Saturday, March 13, 2010

Q&A: Brake hoods, if it ain't busted, broken spokes, pain x 2

Eeew, gummi bear hoodsQ: Thought this might be a good question for your blog, Jim. I’m sure you’ve come across this plenty over the years. I just picked up a nice barn-fresh Miyata 210 that I have put back into commuter service. Bike needed nothing but air in the tires and a little bit of lube here and there to get it back on the road, and it of course still needs a bath… my question is about the gum hoods on the brake levers – they’ve melted and bubbled up over the years, and now have the consistency of gummi bears. What is the best method of removing the old gum so I can get some shiny new ones on there?


A: That Miyata is a nice find, Campbell. I’m glad it’s found an owner who’s going to breathe new life into it and use it. Miyatas are sweet bikes that ride great. I sold a lot of those in the eighties. On your hoods, you might be able to slice a cut in one side and then peel them off carefully in one piece. If they fall apart and pieces remain stuck all over the lever bodies, try a benign solvent like isopropyl alcohol. If you wet the hoods being sure to get it beneath as much as possible - and wait a little bit, they should loosen letting you pick them off piece by piece.

You could also try WD-40 which has solvent in it. You’ll just want to clean the levers afterward so the new hoods don’t slip around. You could also get the hood bits off with a wire brush. The levers are aluminum so you’ll scratch them with the wire bristles but it won’t hurt them and you won’t see it when the new hoods are on.

For new hoods, you need to find a shop that has them in stock or you’ll need to ask them to order them. It may be tricky to impossible to find an exact fit, but the distributor named QBP has part #BR1181, which is a pair of Dia-Compe Cane Creek Standard Non-Aero Hoods in Brown and they look right for your levers. They should sell for about $10 per pair. Since this distributor has them, you might search online to see if someone sells them online. Or you might be able to call Cane Creek and ask them for a local shop that has them in stock.

They also come in black, and the black ones sometimes last longer than the brown (gum) ones, and may never get as bad as these did.

Note that for modern hoods, replacements are usually readily available. And, a tip to make new hood installation easy is to soak them in warm water for a few minutes so they'll be more compliant and slip right up and over the lever and onto the brake lever hood. If you can't find the hoods you need or want something unusual like a custom color, try Hudz hoods.

Enjoy that nice Miyata,

Q: Hi Jim,
I follow you on and appreciate all your information for roadies. I am 55 years old and put 2,000 miles on in the summer here in eastern Wisconsin. In 2007 I bought a custom made ID8 from Seven with Shimano Dura-Ace components. I have 4,000 miles on the bike. When I spin the crank, front and back wheels, the smooth sound is just like when I bought it. I am meticulous when it come to cleaning the chain and such. Should I have the bearings and crank in for routine maintenance even though the bearings run smooth? If it isn't broke should I fix it?


A: It's hard for me to know whether anything is worn out or not from what you wrote, Rick, but after 4,000 miles and 3 years of use, it would be smart to at least check things. A bike shop mechanic would probably be happy to take a look and let you know. It'll only take about 5 minutes and estimates like this are usually free if you don't choose or need to have any work done.

After 3 years of use and 4,000 miles you'd expect that you might need new tires, brake pads, perhaps a cable and maybe a chain and cassette. But, if someone really is meticulous and keeps the parts super clean and doesn't abuse the bike or ride in the rain, these parts can last a long time and may not need to be replaced yet.

Measuring chain wearYou didn't say whether you had replaced the chain. But, if you're still on the original chain, one quick way you can gauge wear and tear is to measure the chain. If it's in good shape you'll be able to measure exactly 12 inches between 2 pins. If you do this and get 1 1/8 inches or longer, it tells you that you've worn out the chain and that's a sign that you might need other parts equally worn replaced.

Note that the sealed bottom bracket bearing assembly can last a long time. If the crankset still spins smoothly with a slight hydraulic resistance it's probably still fine. One more thing - if you are in the flat part of Wisconsin and don't climb steep hills much, that reduces the wear and tear on a bicycle too.

Hope these tips are helpful and thanks for your kind words about my writing on RBR. I appreciate it,


Q: Jim - I ride a Fuji Absolute 4.0, Jim, and am constantly breaking spokes and retruing wheels, especially the rear. I have taken it to two different shops and they both said there are no mechanical defects. I am very careful about bumps, terrain, RR tracks, etc. I have heard that certain rims are rated to handle specific loads but the shops do not agree. I am 6'2"/225lbs. The rims are Alex ID 19.

Any ideas on why the spokes are breaking and the best fix?

A: Hi Kent,
Yes. When you break spokes, the issue is almost always bad spokes. I would recommend having the spokes replaced with quality spokes. My favorite are DT 14-gauge stainless steel spokes. You’ll want to find a shop that has a good wheelbuilder and just have him rebuild your wheel with these spokes. Phil Wood and Wheelsmith also make quality stainless steel spokes, but go with one of these types, and I prefer DT (from Switzerland) just because I've been using them the longest.

