Bolts and Polish

Freshly washed bike on balcony

I went to the bike shop yesterday and got some M5x18 bolts to replace the shorter ones that had stripped out of Kuroko’s rear brake caliper. These turned out to be a perfect fit, and I soon had a working rear brake once again.

Bicycle rear wheel with clean gears

With the brake sorted, I ran the derailleur through its paces. There was some wobble in the very smallest cog, so I removed the wheel and undid the lock ring. I decided to give all the gears a bit of a cleaning as I was having a hard time seeing the numbers engraved on one or two. (Cogs go on with the engraved side facing outwards.)

I didn’t get all the grime off, but the lion’s share of it. (The wet chain lube I’m using, which doesn’t come off in the rain, ensures the gears will soon be black again.)

Once the cogs were all back together and the wheel mounted in the bike, the derailleur shifted flawlessly. I returned my attention to the front brake, which was still rubbing a bit after the wheel swap. In this case I removed the brake pads and used a tire lever to compress the pistons, before assembling it all again. That did the trick.

Cleaning up my act

I’d had trouble wrestling the wheel back into the frame while fixing the flat on the most recent ride, and my greasy fingerprints all over the frame were evidence of the struggle. I decided to give Kuroko a bath, culminating in a chain clean-and-lube job. And now she’s ready for the next adventure.

Freshly washed bike on balcony
Shiny and ready

The Ol’ Switcheroo

Detail of bicycle tire showing gash in tread

I’m working from home today and the weather is glorious. I don’t know when the urge to play hooky has been so strong.

Telling the monkey on my back to chill, I took advantage of the warm sun to deal with the flat that happened on the way home from Hamura on the last ride.

I’ve seen people with similar gashes in their tires stitch them up with needle and thread and continue using them — at least until they get a chance to replace them. But I figured I have no need for such extreme measures when I already have a spare set of wheels with perfectly good tires. Just need to freshen them up and pop them on the bike and I should be good to go.

That was the theory

I built up these wheels a year ago and used them only a few months before swapping them out again. I intend to use them long-term, particularly for multi-day rides, but I have a little more work to do before I switch to a dynamo light full-time. Until then, the slick tires I’ve been using offer a bit more efficiency.

But given these were set up a year ago, and before I realized I was using crap sealant, I knew I had to replace the sealant before putting these on Kuroko again. The tires have been sitting for months and so had almost no pressure, and it was just a moment’s work to unseat one bead. As expected, the sealant inside was totally done for. I spent a couple of minutes sopping up the liquid with paper towels, and wiping up some of the hardened latex. (I didn’t bother trying to remove it all, though.)

I poured in a healthy dollop of fresh sealant — the good stuff, this time — probably a bit more than absolutely necessary. And then worked the bead back on the rim by hand.

And then I wondered: I’ve seen a lot of videos of people inflating tubeless tires using just a normal hand pump. It’s never worked for me. I’ve had trouble even using the Joe Blow with the holding tank. But this time I was working with ideal circumstances: one bead was already seated, and the tire had already been in place on the rim for a year. Surely … ? I attached the Joe Blow but instead of charging up the holding tank I just started pumping air right into the tire. And … Pop! Pop! Pop! The tire seated almost immediately.

I pumped the tire up to the max 60psi and then swirled it around to distribute the new sealant. I bounced it a couple of times on the workshop floor and then inspected the bead all the way around to make sure it was seated: it was perfect.

I followed up with the front tire, and it was exactly the same routine. I was a bit less certain about getting it to seat, but it eventually did after just a few more pumps than the rear had required.

Gearing up

The cogs came off the “old” wheel without much fuss. I nearly got them on the “new” wheel at a single go, but then I muffed it and had to spend some time carefully aligning individual cogs and spacers. Nothing out of the ordinary. I got them on the hub nice and tight, and then it was a moment’s work to get the wheels mounted on the bike.

The wheels were rubbing the brakes a bit, which isn’t unexpected. I decided to adjust the brakes and check the shifting next.

Where theory meets practice

Adjusting the brakes means loosening the calipers, holding the brake lever down (I use a thick rubber band for this purpose) and then tightening the calipers again. I started with the rear, and my first thought was a bit of surprise that the bolts were already fairly loose.

My surprise turned to dismay as I found myself tightening the bolts against no resistance. After a couple of attempts, one of the bolts dropped out of the frame. A close inspection revealed the truth: there were a couple of threads of silver metal around the bolt threads. In other words, the bolt was stripped out of the caliper.

When I rebuilt Kuroko with Di2 shifters and hydraulic brakes, the bolts I’d used for the rear caliper were a bit short — in fact they were engaged by only a couple of threads. Obviously that wasn’t enough, and I knew it at the time. It’s been on my mental list since then to replace them with more suitable bolts. And that time has come. With luck, only the first couple of threads of the caliper have been stripped, and there’s lots of good thread left to engage when I get some bolts of the proper length.

