Bike Check: Fall 2020

The Sedona ran fine… until I returned to university.

Usually during the summer months, the bikes sit dormant in a family member’s basement. However, this summer I discovered some really nice trails back at home in Jefferson City and I decided to take advantage of as much nice weather as possible to get some exercise and bump up my mileage on Strava.

This summer I put nearly 70 miles on the Sedona… most of it was on the Greenway Trail

Good news: I put nearly 70 miles on my bike over the summer. The Greenway Trail runs throughout town – a round-trip from the trailhead to another trailhead on the opposite side of town is around 8 miles. You can go further off the trail, through downtown and cross the Missouri River bridge (via pedestrian/bike lane) and get to the Katy Trail. On one ride I racked up almost 14 miles round-trip to get to the Katy Trail trailhead, before turning back around.

Bad news: The heat and lack of water limited my rides, especially distance. I don’t have a water bottle (it’s on my wish list.) Most of the water fountains on the trail have been shut off thanks to COVID-19, and the only functional water fountain spits out hot water. By the time I got to the Katy Trail trailhead I was starting to get thirsty, hot and exhausted – so it was time to turn around. One day I’d like to be able to get back on the Katy Trail and ride to another town – just like I did when I was in middle school.

I wanted to at least ride 100 miles over the summer on the trails, but my summer “riding season” was cut short by hot weather. As soon as we got nice weather, I got sick. (Don’t worry, I didn’t get COVID.)

Mechanically, the Sedona ran fine over the summer. I did have a couple flats – one in particular left me “stranded.” On a couple other occasions the chain slid off while riding, so I had to flip the bike upside down and reset the chain.

The Sedona held up fine this summer

However, another thing broke shortly after returning to university.

The small (low-gear) chainring on the front bent on a recent ride. I was ascending a hill and all of sudden my pedals lock up. I pulled the bike off to the sidewalk and found the chainring had four or five teeth bent.

Uh oh! This doesn’t look good… the low-gear chainring was bent

It appears the Sedona now needs a new crankset and chain. All this just months after having to put $$$ into replacing the rear wheel and cassette.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to reattempt a tubeless setup on the new rear wheel – the Velocity CliffHanger. The CliffHanger claims to be tubeless-ready. I ran tubes the entire summer (although on a couple occasions I tried tubeless setups) but I’ve completely depleted my Presta valve supply.

With the CliffHanger, tubeless is far different than the tubeless setup I ran on the front for over 130 miles. Instead of taking an undersized (in my case, a 20″ BMX tube) inner tube and splitting it open, you just cover the rim in tape, insert a valve, insert your favorite sealant and either pump vigorously with a floor pump or take an air compressor to it.

With the CliffHanger wheel, I don’t need to purchase a 20″ BMX tube to make a “ghetto” tubeless setup. Instead, the CliffHanger wheel is tubeless-ready. Instead of purchasing true tubeless rim tape and a special valve, I’ve decided to go the cheap route with Gorilla Tape and a valve sacrificed from an old tube. Seems to work fine.

The problem is my Schwalbe Marathon tires are not tubeless-ready/compatible. In fact, they clearly have the words “TUBE-TYPE” embossed in the sidewall. That didn’t stop me before, and doesn’t stop me now.

Although the Schwalbe Marathon tires seem to hold up well when setup tubeless (at least when new or fairly new) they’re not marked as such. The Marathon is not tubeless-ready, as evidenced by the “TUBE TYPE” marking on the sidewall.

I tried the Marathon I originally had installed on the front, which I successfully ran tubeless for over 130 miles. I moved this tire to the rear anyways because it fits looser, making repairing a flat on the rear wheel somewhat easier. This tire wouldn’t inflate – I’m guessing the dried up sealant causes the two sidewalls to stick to each other, not to mention the tire has been well broken in and therefore has a gap between the bead and rim.

I was able to get the newer Marathon tire to set up tubeless. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t hold air very long due to some punctures I accumulated over the summer. One of the punctures is in the sidewall, and the sealant cannot seal it. I even took pieces from an old inner tube and “patched” over the punctures on the inside of the tire, and it seemed like it was going to hold. With sealant, it held for a couple hours. Unfortunately, a 2-mile bike ride revealed that it just wasn’t going to hold up to riding. I’m guessing the flex of the sidewall while riding caused it to continue leaking.

