Monday, December 31, 2007

NEWSWIRE: Witcomb Cycles circa 1970

Custom framebuilding seventies style.

NEWSWIRE: Witcomb Cycles circa 1970

No titanium or carbon here! I don't see him in the clip but master framebuilder Richard Sachs worked for Witcomb and has been perfecting his craft since. And, one of the first big events of 2008 is the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, February 8 - 10 in Portland, Oregon. Here you can meet builders like Richard and see gorgeous handcrafted bicycles of all types. Don't miss it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Q&A: Crankset conundrum

Q: I have a Dura-Ace 9-speed setup on my bike. I want to upgrade the
crankset to a newer model. It states that it is a 10-speed crankset. Should
this make any difference? Isn't it the derailleurs that control the
shifting, not the crankset and chainrings? I'm confused!

A: I actually haven't tried installing a 10-sp crankset on a 9-sp
drivetrain, Robert, but it's not supposed to work right because the 9-speed
chain is wider than the 10-sp so it might not shift very well. The
derailleur will still move the chain fine but it might not seat smoothly
onto the chainrings. You might be able to solve the issue by going with a
10-sp chain when you install the 10-sp crank. That would work fine on the
crankset but would be narrower and might not shift perfectly on the rear

But, I haven't experimented like this with these parts so I don't know for
certain whether you could get it to work, or not. Sometimes even though the
manufacturer says it won't work, it actually works enough so that you can
get by with it for awhile. I just can't say for sure having not tried it.

Of course, what you're supposed to do is upgrade the whole shebang,
crankset, cassette, chain and shifters, but that gets expensive. So, if you
don't mind experimenting you could certainly upgrade one piece at a time and
see how little you can get away with.

Good luck and let me know how it goes,

Q&A: Singer British Highwheel

Q: Jim,
Greetings from Ireland! I enjoyed looking through your site. I have a Singer
British Challenge bike that I am about to restore. The bike is rusted but
sound. One of the lugs for the small wheel is broken off and I am thinking
of getting it welded back on - I approached an experienced welder but he is
afraid to do the job as he doesn't know what might happen. I have new spokes
and tires.

Any advice for me? The nickel-plated finish looks really good but my frame
is all pitted and I am not sure how to get it back smooth again. If I sand
it would I be weakening the structure?

Many thanks,

A: Nice to hear from you, Brian, and to hear about your Singer. As your
Singer is a piece of history I would recommend proceeding cautiously so you
restore it correctly and don't harm the bicycle. Here's how my restoration
came out:

The chances are pretty good that if you contact the Veteran-Cycle Club, that
you could connect with someone who knows about your Singer and how best to
go about restoring it. The VCC's website is and the email address I found on their
site to contact them is

Sometimes it's hard to get hold of someone through a website so if the VCC
doesn't respond, you might contact the shop that sponsors their site, which
is Harwood Cycles, email or call 01296 712219

Another good source of information on restoring highwheels is G. Donald
Adams' book Collecting and Restoring Antique Bicycles, which you can see

An antique bicycles is like an antique car in many ways so you just need to
find experts who can correctly repair the issues the bike has. You mentioned
that a "lug" was broken off on the small wheel, but I'm not sure what you
mean so I don't know what to suggest. The wheel is made of steel, though, so
a good welder should be able to reattach it with care. You also mentioned
that the nickel plated finish looks really good but that the frame is all
pitted. That's confusing because if the nickel finish is in good shape, it
should have protected the frame from rusting. Usually the rust begins after
the nickel is worn away. Is it possible that someone re-plated the bike with
nickel after it had rusted and gotten pitted? If so, the pitting may be the
best that could be done when they cleaned the bike for replating?

I'm just guessing here, but these are the types of questions to ask before
doing any work on an antique bicycle like your Singer. If you can get Adams'
book or get together with one of the experienced collectors from the VCC I
think you'll learn a lot about your bike and find out the best way to
proceed to get it running again.

Oh, another resource is I didn't mention this first
because it's based here in the United States. But, you might find useful
information on their website.

I hope this helps,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Q&A: Toe clips

Q: Jim,
I purchased a new Raleigh Grand Prix in 1970. It's still completely original
except for the tires and brake pads. I ride it 75 to 100 miles each week. I
would like to put some high quality toe clips and straps on the existing
pedals. Could you recommend brands and advise how to install them? How do I
determine what size I should purchase? I wear a size 11 shoe.


A: With a size 11 foot you should get size large toe clips, Glynn. These
should be available from any bicycle shop, or they can order them for you if
they don't have them in stock. Or, you could order them online.

They might come with mounting hardware or you'll need to buy that. And,
you'll need to buy the toe straps, too, if you plan to use them. The clips
attach to most pedals with 2 bolts. Your pedals need to have holes in front
for these toe clip bolts but the pedals on the Grand Prix will. And the
pedals should have slots in the side for the toe strap to pass through if
you plan to use these, too (again, your pedals will have these, too). Most
modern toe clips are made of nylon. In 1970 they would have been
chrome-plated steel and you should still be able to find these. The straps
will be leather or nylon. (See link below.)

