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1st April 2012
Riders: Richard, Rob, Wobbem, Davebus, Gazza and Rich Lonegroover
Leith Hill
Weather: 9 °C

Another dry week and another sunny morning means it’s a surprise that there’s only a small group of riders out to enjoy the dry and dusty trails. A small group of riders had been to Cwmcarn DH trail yesterday to continue the ongoing quality and effectiveness testing of their Alps gear and bikes and from all reports a great time was had by all.

It’s supposedly only 3.5 degrees in the Starveall car park as we head up to Leith Hill tower but with the warming sun on our backs we are soon stripping off layers or in my case rolling down arm-warmers as we head over to some of the lesser known trails. With no particular route in mind we take the opportunity to explore a few trails. Some ending in dead ends and others proving to be very rideable.

Rob leads us through the ‘Moonbase’ and then he takes us over to his latest find; a lovely loamy switchback descent known to him and the Saturday crew as ‘Loose Goose’ which is a very descriptive name.

Whilst we are riding I get a call from the original (and still the best?) Rob who hasn’t ridden with us since November. He knows that cos some bloke he knows logs all Rob’s rides on the internet somewhere; saddo. So we hook up with him in Wolverns Lane and carry on our riding down Summer Lightning and then up Casper’s trail.

More gentle meanderings around the outskirts of Leith Hill including, with a bit of movie footage shot as we go and then the Secret Garden trail set (why is it that wherever you ride there’s always a trail called Secret Garden?) before climbing back up the hill for a tea break where I get quizzed by another rider who is buying a GoPro II this week. Then it’s back down Chocolate Jesus for the return to the cars. It’ still only 10.5 degrees but the sweat stained grins tell a different story.



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all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

7th April 2012
Bike Maintenance

One of the pleasures of having a number of bikes is the ability to select a different ride every morning. Conversely one of the issues with multiple bikes is the constant need for maintenance.

And so it was on Wednesday and Thursday morning that I was mentally kicking myself that despite having four road bikes I found myself sitting on the train due to them all being out of action and unavailable for the cycle commute.

The Raleigh is over 20 years old now and is only kept for sentimental purposes. It’s unrideable due to wheels being out of true and the refusal of the rear axle to stay put in the chain stays.

The Bianchi via Nirone has been unused since January when the non-drive side crank decided to work loose leading to me rounding off the casting.

The Trek 1200 SL has not unexpectedly developed play in the rear cassette where the previous owner had allowed the hub to become badly worn.

And on Tuesday morning’s commute the rear gear cable snapped on the Specialized Allez Comp. Now that wouldn’t normally be an issue and is a five minute fix once I buy a new cable but it snapped high up the cable and got jammed inside the mechanism meaning that I couldn’t shift down and release the gear ferrule from the shifter.

So on Saturday afternoon I sat down in my back garden in the Sun with a cup of fruit tea (I gave up caffeine in 2008), a selection of tools and plenty of time on my hands to try and tease the offending article out. Trying to grab hold of the frayed ends with some long nose pliers whilst pulling the brake lever to expose the mechanism wasn’t working so I started to remove the lever hoods and plastic covers to expose the inner mechanism.

I was about to remove the nut at the front and was just trying to understand how if I did remove it I would re-tension the coil when it came time to re-assemble it all when I spotted a frayed cable end hove into view. Out came the pliers again and having ensured a firm grip I gently teased it out making sure I didn’t click the shift lever which would pull it out of my grasp again and suddenly the frayed cable and ferrule was free. I reassembled the covers, fitted a new cable and then gave the bike a good wash as it has accumulated a lot of grime from the roads.

I also swapped out the tyres for a new set I am trying, Schwalbe Lugano's which were a bargain at just £7-99 each in Fudge Cycle Store in Epsom. Great, that’s one bike back in play.

Next up was the Bianchi. I baulked at splashing out £50 to £100 quid for another FSA Gossamer Mega Exo chain set having already gone through three of them during the lifetime of the bike and managed to pick up a Shimano 105 chain set from the Bay of E for a most bargainous £9-50. I had a spare set of external bearings and cups and fitted these in a trice. A little bit of adjustment to the front mech to accommodate the move from 50T to 52T and all was good in the ‘hood.

Once again the Bianchi was filthy having last been used in the depths of winter but a deep clean of the frame, chain and cassette have left it sparkling and that is bike number two ready for the commute.

The Trek 1200 SL has had a new bottom bracket and headset fitted but I realised that the chain set was completely worn. So I’m keeping my eyes on eBay with numerous items on my watch list waiting for that bargain to appear with a replacement rear wheel/hub body and cassette high on the agenda followed by another Shimano 105 chain set. I already have a new chain ready and waiting.

All I’ve got to do now is look at the loose wheel bearings on the Prince Albert and the SX trail and I will be up straight with my maintenance (no wheel pun intended)!



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all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

14th April 2012
Yet more bike maintenance

So following on from last week I finally got around to looking at the rear wheel on the Prince Albert which has had noticeable movement for the last couple of weeks. It was time for a strip down and rebuild of the rear axle and bearings.

First off you need to remove the cassette using the normal cassette cracker and chain whip.

Then remove the rubber dust cover from the non drive side axle. It’s a good idea to lay out all the pieces on a flat surface in the order you remove them to allow for ease of rebuilding and to ensure you don’t end up with any ‘spare’ pieces when you have finished.

