Saturday, 16 August 2014

The best way to seal Cyclocross Tyres? SeamSure v SeamGrip v Copydex

I may have finally found the best way to seal quality CX tyres like Challenge open tubular (clinchers). In a previous post, I compared Copydex glue with SeamGrip. Both work, but Copydex peels after a while and the SeamGrip is really gloopy and messy to apply. Water based SeamSure is way easier to apply:
It's a milky solution that is dead easy to brush on to the sidewalls of the tyres. Added bonus is that you can wash up with warm water and soap. It actually comes in a bottle with an integrated brush, but I didn't bother with that, and instead used a better quality half inch wide paintbrush.

According to the package literature:
"Seam Sure is a fast drying water based urethane formula designed for sealing sewn seams on synthetic fabrics and breathable laminates. Seam Sure dries to a clear, flexible, long lasting film with a nearly invisible, non-gloss finish. Seam Sure is washable, dry-cleanable and freeze/thaw stable". 
Now doesn't that sound perfect for CX tyres?
Amazingly easy to apply and it does indeed dry almost invisible, with a matt finish. The only question then is how will it survive the cyclocross season? I will find out over the next months and let you know.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Giant Defy Mudguards or "Fenders", Review

Giant's hugely popular Defy range of road bikes have mudguard eyelets front and rear. However, clearance under the brake calipers is tight. Giant produce mudguards (finders in English(US)) for the Defy, Avail, Rapid and Dash frames. However, I've heard people, even shop mechanics, say that these don't fit on a Large Defy frame. This post is about my attempt to fit them and I'll give my opinion at the end.  
Those are stainless steel braces that go round the brake caliper area. They are 700c x 35mm. My Large size Defy 4 has 700x25mm tyres. The frame does not have a chainstay bridge, but it does have a hole in the seat tube (behind the bottle mount area) to mount a mudguard. However, the slot in the forward portion of the rear mudguard (at right in the photo above) does not reach this hole. So, the first thing is to test fit it in position, mark the position for a new hole and drill it like this:
Then I put some electrical tape over the slot (no need to allow the muck through!):
That's the only modification required. The whole gubbins then attaches as normal, which is totally straightforward. I decided to use a rubber washer on the inside (made of inner tube) to prevent cracking the plastic as I tightened the bolt and to help with vibration:
From the other side, here is the rubber bung (grommet) that the bolt goes through before tightening into the seat tube hole:
Very sensible design. Here is the rear mudguard all fitted. It's very easy to line up and keep off the tyre:

The front guard posed no issues at all. Here's the bike with the mudguards fitted. I think the "fenders" look quite neat:
All in all, they look and feel like good quality items and there seems to be nothing on them that rusts. They are very low profile and coverage is better than SKS Raceblades. The Giant mudguards seem more sturdy than Crud Road Racer Mark 2's, maintain clearance from the tyres very nicely, and they don't have any brushy things, as on the Crud's, to contact the rims. However, they have traditional wire mounting rods, unlike the Cruds or SKS which have break off parts for safety. They provide a great solution to turn your road bike into a commuter or winter bike. It is possible that they would fit other road bikes too, but you'd need some kind of mod to attach the rear one to the seat tube. Time will tell how long they last, but so far so good. Oh, and in my view, it's not right to say that they don't fit on a Large Defy frame. Sure, one needs to drill a hole in them, but that's easy. Overall, I rate them very highly: 4 Stars out of 5 (would be higher if the arms were the break off type).

