Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jim's Awesome Last Minute Cycling Gift Guide

Jim's Awesome Last Minute Cycling Gift Guide
By Jim Langley

You're lucky to be a cyclist when it's gift-giving time because it's easy for your friends and family to find goodies you'll love. To help, here are some ideas sure to please any bicycle nut. These are year-round cycling gifts, so don't feel obligated to use them all up for the holidays. Also, you'll find some of these items and a lot more ideas at your local bike shop. They typically offer gift certificates too so your favorite sprockethead can choose their own cycling toys. You might also gift them a coupon for a tune-up or bike fit - money in the bank for when their machine needs a little professional TLC.

Let's start with something comfortable, stylish, practical and affordable, DeFeet's Woolie Boolie socks and wool HandSkins ($13.50 & $12.50 respectively). These super-soft, wicking, warm socks and gloves stretch for a custom fit, insulate their fingers and toes even when they're wet, and are super durable for long life too. They'll like them so much they'll wear them all the time.

You may have noticed that more and more people are kicking the internal-combusting habit and enjoying the freedom and fun of gliding around town and spinning back and forth to school or work on versatile and elegant city bikes. And note, that even if your cyclist has a nice road or mountain bike already, they probably would prefer to save that for recreational/sport/fitness use and have a workhorse city bike built for the job. To help you select a winner, and a townie that's every bit as unique as they are, I've listed a few hot, new urban bicycles that will change anyone's commuting life for the better.

Keep in mind that, just like that Nissan Cube, what they "drive" says a lot about who they are, so you don't want to gift them just any old bike. It needs to be special, almost one of a kind, something as cool to ride as it is to sit back and admire kicking back on a park bench with friends on their lunch break. And, the perfect choice is Pashley's Roadster 26 (2009 model, approximately £560), as classic, refined and practical today as it was back when Kennedy was in the White House.

With a sweet-riding British lugged-steel frame, simple-to-operate 3-speed drivetrain, powerful and all-weather hub brakes, a fully enclosed chain and fenders to save your clothes, and even a handcrafted Brooks B72 leather saddle, they'll be the envy of their workmates and be tempted to take the long way home every night. No worries, as the Roadster is even equipped with dynamo lighting. Scroll to see my other city bike gift ideas.

Flat tires are a fact of cycling, and carrying a quality pump makes all the difference when they have to fix one. You'll make the job much easier by gifting them one of Topeak's Morph mini-pumps (about $40), which have features that make inflation (often difficult with lesser pumps) a piece of cake. There are Morphs for road and mountain bikes. What makes these mighty inflators special is that they all feature a fold-out foot, T handle, long hose and easy-to-attach thumblock head that fits all valve types. And these innovations let them stand the pump on end, step on the foot and push against the ground for super-easy and fast inflation. The Turbo Morph even has a trick flip-out gauge.

Speaking of city bikes, if they're building their own townie, or getting around town on a bike without any, they'll love receiving Planet Bike's Grasshopper fenders ($115). They won't be available in time for holiday gift giving, but should be by the time the snow has melted. Made of fast-growing Moso Bamboo in a 2 ply laminate with a durable marine-grade finish and rustproof stainless-steel stays, they'll add a major touch of class to their bike and make any ride greener too. Plus, these are the first double-curved (not flat) wood fenders. Contact your local bike shop or visit the company's website for availability.

Whether they're fixing that flat I was talking about or up to their elbows in bearing grease, giving them a proper bicycle repair stand will make all their bicycle maintenance much, much easier. And, Park Tool has just what they need in their Home Mechanic Repair Stand lineup, model PCS-10 or PCS-9 ($170 & $130). They clamp all bicycles securely, hold them up high for ease of seeing what they're doing and so they don't have to bend over, fold for easy storage/portability and are built to last a lifetime. If your cyclist is flipping his machine upside-down to wrench or hanging it from the rafters Park's Home Mechanic Repair Stand will make the ultimate gift.

Coffee table books make super gifts but it's not that easy to find good ones for cyclists. Fortunately, Vintage Bicycle Press has come to our rescue and is writing and publishing some fascinating new reads that any pedal pusher with an interest in classic bicycles will enjoy. Check out their The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles $50 and The Competition Bicycle $60, two books sure to put a smile on their face. Or, consider subscribing them to the company's Bicycle Quarterly magazine.

While I'm on the subject of books, allow me to plug my latest tome, Your Home Bicycle Workshop ($19.95). Note that this is an e-book, so you can download it for instant gift giving joy, and it will open immediately on any computer. Plus, it's chock full of my advice, how-to's, tips and tricks for setting up a custom home bicycle workshop, which is the perfect winter project and a sure-fire way to add another level of fun to their cycling. Not to mention how much money maintaining and fixing their own bikes can save.

Vintage ten-speed aficionados Velo-Retro offer an impressive selection of classic-print T-shirts that will garb your bike nut in color and style. Plus, they'll have something truly unique to wear around and show off to their pedaling pals. At just $19.95 for a custom-printed tee, you may want to get them several styles.

And now, for something completely different, how about gifting the cycling woman in your life an education in bike repair at United Bicycle Supplies Introduction to Bicycle Maintenance for Women? You guys could head up to beautiful Ashland, Oregon this summer and you could take in the scenery while she spends a wonderful week wrenching and learning the ins and outs of bicycle repair - a dream experience for those taken with all things spokes, chains, cables, bearings and gears. The class runs from July 26 to 30, costs $850 and is a little tricky to find on their website. Go to click on Curriculum over on the left navigation bar, and you'll then see Introduction to Bicycle Maintenance for Women listed under Mechanic Course Descriptions. Or just give the good folks up there a call at 541 488 1121, and tell them Jim Langley sent you.

I've been riding on Neuvation wheels for a few years now (that's about 20,000 miles), and they've been excellent and completely reliable. But, what's even better for the gift giver is that these quality hoops are as affordable as they are desirable. Neuvations offers super-low pricing for their quality wheels by cutting out the middle men and selling direct, so you can get their M28 wheelset and blow away your cyclist with a sweet pair of hoops for a mere $249, or go with the R28s for $220. (That's today's prices and they may change.)

You can't give a more important gift than the gift of safety, and a nifty little safety widget every cyclist will love is Knog's Frog, a weird little rubber flashing LED light that attaches just about anywhere. It wraps around their seatpost, handlebars, or even their helmet and is held by its own built-in clip. It's easy and fast to install and remove and no tools are required. And, it's so small they could attach several to be even more visible. Knogs come in a few fun colors, offer steady and flashing modes, include the battery and sell for $17.95.

Every cyclist needs a good lightweight jacket for those tweener days and Gore Bike Wear makes a winner in their Paclite Power Lady Jacket ($200; men's versions are available too). Made of Gore's weather-resistant Gore-Tex and Windstopper fabric with a tuck-away long tail and high collar, this cozy top will give them the protection they need and top comfort too, with its shaped elbows and tailored cycling cut for excellent freedom of movement. Other fine details include the adjustable cuffs, stow-away pocket, drawstring elastic waist and reflective logos.

All bicycles have provisions for bottle cages so you can take along a drink and have easy access. But there are bottle cages and then there's the King titanium bottle cage ($60), a handcrafted in the USA (by Ron Andrews), piece of titanium artistry that says loudly and clearly that your cyclist doesn't put just any cage on their machine. Made of rugged, super-light, rustproof and non-bottle-marking hollow 3Al/2.5V titanium, the King cage weighs only 28 grams (watch their surprise when they open this gift). But, the most impressive thing is how tightly it holds bottles. No matter how hard they ride or how rough the roads and trails they'll never have a bottle bounce out when they're using a King Cage.

Now, back to those city bikes I promised. Gift them Raleigh's Alley Way and they'll be zipping around on a green machine that's as comfortable and stylish as it is high-tech and practical. Sporting a light and nimble Reynolds butted-chromoly frame, easy-rolling 700c wheels, a wonderful Brooks leather saddle and easy-to-reach arc handlebars, it's a joy to ride. Plus, it boasts a belt-drive drivetrain, which means goodbye chain lube and grease stains! And, they also get disc brakes, fenders and 8 gears that make easy work of the climbs. Check with your local Raleigh dealer for pricing as this beauty is new for 2010.

