Mechanical Failures

Many years ago I had the nds side of a nutted crankset loosen up while in the middle of a long ride. I managed to pedal mostly one legged to an Autozone where I begged to borrow a 14mm socket and ratchet – tightened things up enough that the crank stayed on until I replaced it months later.

I sorta didn’t learn my lesson with that experience though. The next year I had the same thing happen on a different bike – I had put a tiny ratchet and 14mm socket in my saddlebag but the cranks I was riding were 8mm hex fixing bolt. I was so ready, had the bike locked into a stop sign and my tools all laid out when I went to tighten the fixing bolt and felt like my brain missed a shift on seeing the 8mm hex. I was training for my first century and was several miles between towns in the rolling green veldt between Atlanta and Athens, GA. No cellphone signal, the only businesses I had passed had been abandoned service stations and I hadn’t seen a house in a while.

I had a cheap performance bike brand multi-tool but it only had 6mm hex, I fussed around with different combinations of jamming the tool into the 8mm opening but couldn’t get good torque. Eventually I realized I could jam everything together using the 6mm and a bunch of tiny pieces of gravel. It worked well enough to get me home wherein I bought a torque wrench and have not had any issue since then.

Lately I’ve been having issues with the NiMH batteries in my lights failing. I was out riding around south of Dallas Georgia where there’s pretty much nothing. Late autumn makes for long and very beautiful sunsets in this part of the state. As it gets darker I’m rolling along and switch on one of my two headlights – get a very dim beam. Hmm I had just taken the batteries off the charger 3 hours earlier before I left. I make the incorrect assumption that the batteries are bad and have self-discharged in the short time off-charger and unused.

I try my other light and it’s the same thing. Well hell now I have to try to ride the next 4 hours with minimal or no front lights. My rear lights are fine so I decide to just keep going with my weak, ineffectual front lights. After about half an hour the lights suddenly flip to full brightness. I’m scratching my head here but that’s fine with me I guess. I make it home and after some reading it seems the cold weather affects the batteries and reduces the ability to output high-draw power. Running them in low mode allowed the internal resistance to heat up the cell enough to start putting out the higher pull for my lights to go into high mode. I could have done the same thing by putting the cells next to my body and heating them that way.

This is my third fall/winter season on these batteries and I had not had this problem previously so it seems to be an age/quality issue. I replaced with better batteries and added some lithium batteries as backups as well as another light, just in case.

Once I had the pedal eye of a FSA Vero Cross crack 8 miles into a planned 130 mile ride. It was a stressful, mostly one-legged ride back to my car and then a wasted day getting it fixed before bailing halfway through the ride.


Other than that I’ve only really had spokes and three frames cracking but those were closer to home and although stressful, fairly simple rides back.

Cassette cog wear

This is a used 23t 9 speed cog compared to a new 23t 9 speed cog. It has “10,000 miles” in the sense that it was part of a cassette that had 10,000 miles ridden on it but the actual cog itself – who knows? A lot of miles for sure but exactitude is not really needed.

I wanted to show the peening on the trailing edge as well as overall thinness of the teeth that occurs from use.

Tektro Novela Mechanical Disc Brake Review

It’s March, I’m standing at the top of a 3,500 foot descent, the temperature is in the high 30s and a thick fog blankets the forest around me. Rain and snow have battered the mountain for weeks and the road is little more than a muddy path with the occasional patch of gravel tossed about carelessly by an apathetic road crew. I’m on a bike purchased only weeks ago, equipped with the cheapest of OEM disc brakes. Mud, sand and debris coat myself and the bike – I have only the vaguest sensation in my fingertips as I try to turn the barrel adjuster on the front brake. I need only slightly more braking power to make it down the mountain. This is the second long descent of the 2015 edition of Southern Cross, a 55 mile dirt road bicycle race in the mountains of North Georgia. Despite my machinations; my bike, and it’s brakes, have held up well. They have shrugged off most of the mud and sand and water and rocks and everything else the road has flung at them today. Now I just need a little more, squeezing so hard I fell a burst of pain blast through the numbness the adjuster turns once, twice and finally three times. I give the lever an experimental squeeze, lift the front wheel and let it rotate freely for a few seconds. Everything is spinning smoothly so I glance to my rear and confirm no upcoming riders and then mount up and scream down the mountain. This descent is long sections of straight drops interspersed with tight curves packed with washboarding and loose road surface. The mud and the wet conspire to push the front wheel around chaotically and give me a lively ride. I grab huge handfuls of brake, fling myself into the turns with wheels sliding hanging off the saddle trying to stay above the contact patch heart pounding for 5 minutes, for 15 minutes, for eternity. Finally it ends, brakes worn and lever travel almost to the handlebars again. I cross the finish line, weary but happy at how I and my bike have performed.

