Tag Archives: bike maintenance

Bike Review – Genesis Croix de Fer, 2013

What the bike had to put up with

The 12,000 km of the 2013 Tour d’Afrique, bike race from Cairo to Cape Town, about 25% of which was off road.

The Frame

The frame is made of Reynolds 725 steel. I am 1m73 and I used the 54cm frame.  The geometry was great. I was very comfortable on the bike after it was fit for me. I had no nagging aches or pains at any time. The paint chipped and abraded down to raw steel at several places. I chose steel because it can be repaired just about anywhere. But no repairs were needed. We were advised not to take carbon but several people did and not one of them had a problem. You can do some repairs to carbon anyway. Alloys seem to be less reliable. One alloy frame had a break and had to be scrapped.

The Wheels

The Croix de Fer comes with Alexrims XD-Lites. These were excellent. They took a real pounding and stood up to it. I had them trued twice but just as part of preventive maintenance. They never went really out of whack.

Tires

I used Schwalbe Marathon Plus – one set of 40mm and one set of 28mm They were superb. I had no punctures on the road. I did have one mysterious puncture in camp one evening. The bike came with 35mm Continental Cyclocross Race tires. I didn’t like these at all. I had several punctures while training before I left for the Tour. They are lightweight and thin and not suited to long rides in tough conditions. I didn’t even take them with me.

The Brakes

The bike came with Avid BB7 mechanical disk brakes with 160mm rotors. They worked very well. They are easy to adjust. The original brake pads disintegrated in wet and muddy conditions. I replaced them with resin pads, which held up better.  When the break pads disintegrated one of the rotors became very scarred. I replaced it.

Front and Rear Derailleur

The bike came with a Tiagra group set. Both derailleurs bent under the tough conditions and handling. I replaced both with 105 derailleurs. The front derailleur performed better, not much difference in the rear derailleur.

Front Chainrings and Rear Cassette

The bike came set up for racing, with two front chainrings (52/34) and an 11/26 ten speed rear cassette. I stayed with the front chainrings but soon switched to a 12/32 rear cassette. This helped on the hills but I still didn’t really have a granny gear. There was lots of sustained climbing of 12% and more. In future I would get three chainrings on the front.

Headset

The headset is a weak point on this bike. It is a cheap 1 1/8th threadless headset. Fine dust and sand gets in easily. I repacked it 4 times on Tour. It was not up to the very tough off road conditions. The headset became pitted and scarred. By the end, a couple of ball bearings had come out of one of the bearing races and the bearing race was bent and twisted.

Front Fork

The front for is a fixed fork. This made off road riding unpleasant. You could do it. But you suffered, especially your ulnar nerves. There is also not very much top clearance. The tube that goes into the headset extends down into the fork. I had to file this away to put my 40mm tires on. Even then I only had a few mm of clearance. In dry conditions this is ok. In wet and muddy conditions it means you are always stopping to clear away the mud that is acting like a break. In future I would fit a front suspension fork. Genesis should consider making this available as an option.

Rear Stays

Once again there is a problem of clearance. I could fit the 40mm tire but there was a real problem in muddy conditions.

Crank and Bottom Bracket

The Crank is Tiagra and came with SPD pedals. Both were fine. The bottom bracket is a standard English threaded one. The first one lasted only 5,000 km (about 1000km pre-Tour and the first 4000km of the Tour). I might have expected a bit more out of it.

Chain

I had no problems with the chains. There was a standard bit of stretch. I used three chains over the 12,000km. I changed it as part of regular maintenance rather than because of failure. I used Shimano 10 speed 105 replacement chains. I cleaned the chain and used dry lube very frequently.

Cables and Cable Housings

I had no problems with these but I did change them during the tour s part of routine maintenance.

Shifters

The bike came with Tiagra Brifters. They worked well. I had no problems at all. They were sometimes were infiltrated with sand and grit but were not difficult to clean.

Bars and Bar Tape

The bars fit me well and I liked them. The cushion in the bar tape didn’t last very long in wet conditions. The tape became hard and crusty. I soon replaced it with better bar tape with good cushioning – and in bright orange, with goes so much better with the black frame.

Seat and Seat Post

The seat was a Genesis own brand. I found it very comfortable and had no saddle sores for the 6000km+ that I rode it. Unfortunately it broke on tough off road conditions. I had to ride 26km to the finish line on sharp rocks corrugation and sand with no seat. By the end of the Tour the seat post was firmly rusted into the seat bar. I had put some lubricant in at the beginning but it obviously didn’t last and I hadn’t checked it over the course of the long ride. But this is now a real pain.

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C & N Cycles

Damian at C & N Cycles has done a great job of getting my bike and all associated cycling kit for the Tour – and at a very welcome discount.

Thanks Damian and C & N.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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5 flights, 15 lions, 2 more flats

Time to catch up. Been away for a while again. It started a week ago last Wednesday when I got up at 3am to catch a 5:10 flight to Zimbabwe – well actually a flight to Nairobi, followed by a flight to Gaborone, followed by a flight to Harare.  A direct flight from Dar to Harare, if there were one, would take 2 ½ – 3 hours. Thanks to Kenya airways and their bizarre routing, it took me 12 hours. I did my schtick in Harare and then flew back to Dar on Friday – this time only two flights, one to Nairobi, then one to Dar.

