Monday, July 11, 2016

First Time Fiddling With Brifters

I need to specify that while my Ross has friction shifters mounted next to the brake levers and my Lotus has a Sturmey-Archer (indexed) shifter placed close to where the roadies of the stone age used to put theirs, we're actually talking about new Shimano 105 levers this time.

I am not sure what prompted this decision, but my friend Nikolai suddenly got the bright idea to convert his Nashbar AL-1 from being Sora-driven to 105. This would include new brifters, bottom bracket, cranks, rear hub, gears, and derailleurs. The whole shebang.

And so after the parts had been delivered and I had returned from work, unboxing began as did removal of old bar tape with hopes of re-installation (it may seem as if I am diving into this post very quickly, but that's exactly how this project felt in real life).

Some of the packaging was, in our eyes, quite clever. As an example, the fake "freehub" that held the cassette together. Nikolai later realized it was designed so that the entire gear cluster could be dropped onto the hub.

The bike originally came with a standard square taper bottom bracket with a Prowheel 175 crankset. The 105 required a Hollowtech bottom bracket. Removal of the old one was difficult, to say the least ... the cups were so hard to turn that we first tried lengthening my wrench by attaching the whole top half of my work stand to it, and doing so resulted in the jaws of the wrench being flexed open. #BecauseRoadkill.

We ended up going to the store a little after midnight and grabbing a cheap 1/2" drive torque wrench that would fit in the bottom bracket socket. It kept camming out of the bottom bracket splines so we then clamped the whole wrench to the bottom bracket axle ... Well, it worked, and we found out why it was stuck.

Keep in mind this bike was just about 500 miles (about three years) old, so this was almost definitely caused by inadequate lubrication of the threads upon assembly. Well, with that out of the way ...

After I cleaned out the threads, the Hollowtech bottom bracket went in with no trouble, and the crankset was assembled. This one has 34 and 50 teeth, I believe.

Installing the brake cables with interruptor levers required a bit more finagling than when I did the same for my Lotus. The set luckily came with more than enough spare housing. Here, Nikolai is seen hugging his bike out of excitement (not really). Nikolai dug some directions out of the internet (the instruction manuals in the box were of no use) to hook up the brifters. It seems quite complicated but also very clever. Rather, the system is complicated but installation is straightforward after you figure out what you're doing. I was pleasantly surprised to find the shifter cables coated in some kind of plastic material (teflon?) to reduce friction.

By the time wheel building began, we had already been up all night and I was not at all feeling it. Thankfully, as I predicted, this was something that Nikolai seemed to have a knack for. After messing up once, I kind of just sat by and watched him finish putting the new hub into the wheel. He devised a clever, simple method of inserting nipples into the deep V rim without losing them inside. It was at this point that I realized I had never built a deep V wheel. I don't seem to have taken photos of the tool, unfortunately, but it was a straw slit on two sides and up about a centimeter. It held the nipples rather securely.

Something we found strange was that the spokes that came from the left side of the hub were all bent in a way that seemed like a different lacing pattern was used on the wheel. I didn't have the foresight to check this before disassembling the wheel but after bending the spokes back (and still using them in their corresponding positions), we were grateful to find that they all still fit the wheel even with added dishing and a traditional cross pattern. Nikolai spent a couple hours meticulously turning the spoke nipples, learning how to feel for it along the way and ending up with a a wheel that was very nearly perfect. And somehow, probably in the midst of doing something that was not nearly as important, I did not get to witness the satisfaction of "dumping" the cogs onto the hub.

I thought the method used to install the chain, with the small peg to be snapped in half, was rather clever as well. Ah, the modern "tricks of the trade" that I have yet to become familiar with ...

So, after not having gotten a wink of sleep in over 30 hours (okay, I lied, I was dozing off a bit while we were assembling the wheel), Nikolai and I set off on a ride in the mid afternoon. Realizing he forgot his riding shoes, I temporarily lent him my shoes and Nashbar Double Track pedals. We found that the rear shifter cable anchor was loose partway through but after rectifying that, everythingall seemed fine. Nikolai reported that shifting was just a teeny bit more noisy and clunky than with the old Sora, possibly attributed to someone telling us to leave the chain a bit longer than was ideal.

But in all, everything was pretty dialed in and surprisingly successful given that we both were kind of figuring everything out along the way. Another buddy joined us for a long cruise around one of the parks and then dinner. Overall, a very quick-yet-fulfilling weekend.