DL-1 Returns

After posting about the damage to the sun pinion and the planet pinions previously, I ordered a new axle (including sun pinion) and planet pinions from SJS, who were thankfully much quicker to dispatch the items than expected.

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The old axle and planets are at the top of the image, and the damage to the teeth can be seen clearly. The new axle and planets are below, looking particularly clean.

I will avoid writing about the internals of the X-RD3 hub extensively, partly because they are similar to the AW hub I have written about previously, partly because it is difficult to take pictures whilst your hands are covered in bike grease/filth, but mainly because when I was about to take apart my first hub, I did some reading and got the impression that it is a complicated job. When I actually took that first hub apart I realised that it is in fact quite simple, the best way to learn about these things is to simply have a go. The worst that can happen is that you won’t be able to fix it and have to take it to a bike shop and get them to do it, which is far from the end of the world.

After re-assembling the hub using the exploded diagram provided in Sturmey Archer’s excellent literature (although to be fair, it is pretty easy to figure out what goes where by trial and error), I noticed that the failure had also damaged my drive-side bearing cup, and slightly rounded the rear fork ends on the bike too. I decided to set the cone slightly loose so the bike could be ridden whilst I awaited my second order to SJS, a cone nut and some non-turn washers.

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The damage to the bearing surface may look minor, but it had a noticeable impact on ride quality. The cone and non-turn washers are now fitted, and the rear hub is in better condition than it was when I got it, shifting easily and freewheeling well too.

Internal hub gears are much easier to work with than most people believe. The best advice I can give is to simply have a go.

He’s Dead Jim

In response to CycleA2B’s Jim, I thought I’d present my damaged X-RD3 hub parts. Sturmey’s 3 speed hubs are usually tremendously durable and long-lasting, which makes the fact that I’ve managed to destroy part of one quite interesting & impressive. The hub has always felt a bit off, and as the DL-1 is second-hand. I imagine that a small amount of damage occurred to the internals of the hub before I bought it, which was made worse through use and led to this failure:
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The planets which rotate around the axle were also similarly damaged:
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The stripped off parts loose in the hub will have no doubt made things worse:

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I’ve ordered new planets and a new axle from SJS Cycles, and I hope they are a bit less lethargic about getting it dispatched than they usually seem to be. Until then it’s Brompton or Yuba only…

New Sturmey Archer Shifter

Last week some of you may have noticed on Twitter that I snapped the gear cable on the DL-1 whilst I was out cycling. Luckily I was surprised to find that Evans carry the replacement Sturmey Archer cable I needed. When I installed the cable, I discovered that my shifter has also broken.

The trigger shifter which came with the DL-1 was always a bit dodgy, it was reluctant to stay in 1st gear on its own, and would shift into 2nd due to the spring tension from the hub within about 10 seconds unless I held it down. There are several different versions of the traditional Sturmey trigger shifter:

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The traditional Sturmey shifter, with the most common style fascia

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The same type of shifter with a slightly less common fascia. There are several other fascia types out there designed for this shifter

When mine broke, the need to hold the shifter in 1st became permanent. I like the look of the traditional Sturmey Archer trigger shifter, but this is the second broken one I have encountered, so I decided to invest in a different model.

The Sturmey and SRAM compatible Brompton shifter was an option, but it is not well priced and isn’t pretty. Image courtesy of The Bike List

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I also considered the plastic shifter which is similar to the standard 5 speed shifter. I was put off because it looks a bit 80s to me and wouldn’t fit in with the aesthetic of the bike. Luckily, I remembered seeing the new 3 and 5 speed shifters Sturmey recently released somewhere online, and purchased one at the Chorlton green festival. It has the practicality of the plastic shifter whilst being appropriately nice looking.

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The new shifters come designed for 22.2 mm bars (such as North Roads) and as bar-end versions, for both 3 and 5 speeds. The 22.2 mm bar versions can be unscrewed from its mount and used as a downtube shifter too. Unlike the trigger shifter, the new shifter locks firmly into each position, whilst also acting as a friction shifter in between “clicks,” meaning an improperly adjusted cable can be compensated for until you get around to fixing it. The whole of the shifter body and clamp is metal, and it just oozes quality.

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Those of you familiar with such things may notice that the protruding cylinder of metal shown in the shot above is the end of the cable, making installation very easy. The even-more-nerdy may notice that it isn’t the usual Sturmey Archer cable either, but a common derailleur-type cable. This makes finding replacements easier in a country where derailleur gears are dominant for some reason.

It is very pleasant to have full use of 1st gear for the first time ever on the DL-1, and I am very happy with this new shifter.

