Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Q&A: Pulley puzzle, waterlogged carbon frame

Q: I recently disassembled my rear derailleur’s bottom cage (Shimano Dura Ace). Got confident and no reason other than looking for a challenge and something to use my tools on. I removed the bottom cage, both pulleys and cleaned the entire system. Well worth the effort. I believe I have reassembled everything correctly, as I followed the spec. diagram provided on the Shimano website and instructions from your bike repair book. However, I now get a bit of vibration from my system when on the first and second smallest cogs (11T & 12T). I can’t figure out what is causing this.

Look forward to your response.

A: Nice to hear from you, Fred. The rear derailleur cage and pulleys aren't overly complicated but there are some things that can go "wrong" during disassembly and cleaning and reinstallation, if you're not careful. First, it's a great maintenance job to do. A lot of people wait until the pulley bushings/bearings are dry and they hear the chirp, chirp sound that drives you crazy. Doing it routinely is much wiser and ensures your pedaling is silky smooth and efficient. It's even possible for pulleys to "freeze" and create a lot of additional pedaling resistance and you don't want that. Also, while you can spray or drip lube on the pulleys, even if you're careful and lay the bike on its side and get the lube to enter the sides of the pulleys where they turn on the bushings, it's difficult to get the lube to fully penetrate the pulleys and thoroughly lube them (though that technique is better than letting them dry out). Ideally, you'll disassemble and relube at least yearly.

Since you followed a diagram, you probably didn't make this mistake, but I sometimes see the cage put on upside down. The closed/loop end of the cage should be on the bottom. Another easy mistake is to put the top pulley on the bottom and the bottom on the top. The top pulley has sideways play to assist in aligning the chain during shifting, so that needs to be on top. You can wiggle the pulleys to tell the difference. Another issue is assembling the pulleys incorrectly. Usually there's just the pulley, a ceramic bushing that presses into the center and 2 dust caps. All should be cleaned, lightly lubed and reassembled. You should then hold the pulley by the dustcaps with your thumb and forefinger holding it the way it will be held in the derailleur cage and then spin the pulley to make sure that it spins nice and smooth with little resistance. If not, take it apart, clean it some more, lube it and try again.

Once the pulleys are cleaned and lubed, reinstall them. And, here there is an option, too. They can go on in two directions, the way they were, or flipped the other way. Ideally you'll put them back the way they were as you have worn them in in this direction so they're sort of "adjusted" now to this rotation of the chain.

So, if the cage is not upside down, the most likely thing is that the pulleys might be reversed, top on the bottom. If that's not it, it might be that the pulleys are flipped over and now rotating in a different direction, or maybe only one pulley is. The easy way to try to find the issue is to check each thing and then try the next. So, I would check the cage, then check that the top pulley is on top. Then I would try flipping the bottom pulley and see if that solves the problem. If there's no change, I'd put it back the way it was and flip the other pulley, and hopefully that will do the trick.

All of this assumes that the issue really is the pulleys or cage because if you maybe cleaned the chain, too, that could be the issue. Or, if the pulleys are worn out, cleaning them reduces their size slightly and you might need to replace the pulleys to fix the problem. The easiest way to spot worn out pulleys is to compare yours to new ones in a nice big picture of a new derailleur online. Old pulleys have noticeably worn teeth compared to new ones.

Hope these tips result in a nice, quiet and smooth drivetrain!

Q: Hi Jim -
I have a carbon frame and I have been riding regularly in heavy rain. No matter how many times I turn the bike upside down (with the seatpost removed), I can't get all the water out. There's also a screw on the bottom bracket cable guide. I removed that to let the water out, but no luck. I've also let my bike stand for days at a time with the seatpost removed, in the hope that the water would evaporate. Also no luck. I have tried to blow air with my mouth in the frame's seat tube to see if I was missing a hole somewhere, but I was not able to. It seems pretty airtight. I would appreciate any suggestions to get the water out.

Many thanks,

A: You might try using a hair dryer to blow hot air into/onto the tubes with any water or condensation in them. Storing the bike in a warm room might have the same effect, though it will take longer. You could also remove the bottom bracket, which is relatively easy if you have a newer external-bearing bottom bracket. You just need the right tool to remove the cups. Your local bike shop probably sells it. Once the cups are removed and the seatpost, too, the air should be able to pass through better and reach any moisture in the seat tube and it might have access to the other tubes to dry them out, too, depending on the frame construction.