Adjusting the front brake went easily enough, but there’s still just a bit of rubbing after I was done. No doubt these discs are a bit wider than the well-used ones they’re replacing. I’ll take care of that once I’ve sorted out the rear caliper.

It’s binning time!

Detail of bicycle tire showing gash in tread
Where it all started

With all that out of the way (and Kuroko still in the stand), I turned my attention to the gashed tire that started all this. It was, indeed, still gashed. It didn’t take long to let the air out of the innertube and then strip the tire off the rim. The wheel gets stored in the Workshop in the Sky until I’m ready for it again. I wiped the remaining latex off the innertube and hung it over the workstand to dry: it can be used as a spare again.

As for the tire …

Used bicycle tire, folded
Dispose responsibly

Every time something like this happens, my buddy points out what a rotten PR flak I’d make for cycling as a hobby.

Some Love for Dionysus

Bicycle in stand on balcony

I’ve started commuting on the bike again the past couple of weeks (although certainly not every day). It’s been good to get back on Dionysus and fight with traffic again rather than being squashed with the other commuters in the train.

But Dionysus had been sitting unloved in the bicycle parking for a couple of months at least, and hasn’t had any cleaning or adjusting for several months before that. While she was fine overall (after I pumped up the tires before the first ride), there were a couple of small issues. The shifting wasn’t quite as precise as it should be, with a little chatter in a couple of gears and a tendency to come off the lowest gear at the worst possible moment while climbing. (She would just pop into the next lowest gear, and an additional push on the thumb lever would put things back where they should be.)

I have the day off work today, but courtesy of Typhoon I, it’s rainy and cold — the perfect day to get Dionysus up on the racks. I started by cleaning and oiling the chain and inspecting it for wear: it’s still got lots of life yet.

Then I started fiddling with the adjustments, starting with the B limit as there seemed to be quite a bit of extra space. Then the low limit screw and the cable tension. Finally a touch-up with the high limit screw, and a bit more tension adjustment. I think things are where they should be now, but the proof will be in the next couple of rides.

The brakes were an easier go: I just needed to tighten up the cables. One of the cable ends came off during the process, but I have spares on hand. I was able to get the pads in quite close to the wheels as they’re still very true. (The rear is slightly egg-shaped, but that doesn’t affect the rim-to-pad clearance. I’ll take care of that another time.) Now — on the stand, at least — the brakes aren’t rubbing the rims, and they come on quite firmly with just a few millimeters’ pull of the levers.

Bicycle on balcony overlooking city
Could use a bath still

She could still use a bath — another thing that will wait for a warmer day — but for now she’s ready for the next sunny day’s commute. (Hard telling from the forecast when that might be.)

A measure of progress

Bicycle silouhetted against balcony

Today is warm and sunny — a perfect day for riding. Or maintenance.

Kuroko has been sitting unused in the Workshop in the Sky for a month now while I’ve been waiting for a good opportunity to take care of a few non-critical issues:

  • Since I upgraded to a Di2 rear derailleur, I’m not able to remove the rear wheel (at least without either fully deflating the tire or removing the derailleur).
  • I want to replace the grommets where the Di2 wire and hydraulic brake line pass through the frame.
  • Finally, I got a combined Garmin and GoPro mount to de-clutter the handlebars a bit.

Non-quick release

When I tried to disassemble Kuroko for the road trip to Hamanako, I wasn’t able to get the rear wheel free of the derailleur. I got the wheel out of the dropouts, but the cogs wouldn’t clear the derailleur’s jockey pulley. I tried moving the derailleur to a few different positions, and tugged on it by hand. I even played about with the clutch lever. Nothing worked — the wheel was pushed all the way forward until the tire pressed against the chainstays, but the cogs would not clear the jockey wheel.

I searched some of the forums and a number of people have reported this issue with Di2 derailleurs. One solution that occurred to me was an extension for the derailleur hanger. This would move the whole derailleur down a couple of centimeters, and probably create enough room to remove the wheel. But it might make it difficult to adjust the derailleur to be close enough for precise shifting, or even bring the idler wheel dangerously close to the ground. (It’s a very long derailleur cage.) At the very least, it would probably require me to add three or four links to the chain.

Detail of derailleur mounting with limiting tabs highlighted
Hacking the derailleur alignment

I got a derailleur hanger extension and was ready to install that today. But before doing that, I had another go at the derailleur mounting. In the picture above I’ve added some color to help illustrate. Originally the two limiting tabs on the derailleur (in blue) were straddling the positioning tab on the derailleur hanger (in red). I took the derailleur off and remounted it so the derailleur’s limiting tabs are both above the hanger’s positioning tab — rotating the entire derailleur counter-clockwise (in the orientation shown; clockwise when viewed from the bicycle’s drive side).