And, there's nothing like a touch of Dutch to pedal around town in style and comfort. Get them Electra's Amsterdam (2009 Girard 3i shown), and they'll enjoy the natural upright riding position, the riding ease of the laid-back frame that lets them put both feet flat on the ground anytime they want, and a simple-to-operate 3-speed drivetrain. Other sweet features include the full chainguard, skirt guard, built-in lighting system, handy rear rack, plush spring seat and low-maintenance hub brakes. Don't miss the custom paint and matching bell that makes these sweet bikes as beautiful as they are fun and practical.

I hope these ideas help you find the perfect gift for the cyclists in your life. Thanks for reading and ride safe!
Jim Langley (jim @

Friday, November 20, 2009

Inspiring Bicycle Movie

I first saw Bicycle Dreams, the best movie yet about the extraordinarily difficult Race Across America, last summer at former RAAM star Lon Haldeman's PacTour Wisconsin Camp, and was impressed.

So it was nice to hear from director Stephen Auerbach and learn that he had "modified the film since I saw it - in a big way," and I asked for a review copy of the $19.99 DVD, which has won multiple awards now.

After watching this re-edited version I can appreciate all the awards. The typical RAAM story as depicted on ABC Sports over the years and in magazines, is almost as tiring to watch as it is to actually ride the race. Bicycle Dreams has its share of suffering and misery - especially with the death of Ultracycling Hall of Famer Bob Breedlove during the race.

But, instead of despair or depression, what comes across watching this riveting story unfold are the inspiring qualities that drive people to remarkable lengths to achieve their goals. I was especially taken with sports psychologist and second-place finisher Chris MacDonald's insightful analysis of why athletes are drawn to impossible tests like RAAM and it made me appreciate the race in a new light.

Equally poignant is winner Jure Robic of Slovenia's route to becoming the top ultra-endurance athlete in the world. And, Catharina Berge's phenomenal effort as one of the few women that tackle RAAM.

Good cycling movies are hard to come by. Bicycle Dreams is as good as it gets, and it's about a lot more than cycling, which is what sets it apart. You can purchase it here. It'll make a great gift for any cyclist.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Funny Conference Bike Video

The conference bike has been around for awhile but I think this video is new

Friday, September 18, 2009

Q&A: Chain stretch, wheel centering, transporting a trike

Q: Hey Jim,
I'm sure that you've answered this over the years, but I couldn't find the issue addressed. I came to riding a bit late in life (about 35) and fell in love with the sport. Recently, I was told that I needed to replace the chain on my Viner because I had stretched it over time (4,000+/- miles this past year). I ride Dura Ace and am fine with the $50ish expense, but I just can't imagine that I produce enough torque to 'stretch' metal. I ride in Georgia and so there is quite a bit of climbing, but still... So my question is - "Is this for real, or are the wrenche's at my local shop snickering as I walk out the door?" And as a follow up 'If I can stretch metal, can I also leap tall buildings in a single bound?"


A: Good question, Ross. It’s a matter of slang. The mechanic said you “stretched” your chain. But, this is slang for wearing it out. What happens is the parts (the rollers and pins) that make up the chain get smaller and when this happens play develops between the parts of the chain – creating more clearance. Then, when you measure the chain to tell if it’s worn out, it has actually gotten longer due to all the parts wearing. So, the word we often us to explain that the chain is worn out is “stretched.” But, your massive legs didn’t really stretch the chain, they just wore it out from all those miles ;-)

If you get a tool like the Wipperman Chain Wear Indicator shown, it's easy to check your chain and tell when it's worn out.


Q: Hi there,
I wonder if you could advise me on why my bike pulls to one side so I constantly have to straighten up while riding, please? I bought it only recently, so I could take it back to the shop for fixing, but the shop is over the other side of town, so if it is something easy to fix I would rather do it myself. The brakes are the normal block ones not disc.

Thanks in anticipation,

A: By any chance did you remove the front wheel and then reinstall it crooked, Irene - like after putting it in your car? The front wheel must be exactly centered in the fork. If it is off to one side or the other, it can cause the bicycle to pull. So, I would loosen the front wheel, make sure it's centered in the fork and then tighten it. You can usually see if a front wheel is centered just by looking from the front for even clearance between the wheel and the fork on each side. A better way to tell is to use your fingers as feeler gauges. Just use the same finger on each hand and slide them in from behind and next to the rim or tire to feel the space between the wheel and fork. This should feel exactly the same on both sides.

If this isn’t the problem, you should check with your bike shop because it might be an issue they need to address,


Q: Hello! I need to transport an adult tricycle and I have no trailer hitch, trailer, or truck. The only thing I can come up with is to disassemble the trike and cram it into my Chevy Cobalt without trying to tear up the interior of the car. Do you have any suggestions? Mechanical things stupify me. Any reasonable suggestion is appreciated! Thank you!


A: Here’s what I’d try, Debbie. It should work fine and shouldn’t hurt the car or trike. No disassembly is required. Simply pick up the trike and place it on the trunk of your car. The tires are rubber and they shouldn’t hurt the paint and the bike doesn’t weigh a lot so it shouldn’t be able to dent the trunk. If the trunk lid is super soft and might dent, first put a towel down and then put a piece of wood like a piece of plywood on the trunk (not a whole sheet - just enough to fit beneath the trike's rear wheels). Then put the trike’s rear wheels on that piece of wood (the front wheel is facing forward, probably resting on the glass, or even roof). Now the wood will spread the weight and there’s no way the tires will be able to dent the trunk lid. So, you now have a towel down on the trunk lid, next the piece of wood. It just needs to be wide enough to go under both trike rear wheels. And then the trike is on top of the wood.

To hold the trike on, use stretch cords. Wrap them around the rear wheels (you want to wrap the wheels well to lock them as that will prevent the trike from moving), and then pull the cords to the edge of the trunk lid or under the wheel wells and attach the hooks there. If it's easier you can just tie or tape the wheels so they won't turn and then just attach the stretch cords from the trike to the car. You may have to get long stretch cords - and get good quality ones. The stretch cords will hold the rear of the trike on the trunk and keep it from moving left or right, while the tied/locked wheels will keep it from rolling front to back.

Now, to hold the front wheel of the trike that will be resting somewhere near the roof, you just run a rope or a long stretch cord across. Pass it beneath one window and then roll up the window to hold it in place. Or tie it to something in the car. Then where the rope or bungi meets the trike's front wheel, wrap it around the tire a few times. Then take the other end and pass it through the other window and tie it inside the car somewhere. (You can also tie or tape the front wheel to the trike's frame to lock it and keep it from turning like you did with the rears.)

Your trike will now be held securely on the back of your car. The only thing you need to be careful about is not driving under anything too low because you now have something tall on your car. Other than that this should work fine.

I hope this makes sense. Let me know if you have questions,

Have a nice trip,

Q: Jim - I have an older Norco & recently I changed the rear tire - since then, I've had issues with the rear wheel nut. I get the wheel in the right position but then when I tighten the nut to secure the wheel, it gets pushed out of line & then the wheel rubs. Any suggestions?


A: Yes, Deborah,
You need to outsmart that wheel :-) To do it, only snug one nut on one side. Then check to make sure the wheel is centered. When it is, snug the other nut. At that point the wheel will stay in place and you can fully tighten both nuts. But do it gradually, adding a little to one nut, checking that the wheel is still centered, then adding a little tightness to the other nut, checking, and so on, until both nuts are fully tight and the wheel is centered. What's causing your problem is trying to fully tighten one nut first. This can cause the axle to turn with the nut and the axle can move out of position changing the wheel position as you tighten the nut. Tightening the nuts as I explained will prevent this happening.

Give it a try,

Friday, August 21, 2009

Q&A: Colnago Book, Car Racks, New Old Brake Hoods

Q: Dear Jim,
I've been given your name from our local bookshop when I went enquiring about Colnago books. Our son David is a dedicated cyclist and a collector and restorer of Colnago bicycles. I would dearly love to get for him some catalogues from the 80's showing these frames. He is so good to me that I thought I would surprise him if I possibly can. Am I in the right direction sending you this message? If you have time, I would love to hear from you, (I'm not even sure where you are!)

Kind regards,
Pauline - Melbourne Australia

A: Nice to hear from you, Pauline. I'm actually in California so a long ways from you. Before I get into how to find Colnago books here's a link to an excellent Colnago page showing a selection of beautiful Colnagos. I'm sure David will like it.

