I’m a conservative…when it comes to bike parts

March 1, 2021

Here’s a sampling of my broken bike parts.

UPDATE (March 15): Today’s cranks continue to fail. Check out Oz Cycle for an informative in-depth look at what’s causing them to fail. Shimano 105 has the best chance for a long life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkEkQV-zK0s&ab_channel=ozcycle

I’m conservative when it comes to buying and using bike components. I don’t buy the lightest and most expensive. You’re asking for trouble, as in a catastrophic component failure.

I’ve written about this topic on numerous occasions, but it’s always worth reminding everyone that bike parts fail! And when they do the result can be injury.

There was a guy named Prado that had a website dedicated to failed bike parts. He had plenty of photos showing all kinds of parts, many of them well known brands.

The industry doesn’t like to talk about it, for good reason. There is inherent risk in everything we do and bike riding is no exception.

As long as you buy a name brand and stay away from the exotic lightweight parts, you reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

The other important thing to consider is age. The older a bike part is — in miles ridden — the greater chance it will fail. It’s a good idea to replace old parts, even if they look good.

I have a laundry list of failed parts. Ones I can remember:

Frame. Frames will fail with continued use, especially if they’re subject to some kind of trauma, like a crash. It doesn’t matter what material it is. Steel is the strongest material and most likely to give some hint of impending failure: My opinion. I’ve broken my frames multiple times: fork, top tube, down tube. One incident was not accident-related, but two failures were.

Cranks. They’re under a lot of stress and over time they could fail. I’ve seen and heard of failures along the crank arm and at the pedal eye. When a crank fails, it can cause a nasty fall. I’ve broken two cranks, both times hitting my head, one time without a helmet.

Handlebar. I have a friend who used a lightweight handlebar that failed while riding on Page Mill Road. He was badly hurt. I’ve never had a failure, but if you have a 20-year-old alloy handlebar with lots of miles, replace it now.

Stem. I’ve heard of stem failures, but I’ve never had an issue.

Seatpost. There’s a recent comment (Super Record seatpost) regarding seatpost failures. It happens and it can lead to a serious injury. I had one seatpost failure, an Avocet with a two-bolt design. The seatpost had a fatal flaw — toothpicks for bolts. Fortunately it wasn’t a catastrophic failure, so I could ride home in discomfort.

Spokes. They break, especially on the freewheel/freehub side where there’s more tension. It’s not usually an issue if you have 32 or 36 spokes. I’m not sure what that means for hydraulic brakes, probably not an issue. For rim brakes, open the quick release lever to reduce rim/brake pad contact. I don’t know what happens when a spoke in a 16-spoke wheel fails. I’ve read about carbon fiber spokes exploding and the wheel disintegrating. Crash. I’ve broken at least ten spokes, never a problem.

Hub. Hubs can break at the spoke hole. I once re-spoked a wheel and made the dumb mistake of laying the spokes down in such a way that they did not line up with the previous indentations. The hub tore out two spokes due to my stupidity while riding down Metcalf Road.

Freewheel/Freehub. The inner workings can fail, especially bearings. I’ve had this happen.

Bottom bracket axle. They can fail, although the newer BBs with outboard bearings are much stronger today.

Hub axle. The 6-speed Campagnolo axles were notorious for failing after a few years use. Today’s hubs have outboard bearings and that means less axle overhang. I suppose it can still happen to hub axles ridden too many miles.

Headset. I had a headset disintegrate, the upper cup. Bearings also fail.

Chain. I know lots of people who have broken chains. It has never happened to me.

Brakes. I suppose a brake arm can fail, or a hydraulic brake, but more likely it will be a brake cable. With constant stress cables fail. It has happened to me on several occasions, always the front cable, of course. I crashed my bike as a result of the failure on one occasion, ruining a fork and crimping the downtube and toptube. Replace your front cable every few years, if you ride a lot of miles.

Shifters. Today’s complicated brake shifters are prone to component failure. Many small parts can break with use. It happened to me. Shift cables can fail from repeated use. Replace them once in a while.

Saddle. I imagine saddle rails can break, although it has never happened to me. A lot depends on your weight.

Tires. This is obvious, but these days because I have so few flats, I have to remind myself to check for tire wear. Replace tires when they start to look worn. Casings can tear, and that’s not good.

