Tag Archives: SE Bikes Draft

Paris Mountain fixation

One of those times has come into life when I woke up on a Saturday morning and didn’t really want to get up and out on the bike. I’m not sure why, but the idea of getting up and taking a slower paced morning was appealing. Perhaps it was because the afternoon and evening was going to be busy. Still, I knew that I needed to get out and keep what fitness I have.

Once again I was heading out on the fixed gear. Perhaps that was also part of my problem. I would have preferred to go out with the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power ride, but I didn’t want to hold everyone up as I chased them around with one gear. I would be doing this ride alone.

About two hours was all that was allotted to me. I figured in that time I would have to go out and ride and then swing by Sunshine to get new rubber for the SE Bikes Draft. The rear tire was showing the threads beneath the worn rubber. Actually, I was taking a chance riding this way, but I couldn’t make the shop stop at the beginning of the ride because they weren’t open.

I meandered toward downtown to get on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. At least there wouldn’t be a lot of climbing there. What I did find was a pile of runners/walkers. It was an organized event, though I never figured out who was sponsoring it.

Thankfully, things cleared out before I got to the SRT Cafe and Grocery. I was able to settle into a nice cadence on the fixed gear and before long I was starting to enjoy the beautiful morning. My start must have many later than many because as I was riding out, I came upon a couple of larger groups coming back toward downtown.

The closer I got to Furman the more an insane thought began to creep into my mind. “Why don’t you ride the Draft up Paris Mountain?” My legs rebelled at the idea. My lungs asked, “Why do you think of things like this?”

I looked at the clock. 45 minutes had passed since I rolled out from home. Really, if I was wanting to make it to Sunshine Cycle Shop, get the tires and get them changed before going home, then going over the mountain was the fastest option. The temptation to make the climb was getting stronger.

Finally I committed to making the climb. I knew it was going to be tough pulling the 23 pound bike with a 48 teeth chain ring (and shorter crank arms) up the mountain. I had done it before back when I had the original chain ring which was smaller. Even that time, I had to stop and take a break on the climb.

I hit the base trying to keep my momentum as best as possible. When the grade got a bit steeper, I would stand to use my weight to help push the crank arms around. When the grade was less acute, I would sit and try to get my heart rate down a bit. Whether standing or sitting, I tried to use my back stroke as well as my forward stroke to get an even flow of power.

The top of the water tower segment came in about the same time as my geared attempts. The actual water tower segment was one of my fastest. However, I could tell it as I was starting to breathe much harder and I had to seek for recovery as best I could.

A fixed gear drives you. There is no letting up. There is no looking for an easier gear. When you think one leg is about the give out, the other one just pushes it around for another revolution. You can’t really slow down either. Slowing basically means you are going to come to a stop. You just have to gut it out.

I reached the half way point in about 6:15. Still, that wasn’t bad at all. However, I knew I was just borrowing from the road ahead.

Riders out for a Saturday climb were all along the road. I kept passing one and then another. It wasn’t that I was trying to get around them. It is just I had no choice but to keep my momentum. Several of them commented on the fact of the single gear. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much but huff out a “Good morning.”

Then I reached “The Wall.” My intent was to finish what I had started. I had slowed considerably and reached the turn up to the wall in about 12:20. Who knows how much time I would burn over the next quarter mile. I stood, put my head down and started clawing my way up.

My legs were tired. My lungs were burning. However, it was my arms and shoulders that were screaming the loudest.

I really need to start doing some upper body work. Climbing with the fixed gear required me to really work the handle bars to shift my weight from side to side and get as much power as possible on the crank. My arms were yelling for me to relax my grip!

Finally, about 20 meters from the top — right as the road kicks into its steepest section — it happened. I got stuck between the down stroke of my right crank and the up stroke of my left. It was as though the bike wanted to start pedaling backward. By the way, that is entirely possible on a fixed gear!