This immediately gave me enough room to remove the rear wheel without having to deflate the tire or remove the derailleur. It also let me back down the B limit screw, which had been wound out nearly to its limit. Following that I readjusted the derailleur (with a quick check on the internet to remind myself how to do that), and ran it through all the gears. Like butter.

It’s almost as if this was the intended mounting position.

Grommet grief

The grommets are the big remaining finishing touch for the Di2 conversion. Kuroko came with cable-operate derailleurs and brakes. In that configuration, the brake cable passed into the downtube up near the headset, and exited just above the bottom bracket. The derailleur cable, meanwhile, ran alongside the downtube, externally.

With the Di2 upgrade came a switch to hydraulic brakes. And a single electrical cable takes the signal from both shifters to the junction box mounted under the bottom bracket from whence two cables emerge, one for each derailleur. With this configuration, I ran the hydraulic hose for the rear brake through the downtube, together with the single line for the Di2 shifting.

Which brings us to the grommets. Previously there had been a grommet at each of the openings in the downtube, with room for the brake cable only. I hacked the grommets up using a razor, and with a lot of effort I was able to get the upper grommet in place. Kind of. Mostly. On the bottom grommet I gave up after a number of efforts.

Then followed a lot of internet searches. I finally located a similar looking grommet from another bike manufacturer that has two holes and is readily available. So I was all set to give these a try today.

… or not. Installing the grommets will require me to unscrew the hydraulic fittings at either end of the rear brake hose, and that means replacing the fittings when it’s time to put it back together. At the start of today’s maintenance work I was gathering together all the bits and tools, and something was missing. There’s a piece missing for the tool to insert the hydraulic fittings into the hose ends.

I emptied the entire toolbox looking for that one little fitting, and came up empty. I found a set of tire levers, which means I’ve been commuting on Dionysus the past couple of weeks without them. I took a couple of minutes out from the maintenance to go down to the bicycle parking in the basement and put the levers in the saddlebag.

So the grommets await another day. I’ll keep looking for the fitting, and then perhaps the next rainy day, now that it’s warm, I’ll get back to it.

(Apologies for so many words with no pictures.)


Kuroko’s handlebars serve as attachment points for the:

  • headlight
  • bell
  • GPS unit (Garmin)
  • GoPro camera

It’s all quite tight. When I rewrapped the bars during the Di2 conversion, I tried to leave a bit more space. But the problem is the bars flatten out not far from the center, making them more comfortable for riding with my hands on the tops. The round portion that is usable for mounting has a limited width.

I’ve seen mounts for the GPS that attach to the front of the handlebar stem, so I decided to give one of those a try. I found a model that handles both the Garmin and the GoPro, and that was a sale.

The mounting hardware isn’t very sophisticated. (Nor am I — the first thing I did was drop one of the spacers in the balcony drain.) But it seems solid enough now that it’s together. My only concern is the camera and GPS together weigh a fair bit, putting a bit of torque on the attachment. We’ll have to see how it holds up. (Vibration shouldn’t be an issue as the camera already smooths the image.)

Because the handlebar stem is angled upwards, the Garmin ended up being tilted upwards. I hadn’t thought about that — it probably will not be an issue and it might even make it easier to see the display while I’m riding.

The mount does not permit attaching the Garmin’s external reserve battery. So for longer tours, I’ll have to revert the set-up.

Long overdue for a bath

With the day’s work done — the bits I could do — I gave Kuroko a long-overdue bath, followed by cleaning and oiling the chain. It was showing spots of rust after just a month laying fallow. Finally I pumped up the tires and replaced the bags and pump.

The forecast tomorrow is for warm and sunny weather. I haven’t yet decided a destination, but I’m sure to be out, puffing along somewhere.

Gear sense

Detail of bicycle seatstay with Di2 Bluetooth attachment

The past weekend would have been fine for riding. Cold, but with clear skies. A threat of wind on Saturday that never really materialized, after a ferociously windy Friday. Unfortunately I had other commitments on Sunday.

So instead of riding Saturday, I decided to upgrade my recent upgrade — so recent I’ve only had one ride on the bike since adding the electronic shifting (and hydraulic brakes). Shimano’s Bluetooth unit allows the Di2 shifting system to communicate with the Garmin GPS device, allowing me to see things like current gear selection and battery level.

Adding the sensor to the bike just took a couple of minutes. I already had the required additional wire from the first go, when all the wires I’d bought were too short. Then connecting to the Garmin was a doddle. (I took the last screenshot just now, stepping out on the balcony to wake up the Di2 system, which explains the night mode.)

