Monday, January 25, 2010

The Cycling Miracle of Cincinnati

The light hath shown through my garage door, deep into the recesses where my man cave bike workshop resides. I have seen the light of the Madonna del Ghisallo, the patron saint of cycling. As of today, when I walk into a bike shop, mechanics with permanently blacked fingernails should bow their heads and raise their arms for I have performed a near cycling miracle. Eddie Merckx once said miracles don’t exist in sports. Eddie Merckx never saw the image of Christ in his morning toast. But, harketh! A miracle may hath taken place on my IF Planet X. Before I call Archbishop Pilarczyk to initiate the miracle confirmation, and start charging admission to pilgrims to witness the site of my miracle, you should know that this could just have been the simple discovery of a mortal’s initial mistake. I could be nothing more than a doof who undid a goof that went unnoticed by those with more expertise than thou. I prefer the former. All hail! Behold the Cycling Miracle of Cincinnati!

Almost as if Satan had possessed my Sram Red derailleur, since the beginning of the 2009 cyclocross season when I swapped the Sram Red from my road bike to my CX rig, I have had a devil of an issue with shifting on my steel IF Planet X cyclocross bike. The top 5-7 easier gears shifted okay, but the derailleur couldn’t move the chain to the harder gears of the cassette, as if the spring in the derailleur didn’t have enough tension on it to pull the slackened cable. The only way I could get it to shift into the harder gears was to manually wrangle the derailleur to pull toward the harder cogs on the cassette.

My first thought, demons. My second maybe the spring in the derailleur was worn out. However, it wasn’t even a year old and it’s freaking Sram Red for cripes sake. I called my favorite mechanic, who happens to have a giant tattoo of Jesus on his chest (for real). He said he’s seen this issue before with steel IF bikes and Sram. He suggested a holy water cleaning of the derailleur, cassette and chain, followed by a redressing of cables and housing. Like a bad pickup line, it sort of worked, but not exactly. So, at his suggestion, I brought the bike in to the shop where he pulled the shades, unbuttoned his shirt, exposed the full on Jesus and exercised the demons with a derailleur hanger straightener and a few other things in his little black exorcism bag.

The bike worked great! Angels sang as the sun pierced the clouds. I had a wonderful ride with crisp shifts in even crisper January air. The next day, I hit the Hyde Park Ride. It was lightly raining, but I needed a ride with the fast boys. It turned into a soaking sloppy sufferfest. Fingers went numb. I looked and felt like I had ridden Paris Roubaix. Near the end of the ride with 3 hours of wet road grit everywhere, my shifting went south again. Dejected, I was so wet and cold I had to ring the doorbell of my own house because I couldn’t get the key out of my jersey pocket with frozen fingers.

After warming up, I returned to the man cave to resurrect the beast. I cleaned everything, cables, pulleys, you name it. I lubed. I shouted, “Dear God why doesn’t a $300 derailleur work on an $1800 frame!” I still only had 6-7 gears on a 10sp cassette. Then I saw the light. If the derailleur spring didn’t seem like it had enough tension to pull the cable, what if I lessened the friction of the cable. I tinkered, pulling on the cable in the direction of the derailleur. Essentially feeding cable to the demonic derailleur, it shifted fine. I took out sections of housing, thinking that if I shortened or made the cable move through the housing easier, the derailleur would be able to pull it. I was getting hotter.

The last step, I unraveled my handlebar tape. The cable stop in the shifter had a tight fit and sort of a bend where it curved to send the cable along the bars. But, alas! With a Sram Red shifter, there are two options to run the cable out along the bars. (see photo) The tighter curved one ran the cable along the front of the bars. The straighter channel ran the cable to the rear of the bars. I switched it to run the cable to the rear of the bars and wah lah! Ten gears smoothly shifted. I heard harp music. Pretty blue Disney birdies sang and circled overhead. I thought I saw Fausto Coppi’s image on a shop rag. A miracle! If not, at the very least, maybe just maybe, a blessing from the Madonna del Ghisallo.


Mark said...

Ditto for anyone running the new Ultegra 6700 shifters.
use the back side of your bars for running the housing and ride-on or similar slick cables.

Joe Biker said...

Those ride on cables rock me. Had 'em when I first got the Red.