Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brooks B-17 Champion Special Titanium tension bolt re-seating / replacement

A little routine oiling of a Brooks B-17 saddle (a gift from Peter) found me disassembling the tension mechanism for a thorough cleaning.

Apart from the leather, all parts for the Brooks B-17 saddle may purchased as spares or replacements.

The regular steel, black enameled frame is available for US$20; the titanium version retails at US$260. Titanium is one of the few metals that is biocompatible; this means that if you get into a wreck and the saddle frame gets embedded into your ass, surgeons won't have to remove it. Buy it.

The replacement nose (titanium) is available for US$24; 'U' shaped tension shackle (titanium) for US$16; 60 mm zinc-plated steel bolt, with nut for US$14. (Image from Wallingford Bicycle Parts, New Orleans. All parts may be ordered from them.)

The Brooks B-17 Champion Special Titanium model uses a 60 mm zinc-plated bolt with a tapered collar nut (the importance of which will be apparent later).

Brooks also offers replacement of the leather at their factory in Birmingham, England:

From tomd (20th October 2009):

e-mail from brooks regarding re-hiding:

It is possible to fit a new leather top onto saddle, provided that the model concerned is still a current one.
The price for this repair would be £50.

Best Regards


Once I started putting it together again, that's when the fun really began:

Replacing the tension bolt on a Brooks saddle? - What's the trick?

I have a Brooks saddle and the tension bolt sheered in half. So I got my hands on a new one, but my problem is actually trying to squeeze the thing into place. The saddle has been without tension for many months. Is there some trick for actually getting this damn thing into it "seated" into both circular holes? It seems like there is no 'safe' way to spread the rail assembly away from the front brass notch-piece.

Has anyone done this before?

(SlowIsMe, Road Bike Review Forums)

An excerpt of an email from Bill Laine of Wallingford Bicycle Parts to Roger Sacilotto, 7 July, 2007:

The most frustrating part . . . might be re-assembling the saddle. Unless your saddle is really stretched it will be hard to get the end of the tension bolt into its cup in the nose piece. At the factory they have a hydraulic saddle stretcher. If you don't have one of those then it could be a real wrestling match trying to pry the nose out far enough to let the bolt drop in.

NIC [2:26 PM]: Tension's kinda high. Straaange. Might wanna reduce the tension a slight bit for storage
BEN [2:28 PM]: Must be gravity well of Dom nearby.
BEN [2:32 PM]: Okay, no tension now.
Pete insane.
Mad tension.
NIC [2:33 PM]: LOL

[much, much later...]

BEN [5:19 PM]: Fuck. Never back out the tension bolt of Brooks Ti saddles all the way.
NIC [5:20 PM]: Now its floppy?
BEN [5:20 PM]: Between the hours of 2:32 PM and 5:15 PM, I struggled to put it back.
'Just succeeded.
You need to get the collar of the nut and the head of the bolt JUST RIGHT to have both seated.
Oh, ya, add the natural springiness of Ti to fuck things up.
NIC [5:22 PM]: Helps if you put it on the ground and press it in with your body weight.
BEN [5:24 PM]: Us, starvies don't have no body weight :-P
NIC [5:24 PM]: LOL
BEN [5:27 PM]: Ya, so that's how you do it.
NIC [5:27 PM]: Body weight?
BEN [5:28 PM]: I used finesse. Heh!
Not by choice, mind you.
After 2 hours of wrestling with Ti and a piece of dead cow, I was exhausted.
NIC (5:31 PM): Ahaha!

The procedure that finally worked for me:

Apply a thin coating of anti-seize (or grease) on: the tapered end of the tension bolt nut; the edge of the hole on the tension shackle; around the head of the tension bolt.

Place tension shackle ('U' shaped piece) over the nose end of the saddle rails.

Thread the tension bolt nut until 2 threads are visible from the head of the tension bolt.

Insert tension bolt into tension shackle.

Press tension assembly down.

Push head of tension bolt toward the nose of saddle until it seats in the recess of the nose piece.

