Since completing Dionysus in late May, I’ve been trying to improve her soft braking power. (Everything else is working well.) I’ve increased the spring tension (which only affects the feel) and adjusted the pads to be as close to the rims as possible without rubbing. But there’s just not quite enough stopping power. It’s OK in normal riding, but it’s not up to the task of emergency braking (and possibly steep downhills).
After doing some research on it, I realized the problem was the long arms of the Deore V-brakes I’d installed. There’s nothing wrong with the brakes themselves in terms of quality, and they offer lots of tire clearance (plenty of room for fenders if I were so inclined). But with Dionysus’s 26-inch rims, the brake pads are quite near the pivot point, so there’s just not enough travel to bring the pads firmly enough against the rim for sure stopping.
I did some looking around and found some shorter V-brakes from Shimano and Tektro. Tektro had the shortest arms among the brakes that were readily available. The brand is widely used and the price was very reasonable.
It’s readily apparent the brakes have enough room to accommodate larger rims and tires, as well as fenders if need be. But with the brake pads so close to the pivot point, the long arms just don’t offer enough travel. Shorter arms will make for increased travel of the brake pads given the same amount of cable pull.
The new brakes came with all new hardware, including fixing bolts and noodles (the curved silver tube that guides the brake cable into the top of the V-brake). The new fixing bolts were considerably longer than the ones on the bike. It was no problem on the front, but on the rear one of them wouldn’t go all the way in. So I just kept the original bolts on the rear.
The Tektro noodles were much smaller than the Deore, and I thought the Deore were a better fit for this bike, so I kept them as well. Finally, the Tektro brake pads are much shorter. For now I’m going to keep them. If they’re not up to the job I’ll try the Deore ones or look for some aftermarket pads.
The replacement went smoothly apart from these small details. I found the rubber band I’d put in the toolbox for just this purpose — to help set the toe-in of the brake pads to prevent grabbing and squealing — and it worked great. I had a couple of minutes fumbling with the front to get the cable in the pinch bolt while holding the brake arms squeezed shut, but it all worked out in the end.
The final steps were adjusting the brakes and trimming the cables to length before capping the ends. Before I started this job today, I’d gone to the bike shop and picked up a couple of new brake cables in case I needed longer cables after the swap. But as it turns out I trimmed 1-2cm from each existing cable. So the new cables will go into the spares box, along with the Deore brakes.
We’ve got a storm headed our way today, and rain in the forecast for the next week. So I’m not sure how soon I’ll be testing out the new brakes. On the workstand they’re great.
I’ve commuted to work twice now with Dionysus, on Friday and again today. I had a couple of issues Friday morning. First, I hadn’t tightened up the seatpost properly after adjusting the brakes, and the saddle kept sliding down. I ended up feeling like I was pedaling with my knees up about my ears. But I finally got that sorted out.
The second issue was the derailleur needing extra coaxing on the upshifts, and on a particular gear being very noisy and occasionally jumping to another gear. I realized that when I’d reseated the wheel, I’d changed the relationship between the cogs and the derailleur. I checked it after getting to the office: the high and low limits were fine, but the B adjuster — the gap between the largest cog and the top jockey pulley — had increased. And it turns out this derailleur is very sensitive to this adjustment. With that out of the way, the ride home Friday evening was pure pleasure.
This morning everything went well (apart from the traffic, which was heavy and held up by construction in various places). The derailleur worked exceptionally. The thumb shifter makes quite a loud clicking sound, but that’s OK. The larger gap between gears (compared to Kuroko’s 2X set-up) is noticeable, but not objectionable on my basically flat commute. The lack of cleats means I don’t have to worry about clipping and unclipping. But the trade-off for this is totally uncontrolled foot placement, and at times I found my right heal striking the chainstay (which has a chain protector on it, so no harm). I have to point my toes in a bit, and it sometimes takes a try or three to get the placement right.