Some Stan’s sealant leaking out of the tire through a puncture in the tread. This, plus a puncture in the sidewall, kept causing the tire to go flat.
I used a piece from an old inner tube to patch over the punctures. After gluing the patches on, I added some Gorilla Tape for additional support. The patches seemed to slow down the leaks a lot, but the tire still went flat after a 2-mile bike ride. Unfortunately, it seems like tubes it is.

In the end, I’m stuck with tubes – at least for now. Although tubeless has its benefits (see my other posts on the subject), I don’t have to worry as much when I’m running tubes. I don’t have to worry about possibly burping the tire on something, or taking a corner too hard and accidentally pushing the tire off the rim. With tubes you don’t have to worry about how much sealant you may have, or having to replace sealant every six months.

One con to tubeless that I’ve never really mentioned is the limited tire choice. I prefer running smooth tires – I’m not a huge fan of knobby tires, at least not for my type of riding. Unfortunately, the only 26″ tubeless tires I can find are all knobby.

As previously mentioned, my supply of Presta tubes has dried up. Thankfully, my local Walmart has my back. They’re now stocking 26″ Presta tubes. Before, the only Presta tubes they sold were 700c road tubes.

However, there’s a catch – or two. First, the 26″ Presta tubes sold at my local Walmart are the more expensive Goodyear-branded tubes. They cost a couple more dollars than the standard Acimut/Bell/CST tubes, but are much heavier and actually cost about the same (if not a few cents cheaper) than the Continental/CST tubes I try to buy online. (You actually save a couple dollars over the Kenda tubes I have bad luck with.) The big catch with the Walmart/Goodyear 26″ Presta tubes is that they’re slightly too wide for my tire. My tires are 26×2.0″, and the Goodyear tubes are 26×2.1″-26×2.4″. It might not sound like a lot, but they’re noticeably wider than the standard tubes – and especially over the (slightly undersized) 26×1.4″-26×1.75″ tubes I ran over the summer. However, it seems like the Goodyear tube works fine in my tire.

Lastly, I finally replaced my pump – kinda, sorta. My old pump still works, but the pump head kept blowing off while inflating the tire. This new pump locks on to valves a lot better. The issue with this new pump is it doesn’t move as much air, or at least not as quickly – so you won’t be able to seat any tubeless tires using it. So I’m going to keep my old pump just in case I decide to go tubeless in the future.

I’m hoping to eventually purchase a frame pump to replace my (supposedly faulty) hand pump. I got stranded over the summer partially because I was unable to inflate the tire to sufficient pressure to ride back to the trailhead. However, replacing the crankset and getting the Sedona back up and running is my first priority.

The Sedona is once again going to be down for a while. I’m hoping to get it fixed soon, but that may be a challenge due to COVID-19, part shortages and some other issues.

Update: 8/29/2020

There’s some good news and some bad news about the Sedona.

First, the good news: I’ve been able to get the Sedona operational. Over the last week I’ve been riding a little bit – not much due to the heat. Thankfully, it’s starting to cool off so I can get some more miles in.

The Sedona is back up and running, but it isn’t too reliable.

Now, the bad news: while the Sedona is operational, it’s obviously not reliable. It seems like it has a mind of its own; sometimes it shifts fine, other times not. Sometimes it stays in gear, and other times it skips all over the place. I’ve been trying to limit how far I ride in case there is a catastrophic failure and I have to walk back. Lately the chain has been slipping off the gears or gets stuck on rides. Thankfully, flipping the bike upside down and putting the chain back on usually fixes it. But I’m still not taking any chances.

Obviously, I’m going to have to replace the crankset. I’m also going to replace the chain while I’m at it. (The chain is the original.) With that said, I’m still determining whether I’m going to do the work myself or let a bike shop do it for me. Depends on which would be more economical.

I’m still running tubes. As mentioned, the tubeless just didn’t work out. It seems like the (slightly) oversized Goodyear tube has been holding up pretty well.

Update: 9/3/2020

Things on the Sedona just went from bad to worse…

Today I went to top off my rear tire when, all of a sudden, it blew out. Catastrophically. It’s been years since I’ve had a tire blow off the rim with the classic loud explosion, followed by ringing ears for the next day or two.

