Gear and gear failure

Before becoming car-free, I’d been riding my bike pretty regularly for about 6-7 years and as a more-or-less-daily bike commuter for the last 4 of those years. But I wouldn’t say that I was “into” bikes. For me, the bike was a mode of transportation, I enjoyed using it for recreational rides, and I liked how my bike looked, but I didn’t really know that much about different types of bike or bike gear. In the last 6 months, I’ve been reading many bike blogs, and noticing more about the bikes that I see out on the street – and learning more about my own bike. I ride a Cannondale Roadmaster 400, that I bought in 2005 shortly after moving to Edmonton Alberta. Before this bike, I had a Diamondback Sorrento DX Mountain Bike that I bought in Springfield MO in 1996. It was serviceable, but heavy and not so great. Spouse convinced me to sell it before moving to Canada so I would buy a lighter bike and be able to keep up with her.  I’m very glad she convinced me. My Cannondale is not a super fancy bike by any means, but I did see a significant jump in quality from the Diamondback to the Cannondale. Anyhow, here’s the Cannondale on my stand after a quick clean-up last sunday:

I think that standard bike-blog protocol requires me to list all of the gear on the bike, and I have to do it in italics, so here goes:

2005 Cannondale Roadmaster 400

ummm… lots of stock parts plus the following modifications on my part:

Blackburn Rack

Planet Bike .5 watt head light

Planet Bike Superflash tail light

Spongy Wonder Saddle (awww yeah!)

Pinhead locking skewers and seatpost clamp

Continental Gator Skin Tires

Here’s some close-ups:

The cockpit

An adjustable stem seems a little silly. I’d left it at 40 degrees since I bought it until recently when I lowered it to 10 degrees, just to see what it felt like. That may have been a mistake.

the saddle

All you haters, sponge my wonder! (you may continue to hate on the suspension seat post – I’ll admit that it’s pretty lame).

the brake calipers

At a distance, my bike looks a little bit like a mountain bike. Same flat handlebar and similar geometry to the mountain bikes that were around before suspensions became all the rage. The biggest tip-off are these side-pull brake calipers and the seat stays and chain stays. There is hardly any clearance around either. No way you could fit a mountain bike tire in there.

the tires

There’s almost no tread on these tires. I found that my last pair of tires tended to collect little bits of glass in the tread and they would eventually burrow their way down until they punctured my tube. I’m not certain that this is why these gator skins have no tread, but it seems to make sense. Also, a tread on a bike tire doesn’t function the same way a tread on a car tire does. The treads can’t really push water away to prevent hydroplaning like they do on a car. In fact, you can’t hydroplane on a bike, so the tread – unless it is for going off-road, doesn’t really accomplish anything.

the cassette

Please note that this is after I had cleaned the cassette. Spouse was out cleaning her bike with me and I looked over and saw her cassette:

damn thing practically sparkles

Granted, Spouse doesn’t ride her bike to work every day, but still – she totally put me to shame. And that bike of hers is pretty sweet. After encouraging me to splurge on a decent bike, she could no longer keep up with me on her old and kind-of heavy Cannondale moutain bike, so a year later, she got her Made In Canada, Rocky Mountain Bike RC50. I’ll have to do a full post on it someday, it is a sweet ride.

I’ve had a couple of notable gear failures lately. After selling the car, I dropped some money on a new pair of panniers, the Axiom Lasalle set. It’s a pair of bags, storing up to 40 litres total. My previous pannier just had one big compartment, but these had one even larger main compartment, plus a pocket on the front, one in the flap, and a mesh pocket on the outside. The bags are waterproof enough for wet streets or light rain, but they come with little rain jackets for when it’s really wet. For the most part I’ve been pretty happy with these bags. It’s nice to leave a lot of my daily crap in the big outside pocket, so it doesn’t take up space like in a single-compartment pannier. And I don’t have to take it out and put it back in all of the time.

looking all crumply

There’s also plenty of room to hold groceries from a regular trip to the grocery store. If I’m planning more of a stock-up trip, I just bring both bags. 30 litres of storage is quite a bit – easily more than two large paper grocery bags. And since the grocery store is halfway between office and home, I find it very easy to make multiple trips in a week. The only problem as far as groceries go, is that I can’t fit a carton of eggs completely flat on the bottom. I usually have to tilt the carton a little bit, or put something underneath them. I haven’t broken an egg yet (despite the potholed streets), so I guess I shouldn’t complain. One thing I have to complain about, however is this:

This tear came from where the pannier rubs against the bottom of the rack, and it first appeared within a month of buying the panniers. It seems to inevitably happen when you hook on to the rack on the bottom. Luckily, these bags have a lifetime warranty, and after a couple of emails to a certain online retailer, they agreed to replace them. I may get a new rack once I get the new bags – one that won’t rub. It’s either that or time to break out the duct-tape.

Around the time I bought the bags, I decided it was time to get a smaller lock – one that I could carry in my belt, if I so desired. After much research (including an excellent article in, I settled on the OnGuard Pitbull Mini as a good compromise between cost and sturdiness.

Photo credit -

Pretty beefy-looking, right? Not big enough to secure my wheel as well as my frame, but because I have Pinhead locking skewers, I only need to lock my frame. Locking a bike can be kind of awkward at times, and I’ve dropped the lock a few times. One would think it could take a fall of less than 3 feet, however…..

You can see a little gap in the "dust cover"

After unlocking, you can see that I can easily pull apart the dust cover.

Until I have several pieces sitting in my hand.

The upside to this, is that without the big bulky dust cover, the lock is now significantly smaller:

And it weighs 132 grams less!

Uh-oh. I’ve started to weigh bike parts. Is this the first step in the downward spiral of bike dorkiness? Will I start weighing every piece of gear on my bike in an attempt to shave a few seconds off of my 1.5 mile commute? Will I start wearing lycra shorts? Oh god, it may be too late to stop. Lately I’ve found myself examining every bike I pass, looking at gears, frames, brake calipers. Have I replaced my bird-watching-like admiration of cars with a similar admiration of bikes? Well, I was kind of excited when I came upon this specimen in a mall parking lot.

But I ran across this Ferrari on the streets of Providence today:

And although I made sure to snap a picture of it, I really wasn’t so impressed. Ferraris have never really done it for me. There’s something too obvious about them. This owner went for a nice all-black look, definitely more subtle than the usual “arrest me red,” but then he went and ruined it with those giant logos on the front fenders. I guess I shouldn’t expect subtlety from Ferrari.


2 responses to “Gear and gear failure

  1. Ahem. I don’t recall ever having any trouble keeping up with you on my black Cannondale. I bought the Rocky Mountain as a consolation prize when a certain institution passed me over for a job, and also so my Cannondale could be my Canadian winter bike. Let the record stand corrected!

    • I think it wasn’t just the weight of your Cannondale, but the knobby tires that were slowing you down. I remember when you got street tires for that bike and you said that you should now be able to keep up with me. Of course, once you got the RMB, you totally skooled me again. I think it’s time for me to escalate this arms race with some clipless pedals or something.

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