I had extra time when I neared the office, so I decided to ride downhill into Nikotama and then back up the hill to office. In doing so I ran the full range of gears. On the downhill I worked up into the smallest cog and topped out at 45km/h (while probably spinning in the 120-150rpm range). On the way back uphill I shifted down into the largest cog and maintained 9-10km/h while still spinning at my usual rate of about 90rpm. I’m guessing that I can go as low as about 6km/h if I drop to 50-60rpm, but that’s really grinding for me.
Meanwhile, the light wheels and 28mm tires mean Dionysus accelearates quickly and climbs well, compared to Kuroko. On the other hand, the tires transmit every bump and ripple of the pavement — even paint stripes. By contrast, Kuroko’s high-volume tires (at half the pressure) soak up the minor irregularities and make for a much more comfortable ride for the long haul. One thing I learned on the way home this evening is that I have to watch out for drain grates in the gutters with Dionysus, while Kuroko rolls over these with aplomb. There’s no danger of the wheel going into the grate on Dionysus, but the experience is a lot more unsettling and potentially could result in an unscheduled “gravity check.”
Overall I’m extremely pleased with how Dionysus has turned out, and the experiment with 1X gearing is a success overall. Very suited to commuting, so I only have one shifter to work with and don’t have to think about what gear I’m in at any given moment. But not the best solution for all-day tours where the closer spacing of a good 2X set-up results in finer control.
Everything is not quite perfect yet. The brakes are still a bit soft, especially in the rear. The tension is good following the adjustment, but the stopping power could be improved. The problem is with the smaller wheels — the brake pads are at the lower end of the V-brakes, giving the smallest leverage advantage. They just don’t have a lot of travel at this location. In order to get the best braking advantage, I’m going to have to adjust them very close to the rims, which means the rims will have to be perfectly true and centered. (They’re damn good as it is — we’re talking about sub-millimeter improvement.) I also need to check if I’ve got extra play in the rear brake cable following the new cut during the recent adjustment. The alternative would be to find V-brakes with shorter arms, meaning the same pull on the levers would result in a greater displacement of the pads. Which is a very geeky bike thing that I wasn’t aware of until well after I’d bought the brakes. Shimano doesn’t offer any but Tektro has some options. Alternatively, I could go to a nice pair of Tektro cantilever brakes, if they are available.
During the debut ride of Dionysus (née Ol’ Paint), I felt that the brakes needed more tension. They were working fine, but there was too little effort required on the lever pull (and hence a rather weak return when the brakes are released). So I decided to increase the spring tension on the brakes.
It didn’t take long to tighten up the springs and readjust the brakes. But when I went to return Dionysus to the parking garage I noticed I’d left the rear brake undone. “That’s funny,” I thought. “I’m pretty sure I finished that.” So I did up the brake, and right away it was dragging too much. I tried to adjust it on the spot in the garage, but I found another issue while I was doing that: the cable housing was too short. So I undid the brake again and brought Dionysus back to the Workshop in the Sky.
I cut a new length of cable housing, erring on the side of having it a bit too long this time.
With the new housing in place, I had the cable back in place and trimmed to length, and then the brakes adjusted, all in a matter of minutes. In the process I found the rear wheel wasn’t quite seated squarely in the drop-outs. So that’s something I’ll need to keep an eye on going forward whenever I’ve got the wheel out for maintenance.
One last thing I hoped to get to today was the chain stay protector. It’s already starting to peel up at the end. I bought some clear vinyl tape to wrap around both ends. But inspecting it today, I found that the derailleur cable is just at the same spot but on the underside of the frame. So I’ll have to either cut the tape very cleverly, or perhaps trim back the cable guard to a point where I can wrap tape around the end without it interfering with the cable stay.
We had beautiful weather today for the debut of Dionysus, née Ol’ Paint, born from Zeus’s thigh. For the first ride I didn’t want anything too challenging, nor did I want to stray far from civilization (in case of mechanicals), and so I chose my standard Tokyo Landmarks route. And I’m happy to say that apart from some adjusting, everything went smoothly.
In preparation for the ride, I got my cycling omamori out of Kuroko’s bag and attached it to the handlebars. I’m sure we were being watched over for today’s ride.
