Tripped up by tech, I didn’t get to the trails until noon. It was one of those times when everything seems to align to prevent the ride from starting. While putting the newly rendered C. Xavier Hilsen away on Friday afternoon, something felt loose. As I moved the bike, there was a “clunk” which could be felt through the frame. Even to the maintanence-averse, this is a very bad sign. It must always be honored.
Slowing down a bit, but without the time to get all greasy again, I picked up the bicycle and gave it a little shake. Nothing noticeable. Setting the wheels back down, I felt it again. Probably a hub issue. Sure enough, there was a goodly amount of side play in the rear wheel. Flipped open the quick-release and made sure everything was set correctly in the dropouts. Even after carefully securing the QR again, it was loose.
Didn’t have enough time Saturday to address the issue, so it became a pre-ride task for Sunday morning. So, before heading out, I wrangled the Hilsen and set of cone wrenches tools to the backyard and prodded a little more specifically. The wheel moved side to side in a great clunky manner. It was a little disturbing, as I don’t usually mis-set the cones quite so flagrantly. Before removing the wheel, I gave the cogset a little tweak by hand. Sure enough, there was a noticeable amount of play. Freehub.
Not a particularly difficult fix, but annoying because it was bitter fruit from the Shortcut Tree.
Y’see, the rear wheel I was now about to dig into had been lying around unused for a while. The last time that it had rolled in all its glory, the wheel had been attached to the Poprad during it’s final ride. There had been the intention of migrating it to a new frame, and cleaning everything up before doing that, but it just didn’t play out that way. So the wheel sat until the head-slap moment last week when I thought about respacing it for the Hilsen.
Those of you keeping score at home will realize that was a downtime of approximately two years.
Now, things weren’t too nasty. When I pulled the axle out of the hub, there was enough grease left to hold the bearings. And it was more grey than black, so it wasn’t as if I’d done something really stupid. Just ignored the basic principle that if you are in an ugly/greasy section of the bike, you take the opportunity to clean and regrease. In my haste to get the wheel working, I’d simply spooned in a little fresh lithium grease and dropped the axle back through without nudging the bearings. My feeling of mild smugness should have stood as a warning to me.
Since there was little chance of jamming The Largest Allen Wrench I Own into the freehub and torquing it down without jostling at least one ball bearing loose, the task list distilled itself. I went back to the tool box for the rest of what I’d need and pulled the greasy-bits-and-easily-lost items tray out of the garage.
Removed the wheel, tucked the frame safely out of the way on the wood pile, cracked the non-drive cone set, spun off the spacers and the dust-shield/cone assembly, then slid the axle out the other side. By this time I was carefully holding the hub over the tray, but none of the bearings wanted to drop of their own accord. So, I plucked out the trusty, nasty old, rounded-off straight blade screwdriver that I keep in the tool box for such occasions. Got a little antsy as I flicked them through the shaft in the hub and managed - for the first time in my life - to create a nice little jam. Laughed and remembered to breathe, thought maybe I shouldn’t have slugged down that last half-cup of strong coffee just before starting the task.
Flipped everything over and lightly poked until it became unstuck. Promptly created another jam. Flipped it again and got everything moving correctly. Finally, with all the bearings in the tray, hit ‘em with a little Simple Green (for which I pay retail) and got the goop off of them, the axle and the cone surfaces. Got the grease out of the races with a rag and my pinkie, which seems to work well at that task.
It was at this moment, with my left hand fairly greased up, and my right hand greased and Simple Greened up, that the phone rang. It was for me. Wrapped a clean rag around my phone hand and tried to troubleshoot computer problems for a relative who was travelling and having issues accessing webmail. And he was using a dial-up connection.
At this point, you may have noticed that this tale so far has neither trails or rides in it. That was kinda how my day was going so far.
The thing was, I actually found it pretty humorous. That squeaky wheel of karma eased oh-so-slowly along, just making sure that I fully realized that if I’d taken the time to do things correctly the first time, I would have been out riding for at least a half hour so far.
When I got off the phone, rather than simply torquing the freehub down, I removed it completely. Cleaned the hub shell and carefully checked the mating surfaces, cleaned the threads on the freehub.
If you’ve never dug into that part of your bike, it is worth the trip. Of all the things which Shimano came up with, this is actually one of my favorites. Back in the olden days, I regularly bought replacement solid axles for my mountain bike rear wheel. It was a weak spot in the design - here you had a bicycle begging to be ridden on all manner of surfaces, but you had this long shaft held in place by assymetrical bearings placed closer to the center of the hub. With Shimano’s freehub, the driveside bearings got moved to the outside, very near the rear dropout. They achieved this by making the bearing race surface from the head of a hollow center bolt which tightened down the freehub. It is tightened by the afore-mentioned Largest Allen Wrench I Own (what is that thing, a 12?).
I did not take pictures of this. My hands were still pretty greasy. You will have wander in there yourself.
Greased everything up, carefully mated the splines and tightened everything down. Layed fresh grease into the races and positioned the bearings. Carefully set the axle through the center so as not to dislodge any bearings. Threaded on the cone, spacers and locknut. And then spied one more dirty bearing off to the side of the tray, which I’d mistaken for a glob of grease. Just grand. That’s what I get for not wearing my glasses.
Backed everything off just enough to sneak the now-clean bearing into place on the drive-side. Tightened it down again and set the cone tension with the lock-nut. Everything spun like buttah. Nothing loose, nothing binding. All good.
Got kitted up - bib shorts and jersey, shoes and helmet. Then realized the coffee had enough and wanted out. Sure, why not?
Take two - dressed again, I cleverly realized that I’d not yet confirmed the saddle height, waiting until I had time to check it in cleats Yep, too high. Lowered a smidge and there it was. Ready to RUUUUUUMBLE!
Threw on the pack and paused for a second. The last trail ride I’d done was on the MB-Singlespeed. 26″ wheels. Which spare tubes did I have stowed along? Yessiree! 26″ mtb tubes! Clomp into the house one last time and realize that my sloth had struck again - the only appropriate spare tube I had was in the Banana Bag on my Quickbeam. The other three had found glass, snaketeeth and similar hardships, and were hung over the closet doorknob to be patched. Grabbed that one, thought one more time and dug out an extra patch kit and shoved that into the bag, if nothing else as a clear and vibrant offering to the tire karma gods.
But there was still a slow, loud, annoying drip coming from a faucet in the recesses of my brain. Something I’d missed? I stood there in the kitchen for a few seconds, already sweating a bit, when it finally hit me - the chain! I’d changed from a 9 speed setup with the stock Hilsen wheels to this 8 speed cogset on the CX wheel. However, the chain was still the original one and I hadn’t either checked it for stretch, nor had I done a full-power pedal push test. There was a decent chance that it was skitter right over the top of the cogs. Luckily, right before the Poprad had retired, I’d mounted a new 8 speed chain. It was in the parts box for the Poprad, still showing signs of factory grease. Grabbing a plastic bag, I wrapped the chain (and the link), and dropped it into the pack. Ahh! That had to be it.
So - dressed and ready, I pulled out the pencam to get a closeup of the brake clearance.
Got one photo and the batteries died. Yep. That was pretty much the last variable. I had another pair from the charger, so one more clog-clomping loop into the house to swap power sources.
Man, I was worn out and I hadn’t even pushed on the pedals yet!
For more on the story, read Ride Report - Pt. Duex!