Sticky Rear Derailleur

I’d been having problems with my rear derailleur recently. Ultimately, it was sticking on, generally on one side, and it seemed that the entire brake calliper was moving too, essentially moving to the side so that it was stuck on the side of my wheel. It was worse when it was wet, which at the moment is pretty much every day, considering we’ve apparently just had the wettest December in history.

So I figured, after repeatedly trying to tighten the bolt to keep it from moving to the side, and giving it a good clean to make sure it wasn’t gunked up with crap, that the cable was the problem. I put this down to the fact that when I disconnected the cable, the calliper moved back to the fully open position with no problems; so in other words, I’d close it with my hand, and it would spring open. But when I had the cable attached to it, it wouldn’t open fully, and instead it would stay slightly closed, such that it would not free itself from the rim of my wheel.

Therefore, the cable, outer and inner, got changed on Tuesday, after yet another cycle to and from work with a brake effectively on all the time, or alternatively only using my front brake so that the rear brake stayed fully open merely by me not using it. Neither option is good. I changed the cable, and you know what? It made no difference.

This confused me. Why would it open with no problem when the cable was not attached to it, but when I attach a brand new cable to the thing it doesn’t improve? I was pretty much running out of ideas, so I decided to give the spring inside the calliper a spray with the trusty GT85, giving it a good pounding to work the spring and get as much of the GT85 into it as possible, and gave it a good rinse off. That did the job.

This surprised me mainly because the calliper is only about 3 months old, and it’s a Tiagra brake, so it’s not like it is low quality crap. However, there was already some rust starting to appear on the calliper spring, and I suppose it doesn’t take a lot of rain before the rust will start to set in, so some GT85 loosened it up.

The brakes, front and back, are now nicely tightened for tomorrow’s commute.

Rebuilding the Red Viking Clubmaster

About 6 months ago, I bought a Red Viking Clubmaster. The idea was to use it as a practice frame for when I was wanting to upgrade bits on my commuter bike, but that never ended up happening, mainly because I was too busy with other stuff. However, with the marathon and Christmas over, even though I have other plans for 2014, such as learning to swim properly and then doing some triathlons, I also want to upgrade my commuter so that it runs the Shimano Tiagra groupset.

The main reason for the upgrade is to move to a double chainset, rather than the current triple. The triple is just a massive ballache to maintain, and I rarely bother to change the chainring when I am riding, because it doesn’t shift well unless it is in the middle chainring. Upgrading away from the bottom of the range 2300 groupset, and going for a double, will hopefully resolve that.

It’s not going to be cheap, though. I have an entire bike to practice on, although it’s not perfect. The wheels, for example, will be thrown away as they have a freewheel rather than a freehub. And the seat looks too comfy. But the frame, fork and bars should be ok to go with.

Therefore, the full kit list I think that I need to build this bike up to being useable is:

Item £ Shop Priority
4600 10 Speed Chainset 46.99 Ribble A
10 Speed 4601 Tiagra Chain 14.80 Ribble A
10 Speed Tiagra 4600 Cassette 15.99 Ribble A
STI Levers Tiagra 4600/4603 10 Speed with cables 109.99 Ribble A
4600 10 Speed Double Front Derailleur Clip-on 28.6/31.8mm 19.32 Ribble A
4600 10 Speed Rear Derailleur Short 23.99 Ribble A
4600 BB Cups (34/35/4500 double/triple) British 8.79 Ribble A
Shimano R501 Bladed Spoke Clincher Wheels Pair 73.95 Ribble B
Continental Gatorskin 25 Twin Pack inc Tubes 54.36 Ribble B
Fizik Arione Wingflex Manganese 49.99 Merlin C
TOTAL 418.17

Priority A items are the groupset, B is the wheels and C I totally don’t need, but it would be nice to have a decent seat on the bike.