Use a 15mm and 17mm set of cone wrenches to loosen the locknut and unscrew from the axle.

Then remove the cone and various spacers that are on the axle. Keep one hand on the other end of the axle to ensure it doesn’t fall out.

Now flip over the wheel and remove the axle.

Finally, remove the loose bearings. For a Shimano 9-speed MTB hub there will usually be nine on each side. I usually find that the driveside is in the worst condition whilst the non-driveside which has been protected by the dust cover is still clean and with a fair covering of grease.

Degrease and clean the cones, driveside and non-driveside hub, axle and all parts that you have removed.

Now is a good opportunity to check that the drive side locknut and cone are tight.

Using a good quality grease put a generous amount into the driveside and non-driveside hub.

Replace with new loose bearings. Remember it’s nine-a-side.

Insert the axle through the drive side and replace the nuts and washers in the correct order. This is when you reap the benefit of having carefully laid them out on your workbench earlier in the process.

Now comes the tricky bit which is tensioning up the bearings. You need to ‘feel’ the amount of play that you have in the axle. You also need to be aware that what feels fine now will be too tight when you clamp the wheel in place using the quick release.

A good place to start is to tighten up the race until you start to feel the bearings grind as you spin the wheel and then back off the race half a turn. Tighten up the locknut and place the wheel into the frame and tighten up the QR. Check for play and/or whether the bearings are grinding. Tighten or loosen in small amounts until you reach the perfect position.



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all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

15th April 2012
Riders: Richard, Wobbem, Lee, Robin, Niall, Laurent, Adam and Steve
Pitch Hill
Weather: 8°C

The winter appears to have returned this week and it’s been the equivalent of the cyclists unholy trinity; cold, wet and windy. But there’s still a decent sized group meeting at a well and truly packed Hurtwood Control car park for a 9-30 departure.

It’s great to see Leeroy Brown and Niall back on a Sunday morning and Niall (or Gnarl! as he was recently christened in his absence) sets a blistering pace from the off as we head up to the trig point and beyond.

There’s lots of riding and lots of singletrack and the fast pace continues as we cover 15 miles in less than three hours finishing with a blinding run down a newly bermed Supernova.

Back to Adam’s in the Father Ted-mobile and a cold ride home for me from there although the day gets better in the evening when I get up to Wembley to see the Super Blues demolish Spurs 5-1. Happy days.



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all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

22nd April 2012
Riders: Richard and Ben
Road ride: Box Hill
Weather: 14°C

It's been a typical April this year, cold, sunny and regular rain showers and with a typical great moment in bad timing this was all kicked off by the British Government announcing that the UK is officially in drought and that the use of hosepipes is banned.

Despite cycle commuting only three days this week due to other committments I still managed to get soaked through every single day. Having been on the receiving end of all that rain I knew that the trails were likely to be cut up today and so I took my youngest Ben out on the road for a continuation of his Alps training plan.

This is the fifth weekend on the bounce that we have been out together and I have been ramping up the distance and difficulty of the routes that we covered. Last weekend we covered 25 miles (37 km) as well as tackling Box Hill for the first time. Shouldn't be too difficult given that we both rode the Alpe d'Huez last year.

Last week saw him struggle a bit mainly due to the fact that he was on his own bike, a single speed MTB with knobbly tyres. I'm still keeping an eye out for some cheap 26" slick tyres but this week at least I could offer him the use of my geared Prince Albert.

Ben took full advantage of this and not only completed the route in a far better state than last time but also improved his time up Box Hill from 15 mins 45 seconds to 14 mins 12 seconds. I was slow-pedalling waiting for him behind me when suddenly he steamed past me drafting another rider up to the second hairpin. He managed to stick with him for another few minutes before the elastic broke and he dropped back behind me.

We also bumped into Gazza heading the other way on his Planet X having been out for a training ride and I spotted a guy called David that I know from my cycle commute and had a quick chat with him at the cafe.

Roll on July and our two week excursion to the French Alps.



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all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

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all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015


click to view click to view click to view Steve Neill Big Trev Orange Dave dialled bikes pewter headtube badge Dave and Dave outside LOMAC Dave on Summer Lightning A grinning Trevor Steve (again) Davebus and Neill on Stane Street Jason next to Denbie's vineyard Trevor struggles up the climb Dave followed by Jason on Stane Street Banstead Downs singletrack It was getting dark by the time I got back Richard (that's me!) Surrey Hills logo at the top of Coombe hill Gary dicing with the cars through New Malden Stag party Gary's Giant SCR 2008 model  A cheerful looking Gary part way round Richmond Park speed limits for cyclists! Kingston Gate, Richmond Park view off the side of Headley Heath Bianchi K-Vid carbon forks self-portrait whilst climbing between second and third hairpin on the Zig Zag Road, Box Hill Dave and Mat, the folly, Reigate Hill urban riding, Richard in Ashtead High Street a bit underexposed but a nice shot of the view from the North Downs Way Richard dropping in on Colley Hill No, not the Mediterranean, this is outside LOMAC, Ashtead High Street Richard showing off for the camera Mat and Richard, Stane Street Richard, Headley Heath Mat on Headley Heath Gary with our 'rabbit' in the distance Gary in the dusk Richard Gary chasing the yellow 'rabbit' in the distance Cas Cas Richard 'self-portrait'