Friday, March 28, 2008

Q&A: Merckx tubing, Motobecane badge, Pedals times 2, Seatpost racks

Q: I've just bought a second-hand Reynolds 653 road frame. I've spent about an hour a day on the internet researching this tubeset but the most I can discover is that the rear triangle uses 753 tubing. Nowhere can I discover what the other tubes were - 631, 531, whatever. And what about the forks? Reynolds no longer publish any info about this tubeset. Can you tell me anything more about or direct me to a resource on it?


A: What year is the frame? Maybe if I knew the year I could find some mention in magazine back issues. I vaguely remember 653 but not enough to tell you anything about it so I'll need to research it. Having a year would shrink the haystack,


Tom's reply: Thanks Jim. Reynolds have sent me a helpful reply so don't spend any more time on this one on my account. I'll tell you what they said as it's interesting and other folk might appreciate it too. In essence, 653 was invented following feedback from Eddy Merckx that a pure 753 frame was too harsh for certain stages. So Reynolds produced a 653 tubeset which combined 753 stays with 531 main tubes and forks. Not any old 531 though, but an even thinner gauge than usual - just for use in the 653 set. Eddy and other riders were very pleased with the result, which combined an light, ultra-stiff and efficient transmission with a more forgiving and comfy ride. Nowadays when folks are after a similar ride builders use 725 stays and usually 631 for all other tubes. I heard it from the horse's mouth.

Thanks again for your prompt attention previously.

Thanks for sharing Tom!

Q: I've been searching and searching for a vintage Motobecane head badge, but to no avail. Could you help me find one?


A: It'll take a little patience but if you check every day for a while, or once a week, you should be able to find one. I've seen lots of them on there over the years and they're not that rare. Of course, it depends on which one you need, too. They made a few different designs over the years. I would search on the words/phrases "head badge" "head badges" "Motobecane" and "Motobecane badge"

Another option would be to search on "Motobecane" and see if you can find a frame or bike with the badge you need on it. If it's selling for an affordable price you could buy the whole thing, remove the badge for your bike and then sell the frame or bicycle back on eBay to get your money back.

If you live in a big city you might be able to find one at local bike shops that have been around since the 1970s, too. A lot of shops have a little drawer where they save head badges for use on repair bikes or repaints in the future. But, it will need to be a shop that's been around for a while. Newer shops probably won't have any badges, though it never hurts to ask at every shop you visit or call. By the way, here is a picture of one style of Motobecane head badge from my collection:

I hope this helps you find one,

Q: Hello,
I recently purchased an old Nishiki Riviera GT. I wanted to change the pedals so I purchased some. Now that look at the bike there is an Allen wrench hole on the back side of the pedal hole on the crank. Does an Allen key have to be used as well as an adjustable to get them off. Are they both reverse threaded? It's a classic bike and I do not want to mess it up.

Thanks for any help,

A: Hi Jeff,
Your Nishiki has standard pedals, meaning that you turn the right one to the left to loosen it and you turn the left one to the right to loosen it, too. That's because left pedals are always reverse threaded (rights are regular threaded) so the lefts don't loosen when you're riding (an invention by the Wright brothers).

The Allen holes can be used to remove the pedals and there are probably wrench flats on the inside of the pedal axles (right next to the crankarms) for removing them with a pedal wrench. Be sure to shift onto the large chainring before removing the pedals as this will provide some measure of protection should you slip and hit it with your hand or arm. And, be sure to align the wrench with the crankarm so you have good leverage. Using the wrench will be easier than using an Allen wrench. For more extensive tips on pedals please visit this page on my website:

Have fun working on your bike!

Q: Hi Jim and greetings from TAZ!
I have a set of FSA K-Force cranks that the drive side pedal insert has worked loose in. It's not repairable is it?

Like your work!

A: Sorry to hear about that, Nige. I'd bring it in to your local bike shop and ask them to check it for warranty repair or replacement. I would think FSA would cover that assuming it wasn't caused by a crash or abuse. It should not be able to loosen or fail just from riding or working on your bike. I believe that insert is screwed and glued in there and designed to be permanently fixed in place. FSA components carry a 2-year guarantee from date of purchase and I bet they'd take care of it for you if you contacted a dealer or FSA. Here's a link to that page on their site:

Of course, if it's so loose that you can see inside and determine what's
wrong you might be able to fix it, but only if it's something simple. For example if it only loosened (and all the threads are still perfect, maybe you could remove the insert, apply a good 2-part epoxy and screw it back into place. But, you put so much pressure on pedals and you crash so hard if they fail that I wouldn't chance it. I'd see if FSA will take care of it for you.

Good luck!

