Time to do some house keeping

It’s been a long time since I did anything with my own personal website and web pages, they have languished on my host gathering technological dust in pretty much the same state they were over ten years ago, well now I have decided to use some of my recently acquired web design and coding skills to update those old pages.  

My plan is to maintain the look and feel, but make the code slick and perhaps add some subtle cool things; some areas might get a visual overhaul too, and I might add all of the pages under one top menu system, who knows where this might lead!

 

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11-32 Cassette and 11-28 Derailleur are a Mismatch

It has been almost a year since I fitted an 11-32 cassette and new chain to the bike, in order to make this work I had to screw in the B-limiter screw all the way which I have now been told is a bad idea as it puts extra strain on the derailleur and hanger.  Although the system worked brilliantly for at least 8 months I think it was optimistic of me to think it would be fine as I have now learned that the strain and a couple of knocks to the derailleur have weakened the hanger to the point where it has twisted, resulting in poor, erratic shifting and the loss of some gears entirely.

As the warm weather suddenly appeared at the end of May this year, up until which point it had been freezing cold or at best merely mild, I jumped on the chance to get some dry mountain bike riding done in the forest, and did so for several weeks while the dry warm weather lasted (and apart from a few odd downpours, is still lasting now), my cyclocross bike sat at the back not seeing any use; when I eventually decided to give it a run out I discovered that the gears were not shifting properly and no amount of adjustment would cure it, I did notice that the derailleur sprockets appeared to be pointing slightly in the wrong direction but dismissed it as being caused by my viewing angle.  I took the bike in for a cable replacement (internally routed, not something I’m familiar with doing) only to be told by the bike shop that I should be using a long cage derailleur, and that the hanger was bent.

One replaced hanger and nicely set up gears later, I took the bike home and put the original 11-28 cassette and chain back on the bike, in theory I could have configured it again for thew 11-32 but the thought of having to pay another £40 to get a replacement hanger fitted didn’t appeal (I looked, they apparently can’t be bought from normal sources).  I decided to give the poor neglected bike a good long test ride, however I soon noticed that the rear pads were brushing against the disc (noted by a ‘swish swish swish’ noise as the rear wheel turned), a quick pit stop at the nearest bike shop to borrow a long shafted Allen key and it was sorted, then there was also the tell-tale sound of a particle or two in the bottom bracket, I knew I could not fix this out on the road but luckily it went away after about 20 miles of riding.  The final discovery was that the front derailleur now needed adjustment to accommodate the spacing on the different cassette low gear sprocket, unfortunately the adjustment there has rusted up so it’s not possible to turn the adjustment knob; assuming the part is available and that I can extract the old one, I should be able to replace or refurbish this one myself, I really can’t afford to spend more money on labour for this bike.  If worse comes to worse then I’ll just have to live with it (it’s just scraping when on the large chainring and lowest cassette sprocket, technically not a wise thing to do but I know it should be possible to run in this gear ratio without scraping).

While that is being sorted I will go back to the mountain bike, the tubeless Plus tyres have held their air superbly and await their first test ride!

 

 

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Maverick iON DT – Knocking Sound

I’ve just taken delivery of this nifty little 4WD desert buggy and taken it for a spin in a local patch of scrub, with the current extended heat wave the ground is very dry and dusty, perfect conditions for a desert truck!

After bashing around in circles and bespoke figure 8 patterns for a while the truck started to cut out at random, however leaving the truck for a minute or two seemed to clear the problem.  I would put this down to some sort of overheat protection, I noticed the motor was very hot when I accidentally touched it while reaching in to turn the power off.

So that was one thing I learned to be aware of, the second was to come next – after bashing around this dusty patch which had some piles of rubble and other bits and pieces around, suddenly the buggy started to produce an alarming knocking sound when running, as if something was stuck in a wheel spoke or rubbing against a drive shaft; I pulled out a few small twigs but the knocking was still there, I would have to take a closer look back home.