It’s always a good idea to check your bike from time to time. Look for cracks using a magnifying glass. Replace old parts.

The airlines industry is known for replacing vital parts on a regular schedule, and they retire planes after so many years. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Campagnolo Super Record seatpost has a lifespan

February 24, 2021

An adjustable ratchet gives a good position/fit. for tightening down the Super Record seatpost.

For a while there I thought my Campagnolo Super Record seatpost (vintage 1983-84) would outlive me, but now I’m not so sure.

There’s a crack on the lower left seat clamp, a telltale sign that this seatpost is on its way to the trash heap.

Age and miles have caught up to my seatpost. This crack is a sure sign.

My saddle started slipping backwards on rides. I thought I had tightened the seatpost’s 13mm bolt sufficiently, but apparently not.

After trying a piece of innertube to stop the creep (epic fail), I abandoned that idea and used an adjustable-head ratchet/socket wrench and a quality socket to clamp down even tighter. Now the seat’s not moving during my rides, but the crack tells me it’s not going to last. (I need to find out how much torque I applied.)

I researched the subject and found other cyclists who had the same issue.

My seatpost has about 150,000 miles. It has been all over the world and worked flawlessly until now. The single bolt design makes saddle adjustment a cinch. The bottom saddle clamp/top seatpost touch points are smooth. I’ve noticed that some seatposts have ridges, which may reduce slippage.

Jobst Brandt never thought much of the single-bolt seatpost design. He favored the Nuovo Record two-bolt steel seatpost. He may have known that the Super Record seatpost was cast alloy, including the threads that hold the steel bolt.

I learned that the alloy threads can “wear out,” especially if the bolt isn’t greased. There’s an interesting way to “fix” this by using a helicoil. Search on YouTube to find out more about the process that adds a steel insert into an alloy thread. It’s fascinating.

For my needs it would be overkill to attempt this machining trickery. I’d just as soon buy a new seatpost. After all, 38 years isn’t too shabby for a bike part lifespan.

More about the Super Record seatpost: Cycling Obsession, Le Cycleur

Now this is an unspoiled view

February 17, 2021

I want to remember my Jobst Rides this way, an unspoiled view of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Display at full size, then download and use as a background image in dual-monitor mode for best effect.

Visit Mount Hamilton and enjoy the view

February 16, 2021

You could enjoy the view until a year or so ago, but now there’s so much illegal dumping taking place, you have to climb higher and higher to avoid the trash.

The only bright spot on an otherwise dreary day was Caltrans crews improving road culverts above Joseph D. Grant County Park.

Jobst Brandt used to complain non-stop about the lack of culvert maintenance on Alpine Road, and others. We saw the results of such neglect on that road.

Summit before descent to Grant Ranch Park. Used to be a nice view.

Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner.

Seriously, what were they thinking? Drive five miles up a winding road just to dump home-improvement debris?

They’re fixing the culverts. How about picking up the trash?

Homeless camps and driving ranges expose a widening gap

February 13, 2021

Good news for golfers. There’s a new driving range in the works.

There’s something wrong with our priorities when one minute you’re riding past sprawling homeless camps like something out of the Great Depression and the next minute you’re looking at a shiny new driving range that costs millions of dollar to build. It’s all here for your entertainment — in Alviso.

Yesterday I rode my usual route on San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail going north. Just before Walsh Avenue I found yet another homeless tent and the usual accompanying pile of junk surrounding it. It sprang up overnight. (He has relocated his tent and stuff close to the Caltrain tracks. Feb. 24: He’s gone.)

It took six months for the Santa Clara Valley Water District to remove another camp a mile south of Levi’s stadium. There’s a shantytown at Highway 237 and Guadalupe River, and that’s just to name a few. Downtown San Jose has hundreds of homeless camps.

I pine for the days when all we had was a tent city on Coyote Creek in south San Jose.

The new driving range replaces an old one on the same site. I don’t know if the original owner sold the land or what, but it doesn’t matter. The facility itself isn’t the problem. It’s just emblematic of where our priorities lie.

The wealthy are living it up, while the poor get poorer. The stock market has made a few people wealthy during this pandemic. How is that? I’m not sure, but there’s something wrong here.