Move tension bolt nut toward tension shackle by either rotating tension bolt nut or turning the head of the tension bolt using an allen key — gently.

At some point, resistance will be felt. Stop.

Alternately reduce or increase tension while pressing and pulling on the tension assembly (on a vertical plane. I.e. 90 degrees to the tension mechanism assembly). Keep each rotation of the bolt or nut small.

The tension bolt nut has a tapered collar (stained brown/bronze by the anti-seize in the picture) which aids in it slipping into the hole of the tension shackle. The aim of this procedure is to leverage what little play there is to get the lip of the tension bolt nut collar to slip into the hole of the tension shackle with a minimum of force and galling — you're talking millimeters here.

The clunk! you hear when the tension bolt nut seats in, will be about the sweetest sound you'll hear all day.

Your mileage may vary for other models of the Brooks B17 as they do not have a hex head, but the procedure should be quite similar (albeit, slightly more difficult due to the inability to rotate the tension bolt).

Just remember, patience and finesse, not brute force. Save the last for the re-railing! :-P

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Pain is a big fat creature riding on your back. The farther you pedal, the heavier he feels. The harder you push, the tighter he squeezes your chest. The steeper the climb, the deeper he digs his jagged, sharp claws into your muscles.
         (Scott Martin)

I usually don't post stuff like this (let alone double post), but I love it when I begin a ride in high spirits.

Here's an internal soundtrack running through my head as I embark on yet another 109.44 km (68.4 miles) non-stop, solo ride around (most of) the island.

         15 minutes to the witching hour.

         Hello, Pain!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ignorance is bliss

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.
         (Benjamin Franklin)

'Walked past some contractors after lunch. 'Saw a rather familiar looking tool sticking out of a pile of debris. 'Asked the contractor if he still wants it.

"Oh, it's broken. Bent. Not accurate anymore," he said.

Fine. I brought it home.

What is it?

A Sears Craftsman 1/2" drive, 0-150 lbs ft. lb. (0-203 Nm) torque wrench.

As opposed to a click-type, the beam-type can be easily re-calibrated by the end-user. I.e. one second spent bending the indicator arm back to zero... and, it's as good as new! That, and these things are guaranteed for life. (Yes, some of us do read the fine print.)

Well, it's mine now.

It makes a fine complement to my Park Tools TW-1 1/4" drive, 0-60 inch pounds (0-7 Nm) and TW-2 3/8" drive, 0-600 inch pounds (0-70 Nm) torque wrenches. I am still looking for the late Sheldon Brown's elusive Tork-Grip Ultimate Torque Wrench.

So, remember, kids! If you get a flat on your bike, the bike's useless. (The same goes for your car.) Give it to me and I will dispose of it for you!


Monday, January 18, 2010

Planet Bike / Smart Superflash rear light mod

When my non-weather-proof Cateye TL-LD270 rear light died from circuit board corrosion (after a one too many rainy rides), I switched to my back up Cateye light.

The Cateye SL-LD100 rear light, though weather-proof, was not very bright; I had cars come up real close before going around me. Definitely not a good choice for Friday and Saturday solo night rides on dark roads (unless you have next-of-kin or significant others waiting to cash in on your life policy).

When I tested out the Planet Bike / Smart 317R Superflash, I was surprised by its brightness and immediately procured one for myself.

Apart from a slight difference in the color of the plastic housing, the Planet Bike and Smart models are identical in function.

The Planet Bike Stealth Superflash is black, with clear transparent plastic; has 3 more syllables to its name (one more than its sibling); and sounds cooler — buy it.

ozphoto did a snappy review of the Superflash versus your standard 5-LED light. There are plenty of reviews of this light, so I won't belabor its brightness; the fact that it uses the cheaper and commonly available AAA cell instead of the N cell or CR 2032 button cell, et cetera.

What I am interested in is addressing 2 design weaknesses in the light.

The light has a belt clip that slides into a receiver bracket (that's attached to the bike). In the above image, the curved part is the belt clip. The straight part has a small tab on it, which prevents the light from sliding up and out. About as secure as the Whitley Road Detention Centre, this arrangement works most of the time, until you hit a bump...