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Climbing Mount Hamilton, California: Cycling from Alum Rock to Lick Observatory

When I saw this rainbow in the morning, I knew it was going to be a great day. The UnDiscovered Country Tours staff yogi kindly modelled it for me. This was where I was going to pick up my rental bike:
I have to say that UDC was fantastic and I heartily recommend them. The staff are knowledgeable, helpful and they have a great stock of bikes at reasonable rental prices. Terry Morse (he's not in the photo below, but I think that's his wife on the left) had huge detailed knowledge of Mt. Hamilton and he ensured that I had everything I needed, especially as it was raining! Btw, Alotta's sandwich shop on the left above is excellent and ideal to refuel after the ride - they do a great cheese and veggie sandwich on house baked bread...
UDC's wisdom was that I should park at the mall on Mckee and Toyon in San Jose, rather than Alum Rock on the roadside (apparently there had been break-ins to cars there in the past). Advice that I happily accepted. So, after jumping on the bike - thankfully, the rain had stopped - I headed from the mall car park up Mckee and this is the entrance to the 130, Mt Hamilton Road:
Ahead of me, about 19 miles of climbing. Actually, there are two small descents that break it up into three sections of climbing. Inhaling my trepidation, I set off up the hill at a steady pace. I wanted to enjoy this, not smash myself!
Even on the lower slopes, the views are great. The rental bike was a Giant TCR Advanced. Since it had been raining, I'd kitted out the saddle with a makeshift mudguard (fender to US readers):
A simple affair - a cut away water bottle secured with rubber bands on the saddle pack. That keeps the light and more importantly my backside dry! I found the Fizik Arione saddle comfy, and I was really pleased to note that UDC ensure that it is accurately set level, which is what Fizik recommend, afaik. 
Watch out for the wildlife as you climb. There's not much road traffic, but sometimes what there is can be a bit quick, like a motorbike or sports car. The road has sweeping bends on the lower slopes, still spectacular:
Then near the first small descent, you get a glimpse of Lick Observatory in the distance on the peak. You can barely see the whitish domes on the peak in the photo below. At this point, I realised just how long the road is and could understand the height. It's 1283m, higher than Mt. Snowdon in Wales, and a tad lower than Ben Nevis in Scotland. It must have been an incredible building effort in the 1880s, with horses, I guess pulling building materials and glass scopes up there. However, the constructors were resourceful - they found clay and water near the top and fired the bricks at a site about a mile from the summit. A great description of the construction is here.
Then you go past Grant Country Park, and the view back over the valley is lovely. Magical country mansion and a lake there too: 
Saw these curious balls on the oak trees out there. I think they are "oak apples" created by Gall wasps (it's an incubation environment for their "wasplings" to hatch from). 
The road starts to get a tad more winding and windy from here. Historically, this road has been used as a descent in the Tour of California. This year, it's going to be an ascent for the first time, I think. Can't wait for Wiggins et al to hammer it up here!
It's a fabulous view, but it will be behind the ToC peloton! I'm sure the TV cameras will do it justice though. I wonder what the constructors of the observatory would have thought about a bike race coming up the mountain!
Then you get another glimpse of the observatory, around where the road descends for the second time. Funny that you get to see the summit whenever you are travelling downwards! The domes are tantalisingly always there...
This is an important landmark, as the road reaches the bottom of the second descent, there's a river, Smith Creek, and the bridge going over it is concreted (not visible in the photo, but to the left of the road sign):
After Smith Creek, the road gets a bit steeper and more winding. You see the 5 miles to go sign, but don't let it fool you - there's still a lot of climbing to do!
It was a few miles up from here where they found the clay deposit from which they made the bricks for the observatory. Speaking of which, you see it again, now much closer and you get an impression of how the road switchbacks one way then another, to the summit. 
However, once again, don't underestimate how much climbing remains! The temperature started to fall from about here too. A closeup of the observatory in the mist. 
A load of hairpin turns later, eventually, you get to the junction which marks the entrance to the Lick Observatory. There's this roadsign there, which is fairly iconic:
At the Tour, they will carry on in the Livermore direction, the descent is pretty steep, I hear, and then they'll tackle Mount Diablo as a summit finish for Stage 3. What a way to make a living! Anyway, for me, it was pretty much over, so the rest of this blog will be of photos taken around near the summit. 
Above, is the house which is opposite the San Jose-Livermore roadsign. It was the old dining hall. To the left is Livermore and the 3m telescope. To the right is an entrance road to the Visitor Centre and as you go up it, you can see the main dome to your right. Yes, just for a sense of scale, that's a person looking through a terrestrial telescope:
I turned out to be lucky on the weather side. It could have been raining up here, with no visibility. Of course, this place is usually clear overhead, so I guess my cloudy photos are fairly rare. The dome (above and below) shelters the Great Lick Refractor sporting a huge 36" lens (couplet I think, one of which broke on the journey up here in the 1880s). 
Below, the main entrance to the Visitor Centre, and yes, another cyclist. This climb is very popular with the cycling community and understandably so. I think the dome in the background houses the 40" reflector. Amazing place. 
Looking back the way I just came, down the entrance road towards the old dining hall and the 3m telescope:
From the position where I took the above photo, looking out over the guard rail you see this other smaller dome. I think this dome housed the Crossley 36" Reflector. 

