Gallery by Stephen Andrew Wood & Jack Holroyde
Gallery by Stephen Andrew Wood & Jack Holroyde
For those of you that don’t know, when I’m not praying or meditating on the meaning and worth of pain, I work in a bike shop. Selling, maintaining, riding.
One of the questions I get asked a lot in the shop is ‘what is the right lube to use on a bike?’
There are as many types of lube as there are applications for it, and with good reason. Most of the time people are using the wrong lube for the wrong application and directly or indirectly bugger everything up.
Who hasn’t seen a chain laden with sludge, with slop dripping off the jockey wheels and cassette?
That’s not lube – it’s dirt. Dirt that’s stuck to the lube.
Who hasn’t seen a completely rusted chain, or a headset so gone that there’s rust dribbling down the fork? That’s caused by water ingress past the grease.
All of these parts have been lubed, but what has gone wrong is either the quantity, the quality or the regularity of the greasing has gone wrong.
I guess I’m going to go over parts of the bike, starting from the inside out and try and explain what each part does, what the function of the grease is in that scenario, and therefore how much lube, and what thickness of lube to use.
Before we start, we need to talk about assembly grease. Most parts on a bike that require a screw thread are made of aluminium alloy. One of the important things to note about aluminium is that similar to iron, when exposed to oxygen it forms an oxide, which unsurprisingly is called aluminium oxide. When alloy and alloy screw or press into each other, in time the separate pieces oxidise, much like rust, and ‘dry weld’ themselves together. Cue new chainset when someone hasn’t put a dash of grease on the pedal screws before fitting them. Cue new frameset when someone hasn’t greased the bottom bracket threads before tightening the cups.
Grease provides a barrier between the alloys, stopping them seizing. It also serves to keep air (and therefore oxygen) and water away from the greased part.
Assembly grease is cheap, and you don’t need much, but whenever you are fitting two pieces of alloy together, you *must* use it. Lecture over.
There is also carbon paste, for putting carbon things together. This contains tiny particles of carbon, which act like a grit and bite into the parts to stop them slipping. If you’re putting a carbon seat post into an alloy or carbon frame, be sure to use carbon paste. Else your seatpost will slip and you’ll find your groin slammed into the top tube. And that’s not pleasant. I can testify.
So, bearings and internal greasing:
First up, my go-to lube for internals and bearings is Finish line Teflon Grease. It comes in a tube to which you can attach a Finish Line grease gun, which makes greasing hubs and bearing internals an absolute doddle. It also works great as an assembly grease. When I say grease, I mean this stuff unless I specify otherwise. The grease is about a fiver, the gun about 20 quid, but should last forever. This stuff shouldn’t be used on rubber seals though. The lithium in it eats rubber. If you’ve got a part with a rubber seal, I’d recommend White Lightning Crystal Grease.
Bottom brackets, like the hubs, are an axle spinning in a ring of bearings. The BB bearings come in three main types – cartridge, threaded cups and press fit sealed bearings.
In a cartridge system (such as Square taper, Octalink, PowerSpline), the axle and bearings are contained in a single unit. The axle sticks out either side to provide space for the cranks to be fastened to. To get to the bearing we must (once the BB is removed) peel back the weather seals and apply the lube directly onto the bearings which are just inside the shell of the BB.
As they’re so close to the surface, and the BB gets a regular dosing of road spray, the lube we use needs to concentrate on keeping water and other solvents out, keeping the bearing running smooth and must be thick enough to stick around for the long term. Even the most die hard of us won’t strip the seals off a BB more than once a year – else we’ll knacker them through our over zealous intrusions.
To perfectly fulfil this purpose must be *thick*. Wayne Rooney thick. Almost solid.
So on your cartridge BB and hub internals, you want to have the thickest, most water resistant grease you can get your paws on. I tend to use lithium grease because it’s thickish, water resistant and messy, and a BB service isn’t a BB service without your clothing being covered in greasy smears.
Threaded cups are a lot more simple. They’re sealed, you can’t get in. When you bugger them because you were careless with where you were spraying degreaser when cleaning your drive train, you chuck them out and replace them. Good thing is they aren’t expensive. Bad thing is, you really need to be taking your bike to a shop to get it changed. However, assuming you have a Hollowtech II tool, a torque wrench and a work stand, you just put a bit of assembly grease on the threads and whack it in.
