Monday, September 3, 2012

New Toys
(or Show-and-Tell)

First, for those regular readers, I've been a bit lax updating my blog in the last couple of weeks.  To make up for it, I wrote an entry yesterday talking about recent rides as well as today's entry about upgrades. That entry has more exciting less tech-y pictures than this one.

A few weeks ago, my front derailleur shifter cable broke.  I bought a set of SRAM X.4 trigger shifters to replace my current shifters.  I installed the front derailleur shifter three days after the cable broke.  I didn't get around to installing the rear derailleur shifter until two weeks ago.

The old front shifter. Note the ever-present gap between the shifter and the grip.

A couple of hours before my ride with Andrew to New York State line and back, I started work to upgrade the shifter.  I was a little concerned that I wasn't leaving myself enough time to get the new shifter installed and tuned, but I had no problems.  In addition to installing the shifters, I also installed SRAM locking grips and a second Mirrycle bar-end mirror.  The old grips would often separate from the grip shifter leaving an annoying gap; the new grips alleviate this problem completely. I very much like the mirror I already had on the left side handbars, so I bought a second for my bike (as well as one for my wife's bicycle).  Mirrors are a good idea on any bicycle, but are particularly important on recumbent bicycles since it so much harder to turn around and see what's behind you.

Particularly important on front-wheel-drive bikes, to help stabilize them when parking if you can set the front brake.  The bike brake is a very cheap way of doing just this.

A view of the finished upgrade, including a second mirror and the bike parking brake.

A close-up of the grip, the shifter, the bike brake, and the mirror.

For the rear derailleur, I very much prefer the trigger shifter to the grip shifter.  For one thing, when I would pull myself up by the handlebars, I often found that I would accidentally shift.  For another, when I'm shifting into my granny gear, I generally go from the middle chain ring on the crankset and the lowest gear on the cassette to the granny gear on the crankset and the fourth gear on the cassette.  I want this switch to be as simultaneous as possible.  Before, it was largely guess work.  Now, I just plink-PLUNKplink-plink and I'm there.  (The plink is the shifting of the rear derailleur and the PLUNK is the front).

There are two downsides to this new setup.  The first of which is that the twist front derailleur actually had more than three positions which would help avoid situations where the chain likes to rub on the front derailleur; I can't really get into the fifth gear or above on the rear derailleur when I'm in the granny gear. The second issue is knee clearance.  Having the shifter live below the handlebars reduces this clearance. This doesn't affect me because I installed an adjustable stem as well as moved my seat as far forward as possible.  I am not a big fan of twist shifters and am pleased with the upgrade to trigger shifters.

After this ride, I installed two other new toys.  First, I installed Kool-Stop dual compound mountain pads on the front brake.  I don't know if it just because because the original pads were quite worn (they had almost 1,500 miles on them when they were replaced)  or because the new pads are really just that much better (or most likely, both), but the new brake pads help me stop much more quickly.  Another worthy upgrade.

Kool-Stop front brake pads.  The two colors are two different compounds are for tuned for wet and try stopping.

I've had a couple of close calls with cars where my only recourse has been to, well, basically shout at them to get their attention.  Especially since I am often riding with my children, I've decided that I wanted a loud horn.  I've just added a Delta Cycle Airzound Horn.

Airzound horn (surrounded by lights) with bottle reservoir.

The horn is air-powered and has the ability to (somewhat) control the volume.  The reservoir is refillable with a regular air pump (up to 80 psi).  I (fortunately) haven't yet needed to use it in traffic, but I'm convinced it will get me noticed when I need it.  On trails and with pedestrians, I'll continue to use my voice as this horn is too loud for pedestrians and other cyclists.

The last two pictures are toys that I've already had and talked about.  But since I was taking pictures, so I snapped a couple of shots.  I used an Axiom seat collar with rack eyelets to attach the rear rack.  I bought 29.8mm size which wasn't quite large enough to replace the seat collar that was there.  I decided that this was a good thing and I used a piece of rubber to line the seat post and attached it.  The reason I decided this was better is that I didn't want to directly connect the the rack (which is attached to the rear triangle) to the main body of the bike (since there is a rear shock).  I really ought to bring up a metal piece from the rear triangle so that the rack isn't attached to the main body at all, but I found that how it is works well enough.

Rack attached to the seatpost. You can see the Trek trail-a-bike mount attached to the seatpost as well.

The final picture is showing how I mount my 100oz Camelbak Unbottle to the back of my seat.  I use two straps that go under the upper seat pad to hold it in place.  In my case, it sits on the braces for the rack, but I'm sure if the rack wasn't there, I would figure out something to make sure that it didn't drop too low and interfere with either the wheel or the brake.

I've never gone for a ride longer than 20 miles without this water reservoir and I recommend it highly.

Camelback Unbottle attached to the back of my seat.


  1. How do you like the trigger shifters? I have thought about changing to bar-end shifters, but the gripshifts aren't broke yet on my Giro, so I am not changing anything yet.

    Also, I use a velcro cable-tie for my hands-free parking brake. One of the local RBENT'ers gave it to me on the FARA ride this spring.

    Lastly, I have been wanting an Airzound horn, but am running out of mounting space. I wish they made a remote-activation button...

    1. I really like the trigger shifters. On Cruzbikes, it's common to pull really hard on the handlebars to pull yourself up, and I often found my self accidentally shifting when I did this. On my upright bikes, I've preferred trigger shifters to twist shifters for a long time.

      One can quickly change to a very different gear with a twist shifter, but it's hard to end up the gear you really want when you do it. With trigger shifters, it's easy to change multiple gears at once and end up exactly where you wanted to.

      I used to use a piece of double-sided velcro as a parking brake when I would take my upright bike on the train. It works well enough, but it was harder to set than the Bike Brake.

      I'm running out of space, too. I don't have the horn where I can easily hit it without moving my hand, but since I'm hoping to need it only sparingly, hopefully this won't be a problem. With the trigger shifters, it would be hard to mount otherwise. It would be cool if they made a remote-activation button... :)

  2. I also prefer trigger shifters to twist shifters. I've got 8-speed Microshift Thump-tap shifters on my home-made (MBB) cruzbike copy. Unlike twist shifters, they are not affected by grip motion and shifting does not affect steering control especially when descending at high speeds. Like Charles, I like the precision of the discrete taps and clicks.

    The only disadvantage I find is that they require extra knee clearance. My knee sometimes touches them when pedalling through a tight corner.