I’m guessing the tire wasn’t seated as well as I thought. It blew out so suddenly that there was no warning or anything… I was just pumping, for a split second I saw the bulge and BOOM! No time to let any pressure out or anything. Oddly enough, it seems like every time I’ve had this happen before (while pumping) there was a little bit of time before the tube gave out.

Well, post-pop I checked the carnage. What I saw wasn’t good. Obviously the tube was destroyed with a long, 4-inch rip along it. But then I saw this…

This does not look good at all!

It appears the force of the tire blowing off the rim was enough to slightly bend the sidewall of the rim. The rim, unfortunately, happens to be the practically-new rim from May – the Velocity CliffHanger. Even worse, the damage happens to be right where the brake contacts the rim, so it’s obviously done for.

So in addition to a new crankset and chain, the Sedona is going to need a new rim (which definitely isn’t cheap) and tire/tube.

Miraculously, the tire seemed to not receive that much damage from the blowout. There was some rubber around the bead stripped off, but it seemed like the wire bead was still intact. Though I haven’t tried to see if it’d hold. The safest option will be to replace the tire as a whole.

I’ve never seen a tire blowout be this catastrophic. As mentioned, it was so sudden. While I haven’t had a tire blow out like this for many years now (last time was like when I was 13, after I overinflated a tire) it seemed this was much worse. In those cases it didn’t damage the rim or tire.

Thankfully, it was happening while pumping – so I wasn’t hurt or didn’t crash. However, because it did happen while I was pumping, it happened inside (in my apartment/dorm.) Thankfully nobody seemed to notice it.

However, now it’s for real – the Sedona will be out of service until I can get it repaired. Which may be a couple of months.

Update – 9/4/2020

After the cloud of talcum powder dust cleared, I decided to do a more thorough inspection of the carnage from the “Great Tire Blowout of September 2020.”

First up, the tube. In any blowout, the tube going to be a goner. I measured the large rip along the tube with the “Measure” app on my phone (unfortunately I didn’t have a ruler handy) and it appears it was much larger than I originally suspected. The rip measured at 8 inches along the sidewall of the inner tube.

With the tube out of the way, let’s look at the most expensive part of this whole ordeal: the Velocity CliffHanger wheel that has (or, unfortunately, I should say had) less than 100 miles on it. The CliffHanger didn’t make out so lucky, and the damage is much worse than I suspected yesterday.

I removed the tire and looked at the sidewall bulge. I followed the trail of talcum powder along to a second bulge. So, instead of just one sidewall bulge, there’s two of them. It appears the rim is fine between the two.

The two “bulges” in the sidewall of the rim.

I fit the wheel back on the bike and, unfortunately, the brake hits the bulges. You could try hammering them back straight, but the rim is still compromised and usually that doesn’t work too well. I don’t have a tube to see if the tire bead would even hold in those areas, either.

A closeup of one of the rim sidewall bulges. Notice all of the talcum powder. Talcum powder usually shows where the tube failed.

The only salvageable part is the tire casing itself, and I think it’s best to replace it anyways in case it was compromised. The bead seems intact and undamaged. I even installed the tire on the front rim and inflated to 20 PSI… seemed to be holding fine. The only damage to the tire was pieces of rubber at the bead got stripped off, but the wire bead is intact and still protected by another layer of rubber. If I’m not mistaken, the piece of rubber that stripped off was the textured piece that helps you identify if any part of the tire is starting to bulge off.

Speaking of that, this is a good lesson to never let your guard down. I haven’t had a tire blow off since I was 13 or 14 (overinflation.) Usually I try to be really careful about watching the tire bead and making sure everything is on tight, to prevent a blowout. The one time I don’t… BAM!

This is probably the most violent blowout of a bike tire I’ve experienced. As I mentioned in yesterday’s update, usually when the bike tire pops off the rim it usually gives you a little bit of time (but not a lot) to quickly deflate the tube. Not this time – it all happened in an instant. The blowout was so violent it damaged the rim in two different places.

Unfortunately, my fears are correct – the Sedona will be down for some time. This rim is too far gone, which is a shame since it isn’t that old. While the tire seems to be holding fine, I’ll replace it to be safe than sorry. This is on top of the whole crankset issue.

Stay tuned for another Sedona update in the (hopefully not too distant) future to see what I decide to do.

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