For finding Colnago books and catalogs, I recommend searching on Just search on the words "Colnago book" or "Colnago catalog" I tried that recently and found 3 catalogs and a book listed here on USA ebay. You might find more on your local ebay. FYI: The photo here is of a promotional not-for-sale book from my library that Colnago published in 1986 - but there have been other books and catalogs and you'll surely find some if you hunt a bit.

You could also check your telephone directory for bicycle shops and call a few and ask them if they ever sold Colnagos. It's a possibility. If they didn't they might be kind enough to tell you a local shop that did and you could contact them and inquire whether they have any books, catalogs or posters they'd sell (some shops might even give some things away if they got them free as promotional materials).

Lastly, you could also contact Colnago, the company in Italy and ask them. That might sound crazy, but they're just a bike company, Italians are very friendly, and you might get somewhere for the cost of a long distance phone call. Here's a link to their site where you will find contact information.

Checking their site, I see that the Colnago distributor for Australia is in Sydney. You might also contact them. Here's the contact info:
3/595-615 PRINCES HWY, NSW 2044
Phone: 0061-2-95599011
Fax: 0061-2-95599088

Hope this helps you find an awesome Colnago gift for David!

Q: I am moving cross country and need to buy some type of bike rack for my car. I have a 2006 Toyota Rav 4. I have no idea which one to get. I've also been looking on, but just don't know. I want an affordable option and something that will be dependable with my new bike. Any thoughts?

Thank you!

A: Hi Kelly,
The tricky thing is that I think your car has a spare tire mounted to the back (I'm a bicycle expert, not a car expert ;-). If I'm right on that, I would recommend looking up the bike shops in your area in the phone book and asking them what rack they have that will fit your car. Or, you could visit the rack websites like or or and look for the link to the configurators or fit charts. For example, Thule's is called "Rack My Car" and is at the top of this page. The Saris rack finder is on this page (on the left). You just select your car, year, model and make, tell how you'll use the rack, and the online tool tells you which racks fit. You can also find a dealer in your area on the rack sites.

It should be pretty straightforward. Once you know which rack fits your car, you will be able to search for it on

I like simple racks that you can put on and take off and that fold up easily for storage. There might be one that attaches to your spare tire. Or maybe you have a hitch (receiver) under that car and if so, you can get a hitch rack. Those go on really fast and are super easy to use, so that would be a good way to go for easy on/off and easy bike mounting. The ones that hang on the back usually use straps and they take a little adjusting the first time you put them on, but after that it's almost as easy to put them on the car as it is a hitch rack, and strap racks are cheaper too.

I hope these tips help you find the perfect rack.

Q: Dear Jim,
I'll be putting Cane Creek replacement hoods on original non-aero Dia-Compe brakes/Schwinn Super Le Tour 12.2. Since the cables have to be fed through holes in the hoods, I would appreciate a recommended procedure for releasing the cables from the levers, or lever removal, pins, complete brake hood from bar, etc., and reassembly tips.

Thanks much if you can find time to respond before I attack this project in a clumsy manner and ruin something on my 32-year-old otherwise mint bike. The old gum rubber hoods have been removed and all metal parts are nice and clean already.
Hugh from Arizona

A: Hi Hugh,
You don't have to take anything apart. Just put those new hoods in a little cup of warm to hot water and let them "cook" a bit. They'll then slip right over the brake levers from the bottom nice and easy. Just slide them on gently. They're stretchy enough to do it dry, but the little bath will make them even more supple and slippery. An even faster method is to just breathe in them a few times. This slightly wets the insides and makes them slip over the levers. But, if you use the hot water, they'll be even less likely to rip even if you're a bit "clumsy." You could also use a harmless lube like isopropyl alcohol, which will make them slippery too. You'll just need to wait for it to dry for the levers to stick fast again.

In case you don't know how to detach the cables at the levers here's how: It's really easy. No wrenches or adjustments needed at all. Just remove the wheels and then squeeze the brake calipers fully closed (both brake pads should be touching). Then using something like a toe strap or a zip tie, "tie" the brakes so they stay like this.
This will create slack in the cable and all you have to do is push toward the levers with the cable and jiggle the lever a little bit to get the head of the cable to pop free of its holder inside the lever. There's a slot in the cable head holder for this purpose. Once you get it free the cable will lift right out of the lever. You can then slip on your rubber hoods and reverse the process with the brake cables to hook them back up.
With this approach no brake adjustment is needed at all. It should only take about 15 minutes to do the whole thing. Those old brakes were really nice to work on
Have fun getting that classic back on the road,

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Q&A: Bike Repair Schools, Bike Storage, Fixie Gearing, Scratched Carbon and more

Q: Hi, Jim. I'm in Kailua, Hawaii. I am a bike enthusiast and have been competing in time trials. I have always wanted to attend a bike mechanic course and understand some of the main schools are in Oregon and Colorado. I will be visiting my daughter in Santa Monica soon. For efficiency, I wanted to attend a course/school in the area, or maybe work in a great bike shop (as free adult supervised labor) to learn much more about bicycles. I would appreciate any suggestions.
Thank you,

A: Nice to hear from you, George. LA's a huge place so I think there's a good chance you can find some type of bike repair school there. What I would do is have your daughter call around to the shops in her general area and ask them if they're holding any bike repair clinics this summer. I bet if she calls 3 or 4 shops she'll either find out about a class a shop is offering or about one held at a local college.

Rec departments often hold them in the summers in big cities, too - and they're usually taught by local bicycle mechanics. I think since LA is so large that there's a good chance you'll find something like this. It will just take a little searching on the part of your daughter but I think just using the Yellow Pages and calling shops down there should do the trick.

Working in a bike shop - even for free - is something you can ask about, but I suspect most shops won't be interested due to laws that put them in jeopardy should they employ you and not pay you. If you'd like to learn more about the main bike repair schools, visit United Bicycle Institute and Barnett Bicycle Institute.

Q: Hi Jim,
I recently re-married to a wonderful non-cyclist mother of two. Of course, I immediately turned them all on to cycling! It worked so now the trouble is bike storage. I don't have a garage and my basement was remodeled into a family space so I lost my bike room and work area.

I need to build a place to store our bikes plus a workshop space. We currently have 11 bikes plus my 10 month old son's trailer. (I'm sure he'll have several bikes soon enough which will add to the quiver.) These developments have interested me in your Home Bicycle Workshop book. I'm sure it will address lots of areas but my main concern is bike storage. Does your book address things like ceiling height recommendations, wall vs. ceiling vs. floor vs. stands, etc?
Thanks in advance,

A: Yes, Steve, my book (photo) talks about storage solutions. You can read more about it and order your very own copy here, but I'm sure I don't address every possible situation. From what you wrote, it might make sens to line all your bikes up on one wall, hanging each by a single hook. You'd alternate bars up, bars down, and they

wouldn't take up much space except to poke out into the room as far as they are tall. You might want to add a wall "bumper" 2 x 4 for the tires (on the wheel that hangs lower) to bump onto so they don't mark the wall. Since studs don't run closely enough, you can use a long 2 x 4 to screw the bike hooks into as close as they can be placed to space your bikes right (just stand your bikes up side by side and measure to see what will work best). Then you can screw the 2 x 4 to the wall with lag bolts into the studs on the wall.

You need a fair amount of ceiling height to put them overhead, but if you have it, you could hang each bike by the wheels with 2 hooks and that's pretty easy if you have rafters overhead or joists to screw to. Don't put them any higher than you can reach, though, or you won't be able to get them down easy/fast,

Q: I have a 1994 Klein Attitude with a pressed in bottom bracket. My problem is that the spindle snapped. Can you help me find a replacement bottom bracket?

A: Thanks for the email, Steph. You probably don't need a whole new bottom bracket but just the bottom bracket spindle. You can get it from Phil Wood. You may have to have a shop order it for you as I'm not sure Phil sells direct to consumers. You may want the shop to install it too, so they can make sure it's right and regrease your bearings too.

Q: I managed to crash my road bike this weekend and amazingly did little damage appart from frustratingly scratching my deep section carbon tubular rims. The scratches are deep enough to be felt when braking on the wheels, as they are on the braking surface, but not so deep (I hope) to be serious in structural terms. I was planning to fill them (epoxy?) and then sand/polish them back down so they are flush with the braking surface. Can you give me any advice about how to approach this and what to use. It would be much appreciated.