After unscrewing most of the screws I could find and examine the innards of the mechanism I eventually noticed the fault, and realised I only needed to remove one screw to get to where the problem lay – in the pinion gear chamber.

The screw in question is the one nearest the tyre in this photo, once removed it allows the pinion gear chamber cover to be removed.

I discovered a tiny stone lodged in the pinion gear itself, which I easily managed to remove using a sharp blade; I made sure that I remove the stone completely from the chassis then reassembled the buggy, tested it and the knocking was gone.  Success!

This is a fun little buggy that performs very well, I was amazed at the bumps and clumps it managed to get over without too much trouble, when it did flip it landed on all four tyres more often than not and there were a few exciting side wheelie moments to boot!  Highly recommended for kids big and small.

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Specialized 2Bliss Tubeless – A Saga In The Making – Part 2

After having tried numerous tricks to get my 2Bliss Ready Specialized tubeless wheels and tyres to seal I decided to clean them up and start again.

Before continuing I did a little shopping, as it turned out the guys over at Chain Reaction Cycles had everything I needed and at a very good price:

  • Stan’s No Tubes Rim Tape 9.14m x 33mm
  • 250ml Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex sealant
  • Effetto Mariposa Tubeless Valve (x2)

There is actually a full kit available from Effetto, I have used their tape and valves previously with success, however as I already had the valves I purchased just the Stan’s tape (mainly because everyone raves about it and I wanted to try it for myself) and Effetto sealant.  My Plus rims are 27.5″ with an internal rim width of 29mm (according to the 2Bliss rim ‘band’ that came with them).

Using a washing up bowl filled with warm soapy water (actually washing up liquid) I cleaned away all of the old sealant, using a normal scouring pad to scrub off any dried sealant from the rims inside and out – I wanted this thing to be spotless like it was a new wheel, with nothing to get in the way of a good seal.

Scrubbing away the old sealant

Wheel being scrubbed in a washing up bowl

I also needed to remove the old sealant from the inside of the tyre, who knows how that would interact with new sealant (I purchased a different brand to replace it, I wanted to eliminate the old sealant as a potential cause of the previous failed attempts).

Scrubbing the old sealant off the tyre

I removed any traces of dried sealant around the tyre bead, the best way to do this is with some good old fashioned dry friction – a wet sponge won’t be nearly as effective as a dry scourer, but it will get hot so use caution!

I made sure I left the wheels and tyres to dry thoroughly, a few hours to be certain (this hot dry weather is good for drying things at least!)

Dried sealant on the tyre bead

That’s the hard and messy part over!  Had I not already attempted to seal the wheels using the 2Bliss rim tape system (which I do not rate at all now) then I’d be at this stage from the beginning.  Armed with my new Stan’s rim tape I started to apply it and get these wheels sealed.

There are many videos on YouTube demonstrating the best ways of applying rim tape, I loosely followed these and the advice I’d been given from a bike shop to ‘pull the tape tight and hard as if drawing an arrow in a bow’, I did this in sections of approximately two feet or so, smoothing down the tape between applications so that it sat in the grooves and corners of the inner rim.  One key piece of advice from one of the YouTube videos helped things along, and that was to use a dry microfibre cloth as trying to push the tape into the grooves with bare hands would probably result in very hot fingers from the friction.

Applying the rim tape

Starting about six inches to the left of the valve hole, the end of the tape was cut off using a sharp knife and the tape smoothly pushed down flush with the inner rim and the corners pushed in with my thumbnail.  Once I’d gone all the way around I continued to about six inches past the valve hole, then cut the tape using my sharp knife to leave a smart finished article that would hopefully be air and sealant proof.

Rim tape applied six inches on either side of the valve hole

When it came to inserting the valve stem I cut a slot almost as wide as the valve hole then let the valve stem open it up as much as it needed to as I pushed it through, the rubber block lined up with the direction of the wheel.  I applied the washer and nut finger-tight so that it pulled the valve stem and rubber block flush with the tape and tight up against it, but not so tight that it distorted the rubber block in any way.  It does not need to be more than finger right.