Q: Hello Jim,
I subscribed to your mailing list about six months ago and enjoyed every one of your emails. I even blogged about your website - it is truly an extensive resource of information for bikers everywhere. I have a quick question. I recently purchased a pannier seatpost rack for my mountain bike. I use the bike regularly to go to school and hoping to go on at least a short bike backpacking trip this season. During weekends, I go mountain biking in nearby trails. I was wondering if it is safe to have the seatpost rack installed when I go for mountain biking?

Thank you,

A: Thanks for the kind words about my site and blog, Vamsi. I appreciate it very much. Seatpost racks usually have a load limit (if it's not written on the rack check the company's website) and as long as you don't exceed the load limit they should withstand any riding you want to do. Of course they should be nice and tight so they can't move around and get in the way or scratch the seatpost, which could cause the seatpost to fail if the scratch was deep enough. But, these things shouldn't be a problem if the rack is installed right and you're not overloading it with too much weight. If it's an extremely technical or bumpy trail you might go with half the maximum weight to provide additional safety because the bumps will cause more jarring and stress on the seatpost. And, you didn't mention what type of bicycle or seatpost you have but ideally you'll have a good quality seatpost that can handle a little more weight. Any brand name bicycle should be equipped with a nice aluminum seatpost that will work fine.

If you're using panniers with your rack they need to be high enough or secured well enough so they can't swing into the wheel or spokes, too, as that can be an issue on rough trails and even rough roads. Usually there are straps or cords or supports on the rack to prevent this but it's worth checking. If the bags swung into the tire they could jam and stop the wheel and cause a crash and you wouldn't want that.

I hope these tips help and you have a nice trip!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MUST READ: Yahuda Moon cycling comics

I recently discovered Rick Smith's Yahuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery comics and greatly enjoy them. Click the links to see his latest and archived ones - and be sure to check regularly so you don't miss any.

Click to see today's comic

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Q&As: Bianchi, flats fear, Shimano groups

Q: I recently purchased an older Bianchi lugged steel frame. It has no
markings of model, just the Bianchi logo. It is Celeste green with Columbus
CroMor tubing and I am wondering if you know much about Bianchi models or
know someone who does. I am trying to find out what model this bike is.


A: Hi Roy,
If you have the whole bike you could go by the components on it but if you
only have the frame it may be tougher to figure out what it is. I am not an
expert on Bianchis though I do know something of their history and even
visited their factory in Italy once, which was absolutely fantastic. But,
they make so many bikes here and in Europe that it would be very hard to
remember every model. One thing that might work is searching eBay for
Bianchis for a while and seeing if any are for sale that resemble yours. If
so, there'll be a description and perhaps you'll see your bike and learn all
about it.

If it's a recent model another approach would be to check your Yellow Pages
for the closest big-city Bianchi bicycle shop, one that's been in business
for awhile and give them a call to see if you can talk to the resident
Bianchi expert. He might be able to ID your bike based on his experience
selling the bikes over the years.

Or, you might even try contacting Bianchi direct and see if you could email
them a digital photo for them to take a look and tell you what you've got.
You might even get them to send you a catalog from when your bike was made
(a long shot but you never know), which would be a nice way to find out
everything about it. Come to think of it, if you search on ebay you just
might find someone selling recent Bianchi catalogs.

Bianchi's USA contact info is:
21325A Cabot Boulevard
Hayward, CA 94545

I hope this helps you find out exactly what Bianchi you've got,

Q: Hi Jim,
Thanks for your site, it's awesome. I have had at least 5 different tubes go
flat on me and I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. All but one of them
have had pin prick sized holes near the valve. The other had a pin prick
sized hole along the seam away from the valve. I've tried two different
makes of tube with the same results, so I don't think it's a manufacturer's
defect. It seems to happen to the rear wheel as much as the front wheel.
There don't seem to be any issues with the tires or rims (no sharp objects,
etc.). Some more details: I've got a singlespeed freewheel road bike with
pretty thin tires. I am using the correct size tube (700x23C). I am keeping
them inflated to the pressure on the side of the tires (120 PSI) and usually
add air about every other ride. I use an air compressor with a pressure
gauge to add air. Is this simply a sad fact I have to deal with because
there are lots of potholes in the roads or is there something I am doing
wrong or could be doing differently?

Thanks for your help and keep up the great website!

A: Thanks for the email and kind words about my site, Laura. Flat tires can
definitely be frustrating, especially when you have a run of bad luck like
it sounds like you're having, but you want to keep in mind that there are no
mysteries or paranormal activity involved ;-) It's just a flat tire, which
always means something popped the tube causing the flat or you have a leaky
valve, etc.

