Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder

Easy waxing

A few months ago I got a Silca "spa" package in the post for a review of their bike care fluids. In case you haven't paid attention, Silca was the Italian producer of the best long-lasting floor pump in cycling history - everything was replaceable and so the same basic pump platform could last forever. They went out of business. An American guy, formerly of Zipp, bought the remnants and set up a new Silca in Indiana where Zipp is headquartered and he lives.
I got to chat with Josh, Silca owner, via an online connection as part of my review. That was fun because we have a similar long history in cycling. And we both get pretty enthusiastic about anything bike.
Silca has a YouTube channel that mostly demonstrates best practice with their various products. I've picked up two habits that work extremely well from Josh, via YouTube and I plan to discuss one today.
Wax is very popular for bike chains. I remember when I was a teen my riding friends and I discussed the idea of immersion waxing our chains with plain parafin wax. I think it lasts about 100 km or so before you need to re-do it. Modern chemistry has stretched that interval out around 4x, but the basics remain. I have never been a proponent of immersion waxing. I don't like removing the chain from the bike for routine maintenance.
My spa kit from Silca included a bottle of Super Secret drip wax. This stuff is exactly the same as the solid wax they sell for immersion, but emulsified in water at around 70% wax: 30% water. Immersion types can use this to top-up the chain in between immersions to extend their mileage. Or, like me, one can use the drip wax on its own. The Silca team found that the water evaporates and leaves the wax behind directly related to the emulsion ratio. The water will fill the chain's inner voids and on evaporation, 70% of those voids remains filled with wax. A second application can fill those smaller voids again at the 70% level (= 91% filled after 2 goes). And a third will fill 70% of the remaining 9% (= 97% filled after 3 goes). As far as I can tell, the third go is pretty much optional as it doesn't seem to effect the behaviour of the chain.
The Silca team investigated the best way to get drip wax into a chain. Into, not onto! The wax on the outside is simply messy. Wax (or any lubricant) needs to be inside the chain where the action is happening. Big ring and second largest sprocket is the recommendation. Why? Because the cross-chaining position articulates the chain as it leaves the chainring into the span above the chainstay (assume pedalling backwards for lubrication and not pedalling for motion) and again the opposite way as it lines up with the cassette sprocket. Drip immediately prior to the cassette sprocket take-up of that chain link and you get maximal penetration.
Josh demonstrated how placing a clean chain on top of a single drop of chain lube and articulating the chain side to side would pump the lube up through the chain and out the top. Same thing happens during the lubrication dripping. Each motion of the chain pulls the lube inside where it can actually lubricate.
I drip left handed while I pedal backwards with the right hand, placing one smallish drop of well-shaken wax onto the roller of the chain just prior to touching the cassette teeth. Once I've gone around the entire chain once, I back pedal for numerous revolutions to run the chain around a dozen or so times.
Top chains are hydrophobically coated, so the emulsion wants to run off the chain. The proximity of the cassette teeth apparently help with this too. Once the water evaporates, the remaining wax is attracted to the hydrophobic coating.
At the second application, another tip from Josh is to quickly pedal forwards and shift across the cassette. This leaves a thin wax layer on each sprocket which will make the bike a little quieter during the first 100 or so km of riding.
None of this is actually what I wanted to write about. It does lead up to it, however. At the end of an interval, how should we be cleaning our waxy chains off? I used to use a full bike wash with MucOff bike shampoo and get the chain all sudsy before scrubbing with a brush. There is a much better way! A kettle of boiling water. The boiling water is plenty hot enough to melt the wax off the chain and leave you with a fresh, clean but wet chain. On a MTB you can start with a really dirty looking chain and end up with one looking really fresh just by slowly pedalling backwards and pouring the boiling water over the chainring at the front where the chain is on it. No scrubbing. No waiting. Just clean.
And then the wax can be dripped straight onto the wet chain for application number 1. They hydrophobic chain holds the wax better than the water so the damp chain is not a problem.
All these years of using various waxy chain treatments and it never occurred to me to use boiling water to clean them. So easy. So effective.

