A Clean Drivetrain is a Quiet Drivetrain

29 01 2013

First use impression and review as used on my commuter bike:
The Zep citrus degreaser works great on breaking-down or dissolving lubricant-laden grime. Plus, it’s biodegradable for easy disposal. I used it straight from the bottle. At $10 to $11 dollars a gallon, fairly inexpensive too. I found it at the local hardware store–highly recommended.

Next is the XLC chain cleaner. The action of the moving chain drives a geared cog, which rotates the brushed cleaning wheel. Fairly effective at removing MOST of the grime from a chain. In comparison with my usual chain-cleaning method, the mechanism will not remove the built-up grime on the outside of chain plates near the rollers that a tooth-brush and a good eye would catch. Since the chain is encased within the housing, the alignment of the chain cleaner is important as you rotate the cranks backward. In other words, the mechanism will bind if the entry angle of the chain exceed the guides. Additionally, the left-side picture of the chain cleaner shows a square piece of black open-cell foam. The purpose of this foam is to act as a squeegee as the chain exits the cleaner. The squeegee is fairly effective, however, please be aware that enough solvent will exit and accumulate on your drivetrain and may drip on your drop cloths on the floor. $25 at your LBS–hesitantly recommended.

Zep biodegradable citrus cleaner

Zep Biodegradable Citrus Cleaner

Picture of the XLC Chain Cleaner

XLC Chain Cleaner


  1. Use a good, biodegradable cleaner that acts fast. The longer you use the chain cleaner, the more solvent will exit the mechanism.
  2. Change your solvent as needed. It doesn’t make sense to wash your chain in solvent that’s saturated.
  3. Lay down drop cloths. The using the chain cleaner can make a mess if the chain is not smoothly and steadily moved through the cleaner.
  4. Dry-off the chain with a pile-type cloth such as an old hand towel. Dry the chain as much as possible before applying new lubricant.
  5. Use a bike stand or something similar to hold the bike still while you rotate the drivetrain backwards.
  6. For the XLC engineers:
    1. The compartment containing the foam squeegee does not drain into the main chamber. Eventually, the accumulating fluid level will prevent effective squeegee action, and draining to the outside of the cleaner body. Allow a drain port at the bottom of the chamber.
    2. Alternate the application angle of the cleaning brushes from normal to the chain plate to a more acute angle. This will improve the sweep area of the brushes leaving less residue on the chain plates.

My race bike receives a higher frequency of cleaning (that is, after every ride) than my commuter bike does. Thus, this chain cleaner would be a good method for cleaning the accumulated chain grime on the commuter. My race bike however, will continue to receive the wash cloth and solvent method for the chain since there is a much lower level of road and oil grunge. Is the $25 worth it? At this point, only if your chain cleaning involves a lot of accumulated grime and crap, and at that point, be prepared to do a lot of wiping down and cleaning-up. On the other hand, if your chain has a master-link, use a dip tank and a tooth-brush. You’ll have faster, cleaner results with less clean-up involved.

Edit 1/29/2013:

The foam squeegee has degraded after the third use somewhat decreasing its effectiveness. I’ll have to locate and adapt an open-cell piece of foam to replace it as a look at XLC’s web site doesn’t show any replacement parts outright.

Edit 2/13/2013:

The foam squeegee has completely fallen apart now on the fourth or fifth use.


A New Team, a New Bike. What’s not to Like?

19 01 2013

Alright, so here we are, smack dab in the middle of the Emerald City puzzle-palace. Actually, it’s not too different from what my expectations foreshadowed. The downtown never stops moving though, and maybe I can use the number of sirens or emergency vehicles that pass our second-story window as a gauge to how nuts the day is going to be…maybe not. I knew moving over here would involve some deviations from the routine I had become accustomed to in Spokane, but these weren’t anything too crazy. Our condo is tiny (500 sf), one of our neighbors has friends come over during the evening hours to beat on drums, pluck strings, and mostly sing on-key (it gets repetitious though). Other neighbors have killer Chihuahuas and bulldogs that sound the daily bark when you walk past their door en route to the elevator. Another neighbor’s bulldog doesn’t make a sound, but its wall-eye provides a comical appearance. For a building this size, I’m surprised that I don’t run-into more people having lived here for five months already. I’m starting to think most of the units here are weekend-use or odd day dwellings as I just don’t hear people moving around—and I’m a light sleeper too.

But enough of that stuff. You didn’t click-in to read about social dwelling commentary. My homeowner’s insurance policy had paid-off only about $1,333 on the theft of my Madone 5.2. So my effort to recreate a decent quality race bike was going to be creative and extensive, and short-term. Every day I was off the bike increased the fitness gap and I wanted to build a new steed as soon as practical. Most of my sources were non-retail, that is to say like Ebay, Craigslist, and local bike shop used-parts and consignment venues. One of my biggest requirements frame-wise was a round seat post. I wanted the extended adjustment granted by flipping the seat post clamp forward, not like my old Madone 5.2 asymmetric post, where I was never able to get my saddle forward enough where I like it. After scrounging around for about two weeks I found a 2012 Scott CR1 Pro frame on Ebay for a cost of $854. The reviews looked good, the company reputation looked good, and the manufacturing process (my master’s in engineering and technology management degree came in handy) looked good. This would be my new frame. Here’s the appearance:

