Sunday, October 31, 2010

Good things come to those who wait. Great things come to those who wait longer.

Soooooo wow what a weekend! That was some crazy stressful, awesome, scary, adventure. For me it has been the realisation of a dream. Something I have been painfully lusting for ever since I learned of the existence of Japanese sports (super) cars.

Of course the old cliche rings true. I was exposed to these cars while playing Gran Turismo, which started at a young age. Fast and Furious has given all sorts of bad publicity to the whole import tuner scene. Somewhat justified by the fact that economy cars (aka grocery getters) were never intended to suffer the indignity of what some would, and do, put them through.
It was probably unavoidable that I was steered, nay herded, towards the Nissan Skyline by the Turismo. It would seem that this car was given somewhat of an unfair advantage by the game designers. Easily tuned up to 1000bhp coupled with AWD meant pretty well all else were left in your wake.
Probably most are familiar with the Skyline. To many it is seen as unattractive, impractical, outlandish. Others would step over their own mother to get one. This seems to be the trend with these 1990's Japanese sports (super) cars. Wasn't until about 7 or 8 years ago that I actually saw a Skyline in person. I was amazed and wondered how someone in North America actually got their hands on one.

Enter the 15 year rule!!!!! There exists this rule in Canada that as long as a car is 15 years or older it is considered a classic car and importing regulations are almost non existent. This means we can finally get some decent used cars. I can tell you for a fact, after dreaming and searching and shopping around for the past 4 years, that 1990's Japanese cars are safe, environmentally friendly, and just plain awesome.

I decided upon returning from South Carolina this year that I was going to adhere to a new plan to purchase a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) car before I headed down South in 2011. Mostly fueled by the fact that the roads down in SC are incredibly fun to drive. It was also the first point in my life that I could actually follow through with buying something like this since I have now become comfortable living on my own and paying my regular bills and all that junk.
I knew I wasn't quite able to afford a GTR Skyline and also since the car would be my daily driver that somehow I would be doing the GTR an injustice. I was seriously looking at getting the GTS-t model of Skyline.
The breakdown between the GTR and GTS-t is like this:
R32 Skyline 1989-1993
GTR - 2.6 litre 6 cylinder motor, twin turbo, 320bhp, awd

GTS-t - 2.0 litre 6 cylinder motor, single turbo, 220bhp, rwd

However I remembered seeing a car a few years ago in the parking lot of Mosport that really caught my attention. It looked like a strange VW Golf on steroids. I believe my brother informed me that it was made by Nissan and called the Pulsar. I think I had forgotten about the Pulsar until about a year ago when it appeared again on one of my frequent visits to various websites of Japanese importers. I always like to look at all the cool cars they have.
It then became a hotly contested battle for my affection between the GTS-t Skyline and the Pulsar. They both had their strong points. What really sold me though was that the Pulsar had the edge in the speed department. In fact the Pulsar accelerates as quickly as a GTR for the first 3 gears. The Pulsar being AWD is a big bonus too. I don't drive much in the winter but it would be fun to do some donuts every once in a while.
1990 - 1994 Nissan Pulsar GTi-R
2.0 litre 4 cylinder single turbo motor, 230bhp, awd

So I followed through with my plan and it actually progressed much faster than I thought. Fueled on by the fact that the JDM car scene is a real buyers market in the fall since most like to garage store theirs over the winter. I knew I wanted to get one mid-November because I wanted to make sure it was reliable enough to take down South with me in the spring. I started getting more serious about a month ago and began going to see a bunch and test driving them. Funnily enough I never really did get a good test drive until the day I bought one.
So now we are up to speed. This brings us to this week and my plan to buy one once and for all. I had intended to do a road trip on November 6th to go and see some in Montreal that I was very interested in. I had looked at a few already in Ontario and nothing had really jumped out at me. I figured I would test drive as many as I could in Ontario before heading to Montreal to see the one I liked.