With the prep done, I chucked the bike over the railing of the Workshop in the Sky. Fortunately, there’s a reflecting pond immediately below. Well, actually 33 stories down … (OK, so actually we called the building management to let us use the freight elevator.) Then I had to wait about half an hour for the Halfakid to join me, despite the fact he’d said he was on his way more than half an hour previously. Anyway, we met up, set the GPS, and started on our way.
As soon as I mounted up, I was struck by how squirrelly the steering is. This has always been the case. The Marin Miurwoods is a city bike, with a steep head angle and small, 26-inch wheels, to allow rapid maneuvering in traffic. As a part of the rebuild, I’ve given Dionysus narrower handlebars, which only exaggerate this tendency. (Narrower bars means the same amount of hand movement results in more turning of the wheel.) By contrast, Kuroko’s steering is stable and easy. So I realized I’d need to pay constant attention to the steering. It’s not a fault, as such (it’s by design), but it’s a strong contrast.
We soon came to our first stop of the day at Meiji Jingu Gaien. While I was taking photos, the Halfakid was lathering on sunblock. The sun was strong and bright today, the skies blue and full of fluffy white clouds. Traffic was light but certainly not non-existent.
After Gaien, our course takes us to the state guesthouse (Akasaka Palace), then a sweeping downhill to Akasaka Mitsuke, and then the first real climb of the day up to Nagatacho. Here I encountered a problem with the derailleur, which just didn’t want to stay in the lowest three gears. It kept trying to jump back upwards. I made it to the top of the climb, but when we got to the palace moat at Sakuradamon, I called a short break while I increased the tension in the shifter cable.
The adjustment did the trick as we came to another climb shortly thereafter, up to Roppongi, and I was able to keep in the lower gears this time around.
Following a brief stop in a park to top up our water bottles, we soon came to the Imperial Palace. Again, traffic was light, but it was far from a ghost town. Many cyclists and joggers were out, and perhaps half were not wearing masks (as we did not).
The wind picked up as we passed through the financial district and headed past the Tsukiji fish market (now closed) and out towards Tokyo Big Sight. Dionysus was behaving perfectly, responding nimbly to my touch and accelerating quickly. I’ve always had an issue with finger numbness after spending more than half an hour on Ol’ Paint, but there was none of that today. The narrower handlebars are doing the job. I did get some fatigue in my wrists, though, so I know that Kuroko (with her drop bars) will still be my choice for longer rides and tours.
Harumi Bridge over the Sumida River is one of the longer climbs on this ride. While the Halfakid rocketed past me, I dropped into successively lower gears. This time Dionysus stuck to the gear I’d chosen, and I caught up with the Halfakid at the top of the bridge’s arch in short order.
Following our lunch of Nana’s world-famous onigiri, we paralleled the Sumida River upstream (although mostly in traffic, with lots of red lights) until we reached Sakura Bridge, with Tokyo Skytree in the background. We were both fine on remaining water and so continued on.
The course then passes near Sensoji, the famous Asakusa Shrine, although not directly in front of it. We continued in traffic until Ueno, where we climbed a steep bridge over the rail lines to reach Ueno Park. Then another big climb to reach Todai, the famous Tokyo University. From there it’s a sweeping downhill to Tokyo Dome (where we didn’t stop to take pictures) and then after a few more turns and traffic lights, the climb up Kudanzaka to Budokan and the gorgeous Chidorigafuchi moat. (Sad to say all the cherry blossoms have passed for another year.)
After Budokan it’s more up and down through Hanzomon and Kojimachi, and then all traffic back through Yotsuya and Shinjuku to home. I bid goodbye to the Halfakid at the corner and rolled into our building half an hour before I’d told Nana I would be home. (The Halfakid went on to circle around Komazawa Olympic Park and ride down to Tamagawa and back, racking up 100km total.)