Picture of 2012 Scott CR1 Pro build

2012 Scott CR1 Pro…my race bike for 2013

  • SRAM Force crankset
  • FSA Wing Pro bars and Gossamer brake calipers
  • Shimano ST-6700 shifter and derailleurs
  • Bontrager Race Lite ACC carbon seat post
  • Speedplay X-10 pedals
  • Specialized Toupe saddle
  • ITM Millennium Super Over stem
  • A couple of Bontrager RL bottle cages.
  • My old HED Belgium C2 wheelset (with SL+ Powertap).*

There you have it, a suitable substitute for my old Madone 5.2. In comparison, this frame feels slightly less vertically compliant and has a bit more give in the BB when I put the beans to it while out of the saddle. I’m not going to whine too much though—I like this frame. At any rate, the fit window for this frame is so much better for my body geometry, it just feels better on the road. While I’ve yet to have it in a race, I expect the bike to do fine. Newer models of the Madone 5 series also have a round mast cap that I could flip forwards. I’ll always wonder what this frame would have felt like on the road, but at $2,600 a pop, purchasing one is a pipe-dream at this point.

* A note about the front wheel: before I had completely worn-out the brake tracks on my C2 rims I converted the front-end to a disc compatible brake (just for the foul-weather season). I’ll probably discuss this more in another post. Suffice to say that from October (when the weather here turned wet) to now I’ve likely worn the tracks down to the minimum width. I’m awaiting a response from the engineering folks at HED Wheels on what a safe minimum width would be since these rims were not produced with a track or pin-punch wear indicator. I wasn’t happy at all about this condition— or about going through a set of Ultegra caliper pads every two weekends. That was just nuts. I expect to buy some replacement C2 rims and re-build the wheelset probably sometime next year.

And about those fenders? Yes, well the new team requires us to have fenders on the bike during the wet season. We don’t cancel training because it’s raining. This is more for the teammate behind me than for me. In March we’ll take ’em off when the weather dries up (for the most part). These fenders are from Toba, and I have to say that they work pretty darn well. Installation, even though I did a small bit of customizing, was straightforward.

As far as the new team? I knew from the WSBA rankings there were at least three teams in the area. One of them I could not find any contact information for…strange as it sounds. The second one wasn’t too forthcoming about their meet-the-team ride or any organized rides for that matter (just weird). I found this web page on the last team I wanted to learn about.  That’s more organization than any team I’ve seen to date. This team’s big. On the weekend training rides, as many as, or more than as many people show up as some race categories that I’ve competed in. The training’s proceeding well and I’ll start the season with the largest base foundation that I’ve ever had. Thus far the team seems to be a good fit, and I have some good expectations for the coming season.

The team’s shop host is fantastic, and the mechs are top-notch. (Surprise! their benches are clean and organized. I haven’t seen that very often.) If an item that I wanted wasn’t available on the shelf, it was there in two to three days. I wouldn’t hesitate referring my friends to them as I know they would be treated right.

By the way, the west side (as I call this side of the state) has more metal in the road surface than I ever imagined. That is, man-hole covers, pipe access covers, grates, and caps. Wet metal and road tires do not mix too well. And if that wasn’t enough, the concrete slabs that comprise some of the roads have uneven edges, as if frost heave has lifted them enough to make you think a pinch-flat is imminent. The roads here are a challenge in them selves. I miss the rural roads of Spokane. Yeah, their roads may be chip-sealed, but you could roll scores of miles and not see one man-hole cover.

What’s not to like huh? See you on the road.

Change…is Inevitable

9 01 2013

I suppose that racing and training is just the same as everything else…just the same as life is, in other words, full of variability, hidden meanings, and hidden assumptions. 2012’s end rolled through a summer’s conclusion full of change and into a winter beset with hints of future promise.

Late in June my better half happened upon a career move apparently timed just for her. With this new profession, she would take avocation to an occupation. Since I was completing my master’s program with WSU, which was not geographically constrained particularly, I suggested we pull anchor and move. Economically, the greater Seattle area holds much more opportunity than Spokane, there are aviation-related companies and manufacturers here (a plus), and there’s the sea’s proximity. This latter point means much to me. As a child, my father was stationed at submarine bases, and as such, the sea or at least large bodies of water, became a part of me. Returning to the sea seemed like returning home in a way. Additionally, the timing of graduation in the spring and the outlook of a refreshing and challenging second career was most welcome.

Reality wasn’t going to be completely encouraging though. In the last week of July, while expediently packing-up our household, I allowed a slip in home security, which permitted thieves to enter my garage and waltz away with my race bike and wheels. A gut-punch, $3,280 loss, and away with it rolled any chance of attaining my goal for a category three upgrade that season. I was grounded in the whole sense of the word.  My fitness and whatever form remaining quickly faded to obscurity. I would have to start all-over. Not three weeks later, a friend’s road bike was stolen from his garage too. Apparently there’s a racket for high-end road bikes.

The Madone 5.2. Gone to wherever thieves have taken it. Serial # WTC227T074C

As chance would have it, we have temporarily settled into a small condo in downtown Seattle. Quite small, 500 square feet I think. But, I can study on this small coffee table and stool, and I can have my commuter bike and Barb’s road bike stuffed into the living room so we don’t have to use the elevator to get them from storage in the basement. Her commuter bike will have to go in the bedroom for now. I can shop for food and other essentials at Pike’s Market and adjacent stores within walking distance…so far so good.

Next post,  a new team, a new bike.  Thanks for reading.

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