The plan was
Friday Nov 5 - drive to Peterborough (my home town) and get insurance all sorted out.
Saturday Nov 6 - drive to Montreal and look at Pulsars. Buy one if I like it.
Sunday Nov 7th - if I didn't like the Montreal Pulsars then buy the one I liked the most in Ontario.
Monday Nov 8th - Register and plate my Pulsar and be happy.

Well I was super anxious to get on with it. Wasn't sleeping very well, felt very stressed, it was killing me. I went ahead and re-arranged the plan last weekend, it now looked like this.
Tuesday Oct 26 - drive to Peterborough and tie up lose ends. Look at 2 or 3 more Pulsars
Saturday Oct 30 - drive to Montreal.
Sunday Oct 31 - buy one in Ontario if I didn't like the Montreal cars
Monday Nov 1st - Register and plate my Pulsar and be happy.

The first car I drove on Tuesday was decent but just didn't feel right. The next car I went to see was a completely different story. It was by far the best example that I had seen to date and was actually by far the best price of any of them. I wasn't even motivated by price, it was just an unbelievable bonus.
I had seen enough. It wasn't getting any better than this. I emailed the guy and instructed him to please not sell to anyone else. I cancelled the trip to Montreal. I had bought a Pulsar!

to be continued.....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Week 1 now full in SC

It is exciting to see so many folks returning to the mansion. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people enjoy themselves while staying at the house. However it makes me sad when I have to turn people away on weeks that are full. But I guess that's just life sometimes. I promise you I'll get a 2nd house one of these years so that we can handle the overflow. In the meantime please accept this old picture of me with a sad face. A face that very well could be saying "What can I do, I told you to book early."

Keep doing what you do,

There's plenty of Benno to go around

Thought I should take today off from exercising. I got to sleep until 8am, which was glorious. I woke up at about 5:30 am so it really did feel like I was sleeping in. I think going to bed at 10pm is the key.
Anyways I took the evening off from riding and, despite some protesting, I only worked a 9-5er at Hardwood. We are super busy getting ready for the ski swap this weekend. If you need ski gear or want to try it out then this weekend is a good time to buy. I think the snow has gotten a lot of folks excited. Though 10 minutes North of Barrie where we are, we didn't get much snow at all.
Lots to do with getting SC up to date and keeping track of all the folks that are coming down. Week 1 booked up solid today, the house is now about 40% full.
Also have to lay the framework for the Hardwood DEVO Gold coaching that I am doing again which starts Nov 1st.

I have been calling around a bunch of insurance companies. State Farm quoted me $250/month for the GTi-R which seems a little steep since I am only paying $120/month for the Civic. I am still willing to pay $250 but thought I would call around and see if I could do better.
Nov 6th is probably the weekend that I will be buying the car. I have taken the 5th-8th off work.
-Up to Nov 6: Looking at Ontario cars
-Nov 5: Get insurance sorted out
-Nov 6: Drive to Montreal to check out a couple cars at an importer (and hopefully buy)
-Nov 7: Buy one in Ontario if I don't like anything in Montreal (or drive my Montreal car around and be happy).
-Nov 8: Certify, e-test, validate plates, all that jazz. Drive car around and be happy.

I have been trying to make arrangements to see some more Ontario cars. Just in case I don't like the car(s) in Montreal then I can buy one in Ontario.

What else? I have a couple bikes to work on and need to clean out the barn for our Halloween movie night. But other than that it is business as usual. I am also putting together a proposal for next weeks Cycle Solutions AGM because I think they might want me to do some coaching for the team which would be alotta fun.

As for the sucka that thought I would fail after one week of training, well did I ever show you!

Let the good times roll,

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week 7 in SC is now full

Another large group has booked the whole house in SC for week 7 (April 9 - 16). Don't worry though, the house is only about 1/3 full at this point.

Now I am going for a ride, you should do the same :-)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I bought the ring

There might be a direct and understandable correlation between the frequency in which I post and the frequency in which I ride. Tonight is one of those much needed days off the bike after doing a lot of "running" around on my 2 days off work. I was able to see a couple GTi-R's yesterday, and despite not being able to take one out for a real road test (the road test car I drove had almost zero clutch left so it was dead slow) I was still able to get a good idea of what is available out there.