Happy with that
There were no mechanicals today aside from the shifter cable adjustment — soon taken care of — and a little tightening of the brakes. That’s an astoundingly good first ride. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Dionysus has a very different character from Kuroko (and somewhat different from Ol’ Paint, for that matter). The tires are very narrow and the wheels light, which makes for fast acceleration and easy climbing (a bit more easy, anyway). The steering, as noted, is twitchy, although it’s soon got used to. The seating is rather more upright than Kuroko, obviously, and for me at least is going to be less comfortable in the long haul. But for what I intend this bike for — commuting, perhaps the occasional climb, and a bike to lend to guests — it’s perfect. For my usual weekend rides and longer tours, I’ll be sticking with Kuroko.
Some last-minute touches for the bike this afternoon. I had a spare mount for the Garmin GPS, so I installed that. (I may not need the out-front mount that I’ve got on order which won’t arrive for another week.) And I put on the lights again after having charged them up last night.
I was still puzzling about the shifting problem, where the derailleur would move to larger cogs just fine but not smaller ones. My intuition (and a lot of bulletin board posts) suggested the shifter cable was sticking, so I removed it and reamed out all the cable housing ends with the awl and put it back together. The cable is moving completely freely, but the problem remained.
While I was pondering the next step, I decided to have another go at the bar end plugs. The Halfakid had tried with all his might to push them into the bar ends, but couldn’t get them in past the first notch. I’d shrugged at the time and figured that’s how it was meant to be, but then I noticed they were falling off. So I loosened the grips, brake levers and shifters to move them all inwards. Then I took the mallet to the bar end plugs. That’s all it took to get them in snugly. Then of course I had to retighten all those bits.
Finally I had another look at the installation guide for the derailleur, and that showed me the problem. I had too much vertical gap between the derailleur’s jockey wheel and the largest cog. I backed off the B screw quite a bit and then ran through all the gears. Perfect shifting, up and down the range.
I had two orders of business today: cut the seatpost down to size and add lights and a bell.
Before cutting the seatpost I wanted to get a good idea what the minimum would be that I would need to remove. So I had a look at some photos of Ol’ Paint before the project began to see if I could get a good idea where the saddle used to be.
It looks like the height of the seatpost was roughly equal to the distance from the top tube down to the silver sticker on the seat tube. The sticker is long gone, but it looks from that photo like it was in line with the brake mount. So using that as my guide, I figured I needed to cut about 10cm from the seatpost.
By great coincidence, the seatpost already had a marking 10cm from the bottom: the line of minimum insertion. So the new line of minimum insertion will be 10cm from the new end of the seatpost.
I already had a hacksaw, so it was just a matter of perseverance. I’ve seen a number of bike assembly videos where they cut the steerer tube to length, and it always takes just about three strokes of the saw and then they cut to the finished product. I’m afraid it took me a bit more effort than that, particularly as I don’t have a proper vice. (And at one point I considered giving up and taking the seatpost into the workshop and using the vice there. But after a brief rest I continued sawing.)
There are a few scratches from the blade. The seatpost is aluminum, so I’m not too worried about those, or the raw end of the cut. I took a few minutes to file off the rough edges.
After that I greased up the post again and reinserted it into the frame. After pushing the seatpost down nearly as far as it will go, I mounted up (yes, on the balcony). It feels about right. I’m sure I’ll fine-tune it a bit once I’m riding her.
(I need to clean up the baby powder I spilled when I installed the inner tubes.)
I found the old saddlebag from Kuroko (the one I used until I realized I needed more room for onigiri) and cleaned it up.
Lights and … Action!
The only light in my spares box is a seatpost mount, and with the saddlebag there’s no room for it. So a trip to the bike shop was in order. On the way out of the building I stopped in the basement to check what taillight I had on Kuroko: I wanted to have the same one for this bike. Luckily the shop had it, and then it just took a couple of minutes to pick out a headlight and a bell.
And with that, she’s ready. Well, I have to charge up both lights. The forecast is for rain all day tomorrow and Saturday, so I’ll have another go at getting the derailleur working more reliably. And then with luck, Sunday will be her debut.
I spent just a bit of time yesterday on the reassembly. It was cold, windy and rainy, so I didn’t want to tackle some of larger outstanding items. As I didn’t accomplish enough to write up a separate post, this is Day 2.
