The Late Ken Kifer is one of my (Cycling) heros. I read his pages often and enjoy them immensely. There are a few sections however that i find fascinating but have trouble comprehending a 100%. Maybe you guys can help me out!
"I consider gearing to be a prime example of flimflam. A number of years ago, "touring" bikes had 10 "speeds" but only 6 useful gears from 100 down to 40. Then the range was extended down to 32, or thereabouts. When the "15-speeds" came out, they only had 7 or 8 useful gears, and the same range. Then everyone went to the "18-speed" with 9 or 10 useful gears, but no greater range. Then everyone went to the "21-speed" bike with 11 useful gears, but the same range. And so on. The latest hybrid bike with a 9 rear cogs, allowing 27 "speeds," still has the same gear range and only about 13 useful gears. It would not take a great deal of effort to get more useful gears and a wider gear range. My own "15-speed" bike, for instance, has 14 useful gears, evenly spaced, with a range from 100 down to 20. The extra range and gears provide a real advantage, while increasing the number of rear cogs does not."
How does Ken Accomplish this Range and so many usefull gears? What kindoff (non indexed, he didn't like the 'modern' stuff) casette or gearing system does he use? A double or a Triple? How many gears in the back? What ratios for the Sprockets/cassette? I understand the idea that due to chainline only certain combinations are really viable but what makes Ken's tourer setup unique and dare i say better? How can i reproduce his drivetrain cheaply with older/good components? Anybody know exactly what he used and if this is still available?
Ken also wrote:
"Myths about bicycle equipment are encouraged by the manufactures, who make a lot of money from them. These are some of the most stubborn myths as well.
The bike chain receives more attention than any other part of the bike. I read one magazine article that spend five pages on the loving care that must be devoted to the bike chain -- and then the author suggested throwing it away at 1,500 miles. The variety of chain preparations is endless. Yet, none of this gunk has any effect on speed or the life of the chain. A study at John Hopkins found that lubrication had no effect on chain efficiency, and I often go 1,500 miles without even bothering to spray some WD-40 on my chain -- and I never do much more than that -- yet my chains last up to 10,000 miles (those with expensive rear cogs should replace the chains sooner). As long as a chain is not dirty or rusty, it is OK."
I find this riveting stuff, so many products are in existence and so much care is devoted to chains. I have also done this type of thing: oiling the chain daily and usually the only result i get is too much oil on it which attracts dirt and gunk. Eveything Ken writes would seem to be in total discrepancy with about 10% of the threads on BF since those all deal with a million different lubcricants, cleaning techniques, routines, replacement times etc.
I have found only a few times that really warrant (a little!) lubrication:
1. Riding in the rain when the lubrication washes off and/or there is a lot of dirt splashed on the drivetrain, especially if rust also results.
2. When the chain is really dry (as soon as you can hear it, despite it not being dirty).
3. Other times when the chain really corrodes (salt on the icy roads etc.)
But even in these scenarios i find that cleaning the chain (by simply removing grime and rust with a copper wire brush is actually the most important, the lubrication is just to prevent it from happening again and less critical than the cleaning).
I also found it best to spray WD 40 liberally, let it set for minutes or if possible longer and then wipe away nearly all the excess with a cloth. The oil will get a chance to penetrate where it is really needed and by wiping away the excess one can ensure that as little dirt and roadgrime as possible will stick onto the drivetrain.
So what are your thoughts on these things? Is lubrication vastly overrated and mostly a waste of time unless you are a pro racer or cycle in the rain all the time? Are all those products (semi) dumb and worthless as they cost a bundle and don't have any added function that is measurable?