Getting into the Bathtub

My touring bike and gear had either very little or in some cases no testing at all before leaving. I had replaced most of the bike, including rebuilding the wheels with new rims, cones and ball bearings. The panniers were all brand new. The ærobars and bar ends were new. The solar panel mounting was tested only lightly around Edinburgh. Now I was on tour.

In engineering, there is something called a bathtub curve. This shows the general shape of the probability of failures of many systems over time. A new system might fail from manufacturing defects and an old one from wearing out. In between, the chance of failure is lower. This curve looks like a bathtub.

Bathtub curve

There was so much new on the bike that I knew I was not in the bath yet, and was almost expecting things to fail. They did.

First my solar panel rack broke. I was worried it might on the Rainbow Road - an awful, bumpy, rough track. 30km or so did it. The front tube broke where it touched the carrier rack. The point at the rear where the tube was over bent, that I was concerned about before I left, also broke. I needed to get this fixed before I could cycle further. It did keep the panel on the bike like this, but without fixing it would probably totally fail soon. Getting it repaired is a story for another post.

The other problem I had was the front wheel started to make a nasty noise. I found that something in the hub was catching when it rotated. When I left, the balls were new and the cones were recycled but only had one very minor pit in the track. The cups are built into the hub and had some wear but did not look too bad. I found someone at the Rainbow Gathering who had cone spanners and we had a look inside. The cones still looked good and the grease was clean. We didn’t take the balls out though or would inevitably have lost them in the forest. He did not know what was wrong either, but took out one ball from each side, so the hub now had 9 per side. I am sure it had 10 before I rebuilt it, but the problem has now stopped, so I’m leaving it like that.

I found my headset was loose. I didn’t use a headset press when I fitted it - only a hammer - so maybe the bumpy road pushed the races in further. This was easily tightened by borrowing a large adjustable spanner from a local bike shop. I don’t think they had a proper headset spanner so I couldn’t hold the bearing for exact adjustment as I tightened the locknut. It’s probably slightly overtight now but I decided to leave it as good enough for a change rather than spending all day tweaking. It was a cheap headset anyway so I’ll probably have to replace it soon.

I’ve also been moving my saddle. I’ve mostly been using the ærobars and so I have a different riding position. The saddle is a Brooks I’ve had for some time, but it has not been used on a tour before. It’s breaking in much faster than at home, probably because of the heat and humidity.


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