I found the missing spacer for the handlebar stem and installed that, which was a major check-off item as the bike wouldn’t be safe to ride without the full complement of spacers.
I spent the rest of the day waiting for the delivery of the correct inner tubes, after finally having figured out the rims were designed for Presta valves. That’s actually my preference, and I was glad to be able to get Contis to match the tires I’d previously purchased. The delivery finally arrived about 7 p.m., and I immediately set about installing the inner tubes and tires despite the fact it was already dark in the Workshop in the Sky.
It took me just a few minutes to prep both wheels. Working in the dark, I originally installed the front tire backwards (there’s a preferred direction of rotation) so I had to remove the tire and install it again. But aside from that I quickly had the wheels back on the bike, with the tires on this time. I called it a night.
Sorting out the cables
The first order of business today was sorting out the cables. We’d had trouble cutting the brake housing cleanly, resulting in a lot of extra friction. Enough so that the rear brake would not spring back into place once pulled. I’d done some research and discovered the Park Tool cable cutters we’d used aren’t meant for brake cable housings. (They’re for cutting cables, and they’ll do shifter cable housings just fine.) I’d been to the bike shop meanwhile to pick up some other things, and I got a pair of Shimano cutters that are fine for both sorts of housing. And they come with an awl to round out the holes in the cable housing after cutting.
I removed the cable housings we’d cut previously and used the awl to round out the holes. And that did the trick — the cables are now operating perfectly.
Getting an adjustment
With the cabling sorted, the next item on the list was adjusting the brakes and shifter. The front brake took just a second to get right after I’d reinstalled the cable.
The rear brake was nearly as easy, although I did have to adjust the calipers a bit to center the pads about the rim.
The derailleur took a bit more time to sort out. The limit screws worked as expected and were soon dialed in. But I spent some minutes working with the cable tension. The derailleur shifts from high to low with no hesitation, but sometimes pauses on upshifts, or doesn’t shift until I shift twice. I’ll have another look at the instructions to see what I might be doing wrong.
With the brakes and shifter (mostly) done, it was time for the finishing touches. I’d forgotten at the start to put on the chainstay protector (which guards the paint if the chain slaps against the stay), and so I finally did that.
I got the water bottle cages to match the paint, but I might have been better off going for a contrast. Just about all the other bits and accessories are black.
And with the bottle cages installed, the basic bike is complete. I took a moment to weigh it and was very pleasantly surprised to see the result: 9kg! That’s considerably less than Kuroko (although I’ve only weighed Kuroko in a loaded state: with bags, light, pump, etc.), for example.
Very little left to do
I added the bicycle pump after weighing the bike. I had to remove one of the water bottle cages to mount the pump, but I’m glad to see the cage fits over the pump mount.
There are only a few things left on the to-do list. The most important thing is to cut down the seat post. I’m going to have to saw off at least 25cm to bring the saddle down to my height. I want to tread carefully here, because of course I can always cut off more but it’s difficult to cut off less. As I also plan to allow guests to ride this bike (most of whom are taller than me), I want to leave in as much length as I can while still making the saddle a comfortable height for me.
After that it’s lights and a bell, which are required by Japanese law, and then a saddle bag for the spare tire, etc. But the initial ride doesn’t need to wait for these items. Once I cut down the seat post it’s just a matter of the weather.
The Halfakid came by today, a rainy and chilly day at the Workshop in the Sky, and together we got most of the reassembly done on Ol’ Paint following her recent repaint job.
Before the Halfakid’s arrival, I spent some time in a final truing of the wheels, after which I attempted to mount the tubes and rims. To my chagrin, I found that I had the wrong innertubes. I’d bought tubes with Dunlop valves, but the rims are made for Schrader. (I’ve only had five or six months to check this, so of course I put it off until today.) The correct tubes should arrive tomorrow.
Not long after this discovery, the Halfakid arrived. The next check was whether the seatpost and clamp fit. The new seatpost is much, much longer than the one it replaces, but the short answer is they fit and work as intended.
