Chas Takes a Bath | 5 Day Story Challenge

IMG_3860The most important thing you can do for your bike is to keep it clean, particularly the drive train – chain, cassette and derailleurs. Your bike will thank you for it. It will look better, perform better, and last longer. And, you will too ūüôā

Chas: “You’ve got that right. I hate looking dishevelled.”

There is no one way to clean a bike. It’s controversial. What isn’t these days. I¬†have changed my methods over the years, but my bikes look forward to a weekly wash, sometimes more frequently, depending on use and road conditions.

I love washing my bikes, and¬†detest¬†working on a dirty one. I won’t do it. So don’t expect me to work on your bike if you roll up to the back gate and your bike¬†is encrusted in dirt and grime.

A thorough bike wash¬†doesn’t have to take long. Chas¬†doesn’t have to soak, sip on a scotch, and read a good novel like I might. I have it down to 10-15 minutes at most. In fact, the more often I¬†do it, the quicker it gets. So, don’t tell me you don’t have the time. You do. And, you don’t need a lot. A hose and water, a pail, mild soap, a wash cloth or glove, a scrub brush, degreaser, and a chain cleaner.

IMG_3859This is how I do it.

First, I put my gum boots on. If possible, I pick a warm sunny day but have been known to wash my bikes in the pouring rain. I bring the work stand out of the shop and place it next to the vegetable garden. This way I can serve two purposes. Chas gets clean and the garden gets watered. And then, I lightly hose Chas down to loosen any dirt. I used to worry about getting Chas wet, particularly his¬†bottom bracket, hubs, and headset. I don’t now. They are pretty well sealed and, besides, they get cleaned and repacked every year anyway. Right?

Then I fill a pail with water and mild soap. Chas prefers warm water, so I occasionally fill the pail inside where I have hot water just to stop the squawking. Yesterday, he had a chilly bath.

Chas: “And you picked a cold day. It may have been sunny but it was too cold for a cold bath. When are you going to learn? My tires rattled for hours.”

Using a wash glove once used for the cars, I srub¬†down the entire bike – frame, forks, tires, rims, derailleurs, brakes, cassette, chain, cranks and pedals. I’ve got this step down pat. It only takes a few minutes.

Next, using a gear cleaner from Filzer, I scrub the cassette and chain while back pedalling to make certain all links and cogs are cleaned. If it is really dirty, I will pour degreaser on the brush at the same time.

Chas: “Stop it. That tickles.”


Filzer Gear Cleaner

The chain is next. Using a chain¬†cleaner tool filled with¬†biodegradable cleaner, I pass the chain over the brushes 10-15 times by turning the cranks. This is the most important tool in the shop, and the one used most frequently. Whenever I’m preparing for a long ride, I always clean the chain beforehand. I want the shifting to be smooth and precise.

Chas: “I’m always amazed at how much dirt this removes, how dirty the cleaner¬†is afterward. And, it feels so good.”


Flilzer Chain Cleaner


Biodegradable Heavy Duty, Water Soluble Chain Cleaner from MEC


See¬†what a clean chain looks like. No dirt. No grease. No oil. While I’m at it, I may also check the chain wear. I watch this carefully and replace the chain and cassette whenever necessary. Chas’s chain has some life left. Riding 3¬†bikes cuts down on the wear and tear so I usually get a 9-12 months on a chain.

Chas: “That feels better.”


Filzer Chain Wear Gauge

Lastly, I wipe Chas down with a clean cloth removing any excess water, and then hang him¬†to dry. If I’m in a hurry to ride Chas, I will lubricate his chain but I prefer to let the chain dry completely beforehand. It only takes a few minutes to lubricate his chain and I prefer to do that immediately before the next ride when I also check the brakes, stem bolts and shifting¬†but that’s a subject for another post.


Chas patiently awaiting his next ride.

Chas: “How come Lou waits in the house and you keep me out here in the shop? It gets cold out here sometimes you know. And while I’m at it, why do you insure him and not me? I know he costs a lot but have you ever considered that you could never replace me at any cost. That’s gotta be worth something.”


Becky of¬†Restart Urgently Needed¬†nominated me for this challenge. She wanted to hear more about my bikes she said. Thank you Becky¬†ūüôā¬†I have to write 5 posts¬†about my bikes and, with each post, nominate another blogger to accept the challenge.¬†


With the first post, I nominate Ellie (A Writer’s Caravan) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read how music has shaped her life. And, I want to hear more of her music.


With the second post, I nominate Bri (Bike Like Crazy) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read more about cycling in cold, and snow. Bri is an inspiration to all cyclists.