There’s no denying we have a problem, but do you see anybody trying to fix it? I’ve complained and so have many others. All we see is court rulings that protect the rights of the homeless.

Homelessness is always going to be here, but it shouldn’t be so bad that it’s no longer safe to go for a walk or a bike ride. Cars are being smashed into so often that the police don’t even respond. Junkies will do anything for their next fix, and most of them are homeless.

As long as we continue building extravagant entertainment centers and burying our heads in the sand over a disaster unfolding without lifting a finger to address it, we’ll get what’s coming to us.

What irks me most is water departments that will arrest well-intentioned citizens trying to clear our waterways, and fine them, but ignore the homeless camps.

To address the problem we need strike teams representing an array of public agencies (police, social services, cleaning crews) dedicated to immediately going after new homeless camps.

Meanwhile, the main camps need to be shut down and the people who live there relocated to FEMA like housing where they can be evaluated and triaged. Some will go to jail, some will receive mental care, and some will receive drug treatment. Some will even turn their lives around. And a few will return to being homeless.

Will it happen? Or better, what will it take to make it happen?

Update: According to the San Jose Mercury News (2-16-2021) the city of San Jose will add housing and employ homeless to clean Guadalupe River. They currently pay them by the bag for trash. Covid 19 has complicated helping the homeless.

Homeless camp at 237 and Guadalupe River after a fire.

New Almaden a step back in time

February 10, 2021

Almaden Reservoir with plenty of the wet stuff.

New Almaden feels like a town living in the 1800s. Everything is old, there aren’t any stores to speak of, and historical landmarks are everywhere. It’s also a bike ride away from home.

I made my way over to Leigh Avenue, easily the best north-south road to take when going to New Almaden. The road is wide, with a bike lane and not so much traffic compared to other roads nearby.

Be sure to take Belwood Gateway/Almond Blossom Lane in preference to Blossom Hill Road. It’s much more pleasant.

After the Camden Avenue climb, take Trinidad Drive to Almaden Expressway. If you’re dedicated to avoiding the expressway, take Glenview Drive/Rajkovich Way/Calcatera Drive/Queensbridge Way/Foxhurst Way to Almaden Road.

New Almaden had its boom times in the late 1800s with the Guadalupe Quicksilver Mine, one of the world’s largest smelters that processed cinnabar ore to yield mercury, which was necessary for gold processing. You can learn more about the mines at the Casa Grande museum/building in New Almaden. You can’t miss it. And don’t miss a visit. Well worth your time.

Historic Hacienda Hotel is also home of La Foret, fine dining in New Almaden.

Mountain bikers like to ride the dirt roads of Almaden Quicksilver County Park (check out the new bathrooms and fountain).

On my road bike I headed to Almaden Reservoir. It looks like it has a fair amount of water after recent rains in the nearby mountains. This stretch of road is one of my favorites, but it doesn’t go on for long. At Hicks Road you can go right to make a loop, but it’s a steep climb with sections of 16 percent that will get the blood flowing.

Vichy Spring yielded naturally carbonated water in 1882. Bottling failed to retain the bubbles. Sales went flat.

Going straight on Los Alamitos leads to a dead end, but not really. Back in the mid ’80s Jobst Brandt and a friend rode down from Loma Prieta Road. It was a classic Jobst Ride, with some walking and, perhaps, a little rappelling. I believe it. People are living off the road today, so it’s not advisable.

But I digress. There’s a road you should ride at least once when visiting New Almaden. Bertram Road parallels Almaden Road through town, but it’s on the other side of Alamitos Creek. This road reminds me of another road just like it — Redwood Drive in La Honda.

At the intersection of Bertram and Almaden Road you’ll find two historical markers.

Beavers make their move — again

February 6, 2021

An infestation of beavers is cutting down trees on the Guadalupe River at a frightening rate.

In 2007 the beavers tried to dam Los Gatos Creek and rob us of our water. They struck again in downtown San Jose on the Guadalupe River in 2010, and now they’re at it near the San Jose airport.

Only this time they’re up to something devious, sinister, unexpected. They’re mowing down trees next to the recreation path. Their intentions have yet to be revealed, but you can bet it’s nefarious.

The beavers might be planning an attack on the airport. My suspicion is that they’re going to drag all those logs onto the runway and prevent planes from landing. I wouldn’t put it past them.

