The week I got Gilbert running, extensive road testing began.
First, though, I had to deal with shifting problems. That cable clamp in the center of the photo is mounted backwards. If I used it the right way, it couldn't be clamped hard enough to prevent the cable housing from slipping. When I tightened it down just enough to keep it still, the housing was crushed and I wasn't able to move the cable. I decided to free the clamp from its clamping duties and use as just a cable stop. I have learned that no matter how much money is spent, nothing is guaranteed free of my hackery so I might as well stop counting on "plug and play" kits. Also, the English white tail had to be painted onto the rear fender.
That feeling when your bike has a Valentine on Valentine's Day and you don't (kidding, that photo was taken earlier).
Also, yes, it is locked the wrong way but that was corrected after the photo to the right was taken.
My first feeling was that the bike rode smooth as a Cadillac - almost TOO smooth. While it was nice, it was also kind of slow despite it having gained two additional ratios. It might be partly because of the tooth ratio I used. Surprisingly enough, I didn't find it to be much of a problem. The '58 Sports and the Ross both encourage me to go flat-out so I often get to class a bit more sweaty than I'd like, but this was a nice, take-it-easy town bike. I haven't used 5th gear much, but the granny gear helps a great deal for the Ann Arbor hills. I think I got the 46/20 tooth ratio just about right.
I mentioned previously that the shifting was not so good in the beginning but once I started spinning the hub at higher speeds, it smoothed out and it's been great ever since. I have had zero shifting problems while on the road, despite the fact that the spring in the hub is super stiff. The cable stop hasn't moved. I still wish the thumb shifter had a shorter throw but I'm grateful that I upgraded from the plastic twist shifter. Since the last time I wrote about it, I have seen some reviews that say it's unreliable, imprecise, and therefore assists with destruction of the hub.
To my standards, braking is exceptional. Despite the fact that these drum brakes require hundreds of miles to wear in, they're already better than anything I've ever had. I'm hesitant to squeeze very hard because I don't want to stress my fork too badly but it seems like the rear brake is stronger for now, anyway. The new drum brakes have been more than adequate for all situations I've encountered so far and we'll see how they progress.
The upside down north road bars are very comfortable for me. While I love the upright position of Gwendolyn, the '58 Lady's Sports, it feels more efficient to be bent over slightly. On the other hand, I have grown to enjoy the position that real drop bars provide but the fact that the bar ends are not angled outwards creates some stress in my wrists. I also can't carry a heavy backpack while using drop bars. The upside down north roads are the perfect compromise for a town bike. One unforeseen effect of this seating position, though, is the amount of my weight it places on the front wheel. While it's not much by any stretch, it's enough to make the steering feel a bit squirrely. It may or may not have to do with the relaxed geometry of this bike but mainly, I think it is because drop bars place your hands in line with or forward of the stem while north road bars have your hands behind. Think of it like pushing vs. pulling a wheelbarrow. My weight was pushing, not pulling the wheel straight, making it a little less stable. The issue is compounded by the fact that unlike the bars on my '58 which curve forward before swooping back, the VO north roads don't go forward much at all. On top of that, the straight bar ends are very long, pushing my weight even further back. It helps when I move my hands forward and I am considering shaving an inch off the end of the bars so I can move the grips in.
I also thought I'd have problems hitting my knee with the bars in sharp turns but it hasn't been a problem, possibly because my body expected it to happen and compromised without me noticing.
In the past week, I have made several updates. To begin, I added a Cateye Velo 7 computer, handlebar grips and a mirror. I'd always glance down to check behind as I do on the '58 Sports but then realize that I didn't have a mirror. On a related note, the only thing I don't like about these alloy bars is that they're so soft and easy to scratch. The steel brake levers, steel mirror mount, and even the alloy handlebar clamps have left scratches on it during mounting. The mirror was the biggest offender since it is of low quality and not well finished. However, I try to comfort myself with the fact that fifty years down the road, they'll still look better than the '58's bars that have scrapes and small rust pits, that is if I don't fall hard and bend the bars. The alloy bars on the Ross are visibly bent from a previous owner taking a spill sometime in the past.
I first mounted the lock horizontally since it was hung near its center of gravity and I felt it would put less strain on the mount. I bought acorn nuts for the tips of the lock mount and used longer bolts so they could be used as hooks. These are SO useful, especially when I need to stop to fish something out of my backpack.
I had to change the position of the lock mount after a while. The bike itself was tight and free of rattles, to my delight. However, the lock not only made noise, but was extremely loud and annoying due to the lock part and U bolt hanging loosely next to each other. Mounting it vertically got rid of the problem for the most part by making the lock part sit heavily on the U bolt. I can still use the long bolts as hooks, although on one side only. I also solved another problem: while picking the bike up by the top tube, I had to be careful not to accidentally grab the lock instead and break the mount. That's no longer an issue, obviously.
The tail light bucket used to be gray plastic, but the chrome spray paint made it match the steel coaster brake straps that I used to mount it. It doesn't look like chrome, but it's perfect.
I finally found my mistake and got the Dynohub hooked up. I saw that bolting the wheel to the frame automatically grounds it, unlike the original Dynohub. I had been shorting the circuit by hooking wiring the Dynohub to the frame and the light when I should have been connecting it to just the light. I also added a tail light that came from a 6V 3W generator kit that I got for the Ross and bought some spare flashlight bulbs just in case. I managed to fry the absolute crap out of both lights going down a hill at 20 mph (and a second headlight bulb at 15 mph). I'm waiting for my voltage regulator and halogen bulbs to arrive and in the mean time, limiting my night time speeds to about 11 mph. I still haven't found out how to open the tail light so it's disconnected at the moment. I might just give up on it anyway since the LED blinky lights need to be turned on at night, no matter what. I'm also wondering why my LED headlights always get dim in the cold but the red tail lights do not.
A bell and LED headlight have been added to the stem. The headlight is to be set on blinking mode for visibility and it'll continue to shine once I stop and the Dynohub goes dark. The bell is cheap and won't make a sound if I don't give it a good pluck, at which point it's too loud for pedestrian traffic. I might have to work something out for that. Also, after the first few rides, I added the plastic hoods back to the brake levers since I realized that they do indeed have a function: they hold the cables and make them exit straight out from the levers since they stopped using the old style snap-on ferrules. Contrary to what I originally thought, I think they actually look better when combined with the black grips and saddle.
I actually built the wheels slightly wrong the first time around. I accidentally forgot to lace the outside spokes inside for the last cross so I had to change that (strangely, the original wheels are built this way). After, I decided it would be in my best interest to give them to Joel at Midwest Bike Tandem to check and make sure I wouldn't be damaging my precious components later on. Wheel work was a bargain compared to the quote I got from the shops at home last year and Joel did a perfect job. I feel good to have actually paid him for something since I'm usually there every couple weeks, chatting him up and wasting his time.
The ride has firmed up a little since the spokes were tightened and I like the result. The bike is also not as slow as I first thought. Eyeing the speedo as I ride, my average speed usually matches or surpasses that of the '58. The larger frame (23" as opposed to 21") enables full leg extension so I don't need to push as hard to keep up. I've put on more than 40 miles in all and have had no problems regarding the hubs and wheels, which were my biggest investment. I'm extremely happy with how this project turned out and I think it'll be used as my primary commuter as I intended. Don't get me wrong, though - the Ross and the '58 will still see their fair share of miles. I don't like seeing good vehicles sitting still. After all this, I still think ol' Gwendolyn is the bike I'd choose if I could only keep one.