With this third post, I nominate Gail (a bike for all seasons) for the 5 day story challenge because I would like to learn how she has been changed by her cycling project Рan experiment to cycle more and use her car less for a full year.  

The perfect bike …


Roberts Cycles c. 1980

I remember the first time I saw him.

He was hanging proudly on the wall behind the counter at the local shop. He was exquisite. A rich British racing green, sporting stylish black and white decals, and gold engravings. That was 35 years ago.

He hung there for months, and every time I visited the shop, I marvelled. He was the shop’s centrepiece. At least for me. He needed a few things. Accessories, if you will. Wheels. Handlebars. Brakes. Cranks. Saddle. Derailleurs. At nights I would dream about building the perfect bike. Buying the best components. Assembling them myself. I had never built a bike before but was confident I could. Why not? I had most of the necessary tools. And, a work stand.

For a months, I researched, carefully considering the type of cycling I enjoyed, all the while imagining the perfect bike. One day, after much deliberation, I walked into the shop, money in hand. $350 CAD. That was a lot in those days. He didn’t have a name back then but we were close from the start. In the ensuing months, I outfitted him. You see, in those days, I couldn’t afford to buy everything at once. I had an infant son at home, and there were other priorities. We lived in a 2-bedroom suite, the top 2 floors of a house on the east side. One bedroom for my partner and I, and the other for him. Yes, in those days, he¬†had his own room overlooking the yard. I had converted the second bedroom into a workshop for the winter as I meticulously assembled, and tuned, him.

He had nothing but the best. Cinelli. Campagnolo. Brooks. Weinmann. As he came to life, I photographed him. B&W of course. Artful photographs featuring his magnificence, sophistication, and subtleties. I still have those photographs. Some are mounted and grace the walls in the den, and the cottage.


Cinelli bars and stem

We, he and I, have experienced several incarnations. We were cycling tourists at the start, touring the country roads in rural Ontario, Quebec, Maine, and parts of England. Then we began to commute regularly until he was almost stolen one sunny afternoon whilst locked to a tree outside of the office window. He has the scars to prove it. A large dent in his seat tube, a sad reminder of how careful you must be. And, then we began training together, challenging ourselves on the local hills and mountain roads. The same roads we enjoy today.

He has been rebuilt with each reincarnation, always with the best. Tubular tyres on ultra light rims. A small chainring for long mountain climbs. And, most recently, he sports indexed shifting, integrated brake levers, compact cranks, and a 700c training wheel set Рthe perfect setup to tackle the hills, and dry weather commutes.

And, he¬†is nowhere near done. He has a lot of life left – that’s the advantage of steel – and, more reincarnations to come. If not with me, and I have another¬†in mind, then with my son.


At rest – Summer 2015

Shifting gears …


This summer has been about shifting gears. Slowing down. Working remotely. Fixing up the cottage. A new floating dock. A third bedroom. A laundry room. Recapturing lawn overgrown with weeds. It has been a time for reflection.

Yesterday, while bucking a strong headwind, I passed another cyclist riding an old steel frame bike with shifters on the down tube. Do you remember those bikes? That’s how Chas and I started out. Every time you needed to shift, you had to take your hand off the bar and reach down. Right¬†hand for the rear derailleur, left for the front. For years I rode this way. Didn’t we Chas?

Chas: “Those were the days!”

It seemed natural. It’s all I knew. But it was awkward,¬†particularly when changing chain rings. I would end up in a gear that was either too big, or too small.

Two years ago, I re-fitted Chas with integrated brake and gear shifters that mount on the bars. An Ultegra gruppo. It was not the first time I had cycled with this type of shifter. But it was the first time for Chas and I. Right Chas.

Chas: “They look funny. And look at the scratch where the shifters used to be. I don’t like that.”

For the longest time, I continued to shift either the rear or front derailleur. It never occurred to me that I could in fact change them both at the same time. That is until I was passed at the bottom of a climb. I had changed to the small chainring but was in too low a gear on the cassette and lost speed. I knew better. Lou and I shift more efficiently. But with Chas, I was still in the down-tube-shifting-mode, one derailleur at a time.

Old habits die hard.

We are better now, aren’t we Chas.

Chas: “Yeah. We never miss a gear. Never miss a step.”

So now, whenever I need to change chainrings, I will double-shift. Shift to the smaller chainring and up a gear at the back. Or, shift to the larger chainring and down a gear at the back. Simultaneously. And, without taking my hands off the bars. Large paddles to go up. Small paddles to go down. This way, there is not a big jump in gearing, and I maintain the same, or similar cadence.

