Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sydney: More KMart Bike fixes.

After two council clean ups in the area - one awesome, and one disappointing. Or maybe the first one spoilt me. It was time to head north. Departure planned, bike loaded up, test ride down a hill. hmmm, front brakes shuddering.  Better fix that. 

The forks wear just looking at them.
More investigation found the shuddering was caused by the forks. They had a worrying amount of forward/backward movement. The brake grips the rim, the forks rock forward, the brake slips, the fork spring back. The brake grips again and on it goes.  Not ideal. 
Plastic bush pulled out. No so visible in this pic, but it has flattened out.
The cause was the plastic bushes wearing and flattening out. I knew this was going to happen and had wrapped the forks in plastic to keep grit out. That probably didn't slow the wear rate much. The forks on the Kmart Bike are the worst thing about it. The fix: convert to rigid forks.  Ideally, this would involve changing the forks. But the 'will this work' solution involved string, paper, hose clamps and epoxy resin.  Ideally, I wanted to disassemble them and change the spring in the base to a piece of metal pipe. But that needs a really long extension tool that I don't have. So with the plastic bush out as per the above photo. I wrapped string around the stanchion, and pressed it down with the bush into the fork. Checking with a piece of wire, I plugged any large gaps with paper, then filled the tube up with 5 minute epoxy resin. Before it set, I pushed the bush into it, so that resin was pushed back up filling all the gaps and channels in the bush. Effectively the top 60mm of the fork is now (hopefully) resin. Hose clamps went on the top of that, so if the fork does want to compress, they will stop it moving, or at least limit its movement. 

With the resin set, the forks are now rigid. Brake shuddering has gone. Time will tell how how travel affects the "fix". It might last months, or fail on the next ride. 

The KMart Bike adds excitement to each trip:)

I did check the wheel bearings. Well, at least the front ones. Heaps of grease in there. All good.  The rear, I realised I don't have the tool to get the cluster off, so they'll have to wait a bit longer. But grease is oozing out, so there is heaps in there.  The headset bearings also were well greased. 

Other work was adding water bottle holders. I made these out of some aluminium strips found in the council clean up.  I can carry 10 litres in 1.25L PET bottles; two on each side of the forks, two in the triangle, and two behind the handlebars on the top tube. I still have the basket empty, so could put another couple of bottles in there.  All the water up front will balance the gear on the rear rack.  Gear weight is about 15kg and mostly (see below) fits in my two large homemade panniers. This is down from the 30kg I carried on the Surly.  I'm still not on board with 'minimal' though, I'll be leaving with way too much food for my route.  One day I'll get this right. So I'll work at reducing the food I've got and not stocking up so much each time.

I say "mostly", because I have two sleeping bags for now and while I can get both in my panniers, it is easier to keep one out on top of the rack in a dry bag. I use the sleeping bags as quilts. I'm using a $15 KMart summer weight sleeping bag. Synthetic, rated at 11C-15C, weighing 850 grams.  I've used this one down to 7C wearing thermals and clothing to bed, but I'm expecting lower temperatures in Northern NSW. So I scavenged another bag from a bin. It is missing a zipper, is synthetic, and weighs the same, so probably the same rating. With both, I sleep toasty. When I'm in Queensland and no longer need it, I'll return it to a bin. I won't need two bags again until winter next year.

My previous down sleeping bag was rated to about 0C, and I'd used it below wearing thermals and clothes. It weighed about 1500 grams, washing and drying it was not easy and I constantly was worried about it getting wet or damp. It would get dirty and salted. I'd get it cleaned by an outdoor company in Sydney at a cost of $60 a time, usually every second year.  After the last wash, the down was still clumping, so it needed replacing.  I was initially thinking of a new down bag. But at hundreds of dollars, and then the special washing needs, it wasn't very appealing. Most of the time, the temperature isn't below 10C and is above 15C.  The KMart bag at $15 is half the weight, easy to wash and dry. Can throw it in the washing machine and dryer. Though, depending on the laundromat costs, that could approach the cost of a new bag. Or I'll just replace it with another one. For the few months of winter when I need warmer, I'll add a second bag. The Kmart bag is much better value. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sydney: Changes & Maintenance

It might seem that I'm still doing nothing, but I have been out of Sydney for a camp. The main purpose was to test all my new gear out. It went reasonably well. As expected, there were some issues, and the trip was ultimately cut short due to dental problems. But it was enough time to be comfortable with some of my changes, and convince me that other things needed to change.
Principally I carried too much gear with me again. Part of this was as I was testing various items. Part of it was my old problem; just carrying way too much that is really not needed. Still working on this.  More in a later post on my new gear set.

After the trip, the Kmart Bike needed some work. Logged about 600km on it so far. Rear tire was bald by this time. I could probably get a few hundred kilometres more out of it, but the puncture rate would increase. No way would I get to Cairns on it. I doubt that it would make it to Tamworth. So far it hadn't punctured, but it was only a matter of time. The front tire holed as the rim tape had moved, or was never over the spoke nipples to start with. When I removed the rear wheel, the rim tape was twisted and not covering the spoke nipples that well either. So was only going to be a matter of time before that tube punctured.

Changes: Replaced the 9kg weight limited rack with a 25kg one found in a council clean up. A lucky find. Still in its packet, but missing the small mounting hardware. This rack is lighter and stronger than the ebay rack I purchased.  Changed the rim tape on both tires to Zefal cloth tape, changed both tires to Schwalbe Marathon Tour Plus.  Tires are consumables. But it still amuses me that each tire is almost the cost of the bike.  Added a Mirrcyle MTB Mirror as the previous one was just too dark to see well out of, and vibrated too much to be useful. Bar ends found in a garage sale for $2 completed the changes. 

Maintenance: The bottom bracket was a bit loose, so I pulled it out for a clean and grease at the same time. Was a surprising amount of metal shavings in there - probably from the frame. The bearing surfaces and bearings were still in good shape. Contrary to previous reports on the web, there was a fair bit of grease on the bearings. Still, I cleaned it all off and replaced it. There are no dust seals on the crank, and through the gap in the cups, you can see the bearings rolling around. I added my own dust seal on both sides. 
I wrapped a bit more cotton string around at this point. The cotton string was thinner and tightened up more. This should slow dirt, dust and water entry into the bearings.  The thick thread above is large enough to not travel into the gap between the spindle and cup, and so not get caught up in the bearing.  Smaller thread just holds this tight on the spindle.  I've not pulled apart the wheel bearings yet, but maybe I should. They have grease visible outside the bearings, so I'm hopeful that there is grease inside.