Waxing Lyrical; Whipping Twine, Chain Lube and the Tale of the Lost Mudguard Eye Nut

It’s funny how things happen in threes. There I was, this morning, sitting, drinking my coffee, wondering what my blog post would be today. Then an hour later, after my commute, three interconnected things come along, all at the same time; handlebar twine, chain lube and a lost mudguard eye nut. But what’s the thread that twines this trio together? Well, it’s wax.

Waxed cotton twine on brown cloth tape with four coats of amber shellac.

Twine

I’ve been experimenting with twine for a while; a few weeks ago I shellac-hemp-twined my handlebar tape ends, but, after living with it for a few days, I wasn’t entirely happy with the results. Hemp twine can be pretty ‘hairy’, meaning that something that’s meant to neatly finish the bar tape ends up looking messy. However, the other day, and quite by accident, a roll of waxed-cotton twine came into my possession. A nice cream colour makes a nice contrast with the dark brown cloth tape. However, the killer feature for me is the waxed finish, which makes the twine adhere to itself and its sub layer. The wax finish also makes the tying-off more secure and will also make the twining water and dirt-proof. Some folks don’t like waxed twine because it doesn’t take shellac well, but I see no need for shellac on the waxy stuff. Its main use is in nautical circles, where it’s used to ‘whip’ rope ends, and also to bundle wiring in electrical installations.

Lube

Late yesterday afternoon I received a package from my friends at Green Oil, who, for some years, have been marketing their excellent range of environmentally friendly lubes and bike cleaning products, which use plant-based (rather than petroleum-based) ingredients. Their latest product is something that’s been missing from the shelves forever – ‘White’ liquid chain wax; a beeswax-based dry chain lube, which claims to protect and lube the chain in all weathers, and doesn’t attract road grime. Now, waxing chains is nothing new. Grant Peterson described the process of paraffin waxing chains in one of his fabulous Bridgestone catalogues and he wasn’t the first; it’s been a popular practice with master-mechanics for generations. However, this is (to my knowledge) the first beeswax-based (and therefore non-petrochemical) wax lube available, which is great news. I’m looking forward to degreasing my drivetrain, White-lubing the chain and seeing how it performs over the coming winter. Expect a full test in a few months – in the meantime I’ll keep you posted.

Nuts

And finally, on the way to the station, I noticed an annoying rattle from the front end of the bike. Before I could locate it, one of my mudguard eye nuts had worked loose and rattled onto the road. They’re special 8mm nuts with an extended ridge at the back which tightens into the ‘eye bolt’ and grips, the mudguard stay, keeping the mudguard properly adjusted. I cussed, shook my head and put up with the annoying rattle all the way to the station (I hate annoying rattles). No biggie though; I’m pretty sure I’ve got a spare in my nuts and bolts tin at home. However, what I plan to do is use a little candle-wax on the threads to stop the new nut rattling loose (another top tip courtesy of that clever Mr Peterson). And let’s face it, there are worse things in the world than rattles (but not many).

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Whether to sit or stand; nine-speed; broken chains…

Let me recount a recent scary moment on the way to work that has given me cause to ponder pedalling technique, mechanical sympathy and the often dubious merits of ‘upgrading’.

Tuesday morning: The bike and I alight from the train in Manchester and I’m looking forward to a nice 15 minute spin from Manchester Victoria into the office in Newton Heath. A fine, dry morning greets me in Manchester and all seems well.

I turn from the station approach onto Corporation St, cross the tram tracks and head out of the city centre towards the road that runs parallel to the River Irk. I approach a set of lights just as they turn to green, so I stand up on the pedals and get up some speed to try and keep pace with the traffic.

Zoom to macro level – unknown to me, one of the hundred or so pins in my nearly new KMC X-9 nine speed chain has been worming its way insignificantly, yet fatefully, out of its corresponding link plate. Dodgy installation (by me), dodgy manufacture? Who knows?. Nano seconds after I stand on the pedals it happens – a noise like I’ve been shot, then I plummet forwards on the bike. Suddenly there’s no resistance to my pedalling power. The bike lunges from side to side as I attempt to regain control. Luckily there’s no one behind and I come to a halt and look down. My chain has disappeared – I look back and 10 yards behind, on the tarmac, there it is, coiled like a metallic serpent.

As fate would have it, two days before I had ‘rationalised’ my toolkit, foolishly removing my little-used chain tool. What motivated me to do this, I cannot say. I mean, you wouldn’t remove the spare wheel from your car just because you don’t use it very often…

So I was left with a 35 minute walk to work (which was not unpleasant) to rue my foolishness, thank my lucky stars that I didn’t fall off when the chain snapped, and ponder the strength of nine speed chains. Having only ever ridden 8 speed (or less) chains prior to a few weeks ago and, having only suffered chain breakage as a result of a dodgy chain tool, I immediately began to appropriate blame on the new nine speed offering. But surely nine speed chains should be hardy enough for pampered machine like Resurrectio. Rob, my friend, colleague, and bicycle guru swears by 8 speed chains, claiming he runs them without glitches on all of his 9 speed equipped bikes. Can a chain that’s only fractionally narrower that an 8 speed be so much more fragile?

Whilst I walked and fumed, I also pondered the words of Sheldon Brown, who, amongst other things, extolled the virtues of pedalling seated as much as possible, using the gears to maintain an easy spinning cadence, to minimise strain on the bike and also help prevent accidents due to chain skipping and breakage. http://www.sheldonbrown.com/standing.html

I got to work in philosophical mood, and before I left at the end of the day, had managed to secure the use of a chain tool (thanks Chester) to fix the bike. I pedalled home, with Sheldon’s words, Kenobi-like, echoing in my mind:

“If you find yourself standing to accelerate, on level ground, it is a sign that your gear is too high or that your saddle is too low.”

I got home and, before I did anything else, I repacked the chaintool in my saddlebag, along with the Leatherman tool and second spare tube…