A: You could try basic 5-minute epoxy, Ned, but it's messy to work with and thick enough that if it's only small scratches it might leave too thick a layer to easily stand down. A bigger issue is that epoxy usually softens with heat and braking causes heat. So it may not work very well to patch the braking surface. It's important to make sure the scratches aren't structural. You could tap on the rim with a quarter to see if it sounds different than a non-scratched part of the rim. If not, the rim's probably okay. I bet the scratches won't effect the braking much, and they'll smooth out as you brake, so you might just keep riding the rims and see if the braking issue goes away.
Good luck,

Q: I just purchased a Cannondale Capo singlespeed bicycle. I have been riding a Cannondale R500 road bike for years now, and really never ever switched out of the highest gear, so I figured I would simplify things. Upon purchasing the Capo I feel like a hamster spinning in an exercise wheel. The chainring and cog have way too low of a ratio for me to feel like I am doing anything. The crankset and cog give me a 42/17 gear.

The cranks only attach to the chainring in four places instead of five. Basically I want as large a chainring as possible, and as small a cog as possible, but I do not want to get rid of the cranks as I like the way they look and feel. What options do I have? I want my new bike to feel as comparable as possible to riding in high gear on my previous bike. Thanks for any help you can give me.

A: Hi Sebastian,
Since you just purchased your Cannondale, the best thing to do is to return to the bike shop where you bought it and tell them you want harder gearing. Because it's a new bike, they should be happy to switch out the gearing for you, and if you're lucky, at no cost to you. Also, since they carry that bike, they should have the chainring and cog to fit, or can order them.

You probably don't want to go to as high a gear as what's on the high end of a road bike. That would be a 53/12 usually, and that's a super hard gear. It would be hard to get going from stoplights and difficult to pedal up any real hill. So, what you might do is just change the rear cog to a 13 and try it. That'll give you a much harder gear and I bet you'll find you like it. That way you won't need to change the chainring.

If you have to pay for the parts, the rear cog will be inexpensive, but the chainring could cost a fair amount, so it's always better just to go with the cog if you can. You might want to have a selection of cogs so you can vary the gearing from time to time.

Keep in mind that putting on a smaller cog may mean shortening the chain, too. But, I would think since it's a new bike that the shop would be happy to do this for you for a small fee or for free.

Hope this helps and have fun on that great new bike!

Q: Hi Jim,
I have a TT bike with 650 x 21 tires/wheels. Will a standard inner tube, size 700C, fit these wheels?

A: Hi Jim,
You should use a 650c tube in those wheels/tires. If you were to get a flat tire while out on a ride or during a race, and not have the right size tube - or maybe you needed to borrow a 700c tube from someone riding with you - you can stuff it into the tire and use it to ride home on. But, the 700c tube is larger diameter and you'll need to fold it over a little to get it to fit in the tire. So, it's possible to use them, but it's not ideal. The tube adds weight, isn't as easy to install and doesn't install correctly with the fold in it. For every-ride use, I would stick with 650c tubes, which is the right size for that tire/wheel.

Hope this helps,

Q: Hi Jim,
I am a female cyclist, road bike, kinda new, a year or two. My computer is not displaying the cadence. I do not know were the sensor is or how to fix it. Can you help?

A: Hi Debi,
Bike computers usually pick up the cadence reading from a sensor that's attached to the crankarm (where the pedals are). There should be one on that and probably one on the frame too right near the crankarm. If you slightly adjust their positions you should get the cadence to show up again. Keep in mind that some computers have to be put into cadence mode before you see the cadence. In other words, you might have to press buttons on the computer before you see the cadence shown on the display.

Hope this helps you out,

Monday, May 4, 2009


Like A Visit To the NAHBS - But In A Book!

If you haven't heard of the NAHBS, it stands for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, a not-to-be-missed event that brings together the gifted artisans from around the world who build custom frames and bicycles. Ordinarily, you'd have to visit the framebuilders to view their work and learn about their philosphy of design and cycling background. But, this super show, gives you full access in one place, which is quite a treat.

A couple of years ago, the show was held in San Jose, California and I was there to see the phenomenal craftsmanship, innovation and beauty in person. Here are some photos. This year, however, the show was held in Indianapolis, which was too far away for me to attend. So I was delighted to discover this new book about framebuilders and their work called Custom Bicycles, A Passionate Pursuit by Christine Elliott and David Jablonka. Like attending the NAHBS, this hardcover, 240-page coffee-table book takes you into the workshops of 39 custom bike builders from the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, England and Australia.

Many of these builders are familiar to me, like Richard Sachs, Bruce Gordon, Jeff Jones, Bilenky Cycle Works, Cycles Alex Singer, Lynskey, Steve Potts Bicycles, Pegoretti and others. But there are new frames and faces too, like Atum22, Wolfhound Cycles and Crisp Titanium. And, all are lovingly depicted in 300 large color photographs that capture their wonderful work and spirit. It's truly like a bicycle show in a book. Plus, the focus of the writing is on what brought the builders to bicycles and what their design theories are, so you feel like you get to know each artist and understand the type of machine they'd build you.

I thoroughly enjoyed Custom Bicycles and recommend it highly. The only thing is that reading it is a lot like visiting the NAHBS. When you get done, you'll probably wonder how you're going to find the funds to buy all those dreambikes you now simply have to have. At least with the book, though, you can keep ogling the pages. I've been going back and forth between Columbine Cycle Works with their luscious lugwork, Richard Sachs' flawless finish work, Jeff Jones' delightful curving tubes and sweet head badge and Bruce Gordon's over-the-top custom components and accessories... I just need to win the lottery.

Custom Bicycles, A Passionate Pursuit is available online from Amazon for about $40.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wild And Wonderful Bicycles Of Old Video

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Here's the direct link just in case:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Q&A: Carbon touch-up, triple upgrade, how much chain lube

Q: Hi Jim, You can use the techniques described to remove bar logos too
I have a Bontrager X-Lite carbon handlebar that I want to sell, and I don’t know what I can use to polish it up. The bar’s scratched where the grips were, and I need to make it look shiny and pretty as much as I can! How would I go about that?


A: Good question, Staci. Since the handlebar is actually scratched, you're probably going to need to refresh the clear coat that was originally on there in the area that was scratched. (I'm not positive your bars had a clear coat, but most do.) An easy shortcut that might work is to just get some clear fingernail polish and take the brush and try painting the scratches just like you were doing your nails (if you do), and see if the scratches disappear. That sometimes works. It depends on the scratches but maybe you'll get lucky. If so you'll be done with your "repair" in a few minutes, plus drying time. This works as a way to touch up a paint chip on carbon frames or parts too. Just get the right color of fingernail polish for a paint finish (fingernail polish comes in an amazing assortment of colors and is often easier to find than regular touch-up paint... FYI, I even know someone who painted an entire frame with fingernail polish).

If this doesn't do the trick, it might be that the bars are scratched more. In general you want to be very careful with any carbon part that has scratches on it because carbon as a material is highly notch sensitive. This means that if you scratch it deep enough you create a weak point in the piece (a notch) that will usually result in the part breaking right at the scratch/notch.

The tricky part is figuring out what's a minor scratch and what's a real notch you need to be concerned about. You can usually do this with a good magnifying glass. A notch to be worried about looks like a break, or if you have a strong magnifying glass, it looks like a small Grand Canyon in your part where you can see down into the granular structure of your part (your handlebar). A scratch won't look like this. It will be a shallow indentation. Here are lots more tips on caring for carbon bicyles and components.

In most cases what you are describing from the grips on your bar will be scratches in the clear coat on your handlebars, not a real notch. But, I just wanted to make this real clear since you wouldn't want to sell anyone a handlebar and then have it break when they are riding. An example of a notch issue is when you overtighten levers on the bars, or if the levers are slightly loose and they move around on the bars and actually cut into the carbon fibers of the bar. That wouldn't be good.

