13 June 2017

A Trek Through The Heat Wave

The weather has been so strange this year.   February was warmer than April (or so it seemed), and after a spell of summer-like heat and sun in the middle of last month, skies turned gray and the air as chilly as that of early spring.  Now we are experiencing a heat wave:  For the third day in a row, the temperature topped 90F (32C).  

So I packed a mini-picnic lunch and rode to the most logical place:  the water--to the ocean, to be more exact.  I took a familiar route down to Rockaway Beach and along the south shore of Queens and Brooklyn to Coney Island, and along the Verrazano Narrows and East River back to my place.  In all, I did about 85 kilometers of riding.

And I took my winter-project Trek for the ride.  I've made a couple of changes on it, both of which turned out for the better.

For one thing, I converted the double chainring setup to a triple.  Actually, the crank is made for triples, but I had originally used  "Gran Fondo" 46/30 gearing on it, with a 46 in the middle position and a BBG bashguard/chainguard replacing the outer chainring.  

After a couple of rides, I remember why we used to ride half-step gearing.   If you ride, say, a 12-25 or even a 12-27 nine-speed cassette, the differences between the gears aren't nearly as great as they are on almost any five-speed freewheel, except for the "corncob"  (a.k.a. "straight block) ratio--which, at my age and given the fact that I'm long past racing, I will never use.

As it happens, I've been riding a 12-25 nine-speed on Arielle, my Mercian Audax.  On the other hand, the Trek now has a 13-26 five-speed freewheel, with between-gear gaps nearly twice as wide as those on the nine-speed cassette.  So, the 46 tooth chainring gives a 3.54 ratio (or, a 95.5 gear), while the next cog--15 tooth--provides a ratio of 3.06 (82.8).  I find ratios in the 3.2 to 3.4 range very useful--at least, that's what I often ride on Arielle (48 tooth chainring with 15- or 14-tooth cog).  

Now, I know the Trek is inherently a heavier bike with somewhat more relaxed geometery, and that I've added racks and fenders to it.  Still, I missed having gears in the 3.2 to 3.4 range.  So, I added a third chainring to the front:  a 42 tooth in the middle, with the 46 tooth in the outer position.  

Now it will just be a matter of re-acclimating myself to more frequent front shifts than I've become accustomed to making.  On Arielle, and even on Vera, my Mercian mixte (which has a 46-30 setup), I almost always ride the larger chainring.  

The other change I've made to the Trek is the brakes.  The Weinmann 605s, especially with the Mathauser Kool-Stop pads, were fine.  But I got a good buy on a lightly-used set of Weinmann Carreras.  I noticed the difference (also with Mathauser Kool-Stop pads) immediately:  The Carreras have a firmer, more positive, feel.  I think it's mainly a result of their beefier arms.  Next to the 605s, they're a bit clunky. But the Carreras have a nice finish, which looks especially good next to the hammered fenders, I think.

I may make one more change to this Trek.  I like the way they look with the Velo Orange Porteur bars, but I get the feeling the bike is really made for dropped bars.  And, now that Helene is gone, I've thought about returning the Porteur bars to Vera.  While Vera's been fine--not surprisingly, a bit more aggressive--with dropped bars, I liked her ride with the Porteurs.  And I liked the way she looked with them, too!

Then I have to name the Trek.


  1. My first ten speed was a close double front giving half steps, you were lucky to get a 14 to 24 rear block back then so developed high cadence and hills were a pain!

    I used to have gear ratios running in my memory but cannot find that file anymore...

  2. Coline--I recall those days, too. However, most of the ten-speeds sold in the US during the '70's Bike Boom had what was called "Alpine" gearing: usually, 52-40 in the front with a 14-28 five-speed freewheel in the rear. If you started to do any significant amount of riding, you'd find yourself hating it because the next rear cog up from the 14T was 17T. That meant your highest gear ratio was 3.71 (100 inches with 27-inch wheels). That wasn't bad in itself, but the next-highest gear (52-17) was 3.06, or 82.6 inches. That's quite a drop! Then, the next gear down was the 40-14, for a ratio of 2.85 or 77 inches. While that was actually a "good" step, you couldn't use the 40-14 on some bikes because of chainline problems.

    I recall now that my Peugeot PX-10E came with 52-45 chainrings (on a really nice Stronglight crank) and a 14-24 freewheel. That was good for most of the riding I did, and the 52-45, as I recall, even gave reasonable gear spacing when I switched to a larger freewheel for touring.

    Most interesting of all might have been the Nishiki International I rode. It came with a 14-34 five-speed SunTour freewheel. The jumps between gears were huge, but Nishiki ameliorated that with a 54/48 chainset. That setup, however, was unusual for stock bikes.

    Ah, those were the days. As to your comment about gear ratios in your memory, I find that I don't think about gearing quite as much as I once did, most likely because having an eight- or nine-speed cassette makes it easier to get reasonable "steps" between gears.

    1. I guess I was just a perfectionist dreamer without the funds…

      No wonder that I have sometimes looked longingly at the dark side of Rohloff 14 speed IGH with wide range and even steps...

    2. It does look appealing, doesn't it? Well, except for its weight and price tag...

    3. I could easily loose the weight of the unit , or more, to compensate...

  3. My Raleigh Competition bargain bike came with the original Carrera brakes. I rode with them for a while, but the plastic pivots had weathered to a point where they fell apart. I found some plastic washers at the hardware store but they didn't do the job. I replaced the Carreras with a set of Shimano 600 calipers I had inherited. The Carreras have been sitting in a box unused for a couple of years. If you're in need of spare parts, just let me know.

  4. MT--I just might take you up on it. Or, if you want my Carreras, we could work something out.

  5. MT--If you'd like, contact me at justineisadream@gmail.com

  6. I think one of the keys to enjoyable cycling is having the right gearing for one's fitness level. At 66 and a fitness and recreational cyclist, I'm using a 44/32/22 mtn crank with an 8-speed 12-25 on my road bike that is well suited for our mountainous area.