Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Revelate frame bag !

When I became interested in doing some overnight cycle tours for 2013, I decided to give bike packing a go as in the past on long tours I have used traditional rack and pannier bag systems , but this time I am using my 2013 Kona Unit single speed 29er with a NZ designed Freeload rack ( man those kiwis are smart ) and a Porcelain  Rocket - Mission control handle bar set up ( mainly for keeping my sleeping bag dry ) and today my final piece of bike packing kit arrived which is a Revelate frame bag, this particular bag is made for the Salsa El Mariachi frame and the S size fits my Kona 16 inch frame perfect as you can see in the photos below. At present its main duty is to carry my 110cm Abus lock, bike pump and tool kit plus my Ground Effect wet weather kit - Jacket and pants so like the good boy scout I am prepared for anything on a daily basis . I am very impressed with the Revelate frame bag as its the perfect size for my frame and looks very well made, so now I am looking forward to some warmer weather so I can do a few local overnight bike packing trips before heading away on a week long trip near the end of the year .

Monday, 25 March 2013

The switch zee tube !

Well I guess you are wondering what the heck is a switch zee tube ?. First you need to know that most likely 70 % of Japanese ride a style of bicycle that is called a Mama Chari - basically its a very cheap form of standard roadster in a ladies loop style frame that even macho school boys in baseball teams ride to school, suited salary men and of course mothers carrying kids to school or bringing home the shopping . Almost all of them are sold at Dept stores or home centers by the thousands for often less than 10000 yen a piece !. It would be unfair on makers like Panasonic or Bridgestone to say all Mama Charis are junk as the two previous listed brands make some good quality style Mama Charis that use quality components.  But mostly they are extremely heavy, the use the lowest grade of steel tube available Hi - -ten and the 1st time I had to lift one up into my work stand I thought it was made out of solid steel  rather than tubing. The rear end of the standard Mama Chari can have a variety of extra attachments such as double rear mounted kick stand, bolt on derailleur , derailleur guard, rear rack stays & fender stays - that 5 separate items of which 4 of them per side have to be removed just to take the rear wheel out. Oops I forgot you have to disconnect the drum brake fittings as well . So as you can imagine taking the rear wheel out of one to fix a puncture is a right pain in the ass to say the least, in fact it is such a hassle that the old guys you run the bicycle shops that fix this type of bicycle do not remove the rear wheel to fix a flat, rather they fully deflate the tyre and just pull it out a bit at a time with a bucket of water handy to find the hole. Which in reality is a bad way to fix a tyre because you can not fully inspect the rim nor the inside of the tyre well with it still attached to the bike.

So pictured below is the crappiest brand of Mama Chari ever to leave a factory in China  - Switch , if someone does offer you one of these for free ride it to the nearest high cliff and toss it as far as you can , certainly do not under any circumstances pay money for one as you are better off walking !

The first time I saw the Switch Zee tube I was dumbfounded to say the least, over the years of fixing bicycles I have fixed plenty of punctures and re fitted new tubes but the first time I worked on a Switch Mama Chari, I could not believe what I was seeing. The tube that was fitted in today's case was 27 x 1 - 3/8 which is in fact the correct size for the rim and tyre. The zee tube was marked Panaracer - made in Japan but it was considerably longer than the same size tube also from Panaracer that I fitted back into the tyre ?. So are the workers at the Switch factory in China using fake Panaracer tubes , we will most likely never know as I certainly have no intention of trying to locate their factory if I did it would be from above in a B-52 bomber ! . The tube is a good 150cm longer than needed and because of this the skilled bicycle assembly staff at the Switch factory somewhere in China decided that the best way to fit this extra long tube into the wheel was to fold it back on itself to what I now call the Zee tube.  I now present to you Ladies & Gentleman the famous Switch Zee tube !  

So as you can assume it does not take long for the new owner of a Switch to get a puncture and have to visit the local bicycle shop. Most Switch owners take the bike to the nearest bicycle store rather than back to the shop where it was purchased and complain , if they did the stores that sell these pieces of junk would be doing a lot of free repairs as it is certainly not the customers fault. If you are in Japan and would like to easily win a bet , download this photo and go to to your nearest Switch dealer and make a bet with the bicycle sales staff that any Switch banded bicycle they pick will have a zee tube like the one pictured above . I have seen 30 Switch banded bicycles all with zee tubes so I am sure it would be a safe bet to make !


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Sturmey Archer S3X with a freewheel !