The number of teeth shown front and rear (“Front Gears” and “Rear Gears” in the middle shot, and “Gear Combo” in the last shot) isn’t correct, but everything else should be. (I’ve just now input the correct values after noticing this, but I can’t be bothered at the moment to create new screenshots.)

What advantages does that bring ie having that information on your Garmin

Fearless Leader Joe

It’s just another toy, really

It would be nice to have the current gear selection pop up on the Garmin whenever I’m switching gears (but not otherwise). As Fearless Leader Joe noted, I usually have a good idea about where I am on the gears, and it’s not critical to know the exact gear. The exception is when I’m braking to stop: I want to start up in the large chainring on front and the No. 2 cog on the back — the combo shown in the screenshot above (except it’s actually 44-30). But it’s easy enough for me to shift all the way to the largest cog and then up one.

The real benefit is the read-out of the battery level. Without the Bluetooth add-on giving me a precise percentage, I just have to interpret the LED on the front junction box: 0%, 25%, 50%, 100%. And I have to press the button each time to read the LEDs. The Garmin read-out is a huge improvement on that. (Of course, I still have to remember to check the charge before it’s time to get on the bike and ride — as FLJ’s brother can attest.)

As a finishing touch, I added a couple of wire guides to the seatstay to keep those expensive Di2 wires out of the gears and spokes. (Took the photo before adding the guides, naturally … )

Glide, Switched

Bicycle with Tokyo Disney Resort sign in background

Apart from a quick spin around the block late yesterday afternoon, today was my first ride since upgrading Kuroko to electronic shifting and hydraulic brakes. And everything about today’s ride confirmed what I’d noticed during that brief jaunt. Shifting is effortless and flawless. Braking is very smooth, requiring very little force. And the Brooks saddle is still slippery and makes me feel a bit insecure as I slide around atop it.

It was a delight to start off up Yamate Dori and not have to think about trimming the derailleurs, just shifting to the gear I need. I soon learned that before each stop I just need to hold the downshift lever as I spin the pedals, and when I don’t feel any more shifting (there’s a small disturbance in the Force the chain with each shift), then I shift up once to end up in my favorite starting gear. The trouble-free experience allows me to focus more on traffic and the road in front of me.


When I reached the Arakawa I took a moment to adjust the saddle. It had been slightly nose-down, so that I was constantly pushing myself back up on the saddle. After raising up the nose a bit, the experience was much improved. I was still sliding around, but not constantly sliding towards the nose of the saddle. The pressure on my hands was greatly reduced.

I won’t have to worry about puddles today. It hasn’t rained in days and days …

Guy Jean


Arakawa cycling course

There are still a few tidying-up chores to do following Kuroko’s upgrade, and one of those is to get the grommets back into the frame where the brake cable and front shifter wire enter and exit the downtube. I didn’t want to waste more time than I had already before setting off on the ride this morning, and I figured it wouldn’t be a problem as the roads were sure to be dry. The Arakawa had other ideas … I avoided the puddles where I could, and plowed on through where it was unavoidable. I saw several riders on expensive Italian bikes gingerly tip-toeing through the latter parts. I didn’t spray them with my rooster tail — not intentionally, anyway.

Detail of bicycle showing muddy splashes
Some splashing was unavoidable

Given my late start, I arrived at the mouth of the river about 12:20. The smart thing to have done would be to stop for lunch before continuing, but I didn’t want to interrupt the flow. I rode on and arrived at Tokyo Disney Resort about 1 p.m., and sat down for lunch (purchased from a handy convenience store) about 1:20. As can be imagined, I was ravenous!

Easy rider

After lunch I set off home at a more relaxed pace. I bobbled a couple of wickets on the ramp down from the bridge over the Arakawa, but apart from that had no issues. I knew I was behind schedule for my goal of returning home by 3 p.m., but I didn’t feel any real reason to rush. I was surprised after arriving home (at 3:15) to find I’d posted good time on this leg, including a couple of personal records.

Unadulterated pleasure

GPS record of cycle route
Glide, Switched

My first full ride experience following the upgrade matched my impressions from my short jaunt yesterday. Shifting was swift and effortless. Gear chatter was noticeable only by its absence — I managed to get a brief amount while shifting to the largest cog while climbing up a pedestrian overpass, less than a second all told. As I moved up and down the cogs I heard the reassuring “ZZzzzt- ZZzzzt!” of the front derailleur trimming to match the chain’s deflection.

The only bobbled shifts were rider error. I got a double-shift early in the day when a bump in the road just as I was shifting caused me to double-tap the lever. A bit later, flying down the Arakawa, my fingers had become numb, making it difficult to separate the upshift and downshift paddles from each other. Correcting for this — downshifting under load — was handled without fanfare. Likewise, if I got caught at an unexpected stop in a high gear, then downshifting as I started again was accomplished without any noise or protest.