Fork seal replacement time

Just before Covid changed 2020 so dramatically, as in about 2 weeks prior, I got my Ibis Ripley. As I wanted this to be my "Stromlo" bike and also my replacement XC race bike (the proper race bike was going up for sale) I specified the 120 mm Fox 34 SC fork rather than the more usually installed Fox 34 with 130/140 mm travel.
Meanwhile I had reached the end of the road with my hardtail's fork. A Fox 32 with a straight steerer, Fox hasn't supported these forks in years. The bushings were quite worn, the stanchions had bushing marks on them - it was past its best. Virtually nothing decent was available with the necessary straight steerer tube. And the Ibis convinced me that I needed updated geometry - a much longer reach being way more suitable for this tall and long-armed rider. I bought a Spot Rocker which came with the same Fox 34 SC 120 mm fork as the Ibis. The Spot was almost exactly 12 months behind the Ibis into my life, coming in March 2021. Yet the fork was the same on each bike (Fox usually changes stickers each year or so and they have the same stickers).
As mentioned in a prior entry, I swapped from Feedback Sports app to ProBikeGarage app to keep track of my maintenance. PBG told me instantly that my Fox 34s were past-due for seal replacements.
I picked up the two seal kits with one for the Ibis shock and used a recent weekend to attend to the two. My first problem was that the bolts holding the sliders onto the stanchions are highly recessed in the SC forks. And with the step casting (what SC stands for) the bolts are off-centre in the bottom of the leg even though they are dead centre to the stanchion's circle. I really needed a 10 mm thin-wall deep socket to get on the nut. Luckily, my 12-point shallow socket was just thin enough to sit on the nut.
The Ibis fork had lots of oil inside it, but it was moderately dirty looking. Not the golden syrup colour of new oil, but more like burnt butter. Still quite clear, but also rather dark. It was past time to replace these seals and given that PBG was telling me I'd almost hit 150 hours of riding, it really WAS by all accounts. The Spot fork was quite different. This exemplifies why some Fox forks work really well and others don't - the builds are not identical despite mass production. There was hardly any volume of liquid in this one in either fork leg, but it looked absolutely brand new.
Using a trick taught to me by a former sponsored-by-Fox racer (thanks Brent!); with the trick being to use a little Fox Float Fluid in each leg to increase the slipperiness of the splash oil and make the fork that bit smoother for longer. I don't use Fox Fluid. It is a viscous but fully soluble in fork oil liquid that is used primarily inside the shock bodies. Maxima has a great reputation for fork oil as a probable supplier of Fox fluids (which are reportedly made by a local-to-Fox company, which would be Maxima) and the definite supplier of Rock Shox's Maxima Plush used in current forks - so I use Maxima 10 wt and Maxima Assembly Lube (both more readily available and about 1/2 the price from MX shops than from bike shops).
To refill the splash lube I squirt about 1-2 ml of the red Assembly Lube into the syringe through the plunger side, insert the plunger, and then slurp up the correct amount of 10 wt (10 and 15 ml total for the 34 SC's two legs) and squirt it down the hose and through the bolt hole in the slider. Then push the sliders so the threads protrude, and tighten the nuts to 5.7 Nm and done!
One wrinkle in this whole process was I haven't used the seal press I bought for my 34 forks before. This one is from Unior. It was available locally, but it isn't as nice as the Real World Cycling presses I have in sizes 32 and 36 mm. They fit snugly in the bushing forcing the seal to go in straight. There is a long nose on the Unior tool, but it doesn't fit very snugly in the bushing and it requires operator diligence to get the seal in squarely. Also, the outer lip on the RWC tools give a strong indication (if not a positive stop) that the seal is pushed in the correct amount. I note that the new Unior seal presses proclaim a new design that bottoms out positively on the fork to prevent overdriving the seals.
The first seal I did with the Unior ended up too far in, by 2-3 mm, because there is no indication and I pushed too far. Knowing that, the other 3 went in the correct distance. I had to squeeze the foam ring in between the seal and the bushing because the gap wasn't quite the width of the ring. Hopefully everything will function fine for the next 100ish hours.