Up at 5am on Saturday to get ready to leave at 6 for the Selous game reserve.  It is mid-term break for the kids and we were off on Safari. I cycled to Kibiti, about 160km and very hilly, where I met up with the family and a vehicle. We stayed in a local guesthouse across from the police station in Kibiti that night. Nice little place with about ten rooms around an inner courtyard, showers and loos in a block at the end. We got two rooms for 16,000 shillings, about US$10. Next morning we did about 100km on bad dirt and sand roads into the game reserve, where we spent 4 days. It is very dry in the park this time of year. No real rains yet, so lots of game near the water. We saw 15 different lions, lots of crocs, buffalo, elephants, giraffe, hippos, kudu, wart hogs and impala. No leopard this time though.

After arriving in Kibiti the Saturday before I had sent my bike back to Dar in another vehicle with Georgina, who had cycled down with me but had to get back to Dar that evening. When I got back to Dar on Wednesday night I found that both tires on the croix de fer were flat again. X!c@##! What is it with me and slow-leak, pinch punctures? There were a lot of corrugated speed bumps on the road, at the front and back ends of every village we cycled through. I can only think that I went over some of these too fast and hard and pinched the tubes. But this is ridiculous. I can’t get off and carry my bike over every speed bump.  Haven’t had the new bike for a month yet and I have already had 4 flats. I feel like I am single handedly keeping a rubber plantation in business.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Patching tubes, trueing wheels

On Saturday I decided to try and patch some of the punctured tubes that have been piling up in the garage. I have not been very environmentally responsible this last year. Instead of patching tubes I have simply put in a new one and thrown the punctured one on the pile in the garage. There were eighteen of them. Three were beyond repair. Two had exploded and had foot long tears in them. One has so many holes it would have been more patch than tube. These three went to my daughter who wants to be Medusa for Halloween and will use them to create a writhing snake wig. The others all looked sort of repairable. I had three new patch kits and set to work. Seven tubes had pinch punctures so each had two holes, side by side, one from each side of the rim. These were tricky. The other eight all had single holes. Twenty-two patches later I had almost used up all of my three new patch kits – you only get 8 patches in a kit. I inflated them all and left them overnight to see which ones would hold. Five didn’t. So I have retrieved 10 tubes. Not too bad I guess. May have another crack at the five that still leak. Maybe not.  Maybe more rubber snakes for the Medusa wig. At any rate, need to get some more patch kits. Chris would say forget the tubes and get tubeless tires. He has a point. No pinch punctures with tubeless.

Also had the back wheel of the TREK – the wheel with all the broken spokes – properly trued. Mejah, who runs a bicycle advocacy group in Tanzania called UWABA, http://www.uwaba.or.tz/ has a good mechanic who did it for me.

No flats for five days now. I think ‘new bike’ and I are getting along better.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Exchanging atoms

While I like my new bike I am not so sure it likes me – or at least what I am doing to it. I have had two flats this week. Is this the new bike’s way of telling me something? Both flats were pinch punctures; both resulted from landing hard on big pieces of concrete. The first happened when I tried to jump a culvert and came down on an edge with my back wheel; the second when I was coming off a dirt track and tried to jump a high concrete curb onto a road surface. The front wheel made it – the back wheel not quite. In both cases the tire stayed inflated for the rest of the ride. I didn’t discover the flats until the next morning. It was as if the new bike had had time to think about what I had done and decided, somewhat perversely and belatedly, to get back at me.  I noticed the first flat at 5:30 one morning. I was due to join some others for a ride at 6:00. So I changed the tire and started to pump it up. Either I wasn’t paying enough attention or the tire was defective. At any rate it exploded! Very loudly! Everybody else in the house had still been asleep. I sheepishly replaced the tube and left for my ride. But I did hear about it later. My new bike had found a clever way to enlist some allies. Apologies are due. I promise to be more gentle.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Good week on the new bike

So far so good on the new bike. It feels comfortable and solid and accelerates well. I have been out every day this week. I had a good hilly ride on Thursday and a longer ride of about 115 km out to South Beach and back today. About 50km of today’s ride was on dirt – lots of corrugation and rocks. We did the first hour in the rain – almost like an English summer morning. We had a fairly stiff head wind going out but a nice tail wind coming back. The croix de fer performed well. The head set loosened a bit but I tightened that up and it is fine. Looking forward to next week.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Out on the new bike

My new bike arrived last Sunday. Thanks to Georgina for bringing it on the plane with her from London. Thanks to Damian at C&N Cycles for making sure it was packed up and delivered to Georgina at Heathrow Terminal 5 on time. Thanks to British Airways for not losing it and for getting it here undamaged. So many things could have gone wrong. Everything worked. A good sign. A charmed bike.

I have been out on it every day since it arrived. If you look closely at the poster in my last post – Fundraising Update – you will see the new bike. On Monday I took it with me to have the photos taken for the poster. On Tuesday we had the poster.

The assembly was fairly straightforward – except for adjusting the Avid BB7 disk brakes. I had not mounted and adjusted this type of disk brake before. The instructions that came in the package were crap. Thank heavens for YouTube. I found a great instructional video and had it sorted in no time.

Looking forward to some much longer rides on the weekend.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania