Tech letters for November 15, 2001

Edited by John Stevenson

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Lots of feedback today from recent tech features, including praise and tips for Speedplay pedals; additional ideas and anecdotes on using an MTB on the road; some thoughts on Deuter rucksacks and a question about Italian frames.


Road-going MTB

Speedplays #1

I have not used the Zeros, but I have been using the standard Speedplays for about approximately four years. They are the best, period. Your tech article mentions most of the benefits of Speedplays, but does miss one very important one – unlike Looks, they NEVER squeak, or emit any other annoying noises!

As for the free float of the pedals, I have never been bothered by that feature in the least. And, some friends who were initially skeptical of that feature have adjusted without much trouble. It is too bad that many cyclists are 'afraid'to try things that are different, if they weren't there would be a lot less Looks and Times out there.

Chet Ritchie
Telford, PA USA

Chet, I guess I have been lucky and have never been plagued with squeaky pedals, but I have to admit after using spring-centred SPDs for years I found the completely free float of the Speedplays odd at first, but soon got used to it.

Speedplays #2

I use and have used multiple types of pedal systems. Currently my bikes have Speedplays (4), SPD (2), and Look (2) style setups. There is no doubt that the Speedplay is the best setup for me. I need the full float capability and when I clip into the Look's I feel very constricted with the limited float. In fact, early on I switched to Speedplay because of some knee problems and they were (still are) the best solution. As soon as I can afford to replace the Looks I will.

Although some people may be uncomfortable at first, it doesn't take too many miles to be convinced. Like anything new though, you need to get thought the period of discomfort caused by the difference. Once you do, you won't go back.

Charley Foley

Eight bikes. I thought my collection (two road, two MTB, a hack bike and a half share in a tandem) was a storage hassle ­ where do you keep them all?

Great to hear that the Speedplays work for you, but I think you illustrate well a big problem for aftermarket pedal manufacturers ­- some of us just have too big an investment in one system to go spending the necessary money to switch to another. Maybe the Speedplays of this world should offer bulk purchase deals.

Speedplays #3

Want to walk in your Speedplay Zeroes (or any other Speedplay pedal for that matter) without damaging the cleat? Then get Speedplay's 'Coffee shop caps', a rubber cover that pops over the cleat to protect it while at the coffee shop or any other stop on foot.

Sam Alison
Czech Republic

Speedplays #4

I love the Speedplay (standard model) pedals that I've used for three years now. Unlike other brands of cleats, you can walk on Speedplay cleats indefinitely. The aluminum plate has nothing to do with the function of the engagement, so it can be worn down without worry.

Yearly grease injection and monthly (or weekly if you are riding a lot) a couple drops of wax based lubricant on the spring & pedal contact point is all the maintenance needed.

They NEVER pull out unintentionally (if installed properly) and have superb cornering clearance.

John Lieswyn

Road-going MTB #1

In the interest of making a MTB roadworthy for those with cantilever brakes, v-brakes and so on, you can put a pair of 650C road wheels on a mountain bike.

On Shimano eight and nine speed hubs the equivalent MTB cogset will just slide ride on. This allows the rider to make use of true road tyres, with aero rims a possibility for those fllush with cash. I have seen decent stes of 650C road wheels here in the States for about three hundred dollars.

Alan Rigby
Knoxville TN USA

I'm not sure this will work terribly well. MTB 26in wheels have a rim diameter of 559mm, 650C are 571mm. That means to put a 650C wheel in place of a mountain bike wheel, you'd have to move the brake pads up 6mm. Many cantilever and V-brakes have that much total adjustment, but if you're unlucky your pads will be mid-adjustment on an MTB wheel, and you won't have 6mm spare. Looking at the half-dozen mountain bikes I have immediately to hand, I'd say it would be possible for about half the brakes, but not always two on the same bike...

Even if you do have the necessary adjustment latitude, who wants to adjust their brakes every time they change mode? It's easier to change tyres.

If you're going to go down the 'second set of wheels route' a better bet is to run a second set of MTB wheels, as we suggested. With modern, light rims and the 25mm tyres available from Continental, among others, you can build wheels that concede nothing to all but the spendiest road wheels.

Road-going MTB #2

I appreciated the article on setting up a MTB to ride roads. I have a road bike for training and racing, an old cheap road bike with fenders and light mounts for commuting, and just this spring I got a good MTB. I live far from trails, and so I get to ride it on trails only half a dozen times a year. But on occasion (when the roads aren't wet) I like to use it for commuting. I got some 1.4 road tires for it. Wow it is so much faster with the road tires than with the knobbies! Also, when I go for a ride with my wife and kids, it is perfect for that. My road bike seemed too fast. The MTB with road tires is just right. I took my MTB on our family vacation this summer with the road tires, and did some 30-45 miles rides, and averaged almost 20 mph (32 kph). On my road bike, I might average 21+ mph (34 kph) on such a solo ride. It was nice to have the MTB with the wider road tires since the roads I was on were not the best. I worried less about flatting or damaging rims.