Valve stem fitted.

Valve stem fitted

This wheel is pretty much finished at this stage, all that’s left to do is fit the tyre (leaving a small opening to pour the sealant in), inflate to the tubeless install pressure as marked on the tyre sidewall, tilt and shake it about a bit then fit the wheel back on the bike and go for a ride.

I used about 80ml of sealant in these tyres to ensure sufficient to cover the entire internal surface with plenty left over for any leaks.  I inflated the tyres quickly using my track pump to 25 PSI, I didn’t see any sealant nor could I hear any air escaping, success!

Wheel finished

I actually decided not to ride the bike straight away, instead electing caution to see if it would lose pressure overnight – it lost a little on my rear tyre (Specialized Ground Control) so I pumped both tyres up to 30 PSI and went for a 15 mile ride on a route that covered tarmac, bumpy dirt tracks and potholed forest roads, a good combination to get the sealant jumping around inside the tyre, and not too far from home should anything go wrong.

As it turned out there were a few tiny areas on the tyre sidewalls where sealant escaped but these did seal eventually (with the current hot weather the sealant is thinner than ideal), it’s been a few days since that ride and the tyres haven’t lost any noticeable amount of pressure so I’m going to call this a success.  I will lower the pressures to ride levels (about 15-20 PSI for these 3″ Plus tyres) and ride the bike on trails where I would normally go, when conditions turn slippery I will try lowering the pressure perhaps as low as 10 PSI for a larger contact patch.

It occurred to me later that I might want to ride with a Purgatory up front (no change needed) and also a Purgatory on the rear for extra traction in muddy conditions compared to the Ground Control which I fitted; it should be a simple matter of transferring as much of the sealant as possible from the Ground Control to the second Purgatory once on the rim and just topping it up if necessary, then cleaning the remaining sealant off the Ground Control ready for the next summer season; certainly a cheaper option than having another whole wheel!  That is unless I could find an unused / new one going cheap somewhere, hmm!  A handy method I devised for extracting sealant from the tyre without getting too messy is a large syringe with a piece of flexible tubing, enabling me to suck up the sealant without actually putting my hands inside the tyre, as I would have to if using a scoop of some kind (which also might grab any dried blobs of sealant that I would not want in the new tyre).

Looking forward to riding tubeless on this Plus bike!

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Specialized 2Bliss Tubeless – A Saga In The Making

I have had a Specialized mountain bike for a couple of years now, it came tubeless-ready so in theory all I had to do was remove the innertubes, fit tubeless valves, put some sealant in and away I go… It has not been quite so easy.  

I purchased some Mariposa tubeless valve stems (which I have used previously with success on another mountain bike) and set to converting the wheels, they already had “2Bliss” tubeless rim tape (2Bliss is what Specialized call their tubeless system) and 2Bliss tyres so I didn’t pay much attention to that, all looked hunky dory, but after adding some sealant for the life of me I could not get the wheels to seal; sealant kept bubbling up the side of the valve stem, nowhere else.  I shook the wheel up and down with the valve at the bottom, I wrapped PTFE tape around the valve stem before and after installation (which actually gave a little bit of success but I didn’t trust it), I even fitted an o-ring around the base of the valve stem (seated against the rim tape inside the wheel) but nothing would stop the bubbles coming out, this eventually led me to believe there was a problem with the valve stem itself so I replaced that, same thing happened.

I was about to order some Specialized 2Bliss Roval Valve Stems and 2Bliss Rim Tape when I happened across a forum post about the 2Bliss Rim Tape, and how some people have had problems and do not rate the tape at all; this changed my thought pattern – perhaps it is the tape after all that is leaking, no amount of valve stem jiggery pokery would fix that, and it made sense too that when I managed to seal it with PTFE it was only by winding it around the stem between the wheel and the washer / nut on the outside of the wheel.