After inserting the seatpost and using that to clamp the frame into the workstand, we turned our attention to the headset and fork. I’d kept the original headset as it only needed a cleaning. With my fumblefingers I managed to drop the bearing race right off the bat, but the Halfakid retrieved it and replaced the one ball bearing that had skittered off to regions unknown. After applying a generous dollop of grease, we were soon pressing the fork and headset into place, and adding the handlebar stem. Unfortunately, we’re missing a 10mm spacer. I’ll have a look around my stash, and look for a replacement if necessary. In the meantime, we secured everything, with the 10mm gap apparent above the stem.
With the seatpost and fork in place, we turned our attention to the transmission: bottom bracket, crankset, cassette and derailleur. I’m happy to say everything here fit with only a little poking and prodding. The chainring is a bit close to the chainstay but it fits. (If there’s any issue with this, the easiest solution will be a smaller chainring.)
The brakes took a bit of time to sort out but presented no real issues. We had a time of it getting the cable housings cut to length and passing the cables through. After that the seat and pedals went on with no trouble at all.
With that, we’re almost done. We need the correct innertubes, of course, and then the tires. Adjusting the shifter and brakes. The brake cable housings did not cut cleanly and I need to follow up to make sure the cables slide smoothly. And finally work the seatpost a bit further down into the seat tube. With that, she’ll be ready for the inaugural ride.
With the renewed rusting of the clean frame and the coming of the rainy season on the horizon, I was finally spurred to action yesterday. I gathered up all my supplies and carried the workstand from home to the workshop, and arranged for the Halfakid to join me there.
I took a few minutes working out how to set up the bike on the stand. I wrapped a wooden dowel in a shop towel and clamped that in the workstand, then lowered the frame’s seat tube over the dowel. Then I inserted the fork into the frame (cutting through the careful masking I’d done there). Finally I covered the workstand with some newspaper (Nana’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun) to protect it from the paint.
Neither the Halfakid nor I have any experience painting bicycles. The instructions were to shake the can for three minutes (which I cheerfully allowed the Halfakid to do), spray for three seconds before trying to paint the bike, and to spray at a distance of at least 20cm. The primer mostly went on OK. We got far too much in the seat cluster from a distance of about 3cm, so I just wiped it off and we did it again.
We kept finding spots we’d missed or where we could still see the steel frame through the primer. Finally the spray can gave out and spit out a few blobs in spite, right on the top tube.
Fortunately, after we’d let the primer dry for two hours, everything was smooth — even the splatters. So no need to sand it down and try again. (Anyway, we didn’t have any more primer.)
The instructions for the color were identical, except the spray distance is 5-12cm — much closer. Again I handed the can to the Halfakid and he shook it for three minutes. Then we tackled the frame. Unfortunately, we’d both forgotten the instruction to spray off to the side for three seconds, before spraying the bike. For the first second or so the can spewed out a stream of gunk onto the down tube and head tube.
I told the Halfakid not to worry about it, that I would wait for the paint to dry, sand it down and try again. After spraying off to the side for three seconds, we continued. The paint — Battersea from spray.bike — went on very well despite the two monkeys handling the rattle-cans. Despite our best efforts it did not drip or bubble or orange peel. (Unfortunately it’s sold out now, but I have another can!)
As with the primer, we kept finding spots we’d missed, where the white primer was showing through. We’d just spray the area again, often changing position as the wind swirled around us, and once again the paint would go down smoothly and not run or bubble up.
After perhaps 15 minutes of spraying, we left the bike to dry. I waited the recommended two hours before moving it into the workshop for the night.
This morning, sans Halfakid, I had a second go at the bike. The splattered areas sanded out very quickly, and after another coat of paint it’s all perfect. I found a number of areas we’d missed the first time around and gave them another shot. I have no idea how professional bike painters make sure they get every last spot. The rear triangle is particularly challenging — towards the end yesterday I was touching an already painted bit every time I tried to get another shot in at a different area.
After today’s touch-up, I left the bike to dry outside for more than two hours. Then I took it into my office to continue drying overnight. I brought the workstand home today, and I’ll bring the bike home tomorrow. There’s rain in the forecast Saturday, and that may be our chance for the final assembly.