Now, Chas rides like Lou.

Lou: “Hey!”

Chas: “Yeah, now we go faster.”

Lou: “You know these paddle shifters are because of bikes like me. Racers. We go faster because of them. Never miss a gear. Never break the rhythm. You have me to thank.”





Do you name your bikes?

Do you have a name for your bike?

If you do, you are not alone. A lot of us do. There is actually a name for it. Anthropomorphize. It means to attribute human form or personality to things not human. Well, I anthropomorphize my bikes. They are my friends. My mentors.

at the club getting water ...


Meet “Chas”.

I purchased Chas 35 years ago. My first bespoke frame designed and built by Roberts Cycles of Croydon, England. This bespoke frame building business was started following WW II by Charlie Roberts.

My father’s name was also Charlie. He was best known as “Chas” to family and friends. I lost him father shortly after purchasing the Roberts bike at a time when a young man needs mature, fatherly advice. “Chas”, the bike, took my father’s place in a way. It happened slowly. As I spent more time with¬†“Chas”, I realized he filled a void in my life, and helped me deal with daily challenges much the same way I suspect my father might have by being there for me, helping me relax, and challenging me to resolve my problems in imaginative and resourceful ways.

Last year, I rebuilt “Chas”, and outfitted him with an Shimano Ultegra group and wheel set. Today, he is¬†better than ever, there when I need him, still challenging me to be better.



Meet “Lou”.

“Lou” is a racing steed. An ultra light full-carbon bike designed to go fast and climb. He is a treat to ride. Fast. Exhilarating. Responsive. He is a Louis Garneau designed right here in Canada. I am a proud Canadian, and go out of my way to support both local and Canadian companies. “Lou” is much younger than “Chas”. I purchased him second hand from a racer friend, and over the years, upgraded him with carbon¬†handlebars, a Dura-Ace wheel set and compact cranks. He is a beauty, and my preferred ride on fast smooth surfaces.

“Lou” makes me feel young. He helps me keep pace with a younger crowd, and when I am astride him I’m 20 years younger. Well, that’s how it feels.

Do you name your bikes?

Compact crankset …


I have been waiting a long time to write this post.

My son gave me new, compact chainrings for Christmas this year. For those of you who may not be familiar with compact cranksets, they have two smaller chainrings that are particularly well suited for climbing. At the time, my son¬†didn’t realize they wouldn’t fit on my standard crankset.

What was I to do?

I had learned over the past several years that for the type of cycling I do, not to mention my age, they are preferable. I have a compact crankset on the Roberts and love it. I haven’t lost any speed, except perhaps on long descents, and I climb more easily, and faster.

There was nothing else to do but purchase a new compact crankset. My son and I looked online, and eventually found a good deal. This past weekend, we installed the new cranks, and I immediately went for a ride looking for hills to climb.

For a road cyclist, hills on a light, carbon bike with a 50-34 crankset is like a bone to a dog. You just can’t get enough. Hills are easier to climb. On the flat, you maintain a higher cadence and tire less quickly, travelling farther with less effort. Is there anything better?

I got my first taste of compact cranks on a road bike several years back. I took my kids there for a holiday. A week in the sun to swim, snorkel and relax. And, cycle. We discovered a bike shop near where we were staying that rented carbon¬†road bikes equipped with compact cranksets. We couldn’t resist, and one day cycled¬†the West Maui Loop, an epic ride around the perimeter of the small volcano which includes several category climbs.

I subsequently learned that professional cyclists are equipped with compact setups, particularly for the long, climbing stages. Where had I been? Now, both of my road bikes have compact setups.

So, if you are out there considering a new road bike, or wanting to upgrade the one you already have, ask about compact cranksets. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

My bikes …


I have challenged myself to cycle each and every day during the month of April. Actually, the challenge is broader than that. In addition to cycling every day, I am committed to not using the SUV this month, not even to transport the bikes.

My intent is not to cycle more, although I am certain I will. No, my¬†intent is to inspire others to get on their bikes. So far, no one has taken up my challenge, at least not openly. Not even interested family and friends. Sometimes, all that is needed to change behaviour is a little push. That’s what I am doing. Encouraging¬†people to cycle sooner than they might otherwise.

I have a lot of bikes. “Too many”, some say. In my mind, I¬†can never have too many bikes. They serve different purposes. The more I¬†have, the more opportunity I¬†have to ride.

I pulled all the bikes out today, making certain they are all in good working order. I plan to ride all of them this month – the commuter, the road bikes and, the mountain bikes. Today, I rode 2 of them. I did a 90 minute hilly, training ride on the Roberts and, after cleaning up, rode to a local cafe for lunch on my Kuwahara. Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, I am planning a 2.5 hour tempo, flat ride on the Roberts.

