So I haven’t written here in a while. I was involved in an auto accident on my bicycle. I was hit by a car. I have so much to say about the incident but unfortunately I am not going to do that until all of the legal issues are resolved. I can say that I am alive, and that my resolve to get back on the bike has never been higher than right now.
There’s something therapeutic about bicycles. I love riding them, and I love maintaining them. For the past week and a half my living room has been empty. The workstand that I put my bicycle on each night has nothing to hold up, and each time I pass it, I wish my bicycle were there.
Finally today I couldn’t take it anymore. I dug my old bike out of storage and put it on the stand, and started monkeying around on it. I can’t ride yet, but at least I can perform some maintenance. Yesterday I ordered 2 parts for my road bike; a 22 tooth chainring and a 12-30 cassette. Today I practiced removing the crank from my old bike so I’d know what to do when my road bike comes home.
I’ve never removed a crank before so this was a new experience for me. First I had to remove the crank arm cap, which seemed like it was sealed into the crank arm. No matter how hard I twisted my allen wrench it would not budge. I looked through my bike tools and realised I had a tool specifically for this purpose, with a longer handle which would allow more torque, so I tried that. Still nothing. Now, I don’t own a hammer. This is kind of a running gag for me now, because I’ve needed a hammer for many things in the past but always forget to buy one whenever I’m at the hardware store. So like always, I had to improvise. I dug out my Kryptonite U-Lock and used that as a hammer. A few good whacks later, the crank arm cap was loose. Task 1 complete.
Then I got out my crank puller tool and put that into the crank arm, and attempted to operate it. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to do anything so I took it out and looked online for help. I was using the wrong crank puller cap; the one for “square taper” cranks. I have an “octalink” crank, so I had to switch the cap on the puller. I then re-inserted the puller, then started twisting the inner screw, and after a few good turns… the puller tore itself out of the crank. At first I was horrified, I had certainly stripped the threads on the crank arm. I put everything down and took a break so I could collect myself, stop freaking out, and figure out what to do next.
After a while I went back to the bike to examine the aftermath. Luckily it wasn’t that bad; the only reason the threads had stripped is because I hadn’t inserted the puller nearly far enough to work. In fact it looks like I only stripped the topmost thread and everything else was ok. Learning from that lesson, I inserted the puller much further in this time, making sure the inner screw was fully extracted before doing so. Tightened everything up then started turning the inner screw inward again.
This time the crank popped right off, after a few really strong turns of the puller. Success! I removed the crank and washed it off in my bathtub. There was an incredible amount of dirt and grime on the crank, a lot of which ended up staining my hands. Had to wash them 3 times for everything to fully come off afterwards. I removed the chainring to see how I would go about installing a new one, and presta, I think I’ve figured everything out. I still have to reassemble everything and put it back on the bike, but not bad for a practice run.
So why the new gearing? Well, several reasons. I like tighter cassettes because you have closer gears. This is easier on the knees and easier to find a more optimal gear when you’re cruising along, since the jumps between gears is much smaller. I’m going from 11-34 to 12-30. With an 11-34 gear you get an average of 13.3% difference between each cog, which is fairly large. With a 12-30 you get 10.7% difference between each cog. While that’s still a relatively large difference in the grand scheme of things, it’s much smaller than before and I anticipate that I will like it.
There’s one downside however, in that I’m losing the 34t cog in the rear, the gear I use for really steep hills. The solution there, of course, is to try to use a 22t inner chainring. Right now I’m running 26t so a 26/34 gear works out to 21.1 Gear Inches. That’s pretty low and I’d like to stay around that range. My crank has replacement rings in 22, 26, 32, 36, 44, and 48 teeth, so I figure I can replace the 26 with a 22, to end up with 22/30 for my low gear, or 20.3 Gear Inches. That’s actually slightly lower than my previous low gear, so I will actually have lower gearing if this combination works.
Of course there’s a possibility that this combination won’t work. A drop from 36 to 22 is pretty large and it’s possible I could end up with problems with this combination. The shifting could suck for some reason, perhaps it’ll be impossible to shift back up into 36. Or maybe it’ll be much more likely to drop the chain onto the bottom bracket with that large of a drop. I’m not really sure. But I’m going to try it out.
I’ve got two alternate plans. The first alternate is to try out a 24t chainring. There’s none that is built specifically for my crank, but I think I should be able to put in any Shimano 24t 64mm ring and it’ll be fine. I know my front mech supports a drop of 12t, since it already handles 48->36 fine, so in theory 36->24 should also pose no issues.
The second alternate plan is to just suck it up and continue using the 26t chainring. Essentially this means that hills will be harder since I’m losing one gear; but that’s all. Just one gear. There’s only one hill that I know of right now that requires my absolute lowest gear, so maybe I just HTFU and try it out in the 2nd lowest gear once I’m riding again.
Who knows, this is all hypothetical at this point.
I also went ahead and ordered some studded winter tires. I didn’t buy any last year because by the time I realised I wanted them, they were all sold out, so this time I got them on sale in July when no one is even thinking about them yet. Those should arrive sometime this week, and then sit around for months as I wait for snow and ice.
Can’t wait to get back on the bike. Can’t wait to be healed up again.