ProBikeGarage maintenance app

Probably ten years ago I purchased a Feedback Sports Pro workstand. In exploring the paperwork that came with it I discovered they have an app for tracking bike maintenance. It links to your Strava account and pulls in distances. I've been using that since to keep track of my maintenance. But my Strava updating hasn't worked properly since day 1. Lots of emails to the coders who built the app and some diagnostic work with them and ... nothing. Still updates every so often but not properly.
Then I heard about ProBikeGarage app online somewhere. I was thinking perhaps I should swap when I got an email from Feedback Sports that they had sold their app to another American bike business (an online bike shop?) and there was a link to download the current version of the newly renamed app. Following that link I got the message that the app is not available in Australia.
For less than $10 I thought I should try out the alternative. And now I have been using it for a couple of weeks. It pulls your bikes out of your Strava account, so if it isn't there is isn't in the maintenance list. But once in the app, you can add components and even make complex components built out of other components (picture a wheel made of hub, spokes and rim). One sub-component, like the hub, can have one maintenance schedule (for its bearings) while another, like the rim, can have a different schedule (for rim tape, spoke tension, etc).
Use can be tracked in time or distance or calendar time. Replace fork seals after 100 hours of riding. Re-lubricate a chain after 300 km of riding. Refresh sealant in a tyre after 3 months (whether ridden or not). All of these intervals are possible in the ProBikeGarage.
It allows special circumstances too. Such as when on the trainer the rear wheel doesn't accumulate use. And parts can be swapped easily. Two sets of wheels? No worries. To get proper stats for some wheels I carried over from older bikes to current bikes I had to go into Strava and unretire the old bike. Then it uploaded into PBG. Then I added the wheels and it calculated distance and hours used. Finally I moved the item at the appropriate date to the current bike and it brought its prior use with it. Very nice. (And I re-retired the bike in Strava after to get it out of the way.)
As a maintenance deadline approaches, the bike goes "orange" to warn you. Once crossing the deadline, the bike goes "red". Every day on the anniversary of the part's installation (each item has an installation time on it so PBG can distinguish if you swapped before or after a particular ride) it sends a warning notification through the phone.
I had been estimating time of use from distance and estimated speed. I was off. My Ibis wasn't just approaching the 100 hours for suspension seals, but was well past at around 145 hours. So I got a warning every day. My Spot wasn't most of the way to 100 hours, but right at it. So I got a warning every day for that one too. Now that I've replaced the fork seals on both bikes (the fluid in the Spot's fork was crystal clear but there wasn't much of it while there was plenty of fluid in the Ibis's fork but it was a bit dirty - so both needed doing) and checked some suspension sag across different bikes, PBG is happy and stopped sending me notifications every day.
I've had extensive correspondence with the developers. They were very curious about my experiences with a competitor's product and seem genuinely interested in customer feedback to guide future development. I need access to multiple Strava accounts to keep track of use on different owner's bikes since I'm the family mechanic. They haven't implemented a good solution - yet. They do plan to have some way to connect with 2 or more accounts. It wasn't clear to me if this was a technical hurdle (how do we do it?) or a time hurdle (when we've done all this other stuff, we'll do that!).
If you need to keep track of your bikes for maintenance, and you use Strava, I recommend this one.

