Delayed gratification

Bicycle in stand in silhouette on cluttered balcony

It’s been eight months since I pulled both a hydraulic brake line and Di2 shifter cable through Kuroko’s downtube and attempted to cut out the existing grommets with a knife to accommodate two cables in the place of one. This was just one step in the Shifting to Glide project, but it was a significant one because it meant the longest Di2 cable (950mm, in the end) was routed internally and I didn’t have to tape it to the outside of the frame (which is what we ended up doing for the cable from the junction box below to the crankset to the rear derailleur).

I was sort of able to cram the existing grommet back into the frame at the top of the tube after hacking it away with a knife, but the result was far from aesthetically pleasing — to say nothing of the lack of waterproofing. At the bottom, where the cables exit the frame just ahead of the bottom bracket and hence are most exposed to splashing, I’d given up. The grommet was left dangling there, both cables running through it but not even close to where it was supposed to be plugging a hole in the frame.

I searched quite a while and found some two-holed grommets that seemed the right shape and size, but that was some months ago. I’ve been delayed completing the project by:

  • the enormity of the work, which would include redoing the rear brake line and the handlebar tape, and
  • the fact I’d lost a part for the tool needed to redo the rear brake line.

A couple of weeks ago I emptied out the storage box on the Workshop in the Sky (for the second time) and found the missing bit: the mandrel for the disc brake hose cut & set tool. So I’ve just been waiting since then for the opportunity to get the work done. The faffing about with tires last week and earlier today was just me trying to avoid biting the bullet on this job.

Starting at the rear

I already had rear wheel out to remove the inner tube and clean up the old tape, so I started at the rear brake. I removed the brake pads and inserted a block to prevent the disc pistons from popping out of place. This would prevent the brake pads from coming into contact with brake fluid as I removed and then replaced the brake line, and subsequently bled the brakes.

(When I installed the hydraulic brakes the first time around, I did it with the brake pads in place with no issue — but I was tempting fate with my naïveté.)

Next I cut off the end of the brake line, with the barb and olive that seal the line when it’s bolted into place, so I could remove the bolt and fit the line through the grommet. Both the hydraulic line and the Di2 shifter cable fit through their separate holes in the grommet easily enough, but the grommet was just a tad too large to squeeze into the opening in the frame. The grommet looks like soft, squeezable rubber, but it’s not. It’s a tough resin with very little give.

So I had no option but to trim the grommet down to size with a craft knife. I’m glad I had on a 3M glove for this part of the process — I’d have cut my fingers more than once otherwise. As I had the protection, the carving up bit went without a hitch, and on the next fitting I was able to push the grommet into the frame with enough force required to make me confident it won’t just pop out the next time I ride over a bump.

Yes, there’s tape

With the rear done, it was time to repeat the process on the front. Before I could get to the brake line, I had to remove the handlebar tape, which meant cutting through some finishing tape and black electrician’s tape and then unwrapping the actual handlebar tape. It came off easily enough.

Ojisan with a wrench

Easily half my anxiety about this job was in the next step: loosening the bolt holding the brake line in the Di2 shifter. During the initial installation, I’d coached as José tightened these bolts to the correct approximate torque. And then the following day, I was looking at the bolts (left and right shifters) and noticed they had flanges, and the flanges were a couple of millimeters shy of fitting snug against the shifters. So against all common sense (and not bothering to take a minute to check for pictures or diagrams on the internet), I took a wrench and tightened the living stew out of those bolts until the flanges were flush.

Some time back, a local bicycle repair shop I follow wrote an impassioned post about the dangers of an ojisan with a wrench after having a number of customers bring in bikes for repair. The customers would say, “I was having a little trouble with the bike, and then an ojisan said he was familiar with bikes and would help me. And now the problem is much bigger.” And after realizing how I’d over-tightened those bolts, I was afraid I was the ojisan with a wrench (not for the first time, I assure you).

After removing the handlebar tape and pulling back the brake hood, I took a wrench to the bolt in question: it loosened readily and gave no signs of having damaged threads. Imagine my relief!

The upper grommet fit in nicely after I’d trimmed it with the craft knife as I’d done for the lower grommet. Then I used the cut & set tool to put a new barb in the brake line, making use of the mandrel whose disappearance had delayed this project.

That done, I sleeved the brake line and Di2 cable together through some heat shrink wrap for a professional finish. Now, I’m not saying I bought a heat gun just for this one job, but I’m not saying I didn’t, either. (I placed an old work glove behind the shrink wrap to protect the Di2 junction box from the heat.) I’m mostly pleased with the result, although I can’t say that every time I ride Kuroko I won’t obsess over that little blip in the place the two pieces of shrink wrap overlap.

With everything back in place, I used electrician’s tape to secure the lines to the handlebars again. With the changes in the brake line length, the re-taping and the heat shrink, the brake line interfered with the clapper for the bell. After sweating this out for a moment, I rotated the bell so the clapper was clear of the brake line. (I prefer this more horizontal arrangement. The position of the brake line previously prevented the bell ringing when the clapper was in this position. So it’s a win.)

