“What did you hope to achieve?”

IMG_4057 This was a question I was asked by one of my oldest friends at Christmas when I’d said that I’d had to take the back off the television because it wouldn’t turn on. At the time I had no clue. I’m not an electrician, and have no idea about the inner workings of a television, what on earth was I thinking…? My only basis for taking the back off was that the standby light would flicker when I moved the power-lead. I’d already tried a different lead, which hadn’t made the blindest jot of difference, so thought that it must be a faulty connection inside. I wasn’t sure what I’d find inside, or what I’d be able to do. I actually ended up leaving out a screw so that the board that holds the power socket had some play in it… don’t ask why though, as I have no idea, but it worked. This morning however, the volume kept turning itself down to zero. At first I was convinced one of the cats were sitting on the remote, but this wasn’t the case. I also removed the batteries from all of the remotes, but this still didn’t make a difference. So the back came off the television again. However, this time I went and researched possible causes and fixes first on the net. Now this did involve reading through a few forums, which I don’t like doing as you never know who it is that’s giving you the advice. At work we will have the odd customer repeat research that they’ve read on forums, and 9 times out of 10 it sounds like nonsense. The fix I decided upon sounded plausible, but as it had no detailed instructions whatsoever, I wasn’t certain if it was something that I would be able to do. Turns out, disconnecting all the switches on the side of the television was just a case of unplugging them. It worked. I don’t need to buy a new one…which is unfortunate as I really want a bigger television. So; What did I hope to achieve…? Not needlessly spending money on something that could be fixed. Which I suppose comes from always working on my own bikes. I think though I will have to draw a line somewhere, as there are only so many screws I can leave out and plugs I can disconnect…

Smoothness.

Smoothness is the key to increasing your speed.
How smooth you keep each individual pedal stroke, your cadence, your average speed, your cornering, and your bike. From the drivetrain, to the gear shifting, to the bearings. The smoother you can make these the faster your overall speed on a ride will be. The less energy you waste will mean that you will then be able to keep riding faster for longer. Or… at the very least, will give you one less thing to worry about so that you can enjoy the ride.

I’ve long been an advocate of listening to your bike. What is it telling you. With the exception of the final check of the limit screws on the front and rear derailleurs, the majority of my gear adjustment will be done through listening to them and then making any necessary adjustments. The rest of the drivetrain will be kept as clean and as well lubed as possible, with your lube of choice… which should be this; No.5 by Wickens & Soderstrom. Bearings, will only usually let you know if there’s something wrong by listening to them if the something is very wrong. A good indicator to how things are going can be done by feel. Hold the frame, and spin the wheels one at a time. If you can feel them spinning through the frame, they’re running either dry or rough and need attention. Obviously the key to this would be prevention, as in regular servicing, but I do realise that this isn’t for everyone. For those that can however you should be using the right grease, and the very best grease you can, to keep those bearings clean and running smooth. With that in mind I’m going to be servicing mine with some of the new No.2 HS grease by Wickens & Soderstrom. I’ll let you know how I get on…

0753/2368.

The riding is going well this year… although the miles in February and March were a little on the lean side. I have however developed a click from somewhere in the De Rosa, which bugs me. I have mentioned before that it’s not necessarily the noise that bugs me but the not knowing whats making the noise. It will however give me an excuse to test out out some new grease from Wickens & Soderstrom… just as soon as they let me know which one to use.

An unintentional role model.

I was bought up in a time when both Fawlty Towers and Monty Python were shown on regular television, and not in the middle of the night either. My dad loved both, and when they were on he would get me to watch them. From memory he started doing this when I was about four, so him having to wake me up and get me out of bed to go down to the living room to watch it was commonplace. To me it was the middle of the night, where in actual fact it was probably just late evening. At that age too I couldn’t really distinguish too much of a difference between my dad and John Cleese. I’m not saying that my dad looks like John Cleese, but they were both tall, and the same colour hair, and side partings, and kind of dressed the same. So the fact that my dad was forcing me to watch a man on the television that appeared the same as him, and whatever he was in always appeared to be in charge, made me like whoever he was playing a lot. And whilst I didn’t always quite understand it, I certainly knew that it was funny; that he was funny. Clearly this was in the days before box-sets, and the internet. Neither of us somehow never had the fore-site to record any of it off the television, so we only ever got to see it when it was on the BBC. Which I think was how my fascination with it never waned. At no point did I overdose on it, so I never tired of it. So when I then had a choice over what I watched on television, I would always choose to watch them. I would choose to watch a man who reminded me of my dad, usually getting very angry and being very funny.