Ten bike parts & accessories due for a comeback

Progress is generally accepted as a good thing, but sometimes new trends, materials and components come along which don’t have all the advantages of the things they replace. This is especially true in the world of bicycles. I present here my top ten bicycle technologies and accessories which I feel are due for a comeback (some of which are already enjoying a bit of a resurgence).

Hub Gears

The innards of a Sturmey Archer AW hub I am currently working on. Even in this state, the hub is still working.
My first experience of hub gears was in Belgium, on a hire bike used for a bicycle tour of Brussels. The bike was equipped with a Nexus 8-speed hub which offered a similar range to my 24-speed derailleur-geared bike of the time. I instantly appreciated being able to shift gear when stationary, the possibilities for enclosing the chain and the increased durability from sealing away the gears inside the hub.
Two of the Three bikes I now own have hub gears.

Drum/Roller/Coaster Brakes

Image courtesy of Ecovelo
The same bike in Brussels had the most basic model Shimano Roller brakes. These were weaker than the disc brakes I was used to at the time, but once I had gotten used to the reversed brake levers (left-hand front, as is common in countries with right-hand traffic) I came to like the idea of trading a little stopping power over discs for a great deal more durability. Being sealed away in the hub means that their performance is independent of weather conditions, unlike rim brakes. For a bike you depend on to get around, drum brakes are a great option.
The Raleigh DL-1 has similar front and rear Sturmey Archer drum brakes.

Briefcase Clips

Briefcase clips were a common feature of rat-trap pannier racks here in the UK in the days of mass cycling. Naturally in The Netherlands and Denmark they are still relatively commonplace. A small loop protrudes from the side of the rack into which a briefcase handle is placed. The spring-loaded rat trap is then lowered, and a small protruding rod from it holds the briefcase in place.
Whilst briefcases are not as common as they were, I regularly use the clip on the DL-1 for plastic carrier bags when I have been a bit over-zealous with the grocery shopping, or for my U-lock when I have no space in my regular pannier.

Saddlebags

A Carradice saddlebag on a Raleigh Wayfarer. Image courtesy of Urban Adventure League
I am hoping to join the saddlebag club soon. Saddlebags were once commonplace, but declined in popularity with the decline in transportation cycling in the UK. Like panniers, they place the load on the bike rather than the rider, reducing the amount of effort required for carrying and preventing the risk of a sweaty back which comes with backpacks. They also offer advantages over panniers; the load is more central and less likely to affect balance and they do not require a rear rack, only a saddle with bag loops such as a Brooks.

Wool

Wool is great. I’m not a big fan of having special clothing just for cycling, I’d rather wear something which is practical both on and off the bike. In the colder months wool is ideal for this, it is warm, it breathes and it absorbs a decent amount of moisture without feeling wet and it doesn’t readily hold odours.

Chain Cases

A completely enclosed chain on a Pashley bicycle. Image courtesy of Let’s Go Ride A Bike
When dérailleur gears are no-longer used, the possibility of completely enclosing the chain is opened up. A chain guard has the advantage of protecting the rider from the chain, meaning no more trouser clips or rolling up your trouser leg. A chain case offers this advantage whilst also protecting the chain from road filth and rain, leading to a longer life and reduced maintenance.

North Road Handlebars

Most of the bikes on sale in the UK come with either riser or straight bars, as seen on mountain bikes, or drops (resembling ram’s horns), as seen on racing bikes. These bars offer a moderately aggressive (straight) or aggressive (drops) riding posture suited to sport cycling. For everyday transportation, they are not the best choice for everyone. North road handlebars (and similar variants) offer an upright riding position. The advantages of this include; comfort for the rider, increased head height (ideal when negotiating traffic) and rider weight is shifted back (reducing the possibility of going over the handlebar under heavy braking).

Steel

A lugged joint between a top-tube and head-tube on a steel frame. Image courtesy of Rivendell
Aluminium has become a very popular frame material in recent years, due to the pursuit of ever lighter bicycles. It is light and stiff, making it an appropriate material for frames. The different properties of aluminium mean that it is desirable to use oversized tubing, which makes the frame particularly light and stiff. Despite this, many feel that steel produces a better quality of ride, the reduced stiffness of the narrower tubing used in forks seems to allow more of the vibration from the road to be absorbed and dissipated before it reaches the rider. This perception is of course completely subjective, but is something worth considering. Other advantages of steel include the possibility of lugged construction, which I find to be aesthetically pleasing, and the relative ease with which a steel frame can be repaired in comparison to an aluminium one.