The plan is to rebuild this bike with the kit above, then once I’m comfortable with how to attach it and get it working smoothly, spend a day taking the groupset off and putting it on the commuter. Alternatively, another approach would be to purchase another Tiagra groupset and leave the Red Viking alone. That would have the advantage of having a useable road bike in case I run into trouble setting up the commuter with the groupset, but the obvious disadvantage of costing another £280, because I’d have to get the above groupset plus brake calipers, which I don’t need on my commuter since I already have Tiagra brake calipers on it.

VirtualBox broken on OS X 10.9 Mavericks?

After upgrading to OS X 10.9 Mavericks, I could no longer get my virtual machine to gain access to my wifi.

The fix is as detailed by the user Jabbslad in their post on 06-Oct-13, in this thread:

I was getting the alarming error message below when attempting to boot my instance:

Failed to open a session for the virtual machine
Failed to open/create the internal network 'HostInterfaceNetworking-en1: Wi-Fi (AirPort)' (VERR_SUPDRV_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND).
Failed to attach the network LUN (VERR_SUPDRV_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND).
Result Code: NS_ERROR_FAILURE (0x80004005)

However, as I say, the above workaround resolved my problems. And just in case that page ever disappears…:

— 8< — OS X 10.9 Mavericks has deprecated the StartupItems mechanism for starting services on boot. Until this is fixed it looks like VirtualBox’s host-only networking is broken as per ticket: #8940. This also means if you use Vagrant it will complain that it can’t start boxes. The temporary workaround is to create a Launch Daemon yourself. This Launch Daemon will call the old StartupItems script. 1.) Create a ‘virtualbox.plist’ file in ‘/Library/LaunchDaemons’. (Note: You will need to sudo to create the file). 2.) Add the following content to the file before saving it:- <?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>  <plist version=”1.0″>    <dict>     <key>Label</key>     <string>virtualbox</string>     <key>ProgramArguments</key>     <array>       <string>sh</string>       <string>/Library/StartupItems/VirtualBox/VirtualBox</string>       <string>restart</string>     </array>     <key>KeepAlive</key>     <false/>     <key>RunAtLoad</key>     <true/>   </dict> </plist> 3.) Run the following two commands so the Launch Daemon is auto-started when OS X boots:- sudo chown root /Library/LaunchDaemons/virtualbox.plist sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/virtualbox.plist 4.) Restart your machine to test (optional) sudo shutdown -r now Hopefully a fix will be issued soon, in the mean time this will mean you don’t need to keep running ‘sudo /Library/StartupItems/VirtualBox/VirtualBox restart’ every time you restart your Mac. Jabbslad

2013: The Year of Injuries and Broken Bones

The main recurring topic of this year has been injuries, including a few broken bones. The reality is that this probably isn’t being unlucky, but more a lack of care and an increase in activities which have accounted for them all. So, what has been happening this year?

  1. 15-Jan – bike tumble, broken finger
  2. 06-Mar – bike crash, broken wrist, broken thumb, dislocated humerus etc
  3. 27-Jul – right foot injury, out of action for 5 weeks
  4. 25-Aug – toenail falls off, lolz
  5. 25-Aug – left foot injury, out of action for 10 days
  6. 15-Sep – broken right forefinger, swimming, lolz
  7. 13-Oct – left foot injury, out of action for 3 weeks
  8. Mid November – broken rib, caused by eldest daughter putting her full weight on my ribcage via her knee

Yeah, I’m hoping this doesn’t become a regular scenario. Lessons to be learnt?

  1. Don’t go round corners on my bike too aggressively when it is wet
  2. Learn to swim properly so I don’t punch the hand rail because my technique is so poor
  3. Run less, or at least shorter distances
  4. Don’t wrestle with eldest daughter

No doubt I will find other ways to injure myself, but what’s the alternative – staying in and doing nothing?

1and1 WordPress Issue: Redirect to

My web host, 1and1, are currently redirecting all wordpress login attempts to by sending a 302 redirect to all requests to wp-login.php – I can only post this via my iPhone… It seems wordpress for many of us using 1and1 is therefore currently uneditable. The blog itself is up, mind you.

[ later ]

The issue now seems to be resolved, thankfully.