It would also be worthwhile to try to figure out how the water is getting into the frame and trying to seal the entry points to keep it out. It might be that the water is being flung up onto the seatpost from the rear wheel and it's then running down the post and getting down inside the frame through the gap between the post and the frame, which is a common way water gets inside bicycles. You could try making a simple seal out of a section cut from an old tire inner tube. It needs to be a tight fit. Remove your seatpost and slip this "seal" over the seatpost. Then install the seatpost and tighten it at the right height again. Then pull the seal down and over the seat lug area so the bottom has a "shingle" effect and the water runs down harmlessly on the outside of the frame. To seal the deal further you could zip tie the top or even wrap it with electrical tape and then zip tie it. Something like this should seal out the water. Another approach would be to always ride with a quick-connect rear fender to keep the water from spraying up onto the seatpost from the rear wheel.

The good news is that the water shouldn't do any damage to your all-carbon frame, but if it gets in contact with any metal parts it can corrode them. But, at least the frame won't be harmed as a steel frame would by exposure to water inside the tubes.

Hope this helps dry out your frame and keep it that way,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cycling Artists Ines Brunn & Serge Huercio

There's riding a bicycle, and then there's cycling magic, as shown here by artistic cyclist and nuclear physicist, Ines Brunn... ballet on wheels and wonderful. She started training at 4 years old and believe it or not, is currently ranked only 19th in the world.

Visit Ines' website at www.trick-bike.com

The fine print: if the Ines video does not play here, please follow this link:

And, Ines is probably 19th in the world because of riders like Serge Huercio:

If the Huercio video isn't working, visit this link:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bicycle Gift Ideas

The Competition Bicycle With another pre-holiday weekend upon us, here are just a few bicycle gift suggestions I think most cyclists will like. First, is Jan Heine's second coffee-table bike book, The Competition Bicycle, A Photographic History, which, in 176 large-format (12 x 14) glossy pages, covers 34 stunning racing bicycles from over 100 years of competition around the world. Almost all are the actual bikes raced, often pulled right out from under the pro and put away for posterity. Photographer Jean-Pierre Praderes has an expert eye for the important details and the shooting skills to bring the machines to life. And Heine is passionate about cycling and explains the significance of all the changes over the years and, just as fascinating, puts each bike in context with insightful stories about the racers and races that made history, like the rivalry between Coppi and Bartali in 1949. The Competition Bicycle is available for $60 from Vintage Bicycle Press http://www.vintagebicyclepress.com/CompetitionBook.html While you're there, check out Jan's equally impressive book, The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles, and consider gifting your cyclist a subscription to Jan's fine magazine Bicycle Quarterly.
Your Home Bicycle Workshop
Speaking of giving books, if someone on your list enjoys maintaining and working on bikes as much as riding them, they'll enjoy my new e-book, Your Home Bicycle Workshop ($19.95). This is not a bike-repair manual, it's a guide to setting up an efficient and organized home shop to make working on bikes as easy and fun as possible. I spent 6 months writing the book and shooting the photos, however the advice and tips in it come from over 30 years working in the bike industry as a mechanic and service manager. I cover how to choose a good space for a workshop, buying and building workbenches, budget home-made repairs stands and pro models, truing jigs, provide the most comprehensive tool and parts list you'll find and much more. I also include some vintage illustrations from my collections to add interest and fun. Also, the book is an e-book, which means you download it to your computer and can burn it to disc for easy gift giving. And, as an e-book, it's full of links, you can zoom in on photos to see all the details and you can easily print the book, too. You can learn a lot more, see sample pages, and buy it here http://www.roadbikerider.com/hbw_page.htm You'll also find gift certificates and an entire e-bookstore at RoadBikeRider.com where there are plenty of other gift ideas.

