Bike Swap 2014 Bonus Round!

Before I tell the rest of the story on chains, we have a brief interlude also known as one of two craziest bike-related days of the year…the Cascade Bicycle Clubs Annual Bike Swap! Now this year is unlike any other in that we actually had two swaps this year, as the first happened to fall on a day, that we in Seattle were simultaneously hit with some snow (February 9th). This extra swap was sort of a bonus, but also an wild-card as the energy around the sport is definitely different in February (beginning of the season) that it is in late September (end of the season). It is for this reason, among others that I decided to scope it out as a buyer before dedicating to being a seller.

I believe that these bike swaps merit mention, as biking can be a surprisingly expensive sport and any opportunity to keep costs down (those spandex bike shorts everyone likes to make fun of ain’t cheap!) is worth consideration. It is a mixture of bike shops getting rid of excess inventory, bike teams going in for members to sell stuff, and people like me, who on occasion, accumulate way too much stuff and need a way to get rid of as much as possible and fast! Its also sort of a who’s who of bike shop owners, employees, and incredibly colorful people that you see once a year (without fail).

Now, I have played the role of both buyer and seller at these events. This is the first time in a few years that was strictly a consumer and was looking forward to it. I wan’t going in with any items that I absolutely have to buy, I could just let the sale and the deals come to me. Jenica, still eager to try and commute to school, had a nice list of stuff we were looking for: some panniers, a carrier, fenders, gloves, and a headlight. We arrived down at the Seattle Center Exhibition Center promptly at 8:50 (doors open at 9:00), and were immediately greeted by this: IMG_0590 Not too bad all in all, but maybe a shock to the uninitiated. Upon descending into the depths of the Exhibition Center it rapidly turns into sensory overload. Bikes, parts, clothes,  samples, bike art, bike consignment-its all packed in there. IMG_0592 From 9:00 until 12:00 we made our way all over a maze of anything and everything bike and bike-related. Watching people buy a bike for the first time is fun. Engaging in the negotiation with sellers (its common practice) can be a thrill as well. After the first hour and a half, Jenica had spent her limit but was through the roof with excitement on all the stuff she was able to find (headlight not pictured). IMG_0628 I had a few bicycles catch my eye, but was content picking up a few spare parts and helping my father secure a few things. Here is a photo of my haul (trust me, by far the smallest and well-managed it has ever been). IMG_0629 There are a few items that I would like to bring particular attention to. Both came from Portland and both came from extremely nice people that absolutely deserve to have their work supported. The first is the wonderful glass window pendant made by Brian Echerer of Vela Gioielli. Brian was super nice and friendly and was even kind enough to pose for a photo (photo credit Jenica)! IMG_0630 The second are these super cool shirts that both Jenica and I got from Microcosm Publishing. We both are super excited!

After about three hours, we were both pretty exhausted. It is a pretty intense atmosphere and only slightly less so if you are buying and not selling. There are deals to be had and they are pretty impressive. Who knows, you may find that mint 1960’s french threaded one-off that you will never be able to find ever again. If you are looking for something fun to do early on a Sunday morning in February, I highly recommend stopping in. Double that if you are in the market for a new bike. Even if you leave empty-handed, at the very least the people watching is top-notch (take my word for it).

UP NEXT: After a crazy morning of wheeling’ and dealin’, I install two chains on two bikes. Lots of good stuff and lots of photos!   


A Shoutout to Chains!

Chains have been on the mind recently. Of all of the components on a bike, I think one would be hard pressed to find one as under-appreciated as the chain. The chain is directly responsible for transferring all that torque when one pedals, to spinning the (rear) wheel. As bicyclists, we are told that roughly every 2500-3000 miles we should spend 20-50 bucks on a replacement. To go longer than that, one risks unnecessary wear on the more spendy parts on the drivetrain (cassette, chainrings etc..).

My very own Park Tool CC-3.2!

