test).

My bottle of Doc Blue is almost empty anyway, after all my tubeless travails. I’ve ordered a bottle of the Stan’s Race Sealant, and a couple of spare valves for good measure. I also found a 140ml pouch of sealant, perfect for carrying in the saddle bag in case a big leak causes a huge sealant loss on a ride. It’s Muc-Off, not Stan’s, but I ordered a couple anyway.

The goodies will arrive tomorrow, but it may be next weekend before I have a chance to give it all another go.

Meant to be longer

Red Japanese shrine torii under cloudly blue skies with river in foreground

I’ve been planning a ride down to Enoshima, which I don’t think I’ve ever visited, with a return via the Daibutsu at Kamakura and then Yokohama. In all about 135km (and some climbing). I estimate 9+ hours for the ride, and so planned to set out about 7:30 so I could be home by 5.

That was the plan. I was up in plenty of time to get going, and Nana had even awoken by herself to get the onigiri ready for the ride. But a stomach ailment kept me in the house for another 2 1/2 hours. As I set out just before 10 a.m., I knew I’d have to take a shorter ride today. I could also feel I didn’t have my usual energy, perhaps as a result of the tummy bug.

My new goal was down the Tamagawa to Haneda, and then to visit a park a bit upstream from Futako on the Kanagawa side that I haven’t seen in several years. Finally, home. That should have given me a ride of 85-90km.

Windy

Looking out the window of our flat, I wasn’t sure I would need my shades, or even sunblock. The moment I began riding, though, the sun came out strong and bright. The blue sky was filled with fluffy white clouds, so the sun was coming and going frequently.

When I got to the Tamagawa, the wind was rather strong. I wasn’t riding directly into it for most of the way, but it was slowing me a bit. That was the only thing slowing me down, apart from traffic. The river course is flat and my lack of energy wasn’t a real issue. I reached Haneda without any problems, and sat down to finish off all three of the onigiri that Nana had prepared for me.

Selfie of cyclist in helmet, shades and black mask in front of vermilion Japanese shrine torii
Haneda Peace Shrine (Former Anamori Inari Shrine)

Bicycle leaning against tree in rock garden
A place in the shade for eating onigiri

Cramps

Not long before my stop for lunch and coincident with a stretch of direct headwind for a few kilometers, I felt cramping in both calves. I kept going and rode it out. After lunch, though my calves were fine, I had cramping in my thighs. It didn’t prevent me riding or even slow me down, but it added an unwelcome note of pain to the ride.

I made better time back upstream, with the wind more at my back, but by the time I reached Futako I’d given up the plan to visit the park further upstream. If I’d had a particular goal to reach before the end of the day, I could have ignored the pain and continued. As it was, I didn’t see any reason to prolong things. I crossed the river at Futako and took a short break at the top of the climb before continuing on home.

I made better time back through the city, sheltered from the wind and with the promise of a cold one waiting for me at home.

My dear Alphonse

I made mention of traffic: I’ve had some encounters recently. Last week on my commute home, I waited behind a line of cars at a traffic light and proceeded with them when the light turned green.

Just as I reached the intersection, a driver coming from the other direction turned right (Americans, think: turned left) just in front of me, forcing me to brake.

Oh no, after me!

Later that same ride, making pretty good speed on a four-lane boulevard, I saw a parked car ahead of me. I checked over my shoulder and there was a car there. I slowed and waited for him to pass and … he slowed and kept pace with me. A couple of seconds later he was beside me, still pacing me, but not moving fully into the next lane to give me room to pass the parked car. We both finally came to a stop a couple of meters from the parked car, and I gestured for the driver to go ahead, which he did (again, without moving fully into the adjacent lane). I realized he was expecting me to go around the parked car without checking for traffic (it happens a lot) and was preparing to brake when I cut him off.

As he passed, I saw he had a shoshinsha mark on the car, so he was a new driver. It looked like he was getting coaching from an older man in the passenger seat, so I think Papa was probably at fault this time. Overall, not really an example of the “after me” syndrome, but it stuck in my head.

The following morning, again on my commute, I moved out into the middle of the lane to go around a bus that had stopped to take on passengers. Just as I overtook the rear of the bus, the driver put on the turn signal and pulled out, cutting me off. He saw me and stopped after he’d already blocked my passage and I’d been forced to come to a stop to avoid a collision. Oh no, after me!

Professional drivers are supposed to be trained to watch for things like this.

This morning on my way down to the river, a driver of a large truck on a cross street waited for the van ahead of me to pass and then pulled across the intersection, forcing me to stop. Both the street I was on and the cross street he was following were narrow, and I had to wait a good 45 seconds or so for him to clear the intersection.