At a standstill, I finally put my foot down. My arms were now yelling “Hallelujah!” and my lungs weren’t yelling anything. They were just pulling in oxygen.

I walked up about 10 meters and then remounted. I was able to ride across the KOM line and stop the clock at 14:22. Really, considering everything, I was quite happy with that.

Now I had to scare myself by descending the mountain on a fixed gear with clipless pedals. I would be riding the bull! Thankfully, I had brakes.

Ten minutes later I was at the bottom and heading over Piney Mountain to Sunshine where I was able to put some wire mesh rubber tires that should last me for a good amount of time in the future. Thankfully, I also had time to ice my knees (another disadvantage of climbing with a fixed gear) before heading over to my son’s baseball game.

If nothing else comes from this time on the Draft, I know it will make me appreciate the Giant TCR Advanced all the more!

Riding a fixie while waiting for fixes

Well, my bicycles are still out of commission. The Giant is waiting for new headset bearings. The Felt is waiting for a cosmetic repair to some carbon fiber. I won’t get them back until next week.

Actually, I do have the Giant with a stop-gap repair, but I don’t want to risk it out on the road. With my luck I would end up messing my bike up permanently going over a railroad track or something. I’m staying off of it until I get the new set.

The fixed gear SE Draft to the rescue!

The problem is that I don’t want to be off the bike for all this time. I sold my mountain bike some time ago. My options for wheels comes down to riding my daughter’s Specialized Sirrus or my fixed gear. For a host of reasons, I choose the SE Draft!

I pulled it out Friday afternoon so I could take my first bike ride since Monday. That is a long time for me to be off the bike. I start getting grumpy and antsy when I go a number of days without exercise. I needed to get some stuff out of my system.

The platform pedals had to go, so I moved the Speedplay pedals from the Giant to the SRAM Omnium crank. This would allow me to get my cadence up a bit higher without worrying about getting thrown off. Staying on the pedals is important around here with all the downhills.

I rode up to Sunshine Cycle Shop in hopes that they had their scale back in operation (they had loaned it to the officials for the pro race). I wanted to see how much weight I would be hauling around. Unfortunately, they hadn’t gotten it mounted. (Later my bathroom scale informed me the bike weighs 23.2 pounds.) After adding some air to the tires, I headed out to have a little fun taking in the Chick Springs TT Strava segment on the fixie!

I turned onto the segment and on the first section was spinning like a mad man! There was no choice but to try to keep up with the bike. There was a small amount of force being created as I was putting out rpm’s of 132 – 144. The cadence never dropped below 100 rpm until the very last few meters when the road kicks up.

One of the fun things about using the fixie with Strava is that I get to see the service’s calculated power. I find that it is normally around 20 watts under my power meter wattage, but it does give me some idea of what type of numbers I can get on the bike.

My max power was around 900 watts. The average for the segment was 278 watts (with a meter, I don’t doubt it would be around 300). The bottom line is that I covered the segment in 2 minutes and 24 seconds with an average speed of 28.5 mph.

I then headed toward the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The plan from there was just to have a leisurely ride before returning home to take my son to his baseball game. The evening was cool and I was having fun.

Nearing the trail near Broad Street, I noticed the rain was beginning to fall. There was a reason it was cooler. A front was blowing in. The clouds were beginning to roll above my head.

I decided to turn left on the trail back toward home instead of right toward TR. The idea of getting stuck in a cold rain was not very appealing. As it was, it would take me about 20 minutes to get home and that was plenty of time to get soaked.

The rain came and went as I rode through Cleveland Park. I turned onto Stone Avenue and still was avoiding getting soaked as I rode underneath I-385. Then, just as I passed under the overpass, a bright flash of light startled me. At first I thought it was a bright car light or something. Then I heard the rumble of thunder.

As I turned right onto East North Street, the threat of rain increased. I was standing on the pedals now and driving for home! The announcement I had heard earlier about possible hail was on my mind.