If you are anything like me, arbitrary numbers like how many miles before service, is a rule that I aim to break (just ask the people that change the oil on my car). I want to make sure that when I actually do replace any components on my bike that they are actually in need of replacement. There has to be a measurement (I am a chemist by trade), that indicates that a chain is in need of replacement. Enter the Park CC-3.2 ! For 11 dollars, I now know when a chain has worn .5% or .75% or more! What exactly does that mean and why do I care?  All of the aforementioned torque provided by the muscles in ones legs is pulling the chain apart ever so slowly. One link on the chain is being pushed by one tooth on the cassette.

At the same time, one link is being pulled (same direction) by a tooth on the chainring. Speed things up, all of the teeth on both the cassette and the chainrings take turns as do the links on the chain (as you pedal). Ever wonder why the smaller chainrings tend to wear out faster than the larger ones? One of the main reasons is because there are less teeth to take a turn before they are up again!

After putting the chain in the 0.5% of the Park Tool CC-3.2 Chain wear indicator, we see that the chain has stretched at least 0.5%.

The very same chain, we now test for 0.75% wear. Since it is not a fit, (it doesn’t notch down), we can conclude that the wear of this chain is somewhere between 0.5% and 0.75%.











The first couple thousand miles the chain can handle the pushing and pulling no problem, but eventually that poor chain relents and starts to give in and stretch. It only has to stretch 0.5%-0.75% from its original length before it is trash. Why you might ask?

Here is a brand-new chainring. Notice the symmetry on each of the “teeth.”

Well, suppose you ignore the rules and keep riding, whats the big deal? Lets suppose the chain has now stretched 1% longer than what it started as. Now, each link in the chain is linking up with the teeth on the cassette and chainrings 1% away from where it started. Remember before how we learned how robust chains were? Well, this is intentional and the result of the chain being constructed of extremely hard, brittle metal alloys. Harder than those used on both cassettes and chainrings. Slowly after time, in the battle waged between the chain, and the cassette or chainrings, the chain will “win” and start to wear the others to this new stretched pattern. This mere 1% shift in chain alignment begins to manifest itself in ways such as sloppy shifting and jumping cogs.

Here is a worn chainring. This came off a friends bike. He was having some skipping and his shifting was not smooth-this was a culprit.

Eventually, the wear will get to the point where the chain, cassette, and chainrings will all have to be replaced simultaneously, as all have worn to the imperfections of each other. Think of it as an old group of friends or drinking buddies, that have been meeting up weekly over the years. Do you really think a newcomer could break into that?

In summation: Check your chain for wear periodically! Sure, be a rebel and go a couple extra thousand miles (I do every time I get my oil changed), but if you are going to push the envelope, get yourself a Park Tool CC-3.2, and be aware of the potential consequences.

UP NEXT: Eager to use my new chain wear tool, I find that Jenica’s dad is in need of new chains on both of his bikes. We are going to install them and make sure that both shift like new when we are finished. Stay Tuned!


I have finally made the push and am up with a website/blog dedicated to a topic that is near and dear to my heart-bicycles! I love most anything about bicycles. The frames, the frame materials, components, geometry, the different styles. Working on them. Riding them all the neighborhood, city, state, and country (ok, only a little bit). It is amazing all of the places that a bicycle will take you if you let it, and there is something extremely calming for me about that.

I hope this becomes a place where I can, and will write about bike-related topics. Whether it be some bike history, bike repair or anything else that strikes me, I would like to write about it. In addition, through this experience, I hope to encourage more dialogue with the bicycling community and the members within it. I would love to work on more bikes! If you would like a tune-up, build-up, or retrofit, I would love to hear from you! If you have a bunch of bike gear that is filling up your garage or room (I know the feeling) I would like to talk to you about consignment. As I mentioned I do sell somewhat regularly on eBay and if you would like assistance liquidating excess bike stuff, I am here ready to assist. If you need help shipping a bike across the county (or world), I would like to help, as I have done both successfully many times. Finally and maybe the most exciting: If you are one of those people that is looking into getting a bike for the first time, please please please talk to me! There are so many little nuances to bicycling that I wished I knew when I bought my first few bikes, and I would love to share those. Heck, we can talk about what you are looking for and I can hunt for it!