I must say I am very impressed with the R. They are tiny and really cool looking in person. Driving on the right side made almost no difference but the stick shift on the left will take some getting used to as well as turn signals on the right of the steering wheel (pedals are normal if you are a JDM newb, it is still left to right -clutch - brake - gas). Anyways I was just checking some out since I am not looking to buy for at least another month. Though I was impressed enough that I sealed my commitment and ordered my plates.

As for the training it is going very well. I feel great and the early mornings are getting easier. I am just getting the base fitness up for when the snow falls and I can wax up the skis.

Pro Trainer looks much better from the last 10 days or so I must say.
If you are thinking of staying with me in South Carolina it is starting to book up early so if you are limited on which weeks you can stay then it might be a good idea to get it together since a lot of large groups are booking up some weeks.

That's all for now.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Still going

Day 3 was easier in some ways and harder in others than day 4. Yesterday I was still super stiff from the onset of weight training but staying really light and am getting used to the movements (I learned my lesson about starting too hard maaaany years ago).
The getting up at 6am part doesn't seem to be a problem. I think the fact that it gets dark so early is helping me to get to bed earlier. This morning I felt like a complete zombie, though most of the stiffness has left my "muscles". I think by staying at it every day with light exercise has helped me get through the awkward beginning stages of strength training much quicker and I'll be able to start doing real work in the next couple days.
Right now I am just working on general fitness. On work days I roll out of bed at 6 then immediately go for a short 20min jog (with the Ay Up headlamp which is awesome for running with). After I have a quick bite to eat I do my little workout circuit for about 40 minutes to get me going for the day. I alternate days between core/upper body, and core/lower body. I plan on doing this 7 days a week (pending extenuating circumstances).
After work I grab a quick something to eat and head out on the bike for 1-2 hours. I will integrate a little more riding (or skiing!) structure next month but for now I am just spinning along and having a good time. I ride 3 days and take one day off. I don't abide by a days-of-the-week regime because my work schedule is completely random.

For those of you who are betting on my failure upon me buying my dream car (about 6-8 weeks from now), you'll be pleased to know that I have made appointments to go see and test drive 3 or 4 of them this Tuesday. I am very excited as I've never even sat in one of these things let alone driven one. I figured I better make sure I don't think it's a piece of junk before I order my plates lol.

Anyways that's it for now. 4 days done.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Getting over the day 2 hump

I am there. Day 2 of my training went well. Went for my early morning jog followed by some strength training and then an easy ride. I think if I can get past day 3 then days 4-800 will be easy. I am super stiff even though I went overkill easy on the weights.
Keep fit and have fun!
And yes Matt I added an "Until the new car shows up" training failure option.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lets give this training thing a try

I was somewhat disappointed with the easiness of the 24 hour solo thing so I think it is time for a new challenge. I am going to start training again. I will give you an update of how this is going once I get a better idea of my game plan.
Here is how the last month looked, pretty sad story.

So lets see how this thing goes. IMO for me personally there has been no greater challenge in my life then the day to day of real training. I can usually make it for a month, max, but then lose motivation. Lets see how long I can keep it going. I also see no reason at this point to do another 24 hour race solo.
Place your bets!


Friday, October 1, 2010

How-To: Service hydraulic calipers and change pads

How-To: Service hydraulic calipers and change pads

Ok so this is a really handy thing to know. Bicycle disc brakes aren’t super complicated there are just a few extra things you need to learn to be able to service them properly yourself. This is one of the most regular services that I perform for people. There are a few reasons why:
- People are scared of working on hydraulic brakes
- People try and service their own brakes without understanding how they work
- Pretty much all mountain bikes over $1000 now come with hydraulic discs
- Disc brake calipers require regular maintenance to keep them operating properly

For this service I seriously recommend you stay within the parameters of the How-To. Brakes are one of those things that are sort of important to your health.