Later, I am riding in the back country of Lee County, Alabama. It’s November and unseasonably hot. I’ve been riding part of the 62 mile Standard Deluxe Dirt Road Century and now I’ve become lost. The red dirt roads of southeastern Alabama do not feature any sort of signage. Roads carry the names they have always had through the years, stored in the minds of the people who live on them.

Look at a map and you’ll see county road 2, ask someone who lives off county road 2 and they’ll look at you askance.

“The ol’ Mill Pond road?”

Ask a transplant to the area “Ah yes, Menefee Pond road”

Only one of these is right.

I see a signpost, the green coating pocked with bullet holes the road names meaningless. It’s dusty and the sun hangs high as I pedal over the dry dirt roads. My wheels crunch through the dirt and a slick orange dust coats everything. I’m low on water and frustration sets in as I hear a slight tingtingting from my front brake. I squeeze the brake lever a few times and the pads move slightly and the sound goes away. The brakes that once worked fine are now worn and wobbly. Thousands of miles on the road in the sun and rain and cold, hundreds of miles on gravel and dirt have worn them out. The pads slide back and forth in their holders under braking and the adjustment screw no longer has the grip to stay in place as it should.

I stand to pedal up a small rise, thick green pine forest on one side, a worn white clapboard church mounted on stone columns on the other. As I lean the bike to the left I hear a slight grinding from my brake, lean to the right and nothing. So I grind up the climb, ready to throw these brakes into the pine forest where they can go back to the Earth. Once I make it to pavement the brakes are silent. This isn’t the right route, I’ve gotten so lost I’m stuck taking a paved road back to the finish. Together we sulk into Waverly Alabama neither wanting to admit being wrong.

To start with, here is an interesting video showing the design of how most mechanical brakes work and a major issue that needed to be corrected in the initial wave of mechanical discs.

On to the review. These brakes are usually low-end OEM components. Can’t imagine why anyone would buy them. Mine came on a 2013 Scattante DX350 I picked up used. I ended up riding the brakes for about a 16 months/7,100 miles. I raced them in some of the marquee events down here in Georgia/Alabama during a insanely wet year. Mt. Currahee, Southern Cross and Shake ‘n’ Brake were all wet and full of descending and cornering. The brakes got a good workout and I was generally happy with them. I did notice that due to the construction the pads are allowed a lot of movement and often wear extremely asymmetrically.

As time passed I started using different types of brakes and started looking at the Novelas with a more critical eye. The arm is too long and has a lot of flex, this leads to a lot of lever travel to get good braking which doesn’t work well since the pads are not wearing evenly. This means the range of adjustment that allows for good brake response and feel is extremely small. 1/16th of a turn of the fixed pad is enough to go from significant rubbing to nothing. The pads just have too much movement, especially after so many miles.

The pads themselves have a small surface area and do not brake nearly as well as pads with a bigger contact area.

Depending on your fork/wheel/rotor combination it can be hard to get the pads to line up properly and not rub after settling in.

I’m actually writing this review because my Soma Doublecross Disc and TL-23 wheelset just don’t work with these brakes. The front wheel is still stiff and the brakes rub noticeably as the fork and caliper move around during hard climbing. Combine this with the extremely coarse adjustment and it’s time to move on. I’m replacing them with Sora R317 as they have a stiffer arm and just work better.

Shimano RD-M592 Rear Derailleur – Just Doesn’t Work

It’s rare for a modern bike part to be so poorly engineered that it doesn’t work at all. This derailleur came on my mountain bike. It worked great at first but after a hundred hours or so it started failing to shift. Like actually not shifting up or down. The cable would pull and move but the derailleur would not move enough to switch gears on one or even two clicks.

Drove me CRAZY for months with this. I changed cables, hangers, housing – messed with the shifters. It was awful. This fucked up more than one event for me and made me super frustrated.  I read through this thread and after seeing other people’s experiences, tossed mine right in the trash (not really – I can’t throw anything away so it’s in the “worn-out parts” bin BUT STILL)

So fuck this derailleur. I replaced it with a Sora RD-3500 which handles the same exact cassette and chainring combos just fine.