One of the comments to this post suggests editing wp-admin.php, which sounded ideal, but my install doesn’t have such a file. It’s possible yours does, maybe if it’s not been updated for a while, and that this workaround could work. I say this because I suspect this is going to happen again in the future.

Why? Well, from a bit of googling around, it looks like there’s a chance that 1and1 (and other hosting companies) are using this tactic to reduce load on their systems when they are under a DDoS attack, potentially a specific DDoS attack which is targetting WordPress installations. Unfortunately, there was no such attack on my site, but that doesn’t mean that other sites hosted by 1and1 were also unaffected, and there’s little chance of getting much info out of them about it. Personally, I doubt it’s a DDoS attack intended to bring down the hosting company – I’d have thought it’s more likely to be a script kiddie attempting to brute force their way in to as many blogs as they can. But either way, an attack of some kind appears likely.

All in all, though, I’m not going to suggest that 1and1 are terrible and start investigating other suppliers; I’ll be honest, these guys are pretty damn stable, and their actions yesterday only prevented me from adding posts via my browser, while the blog itself was up the entire time. And it’s working fine today. If this starts to happen regularly, then yeah, I’ll start to get annoyed, but as things stand right now, it’s no biggie.

The front dérailleur shall scare me no longer

One of the main parts of the bike which I’ve still to get to grips with is the front mech, aka front derailleur, or if you’re wanting to use the real French spelling, dérailleur. In other words, the thing that changes the gears on your chainrings. I have to be honest, the thing has constantly had me worried and it rarely works very well on my commuter. When I got it, back when I hadn’t a clue about bikes in the slightest, I got a bike with a triple chainring merely because that’s what the bike came with. If I was to now choose what I have on it, it would have a double. Indeed, as and when I change the groupset on my bike, I’ll go for a Tiagra groupset with a compact double, since I’m not expecting to whizz along above 30mph, and a cassette of 11-28 should allow for pretty much all conditions.

But I’ve already gone off subject, so let’s get back to the front mech.

My front mech currently does not like to go in to the big chainring. It’ll happily go into the granny ring which I don’t believe I have ever used, except by accident. But trying to get the bastard into the big chainring is either hit and miss, or 100% miss.

As with all things bike, I’ve tended to be a bit scared when it comes to areas that I’ve not touched before. But then, what typically happens is that I then discover how to maintain or replace a part, and realise that, so long as you have the right tool, it’s actually pretty basic. The front mech is no exception.

This video pretty much sums up how simple it is; but I do warn you, there’s more to it than this:

That video does mention that the front mech is a braze-on. This has baffled me for months, if not years, because I knew you also got clip on (aka clasp on) mechs, and also you can get braze-on mechs, and I wasn’t sure how on earth you told the difference. Also, I wasn’t sure at all how on earth these things attached to a bike.

So, that video has a braze-on. I have the impression from many bike-related web sites that this is considered the standard, but if that is the case, then why are two of my three road bikes not equipped with them? Maybe I’m unlucky, but I’d guess that braze-on is either new, or for higher-spec bikes. Probably both. The alternative is that you get front mechs which quite simply have a ring attached to them, which wraps around the seat tube, down the bottom. Or, as I have now discovered, you can get “adapters” which allow you to attach a braze-on mech to your bike if your bike frame does not come with the braze-on thingy. And when they say “adapter”, they really just mean a ring which wraps around your seat tube, and you attach your front mech to said adapter.

The only additional thing which might confuse you, when looking at clip-on mechs, is that they come in different sizes – 28.6, 31.8 and 34.9. What on earth are these? They are simply the diameter of your seat tube, which is why the braze-on ones don’t come in sizes, since they don’t have a ring to go around your seat tube. But how do you know the diameter of your seat tube? Well, remember when you did mathematics at school, and they told you about pi, and when to use it? That’s right, you’re quite possibly going to find a use for that for the first time in your life. Measure the circumference of your seat tube, and divide by pi (3.14159). Bingo. If your seat tube is 100mm, you need a 31.8. If it’s 110mm, you need a 34.9. And if you have a slim 90mm seat tube, you guessed it, 28.6 is for you.

