A bit thick

Laptop keyboard showing touchpad protruding

Some non-bicycle maintenance

I’ve had very little trouble with my latest laptop at home. I got a notification from the maker recently that my warranty was about to expire, and asking if I wanted to renew, and I just ignored it. There’s only been one issue of note, and that’s for the past year the touchpad has been sticking up from the keyboard surface. I almost never close the lid to carry the laptop anywhere, so I haven’t been too worried about it. But recently it’s been protruding enough that it interferes with my thumbs when I’m typing.

It took the Halfakid visiting to point out the obvious: the battery under the keyboard is swelling with age. So a couple of days ago I decided to open up the case, see if it would be easy to replace the battery, and check the model.

Desk with laptop cover, screws, a drink, various bit drivers and other bric-à-brac
Using the proper tools

With the proper tools at hand (including shochu and a blood pressure monitor), I was quickly able to remove the bottom cover without losing any screws or rounding the heads.

Open laptop showing motherboard and swollen battery
Well that’s just swell

Yes, the battery was quite swollen. I checked that it would be easy to replace and noted the model. I quickly found a replacement on Amazon — not a genuine Dell part, but otherwise identical. Free next-day delivery.

Replacement battery in open delivery box
Right down to the screw hole markings

Ready to operate, doctor?

Open laptop with tools on placemat
Dining room surgery

I’d put the laptop back together, so I had to take it apart once more to start. I moved to the dining room table to have a little less clutter and a little more room to work. Once I had the old battery out, I took the laptop out to the Workshop in the Sky and used a compressed air can to blow out all the accumulated dust.

Before installing the new battery, I took a minute to compare the thickness.

Comparing old, swollen battery with new, slimmer unit
Subtly different
Photo montage measuring thickness of batteries with a vernier
Not quite double

It’s not entirely clear, but the new battery is 9.0mm thick. The old battery had swollen to 16.6mm at the thickest point.

Shoyu dish holding screws
It’s a … parts tray

For a change, I used a “parts tray” to keep track of all the various screws. It worked — none lost. The computer went back together quickly, and the case halves fit perfectly. No force needed.

Laptop keyboard showing proper fitting of touchpad
After: Slim Jim

Moment of truth

With the computer back in one piece, I put it back on the desk in my den and plugged everything back in. The light under the touchpad lit up immediately, and a moment later so did the keyboard. I could hear the fan noise and …

There were a few heart-stopping moments as the display failed to come to life. I forced a restart a couple of times and then finally left it sit for a minute. At last the display lit up with a message that the date and time needed to be set in the BIOS. Once I’d done that, it took just another minute for the computer to start up as normal. Success!

All right, all right — here’s some bike content

Between rather extreme heat, typhoons and a week of rain, it’s been a while since I’ve been on the bike. In the meantime I purchased a food pouch. This is a small, deep pouch that straps on the handlebars. It can hold a water bottle or snacks, or other small items for quick access.

I’m not sure this was my smartest purchase. The smaller of my water bottles barely fits (I’ll still have to stop to remove the bottle and replace it). My handlebars are already pretty crowded. I’ll have to see if it interferes with ringing the bell, or even with resting my hands on “the tops.”

Bicycle on balcony overlooking city
She’s waiting

Proof of the pudding

The forecast for tomorrow is promising. (I’ve got other plans today.) I should know soon if the food pouch is going to work out.

Rode hard and put up wet

Freshly washed bicycle on balcony above city

In the wake of two typhoons over the weekend, I had an eye on today’s forecast to see if I could get a ride in the morning, before it got too hot. Last night it was looking promising.

Rainy cityscape

It started raining by 7 a.m., and it got worse — worse than we’d had at any point yesterday. (Perhaps not as bad as it got in Chiba yesterday.) In the afternoon it cleared up, but it was hot and windy. So windy, in fact, that when I fetched Kuroko out of the basement parking, I had to keep a tight grip on the handlebars to keep her from being tossed about.

With a ride out of the question, I thought the least I could do is swap in the wheels I’d finished prepping yesterday. That took just a couple of minutes, but in the process I noticed Kuroko was quite mud-splattered. Huh. Did we go through any puddles on our last ride?

Splashing through puddles

I’m a bit lazy about washing my bicycles and I certainly don’t do it after every ride as some recommend. But Kuroko was clearly due for a bath, and I had the time and a (now) sunny, hot day to do it in. The sprayer tank was full of water, too, so I had no excuse.

Bicycle bags hanging to dry on a laundry pole

It’s really only a five or 10-minute job to spray the bike down, squirt on some cleaner, use a brush to get into all the nooks and crannies, and then spray it all off again. I just need to take care not to get things wet, like laundry, the neighbors, or our rice supply. Nana hadn’t done any laundry today, so that wasn’t an issue.