The other way to deal with broken spokes is to fix the spokes one at a time as they break, replacing them one by one with the DT stainless spokes. That will work too, but it will mean that you keep breaking spokes. So, you will keep having to bring the bike in, or learn to fix the spokes yourself and carry some spokes on longer rides so you can fix one if it breaks. It’s pretty easy to do it if you have the tools to remove the cassette so that you can put in the new spoke.

Here's a tip that makes it so easy you can almost do it blindfolded: Once you have the broken spoke out and the new spoke in, to true and tension the wheel, just tighten the spoke nipple and pluck the spoke to listen to the sound it makes. When it makes the same pitch of ping when you pluck it as the spokes next to it make (on the same side of the wheel), the rim will be reasonably true and tensioned and the wheel ready to ride on.

Happy wheel truing,

Q: My name is Kraig and having started riding 3 1/2 years ago I am having some mid-upper back problems after cycling. I found your website through a friend and saw your email address and thought I'd drop a line to see if you had any suggestions. I am riding a Specialized Tarmac that was fit by my LBS (Specialized dealer). I experience no discomfort while riding but usually later in the day or more often the next day I notice my mid-upper back is stiff and my rear right calf has discomfort. I have seen a sports med Dr and he said the calf issue is related to the back. Without having fit me do you have any suggestions?


A: Nice to E-meet you, Kraig. Why don’t you start by taking a look at these two articles on my site. They are designed to make it relatively easy for anyone to fit themselves on a bike or find basic fit problems:

This article is a step-by-step bike fit. By reading the steps you should get a feel for whether you got a good fit or some steps might have been missed. This article is more basic. It’s problems and solutions for bike fitting.

In my experience, mid back issues after cycling can be because the distance between your seat and your handlebars is too close. This will cause you to crunch, or bend too much, sort of putting a kink in your back. Ideally when cycling you will have a nice, straight, relaxed back, no curvature except what’s natural for your back.

So, the fix might be as simple as getting a longer stem that lets you stretch your back out to its natural position.

One no-cost way to test this theory is to put your bike on a trainer and then ride with your hands way out on the brake hoods as if they were the handlebars. If this feels more comfortable it’s an indication that your bars may be too close because of too short a stem.

That’s just one idea, but it is a common cause of middle/top-of-the-back pain. Check out my bike fit articles and think about this and let me know what you find and I’m happy to suggest other things as needed.

Hope this helps get you riding pain-free!

Q: Hello Jim,
I ride a Specialized Roubaix road bike and have a problem. No matter how I adjust my saddle, fore/aft, height, tilt, I always seem to get skin irritations in the perineum area after about 20 miles. Even when I change saddles (Fizik Aliante, Selle Italia Prolink Gel Flow) I still have the same problem. However, the redness and discomfort spots are only on the left side of my body.

I recently had my chiropractor measure my legs and found my left is 1/8-inch shorter than the right. Would saddle rotation from center correct the problem and if so which direction should I turn the saddle nose and how much?

I don't use a chamois cream but have thought about Bag Balm but am afraid that it won't wash out of the chamois with machine washing. Do you have any other suggestions to correct the problem? I'd prefer to fit on the bike correctly rather than use a cream to cover up an existing problem. I have been professionally fitted, explained the problem, but never received advice that corrected it.


A: Since it’s the one thing you haven’t tried, Richard, I would recommend trying the chamois lubes like Chamois Butt'r. Many road riders swear by it and apply it before every ride. Many won’t ride an inch without it, too. And, I’m talking about regular century riders and even pro racers. It washes out of the chamois, but it’s antibacterial and usually made to soften and preserve the chamois, not harm it in any way.

I would try that and see if it solves your problem. You are riding a really nice bike, and nice seats, so I don’t think the problem is equipment based. Sometimes the shorts are the culprit but I assume you’ve tried quality shorts and had the same issue. If not, try a premier brand like Capo. They’re way expensive, but it’s like sitting on a cloud.

I wouldn’t worry about leg-length discrepancy unless it was a lot more than 1/8 inch. Your body can easily adapt for small differences and 1/8 inch is nothing to worry about in my experience. If you were an inch off, it might make sense to experiment. One very quick check is to look and see if your seat is wearing away on one side and like new on the other. That’s a classic sign of one leg reaching while the other leg is bending. But, I’ll be surprised if you have this issue with one leg just slightly different. I’ve been told that almost everyone has some discrepancy.

Here, also, is a link to a page on the website, for which I also write. This page has a bunch of proven solutions for saddle sores that might help you too:

I hope the lube solves the problem,

1 comment:

Ray said...

I'm a fan of Udderly Smooth
Chamois Butter partly because it is more affordable and partly because I love the lanolin-based hand cream.