A little while back I built up a rather nice full custom 3 speed for one of my customers, the frame used was a Surly Cross Check in size 42cm - the smallest frame size they make. Surly frames are quite popular for custom builds here in Japan as they are not so expensive and available in a vast range of sizes to suit hobbits or NBA pro basket ball players !.  The customer wanted a classic looking town bike in black with a 3 speed hub, the standard 3 speed hubs do not come in black but Sturmeys S3X fixed gear hub does, although this hub is manly designed for fixed gear applications a standard single speed free wheel screws straight on without any problems at all. I knew this would work from reading the Sturmey Archer catalog even though the Japanese distributor assured me it was not possible.

Anyhow the frame rear spacing on the cross check is 132.5 mm to accommodate either road or MTB hubs, but with a few washers to space the axle out the S3X fitted up rather well and with the bar mounted thumb shifter the operation is very smooth.

 I routed gear the cable down to the right hand braze on , under the BB and straight to the chain stay braze on where I used my preferred method of holding the gear cable in place. Cut a section of gear cable outer , I always use Jag wire at the shop as its good quality and comes in a wide range of colors . The section of cable outer needs to be about the same length of the black plastic or metal cable end cap and should slide into the braze on very easily. This alone would not work and with riding would only work its way loose causing the cable to wear against the braze on. But with a little Kiwi ingenuity I purchased a can of Mellow Yellow ( Yes you can still buy this soft drink here in Japan over the summer ) and because it is a soft alloy can you can easily cut it with a pair of scissors and use a very small section of the alloy as a spacer to hold the cable end cap tightly in place. I have used this method now on 3 occasions for Sturmey archer builds without any trouble as if you are very careful you cannot see the alloy tin spacer and the end cap with the section of outer will stay tightly in place and allow the cable to slide easy when the gear is operated. Pictured below is the cable end cap and the Sturmey archer toggle chain fitting

So if you are wanting a colored hub on your 3 speed ,you can indeed use the S3X fixed hub with a standard free wheel. The hub comes in several colors and matching front hubs are also available as well. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Single speed MTB crank sets - mechanics rant !

Just recently I up graded my stock crank set that came with the 2013 Kona Unit - why you ask ?. Well as a bicycle mechanic I was fed up with the left crank arm coming loose after a 20 min commute into the city  plus there was no way I would have ridden any distance on a crank set that continually works itself loose every day. The crank set that came on the bike uses the now popular style of external BB with an alloy crank bolt that provides the pressure to push the left hand crank arm onto the bearing face , this system only uses a 5mm allen bolt key for adjustment on the main crank bolt plus it has two opposing 5 mm crank bolts which are supposed to lock the crank arm in place. Sounds good , sorry but even though the system sounds like it should hold the cranks on tightly without any trouble it does not !. The main thing missing from the design is the stopper plate which is a Shimano design, the stopper plates main use is to firmly hold the opposing 5 mm allen bolt in position to stop it moving and it does this job very well. The stopper plate system in employed on many higher grade road and MTB crank sets and works very well. You can see the stopper plate in the Shimamo tech document pictured below.

The crank set I purchased is the new 2013 Shimano Zee crank set which has been designed for downhill racing and general MTB single speed applications where you need a good solid crank set in 104 BCD but do not require the added cost of a higher grade such as Shimano Saint etc. It uses the same system as the higher grade with a more basic finish. And is available for 68mm & 73mm BB shell diameters . The Shimano Zee crankset that I have recently fitted to my Kona unit is the same as the crank set pictured below

Of course I was considering changing the BB to a trad square taper and fitting either an older Shimano or Race face crank set or going nuts and ordering a nice made in the USA - White Industries or Paul Components crank set , but as I am not racing this bike I could not justify the added expense of a made in the USA crank set when the above Shimano crank set will do the job perfectly for a reasonable price. 

 I did receive some tech advice from the manufacturer of my old crank set , but putting a bit of loctite on the offending alloy bolt is not the best solution when that particular model crank set has been widely causing problems now for several years and is still fitted to some complete bicycles. 

So what brand of crank set did I recently throw into my rubbish bin at work along with all the rusty chains, clusters and old tyres - here is a clue to the manufacturers name ! 

Fucking   Shit   Accessories        

Monday, 11 March 2013

NJS racing frames for sale

Just yesterday one of my customers who is a professional track racer brought into my shop 3 of his used NJS racing frames. These frames were purchased over 10 years ago but only raced for a maximum of 2 years or so , all of them are in fantastic condition with NJS grade headsets and bottom brackets . All the frames are 50cm center to top and would make great super light weight track bikes or run them with brakes on the road as a single speed. I can supply Dia Compe brakes for this type of frame if required .At present they are for sale in Furumachi Bicycle but if anyone is interested they could be shipped overseas . The frames are all hand made here in Japan by well respected NJS frame builders . If you are interested contact me for more information on each frame

The frames shown in the photo below are from the following builders  Reminton, Uno pista, Kiyo Miyazawa