Optimisation, part 1: Taking a Stand.

28 01 2017

“A long, long, long, long time ago
Before the wind, before the snow
Lived a man, lived a man I know
Lived a freak of nature named Sir Psycho”

Many years ago, I was a hospital doctor in Manchester. I worked for 6 months on a busy general medical team and spent the week looking after the sick and dying. We worked ‘1 in 4’ which meant that on top of a monday to friday, 8.30 until 6pm, we covered every 4th night and every 4th weekend (saturday to monday evening) on call. On call meant we were up for the majority of, if not all, the night.

Ward rounds were ‘post take’, when we received any medical patients coming in via A&E, which was roughly every 3rd day. If we were on call, we saw the patients in A&E and if not, we had to learn all about them the next day, ideally prior to the ward round (which actually covered many wards).

The ward round would go on for around 8 hours, during which time we would be given instruction by the registrars or consultants and after the ward round we would hustle to carry out all these tasks before repeating the process the next day.

That was how it was and how it had been for years. You fell into the rut and hopefully emerged 6 months later, pale, worn down and blinking into the meagre daylight before taking the next job – which sometimes started the same day, immediately after the last one ended.

It was an incredibly busy, challenging time and it cemented, for me, that I had no intention of spending my life working in hospitals. Of course, things are a little different now after the introduction of the European Working Time Directive – although, post-Brexit, this may well change again. Gone are those 128 hour weeks and the purest form of exhaustion they cause.

I am a reactive person. I find it hard to sit still and carry on as others have before me and, probably born of laziness, I like to find the easiest path to achieve the greatest outcome. Ok, to be fair, in my medical jobs, maybe not the greatest. Maybe ‘adequate+’.

It soon dawned on me that if I brought a selection of forms and phone numbers, blood taking kit and tools for minor investigations in a satchel and a large clipboard on which I could write while on the ward round I could carry out the bulk of my work without the need to stay for many hours after an already long day.

The team soon noticed and the increase in efficiency was clear. After I left the team, I was charged with passing on the details of the admittedly simple but incredibly effective sea-change in how juniors would approach the ward round.

This gave me a little confidence at a formative time. The historical way of doing things really was not necessarily the best and with some thought, trial and error, improvements could be realised.

I carry this forward into many aspects of my life and I do not know if I have ever been 100% satisfied with any one thing. There always seem to be every-decreasing, incremental steps to improvements in form or function.

Time to quit rambling and get to the point?

I use an Efficient Velo Tools Right Hand Clamp to work on bikes. Once you have used said repair clamp, any other seems poorly conceived. From the bushing or bearing that makes for a beautiful feel in effecting *just* the right pressure on a frame tube or seat post, to the leather pads, to the offset of the clamp and easy, balanced rotation, it makes working on the bike a joy.

As space becomes ever more precious, I was looking to move my work area and as my back grows ever more stiff I was keen to have some vertical adjustment for the stand. In a perfect world I would like one of EVT’s E-Z lift repair stands, but I do not have enough space for this.

It struck me that if I purchased the Adjustable Height Wall Mount repair stand part and plugged in my Right Hand Clamp, then mounted this to a large steel box section pipe that I attached to the leg of my Benchmaster heavy duty work bench, I could get close to the ideal work station set-up I had in my minds eye.

I would like to thank Andy McKerrow at Efficient Velo for being so approachable and helpful. Within a few weeks, the Adjustable Height Mount arrived and I poured over it – the quality of EVT’s work is so easily apparent and you can’t help but admire the attention to detail.

After some simple calculations regarding bending and load, a trip to the local steel merchant saw me with a 2m by 70x70x3mm mild steel ‘upright’. I had to find a way to attach it to the ‘L’ section legs of my (very heavy) work bench. This was made for me to a height of 94cm, so that when I am standing and working, I do not need to bend over even slightly. This meant that once spaced away from the leg, the top 106cm of the upright would leave plenty of space for the right hand clamp to give me a huge range of work positions, right next to my bench and thus my tools.

Initially, I had intended to drill holes in the work bench leg in order to clamp the upright directly to it, but decided that 2 or 3 10-11mm holes in the 50x50mm legs would lead to a not insignificant stress point and instead decided to make 2 heavy duty clamps from aluminium 50x8mm flat bar I had. These would then clamp the upright to a 50x50x2.5mm box section pipe I had cut to length, ‘filling in’ the L of the work bench leg and giving more surface area to clamp. I would make 2 ‘tabs’ to take this up to the exact depth of the upright and mean no wobble is possible when reefing something with full sausage in the stand.

My day-to-day life seems to afford only 30 minute blocks of time to get busy on personal tasks, so it seemed to take weeks to get the aluminium cut, de-burred, drilled and the upright mounted with 10mm threaded rod and nylock nuts.