One thing about a fixed gear is that once you can get the momentum going, it is actually pretty easy to climb a shallow rise. The climb up East North is a 3.4% average with most of the steeper section at the beginning of the effort. My cadence was pretty close to what I would use on my road bike. The power numbers came in at 500 watts average for the half mile climb.

As I turned onto my street the bottom let loose. At this point the rain felt good. Of course, that might have been because I knew that in a few moments I would be nice and dry.

The bad luck continued though as I looked at the bicycle after the baseball game ended and the sun came back out. I could see the rear tire was pretty bald. The rubber was an old Michelin Pro racing tire that had quite a few miles on it before I put it on the Draft. Looks like I’m going to have to get this fixed as well.

Overall, it was a fun experience. I even got an unexpected PR and KOM on a Strava segment. Still, I don’t think I want to ride a fixed gear all the time. I’m getting ready to stop fixing and start riding!

Earning a cup of joe on the bike

At least for today the weather is absolutely beautiful here in Greenville. There is a chance of rain coming our way later, but for now it is time to take advantage of what we’ve been given. That being the case, the Draft brought me to work today.

SE Bikes Draft with conversions

My commuter bike

I got to figuring… I don’t necessarily ride my bike to work to save gas, but I do wonder how much it would actually save me. Is it worth it for the cash? It certainly is worth it for the pleasure.

Gas – $3.36 a gallon

MPG – 26 (in the BMW and around 30 in the FIT, but the Beautiful Redhead normally has the Honda)

Trips – If I have lunch at home, it would be a “there-back-there-back” day

Distance – roughly a mile from my home to the office – so 4 miles total

Formula – distance/mpg*gas=savings

That means that riding my bike to work saves me about…

50 cents a day

$2.50 a week

$12.50 a month

$150 a year

Now, I don’t think that is going to happen! However, it does show that a little bit each day adds up over time. A week of riding is at least worth a cup of coffee.

I’ve got only one gear

Even though I wasn’t riding my bike much over the last month, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about bikes and playing around with them. Most of my focus in that regard has recently been centered around my SE Bikes Draft. It’s been a lot of fun getting it to its current setup.

SE Bikes Draft on the streets of Austin

SE Bikes Draft on the streets of Austin

I got the bike a couple years ago. It was an end of the year sale at Sunshine Cycle Shop. I had done some work for the shop and Mike let me roll it out the door for $75. At that time it was a single speed with a free hub. I used the bike to ride to work on nice days when I didn’t have meetings planned in town.

Out of the box, the bike looked just like the one you see in the above photo. I happened across the above bike while walking through Austin. However, I couldn’t just leave it alone! It just didn’t seem to have enough character. The first thing I did was to add a fixed gear to the rear hub so I could flip the wheel if I wanted a “fixie.”

What I really wanted to do was put drop bars on the front and switch out the pedals from the meat grinders that came with the bike to a set of clipless pedals. I quickly discovered that it wouldn’t be that easy. Replacing the bars would mean replacing the brakes. I also learned that the threads on the single piece crank were too small to accept the SpeedPlay pedals I wanted to put on it. So, for a year the bike pretty much hung up in the back of my basement.

Then I busted up the “Demon Bike” and had a bunch of high end spare parts — like a seat, a nice stem and bars. Just for fun, I put the seat on the Draft. I chuckled because I realized that the seat cost twice as much as I paid for the bike! Then I turned my attention to the bars.

Taking the straight bars off was simple enough. Even replacing it with the drop bars was fine. However, I’m not a hipster and the thought of riding that bike without brakes does not appeal to me. First I tried to find a way to mount the original brake levers on the drop bars. I ended up breaking the brakes in the attempt.

So, at Sunshine, I bought some 20 dollar brake levers (I just haven’t gotten into the eBay habit) and stuck them on there. That also lead me to order some more solid brakes. The original brake calipers had huge gaps between the pads and wheels and once I put some skinnier wheels on there it was even worse. The new brakes were more for safety than looks — though they look better as well!

