Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Red Trek FX 7.5

Big Wheel Rally 2009

Late summer 2007 found me desiring the perfect commuter.  I was considering a $300 hybrid that could be racked out and have parts replaced when needed.  Something relatively fast and the ability to carry my stuff to work and back and bring back some groceries.

My first and only stop was at Bike World on Urbandale Avenue.  Unfortunately, all the $300 hybrids had those cheap suspension forks (unnecessary weight).  Tom Laughead pointed to a candy apple red bike displayed on the west wall.  "This one has better wheels and tires, is much lighter and is much faster."  damn right!  Seduction by beauty and performance.  9 speed.  Carbon fork.  Those 24 poke Bontrager wheels and the 15.5" frame sealed my fate.  A great looking bike just my size.

I immediately sealed its fate.  "Rack it, put fenders on it, one of those Trek wireless computers, a bottle cage and prep it for sale."  I ordered a pair of Jand Commuter bags for this bicycle.  A set of those SPD/normal pedals replaced whatever was on it.  I did not even ride it until after the transaction was completed and I was out the door.

Monday October 15, 2007, was my first ride on it.  I assume it was a ride to work.  My Bike Log merely notes that "needs knobbies for mud".  The bike came with Bontrager Race Lite 700x35 tires.  I would later come to love these tires and have a set on Mary's road bike and my road bike.  Triple flat protection, more than once I have pulled a chunk of broken glass on of them without having a flat.  I have witnessed on my own and on others the center tread ripped, exposed chords and the tire still holding air.  The $45 bad ass tire.  Since my fenders were not in yet I told Bike World to cancel them and give me a set of Kenda Pro cross tires.

The Kendas are another tire I love.  A very narrow 700x35, they are inexpensive and good on snow and ice.  I appreciate how they squeak on ice, a sound that reminds me that I need to watch my speed and avoid sudden movements.

With very few exceptions this was the bike I rode til the end of the year. 

 This was my main bike for the beginning of 2008.  Here is the photo the Des Moines Register took of me for an article on freaks that ride bikes in the winter.  I cannot believe how yellow my rain coat is in this photo.  I predict that it will be white by the end of next year.  Bike log indicates photo take or appeared in the paper on January 30th.

In February I purchased a set of studded tires for this bike.  My crashing stopped by 99.9%  1st ride with those on the 19th.  This month also marked the first of my main mechanical issue of the bike...brakes.  This bike went through brake pads like no other.  Most likely because I rode it in crappy weather on dirty streets.  In the 8000 miles that I have put on the bike I may have replaced the pads almost 8 times or more.

The other issue I have experienced is the tendency of the free hub to freeze up and freewheel in both directions.  This happens early in the morning on my way to work.  It is below freezing outside.  Pedal and nothing happens except the chain moving.  Pawls are not engaging.  I end up walking to work.  Apparently water gets into the internals then freezes inside.  I have had the free hub cleaned, lubed and replaced about once a winter.  Last winter I had this done in October before it got cold.

The final and almost bicycle fatal issue is the fact that I put too many miles on the bike in crappy winter conditions.  Chain starts to stretch.  Cassette gets worn out.  Chain rings bend and start to look like shark teeth.  Front derailleur gets dirty and eventually stops working.  Steel surfaces rust.

So it was it this condition that I rode it during the winter of 2010/2011.  Basically a single speed.  I did not feel like replacing the chain before winter.  Front shifting died long ago.  But It made it.  I did not put the studded tires on it.  Skill over technology.  Even the day it snowed nearly a foot and shut the city down, Red got me to work on time. 

February 2, 2010, PFG Call Center 6200 Park Ave 615 am

The Blizzard of Feb 1st and 2nd.  Red made it.  It got me to work.  I could not take the trail because the snow was too deep.  Going down Thomas Beck Rd was an experience of silent white death.  The road was plowed and cleared.  I was fascinated by the drifting snow on the road wafting around like floating tiny diamonds.  And then the noise of the tires.  Squeaky.  HOLY CRAP!!!  That noise means that I am on ice going downhill at a high rate of speed.  Careful application of brakes to scrub away speed. 

By the time Spring rolled around the bike had over 900 miles on it for the year.  It has gone 8000 miles since that October day in 2007.  Time for a rest.  Time to rethink winter commuting.  Time for a new bike.

On St Patrick's Day I purchased a single speed bike.  I was counting on its simplicity to resolve the mechanical issues the FX had.  No derailleurs to rust and lock up.  Less stuff to lube.  No free hub to freeze up.  Easier to clean the chain.  Just replace brake pads.  I was able to remove the 4 bolts holding the rack on the FX and place it on the new bike without much effort.  I left the bags on the bike when I did this.  Lifted the rack bags and all!  Good plan until some bastard ripped the bike off form me.  Praise Jesus that I removed the panniers before the bike was stolen.  FUCKER

So I pulled Red out of the shed and paid my membership to the Bicycle Collective and got my hands really dirty.  First step was to replace the brakes.  Total replacement.  New cantilevers and pads.  New cables and housing.  Do it right.

Step 2 was the drive train.  This was major work.  Chain, cassette, chain rings, derailleurs, cables and cable housing.  I was hoping that the rear derailleur could be saved but the cable tension adjustment was rusted in it and broke off when we tried to remove it.  Good thing it did because the new cassette had much bigger cogs than the old one. 

Speaking of cassettes, the old one was missing teeth!

Big and middle ring were replaced.  Middle was bent and very, very worn out.  Big ring was in better shape but not much better.

Too Shimano's credit, the Deore 9 speed shifters still worked.  I am amazed.  They have been abused for 8000 miles.  When they finally go I will replace them with aluminum thumb shifters--easier to use and less complicated and will last a lifetime.

Another miracle is that the headset and bottom bracket are still good.  I should really replace them but I have dumped enough cash into the bike for now and need to get a new set of studded tires ASAP.

My hands are still dirty from all this work.  The cuts are healing.  But most importantly the bike bike is working.  Without the rack or bags on it it feels very fast.  Never have had the pleasure of riding it unburdened.  But a rack will be coming shortly.  Winter is fast approaching.  I hope the parts hold up for another 8000 miles.

Reporting for duty!

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