For simple surface scratches in the clear coat the fix is relatively easy:
1. Get some fine wet-sanding emery cloth at a place like The Home Depot. 600 or 400 grit will work fine. You only need a few pieces.
2. Put the emery cloth in a pan of water to wet it.
3. Gently sand the bars until the scratches are removed. As you sand you will roughen the clear coat on there and you won't be able to see the scratch you're working to remove. To check how it's coming along, wipe the bar with a damp rag. This will show how you are doing removing the scratches. Stop sanding when the bar is nice and smooth and the scratches are gone. Keep in mind that I am assuming these are only surface scratches. It will take too much sanding to remove deep scratches and probably not worth the trouble since they will be covered with grips/levers anyway. I would just cover deeper scratches with the clear nail polish I mentions, but again, be sure they are only scratches, not structural damage.
4. Once the bars are nice and scratch-free, clean the sanded areas completely with something like rubbing alcohol that leaves them clean and residue free.
5. To finish the job, you next spray the bars with a clear coat of enamel. You can get this at Home Depot when you pick up the 400/600 wet/dry emery cloth. Get clear coat enamel. It can be a little hard to find. You don't want what's used on wood. You want an auto body clear coat enamel paint. It's best sprayed when it's warm out, about 70 degrees. One light coat will usually do it. It dries quick.

If you do all this right the bars will look brand new when you're done. One more thing: you want wet sandpaper and to sand when wet because you need to prevent any carbon dust from being created. You don't want to breathe carbon dust. Sanding with wet paper will prevent any issues.

Hope this helps! The photo with this show carbon dropped handlebars as an example, because I use the procedure outlined above to remove even large logos on bars like these and it works perfectly (sometimes the logos don't look right with a certain frame color or if you use a stem that's not that same brand).

PS: A reader named Bill offered these great suggestions, "A better way for the carbon scratches is to go to a motorcycle shop. Buy a tube of Scratch X. It is designed for helmet faceshields and windshields. It will polish out a surface scratch quickly and leave it as new. Also in auto paint stores, 3M makes a clear-coat polish that does the same thing." Thanks Mike!

Q: Hey Jim,
I have a blast reading and learning from your site. Thanks so much for all the great info! My wife has a Raleigh Venture 7-speed comfort bike. She wants more gears, but doesn't want to buy a new bike. I think she should, but she loves her red color that is no longer offered by Raleigh on the 2009's. I have been wondering if I can modify the bike to make it a 21 speed?. Is it as easy as adding a 3-speed shifter on the left handle, a front derailleur, triple crankset, and new chain? Or is there much more involved?

I'd like to do the job myself, but don't know what it will require beyond these components. I can run the shifter cable and install the shifter myself, but don't know how hard or easy it would be for the front derailleur or crankset. Thanks for any advice you have.


A: Thanks for the kind words, Michael. I appreciate it. Adding gears is usually possible, but it depends on a few things. I checked out the Venture online and from what I can tell, I believe you could install a triple crank, front derailleur and shifter and be good to go. You might or might not need a new chain. It will depend on how large a chainring is on the bike now compared to the size of the large one on the triple.

It's not a difficult job to make this upgrade but you need to figure out what to buy to make sure it all works properly. There are some dimensions to get right. So, the easiest thing might be to have your local friendly bike shop figure this out and buy the parts from them to ensure you get stuff that will work right. One issue you need to check is the cable path. I know you mentioned that you can do this, but you need a way to run the cable/housing from the new shifter to the front derailleur.

I can't tell from the photo online if the Venture is setup for that or if you'll have to come up with your own solution (clamps, zip ties, etc.) Sometimes the manufacturers include this, sometimes not. It's details like this that the shop could tell you about just by looking, and then get you what you need. Front derailleur clamp size and cable pull are other details, plus you'll want the correct bottom bracket for your frame and the triple crank you choose.

Something to think about is what you really gain by upgrading to a triple crankset. Right now the bike probably has 7 gears, some pretty easy ones, some pretty hard ones. Typically if you go to a triple you will end up with several easier and harder gears. If you knew that all your wife wanted was to make the bike easier to pedal, you could probably provide that by simply installing a larger cassette on the rear wheel. That would be a lot cheaper and easier than converting to a triple chainring setup and it would give her the gears she needed if all she really wants is easier pedaling gears.

Hope this helps and have fun dialing in the bike,

Q: Jim:
I wonder if you can help me. I have an old Mavic sew-up rim (probably 25 to 30 years old) that I would like to change over to a clincher. I don't know whether to buy a 700c rim or a 27 inch rim. It has 36 spokes if that makes any difference. Any thoughts?


A: Hi Bruce,
Sure! You should get a 700c rim. That is the same size as your sew-up rim. A 27-inch rim is actually larger diameter so your brake pads won't line up the same - they might not even brake anymore. As long as you go with a 700c, the "new" wheel will fit almost exactly the same as the old one. Also, it will be the same size as the other wheel on your bike - even more important probably ;-)

Hope this helps!

Q: Hello,
I have a question about my bicycle chain. I use my bike to ride to the train station and then I have to leave it there all day until I get back from work. This make it hard to keep clean. I initially had a big problem with black greasy buildup on my chain. I was told that my problem could be fixed by using silicon based lubricant, and only use one or two drops. I cleaned my chain and switched to this lubricant, and the greasy buildup problem went away. Unfortunately, now my chain is prone to rust.

I was told that the way to keep rust off the chain was to keep it “well lubricated.” I think this would then put me back in the first situation again with the greasy buildup. Is there some way out of this catch 22?


A: It sounds to me like you were using too much lube and then you switched to too little lube, Larry, hence the rust problem. You want to keep your chain fully lubed but not too lubed. The key is to clean it once so there's no grimy buildup and then lube each link (every link, all around the chain) with one drop each, of good quality bicycle chain lube suited to the conditions you ride in. Your local bike shop should be able to recommend a lube that's perfect for you or ask riding friends in your area what they use and check out their chains to see how they look too.

To apply, drip the lube on the links on the lower run of chain (beneath the chainstay) and do it while pedaling slowly backwards so the rear wheel is not spinning, or else the rear wheel will throw any lube that mistakenly gets on it across the room. After you lube the chain let it sit overnight so it soaks in and dries. Then wipe off the excess in the morning before riding.

Most people who ride every day for commuting or fun can ride for about 2 weeks before having to repeat the lubing process. But, you never want the chain squeaking or rusting. Those are signs of not enough lube and you'll want to relube. Greasy buildups are signs of overlubing so clean again and lube less. There's a learning curve to figuring this out and you have to find a lube that works. I use ProGold ProLink Chain lube, which is expensive but works nicely in our rather dry conditions here in Santa Cruz, California. I use it on my road bike that sees heavy use. And, I relube about every 2 weeks. I also take care to wipe the chain down before and after lubing to get any buildup off. That works well. You have to keep after it, lubing, cleaning, lubing some more, and so on, but it's pretty routine after awhile and your chain won't squeak or rust.

To a clean, smooth, quiet drivetrain,

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Q&A: Seatpost binder bolt torque, creaky seat, bent derailleur hanger

Q: I just overtightened a seatpost clamp and stripped the threads. I got a new one now. How much torque can I put on this clamp? I have a Thomson aluminum seatpost.


A: Hi Steve,
Unfortunately it's not easy to give you a torque and be sure that it's right for your frame, clamp and bolt. I wouldn't tighten it with a torque wrench unless I had the information from the company that made those parts. Instead, what I'd do is make sure the bolt is lubed with grease, and then tighten it carefully. It only needs to be tight enough to hold the seatpost from slipping. You tighten the bolt and then you test your seatpost tightness by grabbing the seat and trying to turn it to see if the post is tight yet. Overtightening is very common so go a little at a time until the seatpost is held fast. That's the best way to go about it. If you have a torque wrench you could then check to find out what torque you tightened it to and then use your torque wrench in the future since you have a number for your exact setup.

If you would like to investigate torque settings further, there is a good page on Park Tool's site here: In it they recommend 36
to 60 inch pounds of torque for seatpost binder bolts, but caution to use care. Also the seatpost bolt torque is marked as coming from Campagnolo, so it may not be correct for your frame, bolt and clamp.

Tightening carefully is the best way to go usually,

Q: Hi Jim,
I emailed you some time ago in relation to a creaking seat, which I've now managed to solve. FYI, It turns out the Fizik Arione saddle with Ti rails sits on a FSA Carbon K-Force seatpost had gathered dust under the aluminium cradle and was causing the creak. I stripped the seatpost and applied Silicon spray to the area, dried it completely and now presto, no noise.

In any case, Jim I'm emailing you since last week I fell off my bike onto tram lines here in Melbourne, Australia (we have plenty of them). It was a cold and miserable day and I got caught in the rain and my front wheel slipped on the wet track and down I went.

I took the bike to my mechanic. It is a carbon fibre Basso Laguna. The rear derailleur appears to be ok, though the mechanic mentioned that this had been the third time he had to straighten the rear dropout/hanger. He suggested I would need to get a new one, but I can't seem to find one here in Australia. The local distributor is away at the Taiwan bike show and not contactable. Any suggestions? Do you think after 3 alignments, the hanger would need replacing?