The brakes were amazing. Fantastic. Superb. Can’t say enough good about how they silently went about their job, requiring much less effort than the cable-operated calipers I’ve been using for three years.

That leaves the saddle. After I corrected the tilt, things were much better, but I’m still sliding around quite a bit more than I’d like. I am holding out hope this will improve with age (and the shorts I was wearing today — Fearless Leader Joe’s favorites — have a very slick fabric). I may be tempted to speed the process with sandpaper or even a file if it doesn’t happen soon, though.


Bicycle on balcony after completion of maintenance

At last, a job that I predicted — tongue in cheek — would possibly get done in a day has come to fruition. And after only three weekends of work. I finally took Kuroko to the office this morning and drilled out the bolts holding in the rear brake caliper, clearing the way to finish the Switching to Glide project.

Out, damn bolts!

My previous attempts to remove the rear caliper bolts via a breaker bar and drilling came to naught, leaving the bolts more rounded out than ever and just as stuck. So this morning I did what I should have done from the start: take off Kuroko’s wheels for easy transport, chuck her in the back of a car and take her in to the office workshop. There I set to work with a very powerful drill. (There was also an angle grinder on hand if it came to that, but I’m glad to report it wasn’t needed in the end.)

Whether it was the higher-powered drill or a different bit, I was soon making a little pile of metal shavings. After just a couple of minutes of drilling, the first bolt snapped. It wasn’t threaded into the frame, just the caliper (which I’m replacing anyway), so that was one done as far as I was concerned.

The second bolt put up more of a fight, and after a couple of minutes more drilling, the end of the drill bit snapped off. There was another bit the same size in the workshop, but the first bit was now wedged into the bolt, so I was trying to drill through a drill bit. That wasn’t working. But when I grasped the caliper and twisted, it moved fairly easily. I couldn’t just spin it around, but I was able to work it back and forth while holding the bolt head with pliers until it at last unscrewed completely.

And with that, the removal was done. I put the bike back into the bag and the bag into the car, and headed home. Unfortunately it was about the worst time of day to try to drive across Tokyo: lunchtime on a Saturday. It took quite a bit longer to get home than the GPS had at first predicted.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one

Back in the workshop in the sky, I put Kuroko into the workstand and got the parts together for the day’s work. The bolts that came with the new caliper were too long — ridiculously so. Fortunately I’d kept the bolts from the old caliper (the front one, not the ones I’d destroyed with the drill), and they are much shorter. A few millimeters too short, probably, but they are long enough to serve until I find a better length.

With the new caliper in place, I cut the hydraulic line to length and added the various bits and bobs needed to screw one end to the brake lever and the other to the caliper. Adding the hydraulic fluid and bleeding the line was a bit more of a challenge this time around — the line is longer and has a horizontal run, and I was working alone. But I got the job done.

Got it on tape

After bleeding the brakes and reinstalling the chain and rear derailleur (I’d taken it off to prevent damage during transport and drilling), I mounted the swank Brooks saddle. And that left the job I’ve been looking forward to / dreading since before I began this project: retaping the handlebars.

I bought the Supacaz tape probably a year ago when I noticed some tears in Kuroko’s original tape. Since then I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to make the switch. The Switching to Glide project was the perfect opportunity since I needed to remove the handlebar tape anyway as I swapped out steel cables for hydraulic and electronic lines.

The taping job went more quickly than I expected. The results aren’t perfect but they’re good enough for me. If the tape lasts a couple of years I’ll be happy, and I’ll have more experience the next time around.

Supacaz handlebar tape in box
Seeing stars

Ta daaaa!

Bicycle on balcony after completion of maintenance
Ready to rock ‘n’ roll

It has been a warm and pleasant day, and the Workshop in the Sky has been a lot more hospitable than it was when José and I were threading the Di2 wires through the frameset. But the sunlight was fading fast by the time the handlebar tape was done. I quickly chucked Kuroko on the scale and was pleased with the result. Unfortunately I didn’t get the weight before the project began, so I don’t have a direct comparison, but in the stripped-down state — no bags, lights or other attachments than a couple of water bottle cages and an omamori, she comes in well under 11kg.

I raced to change into cycling gear — just what I needed for a quick spin around the block before I ran out of sunlight. Out of the elevator with Kuroko, and then mount up and ride.

Some adjustment needed

The first experience of electronic shifting and hydraulic braking was — how to put it?


Wow. Just wow.

With any change of drivetrain, seating position, etc., some adjustment is usually required. With the Switch to Glide, the adjustment required is in my habits. I’m used to a certain amount of pressure on the shift levers, and a certain amount of travel to make a change. Now both pressure and travel are minimal. The gears just shift. It’s very quick, it’s sure, and it’s almost silent. I can hear the high-speed motor in the front derailleur when it shifts or when it trims in response to a change on the rear, but I can’t hear the rear derailleur at all (at least not in traffic).