Press fit bearings (BB30, BB90, PF30 etc) are when the sealed bearing themselves are just pressed into the frame with no cups, either by hand or with a pressing tool. The benefit is that the BB shell (the tube in the frame through which the cranks pass) can be much wider, and therefore stiffer. The bearings are sealed, so once again the internals are ‘fire and forget’. For some ungodly reason, some manufacturers are now fitting these into alloy frames (as if they need improved stiffness) which means that the metal shell and the metal bearing rub against one another causing the whole frame to creak with every stroke. The trick here, to stop the creaking, is not to buy an alloy frame with a BB30. Or a carbon frame with an alloy BB shell and a BB30. Seriously. A thick pasting of grease, applied regularly to the inside of the shell, might help the situation if you’ve already bought said Boardman/Cannondale.
Headsets also come in different types, notably integral (often 1 1/8″, sometimes tapered to 1 1/2″ sealed bearings pushed directly into the frame) or external (usually 1″ cups screwed onto a threaded fork). For integral bearings, just apply a thin coat of grease to the inside of the shell and gently press in with a headset press. For external cups, these should be cleaned and repacked with grease annually, similar to hubs. Lithium grease, again, works wonders.
The only other internal part that springs to mind is the freehub body. There may or may not be another guide on servicing these, but in here we need to ensure that hub, pawls and springs can all operate smoothly. We *have* to have a clean, dirt free environment. I tend to use Shimano Mineral oil in here, because it’s so thin, but then again I service my freehub every couple of months. If you’re not that keen, a wet chain lube or a thin coat of White Lightening Crystal grease can work. Under no circumstances should any thick grease be applied in here. Stuff like ‘tenacious’ chain lube and lithium grease can gum up the whole sensitive apparatus and stick pawls in ratchets/stop star ratchets disengaging from the hub body. It has to be thin. And it HAS to be clean. Remove all the bearings, degrease thoroughly [with a degreaser naturally]. Clean with a clean cloth, remove any remaining degreaser, dry either with cool air or time (don’t use a hairdryer, you risk warping parts), and put a droplet of mineral oil on each pawl. Massage it in to ensure good coverage. Put a couple of drops on the ratchet inside the freehub body, then slip it together. Give it a spin until you can hear each pawl engagement as a distinct ‘click’. If you can’t, take it apart, clean it better, and use decent lube like I just told you to, you numpty!
Cables need lube when putting on. An oil based thin lube, like wet chain lube or mineral oil can smooth cable actuation and keep the outers from rusting. Just put a small amount on when fitting, don’t worry about redoing it. For those of you with high end groupsets, consider a polymer cable system. Shimano’s coated Dura Ace cableset is pretty damn good.
Now, lets talk about Chain lubing:
Whatever you’re doing, chances are you’re doing it wrong. I had one gentleman storm out of my shop giving us all abuse because we suggested that WD40 was not a suitable lube for his chain. He’s been doing it wrong for 35 years, apparently, and got quite attached to doing it wrong, and was enraged when a qualified mechanic thought he should know that there was a better way.
So, if you’re reading this, don’t take offence. Just know that there are a lot of lubes for a lot of riding styles and conditions – and while there are compromises, GT85 and WD40 are not suitable lubes under any conditions.
So as we’re here, lets start with WD40. ‘Water Displacer 40’ was the 40th iteration of it’s inventors (you guessed it) Water displacement formula. In order to push water out of tight spots and prevent it’s reentry, WD40 is very thin and has a deep penetrating effect. It’s highly flammable and a volatile solvent. This thin, solvent property provides its most useful cycle related application – cleaning.
While to remove thick, encrusted dirt (like on old hub bearings) a stronger degreaser is needed, for chains and other minor degreasing jobs WD40/GT85 works a treat. Spray it on a cloth, then grab hold of your chain and watch the gunk wipe away. GT85 is basically the same stuff, but it leaves a teflon coating which does serve to provide a long term lube for things that don’t move a huge amount. Like door hinges. And drawers. That is the limit of it’s usefulness. Is you bike chain a water filled crevice, a door hinge, or a drawer? No? Then don’t use a solvent intended for that, then.