A plan was hatched – I would look very closely at the rim tape for any tiny slots or gaps where the air and sealant could be escaping, starting at the valve hole.  I soon discovered that the rim tape was not actually tape at all but more like a large elastic band that had been fitted over the wheel, and while it did form a nice tight fit it was the join at the valve hole that disturbed me, and gave me the firm believe that this was the weak point where the air and sealant was leaking.  I decided that I would go the traditional route of sticky rim tape so set forth to remove the 2Bliss rim tape and sealant.

Continues in my next post!

 

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Nearly there…

This winter feels like it’s been the coldest and longest for a number of years, yes there have been a couple of freaky weeks when we’ve had cold spells with lots of snow in previous years, but this winter has seen months of freezing cold winds, ice, heavy snow, then back to ice, more snow, heavy rain, flooding, fog, the works.  One could say that’s what winter used to be like, and it may be true, but we are living in a time of freaky weather; next winter could be very mild (which is better for cycling, so long as it isn’t raining all of the time).  On the plus side, I did get a chance to try out my mountain bike in a variety of snowy conditions on the roads and in the forest, the general result was ‘not really ridable and damn cold!’, there was also the sense that not many other people were out so if I did have a fall on my own then I could be stuck for a long time, not a very sensible thing to do unless you can go with a group.

The current forecast is for much warmer weather on its way, I really hope this will be the last of the cold weather as the mild spell we had a few weeks ago was followed by yet another freezing cold blast which resulted in ice and frost again, not good for the wildlife that may have just decided to come out of hibernation.

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Sainsbury’s Razor vs Gillette

For many years now I’ve been using Gillette razors, they work well and give a consistently satisfying result, but every time I need to buy new razor blades I wonder if there could be a cheaper alternative as even with the bulk-buy blade packs it doesn’t seem like I’m getting my money’s worth, and they always force me to buy a new handle in the packs too which feels like a waste, the Gillette handles are fairly bullet proof and could potentially last for years.

After reading a few comments and reviews online I decided to conduct my own tests, starting with the Sainsbury’s own-brand 6 blades ‘advance system razor with trimmer’ (do not be confused by this and think that it comes with six blades, it contains just one cartridge that has six blades in it), the comparison will always be with the Gillette Fusion ProGlide FlexBall which is what I normally use – the pack I buy is usually from my local Superdrug shop – https://www.superdrug.com/Gillette/Gillette-Fusion-ProGlide-FlexBall-Razor-Plus-9-Blades-Pack/

Side-by-side the razors look similar, with a rubber strip along the bottom and a moisturising strip across the top, and a metallic strip down each side; the main differences are six slightly thinner blades in the Sainsbury’s vs five slightly wider spaced blades in the Gillette, and the FlexBall in the Gillette.  Both have head tilt and a cartridge quick-release button.

Sainsbury's vs Gillette razors

Sainsbury’s advance system razor on the left, Gillette Fusion ProGlide FlexBall on the right.

Starting on a Monday morning from approximately three day’s beard growth, I used Morrisson’s Sensitive Shave Foam and shaved the right side with the Gillette then the left side with the Sainsbury’s, following my usual method.

Both razors did a fine job of clearing away the weekend’s growth, neither snagged or pulled my hairs, no cuts or scrapes, the beard trimmer on the Sainsbury’s worked well to get those tight hairs around the nostrils, by the end of the shave I really could not tell the difference in terms of closeness or finish.  My only observation would be that the Gillette was slightly easier to rinse than the Sainsbury’s, probably due to the wider spaced blades, but had I not had the Gillette for comparison I doubt I would have noticed or cared as the Sainsbury’s was still easy to rinse.