Braking, meanwhile, is a delight. Very smooth, very positive, and with lots of modulation on tap. There’s no squealing with the new pads. (I’m using the same brake discs as previously.)

A 10-minute spin around the block is not enough to make a judgment on the new saddle, but the first impression is it’s very slippery. I’m used to having to lift my butt off the saddle to adjust my position, and now I’ll have to get used to trying to sit still in one place. I’m guessing with time this will settle down a bit.

Worth it?

Fujisan in the sunset

Every penny of it. Every moment of cursing the stuck bolts. Every additional order when I’d bought electrical cables that were too short or a battery mount that didn’t include … the mount part. (I did send back the extra hydraulic brake tool that I ended up not needing and I got a refund.) The electronic shifting is just that good. And the hydraulic braking — I’ll never go back (he says now, before he encounters any issues like contaminated brake pads, bleed issues, etc.).

Of course it would have been cheaper to have bought a bike with electronic shifting from the start. At the time, though, that would have been a luxury (I’d just bought a flat). And it should be obvious, as with the Ol’ Paint make-over, that I enjoy doing the mechanical work as much as I enjoy riding the result.

Closer, closer

Partially assembled bicycle on balcony

Today marked our third try at converting Kuroko to electronic shifting, and we made a lot of progress. We’re only held back at this point by the bolts of the rear brake caliper, which refuse to let go.

Clean up your act

While I was waiting for José to appear, I took off the cogs and started scrubbing them. The chain lube I use for wet conditions (i.e., does not rinse away at the first hint of rain) really sticks to the gears and doesn’t want to let go.

Bicycle cog set coated with greasy dirt from use
Greasy gears

Using some degreaser and a lot of elbow grease, I’d cleaned up about half the cogs before José arrived.

Stuck, stuck … stuck

The first order of business was to remove the rear brake caliper, which has been frozen in place from the beginning of the project. We tried a second set of bolt extractors to no avail, and then some drill bits (same). We just weren’t getting a bite into the metal.

The upgrade project was blocked at this point: the Di2 shifters have hydraulic brakes, so we have to get the old, cable-operated, calipers off the bike. Despite this set-back, I was determined to get as much done today as we could. In particular, I wanted to see the derailleurs in operation.


The next order of business was to wire up the battery, shifters and derailleurs. Following the debacle of short connection cables last weekend, I’d ordered up some longer Di2 wiring. We quickly pulled a new cable through the downtube to connect the front junction box to the rear, and replaced the shifter wires with slightly longer bits.

I’d got a battery mount to sit below the water bottle mount, and that went on with a minimum of fuss. The remaining bit was the cable for the rear derailleur. There are ports in the chainstay to run a cable internally, but we quickly determined that there is not enough clearance for the Di2 connectors to pass through. We had to settle for external routing of the rear derailleur cable. Fortunately, I’d thought ahead (for a change) and bought the cable guides to stick the cable to the bottom of the chainstay.

And … magic!

Front derailleur

Rear derailleur

I was half expecting the derailleurs not to work right out of the box — partly because I’d cobbled together this solution from disparate sellers (although it’s all Shimano in the end) and partly because this was my first experience of electronic shifting. But in fact the moment it was all wired up … the shifting worked!

It was a few minutes’ work after that to put the cogs (half cleaned, half greasy) back on the rear wheel, and put that back on the bike. Then cut the new chain to length and adjust the derailleurs. It all went well apart from pressing the pin into the new chain to fit the length. We got the pin only partially in at first, and in the process bent one of the links. It’s working OK now, but I’ll probably get a couple of replacement pins and swap out that link (and its neighbours) before taking this show on the road.

Stop in the name of love

With the derailleurs settled in as well as can be expected, we turned our attention to the front brake caliper — the one we could do something about. It was easy enough to attach the new caliper to the fork, and I quickly determined we had the right orientation. (There’s a reversible bracket which allows for different diameter brake discs.)

After that it was all new to me. I’ve seen a number of videos on bleeding hydraulic brakes, although they tend to be generic rather than focusing on specific models, and I’ve heard the horror stories of hydraulic brakes gone wrong. We had our share of reversals and false starts, considering this is all new to us, but in the end we got there. The instructions didn’t specify which retaining bolt went into the brake levers and which into the calipers (and they are different), so I got that wrong on the first go but sorted it on the second try. (There weren’t any other options … )

When it came time to add the brake fluid and bleed the system, it turned out the reservoir cup from the first system I’d ordered was the wrong size. But the second set had the right item, and it all came together. Again, considering this was something I’d never done before, it went quite smoothly. We had just a minimum amount of brake fluid scattered about the workshop, but in less time that it takes to tell, I had a working front brake!