After the bath, I put Kuroko back in the stand to clean and oil the chain, and then to adjust the derailleur. It just took a couple of turns of the barrel adjuster to tighten the cable slightly, and all was good.

Finally I hosed off and brushed down Kuroko’s saddle bag and cockpit bag. I didn’t even bother removing anything from the cockpit bag first — just was careful to direct the spray away from the zipper.

And with that, Kuroko is clean and well-adjusted (something we all aspire to), and shod once again in her slicks. Now I just need a break in the heat.

Freshly washed bicycle on balcony above city
Kuroko sparkling after her bath

A nice pair

A pair of bicycle wheels propped against a balcony railing

A trio of typhoons capping off the finale of the Olympics has given us a rainy weekend and no chance to cycle. (At least for those of us not members of a national sprint team.) But it did give me a couple of free days to follow up on the leaky valve issue. In the month-and-a-half since that post, I’ve only been out once on Kuroko (mostly thanks to the heat), and I used the spare wheels I set up back in May. Meanwhile, I verified that the valve has continued to leak, and I realized that I needed to replace the rim tape.

It’s not a complicated job. I have to remove the tire (and clean up all the sealant) and then the valve, and then I can pull off the old rim tape. I did this a couple of weeks ago, and the tape all came off without too much of a fight. As soon as I’d removed it, though, I realized the sealant had worked itself in between the inner and outer sections of the rim, so I left the rim sitting upright on the balcony for a few days to drain out all the unused sealant.

I picked up the job again yesterday. The wheel truing stand is ideal for applying new rim tape, so I set that up. (It can be a bit wobbly when I’m pulling hard on the tape to make it straight, but if I brace the stand with my foot it’s all good.)

(It actually took me a couple of tries. The tape didn’t go down smoothly on my first try.)

Bicycle rim in truing stand
One taped rim

With the tape on and smooth, I made a small cut for the valve and inserted it. I had a bit of a fight getting it to seat fully against the rim — that’s the problem I’d set out to fix.

Mounting the tire went quickly after that. The new Stan’s sealant has little marbles of latex that clog the syringe, so I poured the sealant into the tire before it was fully mounted to the rim (instead of adding it through the valve stem after the tire is mounted).

Once I verified the tire was mounted all the way around the rim, I pumped up the charging cylinder, set the pump head on the valve stand and let it rip. A whole lotta whoosh, and no pop. I gave it three or four tries yesterday afternoon before giving up with sore elbows and sweat running off my body.

Final sprint

This afternoon, with typhoons to the left of me and typhoons to the right, I stuck my head out the balcony door. A bit of wind, some rain — no big deal. Significantly, it was cooler than it had been yesterday afternoon.

I spent a couple of minutes making sure the valve stem was fully seated in the rim, and then pumped up the cylinder and gave it a go. Whoosh. I checked the tire bead near the valve, making sure it was up on the shoulder of the rim and not down in the center. Pumped up the cylinder again. Checked that the pump head was secured on the valve.

Finally when I released the air, the tire bulged — first at the valve and then all around the circumference. At last, a tentative pop, and then several more final-sounding pops as the tire seated on the rim fully.

From there it’s all routine: Screw in the valve core and reinflate the tire. Swirl the sealant around to coat the entire inside of the tire. Check the tire bead all the way around, both sides once again. Bounce the wheel a few times soundly on the floor in case there’s a bit I’ve overlooked that’s not quite seated.

A pair of bicycle wheels propped against a balcony railing
A nice pair

These are ready to roll. Ideally I should get out on the bike right away to get the sealant well worked around the tire. The forecast for tomorrow is hot and windy, with a middling chance of rain, so we’ll see what it’s like in the morning. Apart from that, we have a ride planned for mid-September, so I hope to get in some miles before that.

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.

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.

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.

Long-awaited wheel swap

Bicycle on balcony in evening light

Tubeless faff

I recently saw a video in which a cycling blogger (with far more viewers than I have) described tubeless tires as “a bit of a faff,” and then went on to say how many thorns he’d had in his tires over the past year, and how it wasn’t an issue because he was riding tubeless and they’d sealed up the holes without any fuss.

So how’s that working out for you?

Since going tubeless (against the recommendation of the shop where I bought Kuroko), I’ve had a months-long fight with weeping sidewalls, culminating in an under-pressure tire rolling off the rim in a low-speed turn, and another failure where a broken spoke poked through the rim tape, creating a hole in a location that was nearly impossible for the sealant to deal with. But no flats as such.

That run came to an end on Saturday’s ride, where my rear tire had a pinhole (literally too small to see with any certainty) that the sealant wouldn’t reliably seal up. I’d gone over some broken glass on the previous ride, and counted myself lucky when nothing happened. It turns out I was counting chickens, and amusingly, the front tire (which had an innertube at the time) came through with shining colors.