As for the FlexBall, I hardly noticed the difference in feel between the two razors, the Sainsbury’s did feel slightly more rigid but it didn’t seem to affect the shave experience or results.  A gimmick?  Perhaps.  Worth paying extra for?  Probably not.  At the end of the day it’s personal choice, the Gillette may suit some people far better than own-brand offerings, but from my results so far I’d say there’s definitely a good potential for saving a few quid by using the Sainsbury’s advance system razor.

I will now use the Sainsbury’s razor to see how long the cartridge lasts before it starts to rip my face off, then compare this to the Gillette cartridge which I will use after that.  Check back here in the comments for the results in a week or so!

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So much for the iMac SSD Project

When I first got my hands on a nice new 27″ i5 iMac I was amazed at it’s capabilities, I used it for everything from video editing and web browsing to games and emulation, however as the years passed things seemed slower and slower (or perhaps my expectations grew faster and faster), so I decided to try replacing the optical drive with a nice shiny new SSD.  I achieved this by following one of the readily available guides on the internet, purchasing a special optical drive bracket to hold the SSD (the same size as a laptop hard drive, so no doubt the bracket already existed for laptop owners to fit a second hard drive), the results were brilliant – instant speed boost beyond what the iMac was originally capable of in terms of system responsiveness, there was however a drawback… Due to the way the Mac (perhaps it is the hardware, perhaps MacOS, I can’t say) handles hard drives it would always wait for the internal hard drive to wake from sleep before it would do what was asked of it, as it seemed logical to allow the internal hard drive to sleep when not in use; this was also an annoyance when the iMac would wake to check for updates in the middle of the night, as I could hear the hard drive spin up and run (the iMac currently lives in my bedroom).

A few years of this, the trade-off between waiting for the internal hard drive to wake and the speed boost the SSD gave when loading and saving data, and I was happy, until one day the system suffered with a few successive brown-outs that my UPS didn’t manage to protect against!  After that moment the SSD started to behave erratically, the system would randomly pause for 30 seconds or more, I was rather concerned that I would lose everything at any moment so I quickly removed the SSD and put it in an external USB case, bracket and all, and ran as many tests as I could, even hooked it up directly to my PC to run low level tests, no faults were found.  I subsequently ran the iMac from the external USB SSD until I could find a place for almost 1TB of data that was filling the internal hard drive, so that I could clone the SSD back onto that internal hard drive and go back to how it was originally; that has just been completed (I had to bring a spare 1TB backup drive out of retirement for the purpose).

So far things have been calm, no random system pauses, the system still waits for the internal hard drive to spin up before it will do anything, but at least I don’t have an external SSD taking up space on my desk.  Once I am happy that I have everything off that SSD I will blitz it and see what tests I can run on it, I’m convinced there is a hardware fault but it may not be something that software tests can detect, only a burn-in test or regular use will reveal it as being there.

Next time I will fit just an SSD, no regular hard drive, but at the moment the price for large capacity SSDs is ridiculously inflated so it won’t be happening unless I can find a bargain.

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Bye Bye Photobucket

Question: Why would a photo hosting site disable embedding?

This is the only reason I think most people would use any photo hosting site, particularly one such as Photobucket.  Forums often don’t have the space to host photos uploaded by their users so they rely on embedding, for such a large site such as Photobucket to suddenly turn this feature off is utterly ludicrous.  By doing so they have effectively pushed away most of their users, I for one probably won’t be able to find all of the forum posts I’ve ever made and update the picture links to a different host, nor do I have the server space to host all of my own photos online (which would surely be the safest thing to do).

For now it’s going to be a slow background project for me to update as many image links as I can, as I have to get the photo, upload it to another host (currently I’m gambling on google not shafting us sometime down the line), get the link, then find the post and update it; each one can take several minutes, it’s going to take a while to do them all (and that’s just on my own hosted blogs).

I suppose it gives me something to do, it’s just annoying that I have to do it at all.

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Troy Lee Wrist Supports WS5205

I’ve been suffering from aching wrists for quite a while now, on and off for a few years at least since I started working with computers every day, after changing jobs last year I found myself sitting at a computer … Continue reading

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