What I would do is make sure that all systems are good to go. I would
carefully check the tires to make sure there is no glass or wire or gravel
or thorns or debris, etc. embedded in the tread. If there is it will poke
into the tube when you're riding and cause flats. The best way to check is
to ball up a rag, stuff it inside the tire and then run it around the inside
of the tire in both directions very carefully. If something sharp is in the
tire it should snag on the rag and you'll feel it. I would also very closely
inspect the tread of the tires to look for holes that indicate a piece of
glass or wire or a thorn has gotten in there and then I would take a pick or
an awl or a knife and carefully dig into the hole and see if I could pick
anything out that's stuck in there. I'd also look on the inside of the tire
at each hole to make sure the thing didn't poke through, a sure sign that it
might poke and pop the tube.

If you have cut, bald, worn-out or old tires, I would replace them and start
with new, quality tires. I don't know what type of bike you ride but I
recommend good brand name tires. On my road bike, which takes 700 x 25c
tires, I run Continental Grand Prix 4000 tires. These are expensive, about
$50 each, but they are super flat resistant and I weigh 175 pounds and ride
on terrible glass-strewn roads so I really need that. But, Continental,
Michelin, Specialized, etc, all make great tires and the prices vary
depending on which level you buy. Most bike shops will have an opinion on
what works really well in their area based on what their customers tell them
and what they've found riding them.

I would also very carefully check the inside of the rim. First take off the
rim strip so you can feel around in there for any sharp edges. The fact that
you got tube cuts near the valve might indicate that there's a burr on the
aluminum where they formed the valve hole in the rim. If so, smooth it out
with a file or a little sandpaper so it can't do that any more. Also you can
run the rag around the rim trying to find other sharp edges that you can
sand smooth. When you put the rim strip back in be sure that it covers all
the spoke nipple holes and can't move when you install the tire and tube.

It is possible to get defective tubes, but usually only once in a great
while. A defective tube would fail right at the seam or where the valve is
attached usually. If that happens you can always return to the shop and ask
for a replacement and they should provide one if they agree that the seam
was weak and failed, but if they see signs of a poke-type hole they won't be
able to replace it under warranty because the company won't take the tube
back. In my experience most tubes will work fine - even inexpensive ones.
It's rare to get a defect, but if you use patched tubes you can sometimes
end up running a tube that seems okay but actually has a slow leak because
the patch wasn't put on well or maybe there was another hole that the
patchee didn't find.

Something else I recommend is riding with less air pressure in your tires.
As I mentioned I'm 175 pounds and I ride and race and I never run more than
100 psi in my tires. This provides a better ride because it's not so harsh
and it's also a faster ride because you don't bounce so much as you roll
down the road, the softer tires conforming to the road better.

Since you've had so much trouble with your current tubes and tires, what you
might do is start fresh with 2 new tires and tubes. Just be certain that
there are no rim or rim strip issues first. I'm sure the bike shop would be
happy to give you a second opinion if you are buying tires and tubes from

I hope this helps end your flat tire problems and let me know if you have
other questions,

Q: Where can I find a list of Shimano derailleurs in order from most
expensive to cheapest?


A: Here you go, Floyd - and keep in mind that Shimano makes some inexpensive
repair derailleurs, too, you might find out there. In general the more you
spend the lighter you get. In most cases the shifting doesn't change much
from cheapest to most expensive, it's more about weight and appearance.

Ultegra SL


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Q&A: Great grandmother's "wheel"

Q: Dear Mr. Langley,
I've been reading my Great Grandmother's diary. She was born in 1885 in Maine. When she was 15, she worked and saved money for a "wheel" that she purchased and rode. I was thinking that she must have meant "bike." I learned that bikes with big front wheels were called "highwheels," but I couldn't imagine someone riding one of those in a dress. Were bikes called "wheels" in those days?

Thanks for your time,

A: Thanks for the email, Karen. She did mean bike but at the time bicycles were commonly called wheels. The highwheel, which was more commonly called the ordinary in its day because it was the ordinary bike everyone rode, was only popular for about 10 years, from about 1878 to 1890. Then came the safety bicycles. By 1900, when your great grandmother was looking for a wheel, she would have been buying a bike similar in many ways to the bikes we ride today, with same-size wheels, lightweight parts, probably wood rims, pneumatic tires and even a brake. Below is an illustration from 1898 showing such a bike and rider. Notice how nicely the cyclists dressed then. Also, note that they're resting their feet on little pegs attached to the front fork. That's because bikes did not freewheel yet so they couldn't coast with their feet on the pedals. It's also interesting that before the safety bicycle came along most women didn't ride because it was considered taboo by society for them to ride highwheels. Once the safety was available women took to cycling in a big way and it actually helped launch the women's liberation movement.