Drop bars with brakes – done. Now it was time to move to the crank. This got complicated real fast. First I tried to just screw in some clipless pedals. The higher end pedals were too large to fit in the standard single piece crank set. So, I decided to have a machine shop widen the existing holes and tap in new threads. After finally getting hold of the proper taps, I had the new threads bored in and I now had clipless pedals!

SE Bikes original crank with clipless pedal

Clipless pedal on the right with platform pedal on the left

Then I took it for a ride. Hmmmm, this wasn’t going to work. It felt all wrong. First of all the crank worked okay for tooling easily around town or back to work, but actually taking it out at speed showed me 1) the pedals were not entirely straight, 2) the crank arms were not long enough for my comfort, and 3) I didn’t have confidence in the amount of mass left around the threads. I had been told of instances where people had done similar things with their cranks and had them snap.

So, now things were getting more complicated. I went searching online for a way to replace the single piece crank set with a three piece unit. I found one on the site by the late Sheldon Brown. I placed my order and soon received a bottom bracket adapter kit.

Crank converter by FSA

FSA single to three piece converter

At that point I busted the budget and sprung for a SRAM Omium track crank. You can see the bottom bracket caps screwed into the adapter in the picture above. Basically, the adapter is made of two caps that go in the hole left in the frame once the sealed single piece crank set is removed. Rods connect the two caps and once tightened create a standard style threaded bottom bracket.

New crank in adapter

New SRAM crank in the adapter

Then it was just a matter of sliding in the new track crank. Wow! What a difference. The bike was now a joy to ride. The biggest change to get used to was the gearing. The SRAM gear was larger than the original Draft front ring. I was now turning a 48 x 16. It allows me to get more speed, but when I took the 24 pound steel framed bike up Paris Mountain I ended up having to walk a couple times. I was able to climb all the way with the original gearing.

That isn’t a problem. It just gives me something to aim for — climbing Altamont all the way with the 48 x 16. The trade off of having more speed on the flats and not spinning out so quickly on the downhills is well worth it. Besides… doesn’t it look sweet?

SRAM Omnium crank

SRAM Omnium crank

Taking my SE Draft single speed from this…

SE Bikes Draft

SE Bikes Draft - Before

To this…

SE Bikes Draft with conversions

SE Bikes Draft - After

It has been a blast. I’m not done yet. Wait until you see what I’ve done to prove I’m not a hipster.

That will have to wait until another day.

Getting my fix

Today my gear came for my SE Bikes Draft. I thought I had an idea what it would be like to ride a fixie for the first time. Thankfully, I didn’t kill myself!

The way it works on my Draft is that I have a free wheel gear on one side and a fixed gear on the other. If I want the ease of the free wheel, I put that side on the chain. When I feel like the fun of the fix wheel, I just turn the wheel around and here we go.

In my first ride I headed up to Sunshine Cycle Shop to have them take a look at it. It started out no different than with the free wheel. I had been warned about the way the cranks can throw you if you relax your pedaling motion.

Things got interesting when I started down a hill for the first time. I hit about 25 miles an hour and my legs just couldn’t keep up with the pedals! I ended up lifting my feet and letting the cranks go mad. It was time to figure out how to control the bike in a decent.

I kept practicing to keep control. I found that I could “walk the bike” down. You really had to think ahead. It was okay to go fast, as long as I didn’t go too fast. So, I would start off down a hill slowing the rotation. At a point where I felt I could keep the revolutions manageable, I would just let it go.

It was fun. I can see why people say it is a more “organic” kind of riding. There is never a time when you stop thinking about the feeling of the bike. You use your legs not just to propel the bike forward, but to slow it. Really, your body becomes the gearing.

As a commuter, I would probably prefer the free wheel. The fixed wheel makes for some interesting fun. I think I’ll keep it.