The MTB has disc brakes, and I cannot afford an extra set of wheels. But since I am not switching too often from road to trails, I can afford the time to change tires (tire changes seem easier than on my road bike).

Eric Snider
Toledo, OH USA

It's often a startling revelation for mountain bike riders just how much faster slick tyres are on tarmac than knobbies. A few years back my wife and I rode the New South Wales Big Ride, a week-long supported tour in the rural countryside the other side of the mountains from Sydney. Shimano's tech support guy told me the single most common problem he saw was mountain bike riders finding the going too hard because they still had knobbies on their bikes. He used to send them off to the ride's accompanying bike shop to buy slicks and they usually came back the next day much happier.

Road-going MTB #3

I just came back from a 240 mile crossover tour with my MTB using a Bob trailer to haul all my camping and MTB gear (about 100 lbs. with the trailer - too much). I used the 1 inch Continental GPs which look just like 23 or 25c. They are fast but with all that weight I could not appreciate them fully. Pumped up my SID as you suggested but it was hard to stand up with all the weight in the back. The Bob mounts on extended skewers. I ended up going from about 50ft altitude to camp at about 4,300 in the Sierras.

David Lighthall
Davis California

David, for touring, even with the weight in a BOB, I'd have thought fatter tyres would be a shade better in case you wanted to tackle rough roads. A 1.25 or 1.4 slick rolls just as well as a 1in (better, in fact, since with that load aerodynamics and weight are trivial factors).

I've used a BOB on dirt roads and 100lb is definitely too much load, though. Even with the space a BOB provides, it's always wise to pack as light as possible, as you have discovered. I always liked the maxim of the British Crane cousins, adventurers and mad bike tourers: "Assemble everything you absolutely must have. Leave half of it behind." Then again, the Cranes shorten toothbrushes and cut off clothing labels to save weight…

Road-going MTB #3

I've been reading your conversion tips about turning a MTB into a sort of road bike. I have gone a little further, I installed 52-42-39 touring rings. On the back I go from a tiny 9 through to a 27. When I see roadies and I'm just starting my ride I blow by them. Man, they hate that too.

I use real aero bars and an old set of Speedplay frogs.


A nine? I take my hat off to you, Ron, if you can punch a 52/9 gear even on 26in slicks. Blowing by road cyclists when you're on what looks like a mountain bike only counts if you've done the same distance as they have that morning, otherwise it's grubby cheating with no bragging points.


I've been using a Deuter Race-X Air as my hydropack for about the last 18 months and have found it to be generally excellent with a few small flaws. This pack uses the same shoulder straps as the Hydro 2.5, which I've found are excellent for keeping cool but for someone my height (about 6'3") they are too short and I needed to unpick the ends of them to make them long enough. Also related to this, the sternum strap is in a fixed position on the shoulder straps so with them fully exteded the sternum strap is up around my neck.

The best feature of the Race-X Air is the excellent 'trampoline' style mesh (called 'Aircomfort') on the back of the pack which allows completely unfettered air flow between your back and the pack itself. This makes for very cool and pleasant warm weather riding, even better than the Airstripes. This pack offers quite a bit of carrying space (12 L I think) as well, more than enough for a full day epic.

The only other downfall of this pack is that the internal sleeve for the water bladder is too short to take a standard two litre bladder (I use a Camelback bladder out of my old pack) at full capacity.

All told I've been very pleased with the performance of this pack, it's good value as well, around $120 it compares very well to offerings from Camelback and the like.

Sam Alison
Czech Republic

Our spies at Deuter tell us that we may well see a Hydro 3.0 in a few weeks time, that uses the Aircomfort suspended back but is designed to take a large bladder We've been shown a prototype, and when we get our hands on a production version, we'll have a review.


I am an avid rider whose greatest joy is climbing and descending. I will be working in Europe this summer and am considering picking up a (custom) bike in Italy to ride around the Dolomites on vacation. Can you tell me anything about the Pegoretti CCKMP (featured on your site some time ago) or the steel Marcelo? My point of reference is my Serotta Legend Ti, which I love. Any thoughts that would help me with my decision would be greatly appreciated.


Jeff, our Man In Italy, Tim Maloney, suggests you take a long look at Pegoretti's website. The CCKMP is, he points out, a very different bike from your Serotta: different material, different geometry and, well, very Italian where the Serotta is very American. That's not to say you might not enjoy the Pegoretti for its qualities just as you like your Serotta for its own merits, but that's a very hard call to make without knowing a hell of a lot more about you.

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