You're lucky to have a diary to read about this in. I bet it's a fascinating story.

Thanks for sharing,

Bicycles were called wheels at the turn of the century

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nice bike-repair video site! is a fine new video resource. Watch this excellent tutorial on wheel truing and visit Alex's super helpful website for many more fine bicycle-repair vids. Good work, Alex!

Wheel Truing

This video from Alex of the bike-repair website Bicycle covers wheel truing very nicely. And he has lots of other excellent repair videos on the site, too. It's a great resource.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Q&A: Drivetrain clunk, bicycle noises

Q: I have a 94 Bianchi with the Shimano 105 group. When I pedal it feels
like there is something loose, kinda like a clunk from both crankarms. I
removed the crankarms and reinstalled them they are tight, the pedals are
tight, I took apart the cassette cluster and cleaned it up. The spindle does
not seem to have any play it. I also took the chain rings off cleaned them
and reinstalled. Still the clunk. The only thing I didn't touch was the
sealed crank bearings because there wasn't any play in the spindle. What do
you think?


A: Hi Al,
I think the bottom bracket cartridge is loose in the frame - the cups aren't
tight enough so it's moving under pressure. I would remove the crankarms
again and using the correct bottom bracket tool, I would first make sure the
right-side (chainring side) cup was nice and tight in the frame (turn
counterclockwise to tighten) and then I would check the right side (turn
clockwise to tighten). Usually, when there's a clunk like this, it's from
the whole BB moving and that should fix it. If you have some blue locktite,
it would be a good idea to put a couple of drops on the threads before
tightening to make sure the cups stay tight, but that's not mandatory.

Hope that helps quiet your bike, and note that I have a huge story on
keeping bikes quiet on my site with a zillion more bicycle noises and how to
shut them up here:

Q&A: American King of Scorchers bicycle

Q: Please note the following bike: American King of Scorchers-Mclntosh &
Huntington Company, Cleveland OH, 1896. I acquired one a few weeks ago and
would like any information you might have on it. The only part that is
compromised is the stem; there is a significant crack in it and will
certainly break apart if tightened. If you have or know the whereabouts of
a nickel plated, period-correct stem, please let me know.

Thank you in advance,

A: Hi Mark,
For that vintage of bike you should definitely contact/join The Wheelmen I'm a proud member. This club is devoted to restoring,
preserving and riding bikes made from 1860 to about 1925. As a member you
will receive the club newsletter and be able to run classified ads looking
for parts and you'll find out about events and meet people with bikes like
yours that can help you with restoration, tracking down parts, etc. To start
looking for your stem you could visit the link above and check out the
message boards. You might also check out the antique photographs and see if
you can find your bike or check the bicycle brands list where you will find
your bike listed:
2&pagesize=50&alphachar=A There's even a chance the Wheelmen library has a
catalog for your bike and that you can get a reprint for a few dollars. Give
it a try and if you'd like to send me a digital photo of your bike I'd be
happy to take a look and see if I can offer any more information,

Yours in cycling,

Q&A: Weaving spokes

Q: Hi Jim,
My wife and I both have Mavic Cosmos wheelsets, but from different model
years. I noticed the other day that the spokes on my rear wheel are not
"woven." That is, on her wheel the last (third) spoke cross goes under, not
over; on my wheel every spoke cross goes over. I was taught (by you,
probably!) that weaving the final cross under makes for a stronger wheel. Is
that still true? Does it apply to these new tech wheels?

Your one-time apprentice, Fred

A: Nice to hear from you Fred!
Yes, weaving the spokes is the way I build wheels and would recommend
building them. The spokes touch that way and it adds lateral stability and
also may prevent some road vibration from reaching you for a nicer ride (it
might dissipate when it reaches the cross), though that's probably something
engineers would debate.

However, on these new factory-built wheels with minimal spokes and unusual
spoke configurations and types, the companies sometimes throw "the rules"
out the window. I can't remember the Cosmos wheels and they're not on
Mavic's site anymore to check, but it might be that they didn't weave the
spokes because that would have caused too much of a bend in the spokes. Or,
they might not have done it because they didn't want the spokes to touch
each other as this can be a point where the spokes gradually wear as they
chafe there (even on standard wheels this is a problem, which is why it's a
good idea to lube your spoke crosses/weaves).

So, I suspect there is a slight design difference between your and your
wife's wheel and that's why one has weaved spokes and one doesn't, and I
wouldn't worry about it. Usually the tensions are so high on modern factory
built wheels like this that you won't have a problem.

Hope that helps, and ride safe!