I’m now going to go buy a new front mech plus gear cables, and have a go at replacing all of that lot. This could render my commuter out of action.

Is the trick to breathing to not think about breathing?

I went back to the swimming pool tonight since yesterday’s swim had not been particularly successful, especially with regard to the breathing aspect. Breathing was back to how it was last Tuesday, in that it was much easier. Indeed, the swim tonight was vastly better, which was mainly emphasised by the stats recorded by the 910xt.

The main thing I was realising while swimming my lengths was quite simple; if I concentrated on some other aspect of technique, such as “skating”, or extending my body length, then breathing became almost effortless, whereas yesterday all I could think about was breathing, and my inability to do it. So if I stop thinking about it, and concentrate on other stuff, that actually seems to help. Bizarre, but if that’s all it takes, that’ll work for me.

Last Tuesday, when I did sets of 4 lengths over and over, the difference between the first and the fourth length was significant; as much as 9 seconds each time. Tonight, the difference in the 4 lengths was a lot closer, quite often only 4 seconds different, and often the slowest length was not the last one, either.

Added to this was the stroke count; the Garmin only counts each time my watch hand (therefore my right hand) does a stroke, and last time it recorded an average of 15 strokes per length, whereas today it recorded 13 strokes on average. That’s a massive difference, and especially pleasing as I was really concentrating on two things – skating and keeping my body long. These are aspects from the TI videos and book that I’ve mentioned before. I was therefore concentrating quite a lot on trying to keep my left arm extended while I breathed, which wasn’t working perfectly I have to be honest, but was working better than it had done before.

One other thing I was doing, mainly to ensure I didn’t tire myself out, was when I was using my hips and core to rotate from side to side. Instead of doing this really quickly, I rotated slowly so that it essentially pulled my arm through the water, because I think what I was doing yesterday was rotating too quickly and therefore not getting the benefit of the power in my stroke.

So all in all, a big improvement from yesterday when I think I was attempting to go faster by trying harder, and today proved that I will go faster if I just concentrate on my technique. Once I have that a lot more sorted out, I will then work on doing my strokes faster, because I proved tonight that if I do that, I can indeed go faster; I did 2 lengths at the end with a faster turnaround of strokes, and did the lengths around 8 seconds faster than other lengths, and the last one with only 12 strokes too, so I’m definitely feeling like progress is being made.

And considering I have now been swimming 2 days in a row… well, I’m fairly sure that’s never happened outwith a holiday to CenterParcs!

Breathing wasn’t so easy today

I’m not entirely sure why today’s swim didn’t go so well, but the one thing that I struggled with today more than the last couple of times was breathing. I was repeatedly running out of breath today when I was not yet at four lengths, unlike the last couple of times when breathing seemed to be quite easy. I’m not sure whether I was trying too hard; I think I might have been. This wasn’t overly obvious from the length times, and maybe that’s a good thing, because maybe it does show me that trying harder isn’t the key, and instead sorting out my technique so that I am not using a lot of effort, but having plenty of time to breathe, is more important.

So all in all, not the most confidence inspiring swim this time. Maybe that’s not a bad thing; the last couple of times appeared to be so “easy” that I was having visions of swimming 30 lengths without stopping today. So a wee kick in the nads isn’t such a bad thing, if it stops me getting carried away.

Cassette Removal Tool, and Missing the Obvious

I’ve changed my chain and cassette on my commuter a couple of times before, so when I went to do it today, I wasn’t unduly worried. However, the cassette was well and truly stuck, and I always have a problem keeping the cassette removal tool from falling out, especially when I need to have the wheel upright so that I can get as much weight behind the spanner as I possibly can. The cassette removal tool tends to just fall out, mainly because it doesn’t really go very far into the splines:

photo 1

While struggling with the thing today, I wondered whether there was a simple way to keep it in. I considered zip ties before realising the obvious:

photo 2 (1)

Yep, you use your quick release skewer to lock the bastard in. How ridiculously obvious. D’oh!