What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ CheapOh: Spring 2012 Edition

I’d like to apologize for not writing a Christmas CheapOh. I was reminded by the Pez that it had become a tradition… but what good are traditions, if not for breaking? But this winter which brought some very minus-y temperatures in these parts has given way to warmth and racing. So without further ado, here are some Spring cycling tips to save you money.

The CheapOh Bike Stand
There are a few professional bike stands out there for working on one’s bike. All of them cost a lot. The CheapOh Bike Stand is made from a vice, an old front hub and a scrap two-by-four. It costs less than 20 euros and best of all, it even works. Directions: cut the 2 x 4 so that the end lines up with your bike’s bottom bracket, if it’s too long, it will hit the rear wheel, then mount the board(s) on a wooden box/stool (an old coffee table or small desk are fine) with some brackets and/or put long screws through the boards and stool, attached the vice, put the front hub in the vice and lock in your bike (without the front wheel).

Amazing what you can do with a vice, an old hub and a 2 x 4.

Some extra special touches include: an old tire thumb tacked to the 2 x 4 to protect the bike, an L bracket for extra stability, even letting me sit on the mounted bike (PLEASE make sure everything is thoroughly clamped in), an old hockey puck placed under the bottom bracket levels my frame for adjusting saddles, a little piece of 2 x 4 and a C-clamp locks in the cranks for pedal and crank work. Another good idea is a small C-clamp and an old toe strap to hold the frame in place. I’ve been using this stand for a few years now and have no complaints.

Winter Wear
A PezReader recently asked how one can dress smartly (and I assume cheaply) for those chilly winter rides. Though our reader was more concerned about the upper body, he shouldn’t have. It’s really about hands and feet: once the cold sets in, it’s nearly impossible to get them warm again. Reasonably priced and effective gloves can be found in the winter/ski department at any discount retailer. Pretty much every cycling glove uses a mix of fleece and windbreaker material, so do these. Even cheaper: try wool mittens. They work better than you think.

These ski gloves work just as well as cycling ones at nearly half the price.

To get shoe cover/booties even warmer, tape up the toe areas with packing tape for more wind protection. Also a good pair of wool socks make a big difference. Another variation is to get extra large wool socks and put them over one’s shoes (either cut out the cleat areas or poke holes and screw the cleats on over the socks) – a friend of mine does this and claims it works. Speaking of socks, I have started putting one into my shorts to protect the Treasured Asset and can report outstanding results regarding shrinkage (thanks to PezReader Les S. for the tip).

A windbreaker, a soft wool sweater and an 80’s jersey, cheap and warm.

Now that upper body. The key is heat dissipation/regulation. A zero degree day might see me with a wife-beater wool/cotton undershirt, a PEZ jersey which resists the stink quite well (on colder days, I might even go for the long sleeved one) or an 80’s jersey with that acrylic, terry cloth like material, a thin merino wool sweater/jumper and a light, tight-fitting windbreaker pullover. I also have a thin 100% wool cap. After about 5km, one should already build up enough heat that sweat becomes our next concern (if not, then you’re riding too slow). Time for heat dissipation: lifting the cap over the ears, unzipping the windbreaker or even taking off the wool sweater. Remember you’re like an old Porsche with an air cooled engine: stay dry, avoid overheating, it’s critical to comfort.

Stiffness/Thickness Valuations
It is only recently that I have come to realize that stiffness (in frames) and thickness (in chamois pads) are over-valued. While manufacturers love the Over-Valued, CheapOhs smell opportunity. It was a 1999 Colnago C40 that just came my way that did it, that made me realize that too much frame stiffness isn’t necessarily a good thing. I admit that early carbon Colnagos with steel forks were too noodle-ly, these later ones strike me as nicely balanced. Whereas many current bikes seem too stiff, lacking the elasticity that is critical for descending confidently and keeping one fresh over longer rides. Before sending me hate mails, please note that I am a light rider and over 40 and at ease with my sexuality and penis size, enough said… er, perhaps too much. So while the market continually promotes ever greater rigidity and lightness numbers (and more gears, the C40 gets by just fine with 9), I’d suggest looking at older models and cashing in on this market inefficiency. I’ll expand on this in a bit.

Back when Colnagos were kitschy.

But what I really wanted to write about is cycling shorts. One normally associates a thick pad with comfort. However, this is not the case. A thick pad can bunch up or fill in and constrict blood flow to areas that should be well circulated. The most important thing you can do for comfort is finding the right saddle, where your sit bones are supported, where you are able to shift your body to ride in the drops for at least an hour. I’ve said this before, but I am still amazed that most cyclists seldom use the other half of their bars. The half that makes you more aerodynamic, the half that allows you to effectively turn and brake while descending, the half that makes a road bike a road bike, otherwise it’d be a city bike. The right saddle is trial and error. Tip: try testing saddles without the bibs, if it’s comfy with normal shorts then you found a winner. But once you find the right one, it will be even better with a thin chamois pad and a touch of cream. And best of all, thin padded pants are significantly cheaper than the thick ones.

Entry level bibs usually have nice, thin pads.

Wheel Truing Stands
There are some pretty fancy wheel truing stands out there, but most cyclists really only need to fine tune their wheels every now and then, so these commercial products are overkill. While Real Men true their wheels still on the bike (probably even while riding) using the brake pads, for the rest of us, there’s the CheapOh stands.

The CheapOh Truing Stand.

