Terii’s Cycling Babble


Gears & Tripods
August 11, 2013, 5:43 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Yes, I’ve been quiet there. Things have become rather stagnant since returning from Copenhagen. Yet, there is significant news. I’ve simply been lax about reporting things in proper time.

The problem with the front chainring shifting remained stubborn. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong or how to fix it. Finally, I scheduled a slot for Monday, July 29th to drive the trike to the cycle shop south of Stockholm.

It went fairly smoothly. The traffic in the city wasn’t as bad as usual thanks to 90% of the country being on vacation. I languished at a park a few miles from the shop while waiting to get a text that they were done. It came about 4 hours earlier than anticipated which was great.

When I went to get the trike back, I took it for proper test ride. I zipped out on some local cycle paths, finding hills to test everything. I covered about 2 miles with constant shifting. It all worked fine. No hitches, jumps or slips. It cost 300 kr plus the 2 hours of driving and of course gas in the car.

Tuesday, July 30th, I went out with Loke and Sprint for just a short river loop. Started out perfectly, but by mile 3, my rear gearing started to hiccup and twitch. I was peeved, but decided it wasn’t bad enough to sling everything back into the car for the long drive back.

Out again for another river loop the next day. I cut it short at barely more than 3 miles and came home in a fury. I wanted to yell. I wanted to throw things… preferably at whoever had worked on my gears which were now useless. Nearly impossible to ride at all. Why on earth had everything worked so beautifully at first and now was complete crap less than 10 miles later?

Jens encouraged me to call the shop and get the trike back directly. I was too angry to heed him. This was the second time gear problems had started shortly after bringing the Sprint back from the shop. The last time, it hadn’t been bad enough for me to bother with it. This time, it wasn’t an matter of not wanting to ‘bother’ with it. Seriously, if the freshly adjusted gears had issues so quickly again, did I really want to waste the time and effort to go back to the place which hadn’t done the job properly… twice? Not really. Nor did I want to keep handing cash over.

Stubbornly, I started tracking down internet articles on cycle repair and maintenance, hunted for YouTube vids that maybe would actually help me. It’s all stuff I’ve tried before, desperate to learn how to do the gears myself. Each attempt never ended well, generally involving screaming into pillows, yanking at my hair and being snippy with the husband.

I tried not to let myself get worked into a tizzy before I even started. Did breathing techniques for calm and such as I put the Sprint on the trainer and made sure I had all the tools.

Then my husband bravely braced the snarling beast I was poised to become. ‘Call ICE,’ he said. ‘Ask them what might be causing the problems and suggestions about fixing it.’

Instead, I started an e-mail to them. Jens peeked into the living room again. ‘What are you doing?’

‘E-mailing them.’

CALL them,’ he insisted.

Muttering, I did so. The best thing I ever did.

Hero answered first. I gave my name and she cheerfully asked how I was. When I said it could be better since my Sprint’s gears were fouled, she transferred me to Patrick. I described the issues to him and he decided that Neil would be best to offer advice.

Busy as Neil must be, one of the founders of Inspired Cycle Engineering as he is, there was no hint of impatience as he listened to litany of frustrating problems. I think it surprised him a little when he asked where the trike was and if I could prop it up so the rear wheel could spin with the pedals. Beside me and on the cycle trainer.

In less than 5 minutes, he had me twiddle with a few things and part of the problem was found. The gears were refusing to go into the three smallest cogs because the cable was fouled with a gritty black dust, rather like volcanic ash. Most likely a bit of corrosion caused by the moisture that kept freezing during my winter rides. He was a little uncertain why it wouldn’t shift into the large cog though, which could be indicative of a worse problem than dirty cables. He told me what to do to clean it though he recommended just getting all new cables and tubes. When I had that done, call him back and he’d walk me through adjustments.

It took quite a bit of running around, hunting for WD-40 and then changing from cleaning to replacing sent me out again for new cable and such. By the time all that was done, it was coming up on 5 pm here which is 4 pm in Falmouth, England. I didn’t want to keep Neil late helping a clueless woman fight with gears over a phone.

So, about half an hour after they’d started their work day, I called. You know, Neil did it. He accomplished what no book, internet article or video ever could. Two people beside me have even attempted to teach me gearing and failed. In less than an hour we had everything back together and seemingly shifting flawlessly across all 9 gears! I was agog. MY hands did it and in spite of being across the North Sea, Neil had given such clear and precise instructions it had felt easy!

I was completely over moon and Neil pleased to have been able to help. He even told me to call if I had problems with adjustments again.

That kind of customer service is priceless. All the people at ICE are just so great and determined keep their customers happy. Time and time again, I sing their praises for the quality of the ‘above and beyond’ helpfulness they give without batting a lash. It’s as good as the machines they build!

Weather and other things kept me from going out right away to test it, but when I finally made it out the door on August 3rd, everything worked smooth as silk. Not the least hint of a misalignment. I couldn’t help it. I spent the entire 5 miles of the river loop with my lips stretched in a huge grin that went from ear to ear. I imagine I rather looked like the Cheshire Cat.