Fast stop

Compared to the cable-operated disc brakes that came with Kuroko from the factory, these are much easier to apply, much smoother, and have a lot more power. I’ve often read that hydraulic brakes are superior to cable, but this was my first experience. I can only say that the reports I’ve read don’t tell the full story — get hydraulic brakes!

Where do we go from here?

Partially assembled bicycle on balcony
Getting there

The only sticking point now is the rear brake caliper, held on by rounded-off, drilled-out bolts (as it has been from the start). It’s a cable-operated caliper, and so not compatible with the Shimano GRX levers, which are hydraulic. We’ve failed to remove the bolts using extractors and drill bits. I tried a hacksaw today, but after a couple of minutes it became clear I was removing as much material from the frame (a no-no) as the caliper and its retaining bolts.

Next weekend I’ll chuck the bike into the back of a car and take it to the workshop at my office. There I can try a high-powered drill, a grinder … whatever it takes. If I can’t get satisfaction there, maybe it’s time to replace the frameset as well.

Assuming I succeed in removing the brake caliper (at last!), all that remains is to install and bleed the new caliper, tape up the handlebars and (pièce de résistance) add the new saddle.

Coming up short

Partially assembled bicycle in workstand on balcony

José dropped by yesterday to help with the upgrade to Di2 shifting. While I was awaiting his arrival, I took stock of the parts I’d assembled for the job and had a surprise with some last-minute purchases. And the delivery driver stopped in with my latest present to myself.

The Brooks Titanium saddle is a bit of a treat. I’m still looking for ways to ease saddle soreness, and a lot of people swear by the Brooks (including Fearless Leader Joe).

As for the surprises, I’d done some last minute shopping last week in preparation for the work. I’d suddenly panicked at the thought I was missing a couple of essential tools for the conversion to hydraulic brakes: a brake bleed kit and a cut & set tool. Then as I was laying out the parts yesterday morning I found … I’d already purchased them.

The second disc set tool arrived while we were working. It’s a rather pricey hydraulic barb tool from Park Tool, so I’m going to see if I can return it unopened.

Getting it straight

During last week’s teardown, I had trouble removing the rear wheel from the frame. Kuroko had tipped over while posing for a photo the day before, and I was concerned that I’d bent the frame. Closer inspection revealed that the derailleur hanger was bent. So I got a derailleur alignment tool (the purplish thing in the gallery above), and when José arrived we started by spending some time getting the derailleur hanger straightened and aligned again. (I forgot to get an “after” photo until we’d already installed the new rear derailleur.)

The next order of business was the rear brake caliper and its rounded bolt heads. I’d bought a drill and extractor bits. Try as we might, though, we couldn’t get the bits to bite into the remaining material. It was José doing the work here, so it wasn’t for lack of force. We’re going to have to drill out the bolts. Unfortunately, I hadn’t got any drill bits, so we’ll try again next weekend when José brings his bits.

Cranky bastard

The final bit of prep work was to remove the crankset and bottom bracket. In part this was to inspect whether we could route any of the new cabling through the bottom bracket shell (in the end, no), but also I was taking this opportunity to replace the bottom bracket after I’d accidentally pulled out the seals.

The crankset came off with no trouble, but we had quite a time hammering out the bearings. It doesn’t help that the Shimano tool for this falls to pieces (literally!) at every possible chance. Fortunately José is far less fumble-fingered than me when it comes to putting it all back together. But the real challenge turned out to be the rust, which was holding the bearing shells fast. It took an inordinate amount of hammering to get the bearings moving.

I’ve done what I can to clean up the rust and prevent it coming back — spraying the BB shell with WD-40 and coating the new BB with lots of grease. But I’d done that last time as well, so …

Final cleaning before the real work begins

With the bicycle now as stripped down as we were able to get it, I hosed off some remaining dirt and then we went at the frame with some polishing compound. The wind on the Workshop in the Sky was piercingly cold, so we had incentive to put a lot of energy into the polishing. The frame cleaned up as well as can be expected. There’s some paint chipping on the left rear triangle I’ll need to touch up, and at some point I want to remove the chainstay guard, clean the chainstay again and replace the guard.

Threading the needle

Enough with the preliminaries, already! Our first step for installing the new hardware was to route the hydraulic brake lines and Di2 cables through the frameset and fork. I’d left the original brake cable housing in place for this step. We attached a Park Tool internal cable routing line to the rear brake cable housing and pulled it through the frame, removing the cable housing and leaving the routing line in its place. Then we attached a hydraulic line to the routing line, and taped a Di2 cable to the hydraulic line, and pulled them both through the frameset.

The whole thing was a lot less effort than I’d expected. I’d pulled out the grommets in the frame and cut the opening wider to allow for the Di2 cable, but then I had trouble getting the grommets to go back in the frame. I think I’ll cut each one once from center to edge, and that should make the job easier.