CycleAware Stow Away At the Interbike Bicycle Show this year, I spotted an inexpensive gift idea any cyclist will appreciate, CycleAware's $15.95 Stow-Away - The Reflective Packable Backpack. Here's how I wrote it up for the show: Let's face it, jersey pockets are handy, but easily overstuffed. Enter CycleAware's Stow-Away. This featherweight mesh/nylon bag folds into its own pouch and fits into any pocket. Then, when you need a place to stuff your leg warmers, jacket, gloves, that lost garden gnome you found next to the road; simply remove the Stow-Away, open it up and it turns into a mesh backpack. The airy mesh ensures your back stays dry and you remain cool and comfy, and inside you'll find a built-in ID card, a key ring and ample space for all your gear. Plus, the straps are soft, there's a sternum clip to keep them in place and there's a large reflective panel for safety. It's so handy every cyclist should have one.

Knog FrogAnother super handy item is the Knog Frog, a very cool safety light that's small, flexible and light enough to mount almost anywhere, such as on a seatpost, helmet, frame, handlebar, pack, etc. This is possible because the Frog is made of stretchy, tough, silicone and has a simple clip closure. Just stretch the Frog's "legs" around anything, hook them on the clip and the Frog sticks in place beautifully. It has a bright LED visible from 600 meters away, flashing and steady modes, over 160-hour run time, and is powered by 2 CR2032 batteries, which are included. Frogs also come in many colors. Most bike shops stock them and they sell for around $15. http://www.knog.com.au/

Bar Mitts

Also seen at the Interbike show last fall, were Bar Mitts, a nice gift idea for the winter road warrior. Similar to the hand warmers motorcyclists use, Bar Mitts slip over your bike's dropped handlebars and levers forming cozy neoprene pouches that block the wind and wet to keep you dry and warm. They're easy to install and remove and do a nice job keeping numb fingers or worse at bay. You do have to get used to having your hands inside pouches but it's possible to brake and shift even with your hands outside the Bar Mitts so it won't take you long to get used to them and you'll appreciate the additional protection and the quality construction. Cost is $64.95 from http://www.barmitts.com/.

Presta InflatorAnd, lastly, this gift idea is for someone who already has a pro-level bike workshop (or is planning one), complete with an air compressor for inflating tires the easy and fast way. Typically, air compressors come with simple chucks that let you inflate car and bike tires with Schrader valves. When you need to inflate tires with Presta valves, you must screw an adapter onto the valve or you might have one that you've attached to the chuck. Either way, it's an extra step. Also, most chucks do not include gauges so there's no easy way to tell if you've got the pressure right. So, you have to take another extra step and double check with a separate gauge. Things get much simpler when you have the Presta Inflator http://www.prestaflator.com/ $39.95. This beautifully engineered upgrade fits Presta and Schrader valves, has an accurate, easy-to-read color-coded gauge, and is built of heavy-duty steel to last. Plus, it works like a variable-speed drill. The more you squeeze the handle, the faster you inflate the tire, so you will never blow a tire off a rim again. The Presta Inflator folks also stock a full selection of replacement parts and even other chucks your giftee might like. This is one cool tool, so nice that apparently Trek bicycle company equipped all its benches with them.

I hope these gift ideas are helpful. If none seem right for your cyclist, be sure to visit or call your local bike shop where you're sure to find many more great ideas from maintenance packages, to clothing, to the latest components and accessories. Remember that even something as simple and affordable as a new pair of socks or gloves is sure to please, too. Happy cycling holidays!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NEWSWIRE: Pedaling Museum Update

One of my greatest regrets as a bicycle collector is that I never visited the Pedaling History Bicycle Museum in Orchard Park, New York. Owned and run by bike historians Carl and Clarice Burgwardt, it houses perhaps the finest collection of bicycles in the world, some of which are captured in the video here. More impressive is that the Burgwardts painstakingly created a timeline of the bicycle showing in great detail, not only the different bikes and when they appeared, but also how these remarkable machines and the characters who made them and got famous riding them, shaped our country. And, it's a fascinating story showing how the two-wheeler influenced all aspects of American life from transportation, cars through airplanes, to professional sports, to women's liberation, to the green movements of the 1970's and today.

Unfortunately, I just learned that the museum has been purchased and that it will close on January 18. Carl had hoped to find a buyer who would keep the museum open or at least warehouse it in the USA, however, it looks now like the museum will go to a European collector and be shipped out of the country. That's why I wanted to share this video, a virtual museum visit I think you'll enjoy. Also, here's a link to a the Tin Donkey blog, which has a nice write-up of the museum. If you live close enough, or are traveling to the Buffalo area I recommend you visit the museum before it's no longer there. If you do, I'd love to hear your report and see some photos! And say 'happy retirement' to Carl and Clarice for me.