A: Happy to hear about your seat (thanks for sharing the tip), but sorry to hear about your crash, Tony. Glad you're okay. The mechanic who fixed the derailleur hanger should have a feel for how weak it is now. They get weaker with each alignment but as long as they stay stiff enough to hold the derailleur steady they will keep working. I would think you could keep
riding with it and in the meantime order a backup so that you can change it out when that comes in. The company I know that makes the best assortment is Wheels Manufacturing. Your bike shop should be able to order from them (they don't sell direct to consumers). You could also order them online at

I like to keep a backup on hand for my Cervelo and I'd recommend you get one to be safe should your bike start shifting poorly, a sign that the hanger is too soft and getting bent with every little bump.

Hope this helps,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Q&A: Indoor trainers, Cliff House tandem

Q: Hi Jim - I have an indoor trainer question that I always wanted to ask. How tight should you crank the roller against the tire? I think that I probably have it too tight.

A: That's a good question because it's easy to get it too loose or too tight and how you set it effects traction and tire wear. Ideally you want to get it just tight enough so that the roller doesn't lose traction when you pedal hard. If you get squeaking it's because it's not tight enough and the tire is slipping. (Be sure to first fully inflate your tire.)

Of course, whether it squeaks or not during pedaling depends on how hard you ride on your trainer. If you apply steady pressure on the pedals the roller usually won't slip even if it's not overly tight. But, if you're doing repeats (intervals) on the trainer, where you ride easy then accelerate hard, and repeat, you will need it tighter against the tire so it doesn't slip.

I usually make sure my tires are fully inflated, mount the bike on the trainer and then screw the roller against the tire (I ride a Kurt Kinetic Rock & Roll Trainer). I then grab the wheel and pull it up and down, and tighten the roller until there's no slipping at all. At this setting you'll have the traction needed without pressing the roller so tighly against the tire that you wear it out too soon.

Keep in mind that all trainers wear tires more quickly so I now use a special tire made only for trainer use, Continental's Home Trainer. It's made of a harder rubber designed to hold up to the trainer roller so that you can save your good tires for road riding (the Home Trainer is not for outdoor use). Some people simply install inexpensive tires on their bike for use on the trainer instead.

You didn't ask me about something else that's also important, and that's how tightly you mount your bike in the trainer. Most have adjustable mounts that hold the rear end of the bicycle off the ground by clamping the rear wheel quick release. It's important not to set this clamp too tight too. The way to get it right is to check how easily the wheel spins once you've mounted your bike in the trainer but before you've tightened the roller against the tire. Just give the wheel a push and make sure it spins freely. If it moves 1/2 turn and stops, it's probably because you have your bike clamped in the trainer too tightly.

It's pretty easy on most of them to set the clamp so that it puts so much pressure on your bike that it actually tightens the hub bearings on your rear wheel. That will make it harder to pedal and it can also cause bearing damage, so check for that and fine-tune your trainer clamp until it holds the bicycle securely but doesn't compress the bearings.

Lastly, people sometimes ask me if trainers can hurt bicycles. They worry that the bike is held in such a way that you might put forces on the bike on the trainer that could weaken or damage the frame or parts. It's a good question because there are all kinds of different trainer designs, but I've never seen one that could hurt your bike as long as you follow the instructions and mount your bike correctly. As I mentioned, you can wear tires more quickly and put too much pressure on the rear wheel bearings, but the frame and components aren't at risk from the trainer. You should take one precaution, though. Be sure to drape a towel over your bike if you're riding hard enough to start sweating because that can drip on your frame and components and over time, damage things via corrosion.

To great indoor rides!

Q: Hi Jim,

I maintain a website about the famous Cliff House and I found a bicycle photo I was wondering if you could help me with. I'm curious what's with the double handlebar? FYI: This photo was definitely taken between 1896 and 1907 (based on the building).

Thanks for any help you can provide. I'll add it to the photo.

A: Cool photo, Gary. There are 2 handlebars on that bike because it's a tandem bike, a bicycle built for two. It's hard to see because it blends in with the man's clothes, but there's also a second seat on the bike. So, I would call that a circa 1900 men's tandem bicycles. One of the interesting features of tandems of this era is that they are steered by the person in back.
Today's tandem bikes are almost always steered from the front. To steer it from the back, the one in your photo has a linkage that lets the rear handlebars move the front wheel. You can see the linkage bar on the side of the frame. The person in front just goes along for the ride as the person in back steers. The people that rode this tandem had to be pretty darn fit because it only has one sprocket on the back and it's pretty small meaning a hard-to-pedal gear, especially if they were to have to ride up any of San Francisco's steep hills.
Those are a few notes that I hope are helpful. I'm afraid I can't see anything on the bike that tips me off to the brand or model. I would say that the man is dressed very nicely in cycling knickers, knee socks, leather shoes, gloves and a tidy cap. He appears to have the latest cycling fashions and may have been fairly well-to-do since the tandem and the cycling gear was expensive even in 1900, and a way to show off your stature in society. I suspect he was riding with another man, though, not a woman, since the front of the bike is a man's frame. If he was with a woman, the front of the bike would have had a sloping frame for the woman to get on and off easily.

If anyone sees this and can identify the make of the bike I'll keep you posted,

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Q&A: Broken spokes on the road, 3-sp shifter, brake pads for wet weather

FiberFix emergency bicycle spoke
Q: Jim - good morning. I recently broke a non drive-side spoke on my Shimano Dura-Ace rear wheel on a ride. I was wondering if you had a source for replacement spokes and any advice on dealing with this when you're out on a ride. I had to call home for a ride since the wheel was too warped to straighten with the spoke missing.

Thank you

A: Hi Chris,
With all the low spoke-count wheels on the road today, broken spokes are more of a problem. When we had 32 spokes on most wheels you could break a spoke and still get home because there were enough other spokes to keep the wheel from coming too far out of true. As you discovered with your wheel, today's aero hoops go a lot more out of true when a spoke breaks and it can make the wheel wobble so badly it hits the frame rendering your bicycle unrideable, meaning you have to call for help.

I often ride with friends and we're all on modern low spoke-count wheels so I try to always carry a repair spoke called a FiberFix (photo). It's essentially a super-strong little aramid-fiber "cable" and end, that fits almost all wheels and takes the place of the broken spoke, allowing you to retension the wheel and keep riding. You can learn all about the FiberFix spoke and order one at Peter White's great site.

If you don't have something like this on a ride, you can sometimes temporarily fix a broken spoke if you're lucky. It depends on how/where the spoke broke, but if you can tie the ends of the spoke together by bending them and joining them with a piece of wire/string/zip tie (from your repair kit or found beside the road), or whatever you have handy, you might be able to get the wheel true enough to at least keep riding on it.

Now, on getting a replacement spoke, I'd recommend buying several so you have backups next time. You could try your local bike shop. Or, if they don't have them and your Shimano wheels are new, you might start by calling Shimano's tech line, telling them what happened and asking them if they could get you spokes 949.951.5003. The spokes aren't supposed to break and I think they'll be eager to get you setup with a replacements if you have new Dura-Ace wheels. You can tell them you already went to local bike shops and they didn't have the spokes.

Or, if your local bike shop has Shimano Dura-Ace wheels for sale, you could try asking them if they'd be willing to rob a spoke for you. If they're the shop where you bought the wheel that's not too much to ask and it's no big deal to remove and replace one spoke.

I don't know if they carry the DA spokes, but I've also had good luck with when I need specialty parts not available locally. You can call them at 800.627.6664.

Another workaround if you need it that might work is to see if a regular spoke can be put in for now. The first thing would be to unscrew the DA spoke at the rim and see if a basic DT spoke will thread into the DA nipple in the rim. If it does, you can try this: Find a shop with a Phil Wood spoke tool - a professional tool some shops have that puts perfect threads on spokes. If you can find one, they should be able to use it to make you a spoke that will work temporarily. The DA spokes are threaded on both ends. So they can take the tool and take a nice DT spoke and cut the head off and thread that end, too. This way you'll have a spoke threaded on both ends that should fit the nipples on your DA wheel. (Of course, this assumes that the nipples didn't break.)

One of these ideas should get you going. Good luck!