When I began working full-time, when I still lived at home, I went through a couple of periods at not only being in charge of a third of the shop; but of being the only full-time member of staff in that third of the shop. Those periods were hard, and had really long hours, and the second time happened to coincide with BBC Two showing the entire two series of Fawlty Towers roundabout the time I would get home from work. So, more often that not, I would sit down in front of the television in a bad mood only to be confronted by a man being frustrated by his customers. After a few days of this I realised that I was being frustrated by my customers too, and I was in a bad mood for exactly the same reasons that Basil was. I started to see in my own behaviour things that Basil was doing, so tried to make sure that I didn’t do those things any more. As I worked at my job more, and gained more and more experience in dealing with customers (which was down to me having a very lazy boss. He would either never come to deal with a customer concern, or let them take advantage of the situation), I started to view the customers (the irrational ones) losing their cool as Basil, and it was at this point that my working days improved greatly*.

Years later I was given all Fawlty Towers on DVD and whenever I needed either a laugh, or a reminder of how not to behave, I would put an episode on. In hindsight though, it was probably at this point that things started to go array. You see, it was at this point that I realised that I could do a pretty good impression of Basil. Well; I was tall, could shout, and wave my fist at the ceiling. I did it to make my friends laugh, and once ended up going to a fancy-dress party as him. Oh, and when the party finished I went out in town still wearing the moustache and cravat. When I worked in the pub, when it was very busy, if anything ever went wrong (the night the tills both died for instance) Basil would come out to make light of the situation. I would continue to do this from time to time, for my own amusement more than anything else. But little did I know that not only was I doing it far more often than I thought, but that I wasn’t doing it to be funny any more. And this grew, and festered, and in hindsight got far worse. Sometime after that, when I worked in the garage, for me to slam the door to the office or go and kick a bin in the workshop was quite a regular occurrence. Somewhere along the line I had lost all conciseness that what I was doing was ridiculous. One Christmas Jen and I went to the pub after work and had a Christmas drink. Once home nipped to the loo, and when I came back Jen was stomping around the house wearing my work boots. When I asked her what she was doing she answered “being Richard, I’m going to go and be angry at the cats.” That should have been a clue that something was wrong with me… but it wasn’t.

It’s actually taken me years to work out what I was doing. Well, it helped that I now work alongside someone who I knew years before to point out that I wasn’t always like this… It’s taking a lot of work to undo, but I am working on it.

*this is definitely something that I’ll come back to, but it just doesn’t really fit here.

Not so secret oil.