In this How-To I am going to show you how to clean and lubricate your calipers, reset your caliper pistons to “zero”, and install new disc brake pads. I will be illustrating this How-To on my Anthem X1 which has Avid Elixir R disc brakes. Your brakes may vary slightly but the procedure fundamentally stays the same.

Tools needed (pictured from left to right)
-clean container for small parts so you don’t lose them
-Allen keys
-general purpose bicycle bearing grease
-plastic tire lever
-your new brake pads (model specific)
-Shimano mineral oil
-small clean rag
-small screwdriver

Step 1
Remove the wheel for the brake you will be servicing. It is easier to remove the back wheel if you shift down into your hardest cog first.

Step 2
Remove the safety clip from the end of the securing pin and then loosen any securing pin that your brake might be using. For the Elixir it is an Allen bolt, some are slotted screw heads, some brakes have no securing pin at all.
*Be careful when trying to loosen the securing pin. It is really easy to strip the head of these bolts and turn this into a really big job*
Store the pin in your clean container where you won’t lose it.

Step 3
Remove the old brake pads. For the Elixirs this is easy to do with just your fingers.
*Some brake pads like Avid Juicy’s or Hayes snap into place and do not require a securing pin. These pads are almost always harder to pull out and often require needle nose pliers. Pull the tab on the pad towards the center of the caliper to pull the backing plate of the pad away from the piston. Then pull the pad out through the caliper slot, it will snap out of place.
The reason you pull the brake pad backing plate away from brake caliper piston is because the caliper piston will have a post protruding from its center that helps to hold the pad in place. If you try to pull the pad out and it is stuck on the piston post then you could shear the post right off (been there, done that)*

Inspect the pads. Mine did not need to be changed but I have an example of some old pads that were definitely in need of replacing. As you can see all of the “meat” of the pad had been used up and it was pretty well worn down to the metal backing plate. Backing plate on brake rotor = death to rotor and not so good stopping.

These old pads are very worn. Time to replace.

Step 4
Inspect your caliper. See how on my caliper one piston sticks out quite a bit further than the other. This service will address this issue and reset both pistons back into the caliper (zero)

Step 5
Clean up your caliper.
Obviously mine isn’t too dirty but for the bad ones I like to use Finish Line Speed Degreaser. It is acetone based and evaporates without leaving any residue.
Take your small clean rag and floss it through your caliper. It will be easy since the absence of pads makes the caliper opening much larger. Doing this gets rid of all your accumulated brake dust and other crud that might be hindering the operation of your brakes.

Step 6
Expose a piston.
So here’s the deal. Your hydraulic brake lever has a plunger that pushes the brake fluid when you squeeze the brake lever. This fluid is what pushes your pistons out and clamps your pads down on your rotor.
That part should be pretty obvious. However there is also a reservoir of fluid located in the lever that can allow more brake fluid into the brake line via the flow port. This allows your caliper pistons to move further out as your pads wear but your brake lever will still feel the same when you pull it.
The good part about this is that your brake lever will (should) always have the same feel throughout the life of the pads. The bad part is that when you remove the old pads you need to manually push the pistons back into the caliper (zero) to accommodate the larger thickness of the new pads. Pushing your caliper pistons back into the caliper is easy to do because when the brake lever is not being pulled the small flow port that allows fluid to move in and out of the brake lever reservoir is open for business.

We need to expose a piston so we can service it. To do that start by holding one piston in place with your plastic tire lever. The plastic lever is good because it is a soft material and wont damage your caliper pistons. Many pistons are made of ceramic and are easy to chip, crack, break, damage if using a metal screwdriver.
While you are holding one piston in place, you need to squeeze the brake lever slowly to bring the other piston out of the caliper. Don’t go too far because it is possible to push the piston right out of the caliper and then you will need to bleed the brakes.
How I position myself as I do this service

Exposing a piston

Piston is now exposed

Step 7
Service the protruding piston.
Now all you gotta do is wipe the dirt from the piston walls with your clean rag and the screwdriver. Make sure the screwdriver doesn’t poke through the rag and scratch your piston walls.