The museum is at:
Pedaling History Bicycle Museum
3943 North Buffalo Road (Routes 240/277)
Orchard Park, New York 14127-1841

Friday, December 5, 2008

Q&A: Fixie Chain Length & Maillard remover contin

If you check my previous post and click on the comments you'll see 2 great tips from readers getinlost and GhostRider. I wanted to share these with you in this new post so they'd be easy to find. Getinlost provided a link to Eric House's Fixed Innovations website and his very cool fixie chain-length calculator and chart - a fun and efficient way to dial in that fixie drivetrain. Just for fun, the photo above shows the spiffy Light Roadster fixed-gear bicycle by A.N.T. Bikes (Alternative Needs Transportation).

And, on finding that Maillard freewheel remover from the 1970's and 1980's that is getting scarce, GhostRider found it on Harris Cyclery at this link. I would recommend calling them to ask about availability because it suggests in the online ad that they may not be in stock. I think if you try enough older shops (which Harris is), you'll be able to find one eventually.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Q&A: Removing old freewheel; fixie cranks

Q: I am trying to get hold of a freewheel remover for an old racing bike. (Raleigh circa. early 80's).

I am told the freewheel is a Maillard. It is 6 gears, internally splined and the splines are quite large diameter - 31.5mm I think.

Do you sell or know where to get one?


A: Hi Nick,
I tried to find a Maillard freewheel remover at the online sources that carry such things and couldn’t, so unfortunately, I think that remover may be unavailable as a new tool. It’s been a while since the majority of bicycles have come equipped with freewheels (today, most bikes use cassettes). If you’re not clear on the difference, here’s a link to a great Sheldon Brown article that explains: http://sheldonbrown.com/freewheels.html

So, I think your best bet is to call bicycle shops in your area to ask if they have this tool. It only takes a few minutes to remove a freewheel and if they have the tool, they should be happy to do it for you and only charge you a few dollars. The most likely shop to have this tool is one that’s been around for awhile. I remember using this tool a lot when I worked at a Schwinn bicycle shop because the Schwinn 10-speed bikes came with a Schwinn-Approved freewheel that was actually made by Maillard. That was in 1973. At that time I purchased one of these tools for my toolbox and I still have it. See the photo.

When you look at the photo, don’t be confused. The tool is the top part. The lower part is a different tool, an Atom freewheel remover. On my Maillard freewheel remover tool, you had to first insert the Atom tool in the bottom. That’s why it looks a little strange in the photo. In any case, any shop with the remover should be able to help you out.

If you want to buy your own, you can certainly keep searching. You might find one at a shop that’s been around long enough to have some old stock. You could also search on eBay.com or you might try visiting http://www.classicrendezvous.com, joining their email list and posting a message to the members asking if anyone has an old tool for sale. That group is interested in classic lightweight bikes and they are very resourceful when it comes to finding old bikes, parts and tools.

Lastly, if you don’t want to go to the trouble of finding the tool, or if the freewheel is fairly worn out, another option is to dismantle the freewheel so you are left with the body/base of the freewheel only (the part with the cogs has been removed). When it’s disassembled like this you can grip the body with a large wrench like a monkey wrench, or grip it in a bench vise, and you will be able to remove the freewheel. Then you can install a new freewheel that takes a modern remover.

Hope this helps,

Q: Hello Mr.Jim,
I bought an affordable track bike (fixie) and am in the process of getting a new crank. I would like to get a 165mm crank. What are some things I should look out for to make sure it fits the bike?

Also, if I were to get a 46-tooth chainring and I have a 17T cog, how long would the chain have to be? The chain now is connected to a 36T ring and a 16T cog.


A: Hi Travis,
Thanks for the questions. In order to install a different crank on that bicycle, you need to either get a new crank that fits on the existing bottom bracket (the mechanism inside the frame that the crankarms attach to), or you need to get a new crankset that comes with its own dedicated bottom bracket and replace both the old crankarms and the old bottom bracket. The easiest thing might be to bring the bike into the bike shop with you so they could look at what you've got and recommend the least expensive solution.