The same was true of my ride on the August 8th. Perfect shifting.

I think it was on the 9th when I went out shopping for various things. Not sure why I actually went into Media Mart, but I can’t go in there without looking at the camera section. Part of that has meant going to look at tripods.

I don’t know how long exactly I’ve been searching for the ‘perfect’ tripod. We already have a tripod, but the thing is just too big to even consider taking along on rides which is where 90% of my photos are taken. For at least 3 years, every tripod I’ve found has missed ticking boxes for ‘perfection’ or at least close enough to be acceptable.

I’ve wanted a tripod that folds/collapses small. 3 feet long is not manageable on the trike. Light as possible. Able to support a reasonable mount of weight. In short, I wanted something I could pull out of my black pod bags, set up quickly, frame my shot with the long lens without it wobbling all over the place because I had nothing to brace it on. Then be able to put it away in less than 20 minutes… by shoving it right back into my black bags.

And there in Media Mart, I finally found it. A Sirui tripod. I’ve never heard of the company, but I fell in love with the ‘pod right away. It folds up to about 15 inches long, weighs less than any other tripod I’ve found that can support something bigger than a point-n-click though still feels incredibly solid and well made. Says it can support up to 4 kg of camera and lens which should be enough if ever I upgrade to the next level of equipment. With 4 stage telescoping legs that have 3 angles of adjustment, it can be as low as 1 foot from the ground right up to holding the camera view finder at perfect eye level for a 5 foot 2 inch tall woman.

Ooooh, how I wanted it. Not surprising, it was a bit on the costly side. They had 2 in boxes and the display. When I mentioned it to Jens, he pointed out that we’ve barely used the tripod we have. Mostly because it’s just so BIG and awkward. I feel like I need a pack mule just to lug it around… or a husband (hehe). It’s certainly too much to manage on the trike unless I strap it to the side of the trailer when doing tours or something.

Then I decided to go for it. I’ve been searching for something that ticked the boxes. All others over the 3 or more years either were too flimsy or didn’t fold up small enough. Once these were gone, who knew how long I’d have to search again. I pulled out the wild card of ‘I must have’ which is good only once a year… Birthday.

And mine’s just 3 days away so I announced I wanted the tripod for my birthday. Jens acquiesced without a struggle. I zipped off to Media Mart to hunt it down. On the shelves, I found only the empty box for the display. Then a sales woman came by and asked if I needed anything. I explained and she went to look. 1 still in the box in the back.

And I love it! I got home and immediately began playing with it. Mostly, double checking my head/eye had guessed correctly. Yep. It fits in the black bags that hang along the seat back. There’s even a ring with D-Ring attached meaning I could in theory hang it from my handlebar bag when walking around.

Then I decided to go for a ride. Loke and I headed out for the city forest. It’s the first time he’s ever been there with the Sprint though he’s become familiar with it from all the walks our little family has been doing the past few weeks. Jens with Loke on the leash while stride along with a pair of Nordic walking poles and my Five Fingers.

The humidity that’s had us simmering the past few weeks finally broke and the temperature was just on the warm side of comfortable for me. A bit over the comfort threshold for Loke though. Still, he made it to the city forest where he perked up enough to trot the trails more briskly. I think he was a little bored with it though. Too familiar from our frequent walks and he couldn’t stop to sniff much.

By the time we finished the loop, he was lagging, so Jens came to get him. Getting myself and the Sprint home was my job.

It was a blast. The forest there sits higher than downtown Uppsala and our apartment. Though the hills aren’t incredibly steep, they’re long. My gorgeous Sprint 26 glides like a dream and so it just kept gaining speed until I was streaking along the cycle paths at 24+ mph. Probably broke speed limits along some of those stretches. I went a bit out of the way to head by the bandy court so I could jump on the river path and follow it through town and home.

It was nice in spite of a lot of people wandering around the riverside.

So, I finished up the day with a bit less than 13 miles. 8 and a bit miles with Loke and 4.77 miles from the city forest to home.

I stopped a few times to fiddle with the tripod. It takes me roughly 3 to 4 minutes to pull out, unfold to the height I want and attach the camera. I didn’t take any photos. Nothing caught my eye. It takes me about 3 minutes to fold it back up and get settled in the bag. I can do it all from the seat if I like which is where I take most pictures. I think I can deal with 6-7 additional minutes on a few photo stops if the benefit is no more blurry telephoto or sunrise/sets! Or at least less blurry.

And the gears still worked perfectly.

Now I just need to find motivation to ride more! I need to build up before our trip in September! I’m not sure why I’ve just been so ‘bleah’ about getting out with the trike. When I do, I’m grinning from ear to ear thanks to the now smoothly working shifting which Neil taught me to do. It would be great if I could break last years 803 mile total before the end of August, but I need to stop ‘bleah’ing about getting my rump OUT the door. I only need like 93 miles which is possible if I go out more than once every 3 – 5 days and actually more more than the river loop!

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