The best bet would be to call your local bike shop and ask if they have toe
clips in stock because they could then take a look at your pedals, make sure
they're compatible with the toe clips they sell, and install the toe clips
and straps on your pedals for you or show you how to do it. If you do it
yourself, the only tricky thing is running the strap. Feed it through the
back slot on the pedal, so that the buckle is on the outside of the pedal
about 1.5 inches away from the pedal. Put a twist in the toe strap where it
passes beneath the pedal, then feed it through the other slot in the pedal,
up through the slot(s) in the toe clip and down and into the buckle. The
strap goes through the buckle in such a way that you can pull up on it to
tighten the strap on your foot and simply push down on the end of the buckle
to loosen the strap and get your foot out.

Here is a source for "old style" steel toe clips and leather straps. If you
click on the leather toe straps you'll see photos on how to run the strap
through the buckle correctly.

Hope this helps. That's a classic 10-speed and it's cool you're still
enjoying it,

Friday, December 14, 2007

Q&A: Fixing Shimano STI shift levers

Q: Jim,
After making a quick web search concerning repairing RSX brake/shifters, I came across your name. I have an immediate need, and I was hoping you could help. I have an old Raleigh touring bike with RSX brake/shifters. It's been in storage for awhile, but then I took it out and have been riding it frequently (in the cold and rain sometimes). Shifting became intermittent, so I tried spraying silicon lube right into the crannies of the shifter, and had the cables replaced. I think the cables may have helped one problem, but I may have created another.

I removed the screw on the front of the unit, the only one you can see with the hood on. When I pulled the cap away from the housing, I heard a 'tik!'. Damn it - the torsion spring relieved itself, and I knew it would not be fun to reinstall. I did manage to reinstall it with the spring in the right holes, but the shifter continues to have intermittent function. I suspect the spring had a preload, and I did not wind it or reinstall it right. Does this front spring have a preload? How do I reinstall it right?

Last night, when it was around 39 deg F outside, my shifter did not engage at all. Earlier, when it was warmer, it worked intermittently (I'd sometimes have to flip it a few times before the upshift caught). This suggests a lube issue, but how the heck do I lube this thing?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

A: Hi Matt,
Unfortunately, Shimano STI levers aren't designed to be serviced by the user (apart from very basic service unrelated to the shifting mechanism), which is why you won't find any information on this on their website. You're not supposed to try to take them apart. Instead, if you have a problem, you take your bike to a local shop, have them take a look, and if it's a defect, they ship the lever to Shimano and see if the company agrees it's a defect and if it is, and you're within the warranty timeframe, you get a new, working lever from Shimano.

It sounds like you unscrewed the main piece holding your lever's shifter together so getting it covered under warranty is out of the question now, though it was probably too old anyway. I'm not certain if that spring has a preload or if you just unscrewed the bolt when the spring was under load and it released. The fact that you were able to put it back together is a good sign. And, it sounds like it works just like it did before you took it apart. You might try again flushing the shifting part with a penetrating lube like WD-40, something that you can spray into any little gaps into the mechanism you can find. Do this inside where it's warm so the lube is thin and any gunk inside the lever is, too. I've heard that a good "lube rinse" will sometimes free a sticky, non functioning RSX STI lever.
If you're lucky, that might work and get you going. If not, you might instead search on for used RSX shifters (or any Shimano STI levers compatible with your bike) and see if you can't find a right one or a pair for a decent price and then just use your old one for spare parts as needed in the future.

If you want to read about how other people have managed to fix their Shimano
STI levers, here's a link that might help you out: This page is old and some of the links on it no longer work, but it's at least a start and maybe it'll help you figure out your lever and get it working again. If you search for the phrase "STI repair" you'll find a few other links with some interesting comments, too.

Good luck and sorry I can't provide specific repair instructions,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

COLLECTIBLES: Chainring Fever

"Vintage" (1930 to 1980 road bikes) and "antique" (1865 to 1925 models) bicycles are getting pretty expensive to collect, plus you need the room to store them. So, a lot of us choose to collect other cycling items and one of the coolest is chainrings, also called chainwheels. On today's bikes these are pretty yawn-inducing - just steel, aluminum and carbon, the only design being for weight savings and efficiency. But, pedal back a few years and you start finding some fun stuff. Here are a few pictures and links from the awesome Bike Works NYC Chainwheel Archive and Joel Metz's fantastic Chainring Tattoo Project

Click to see more

Click to see more And my favorite:Click to learn more

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

NEWSWIRE: Discovery Team Bike on eBay!

The prices are through the roof, considering these race machines have been
ridden hard by the strongest of the strong in the toughest races out there -
but, if want to own a piece of racing history, here's your chance:

GREAT TIPS: A bike noise solution

Hi Jim,

I came to your site recently when looking for some basic road bike
maintenance tips. Thanks for the great content!

