I have a friend with whom I ride on occasion whenever the weather is fair and he’s not swamped with work. The last couple years I’ve been doing tune ups on his bikes right around riding season, wherever that ends up landing. Last year I did his mountain bike (which was stolen from his back yard last winter, unfortunately) and this year he had me work on his road bike. It’s a Specialized Allez Sport with 105 and Tiagra components, probably from the early 2000s. It’s all aluminum and pretty light at 24 pounds.
I gave it a quick once over and noticed a few things right off the bat. First off, the front wheel was radially out of true with a noticeable bump in the rotation. The rear had a flat with the telltale snakebites in the tube. The rear derailleur was having a hard time with several gears and the front derailleur was not working at all; just flopping around on its hinges. Also the front brake was rubbing and needed to be realigned. Oh, and the handlebar tape was coming off at the top where the electrical tape was peeling away.
I found that the front derailleur had a small metal piece where one of of the spring ends usually rests that had been sheared off somehow, and this put that derailleur in the not-fixable category. The rear derailleur just had a nail jammed into it, and once that was removed it required only minor adjustments to get it working perfectly. The rear tube got replaced and I patched the old one in case my friend ever needs a quick spare. The front wheel got a little better from just removing the tire and putting it back on, so it was partly a problem with the way the tire was seated on the rim. A little truing and it was back in shape.
I went to the Gear Hub over on Washington to find a replacement front derailleur, and I grabbed a 105 that looked like it would have the reach for the triple chainrings in the front, but I didn’t check the specs online first, so when I got home and put it on I found that it just couldn’t quite make it out far enough to get the chain onto the big ring. Of course, that discovery came the Saturday before Memorial Day, so I had to wait until the Tuesday after to get another replacement derailleur, but this time I checked very carefully. Also worth noting, I believe that I got the only road FD for a triple crank in the whole place, so well done me for not giving up and getting down to the bottom of the basket.
I got home, got the new derailleur mounted, and after some time spent fiddling with it and setting the limit screws, angles, etc it was ready for a test ride. Now, here comes a little confession: I have owned a pair of clipless pedals and some mountain bike style shoes to clip into them for over a year now, but I have never yet ridden with either. In fact, up until today I had never clipped in at all. I enjoy toe clips with straps on a few bikes, but even then I always keep them pretty loose. I mainly like that my feet stay in place and I can keep up a higher cadence without feeling like my feet are floating over the pedals. Plus I find them pretty…AND utilitarian since I can ride in them with nearly any shoes I own. But for whatever reason I never actually switched out any of my pedals on any of my bikes for the clipless ones. I’ve been curious, and I’ve heard all sorts of things about how connected you feel to the bike and how much power you get from the lifting of the pedals. And you know, since I’m getting things off my chest I’ll add that I did try twice to switch out Judi’s pedals before a particularly long ride and both times I found her pedals to be pretty well stuck on there. I know that I should attend to that, but instead I’ve been satisfied to simply take note before putting the pedals and shoes back in the closet.
But anyway! Today was the day, and boy was it fun! I did spend some time with the bike up on a trainer practicing my clipping in and out and getting used to the feeling of being attached to my pedals. Then I did a final ABC check and headed out for my official post-tune-up test ride. The first few times I had to clip in I struggled along for several feet before hitting the sweet spot. But I remained hyper aware of the need to unclip any time I had to slow down, which in turn gave me plenty of opportunities to practice. The feel was very different from what I’m used to. I’ve tightened down the straps on my toe clips now and again when I was on a long stretch that presented few stops and minimal traffic, and that did make a difference as well, but this was much more fun and much easier to get out of in an emergency.
I did notice it most obviously when I was climbing. I made a loop of a few miles that I knew would have a bit of all the inclines so I could shift through the gears and see how the bike performed. It was great, only needing minor tweaks to my earlier adjustments on the stand. I picked up speed quickly, for one thing. My cadence was easy to get up and keep up. But when I went to climb a hill that I’ve been up many times I was able to keep my speed up much more easily and for a longer duration. I have a hill near Payson Park that I use to get up speed on the way down, and then I like to see how much of that speed I can retain as I climb back up toward Chevrus, as well as when I finally need to downshift. This time I got up to 35 mph and stayed above 28 nearly to the crest of the hill without any ill effects. This bike is lighter than my others and it has a greater range of gears, but I didn’t use too many of them here and the weight difference isn’t really all that much. So I like to imagine it was the new pedal situation.
And that’s my new band name: The New Pedal Situation.