WD40 also serves to help us unseize stuck parts. You know, when you didn’t use assembly grease, like I told you to.
So what lube should you be using?
Wet: Oil based, Wet lube is ideal for wet and muddy conditions where a water based lube would get washed away.
Dry: This is kind of like a talcum powder suspended in solvent. It penetrates deep into the chain, then the solvent evaporates, leaving a layer of slippery solid behind. Ideal for long dry rides or sandy/dusty conditions where wet lube would be turned into a sand paste.
Ceramic: These can be wet or dry, ceramic lube has nanoparticles that leave a protective coating on the chain, enhancing it’s life and making shifting smoother and quieter. It is sometimes branded as ‘Stealth’ lube.
Chain lube usually comes in two containers: a spray can and a bottle.
Spraying lube around tends to cock up brake surfaces, pads, internal greases etc, so stay clear. Buy bottled lube or not at all.
When applying lube to the chain, we don’t just throw it on. To do so would likely overlube, meaning that road debris is more likely to stick to it, and any dirt already on the chain is going to get carried into the rollers and booger them pretty quick. First grab that WD40 that you’ll never need and spray it liberally onto a bit of cloth. Grab hold of the bottom of the chain with the cloth and turn the crank backwards, pulling the chain through the cloth. This should really be done after every wet ride, but compromises exist for a reason. I don’t even bother with my Ultegra 11-speed chain. Do it before every lubing though. While you’re there, just touch the cloth to the jockey wheels of the rear dérailleur as the chain is moving to clean the gunk off there.
When the chain is clean(ish), apply the bottle of lube to the bottom of the chain, just in front of the lower jockey wheel and turn the crank backwards. You want a thin line of lube to form down the centre of the chain – not too much. Turn the crank backwards for a minute or so after you’ve lubed it – this helps the lube sink into the rollers – then wipe of the excess with your rag – again grabbing the bottom of the chain and running the crank back.
Do this every couple of weeks or every 200 miles, whichever is sooner.
Every 600 miles or so, take the chain off and clean it thoroughly. Follow a guide from Sheldon Brown or something on Youtube on how to do this. Dry and lube thoroughly afterwards.
What not to lube:
Tyres. Yes, people can be that silly.
Brake discs. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprise how many people try to resolve a squealing disc brake with a touch of lube. The squealing is caused by glazed pads leading to a lack of friction, not by too much friction. If you have lubed the disc, you’ll need new rotors and new pads.
So there you have it. The right grease, in the right place, in the right amount. Simples.
I may get taken as a masochist, but I welcome the visit from the man with the hammer at 5am.
He’s like the strict teacher that everyone in the school fears, but when you get to his class, you realise that he just doesn’t fuck around, he wants to help you better yourself and is usually kind, thoughtful and respectful – and punishment is fair and justified.
‘The Man’s’ lesson is the point at which we learn that self will can, and will, fail us.
We’re taught in life to fight, to overcome obstacles, to tread on toes and to steamroller problems.
You’re strong, we’re told. But you can be better. Push harder. Just do it.
We’re then given a million problems that one can only ‘defeat’ with the advertised product and as a result, we become weak, burdened by problems that are not ours, pain that does not exist.
We incorporate this into our daily lives and strive to overcome these problems every day. Bigger house, more pointless shit to put in it. Magazines, Trainers, even children. The latest habitat coffee table, hand crafted in India from the armpit hair of a dolphin.
However, the simple reality is that these behaviours are little more than our self will desperately trying to stamp itself on the world.
After 60km of riding a bike, these thoughts of madness generally fade. The body is undertaking too much to bother wasting energy thinking. This is a good thing.
However, we are still living our entire lives powered by ‘ourselves’. But when ‘the Man’ comes for us, that all changes.
I remember the first time I met him like it was yesterday. It was the first London to Brighton I did at Ditchling beacon and I got off my bike and cried like a child.
I couldn’t go on. What I didn’t know what that this ‘Beware Horses’ sign marked the end of the climb, but I was so buried in self pity that I couldn’t look up and see the crest of the hill.
The man taught me something that day – that self will can and must be torn down and replaced by something that has power.
Through the medium of my bicycle I set about reinventing my life, being the person I wanted to be, not the person I was told to be.
The Man showed me my God.