I learned that Park cutting fluid makes a mess with aluminium and iso-propyl alcohol is a much cleaner lubricant allowing my basic pillar drill to make short work of the holes for the clamps.

Then it was time to drill the holes for the Adjustable Height Wall Mount. I wanted to have the holes in just one face of the upright to give a cleaner look and less of a weak point at what in essence is the fulcrum of the upright in terms of bending. However, it was a witch to get the shortened bolt through a hole ~90cm inside the tube. I had to tape an adjustable spanner (which has a flat run from handle to jaws) to a long pole, then tape the bolt into the jaws with *just* enough gorilla tape so that I could ease it through the hole, but get it off when pulled without dislodging it. Unfortunately, as I juggled the stand and the upright – which together are quite heavy – the bolt would work its way out from the jaws of the adjustable making tightening the nut in place frustratingly difficult. After an hour or so of turning the air blue with all sorts and combinations of swear words, I snugged the nut up tight, swung the upright into place and clamped this to the bench and marvelled at the smooth fit as the Right Hand Clamp slid into place.

Is it optimal?

If it isn’t its *damn* close…


For more on EVT, go here.


New fangled.

30 06 2013

After the XT hub imploded on the Krampus, I decided to change the drive chain on the bike at the same time as re-building the rear wheel. I had one of the new-fangled thick/thin chainrings from Works Components, which I had pre-ordered out of curiosity rather than need. The ring is nice though, with reassuring thickness, well profiled teeth and neat relief. It is made from 7075T6 aluminium, which has seemed durable in the conditions I encounter. I was also curious about how an 11-36 cluster would feel. For the last couple of years, I have been happy with the range a 34 tooth ring with an 11-34 cassette gives me. On Maul, I even have a 35 tooth ring as that bike is aimed at going quickly. The engine sometimes lacks horsepower though, so it may be reduced to a 34 soon!

If you look closely, the tooth counts on a 11-34 cassette are 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26, 30, 34. An 11-36 is a little different in the lowest four gears. The gears I probably use the most, those in the middle, are the same, so I felt that I may well gain from the increased range when things get really steep. Having spent so many years on singlespeeds, I am undaunted by grunting up climbs or walking if needs be, but particularly when loaded with bikepacking kit, The Krampus takes a wee bit more effort as you ascend than my other bikes.

So, the tooth counts of the 11-36 are 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 24, 28, 32, 36. In going to 10 speeds, I needed to replace the rear derailleur and shifter as well. I have also been curious about the thick/thin ring’s ability to retain the chain, along with a clutch style mech. So I decided to fit a Zee rear derailleur. This is not only a lot less expensive than a Saint rear derailleur, it is designed to cover the 11-36 cassette – a whopping 25 tooth range. Most short cage derailleurs will only work with a reduced range, as the length of the jockey wheel cage is too short to take up the slack in the chain required for wide range cassettes. I am unclear if the B tension range is different, or if the geometry of the upper jockey wheel placement is different as well. The Saint, depending on where you look, seems to work with 11-36, but Shimano officially rate it to a maximum of 34 teeth. I don’t want to find out that it causes undue stress or damage on the derailleur in the middle of no-where so the Zee seemed to be a good option, though I fear I will miss the Saint’s added robustness and bash ‘rail’ that runs next to the parallelogram to protect it. In parts, the Zee uses stamped, formed metal sheet rather than (presumably) forged aluminium pieces as well. It will be interesting to see how the function is affected by this over time, or whether it is purely for weight and aesthetic appearance.

The rear wheel build was, well, awkward. Maybe because the rim is singlewalled and it had already been built? there was also a small flat spot on the rim, not noticeable to the naked eye, but the Centrimaster showed about a 0.3mm sharp, dip that could not be trued out – a clear sign of a dent in the rim. I don’t really know why, but the tension range in the wheel is broader than I would normally like – around 15% difference – but otherwise the near symmetrical spoke angle and tension led to a wheel build I am relatively confident will be durable. Of note, the ERD at 617mm and use of 298mm disc side, 300mm drive side led to perfectly full nipples and only some very minor Dremeling in order to remove protruding spoke. Again, I used freespoke for the calculations.

The drive chain parts went on very easily indeed and removing the Paul chain keeper felt speculative to say the least. However, on a quick ride around the block, bumping into curbs, jumping and hopping, the system was quiet and there was no indication I might lose the chain.

I will be interested to see how this system copes with Scottish conditions and probably more pertinently, wear of the ring. The chain line is pretty good on the Krampus, so I don’t think there will be undue wear on the wide teeth on the ring, but over time, the chain will no doubt become more rattly on the ring and I am curious to know whether it will have a reasonable service life or not. Obviously, as SRAM may take legal action, at least in the USA, the after market thick/thin ring market may well change soon as well…