The second hydraulic line went into the fork for the front wheel. This was very straightforward.

A junction box too far

Our next job was to mount the shift levers on the handlebars and start plugging in the electronic cables. The rubber hood levers are much more flexible than the Shimano 105 units I’m replacing, which made getting at the mounting screws very easy. The cables from the shift levers come together at a junction box which straps on below the handlebar stem, and that connects with the single cable we’d pulled through the frame from near the bottom bracket.

The cables plugged in easily enough using the supplied tool, but we immediately discovered they were too short. I’d measured everything using a tape measure before ordering, and I thought I’d allowed enough slack. But when it came to putting it all together, everything came up short: the cables from the shift levers to the junction box, from the front junction box through the frame to the second junction box, for the battery and for both derailleurs. Every single cable was too short for the job.

The final issue turned out to be a missing bit for the battery mount. I’d thought the mount would screw directly on the water bottle bosses, but it turns out there’s another piece needed to bring those together.

Shivering in the cold but not discouraged, we did what we could for the day: install the new bottom bracket and crankset, and attach the new derailleurs front and rear.

I’ve got a week now to come up with some new cables of the desired length (but not too long!) and the missing bit for the battery mount. If the latter is hard to come by (a lot of these bits have been on back order for quite some time) I’ll try to work out something with zip ties until I can get the proper part.

Oh, yeah. And we still need to get that brake caliper off.

Strip show

Stripped bicycle frame in workstand

I had a day off work today. Between the balky derailleur trimming yesterday and the inclement weather this morning, it was a perfect day to kick off the Switching to Glide project.

Silhouette of bicycle on balcony against foggy, rainy backdrop
Inclement weather

Kuroko was waiting patiently as always, blissfully unaware of what was about to transpire.

Bicycle and helmet on balcony
Unsuspecting victim

I started by removing the bags and tire pump, and then the hardware from the handlebars: the bell and the mounts for the headlight, Garmin GPS and GoPro camera.

I decided a bath was the next order of business. It’s been a while since I’ve given Kuroko a proper washing up.

I had to take a break at the next step to remind myself which direction the pedals are threaded. (It’s right-hand thread for the drive side, left-hand thread for the opposite.) Then a moment’s work to break the chain (after digging the chain tool out of the toolbox).

I finished up the preliminaries by removing the handlebar tape. It’s very nice tape, but there are a few cuts already so I won’t be reusing it.

After that it was time to put Kuroko into the workstand and get serious: remove the wheels, cut the brake and derailleur cables, and remove the derailleurs.

I removed the front brake caliper, but the rear is waiting until I can extract the bolts.

Measure twice …

Before removing the shift levers from the handlebar, I took a moment to mark the position using a paint pen. This will make it easier to mount the new levers and match the position.

I pulled the brake cables through next. The shifter cables are a bit more challenging to get to, so I first removed each lever from the handlebars, and then peeled back the rubber hood to give better access to the cable head. I left the cable housings in place for now because I’ll be using them to guide the new bits into place: the derailleur wires and the hydraulic hoses for the brakes.

With all that done, I was left with two separate piles: items for disposal (cables and bar tape), and items that will be reused or be put into the spares box.

And then it was lunchtime. I’d made good progress. Once I’ve extracted the bolts and removed the rear brake caliper, I’ll take off the crankset as well and then give the frame a thorough cleaning and polishing. There are some paint chips to touch up, too. I’m trying to decide if I want to spray the inside of the frame with WD-40 or something similar to prevent further rust. (I’m only concerned the WD-40 might eat away at hydraulic brake lines and Di2 cables.)

Stripped bicycle frame in workstand
Mostly naked bike

I’ve got some extractor bits which I bought when I was refurbishing Ol’ Paint, to get out a couple of broken water bottle cage bolts. (I ended up drilling them out.) I’d done that at the office workshop, but here I am in the Workshop in the Sky. I need a power drill (and to overcome my qualms that using one might disturb the neighbors).

Cordless drill and attachments
Should do the trick

I spent some time yesterday afternoon searching for a drill on Amazon. My choice was between no-name cheap jobs and more expensive brands I’ve actually heard of. This one fell in the middle. (I’m sure it’s just a rebranded Chinese unit, but I feel more secure when it’s backed by a Japanese company.) Amazon said it was available for next-day delivery, so I assumed it would show up this evening, possibly after dinner. In fact, the driver showed up during lunch.

OK, so I have the drill and … where are the extractors? I spent more than an hour today emptying out the toolbox, searching through closets, even checking the suitcase where I’ve stashed some items — twice. No sign of them (or of the tap and die set I got at the same time). I’ll have a look at the office tomorrow, and if I still haven’t found anything I’ll get a new set. I’m sure the moment I’ve ordered the replacement, the first set will show up somewhere.