Monday, June 13, 2011

Cold Cuts, Cold Beer and Cold Setting

The Plot Thickens
Having, after some initial difficulty, finally mastered the art of inflating a presta valve inner tube, I next turned to Loftier Goals. Here on my makeshift workbench was the Prize: a Mavic Open Sport wheel with a seven speed ShimanoTiagra hub. My tire choice for what I am calling a Low End High Quality Bike Build is the Kenda Kwest. It features (supposedly) a Kevlar (or kevlar-like) liner to make it more puncture proof. We have all heard that one before, though, have we not? But having ordered these components from an internet Bike Shop (Tree Fort Bikes) what was once pictures on a screen was now reality, here on my bench.

Lance Is Making A List, He's Checking It Twice
I carefully folded the partially inflated inner tube into the new tire, making sure to place the valve stem between the “Kenda” and the “Kwest” on the label on the sidewall of the tire. We savvy cyclists do this so that in the event of a flat tire, we have a reference point to locate any matching penetration on the tire after we find the Hole In the Tube. Smart, huh?

Cycling is so jam-packed with esoteric minutiae of details and Proper Procedures and How To Do This and How To Wear That that it can be actually intimidating. What if I get it wrong? Do I get a demerit? Do I get kicked out of cycling? Will Lance Armstrong show up on my doorstep, All Doped Up on God knows what, and demand that I Turn Over My Bicycle?

Who knows? He might.

They Came From Outer Space
But right now all I cared about was getting the New Tire mounted on the New Wheel because I had concerns, weighty concerns that could have a drastic effect on the entire 1981 Schwinn Low-End Super Bike Project. The Monster In the Closet was Over Locknut Dimension. We will call it OLD for now, because saying the whole thing sounds like a phrase from Star Trek or even the Outer Limits. Remember that show? Indeed, creatures from the Over Locknut Dimension had been haunting my dreams ever since I placed the order with Tree Fort.

Here's Why:
OLD refers to the outermost distance of the two nuts that hold your hub together and provide a stop for where the wheel fits into the rear of the bike, between the drop outs. Now remember, everything I know about bikes I have to learn by pouring over the Webs late at night, trying to decipher and remember important data that comes into my brain through a filter of anxiety and Budweiser. And if you spend any time on the Cycling Forums, reading the multitudinous opinions about everything, it isn't long before you feel like maybe you need something stronger to drink.

Crappy Old Ten Speeds like my pre-build Schwinn have dropouts spaced at 126 mm, I think. Maybe it was 125. But do you know how big a mm is? No, not The Candy that Melts In Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand. I'm talking about millimeters, a Unit of Measure in an Alternate Universe called the Whole World Except America. So, you don't know, do you? Neither do I. I vaguely remember that we (us in the U.S.) were going to “switch over” about thirty years ago. I think Jimmy Carter was behind the plan, something to do with Peanut M&M's. But then I remember when the Nerdiest Guy in High School confidently predicted that the Whole World would be speaking Esperanto by the year 1980. He was wrong and we didn't switch (mostly, although while I drink a 12 ounce beer, my more better soberer friends drink liters of Coke.)

Are We There Yet?
So, while stewing in a miasma of sleepless nights and international measurement schizophrenia, I waited to see what was going to happen when I tried to fit that New Wheel into my Old Frame. You see, new Road Bike wheels come with an OLD of 130mm. So I had to somehow cram this new monster of a wheel into the tiny and delicate looking dropouts on the Schwinn. Past experience in the Wacky World of the Bicycle Repairman had taught me One True Thing:   If It Can Go Wrong It Probably Already Has, You Just Don't Know It Yet.

Look Up Qualified Frame Builder In the Yellow Pages
The situation was far from hopeless, however. In anticipation of Things Not Fitting I had done further research into alternate solutions. That's when the term Cold Setting first found its way into my realm of consciousness. Just the words alone caused a slight twitch in my left eye. The fact that these words were often accompanied by the term Qualified Frame Builder did very little to Ease My Worried Mind.

Qualified Frame Builder? I've heard of these guys. They're like the Da Vinci's of the Bike World, highly skilled craftsmen who immerse themselves in an Alternate Universe of steel tubing, obtuse geometry and high prices. They all seem to have a multi-year waiting list. But according to the Pundits on the Interwebs, if I was going to make that new wheel fit my old bike, I was going to need some Cold Setting and that meant I would need a QFB.

Hell, Anybody Can Do That
But before I strapped my old frame onto the back of a Yak and set out on a years long quest in search of the Elusive Frame Builder, I thought I would at least see about sorting out this “Cold Setting.” I think it was Sheldon Brown who enlightened me, as he has so many times in my spiritual cycling journey.

And listen to this: He said all you need to do is to strip most of the parts off the bike and grab a two-by-four. Now, I have to repeat that last part: Grab A Two-By-Four.

This was like finding out I was the Lost Prince of Alaska, and my loyal followers had been saving my Castle and my Gold for the Day of My Return, which was nigh. Am I not the Head (Only) Big Man In Charge of Fix-It at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park?

Grab a two-by-four? Hell yeah, baby, you know how many times I've grabbed a two-by-four? A lot. That's how many. All I had to do was grab a two-by-four and bend the rear parts of the bike a little.