A photo of a map of the Lick Observatory site that's on display on the noticeboard in the Vistor Centre. For some reason south is upwards... I don't think the above old Crossley telescope dome is shown on the map below, but if it was, it would be at top right. But you can see the 3m 120" Shane reflector dome on the road to Livermore and the old dining hall. More info on the telescopes here
There's a bike rack around the side of the Visitor's Centre, and the doors are usually open (8am to 5pm daily according to the map above). Sadly, there's nothing like a cafe inside. 
However, at least there are some vending machines, a water fountain and a toilet. All the important stuff is catered for!
Walking through, there's a terrace, which would be lovely for a group of riders and when it's very windy. 
The views from the top are spectacular and well worth the hard effort of climbing. So this is looking out with your back to the Visitor Centre: 
Over the railing to the right. I wonder who lives in those white chalet type houses?
To the left a bit. The road winds around, totally fantastic to cycle on, both up and down. 

A panoramic view looking towards the Visitor Centre. Great Lick Refractor to the right, 40" reflector to the left. 

And finally, a panoramic view looking away from the Visitor Centre (love that cloud dew point level):
It didn't rain on me much, but there was some rain that day. That rainbow ensured I was lucky! The descent was magic: 1 hour of swooping round bends, not too difficult, but you had to be wary of some debris and gravel in places. Ride within yourself is my advice. 

All the photos above were taken using my mobile Android smart phone, a LG Nexus 4. 

It's going to be superb to watch Stage 3 of the Tour of California on TV this year! Hope you enjoyed this account of my ride. 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Argon 18 E-80 Build Log: Part 2

The finished bike. Fine adjustments (e.g. saddle and tt bar angles) are still to be finalised. I'll do those as I test ride. Those wheels are sheer bling! Supra I think is a rebadged version of FFWD. These are 58mm carbon alloy clinchers, so not the lightest, but reasonably aero.
The cockpit, Profile T2 Wing base bar, Token extensions and Zipp clips n pads. Brake levers are ultra cheap Dia Compe. Why this combo? Well it's what I had - the only part I had to buy is the Zipp clips. The ride is comfortable and smooth. Fairly lively frameset it seems. I'll learn more as I test ride.
I didn't bother changing the left hand gear lever, as it was for a double anyway. So I have a nice black grey thing going on, to match the front and back fork colours. Totally by chance. 
 Basic Tektro brake calipers. They work fine. External cabling, easier maintenance, but less aero. This is a 2009 frame.

 Above you can see the frame clearance for 23mm Michelin Pro 4 Comp tyres. I reckon 24 or 25mm tyres could be accommodated if desired.
 Just love that rear carbon wishbone. Flowing lines. Yes, those are SPD pedals. That's what I use.

Topeak aero rear light, is an easy fit on the Thomson seat post. May as well use that space above the seat tube fairing. 
My old Pro-Lite Bracciano wheels are much lighter than the Supras and may come out on windy days or for hilly TT courses. 

Next some fettling, position honing and test riding. Then on to training...