More Bike upgrades!

My tenure at Silver Cycles recently came to a close, but before I left, I took full advantage of my employee discount and got some new handlebars, a new stem, a pair of brakes, a pair of brake levers, a dynamo powered headlight and taillight, and a Brooks saddle.

The previous stem I had on the bike had a hole to route the cable for the front brake through and the new stem didn’t have this hole, so the first thing I had to do was replace my 4mm headset spacer with a 5mm headset spacer/cable hanger. This proved to be an issue. When I tightened the top-nut of the (threaded) headset, I pulled out the bottom thread. It turned out that that 1mm made a lot of difference: instead of a few threads engaging the fork, half of a thread was engaging the fork and it pulled out before I could torque the nut properly. Luckily the clever people that make top-nuts and forks make forks out of a stronger metal than the top-nuts or I’d be in the market for a new fork!

Since these engineers are clever enough, I just needed to buy a new top-nut and grind a millimeter off the cable hanger. The cable hanger I started with was black, so after some grinding and some filing, I ended up with this two tone beauty.

New Headset Spacer

Once I had the headset back together, getting the handlebars and brake levers on was uneventful other than looking hot.

Nitto Handlebars

TRP Brake Levers

Well, I did hit a small snag while wrapping the bars. This is the third time I have wrapped bars on this bike and every time I learn something new. The first time, I thought I knew what I was doing, but I in fact wrapped them reverse of how they should have been wrapped (clockwise versus counter-clockwise) and overlapped the tape too much, so they came undone about 100 miles into a 3,600 mile trip. The second time I wrapped the bars, I wrapped them the right way and I got the overlap correct, but the taper on the wrapping I had to cut for the bar end shifters was terrible and there were some wrinkles in the wrap where it was not quite tight enough. The sloppy taper I cut was in part due to the fact that I was wrapping the bars at dusk on the streets of Tulsa armed with only a pocket knife. This time, I had good lighting and scissors, so the taper came out really good and the overlapping was fine, but I realized one thing about bar wrapping when I was almost done with wrapping the bars and another thing when I was done. While I was wrapping I realized that any wrinkles that occur during wrapping will go away if you pull the tape tighter as you wrap. After I was done I realized I wrapped one side of the bars backwards and thought of a new way to remember which direction to wrap the bars: over and in towards the frame of the bike.

Getting the new saddle on was actually straight forward, but expect a post on breaking in a leather saddle at some point in the future.

Brooks Saddle

Replacing the brakes was also uneventful, but I did learn that replacing 20 year old low end cantilever brakes with modern cantilever brakes without a centering adjustment screw is something worth investing in. It took all of 5 minutes to get the new brakes adjusted better than I have ever had the old brakes adjusted and it normally took a solid hour of tedious work with three sizes of box end wrenches.

The main advantage of these new brakes is that in order to adjust the distance between the brake pad and the rest of the brake is done by the rearrangement of a few spacers. This makes it so that lateral adjustment happens independent of of the other adjustments necessary to align the pad (toe, rotation and radial) which allows you to press the pad against the rim to get it perfect and then just tighten the bolt when everything is sitting pretty. This is much easier than the successive approximations you have make with a 9mm wrench in one hand and a 5mm Allen key in the other hand that I was used to with the old brakes.

Also, I got some really nice lights. When I opened the box for the lights, I found a nice message from Marcus Wallmeyer.

With this Supernova product you have acquired a loyal companion for the dark times ahead. May the light be with you!

Getting the lights to fit my bike took some careful measurements and precise drilling. Somehow this worked. The lights look awesome and illuminate the road a lot better than the Chinese “900 Lumen” flashlight I had been using before, and I think the taillight is quite a bit brighter than my previous taillight.

awesome lights


On a final note, I went for a nice ride today and noticed that my headset was loose, so I took it to a bike shop to get it tightened. The mechanic remarked on how these brake levers mimic the campy 11-speed hoods. All in all I think it came out really well.