My bikes don’t have names. I envy those of you that have chosen endearing¬†names for your rides. Instead, I refer to mine by the manufacture’s name – Roberts, Garneau, Cervelo, Kuwahara, Rocky Mountain, “Goose”. Boring! And, believe me, I have tried.

The mountain bikes won’t¬†get much ice time. I enjoy trail riding but transport them¬†to find suitable terrain and, I am committed to not driving. That’s alright. I prefer the road bikes anyway.

So, if you are on the couch, get up. Commit. Get going. Get onto your bike. The weather is warm. The days are longer. You have no excuse.

Bolsover | Day # 4

I did the Brechin Loop this morning but in the opposite direction and taking a different road out.  Instead of starting out westbound to the lake, I headed north first and then west to the lake.  I prefer this route.  It is a little shorter (35 km) but the roads are in better shape and there is more climbing.  The ride starts with a 5 km climb at a 3% grade.  Sounds easy except there was a 24 kph headwind.  It felt more like 8%.

Once again, I stayed on the small chainring most of the ride spinning at at high cadence averaging 25-30 kph much of the time.  I am adjusted to the time and feeling much better.  My legs are back.

I plan to keep at this routine for the first week working on technique and building up the mileage.  The headwinds help me focus on pedalling in circles, engaging all of the leg muscles through the stroke and, they get me down on the bars in a more aerodynamic position most of time.  In fact, I was down almost the entire ride this morning, even on the flatter sections.  Next week, I will introduce some sprinting and hill repeats.  There is a short but steep hill not far from here that is perfect for this.

The first day I forgot my water bottle.¬† Although I stopped mid-ride for a glass of water and a coffee, I felt tired and stiff in the afternoon.¬† While food shopping, I bought a bottle of ‚ÄúG2 Thirst Quencher‚ÄĚ, a sport drink with 11% Sodium.¬† It made me feel better almost immediately.¬† I had lost a lot of fluid and had not replenished it properly.

I didn‚Äôt bring the electrolyte powder I normally use for fear of it being confiscated at the airport and, cannot find it in the stores here, at least not yet.¬† Instead, I purchased a case of ‚ÄúHydrate Sport‚ÄĚ that is available in the local market and mix it with water in my bottle – 3 parts water and 1 part ‚ÄúHydrate Sport‚ÄĚ.¬† It also is 11% Sodium and, it seems to work.¬† On todays ride, I drank most of the bottle over the 35 km and finished feeling strong.¬† I‚Äôll sip on the remainder of the bottle this afternoon.

I love cycling these roads.  There are quiet, relatively smooth and, scenic.  And yet, I have not seen another cyclist on the road.  Cycling is not big in this part of the world. It would seem farmers and cottagers have better things to do.  There is a road cycling shop in Orillia, a 45 minute drive from here.  I am heading there this weekend for chain degreaser (another item not allowed on the flight).  Perhaps there is a local cycling club I am not aware of or even better roads to travel.  Wouldn’t that be nice.

Bike packing …

Yesterday, I packed the Roberts ready for the flight Tuesday.

I took extra care to protect the frame.  All of the bubble wrap may have not been necessary but, the way I look at it, this frame is 35 years old and in excellent shape.  The original paint job looks like new with only a few small scratches.  I want it to stay that way.

It took an hour to remove the pedals, saddle and handlebars and, wrap the frame. ¬†I could do it more quickly but I took time to make certain the frame was completely wrapped and all loose parts secure. ¬†I taped the brake levers to the bars, the chain ¬†and, rear derailleur to the back stay so they will not be damaged during transit. ¬†Again, this may not be necessary in a hard case but why take the chance? ¬†Airlines are notorious for abusing luggage even if it is labelled “Fragile”. ¬†I even bubble wrapped the pedals and skewers. ¬†You can’t be too careful.

The TC-1 bike case is smaller than most other hard cases.  This makes it easier to transport (it fits in the trunk of most cars) but means the bike must be disassembled.  Some of the soft bike cases are lighter and require less, if any, disassembly.

All loaded, the case weighs 60 pounds, 10 pounds more than the airline allows without charge.  This includes a pump, chain cleaner, spare tires and C2 cartridges, lubricant, tire irons and a multi-tool.

After the bike was tied down, the case closed and strapped, I realized I had forgotten a water bottle and cycle computer. ¬†There is always something. ¬†It is a good thing I packed the bike early. ¬†I have a day to make certain I have everything. ¬†I still have to pack my helmet, shoes and cycle clothing. ¬†That’s a job.¬† I need to prepare for a variety of weather conditions – warm, wet, cold and windy.