Then, the Superflash sails off, and your bike becomes super light, sans light, stealth-like  :-D

Not a few riders lost weight their lights this way.

On the predecessor of the Superflash — which employs the same mounting system — I used a small cable tie to ensure the light would never sail off like Mas Selamat bin Kastari.

That's one design flaw addressed without a S$2.9 million dollar salary.

On the Candle Power Forums, CDG08 noted:

The clear housing of the components. This half of the light is the the more heavier of the two, rendering it more likely to fall off due to road shock and bumps on the road / trail. . . . The half that is the lightest is also the half securely mounted the the bike. The heavy half that has the components, LEDs, batteries, is all on this other side.

Check out his pictures in the link and it will become clearer.

What this means in plain Ingrish: the light is made of 2 halves: the lighter part, and the heavier part. The lighter part has been secured to the bracket; the heavier part has not. Upon hitting a bump or pothole, the heavier part can still break away from the lighter part... leaving you with a lighter faster bike  :-P

Some riders unwittingly lightened darkened their steeds in this manner as well.

My solution then, was a humble, ever resilient, rubber band.


That served me well, easily lasting through a 14-day tour in the tropics.

However, there's got to be a neater, more reliable, more aesthetically pleasing way to go about this. (Thanks, Karen  :-)  )

The solution? A longer, translucent cable tie!

Loop a 3 mm wide, 200 mm long translucent cable tie around the mid-section of the light and tighten. There's no need to cinch it too tight; the point is to hold the two halves together, not achieve fusion. Cut off the excess with a very sharp utility knife, such that it sits flush. The last detail is to ensure that nothing protrudes to hook or scratch your thighs and/or too tight shorts. The light can still be slid off the bracket at this point, you just need to bend the light out a wee bit further.

Regular alkaline batteries last about 190 hours in flashing mode, so you shouldn't need to remove the cable tie to replace the 2 AAA batteries too often. In any case, the cable ties are very affordable, costing me about S$0.06 (US$0.04) each. For those desiring much, much greater intervals between battery changes — as well as a 33% reduction in battery weight — use a pair of Energizer Lithium AAA batteries.

Here's a shot of the 200 mm (about 8") long translucent cable tie. You might be able to get away with 150 mm (6") but I can't guarantee it.

For the other cable tie, use a shorter length and make a small loop. Use your estimation of your favorite male politician's manhood as a rough guide. You will need a little trial and error in the next step to figure out just how small the loop can be and still remain removable. For aesthetics, you may choose to use a black cable tie as it will blend in with the tab and belt clip.

Tip:  The thin, long cable ties supplied with your speedometers / cyclo-computers are usually 3 mm wide.

Slide the loop over the tab and belt clip until it slips into the hollow formed by the upper curved part of the belt clip. There is just enough space in there for two 3 mm wide cable ties.

What the completed modification looks like.

Rear view.

The light is now ruggedized; short of a crash, nothing is likely to cause your Planet Bike / Smart Superflash to pop off.

You now have no excuse not to be out at night.

Go ride.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Cycling is like a church — many attend, but few understand

So said Jim Burlant. In quiet genuflection, I went for my first night ride of 2010. Besides, it's been a while since I went exploring solo. (Thanks for the tip, Pete!)

Crossing over to Pulau Punggol Barat (island). About 3+ km further, this new road crosses over to another island, Pulau Punggol Timor. There's a couple kilometers' worth of quiet wooded tarmac after this. nash_1126 has some nice pictures here.

Cool winds and solitude made for a contemplative, spiritually refreshing, ride.

Crossing the tide control gates of Sungei Punggol, Seletar North Link terminates beneath the tracks of the Punggol LRT, connecting to Punggol Way. The road passes a yet-to-be-open LRT station, PW7 Soo Teck. A stone's throw away is Punggol Marina. (Hat tip: Weijie of Chapter 2 Cycle for showing me the way through the construction sites.)