Quittin’ time?

Given the expense and effort I’ve put into converting to tubeless, and the demonstrated results, I was considering giving up on the idea — much as I enjoy the masochistic thrill of repeated expense and wrenching to elevate myself among the Velominati. And then I recalled that I have a pair of wheels, tubeless tires ready-mounted, awaiting me in the Workshop in the Sky. I could simply swap out the current wheels and then fix up the tubeless issues at my leisure.

Sunday was sunny and warm, and hence perfect weather for bicycle maintenance following a day of riding through puddles and rain (particularly when one’s partner has misinterpreted one’s stated wishes and made plans for the day with good weather rather than the day with rain in the forecast). I’d already brought Kuroko to the Workshop in the Sky in anticipation following Saturday’s ride.

Well, that didn’t go as expected

My first step after removing the leaky rear tire was to do what I’d balked at Saturday on the pedestrian walk of Rokugo Bridge: put a dart into the hole. I suspected that part of the reason the sealant wasn’t fixing the pinhole was there wasn’t enough sealant left in the tire. So I removed the valve core to top up the sealant, reinserted the core, and pumped up the tire. As soon as I rotated the tire so the hole was pointing downwards, the sealant came streaming out — from a hole so small I couldn’t reliably locate it on the tread. And the stream didn’t stop until the sealant was spent and the air had run out of the tire.

Although I still had no idea why the sealant wouldn’t close up such a small hole (I couldn’t see any glass shard in the puncture), I decided to proceed with the dart. This is a braided strand coated with sticky stuff. I have what amounts to a glorified ice pick to drive into the hole in the tire and twist, leaving the strand in place when I remove the pick.

From the moment I started this I had second thoughts. The diameter of the dart was much larger than the pinhole in the tire. By putting this plug in the tire I’d just be making things worse, right? I took a deep breath and pushed the dart into the tire. And pushed. And hammered with the flat of my hand. At last the dart went in, creating (as predicted) a much larger hole than the one I was trying to fix. I gave the dart a twist or two before withdrawing it, leaving the plug in place.

Once again, I removed the valve core to top up the sealant in the tire, then replaced the core and pumped up the tire. I could hear the air hissing out through the hole I’d made. I quickly rotated the tire so the plug would be down, and the sealant would cover the newly enlarged hole.

That fixed the problem straight away, right?

Detail of bicycle tire with plug leaking sealant into drain
You be the judge

About those spare wheels …

Thinking that my operation was a total failure, I turned my attention to the spare wheelset sitting in the Workshop, with new tires already mounted tubeless and holding air like nobody’s business. The rear wheel of this set is one I’d rebuilt with a DT Swiss hub and have yet to try. Following the rebuild I’d managed to extract the loose nipple (great line for a bar on a Friday evening), and since then the wheel has just been awaiting my convenience.

To complete the spare wheelset, I needed to transfer the cogs (or buy a new set), and add disc brake rotors (ditto). I spent some time scrubbing up the cogs to get them all nice and shiny, and then mounted them on the new DT Swiss hub. I’d bought some spangly new rotors a while ago, and they’ve just been sitting on the floor by my desk since then.

Shimano disc brake rotors in the package
Really going upscale on this build

The rotors popped on without issue and the new wheelset was ready. Before putting them on, I gave Kuroko a thorough washing down, removing all the mud from the puddles I’d splashed through on Saturday. Finally, I took the tube from the front wheel (the one I was now removing from Kuroko) and remounted the tire as tubeless. I got it on the first go this time. (I’d put in the tube after returning from Shimanami Kaido, when I’d let the air out of the tires to fit them in the carry bag.)

Spin test

So now that I’ve finally got that slick DT Swiss hub on the bike, how does it sound?

Cleaning up for the day

Before calling the day a wrap, I spent a little time cleaning up the Workshop in the Sky, rinsing away the spilled (or jetted) latex sealant, and folding up some of the previously used tires that have been sitting around loose on the floor. I was pleased with the results.

Folded gumwall bicycle tires lined up on an air conditioner compressor
Getting ones tires in a row
Bicycle in stand on balcony, with spare wheelset in background
A bit more space in the Workshop

Finally, I checked the newly spare wheelset to see how the plug (rear) and tubeless conversion (front) were taking. To my surprise, the rear tire was still fully pressurized (at least as far as the thumb test could determine), while the front had lost about half its pressure. I reinflated the front and did the sealant dance with it, and soon found it had been leaking around the valve hole in the rim. I gave it some addition swirls, wiped away the leaked sealant, and checked if it was still losing air. It seemed to be OK. I set both wheels aside to let the sealant set for a couple of days before topping them up again.