And, when you go to larger chainrings and cogs, the easiest thing is to install a longer chain. But, if you had some spare chain pieces of the right size (they need to match the size of the existing chain (either a "derailleur" chain or a "coaster-brake" chain), you can splice those sections in to lengthen the chain you have now and save the cost of a new chain. I can't tell you the exact length because it depends on the wheelbase of your bicycle so it's done by trial and error.

Have fun upgrading your fixie,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Q&A: Trainer with Bolt-On Wheel, Fixie Fix

Q: Hi Jim,I bought a Bell Motivator Mag Indoor Bicycle Trainer and it came with a quick-release skewer. I heard that it's better to use that skewer than the one on your bike, so it doesn't mess up the original one. My bike doesn't have a quick release in the back wheel, only the front. My question is how do I put the skewer into the wheel? I have a hybrid Schwinn road bike. I looked all over the internet and couldn't find anything on how to replace the axle w/the skewer.
Thanks, Karen

A: Hi Karen,
I'm not experienced with the trainer you have, but in most cases, trainers today are designed to work with bicycles that have quick release wheels (with skewers) and ALSO with bikes that have bolt-on rear wheels (no skewer; like your bike). So, before converting your rear wheel to make it quick-release with a skewer, you should try the bicycle and see if it fits into the trainer as is.
Usually the two pieces on the trainer that screw in and hold onto the skewer on each side of the trainer are hollow (see photo), which means that your bolt-on axle will slide right in and the trainer's wheel holders will then press on the axle nuts and support your bike just fine. Give that a try.
If it doesn't work, you can convert your wheel to quick release, but you might want to have a shop do it for you. It's not hard but you need a few special tools so it will be cheaper to have it done than to do it yourself. They will simply remove your original axle set and replace it with a quick-release axle set with a skewer. The skewer that came with the trainer is only one part of the system. You need the entire axle set, too, in order to use the skewer. The other option is to replace the entire rear wheel, but that will cost even more. My best guess is that that trainer will work fine with your bike just the way it is so you won't need to spend anything at all.
Good luck!

Q: I have a question concerning my single-speed, Jim. I would like to convert to fixed gear without going through the process of getting a flip-flop hub. The hub I currently have has two sides meant for two different freewheels sizes only. Meaning, no step-down thread for Fixed Gear. My question is, would there be anywhere to lock the freewheel and make my bike a fixed gear?

Thank you,

A: It sounds to me like all that's needed to make your bike a fixed gear is to install a fixed-gear cog (also called a "track cog," instead of a freewheel http://www.excelsports.com/new.asp?page=8&description=Dura%2DAce+Track+Cog&vendorCode=SHIM&major=8&minor=6.
You don’t have the step-down threading on your hub, which is for the reverse-threaded lockring that holds on the cog. But, it's possible to ride fixie without one. What you can do is thread on the fixed cog and then on top of it, thread on an English bottom bracket adjustable-cup lockring from an older-style 3-piece bottom bracket.

The lockring is the same thread as your hub and the fixed cog, but having the cog tightened on and then in effect, having a nut on top of it, means the cog is held pretty well in place on the hub and won't come off too easily when you're riding. To keep things tight, when you install the lockring, put some blue locktite on it to help it hold fast and keep the cog from turning. You might also be able to install two lockrings if you have the room for it on your hub for double the protection from unscrewing.

Hope this helps you out,

Friday, October 31, 2008

Great Free Mag #2: Momentum!

I recently told you about the cool new free online cycling 'zine Urban Velo. It turns out that there's another fine free online bicycle mag you need to check out - Momentum, The magazine for self-propelled people published in Vancouver. I'm having a wonderful time clicking around and reading all the encouraging stories of how inspirational people are using cycling to change our world. Even Lance Armstrong, who just opened an Austin, Texas bicycle shop called Mellow Johnny's, which caters to all pedalers to grow cycling in the community. You can read feature stories like these on the site or open any entire issue from their archives for free (or subscribe if you like). And each magazine, and every section of the site is packed with fun stuff, like Omar Bhimji's Internally-Geared Hubs for the technically minded, their Reported Elsewhere section that carries the latest two-wheel news from all over, or Issue 35, which is perfect for the What Not to Wear set; or maybe their fashion show video would be perfect. Wherever you end up, I think you'll enjoy yourself and appreciate all Momentum is doing to provide some additional momentum to bicycles and cycling. Great stuff.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NEWSWIRE: SF Bike Expo & Swap