I hope that he will show you yours.
When he comes, *if he comes*, welcome him with open arms.
Dunwich Dynamo takes place this year on July 13th 2013
So, the Dunwich Dynamo rolls around again.
Newbies quake and rally around the old timers, desperate for some reassurance. Stories of Boris bikes and Penny Farthings get rolled out to relieved sighs and glances.
It’s easy to see how many people fear the dynamo.
First, it’s a night ride, and exhaustion hits that much harder when coupled with sleep deprivation. Second, it involves some serious pack riding. Thousands of cyclists jostling for positions and lines, most unaware of the fine etiquette of the peloton. Third, it’s two hundred bloody kilometers long. Oh, lorks.
But the Dynamo isn’t a harsh or unkind mistress. She does not cause you to fall to the roadside, to walk home, or call a cab.
She does not force suffering or pain or injury. That is not to say she is not demanding – but demands are achievable.
The riders biggest enemy is their own fear.
When viewed through the warm haze of 364 days recovery, the ride is beautiful. It is the fine wine of the randonneur, the subtle blue cheese of the Audax rider. Like touring, but without the boredom. A night of fellowship and warm air gently swirling around your helmet. No tears and little sweat. Just take a chilled out pace and point northeast-ish. Keep going until the sun rises and you run out of land. Bliss.
The mind buzzes at the thought, buzzes like a thousand freewheel pawls, tapping their gentle rhythm all the way down from the hill from Epping.
Like a troupe of mechanical grasshoppers calling in the soft undergrass for a mate, so too does the well travelled road to Saxmundham call forward the rider.
Should a brother [or sister!] falter? A Samaritan stops, picks them up, puts them back on the bike and gives enough gentle encouragement to keep them going.
Should a mechanical strike? There are enough experienced mechanics about to put right any issue.
To the experienced, the Dunwich Dynamo loses it’s fearsome figure and becomes a pilgrimage.
Everyone finds something different in the warm night air.
Last year, I learned that anyone that told me I couldn’t do something was talking out of their arse. I learned that I could do anything.
I also learned that when the ‘Man With The Hammer’ comes calling at 5am regarding a debt of suffering I owed him, I could carry on regardless – despite him shaping me with mighty blows against the anvil of my naivety.
Subsequently, I learned to bring some satchets of Electrolyte powder this year.
I found peace, beauty and a feeling of all enveloping love, as the warm sunrise lifted my spirits and enlightened my soul.
Light cannot be observed to shine so bright without darkness, and the warm morning air must be contrasted to the chill of the pre dawn hours in order to be most appreciated.
Luckily, the best company awaits to carry you through the dark and into the embrace of the Framlingham butty stop.
Have courage, and know that the person that stands on Dunwich beach is a different person than the one that departs London fields.
Look forward to meeting that person, for they will have a most amazing story to tell.
Video: Is of a fellow DD rider and not me.
I quite often like to jump on my bike after work and pootle about town. Working in a bike shop, there’s not much time to actually ride the damn things. So on a nice day I’ll take my road bike into work, make sure she’s good to go and head straight out after locking up the shop. Head east, maybe do a few laps of Regent’s Park, an unspecified number of ascents up Swain’s Lane (aka the Alp d’Highgate), a ride south into Soho for a coffee and cake.
It’s the times when I think to myself that ‘I should head north’ that the world becomes more interesting and infinity more painful.
Cycling is an odd hobby. Some rides will be utterly unmemorable, others will burn themselves into ones neurons for life. The sights, the smells! See the magnificent Ikea, the glorious Tottenham substation, the enormous Matalan at Brimsdown! Experience the heady aromas of Hackney municipal dump!
Sometimes, this is all I see: London in all its disgusting, but very beautifully human, glory.
But there are times, the odd time, when a small alley or lane catches ones eye and I am pulled towards it, intrigued by the promise of the unknown. Without warning, I find myself tumbling down the rabbit hole and being sucked into the magnificent world of *le rouleur*.
I took one such turn earlier, and as the busy main road fell away, the landscape melted almost instantly into the kind of scene that would make Nigel Farage shed a single tear and salute a pint of warm bitter.
The willows formed an arch across the road, a single track that wound it’s way west from Enfield. The few houses are collecting moss and fallen twigs on their roofs. the owner carrying in firewood for the evening.