I call that a success

It was a challenging day of bike maintenance, but I think I was well rewarded for my efforts. There’s a lot of rain in the forecast for next weekend, so I’m not sure how soon I’ll be testing out Kuroko’s new wheelset.

Bicycle on balcony in evening light
Sunset Kuroko with new wheels

Mitigated success

Bicycle wheel and tubeless tire with bottle of sealant, valve tool and tire levers

Stormy weather

We had strong winds, lighting and even tornadoes last night. (None of the latter right around here, but what seemed like continual alerts on the television starting about dinnertime and continuing into the evening.) This morning dawned calmer, but with some freaky weather still in the forecast.

With questionable weather in the offing and sunny skies promised for tomorrow, I decided to continue with bike maintenance today, including some that I’ve been putting off for a while.

This is the mitigated part

I’ve been riding Kuroko with mismatched tires since I tried to fix a leaky valve stem in early April and then couldn’t get the tire to reseat. After a number of tries I just swapped out my spare front wheel, which already had a sealed tire. That’s been going well, but I want to get back on my slicks for everyday riding. I tried yesterday a couple of more times to get the tire seated, to no avail. So today I cut my losses — I put an inner tube in the tire, inflated it, and then swapped it back in place of the spare. Matchy-matchy.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll try again to remove the inner tube and see if I can get the tire to seal without it. I’ve had luck in the past doing this — using an inner tube for a while on a tire that won’t seat — and I know other bikers who say the same thing.

On to the success!

One task that’s been on the back burner for more than a month now is to remove the loose nipple that I left rattling around inside the rear rim when I rebuilt the wheel. I didn’t remember the nipple was in there until I had the tire mounted and filled with sealant, and since then I’ve been putting off dealing with the mess of removing the tire and cleaning up the spilled sealant so I could (I hoped!) rattle the loose nipple out through the valve hole. (I’m also reluctant to unseat any tubeless tire that’s sealed well.)

It didn’t take long to get the tire off and clean up the sealant. After wiping the rim clean I sat down with it and started shaking it, hoping to rattle the nipple out. After a couple of minutes of trying, I cleaned up some ragged edges of rim tape around the valve hole. I shook and rattled some more, with no luck. I tried putting a hex key in the valve hole to snag the nipple as it went rattling past. I tried a very small hex key with some tape wrapped around it, sticky side out. Same result.

Sealant-coated spoke nipple on ground with detail of bicycle wheel in background
The culprit

Finally, as I was trying to clear another edge of rim tape from the valve hole, I pulled off a larger section of tape than I’d planned. I shrugged and continued pulling off the tape until I had the rim completely clean. Then I picked up the wheel again, and almost the moment I began shaking it, the nipple fell out onto the floor of the Workshop in the Sky.

Excited by this success, I grabbed a paper towel and used it to remove the remaining latex residue around the rim. Then I got out the truing stand to hold the wheel while I taped it up again.

Photo montage of bicycle wheel in truing stand, detail of valve in rim
Tape on, valve in

Luck was with me today as I had just enough rim tape to get the job done. (I have another roll in a different color, just in case.)

Tape roll at end of the tape, with scissors
End of the roll

With the rim freshly cleaned and taped, and the valve in place, it was time for the moment of truth: would the tire seat up again? I charged up the reservoir on the tire pump, removed the valve core and attached the pump head. There was a prolonged whoosh, and then the tire bead edged up onto the rim. I was about to make sure it had seated all the way around when the tire emitted a series of loud pops, confirming that it had sealed fully.

No fuss, no soapy water — just a seated tire.

Tire pump with gauge attached to bicycle wheel
First try

As always, at that point I rushed to get the latex sealant into the tire through the valve, install the valve core, and then inflate the tire a final time. As I swirled the latex around inside the inflated tire, I initially heard just a small leak, but this was sealed up in a moment.

Bicycle wheel and tubeless tire with bottle of sealant, valve tool and tire levers

Prepped and ready

Now that my two spare wheels are ready to roll (and I’ve got new brake discs waiting for them both), I can proceed with the plans I have for them. Those plans depend on whether Kuroko’s rear drop-out continues to make trouble. Amusingly, while I was looking up posts related to this one, I came across a photo I’d taken after my return from Shimanami Kaido, and it clearly shows that the bolts are loose.

Photo montage showing bicycle derailleur before and after cleaning
I didn’t notice this at the time

In the meantime, Kuroko is ready for tomorrow’s sunshine, with nicely matched tires full of air.

Bicycle leaning against corner of balcony
Ready to Rock ‘n’ Roll

Finally, as I was cleaning up after today’s project, a squall rose up and confirmed my decision not to ride today.

Cityscape in a rain squall
Decision justified

New tag: Mechanical

I’ve come up with a new tag for posts that will help visitors to this site decide if they want to take up this hobby before they’ve invested a lot of time and money: Mechanical.