12 February 2009

Making life easier: VAR tire lever

Gotta tire that is really tough to get on the rim? I mean, really tough. Blood, sweat, tears, and cursing, tough. Well, the VAR tire lever can come to your rescue.

The VAR tire lever (aka: bead jack) is one of those tools that isn't truly necessary, but it can help make life a bit easier. The VAR lever helps you pry that last stubborn bit of tire on while reducing the likelihood that you'll pinch the tube. It works by placing the forked end of the lever on the rim opposite of the remaining bit of tire that you need to pry on, then the hooked end of the lever under the stubborn edge of the tire. Pull the lever back to lift the bead up onto the rim -- that's all there is to it. It's the easiest way to mount a stubborn tire.

It's also small and light enough (about 60g) to be easily carried on the road in your tool kit.

So how do you get one? Um. Yeah, it's getting a bit tough to find the VAR tire lever these days. The only shop I'm aware of that keeps them in stock is
North Road Bicycle in Yanceyville, NC. Give 'em a call at (800) 321-5511

Bike Tools Etc. also lists the VAR tool(Item #VR-425C) in their catalog, and it looks like they have them back in stock.

08 February 2009

Salisbury 200k

Days like this don't come around in February all that often. As the week progressed, the weather forecast for Saturday kept improving. By Saturday morning, the wake up temp was hovering around freezing with a high of about 70 forecast and clear, sunny skies.

It was great to see many of the usual suspects at the ride start along with a crop of new faces. It was a wonderful day in the saddle. Great weather and great company.

RBA Tony put together a challenging, yet scenic

About 10 miles in, I missed a shift on the first steep hill and *POW* my chain broke.
This is the second weekend ride in a row where I've had a mechanical failure -- hope this doesn't become a trend. Buddies, Mike D., Wes, and Joe Ray, stopped with me and we were back on the road and in hot pursuit of the lead group.

After the first control, I decided to ease up and wait for the next group to come along. We had a hearty little group consisting of Jay, Dean, Vance, and Glenn. We stayed together for the rest of the day, finishing up just after dark.

I thoroughly enjoyed the route. It was certainly challenging, with plenty of climbing, but I felt great at the finish. I'm already looking forward to next month's Brevet!

03 February 2009

Tout en p├ędalant

This past Sunday was a glorious day to ride in central North Carolina. Buddies Geof, Dave and I rolled out around 9:30 to temps in the upper 30's and it was warming up quickly from there with temps topping out in the low 60's!

We hit a brief snag at the start when Dave realized he had the wrong shoes for pedals on his bike. No worries, Geof has at least one set of every clipless pedal system made in the last 30 years. A quick pedal swap and we were on the road.

Maybe 5 miles into the ride, we rolled away from a stop light and I couldn't clip into my left pedal. The spring in my left Egg Beater broke -- this is the second time I've had this happen. The first time I was 10 miles from the finish of a 200k Permanent. On that ride, I was riding a pair of Mallets so I just limped on back home, which worked out OK since they have a large platform. Little different story with the Egg Beaters.

I'd thought about this type of failure after the first spring broke. The "fix" was easy. I took off my left shoe and placed it on top of the pedal. Then pinched the bottom wings of the Egg Beater together and secured with a couple of zip ties. For the remainder of the ride (40 miles) I had to remember to unclip on the right and if I wanted to dismount, I needed to take my left shoe off. Inconvenient, but it beats having to cut the ride short or walk back home. Here's a couple shots of the "fix":

I really like Crank Bros. pedals, however, the failure rate isn't winning my heart over. At least I know I can rig them up good enough to get home. The zip ties held up good enough for some reasonably hard climbing out of the saddle and at least 40 miles of riding. I even managed to unclip and clip in several times without snapping the zip ties!

I unclip on the left most frequently since I always put my left foot down at stops -- which is why I guess the left spring fails more frequently.

Granted, I've been riding this set of Egg Beaters for about 18+ months and probably 4000+ miles -- not to mention they are the cheapest set of pedals Crank Bros. makes. According to the specs on their website, it looks like the higher end pedals use a stainless steel spring -- hopefully this is significantly better than the spring in the el-cheapo pedals...