I also thought I'd have a look at your clicks, squeaks etc. page as I've recently had a
situation that was driving me and my riding companions a little crazy. My
bike developed a loud click on each pedal revolution. I was told this might
be related to my cranks and/or pedals. Both were inspected by me and found
not to be a problem. Various adjustments were made to the rear derailleur
too, to no avail. The local bike shop only managed to suggest that I was
cross-gearing... which I was certain I was not, having been warned not to do
that previously. So, I thought I may simply have to put up with this.
However, I noticed at some point that when I took off my Nike shoes that
they rattled (and they hadn't always done this). The shoes are equipped
with several attachment points for cleats, one set of which wasn't being
used by my Look cleats - and the bracket/plate for the unused attachments
was moving backwards and forwards through the pedaling motion. So, some
modeling clay stuffed into the bottom of the shoe to hold the spare plate
fixed the problem... there was no other way to tighten or remove the unused

Hope that is of some interest!

(Perth, Western Australia)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Q&A: Pedal Noise

Hello Jim,
Was going thru your page on bike noises and here is one for your
advice & time. I have been riding my Olmo road bike with Look PP206 pedals.
On a ride last Friday I noticed a loud click under my cleats and could also
feel it. I took my bike to the bike shop here in Muscat. Unfortunately they
could not figure it out. I was wondering if you could be kind to put a light
on it. I adjusted the release of the right pedal and also tightened it, but
my guess is that a bearing in the pedal has caused this unless you think
differently. Appreciate your time & advice.


Hi, Brian,
Have you checked the bolts holding the cleats to the bottom of your shoes,
or did the bike shop check this? My experience is that the noises are often
caused by cleat problems rather than pedal problems. So, that's what I'd
check first. Next I'd check to make sure that the cleats aren't worn out.
They need to have enough material to hold in the "jaws" on the pedal. Even a
little walking wears Look cleats out fast. I use Kool Covers, which are
rubber covers you slip over your cleats anytime you have to walk at all. I
just carry them in my jersey pocket. They work great to save the cleats and
help you not slip on slippery floors, too.

If the cleats are worn you should replace them. They don't cost much. Just
be sure to trace a line around your old cleats first so you know exactly
where to place the new ones.

If your cleats are in good shape, then I would check the pedals for
something loose. If you adjust the tension too loose the back plate on the
pedal can move too much and that might cause a click noise under pedal
pressure. Tightening the tension adjustment a little should stop that.
Usually, the bearings in these pedals do not wear out very quickly so I
wouldn't expect that to be the problem, though you can certainly remove the
pedals and spin the axle by hand to feel for roughness, grit and noise, if
you want. If that's an issue you'll want to clean and regrease the pedal
bearings or perhaps install a new bearing kit. But, typically these will
last for many years without service so I don't think that will be the

Hope one of these ideas solves the problem,

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Q&A: Eldi emergency-spoke tool

Hello Jim,
I'm from Israel. I read an article in one of the cycling forums on the net
in Israel that mentioned your Eldi spoke tool, shown here Can you please tell me
whether this tool is a special tool for spokes or it is a tool being used in
other areas. This one on your web site seems an old tool.

Do you have any idea where I can purchase a tool like this, as I'm doing
nearly all the maintenance of my mountain bikes by myself, and it seems to
me that the Eldi or a similar one can be of great help to me.

Kind regards

Thanks for the email, Itamar. Unfortunately that tool is an old bicycle tool
that they don't seem to make anymore. I believe it is from the late 1960s or
maybe early 1970s. I was lucky to work at a bicycle shop that had a lot of
old tools and I was able to buy that one from the owner for my personal
collection. It was specifically made to cut spokes to size and bend them
just right for use as replacement spokes when you don't have the correct
size spoke on hand and it's a handy tool to have.

You don't really need a special tool to do this, though. You can do the same
job by cutting the spoke with a diagonal cutter and then bending the cut end
into an L shape with the diagonal cutter or pliers, and in this way you can
achieve the same result. That may be why the tool is no longer made.

Hope this helps,

Q&A: pedal overlap

Hi Jim,
I have a Marin bike with 700c wheels. When turning the front wheel it hits
the pedal if the pedal is horizontal to the ground and to the front. Could
this be right? The fork is nearly vertical with little clearance from the
down tube. It is hard to ride, too.

Thanks for your help,

Hi Leon,
It sounds like the bicycle has been in an accident. Maybe someone ran into a
parked car? This would bend the fork and frame making the front wheel too
close to the frame and pedal (when it comes around). You can check for this
by looking at the frame top tube and down tube, the 2 tubes that meet the
head tube (the front frame tube that holds the fork). When a frame is bent
in a front end collision like this these tubes usually get buckled a bit and
you can see and feel the wrinkled paint and bulges on the bottom and top of
these tubes. You might also see damage on the fork legs so look there, too.
Sometimes the wheel won't get damaged at all so you can't go by that.

Unfortunately, if the frame and fork have been damaged like this, it may be
impossible to repair perfectly so it might mean you'll need to replace the
frame and fork, or bicycle.

Good luck,