I push on, finding my legs in this novel summer evening sun. Short hedges enclose the road, half concealing the miles of rolling fields on either side. A line of electricity pylons snakes across the landscape, disappearing far into the distance on my right.
That such sights can be found within the m25 astounds me, it leads me to explore and discover more and more. It draws me in, pushes me to ride further and further.
Before I know it, it’s 9pm, the sun is setting and, most disturbingly, my ipod is showing signs that it’s not been charged in a while. My front light cuts a path in the badly potholed near-dirt tracks, the rising full moon, almost orange in the sky, casts a warm glow over the rollings fields either side of the road.
The thrill of discovery is beginning to be offset by a cold wind.
I roll into Potters Bar with numb fingers. I should eat something, I’ve not had anything since lunch. A BLT and a packet of fruit pastilles from the Co-Op, and a lucozade to refill my energy bottle – having consulted the gps, I’m ready to go again.
Now this is a race. The cold is setting in, I’m in short bibs and short sleeve jersey. My feet are numbing from the wind. I need to move fast, to build heat and to get home before the worst of the night takes hold. Cadence must be high, speed must be high, effort must be high. I smack up a few gears and start working my quads. Knees out, sweeping through arcing turns, illuminated by the light of the moon my legs pump in time with the symphony in my ears (Elgar’s Planets, for the interested). A fork in the road. Stop, check Google maps. Go.
Cut through little hamlets, houses solitary with wood fires burning, visible through the front windows as I power past, a red and white streak in the night.
It’s hard to explain why or when I started to panic. I knew where I was going, but the cold and the tiredness and the fact that I’m 20 miles minimum from home took its toll. While I was skirting the m25, this village world around me felt like I was riding hundreds of miles from home with nowhere to stay and no way to get back. Stop, check gps. No, I took a wrong turn a while back there. Turn around or find another route?
When I finally find myself in Radlett, which while far from home, is at least on an old training route of mine, and therefore familiar, it’s the boost I needed. Turning south, I know I’m on the home straight. I can ride to Stanmore and jump the tube back to Kilburn from there.
Hills that used to have me panting in the granny ring are now stomped at 21mph. I have conquered, and everything will be ok. Then, without warning, my front light turns off. The cold has shorted the switch and it’s now flicking through the settings, cycling between 100 and 500 lumens. I power onwards into the night.
The transformation from gentle rise to powerful sprint is not something I resent (especially now I’ve had a chance to warm up!). There are many sides to cycling. Relaxing in the warm evening sun and belting through the freezing night air are two completely different angles on an activity that seems to have as many faces as it does riders.
Riding fixed, single speed, town riding, commuting, randonneuring, audax, touring, sportive, racing, polo, 4 cross, downhill, bmx – hundreds of ways of enjoying the simple sensations of riding a bike.
Needless to say I got home. My light switching off on the final descent into Stanmore was interesting. I was travelling at 40mph with no helmet, no goggles and now, no light. But it switched on at the bottom. The stop start all the way home (do you really think I’d have caught the tube?) was offset by the warm London air (heated by 7 million people’s bodily emissions). My iPod held on to the bitter end, finally running out as I rolled into my estate. Front light was on and off, but I survived with my 10 lumen backup. All in, 59 miles or 95 kilometres in 3 and a half hours. Not too shabby for a quick ride after work.
While great training for the long rides I have planned this year, something more profound hit me. The beauty of riding is dulled by working the shop, selling people the idea of what I’ve just done. The freedom, the sunshine, the exploration of nature’s wonder.
Unlike other professions where romanticised ideals are used to sell, in cycling I have a hobby that can take me out of my front door and show me that ideal – and make me fall in love with it all over again. For that, I am truly grateful!
Theres something about saying ‘200 kilometers’ which causes my gut to flip. We’re going to ride all through the night until our bodies can take no more, then the sun will come up. And we will ride some more.
My teammates lights illuminate me from behind, throwing shadows of pumping calves onto the road. Cadence high, we plough into the night, four strong, towards the half way point tea stop. I drop back and let another take the lead, tucking in behind his back wheel and revelling in the silent vacuum of the draft.