Relaxed Geometry

I read somewhere that most of the bikes which have ever been manufactured are of the same basic design as the English Roadster or the Dutch Bike. In the UK however, this design in geometry have fallen out of favour. Whilst the roadster is enjoying a bit of a resurgence due to the popularity various models of Pashley Cycles, the relaxed roadster geometry is mainly only seen on bikes marketed as “traditional” or “heritage” bikes. The geometry of these bikes makes them ideal for everyday transport for the average person’s needs. In addition to the models make by Pashley, I’d like to see some more designs based on this geometry available in UK bike shops.

Dynamo Lighting

A topic I have written about extensively, dynamo lights are a great option for an everyday transport bike, where an “always available” lighting solution is very desirable. Most people are put off by memories of cheap bottle dynamos driving terrible filament lamps, but modern hub and bottle dynamos are much better. Combine these with modern LED lighting technologies and you have the perfect dependable lighting solution for an everyday transport bike. No batteries, no fuss.
What bicycle components and accessories which have fallen out of favour would you like to see coming back?

Risk Compensation Experience

I have written previously about the effects of risk compensation on road safety. A good example of this effect is the Munich Taxi experiment, where a fleet of taxis, half with ABS and half without were secretly monitored and the differences examined. It was found:

“Drivers of cabs with ABS made sharper turns in curves, were less accurate in their lane-holding behaviour, proceeded at a shorter forward sight distance, made more poorly adjusted merging manoeuvres and created more "traffic conflicts". This is a technical term for a situation in which one or more traffic participants have to take swift action to avoid a collision with another road user.[3] Finally, as compared with the non-ABS cabs, the ABS cabs were driven faster at one of the four measuring points along the route. All these differences were significant.”

In brief, the increased safety offered to the vehicle operators/occupants by the improved brakes was compensated for by an increase in risk-taking behaviour by the vehicle operators.

I currently operate a “fleet” of three bikes, all of which have different types and combinations of brakes:

The DL-1 has 70 mm Sturmey Archer drum brakes in both the front and rear wheels. These offer reasonable stopping power and supreme durability, requiring almost zero maintenance. Sturmey Archer drums offer good modulation, with light braking being easily controllable and hard braking available if you need it when you really squeeze the levers.

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The Sturmey Archer drum brakes; front (top) and rear (bottom)

The Brompton has calliper brakes front and rear. These were presumably chosen because they offer reasonable stopping power and reasonable durability whilst minimising weight (which is an important consideration for a folding bike, unlike a full-sized transport bike). A peculiarity of the Brompton is that the rear brake seems to offer more stopping power than expected, whilst the front feels weaker than expected. The callipers offer similar stopping power and modulation to the Sturmey Archer drum brakes, but are exposed and thus require more maintenance.

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The Brompton calliper brakes; front (left) and rear (right)

The Yuba Mundo has a more exotic brake configuration; a rear V-brake and a front 185 mm Avid Juicy hydraulic disc brake. This combination was chosen because the original front V-brake did not offer what I felt was appropriate stopping power or modulation for a loaded Yuba Mundo. The rear V-brake is adequate; offering a lot of stopping power but poor modulation, with a small amount of brake lever travel the brakes make the transition from doing hardly anything to slow the bike to locking up the rear wheel. The front disc brake offers an extreme level of stopping power, which is ideal when the bike is loaded. It also offers good modulation for when a small amount of braking is required. When the bike is unloaded/lightly loaded, it is able to stop incredibly quickly.

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The Yuba Mundo front hydraulic disc brake (top) and rear V-brake (bottom)

Whilst I use all three bikes regularly, I rarely use different bikes in quick succession. A few weeks ago, I returned from a 30 km ride on the Yuba Mundo to pick up some wheel building parts which I dropped off at home. I had to pop back to work immediately afterwards and took the DL-1. When I approached the first set of traffic lights I experienced risk compensation first hand; after riding the lightly-loaded Yuba Mundo over a  few hours I had become accustomed to riding faster and braking later for a given set of road conditions, and I had to brake very hard on the DL-1 to stop in a space which the Yuba Mundo would have been able to stop in easily. This is why I worry when I hear about engineering-based safety enhancements such as ABS in cars, they improve the safety of the vehicle’s occupants but this is often at the expense of everyone outside of the vehicle.