Q: My friend has a cool old Japanese 3-speed bicycle missing the trigger shifter. Will an old Sturmey-Archer trigger shifter work, or is the cable pull different?

Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub and shifter from 1959A: The answer to your question depends on what type of 3-speed hub you have on that Japanese bike. The easiest way to tell is to look at the way the shift cable connects. If it's connected to a little threaded rod with small chain links on it (what Sturmey called the indicator - see photo), you should have a Japanese clone of a Sturmey-Archer hub and I believe a Sturmey trigger will work. The cable will have the correct end at the handlebar, too (long, cylindrical) to fit in the Sturmey trigger and the trigger should pull the right amount of cable with each click.

But, if you see what's referred to as a "toggle" mechanism attached to the rear axle, a small knuckle-like metal apparatus that the cable attaches to, the handlebar end of the cable will not work in the Sturmey shifter, so you'll need to search for a Shimano-type shifter.
Hope this helps,

Q: Hello Jim – I commute to work via bike several times a week. As you are aware on a road bike when it rains or on wet pavement the brakes will slow but not stop. Is it possible or advisable to use the longer mountain bike brake pads? I have Shimano 105 brakes, 9 speed drivetrain w/ triple, 700x25 tires, Mavic rims.


A: Hi David,
I wouldn't recommending going to longer/larger pads, as they usually won't fit very well with the tighter clearance on road bikes. Instead, I would try some brake pads made for wet weather as they are designed to grip better when it's rainy. You might try Kool Stop pads and see if they don't work a lot better than what you have.

A lot of bike shops carry these pads, so you might be able to find them locally with a few phone calls. And, they'll slip right into your brake pad holders. You want the pads that fit your Shimano 105 brakes and the models made for wet weather.

Be sure to clean your rims regularly when you ride in the rain a lot, too, as the crud and grime from the wet roads can leave a residue on the rims that reduces friction. Simple rubbing alcohol works great. Just wet a rag with it and wipe the rims completely on both sides and that'll keep the rims nice and grippy.

To better rainy-day braking,

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Q&A: Torque Wrenches, tires sizes and sources

Q: Jim,
Just got a new Giant racing bicycle (love it) and have been out on a maiden voyage. The frameset and many of the components are made of carbon and I am concerned about getting the torques right as I make adjustments and repairs. Do you recommend a bike-specific torque wrench (Park has one in the $40 range), or can I just go pick one up at Sears and get the same thing?


A: Good question, Chris. Yes, I definitely recommend a torque wrench for caring for carbon bicycles and carbon components. These bikes and parts have a different feel than steel and aluminum ones and the only way to get the tightness right is by reading the instructions or looking on the components to find the recommended torque (often written on the parts), and using a torque wrench to get the bolts just tight enough.

Also, in my experience with these super bikes, things tend to loosen more and need regular checking. Anytime you're installing a new part or making adjustments, getting the torque right will ensure you never break or damage anything, which can save you a lot of money when you consider how expensive most carbon bikes and parts are.

I have 2 Park torque wrenches, like them and recommend them. The ones I have are bar-type wrenches that have an indicator needle that points at a little scale on the tool as you torque the bolt (photo). Park also shows a new click-type tool on their site that they say will be available in April. Click-type wrenches are set to the torque you require and when you're tightening the bolt, the wrench makes a click you can hear and feel when the bolt is tightened right so you can't overtighten it.

While you can get torque wrenches from places like Sears and The Home Depot and Harbor Freight, etc., I recommend bike-specific ones because most general torque wrenches are made for car work so they often provide a ton of leverage with long handles. That's not ideal for bike use where you often have to reach into small places and where you don't ever want to overtighten or break things with too much power. So, I would look for one that's not too big and that measures in inch pounds and Newton meters since bike parts are usually marked that way. The Park models do this and work fine.
Another wrench you might like is the Giustaforza, a $150 Italian bicycle-specific model that I reviewed a while bike and now keep in my toolbox because it's so handy. Here's a link where you can order it. Another one that's very low tech but does work for most stem/bars with basic 4mm bolts is Ritchey's Torque Key. It's preset and only does 5 Newton meters but that's right for most bolts and most Ritchey stuff. It only has the 4mm Allen bit, though, so it's not that versatile, but if you have only, or mostly 4mm Allen bolts it could work. It's $20 and is a click-type tool small enough to take anywhere.

If you're interested in reading many more tips about caring for carbon bicycles and components, visit this link,

To proper torquing,
Q: Hi Jim,
I need to change the tyre of my bike and I'd like to order it online. I'll be able to fit it myself but I'm not sure which size is the right one. If I read the number on the old front tyre it says 700 x 38c. This is a normal tyre, while at the back I have an anti-puncture Schwalbe tyre, and the size on it is 700 x 32c. So now I'm confused. Which size should I get: 700 x 38c or 700 x 32c? And, where can I buy it online?

Hope you can help,

A: Hi Antonell,
Your tire sizes of 700 x 38c and 700 x 32c mean that they are both the same diameter (700c) but that one is 38mm wide and the other is 32mm wide. In other words, you have one tire wider than the other tire.

It's actually up to you how wide you want your tires to be. You can choose whatever width you want as long as it's a 700c tire and as long as it's not so wide that it rubs against your frame. Common 700c tire widths (different brands and models of tires come in different widths) include 23mm, 25mm, 28mm, 32mm, and sometimes 38mm and wider.

Typically, you would use a wider tire to get a softer, more comfortable ride and some additional flat tire protection, and you would use a narrower tire to get more performance and to save some weight. It's really just up to how you want your bicycle to ride. If you ride off road the wider tires are good for more traction, too.

Now, for a good source for bike tires you can try BikeTiresDirect. They often have good specials.

Have fun!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Q&A: Frozen carbon seatpost, front derailleur trouble, new helmet?

Q: Hope you can help, Jim. The local bike shop cannot remove the Campagnolo carbon seatpost from my Litespeed. They have lubed it and heated the seat tube of the frame and still can't budge it. Any suggestions?


A: It'll sound a little strange, Ed, but you can try removing the crankset and bottom bracket from the frame. Then tip the bike upside down and pour some Coke (yes, the drink), down the seat tube of the frame with a funnel to get plenty in there. Now leave your bike upside down with the Coke in there and wait a few days and if you're really lucky, the Coke will penetrate and break the corrosion that has bonded the seatpost to your frame. You can tap on the frame and the seatpost with a rubber mallet (don't damage anything) to vibrate the parts and get the Coke to work its way in between. You can also try ammonia but Coke is safer to handle.

If that doesn't work, you could try freezing the seat tube of the frame with some dry ice, which might do it, too. And, I'm sure you already know that you can cut the post out, too, though that's a pain that takes a bit of work and time. You would cut off the top of the post and then either machine the seatpost out with a bit the same diameter as the post, or you would cut the post with a hacksaw that fits inside the post by making vertical cuts around it until you can break out slices of the post and eventually get the whole thing out. A lot of work, but doable. Wear a good face mask, though. You don't want to breathe carbon dust.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that the Coke trick works for you,

Q: Jim - When shifting from the big ring to the small ring on my triathlon bike (Felt B2) the chain will sometimes drop off the big chainring but not engage the small chainring. It will stay up against the side of the big ring and I can spin the cranks freely like I've shifted into neutral! The motor (me) is disengaged from the transmission and there is no power to the rear wheel. It's very frustrating and when it happens I've got to shift back to the big ring and try again (as I start uphill, or fall off my rollers!).

The front derailleur is a Shimano Dura-Ace, the chain is a Shimano Ultegra 10 speed and the crankset and rings are FSA SLK 53/39. The shifting is friction, not indexed. If an agressive shift is used to throw the chain over farther, faster, the chain may drop (off the inside ring). I've always heard that double front chainrings are simpler and more trouble free than triple, but I never had problems with my road bike (triple) like I've had with this. I've been told to ease up on the pedals to reduce chain tension, (but that's not always gonna happen) Can this be fixed?

Thanks in advance,

Front derailleur adjustment is tricky A: Thanks for writing, Aaron. It's essential to ease up on front shifts so that would be the first thing to try. You should always take all pressure off the pedals when shifting the front derailleur. Any other shifting technique is asking for trouble. The jumps between rings are just too big and the power you can put on the chain and rings is just too extreme. Keep in mind that when you push on the pedals the chain becomes a solid steel bar and it does NOT want to move sideways. It's only when you take all the pressure off that the chain gets flexible and has the sideways lateral play to shift smoothly from ring to ring. Experienced racers know this and even in the heat of a race, if they're smart, they will baby the front shifts to ensure no problems. Doing anything else is risking losing the race.