Yesterday, I washed all of my cycling gear – bibs, jerseys, leg warmers, arm warmers, socks, gloves, light wind jacket and a rain shell. ¬†Today, I’ll decide what to take and, which bag to pack it in.


TC-1 bike case fix …

I was considering purchasing an EVOC bike bag for my trip to Ontario in September. ¬†By all accounts, it is an excellent bag, worth the $500 outlay. Then I remembered I had a used hard case in the shop that I have never used. ¬†It has been in the shop for over a year and belonged to one of my son’s clients. ¬†I understand he replaced it with a soft bag.

The case has not been used a lot but is damaged.  The side fastening clamps are broken and not functional.  Otherwise, the case is in excellent shape.  The high density foam and wheel bags are like new.  There are a few scratches on the outside but the case cleaned up like new thanks to a coat of ArmorAll.  All I need to do is use an additional cargo strap to make certain the case does not inadvertently open during transit.

Compared to other hard cases I have used, this one is small. ¬†It is like a large suitcase measuring less than 36″ high and 44″ wide so, it easily fits¬†into the trunk of even compact vehicles and, I believe, is not considered oversized by the airlines. ¬†Cases I have used in the past have been difficult to transport except in larger SUVs or trucks, a real problem when travelling with several bikes. ¬†And, I have had to pay oversize luggage fees.

I purchased bubble wrap to protect the frame and parts and painter’s¬†tape to secure the saddle and handle bar once removed and packed in the case. ¬†Depending on the space available, I will also include a high pressure pump, chain cleaner, spare tubes, a multi tool and, cycling clothing – helmet, shoes, bibs, jerseys, gloves and light jacket.

(I may rethink this.  I usually travel with my helmet, shoes and pedals on board just in case.  That way if the luggage is lost, I can rent a bike and still ride.)

Some prefer a soft case.  They are lighter, may save on baggage fees and store more easily.  Others, prefer a hard case.  Although heavier, the case is more durable and offers better protection for the bike.

This TC-1 case meets my needs and, will save me $500. ¬†Storage is not a problem (it will have its own bedroom) and it will only be used twice, once getting there and again on the return. ¬†Storage is only an issue when I get home and have to find space for it again. ¬†I am not certain yet but, I think once fully loaded it will meet the airline’s allowable baggage weight limit of 50 pounds. ¬†If not, it is certainly less expensive than a new case.

The only downside, as I see it, is that the saddle & seat post, handlebar and pedals must be removed.  A minor inconvenience at most, a 20-30 minute task.

I will follow up next week with pictures of the packed case and weight details.

Planning a cycling holiday …

I am planning a cycling holiday that will not look a lot different than my daily routine other than I will be exploring different routes 3,000 km from home.  And, I will be alone most of the time.

Today, I booked a flight to Toronto to spend the month of September at the family cottage in rural Ontario. ¬†I’ll pack the Roberts and cycle most days on¬†quiet, rolling, rural roads in cottage country.

This is where road cycling began for me some 40 years ago.  I am planning to cycle most days.  There are several 40-50 km routes past local lakes, corn fields, grazing lands and enquiring cattle and horses.  And, there are several 75-100 km rides that I am considering,  rides I have not experienced previously.  There is also a local cycling club that have group rides every Sunday afternoon that I am looking forward to as well.

I am doing this trip on my own.  I have some personal business to attend to and family to visit but mostly, this is a cycling trip.  A training camp.  I hope to lose a few pounds, get more powerful and faster in preparation for a century ride in October.

I have decided to take the Roberts.  It is a more comfortable ride than the carbon Garneau for longer rides with its steel frame and wider profile tires.  And yet, with the Ultegra Compact crankset and wheels, it makes an excellent training machine.

I was  planning to purchase a soft case travel bag but remembered I have an old hard case in the shop that, given a little tender loving care, will more than do the job.  The case is a hand-me-down and we have never used it.  It needs work and new padding but is compact, rolls easily and will save me $500.  More on the case later as I refurbish it for the trip.

I have made similar trips to the cottage previously but never for such an extended period of time.  And, this is the first time the Roberts will be back in Ontario since 1981.  I have taken either the Garneau or the Kuwahara before.

I am looking forward to a lot of cycling, completing several chores on the property, farm fresh vegetables for dinner, bone chilling swims in the lake and, a lot of reading.  I will have no TV and, no internet (at least not at the cottage).  Just CBC radio for companionship.