Step 8
Lube the protruding piston.
I like to use Shimano mineral oil for this because it is a very neutral lubricating agent. I’m sure you could use DOT fluid for brakes that use DOT but mineral oil won’t attack your paint and is very non-toxic. I use it with great success.
Place 1-3 drops of mineral oil on the piston wall and let it bleed around the piston and cover its circumference. Using too much will just make more of a mess that you will have to clean up later before you put your pads back in.

You can now see the light oil coverage on the piston walls

Step 9
Get the piston lubed and moving freely.
You want to work the piston in and out of the caliper so that it gets well lubricated and moves relatively easily. First push the piston back in with your tire lever. Make sure to push on it squarely or it could get jammed in the caliper.
Hold the opposing piston in place like you did before and pump the brake lever to bring the same lubricated piston back out again. Repeat this 3 or 4 times to get the lubricated piston moving freely with reduced friction.
Push the piston back into the caliper

Now hold the opposite piston in place with the tire lever to bring the lubricated piston back out

Step 10
Clean up the excess mineral oil.
With the piston pushed all the way back into the caliper get your small clean rag (a fresh one if the first one you used got really dirty). Floss the rag through the caliper and get as much of the oil outta there as you can. You are now finished servicing this piston!

Step 11
Service the other piston.
Repeat steps 6 through 10 for the other piston to get it cleaned, lubricated, moving again, and pushed back into the caliper.

Now that both of your pistons have been serviced the main bulk of the work is done. On a typical caliper service it takes me about 5 minutes per brake (both pistons for front or back) to get to this point. So reading this How-To should take a lot longer than actually doing the service once you know what you are doing.
With both pistons lubed, moving freely, and pushed all the way back into the caliper we have achieved what I like to call “zeroing” the caliper.

Step 12
Prep for new pads.
To make sure that our pistons stay as centred as possible when we insert the rear wheel, you need to loosen the caliper bolts so that the caliper can move freely.

Step 13
Install pads
You need to prep the pads by installing the return spring onto one side. Next bring the other pad onto the spring and pinch them together with your fingers to make sure the spring is in the correct place and allows the pads to close fully.
Slide the pads into place in the caliper. This might take a few attempts as you will find that sometimes the return spring can get dislodged. Take your time. If your pads snap into place like Juicy or Hayes then wiggle them as you push on them, make sure they go all the way into the caliper and they snap into place or they will just rattle and fall out while you are riding. The Elixirs, Shimano, Formula, Hope, just slide into place. Push on them to make sure they are square.
Position the return spring onto one pad

Sandwich the pads to make sure the spring is in place

Slide the sandwiched pads into the caliper

Let go of the sandwich and push them squarely into place

Step 14
Lube that securing pin!
This is the last magic piece of the secret service-your-brakes-like-a-pro service. The little securing pin is often the source of creaky brakes. The pads slide back and forth on this pin and if it is dry then the caliper will creak when you pull the lever.
Take a minuscule dab of bearing grease and roll the pin in your fingers to lightly lubricate the pin.

Just a very thin coat

Step 15
Install securing pin and pop the safety clip back onto the end of the pin. Don’t over torque this bolt. Remember what I said before, it is easy to strip the head of this bolt and that can be extra work you don’t want.

Step 16
Install your rear wheel. Do this on the ground with your body weight on the saddle to make sure your wheel is square in the dropouts.

Weight on the saddle as you close the lever to make sure the wheel is square in the frame

Step 17
Pump up your brake. Since our pistons are still pushed all the way back into our caliper we need to pump the brake lever 10 or 15 times to bring the pistons back out to where they are supposed to be and have a solid feeling lever. Remember since our caliper bolts are also loose it allows the pistons to float naturally into the position they want to be.

Step 18
Center your caliper.

Step 19
Now is the perfect time to check any other bolts for that brake. Remember you don’t always have to turn a bolt to make sure it is tight. If a bolt is already tight you don’t want to over tighten it.

That’s it you are all done! Your brakes will reward you with long life and superior performance.

Stay tuned!