IMG_3942 The secret oil that I’ve been testing now has a name, and quite a swanky one at that; Wickens & Soderstrom No.5 Drive Train Lube. It has to be, without a shadow of a doubt, the out and out best chain-lube I have ever used. Back in my MTB days I tried an awful lot of different sorts, but would always end up going back to a dry spray on lube made by Finish Line. Once on, and once set, it’s consistency appeared to be the closest to what came on the Shimano chains (I primarily used) to begin with. Wet, dry, wax, from every brand that you can think of. Nothing would come close to this stuff. But then, overnight, I didn’t like it any more. I don’t know whether it changed, or I did, but we definitely parted company. Now, jumping forward to my roadie days at first I just plumped for the first dry type lube I picked off the shelf in the shop. I’d not ridden properly in years, I wasn’t really that fussy any more, and had no personal preference. However, as I rode more and the amount of miles that I would ride in one go, I became far more discerning. Again I started upon a quest to find the ultimate oil; one that would keep the drivetrain running as smoothly, cleanly, and silently for as long as possible. I came really close with a ceramic oil, and thought that I had cracked it, but then I came across something completely by accident. I was brow-beaten into buying a KMC by my colleagues at Ubyk, and was told to wipe off all the packing grease before I used it. I didn’t. I’d never heard of such nonsense. I fitted the chain, and put in quite a lot of miles before realising that I had done absolutely nothing to the chain since fitting it. Granted, I had only ridden in the dry (for reasons previously explained) but the condition of it was still amazing; pretty clean, pretty silent, so I left it. I left it pretty much as long as I could before having to eventually clean it and apply the ceramic lube that I liked. Afterwards however I was then pretty disappointed as to how often I had to the reapply the oil. I’m not shy when it comes to bike-maintaince, the rest of the bike is lovingly cleaned and buffed with a dedicated soft micro-fibre cloth after ever ride. But I was bummed out by how often it required the chain needed oiling. So, whenever I then replaced the chain I would try and push just how long I could go without oiling it. My colleagues thought it was hilarious, my boss James though was right there with me. I did however struggle to answer when customers asked me what I use on my chain, as I couldn’t try and advocate my maintenance regime and encourage our customers to do the same. Plus, we had oil to sell. However, in December we had a mysterious package turn up at the shop with some tyre-sealent in it and a small bottle of clear liquid. The clear liquid came with a pipet, and didn’t really look or feel like oil at all. After talking to the people who sent it, James handed me the bottle and told me that I had to use it. It being winter I applied it to the chain on my winter bike. The chain is relatively new, but the cassette, chainrings, and mechs are well used so I was never expecting it to run silently or smooth. I had become accustomed to the fact that that bike was now noisy. Upon the first ride out though I discovered that the bike wasn’t noisy at all, this lube; the secret oil, had silenced my winter bike. Not only that, but it stayed silent and clean. And when it came to reapply the oil after 230ish miles of winter riding, it was an absolute breeze to clean. This stuff was amazing. The only reason that I was calling it secret was that at that time it still didn’t have a name. But now it does, No.5 by Wickens & Soderstrom. I highly recommend that you buy some. Despite the fact that I was given a sample the photo above is mine that I’ve bought, just to ensure that I don’t run out. If you like your drivetrains silent, smooth, and clean, then this is definitely for you.

Conversations at work.

It’s almost certainly a sign that the entire Ubyk team is passionate about the work we do, and the industry we work in, but never have I spent so much time talking to work colleagues about what we do…

Now, that my sound odd. But looking back at past jobs I would spend more time talking to colleagues about anything other than work, than we spent talking about work. Films, TV, cake, holidays… but almost certainly never anything ever work related. Clearly though I get paid now for my hobby… well, almost. And so does the rest of the team. So we’ll sit talking/squabbling over bikes, components, riding both inside and outside work.

Last Friday what stated as conversation inside work about how heavy the boss’s Zipp QR was, carried on into; sitting around the now empty closed shop, drinking beer, arguing over what sort of pump you should carry, and should it be on the bike or in your pocket. There is of course no right answer to this (I was arguing for a mini pump, plus gas canister, on the bike). To be fair, I think a lot of what we end up talking about has no right answer. Which is probably why we never reach a conclusion.

All of this is pretty nerdy… but it makes for a really good working environment.

0186/2368.

IMG_3819

 

I had finally sorted myself with a new pair of gloves, some quite frankly ridiculous gloves, and sorted out my cold fingers. I started to make a really good headway into this years riding target of 2,368 miles, and yet somehow I’ve hurt my back.

Regardless of whether I think I could manage a ride, or brave the weather, I can’t actually lift my bike down from the spare room anyway. Which put an end to me trying to ride in January more miles than I rode in January-March last year. Although, as I’ve already admitted, that wasn’t really a tough target to beat. My boss James has somehow managed to make me see the bright side in this yesterday with this comment on FB; “Mate don’t be stupid, you come off and hit your head and that’s it. Game over! There is ice on my path so there must be ice in areas of Banbury! I’m actually oddly glad you can’t ride then.”

The secret oil that I’ve been testing is still holding strong. My intention was to write a review once hitting the monthly target, so this will need to wait a little while. I will however say that the chain is still running silently and cleanly after 186 miles. It does appear to be pretty awesome… even if my back isn’t. Although, this is possibly just because I’m old now…