Just a few dozen meters further on, a car came out of a cross street just ahead of me, forcing me once again to brake. The driver turned onto the road I was riding, went a couple of dozen meters, and then came to a full stop while waiting for the next intersection to clear before turning right. Oh no, after me!

There were a few more examples like that today, and then there were the other cyclists. I was waiting for a light and then just as it changed, a woman on a mamachari tried to pass me on the right and turn left, cutting me off. I’d moved off the moment the light changed and so we both came to a stop in the middle of the intersection, narrowly avoiding collision.

A few kilometers further on, I had a similar encounter with two guys on bicycles. This time when the light changed, one shot past me on the left and another on the right, both nearly hitting me as I moved off. I overtook them both within a couple of dozen meters and left them for dead.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Meant to be longer

On a bright note, I managed to wear my UV cut mask the entire ride. The wind helped by keeping my glasses from fogging. It wasn’t too hot today. The real challenge will be to keep it on when the temperature is in the 30s.

Musing about brakes

New V-brake installed on front of bike

I’ve been commuting by bike a couple of times a week recently, and it’s been bothering me that Dionysus’s front brake is connected to the left lever when it should be the right.

GPS record of cycle route
Morning commute

In the US and various parts of Europe, this is the norm, whereas in England the front brake is usually the right lever. I’ve seen various explanations for this but one stands out for me: most hand signals — particularly slowing or stopping — are done with the right hand when you’re riding on the left. And when you’re braking with one hand, you want the brake in question to be the rear (so you don’t apply too much pressure on the front and pitch yourself over the handlebars).

I even have a mnemonic for this in Japanese: 右前 (right-front). Kuroko is set up this way.

So how did we get here?

When the Halfakid and I rebuilt Ol’ Paint and rebirthed her as Dionysus, I was all set to make her migi-mae. I was sure that’s how things had been previously. And yet when we started routing the cables, it just didn’t work out. Oh, we could have run the cable from the right lever to the front brake, but it would have been far from elegant. The length of cable involved and the size of the loop required raised questions of whether I’d end up snagging something while riding. So we just shrugged our shoulders and set her up with the opposite breaking: 左前 hidari-mae (left-front) if you will.

Bicycle front wheel, brake and fork
Cabled and crimped

It was fine and it worked, although I subsequently replaced the brakes with a set with shorter lever arms to get more braking power. But with my increase in commuting via Dionysus these days, it’s been bothering me more and more.

Looking for solutions in all the wrong places

I started looking for solutions, and the first thing that occurred to me was to replace the V-brakes with cantilevers, where the cable attaches at the center and so the cable run will be the same from either lever. These were exotic items when I was getting serious about biking in the 1970s, de rigueur on mountain bikes and serious touring bikes in the 1990s, and fading from sight by the 2010s. In fact, I’d looked for them when I rebuilt Ol’ Paint: there’s a cantilever brake from the same maker as the shifter / derailleur combo I used, but it was generally unavailable at the time.

SRAM Shorty Ultimate brake
SRAM Shorty Ultimate brake

So what next?

After today’s commute I started getting curious: I felt so sure the Ol’ Paint had been migi-mae, despite having V-brakes. What happened? And was there a way to get back to that — short of converting to canties? I finally got curious enough to dig through the archive to see what the set-up had been before the rebuild.

Ol' Paint before the work began
Ol’ Paint before the work began

Monocle emoji

Detail of front of bike showing cable routing for front brake
That’s migi-mae!

Ol’ Paint was clearly migi-mae, which is what my memory had been nagging me. So why did the cabling become so awkward during the rebuild that we abandoned that idea?. A closer look at the before-and-after photos revealed the truth: the noodle! The original noodle (which I recall having had the shop replace once when the cable was binding) has a far greater curve than the replacement. So if I can find a new noodle [insert joke here] with a similar curvature to the original, I should be able to revert to my favored migi-mae without converting Dionysus to cantilever brakes (which I still think are a more elegant solution, but are apparently a lot more finicky to adjust).

Just one more thing (Columbo-cigar-and-trenchcoat)

While I was comparing the before-and-after photos, I couldn’t help but notice that the original V-brake lever arms were a similar length to the Shimano Deore brakes that I’d first installed during the rebuild, but which didn’t give me enough braking power. I’m very pleased with the shorter Tektros which solved the issue for me, but now it’s a mystery (which shall endure, as far as I’m concerned) why the Deores didn’t cut the muster (or mustard, for the illiterate).

Meanwhile, as for me and my Workshop in the Sky, we’ll be looking for a more bendy noodle and checking if we have enough cable housing to accommodate a re-routing.