I’ve been searching online for clues. Somewhere out there in the dark Web there’s a tribe of beavers plotting our overthrow, scheming and searching for ways to take away our freedoms.

Never trust a beaver. They have big front teeth, not unlike those of Bugs Bunny. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bugs is in on it.

Both critters have something in common. They like to gnaw. Right now they’re probably out on Guadalupe River gnawing, chewing into more trees so they can block the water, form a dam and flood out Alviso. They’ve got a lot of options to make our lives miserable.

Beavers tried to dam Los Gatos Creek near Alma Bridge Road and deprive us of water. They failed.

Looking back: Alpine Road in 1984

February 3, 2021

Alpine Road in 1984 before its makeover.

Winter rains did a number on Alpine Road east in the early 1980s. Here’s one where the road is looking rough in November. From left: Dave McLaughlin, Jim Westby, Bill Robertson, Sterling McBride.

Jobst Brandt took us up Alpine down to Portola Redwoods State Park, Haul Road south, up to Gate 10, Butano Ridge Trail, down to Pescadero Road, up Alpine and down Page Mill Road.

Alpine Road West 1990


Nice fog bank from Alpine Road looking south in May 1990.

Nice view of the fog in May 1990.

Everything fit to print in Bay Area Bike Rides

January 27, 2021

Here’s a hefty paperback for those interested in San Francisco Bay Area cycling.

You’re looking at the only print copy of A Decade of Bay Area Bike Rides in the known universe (six now).

I finally got around to compiling an index and formatting the Kindle version, which came out a year ago. That version has a different cover.

Inside the 556-page book you’ll find just about all of my ramblings from 2009-2019. Tours, equipment, politics, racing, commuting, repairs, on and on.

The photos are black and white. Color would be cost-prohibitive, and the pics are small anyway. Print quality is nothing to brag about.

Still for a mere $15, you now have something to read and help you doze off at night after a long ride. Thanks to Amazon for one-off printing.

Old Calaveras Road — one and done

January 13, 2021

Beautifully restored adobe house on Piedmont Road. Worth a visit.

Today’s ride to Calaveras Reservoir brought back memories and a discovery of something old turned into something new (restored), to be cherished for years to come.

I’m talking about the Milpitas Adobe House, built in 1835, tucked away in a cul-de-sac near Piedmont Road and Calaveras Road.

I started riding the Mt. Hamilton loop to Livermore in 1980, leaving from Milpitas. Jobst Brandt, our tour guide, knew all the places of interest, so he never failed to lead us past the old, dilapidated adobe on an equally old Piedmont Road.

Sadly, Old Piedmont Road didn’t make it, but the adobe did, thanks to efforts by concerned citizens and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority.

Old Piedmont Road fell victim to modernization and winter rains from 1982-83. I have no written record, so I’m relying on memory. A large slide forced the road to close, so we started using the new Piedmont Road. Sections of the old, abandoned road are still visible south of the adobe, and other sections still in use farther on.

Riders enjoy car-free riding on Calaveras Road.

I believe the old road took up some of the new Piedmont before it started uphill on the east slope. Jobst liked avoiding cars, so we took the old road until its demise.

But I digress. I wanted to check out Old Calaveras Road. In all my years or riding, I have never been on it.

For good reason, as I learned today. Old Calaveras Road starts at Evans Road and immediately I knew that this would be my last time. There is a section of 20-23 percent. It doesn’t go for long, but the climbing higher up isn’t easy either.

The good news is that there isn’t any traffic, as there is on Calaveras Road on a weekday morning. Plenty of it, moving fast.

Calaveras Reservoir finished. It welcomes Smith Creek and Isabel Creek runoff.

The payoff is a view of Spring Valley Golf Course and short descent. Nice if you like golf.

Traffic dissipated after turning left on Calaveras Road at Felter Road, and I could enjoy the views on a day drenched in sunshine.

I checked out the Calaveras Reservoir retrofit, finished after God only knows how many years and constant road closures.

Imagine what it must have looked like when this valley was farmland and a small community. Not a bad place to settle down.

I recalled all those rides around Mt. Hamilton and the final grind from Sunol to the Calaveras Road summit. In the early days we had some spirited chases. In the later years, not so much. Today it’s an achievement just to go on a ride.