Let me explain. Silence is something I’m not accustomed to. Since age 5, I’ve not left the house without a walkman/discman/MiniDisc/MP3 player and at least one spare set of batteries. The crowd in my head was so loud, the only way was to drown it out. The noise and the craziness in my head led me to some dark places in life, sitting homeless aged 14 with a needle in my vein, tasting oblivion in its rawest form. Even having got clean, it led me down a path of self destruction, over and over. Drugs, drink, sex, gambling, computer games. Over and over, I gathered myself and took a strained step forward, heavy with the guilt and shame of my past. I had to escape – but with each way of escape came a new low.
When, last August, I was looking for a new bike to replace the steel mountain bike I’d run into the ground, little did I know the changes it would bring with it. I was 17 stone 2 pounds, with zero self respect and a tendancy to think about throwing myself in front of buses. Things were not all good. Once again, I made a decision that things should change. And change they did.
I got up off my butt and started taking action. Therapy, a new sponsor in recovery, doing what was recommended for those in my situation. I got a temp job, and I needed to ride to work. Why I went for a road bike I don’t know, but once I’d got it home, I knew I was in love. Clips, cleats, helmets, lycra – this was all new to me. I’d stepped into a big bold new world, full of weird looking middle aged men, and I didn’t care. I’d found something I could enjoy. I rode to work. I rode to AA meetings. I rode to see friends. I rode everywhere I could ride. It wasn’t long before my boyfriend started to see the pounds shed. People commented on how ‘healthy’ I was looking. My legs went from things that sat under my desk to defined slabs of muscle.
Then, I did London to Brighton. The first time I’d ridden more than 15 miles in one go, and I cried in pain. But the pain was good. It was me, my music and the pain, and I kept going until I could go no further. Then I freewheeled the rest of the way into town. Riding in the open, out of the city, became my new favourite thing. I’d book tickets out to Reading, ride to Oxford and back and catch the train home. Then Cambridge, and then Brighton again. All the time, gaining in speed and distance and loving every minute of it.
The facebook group of the Dunwich Dynamo drew me in. It was some months away, it seemed fine to sign up to. I booked coach tickets, and then realised that I’d committed myself to the most physical exertion I’ve ever done. Anticipation, Fear, readiness to prove myself, a desire to succeed, so many emotions spent months going around my head. I was as ready as I would ever be. I was a healthy 12 stone, with quads capable of keeping going no matter what.
Somehow, on the night, I made it to London Fields. I didn’t know anyone and faced a night of lone riding. My fear of failure stirred. My ego is unfaltering in it’s desire to see me fail, to remind me of all the times where I’ve failed in my life. To tell me that I will never achieve anything. It was working full force that evening.
Suddenly, I hear someone call my name. Someone from the facebook group recognised me. The rest of the evening is complicated to explain, but involved a lot of waiting around for people. In the end, 6 of us set out from London Fields at about 9:30pm.
The ride out of London was hectic. Too busy to think, the only focus was on staying alive. When we gathered ourselves, we had lost two. Four rode on. Crossing the M25, we were surrounded by nature. Trees and fields as far as the eye could see. The sun setting, we stopped into a petrol station for a quick release of internal pressure, and we were off again.
I can’t pinpoint when it was, but something clicked and I flipped my headphones down around my neck and revelled in the sound of freewheels buzzing, of cranks pumping, the crackle of tyres on worn asphalt. Peace surrounded me as we rode on, cutting through the wind like a knife through warm butter. Eddies formed in my ears, the cool air an alien feeling, but the cans stayed off.
The simple pleasure of maintaining cadence and following the red lights took the internal noise away.
At some point shortly before Sudbury, we lose two more. Despite looking up and down, we can’t fine them. Two remained for the second half. We silently plough forward into the night.
I came to realise, this isn’t such a big deal. We ham it up, talking in kilometers to make ourselves sound like Gods of the road, to the uninitiated. We scare ourselves into jelly when all we need is the simple pleasure of pressing down with our calves and quads, over and over.
This is not a battle with the clock, or with the bike, or the road. It is a battle with ourselves. It is a battle with our fear. It is not a test of strength, endurance or ‘Rule 5’. It is a test of Courage, a test of resolve.
The Dynamo changed me before I even rode it. But having ridden it? I can laugh at anyone who says ‘you can’t do that’.
I can do anything.