nr's blog

Project Antithesis 6 May, 2011

Filed under: Cycling,General — nr @ 8:54 pm

I’m busy at the moment. Really busy. I don’t think I’ve ever been busier at work, I’m travelling far more than usual, I’m planning a climbing trip, I’ve got several school govermors meetings lined up, I’m meant to be revising for some certs that need renewing, and most importantly, I’m a full-time dad. I have all this going on, and I’m very aware that with this lot, and the odd weekend sportive to ride, sometimes I don’t spend enough time with The Lovely Faye. The last thing in the world I need is another project.

So, there I was wondering what to do with my old Diamond Back Sorrento mountain bike. I got it from Freecycle a few years back, so it doesn’t owe me anything. And while it was always obvious that the groupset was a bit on the cheap side, the steel frame appeared well made, and was pleasingly zingly to ride. (That started as a typo, but in fact, zingly sums it up nicely). A chat with Sol the other day sowed the seeds of a plan to strip it, clean it up, repaint it, and generally tart it up ready for a few trips out. So I spent a few days thinking of colour schemes, then examined my finances after the Rover Head Gasket saga, and decided to just paint it with whatever cheap Halfords rattle cans I had in the garage. I then forgot all about it, as is my normal way of doing things. But then, a couple of days back, I had a few hours spare, so the spark was rekindled, and I started stripping it.

Looking at things constructively, I’m bloody glad I did, ‘cos the thing was an absolute deathtrap. The more I took off, the bigger the pile of scrap in the corner became, and the more I thanked my lucky rabbit’s foot that the thing hadn’t killed me so far. Frayed brake cables, fractured chainrings, bent cantilever brake arms, worn derailleur, completely seized bottom bracket, the list went on and on. There was really only one course of action open to me if I wanted to salvage the frame and forks… scrap the idea of an off road bike, dump the groupset, and turn it into a single speed road bike. So, out came the angle grinder, and off came all the gear cable bosses and cantilever brake mounts from the frame. The headset was stripped, cleaned, cleaned again, repacked and put back together. Same with the wheel bearings. The wheels are, for want of a better word, ‘orrible. But they’re round, and now the bearings are repacked, they go round acceptably well. The handlebar has been stripped and resprayed, and the brake levers salvaged, but still need to be assaulted with a hacksaw to remove the mounting points for the gear changers.

And that’s where we are at the moment. I’m calling this Project Antithesis, as it’s the complete opposite of my delicious Sp!n roadbike, which is handbuilt from titanium by craftsmen of the highest order, and equipped with the best components I can afford with one foot firmly in the form camp and one looking after function. It’s beautiful in every respect, and I love it more than anything else I’ve ever put together in my shed. This new project will be done as cheaply as possible, with angle grinders and hammers. There will be no titanium or carbon fibre. There will, however, be lots of fun. Currently, the shopping list looks like this:

  • Bottom bracket (68mm English, 113mm axle)
  • Chainrings
  • Chain tensioner
  • Rear sprocket and spacers
  • Brake caliper and cable, or coaster hub for the rear wheel
  • Crank arms
  • Grips

So if you’re reading this, and have any contacts who can supply any of the above dirt cheap, I’m all ears. I think the bottom bracket may need to be converted to threadless, as the old one was so seized in place I think the thread is damaged beyond repair. On the options of a brake caliper or coaster hub, I prefer the latter, as it will be more fun, and better at the local skatepark. Once it’s all done, and the shakedown tests are completed, I’ll strip it, get the frame blasted, and paint it. There’s no photos at this stage, as honestly, it’s revolting. The bits that aren’t rusty are only that way because they’re covered in a layer of phlegm, mucus, or slime. It’s not pretty.

All in all, it’s a bit like the old TZR250s that I used to build and race. I can’t wait.


Flying Monochrome 1 May, 2011

Filed under: Cycling,Outdoor climbing — nr @ 8:39 pm

Well, it’s been a good few weeks since I wrote anything here, and there’s good reason for that – I’ve mainly been enjoying the weather either riding my bike, or getting in some groundwork for my next climbing trip. The unseasonally nice weather has made both of these things even more enjoyable than usual, and so I’m sitting here with a massive grin on my face having thoroughly enjoyed the last few weeks, and making plans for the next few. So, first things first, the cycling. Just looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see that I’m enjoying the new bike. 1082kms at an average of just over 28km/h. This includes a couple of sportives – firstly the immensely enjoyable “no excuses”, 130km in the company of Sol and Tom, and a very pleasant day out in the country. We missd out on a silver award by under two minutes, which I’m not unduly unhappy about, as we were by and large taking things pretty easy, with a couple of extended food stops, a leisurely puncture repair by the roadside, and even a toilet break in the last few kms when I suddenly realised that dehydration was the least of my worries. And anyway, it’s not a race… And then, about three weeks or so back, the tough 150km of the “spring lambs” event, which was by and large the same course I did last year in the company of Andy. This time I was with Sol, and really, things couldn’t have gone any better. (Apart from another puncture that is…) We completed the 150kms about 40 minutes faster than I managed last year, and even had enough energy for a small sprint finish. Brilliant. And the bike, was, of course, perfect. The white handlebar tape isn’t quite as white now after 1000kms, and the tyres no longer look quite so fresh out of the showroom, but it’s still perfect. In fact it’s even more perfect now than it was a month ago, because it now looks like it’s done 1000kms in all weathers rather than looking fresh out of the workshop. Really, I couldn’t be happier with it. Well, I may invest in one of Drew’s delicious Ti stems, but that would be purely in the interests of making an investment in the UK manufacturing sector, not because they’re possibly the most beautiful thing I can think of to adorn the front of my bike.

On the climbing front, it’s also rather exciting news. I had a week off work recently, and spent it with my family down on The Lizard peninsula, which is one of my favourite places in the country. As always, I did a fair bit of walking around the South West Coast Path, but spent rather longer than usual scoping out some cliffs for a climb, just in case I ever manage to get down there with a rope and a willing partner. Then on Friday, I was chatting with Sol, and idly mentioned that we really need to get out on a climbing holiday, when several things came together, and the upshot of all this is that in about a month we’ll be heading back down that way with a guidebook, a couple of bivi bags and some climbing hardware. As I mentioned some years back, sea cliffs scare me. And that’s a good thing in this case, as I’m genuinely looking forward to a bit of an adventure on some tottery old choss that could fall down at any moment. What’s the worst that can happen?


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