Pirelli Scorpion Trail M first ride

I use my Ibis Ripley like an XC bike, but technically it is a trail bike. What's the difference? I'll suggest the difference can be as simple as "intent" but in this case the Exie is the Ibis XC bike and the Ripley is usually delivered with a 130 mm fork (more often a 140 mm fork in Australia according to the importer) making it a trail bike. My build uses a 120 mm Fox 34 SC, which is more XC than trail. But then I ran 200 mm rotors so I could swap in the chunky tyres from the Enduro bike for occasions such as Stromlo enduro races where the Ripley would be faster, but held back by the tyres.
Well, no more. I had almost 150 hours of good use out of the Scorpion XC tyres I put on the bike from new (the front was original, the rear was much newer and still had some life left). Now replaced with the Trail version of the tyre - complete with bigger size (2.4" rather than 2.2") and bigger knobs - much bigger. After 20 km of riding, this is very much a first impressions report.
I used my usual 18/24 psi F/R settings that work on the DH tyres on the Sender, the Enduro tyres on the Slash and the XC tyres on the Spot - but they felt pretty hard on this bike. I was bouncing off of some stuff during the ride. The pressure might need to decrease a little. Inside the tyres is the same CushCore XC insert I had in the old tyres. CushCore says to run them until they lose their radial tension. And these still fit tightly into the rim well under their own elastic pull. So should be good. I did peel off most of the sealant that had built up on them before reinstallation.
First impression is that they are MUCH grippier than the XC tyre. Not surprisingly with the much bigger knobs. I got them into sliding on the loose dirt on the backside of Stromlo and they recovered nicely; I was never sure with the XC tyres if they'd bring it back so tried to avoid sliding the front tyre at all.
While they are heavier (more knob, more volume - of course they are heavier) they didn't feel it.
First verdict: great fun. I'll happily trade off a little speed (though I don't know if I did) for more fun, especially when I'm not racing.

Flexy seat posts

My first experience with a seat post specifically designed to make the ride more comfortable was the Specialized Roubaix carbon post back circa 2004. That one made a remarkable transformation of my oversized aluminium Cannondale CX frame from its original aluminium post. Even before that I had used posts like the Syncros one, which was primarily aimed at being light in weight, but as a consequence of being made so thin-walled it also flexed quite a bit. Unlike modern flexy posts, it flexed evenly in all directions.
Fast forward to my first Trek Checkpoint. Like most Trek road bikes it used a seat mast rather than a seat post. These very large diameter units slide over the frame and must be close to inflexible for it. But the Checkpoint had Isospeed decoupling where the seat tube is not rigidly joined to the top tube/seat stay junction (instead an axle at that joint permits the seat tube to flex like a leaf spring). I found this bike to be perfectly comfortable. There is a lump in the pavement in my neighbourhood that is a good indicator of how a frame transmits harshness through the seat. On that Cannondale, even with the Specialized post, it was sharp enough that I tried never to hit it. On the Checkpoint, it was a dull noise and not much of a feeling at all.
And now everyone wants a dropper post on their gravel bike for the same reason everyone needs a dropped post on their MTB - it just works better. So my new Checkpoint uses a seat post again - and has routing room for a dropper post actuation cable. The post I put in it is the Bontrager RSL - a very high-end post designed to be flexy fore and aft but rigid side to side. I haven't ridden the Checkpoint without this post, but it does float over my harsh neighbourhood lump approximately as well as the old Checkpoint did.
I've been contemplating this as I ride it for the past week. There is no indication that this post flexes at all. However much it absorbs, it does so in conjunction with the Isospeed and it is not materially different than the older frame.

As a corollary of this, my Madone race bike has its own version of Isospeed - the seat post floats inside the seat tube in a carbon leaf spring mechanism that permits adjustment of the spring rate in that spring. You can have more or less movement for a given force to reflect your body weight or preferences. It came in the middle of the adjustment range and I haven't adjusted it once - it was fine on day one and remains fine. Interestingly to me, it feels a lot like the first Checkpoint (and therefore the second Checkpoint) despite the deep aero sections of the frame. It suggest that Trek know what they are doing with the Isospeed thing. I wonder what the new Checkpoint would be like without the flexy post? I don't have any other 27.2 posts, nor do I want to fuss around with the swapping of posts, so I won't find out any time soon.

The most extreme looking flexy post is the one that Canyon puts in their gravel bikes. It is a two part leaf spring that is held together on one end by being in the frame and at the top by how it bolts to the post head. An idea whose time is here. If you haven't tried a designed-flex carbon frame you should. They're brilliant in their ability to absorb bumps and still feel firm underfoot when you pedal.