They are made from damaged frames, old steel ones work great and can be had dirt cheap, if not free. For the rear wheel stand, I cut away the front triangle, attached an old rear brake without pads and used the brake line bolt and a couple of nuts. To check a wheel’s roundness you simply slide the bolt down to the rim. Or a more elegant solution (that I’ll get around to someday) is to attach a plastic tire lever to the seat stay with a clamp or drill a hole through them. The front wheel stand is based on the same principle, using the fork. Mount these stands in a vice (or CheapOh Bike Stand), lock in a wheel and now comes the hard part: true it.

Here’s a detail of the bolt/nut alignment guide.

An Attractive Spoke Wrench
This is such a great idea. I’m amazed that none of the tool companies out there have made it yet. I stole this from The Great Balduzzi, and if someone wants to commercialize it, you know who you owe: me. Anyone that’s ever trued a wheel has dropped their spoke key (at least twice) and cursed (at least double that). A magnet placed in the middle solves this problem. Elegant, simple and effective [note: assuming you are working with steel spokes].

Sometimes the simple solutions are the best.

Chain Holder
I’ve seen these things in bike shops selling for about $5, which isn’t that much, but it’s a little plastic thing and it just holds the chain. The CheapOh Chain Holder is made from an old hub and freewheel. Most bike shops have an old taco’d wheel that they’ll give you. Cut off the spokes, throw away the rim and shazam, you’ve got a handy chain holder that also spins, great for cleaning and lubing that chain. Also useful for transporting your bike in bags/boxes where the wheels are removed. Mine is an old track hub (high flange for added style) with threaded bolts, which easily accommodates all kinds of rear spacing.

Lock this into your rear drop outs and you’ve got a handy chain holder.

Rim Tape from the Pharmacy
I’m still testing this idea, but so far so good – feel free to report your results. Velox cloth rim tape is pretty neat. But it can be hard to find and costs about $4 a roll. That’s reasonable enough, but band aid tape is even cheaper! Cloth tape is cloth tape, right? A five meter roll cost 1.69 euro at my local pharmacy. For the real CheapOhs, the double width band sells for the same price, so you could cut it in half, that’s 10 meters for 1.69! Now here’s the cool part, the cloth tape is a bit thinner than the Velox (weight weenies rejoice), but can be customized to suit the rider. I’ve gone with two layers, but a heavy rider could layer up 3 or 4 for extra pinch flat protection. Not to mention, it comes in an attractive flesh tone color!

Cloth tape is cloth tape right? Don’t forget to poke a hole for the valve!

Vintage LOOK Pedals
Your pedals should be bomb-proof, the bearings smooth spinning, the cleats long lasting, the platform stable and the price reasonable. Very few pedals on the market today meet all of these goals because weight has become the central buying proposition. Usually sacrifices in durability/reliability have been made in the mid to lower range products to achieve a relatively light and cheap product. About a year ago, I decided to return to the old, Gold Standard: vintage LOOKs, despite their over-engineering adding about 150 grams over current offerings. Another alternative would be older model Shimanos. Searching that online auction site should turn up something in good condition or even NOS. The price will definitely be less than today’s lowest end offerings, while the quality will assuredly be higher.

These guys still work very well, thank you.

How Much Is Enough
A reader recently asked, “how much should I budget for a new bike?” Since they contacted me, I assume they are looking for the lowest possible sum. This is a bit tricky to answer because most bikes are sold to meet certain S, M, L and XL price points. So the reader’s question might be: are S-priced bikes good enough? I don’t know, I’ve never tested one. Anyhow, I responded that I’d NEVER buy a new bike. Why? Because there are far too many chaps that imagined that cycling was Their New Activity and spent a considerable amount buying a very nice bike. After three or four rides where this fancy bike refused to pedal itself, relegated it to the cellar or garage for the past 5 years or so, unable to admit any mistake, until finally their wife screamed, “just get rid of the damn thing!” I’ve bought a few high end bikes like the previously mentioned Colnago C40 this way. Look, if that C40 was good enough for the Mapei Juggernaut, it’s more than enough for me. Less than a thousand US dollars should get you a very nice bike.

Brushing Up
Over time, aluminum parts accumulate a fair share of scratches and the anodized treatments chip, fade or get milky. The best and cheapest way to fix this is with buffing/polishing pads. Those from 3M are pretty good and cost about 4 euros for a big sheet. You can go at it with the pads or 180 sand paper to take off the anodized finish, yet the easier method is to burn it off with a 20 second shot of oven cleaner (get the one that warns against using it on aluminum). Either leave the brushed finish of the pads or proceed with a series of ever finer sand papers (up to 2000 wet) and then use chrome polish to get a perfect shine.

A before and after seat post, with nicely brushed finish.

Another great place for brushing up, brake tracks. Makes rims look like new.

Brushing Up, Part Two
I sure hope you aren’t throwing away those old tooth brushes. They are great for cleaning finicky bike parts like derailleurs or those skeleton Campy brakes. I like to keep one brush for the greasy work, like chains, cogs and jockey wheels and another for the dirty stuff like brakes.

Old, frayed tooth brushes are perfect for cleaning.

Please, do not follow any of this trashy advice. Spend money, pay full retail prices and most importantly get stuff with manufacturer warrantees. If or when it fails, employ a team of lawyers and invest the windfalls in more new bike things. Make our advertisers happy and save the global economy. Remember, suing Mr. CheapOh is futile, he’s dead broke and only owns cheap sh*t. There, I think you’ve been properly warned. As for the rest of you heedless readers, enjoy and report back to me any of your CheapOh ideas or questions. Thanks.

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