Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Be a Bicycle Vampire Hunter this Halloween

Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of the season, and with all due respect to Roman Polanski’s classic 1967 spoof The Fearless Vampire Killers, I'm sharing some simple tips to help you hunt for, find and terminate your bicycle vampires.


Unlike the fanged variety, two-wheel ghouls constantly suck your energy by making your bicycle harder to pedal. And like Dracula, they’re apt to appear at any time and can be hard to find. In fact, it’s rare that cyclists ever notice a vampire while riding or even rolling their bike.

To help, here’s an easy and fun 4-step check to perform about every 90 days during riding season (or a few days before any major ride or event; which gives you time to mend problems). Finding and fixing a vampire is one of the most satisfying repairs you can make. Start with the drivetrain since that’s bicycle vampires' favorite hiding place.

Note: I’m assuming your bicycle and components aren’t abused or worn out. If so, more inspection and repairs will likely be needed than covered here.

1. Chain check
Perhaps the most common energy-sucker is a dry chain. Few lubes last long if you ride regularly and in all weather conditions. And many roadies end up with not enough lube and a chain that’s stiff and dragging. 

You can identify a dry chain by its shiny rollers and metallic sound when turning the pedals. Don’t let the chain ever get like this. Keep it adequately lubed for how and where you ride. I'm partial to Pro Gold Pro Link chain lube. Another favorite chain lube is Boeshield T-9.

Park Tool's article on derailleur pulleys
2. Pulleys check
The two pulleys on the rear derailleur are the second hardest working wheels on your bike. Even if you keep your chain nicely lubed and apply a little to the pulleys, too, moisture can make its way inside and bind or even freeze one or both pulleys. 

Check for this by lifting the chain away from each pulley and flicking them with your finger to see if they spin freely and smoothly. If not, you can usually restore them by simply disassembling, cleaning and lubing all the parts.

Bottom brackets require special tools
3. Bottom bracket check
The bottom bracket (BB) is the bearing mechanism that the crankset spins on so it influences every pedal stroke. To check yours, shift onto your smallest chainring and then lift the chain off the ring and rest it on the frame. 

Now, hold one crankarm (not a pedal) and gently and slowly turn the crankarm feeling for tightness, roughness and smoothness in the BB. It should turn freely with a slight hydraulic resistance from the grease inside. If it’s tight, dry or rough, you probably need a new bottom bracket (or a bottom bracket overhaul if yours can be serviced). Follow this link and first figure out what type of BB you have and then look up the service procedure.

A cartridge bearing hub
4. Wheels check
Like the bottom bracket, the wheels spin on bearings, which when bad become vampires. It’s almost impossible to feel bearing issues with the wheels in place on the bicycle. So, to check if yours are failing, remove both wheels. 

Then hold each wheel’s axle (not the quick release - wheel clamping mechanism) between your fingers and turn it. Like the BB check, the wheel axles should turn freely and smoothly with a slight resistance from the grease inside the bearings. If the bearings feel tight, rough or dry, you need the hub bearings serviced. Follow this link and first determine which type of hubs you have and then look up the service procedure.

Here's hoping these tips are like garlic for your bike - and they keep those vampires away. Trick or treat!
All photos courtesy of Park Tool.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

PRODUCT REVIEW: Pedro's Super Prestige Professional floor pump

Pedro’s Professional Pump performs up to its name

I like Pedro’s Super Prestige Professional Floor Pump (about $65) so much I bought two of them. One is in my home bike shop and the other lives in our new Lazy Daze RV. I’ve been using these pumps for a couple of years now and they still perform like new. I actually have a compressor in the shop, but these pumps work so well, I usually reach for them.

I like to point out good floor pumps because the most common maintenance task is topping off your tire pressure. And, unfortunately even many so-called “shop-quality” and expensive models perform sub-par and wear out surprisingly soon.

Common problems include difficulty achieving a leak-free fit between the pump head and valve - or having to change or adapt the head to fit a different valve; needing to push excessively hard to pump your tires fully; and ‘blow-back’ - which is when you push the pump handle down and it pops right back up with enough force and speed to explode out of the pump - in a worst-case scenario.

Nearly effortless pumping
There are no such issues with the Super Prestige. It features a heavy-duty steel base for stability, a wide ergonomic soft-grip handle and a small diameter, long steel barrel, which all make for nearly effortless pumping up road and mountain bike tires of all types and pressures.

Ultimate pump head
Instant airtight seal on all valves
The Super Prestige's best feature is the automatic pump head that you simply press on whatever type valve you have and then flip up the thumblock lever to lock the head on with an airtight seal. Pump heads are a common point of failure. 

I’ve never had the Pedro’s let me down and I’ve used it on dozens of different valves and valve extenders and adapters (for example, an adapter is required to inflate disc wheels - my favorite disc wheel valve adapter is Silca's Hiro). 

Presta or Schrader valve, you attach Pedro’s pump head and it holds fast and doesn’t leak.

Convenient long hose
Another sweet detail is the 39-inch (99cm) long hose. This comes in handy if you’re working on a bicycle in a repair stand and if you’re trying to inflate tires while bikes are up high on a rear vehicle rack, etc. The hose actually attaches to the pump beneath the top-mounted gauge rather than at the bottom where most other pumps attach them. That adds to the hose reach.

Pedro’s also includes a built-in hose holder to their pump that really works. Lesser pumps have holders that let the hose fall to the ground, which can lead to failure.

Super visible top-mounted gauge
The top-mounted gauge is close to you to read it more easily and has a knurled ring with a pointer that you turn and place on your target psi. Also, this stellar pump has a small button on the head that lets you bleed air to get the pressure just right.

All in all, if you’re looking for a great inflator, you’ll find it in Pedro’s Super Prestige. Here it is on Amazon though they have the wrong photo - it shows an older model.

Happy pumping!