That's What Cold Setting Is?! I need a Qualified Frame Builder to grab a piece of lumber and torque around on the ass end of my bicycle? Who makes this stuff up?

I celebrated my good luck with a cold beer and a thin sliced turkey sandwich from the Winn-Dixie Deli.

The Once and Future King
There have been a few times when I have been tempted to grab a two-by-four and give the bike a Sound Thrashing for Its Own Good. Having not done so, however, I still have here in my Park PCS 9 work stand an all-in-one-piece 1981 Schwinn Super Le Tour. I have here on my bench a fully mounted Kenda Kwest tire wrapped carefully around a very shiny and solid-looking Mavic Open Sport Rim. (Wrapped twice because I forgot the rim strip the first time. Yeah, really.)

The mounting moment is here. Will I have to “Cold Set” the frame to make it fit? I smile a grim, determined smile.   Ain't that a 2x4 over there in the corner? And not some wimpy Euro-Metric 2x4. If there's any Cold Setting to be done, we gonna do it American style, brother.

But even as I am thinking these thoughts the wheel slips easily into the drop outs. I Tell You the Truth when I say the new, bigger OLD wheel fit more better and more easily than the old one that came with the bike.

Cue the Voice
Why does this not surprise me? Said the Voice.

Some things defy all understanding. After days of shopping and worrying that things would not fit, they did. Even though I was vastly relieved, I was a little angry, too. I would someday like to grab a virtual two-by-four and pay a visit to some of those Internet Experts who seem to delight in causing me to worry.

They Were Wrong About the Brakes, Too
Oh yeah, there was also a general consensus that in switching from the Old School 27” tires to the New Standard (Metric) size of 700c I would have to do some kind of intricate carving on my brakes using a jeweler's loupe and a dentist's drill. The truth was far less dramatic. I grabbed a 10mm wrench and loosened the brake shoe mounting bolt. The shoes dropped down into a proper position over the rim as though that was where they were planning to be all along, but they  were just waiting for some hero to come along and Restore Them to Their Rightful Place. Like the Lost Prince of Alaska.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Bicycle Repair Palace


  1. Awesome! Sounds like you just need to go riding now!

    I've put 700c wheels on a frame built for 27" wheels before. It worked out very easily for me too. I think the style of brake you have makes a big difference - some are easy and some just don't work.

    It's funny to see you talking about O.L.D. right now - I was looking for a new wheelset last night and was all set to buy one when I realized my frame was meant for a 135mm hub (and according to my measurements is actually close to 136 or 137mm) and I was looking at 130mm hubs! No go on those wheels!

  2. To top it off, all the "experts" said if I upgraded to 8 or 9 speed I would have to also replace the rear derailleur. Wrong. I did indeed have to shim the new cassette, but the chainline worked better with the 4mm shim INSIDE, next to the hub. So, in actuality, I'm confident I could have put on an 8 or 9 and been just fine.

    By the way, I did eighty miles yesterday. The new rig is worth every penny and encourages me to keep going. Let me know how your wheel search turns out.

  3. 80 miles- nice ride! Glad to hear the Schwinn and its rider are back out there. I think I did 8 miles yesterday, but it beat the hell out of zero and we actually had some summer like weather here in Seattle to enjoy. My ride took me along Elliot bay for a while and the beach front there looked like a little slice of SoCal. I am interested to hear, at some point, your impression of the ride of the Super Le Tour on 700c wheels vs the 27 inchers. The same "experts" on the interwebs all seem to think the best performance you can give a bike is a wheel upgrade so I am curious if you are floating effortlessly down the highway doing 20 mph as easily as Lance passes doping controls? I ask because I am trying to cobble a really good "go fast bike" out of 3 fair to middling old ten speeds all with 27 inch wheels and wonder if it be worth it, for better "performance", to bite the bullet and just get a 700c wheel set. The brake-sets on all 3 bikes have a wide range of adjustatment so the brake thing doesn't scare me... jewelers loupe? we don't need no steekin jewlers loupe! -Ryan

  4. Ryan, there is nothing like the feel of a 27" wheel when you are out floating down the road with your feet on the pedals and your head in the clouds. But if you want some hard facts here they are: I only converted the rear wheel. I have at least a thousand miles on that bike with the 27/27 set up.

    But as soon as I started riding the New Rear Wheel, I knew. Those stainless steel 2.0mm straight spokes and that 2011 double wall rim, the low price but kick-ass tire, man, listen: if you plan to pimp it out, 27 Scream and Shout. But if you Plan to Ride Long, Convert, Son, Make It Strong. And that Tiagra Hub: Disappearing Bike

  5. Tim Joe thanks for the feedback if I am so lucky, I will get to the point where I have the pimped out n plush 27" ride and the lean mean long distance machine 700c ride, both of OTS lugged steel of course.

    So did I understand correctly that you had a 700c rear and 27" front wheel? 622 ISO rear and 630 front? Funky.

    Enjoy the ride

  6. Yeah, you got it right. Like a roadie version of a 69'r. Not because I'm trying to make a statement. I just haven't got the money for a new matching front wheel yet. And while I will undoubtedly buy the Mavic, I will still be on the lookout for some really cool 27" High Flange Campy bargain. when you look at the bike, it looks pretty cool. The ride is Just Fine.