Having said all that, front derailleurs are among the most difficult parts to adjust on a bicycle and even pro mechanics have trouble with it. You might find that if you bring your bike to an expert mechanic they can solve the problem by fine-tuning the front derailleur (a common mistake is incorrect positioning on the frame - see diagram). Be sure to explain to them the problems you're having and also insist that they take a real test ride to experience the shifting on the road, not just on the repair stand. If they balk at this request, or seem disinterested, find a shop that really wants to figure out the problem and help you out. And, even if they're super nice and helpful, if they can't fix the problem, you should consider trying another mechanic to see if he/she has more experience with front derailleurs. (They seem simple, but they're anything but.)

One more thing to check is your cable. If it's sticky (like would happen if energy drink dripped on the frame and got on the cable or the cable guides), that will make the derailleur shift slowly or even not at all. Cleaning and lubing the cable is easy and might also solve the problem if you have a sticky cable. It could be worn or rusty, too. If so, replace it.

The whole thing could very well be your shifting technique, though, so you should try shifting with finesse and seeing if that solves the problem right away. It might. Good luck!


Q: Howdy Jim,
The foam pads on my Giro Transit II (mfg. date March 04) helmet have become so stinky that when sweat drips down over them onto my face, I can hardly stand it. I live in Santa Cruz, CA, not too far from Bell Sports, the company that makes Giro helmets, so I called them about replacement pads and they told me they are unavailable. Furthermore, they told me that the helmet should be replaced every 3 years anyway, because the material breaks down and is no longer safe. This is nuts! Is it not possible to design a good helmet that will last longer than 3 years? I'm sure thousands of years from now, Giro/Bell will be well-represented and studied by archaeologists digging through the mountainous middens of debris created by our throwaway culture. Any thoughts on the short life-cycle of the bicycle helmet?


A: Thanks for the great questions, David. Here's what I'd do: take your helmet on down to the great folks at the Spokesman in Santa Cruz and ask if by chance they can break out their replacement pads box and see if they have any old pads you can put in your helmet. That's what I did not too long ago on my 4-year-old Giro and they had just what I needed - the exactly right pads. I think the pads cost me about $5, a lot less than a helmet.

And, yes, the helmet companies say you have to replace the helmets for max safety, but most riders don't... especially with the escalating cost of the fancier helmets. Maybe in the worst accident you'd be at more risk, but I haven't seen any scientific proof of this. It sounds logical because the impact material in the helmets is polystyrene foam that protects less over time supposedly, but I don't really know if it's true. If you'd like to learn a lot more about helmets and possibly the facts on how long they will protect you you might visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute a good online resource.

I think the Spokesman will be able to help you out.

Friday, January 16, 2009

NEWSWIRE: ToC Blog, Book Reviewed, Lube contin.

Cruzio Tour of California blog
You may already know that the Tour of California, the most important race in America, commences in Sacramento on February 14 and will race right into my home town of Santa Cruz on the 16th. This is a huge deal for us and we're all working to promote the race and make it a success so it comes back again. For my part, I've begun blogging about the race for local Internet provider and I wanted to give you the link so you can follow along (screenshot above). I'll take a local perspective on the race and keep it fun. Let me know if there's anything you'd like me to cover...............In other blog news of a commercial nature, I was delighted to see that top NorCal racer Michael Hernandez who blogs for the NorCalCyclingNews has some great things to say about my Your Home Bicycle Workshop book. I wanted to share his kind words (scroll a bit) and use this space to thank him, too. Appreciate the support, Michael...............Also, a reader added a great tip you might want to try in my post about chain lubing. He suggests simply using car wax to lube your chain. Scroll to the lube post and read the comments to get the whole story, and post your comments if you try it to let us know how you like it.
Have a nice cycling weekend!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wax-based chain lubes?

Question 1: I know that paraffin wax is often used on some metal surfaces such as drill bits and saw blades to keep them sharp and to prevent corrosion. I talked with a beekeeper and I was told that beeswax is actually best for these purposes. I have heard that some chain lubes contain some wax, is this true? How can this wax retain its liquid properties? I also heard that some people dip their bike chains in wax. Does this help? I cleaned my chain thoroughly and applied a stick of beeswax to it as I rotated the chain. I also applied wax to my cogs. Should I also apply some oil to my chain or is the beeswax alone sufficient?

Appreciate it,

Q 2: Jim - As a general rule, things are pretty dry out here where I ride in Denver, so I don’t need an extreme lube. I also like to keep my drivetrain pretty clean. Thus, I like some of the wax-based lubes. I really like how clean White Lightning is, but it dries out and begins chirping like after two rides. I just tried another dry lube by SRAM, and it held up a little longer, but it seems to attract gunk more like a wet lube. What’s your favorite lube?


A: Good questions, guys. Whether or not a wax-based bicycle lube, or basic paraffin will work as a bicycle chain lube depends mostly on where and how you ride. Wax is best for relatively dry, clean climates and on bikes that aren't ridden in the rain or wet.

White Lightning wax lubeIf those are your conditions, Joe, an easy way to try a bicycle chain wax and see if you like it is to get some White Lightning Clean Ride, which is a popular self-cleaning wax lube. It's self-cleaning because you apply it to your chain and let it dry overnight. The next morning the chain is dry and as you ride, the wax build-up on the chain chips off in small flakes (don't worry, there's still wax on there lubing the drivetrain). As you apply more wax when you need it and keep riding, any old grime on your chain chips off until you're left with an almost white chain that's completely lubricated with the Clean Ride wax lube. You can also lubricate your cassette cogs with it.

I live in Santa Cruz, California where it is dry most of the year and I've used White Lightning on bikes I only ride on dry days and it works just fine. You should give it a try if you live in a dry area and don't get caught in the rain often, and see how it works for you.

You mentioned beeswax. I haven't tried that as a chain lube, but there are cyclists who believe you should use paraffin from the grocery store. They heat the paraffin to melt it and put the chain in the hot paraffin until it gets hot, too. That causes the paraffin to penetrate the chain nicely and get enough lube on and in it. They then remove the chain so the excess wax drips off, the rest dries on the chain, and they install the chain on the bike. A wax job like this could give you a month's worth of lube if you stay out of the rain and dirt. But, it is easiest if you have a connecting "master" link on your chain like the Wipperman Connex link . If not, you'll need to push out a pin and use a replacement pin each time you remove your chain to give it the hot wax treatment. That's not really recommended since every time the chain comes apart you need another new pin and you can damage links if you're not good with your chain tool.

You can certainly try rubbing the paraffin or your beeswax on the chain and cogs, but that will only get a light layer on the outside surfaces. You need to lube the inside too, where the links and rollers wear on each other. That's why you heat the chain and wax to get it to flow inside and all over, too.

You don't have to heat the chain to lube it with White Lightning because it has a carrier in it that keeps the wax liquid enough to penetrate the chain as is.

So, ultimately, if you're interested in waxing your chain, you should give White Lightning a try because it's easy to use and effective. I think you'll like it - as long as you don't live where you have to ride in the rain a lot.

If, like Paul, though, you discover that the wax lubes you try leave your chain squeaking in short order, I recommend another lube. I actually used White Lightning for a long time back in the mid 1990s but eventually got tired of the chirping when it ran out while I was on rides.
ProLink lube
So, now I use Pro Gold ProLink. I've had good luck with it. To apply, you put a drop on each link at night, then wipe off the excess in the morning and you should get about 2 weeks out of it before you need to apply more. (Depending on how often you ride and your riding conditions, of course.)

The ProLink isn't perfect. You still have to clean your chain once in awhile, but I just do it by applying some more lube and wiping the chain and rings down well. As long as you keep it wiped clean like this and don't put on too much, it should work great for you, preventing squeaking, providing a nice, smooth ride and ensuring your chain, cogs and chainrings last as long as possible. I learned about Pro Gold from Uncle Al at He swears by it and he rides in Montrose, Colorado.

There are other great lubes available from a variety of makers like Pedro's or Finish Line, so if wax or ProLink isn't right for you, check with your riding buddies and see what they like or visit your local bicycle shop and ask what they recommend, too. Sometimes it takes a little experimentation to find a lube you love.