Sunday, 8 April 2012

Chain Guards, not pretty but effective

Given a relaxing Easter Sunday I was reading a few comments on various hot cycling blogs on the subject of chain wear and replacement (Yes I know...I really should try to get out more!). I have been riding my Pash for over 2 years in all weathers and through the long cold winter with the same chain, yet despite my concern that it must be wearing out and my best efforts to bugger the thing up, it refuses to die. This is the case despite a mileage during that time of at least 14,000 miles. Given all of that, the little steel darling has hardly elongated it a jot and my handy Birzmann Chain Checker still indicates I have not yet even reached the 75% wear limit upon which I normally change the chain. 

When I look at other websites this seems somewhat extraordinary! Despite all and sundry rabbiting on about Chain Stretch bicycle chains don't actually stretch like a piece of rubber. What happens is that the chain's pins actually go through a process of elongation over time, and taken across the whole length of the chain this leads to the chain getting slightly longer in length.

Now the hirsute Sheldon Brown, cycling God and guru in chief to the two wheeled cognoscenti, seems to be a bit of a fan of the chain guard, but even his best efforts at preserving his drivetrain seems to have fallen short of my story. Why should this be? Why does this chain of mine appear to go on and on...especially since I have forsaken the hairy north Americans advice and gone for synthetic motor oil as my lubricant of choice. This last admission is seen as an absolute NO-NO by his beardfulness....the very heresy of it makes me quake to think what the old Colonial's reaction should be if he ever gets wind of my foolishness. However I have a theory about lubricants, when in doubt try it out....given the millions spent by the motor industry to improve performance of engines and the loving care and attention lavished on the top marques surely they would not put anything in the heart of their automotive beasts that might cause it damage? 

My considered view is that synthetic motor oils are probably a damned sight better made than any rubbish pitched at us as specifically made for the bicycle...and a damn site cheaper! Synthetic oils are made to operate in extremes of temperature & engineered to deliver far superior mechanical and chemical effectiveness than conventional mineral oils.  In addition, they seek to lubricate far more complex drivetrains in an environment far tougher than any bicycle will encounter.

I actually think that not over molly coddling ones bicycle is the heart of the matter. Every three or four months I remove the chain case and use an old sock to run over the links as I wind the pedals round by hand. I then use a little, and I mean a little, synthetic motor oil on the chain and the Bobs is your uncle or Charlie is your aunt. This is the only maintenance my chain gets. To get any crud off the rear cog and the chain wheel I do almost the the same thing with another sock, disposing of said socks afterwards. This hardly seems much of an effort, and a damn site easier than the sort of stuff advocated by many North American websites that seem to have an overly complex view of bicycle maintenance urging us to take chain the off, bathe it in a balm of special chain cleaner (retailing at $87,000 dollars a bottle!), and then using Uncle Bobs Special Velo specific, lavender-scented, uber-organic, environmentally-friendly, whale-blubber-enriched, non-toxic chain-lube.... replace.

Perhaps the secret to the longevity of my chain is the fact that the old Pash is a beast that does its damnedest to keep the elements off the chain through the application of a simple but effective method...namely the chain guard. So if I get over 14,000 miles abusing the old drivetrain in my cavalier fashion....perhaps one of the worried cycling elite who always appear to be somewhat horrified that I treat my mount with such irreverence might reach the giddy heights of 24,000 before needing a replacement. Just one more reason to go for hub gears, get a real bicycle and dump the modern for a traditional and common sense alternative.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Accidental encounters of an Eastern nature

Quite what a Japanese Taxi driver was doing, driving a French made Taxi cab in an English town, I am not quite certain? Suffice to say his skills of observation were somewhat lacking, as were his collision avoidance skills, but what the blighter had was manners.....damn fine manners...... worthy of the best of British.

I refer of course to a sad turn of events which in part has kept me from my gentle readers and saw both myself and the faithful old Pash being knocked over by said nipponese bounder at the entrance to a seaside Tescos. Dashed if I wasn't poleaxed, sent west by the rather more than a glancing blow of a ferocious side swipe as the little Jap Chap swung his vehicle into my path desperately seeking to pick up an old bint hailing for all she was worth!

The really impressive thing was that although I saw it coming, as I span up into the air a rather rarified calm came over me, and once deposited on the ground I was rather more astonished that annoyed. Our Rising Sun protagonist was by my side quicker that you could say "samurai sword", bowing low and proffering me a hand. Lifting me up he proceeded to dust me down uttering a "Hawwwww......apowogies, my humbrul apowogies , so sowwy, so sowwy.....I hope no damage done done.....apowogies"....he then helped me pick up the Pash....pedal askew, handle bars twisted.....and bowing low once again shook my hand and quit the scene with his new female spinster fare firmly deposited in the back seat?

I really had no idea what hit me, and like the English man I am, I felt only the sort of reluctant modestly uttered shame that a misfortune not of ones own making can engender in an English male. A number of tender souls managed to rush to my aid and offered their support but I really was far healthier than anyone who had been sent over the top of their handlebars had any right to be.  I remember feeling a tad giddy and the pain in my knee where the Hackney Carriage had first struck me took on a throbbing sensation of rather alarming quality, but other than that, I felt reasonably normal.

I remember thinking clearly that darkness had played its part in the collision. It was very dark, yellow sodium "eco-bloody-friendly" street lamps making little difference to the gloom, and I had had a couple of close shaves the day before in similarly darkened circumstances. That had made it clear to me that poor light is a threat to the cyclist almost as much as it is to myopic English Batsmen, despite the fact that I have four separate illumination systems on the old Pash, all four being of a incongruous modern stamp on so fine a vintage machine.

In a rather odd moment of lucidity I managed to look up to see a veritable oriental angel standing over me, and despite the darkness of the day, & the strangeness of my recent encounter with the cab, I could not help but notice the shapeliness of her stockinged legs and the whiteness and diaphanous nature of her skimpy panties beneath her dress.

Of course being the type of jolly throwback that I am, stiff upper whatsit (and an increasingly stiff upper "whatsit" given the view, despite the proximity of unhappy circumstance) I put on my best Blitz spirit and laughed the whole thing off. She gazed down upon me sympathetically and in a charmingly genteel manner offered me a refuge in her flat nearby.

Suffice to say having taken the offer up with gusto, she seemed impressed with the "carry on regardless spirit" displayed by yours truly and to her enormous credit she managed to make considerable acrobatic effort to ensure that she reached high up into her cabinet to obtain a glass exposing once more the slight lace covering beneath her flowered skirt. Bravo thought I and drank down with gusto the orange juice she had kindly poured me hoping to sample both sweet and sour during the course of the evening ahead. It should be enough to say that it was not only my wounded knee that enjoyed the gentle and tender ministering's of my new found oriental Florence Nightingale.

During a rather pleasant sustained romp I discovered that if Japan had caused the injury, it was to South Korea that I owed my rescue, which just goes to show that one should never look adversity in the eye without a smile.....I may have been sent west for a moment but was dragged back east to my eternal gratitude and pleasure!