Light-Evening Landmark

Yesterday I visited my cat and family in Rochdale as I often do. Because the nights have finally drawn out enough for me to ride it before dark and the pleasant weather, I decided to ride the DL-1 rather than taking the Brompton on the train. Rather than suffer the perils of Oldham Road, I decided to take an alternative route along a popular rat-run (so popular in fact that the motorised traffic was travelling nice and slowly):

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=manchester&daddr=53.47779,-2.23214+to:53.48544,-2.21177+to:failsworth&hl=en&geocode=FQgNMAMd-Ofd_ynb9SZSTE16SDGqa_4EOBS-2Q%3BFZ4BMAMdtPDd_yk5iPwCvrF7SDEQY7FEvGIQEw%3BFYAfMAMdRkDe_yktVxjbCbF7SDEhw5TWnvkMEw%3BFTiAMAMdRBTf_ylD0bRXzbB7SDGqDS63QaNAOg&mra=dpe&mrsp=1&sz=14&via=1,2&dirflg=w&sll=53.482428,-2.210913&sspn=0.02993,0.077162&ie=UTF8&ll=53.482428,-2.210913&spn=0.02993,0.077162&t=h&output=embed

Once I reached Failsworth, I decided to use the canal for the remainder of the journey, it had been dry for a few days so the path would be passable at least.
When I reached the Ship Inn near Hopwood Hall College, I was perplexed to see a barrier had been put in place and a sign which read “Towpath Closed.” Behind the barrier was a broken bollard which had presumably been put there to suppress cargo-bike use on the towpath. In a blatant disregard for the authority of the sign I proceeded to ride along the towpath anyway. When I arrived near to the tunnel under the M62 I saw another barrier and sign, having encountered nothing in the closed section which warranted closing it whatsoever. Maybe we should try this approach on the motorways too.
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Upon leaving Rochdale, I noticed that my lights weren’t working. Sadly this necessitated a train journey (although it was also starting to rain by then anyway). I assumed the problem was due to the shoddy job I had done extending the wire for the front lamp when I re-mounted it on the headset. When I returned home I decided to disassemble the front lamp and replace most of the wire, properly solder the connection between the two wires and use heat-shrink to protect the connection.
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The innards of the Lumotec Retro

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The original lamp wire was shortened and soldered to some fairly low-end speaker cable I had to hand

One interesting thing I discovered was that inside the B&M Lumotec Retro there is basically a complete standard B&M Lumotec lamp, attached by the same type of bracket which all of the B&M lamps I have seen use to attach to the various mounting options available. This suggests that it might be possible to house a better lamp such as a Lyt or a Cyo within the aesthetically-appropriate Retro shell at some point in the future.
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The guts of the Lumotec Retro are essentially just a complete standard Lumotec lamp

After faffing about with the wire, I discovered that the actual cause of the problem was that there was a layer of filth on the contacts of the dynamo hub itself, and that my initial shoddy wiring was in fact fine.
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The connections on the dynamo-hub after being cleaned with a screwdriver

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Gratuitous shot of the cat who my desire to visit set in motion the entire series of events

Mechanical Problems

I’ve had a few mechanical problems with the bikes this past week. The right hand pedal of Brompton has an aluminium outer cage, which I managed to snap whilst riding last week. Luckily replacement pedals are readily available and quite cheap. I expect that I must have hit the pedal on the ground one too many times, and the metal gave out suddenly whilst I was riding.

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A steel outer cage would not have failed quite so suddenly (if at all), and there would have been a negligible weight penalty compared to the aluminium part.

On Saturday evening, I had my first puncture on the DL-1 (and my first puncture at all in over a year). An industrial staple had worked its way through the tyre on the ride to a friend’s house and when I came to leave it had gone flat. When I got it home I attempted to patch it, but after applying the patch I kept found another hole. I decided to go to Bicycle Doctor for a replacement tube, intending to patch the old one to keep as a spare. However, after patching 6 holes (some of which were close together enough to use a single patch for) I found 3 more and decided to bin the tube.

Sadly, my front lamp mounting bodge-up also snapped this week. The aluminium reflector bracket I had re-purposed (admittedly it wasn’t designed for anything more than a reflector) snapped whilst I was riding over the high-quality road surfaces found in Stockport. Thankfully I ordered the proper Brompton bracket online last week, and it should be with me shortly.

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Before the bracket snapped

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Temporary solution until replacement bracket arrives from Brompton, this current solution slightly interferes with the front brake

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Remains of reflector bracket

With most bike components I’d rather have durability over miniscule weight savings. The puncture was the first one in over a year, thanks to choosing practical tyres designed for durability  over lightness. For non-competitive everyday cycling, why worry about a few extra grams here and there? Obsessing over bicycle weight can lead many people to make terrible decisions when choosing a practical everyday bike.