Bleeding to death

I rewrapped the handlebar tape next. I was a bit worried the tape would have lost its sticky power with the unwrapping, but it went fine. I’ve got electrician’s black tape holding it at the top now instead of the decorative tape, but I can live with that.

The final step was to bleed the rear brake. Inevitably, some fluid had dripped out during this job. I got out the bleed kit and topped up the syringe with fresh fluid. It took a bit of time squeezing the brake lever and pressing more hydraulic fluid into the system, but I was soon happy with the result. I tightened the bleed valve on the caliper (not overtightening!) and put the screw back in the brake lever, then removed the block and put the wheel back in the frame.

Happy with that — so far

With the wheel — sans tire — in the bike, I ran through the gears and hit the brake a few times. No problem with the gears at all, while the brake firmed up after one initial pull where nothing happened.

Bicycle in stand in silhouette on cluttered balcony
Silhouette of done

And that’s where things stand now. I’ll have a go at the rear tire tomorrow and (one way or another) take Kuroko for a spin around the block. (It will still be too hot for a full ride.) Here’s hoping I don’t discover any issues on the road that didn’t crop up in the stand.

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.

Arakawa

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

*snicker!*

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.

WOW.

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?

Glorious.

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
Finale

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.

Right-sizing

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.

More than a single day, then

Chain wear guide inserted into bicycle chain, showing 50% wear

Despite beautiful weather today I’m sitting at home as our new TV cabinet is being set up. The day is not a complete write-off, though, as I brought Kuroko up to the Workshop in the Sky to check out a couple of things prior to embarking on the Switching to Glide upgrade project.

The first was straightforward. I’m going to need to break the chain to fit the new derailleurs, so I wanted to know if it was worth it to reuse the same chain or if this would be a good chance to replace it. I haven’t been having any shifting issues indicating chain wear. But a quick check with the wear indicator shows 50%. Normally I would still use the chain another 1,000-2,000km, but there’s really no reason now not to replace it during the upgrade. Chains are in stock and not expensive.

It’s a poor workman who blames his tools

The next bit is more of an issue. When I swapped wheels a while back, I wasn’t able to loosen the rear brake caliper to adjust it. I was working with regular hex keys, and the more force I applied to the bolts, the rounder I was making the heads.

Multiple tool sets on wooden floor
Quality tools

I bought a set of Park Tool hex sockets and a breaker bar to give it another try. The first step was to get the frame at an angle that would give me a good shot at the bolts. Alas, the quality hex socket and breaker bar combination was for nought — the heads are already quite rounded.

Next steps

I’m going to have to try to extract the bolts, and if that doesn’t work, drill them out or hacksaw them off. As they’ll be unusable after that, I’ll hold off until we’re ready to take on the body of the work. (The replacement caliper has its own bolts.) Regardless, this makes it likely the conversion will take more than one day, even if there are no further hiccups along the way.

Starting to come together

Battery and holder on wooden desk
Brand new pair of roller skates
Battery in holder on wooden desk
… brand new key

I have most of the parts now for the big upgrade. I ordered a battery and charger, and I got two batteries but no charger. Waiting for that now, and some of the cables.

(Shown above: external battery and holder. The holder fits in place of one of the water bottle cages. Fortunately, Kuroko is blessed with a multitude of water bottle locations.)

Lots o’ boxes

Four boxes labeled Shimano GRX on hardwood floor

I returned from a weekend road (shinkansen) trip to find a box with no fewer than nine items inside to add to the Switching to Glide Kuroko upgrade project.

Various bicycle parts and tools (in boxes) on wooden floor
Whole lotta miscellaneous

In the miscellaneous bits we have the following:

  • ParkTool IR-1.2, cables and magnets for routing various bits internal to the frame
  • Shimano Di2 junction box, one of two required for the project
  • Shimano band adapter, to clamp the front derailleur to the seat tube
  • Shimano hydraulic brake bleed kit
  • Shimano disc brake hose cut and set tool
Shimano GRX bicycle components shown in open display boxes on wooden floor
The big reveal

Next up, among the sexy bits:

  • Front disc caliper (hydraulic)
  • Front derailleur
  • Rear derailleur
  • Rear disc caliper (hydraulic)

What next?

There’s something very basic missing from all the above: the battery! The typical Shimano battery, hidden within the seat tube, is on backorder until February 2022. So I need to decide if I want to wait until then to complete the upgrade, or go with an external battery for now and upgrade to the internal when it becomes available.

A related question is the second junction box, located near the bottom bracket. There’s an internal model, and I won’t know if Kuroko’s frame has space for it until I remove the bottom bracket (already slated for replacement). The alternative is an external model which pairs nicely with the external battery solution, but for me is and always will be a bit of a bodge (exposing, as it does, all the delicate electrical connections to the worst the elements have to offer).