If you're in the Bay Area and have a garage-full of old bike stuff you'd like to turn into cash - or an empty one you want to fill with new two-wheeled toys, you might want to take part in the San Francisco Bike Expo and Swap, Sat and Sun, November 29 and 30 at the Cow Palace in SF. They're offering a Swappers' Corner for those who want to bring one bike and a bag of parts to sell and the cost is only $20 for one day or $30 for both. Or, individuals with lots to sell can get a 10 x 10 booth for both days for $130. Of course, you can also just walk the expo looking for deals and great stuff. General admission for that is $10 per day and it includes a free raffle ticket. Besides bikie's booths, there'll be bike shop and industry booths, too, so it should be a fun time for all. For more information visit the rideSFO blog

Friday, October 24, 2008

Head badges continued

Some of you know that I collect bicycle head badges, the small maker's emblems that used to be attached to the head tubes of just about every bicycle. This short YouTube video I made shows some fun ones you might like to see. I now have about 600 different badges in my collection and a lot of them are shown on my site. That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. I met a collector in Chicago who has over 2,000!

Great bicycle collectible head badges

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Q&A: Carbon Bike Shifting Issues

Q: Hello Jim - I recently upgraded from my old faithful steel road bike to a modern full-carbon one. I love the light weight, the ride, the performance and the beautiful sculpted frame. But, no matter what I try, I can't get the drivetrain and shifting to work as well as my old bike. I've tried all the adjustments and even had my bike shop work on the bike. It's not that it's awful. It does hit all the gears, but it's noisy no matter how I set the adjustment barrel. And, I think it shifts a little slower, too. I'd really like the drivetrain and shifting to be as flawless as the rest of the bike. Can you help?

Wheels Manufacturing derailleur hangers
A: I think so, Matt. The issue is most likely the replaceable derailleur hanger on the back of the frame. Most modern carbon wonder bikes are made in China and for some reason they tend to use flimsy aluminum rear derailleur hangers. Since the hanger is what joins the derailleur to the frame and holds it aligned, you can see how one that flexed or was easily bent, could become the Achilles heel of a drivetrain and cause noise and balky shifting. What I recommend is replacing it with one made by the company Wheels Manufacturing. As shown above, they stock an excellent selection for just about any frame out there and they're not overly expensive. Wheels Mfg doesn't sell directly to consumers, however, so you need to order your dropout from your local bicycle shop or online from http://www.derailleurhanger.com/ I made this upgrade to my Cervelo and am glad I did.

Good rides,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Great Free Mag: Urban Velo!

While at the Interbike Bike Show a few weeks back I ran into Brad and Jeff from the cool magazine Urban Velo that covers all things city cycling - and is sure to get even more people pedaling around instead of driving. Their site, blog and magazine (published 6 times a year) are packed with helpful information, cycling culture, news, videos, product reviews, maintenance and repair tips, riding techniques, and more. And, what's great is that you can download the entire magazine completely free. Check Urban Velo out when you get a chance. I think you'll like it a lot.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Q&A: Brake pads and rim wear

Q: Hi Jim,
You recommend keeping the rims and brake pads clean for the best braking and to limit rim wear. But, how does aluminum from the rims accumulate on the brake pads if the aluminum is the harder of the two surfaces? The reason I ask is because for the second time now (four or five days apart) I started to hear and feel the sick metal-on-metal grinding from my front pads. The first time I heard and felt it, I ran a piece of sandpaper lightly over the pads and the noise went away, problem solved, I'm a genius - not! Now a few days later, the same sick grinding sound comes when I apply my front brakes.

I took my wheel off and can clearly see a piece of embedded aluminum on the face of the brake pad with a very light corresponding wear ring on the rim itself. So again I ask, where is the aluminum coming from? Especially since I don't use my front brake nearly as much as my back and I've not had this problem on the rear rim or brake. And, is this a continuous problem that I need to be fearful of destroying my rim and brake pads? Is there a ultimate solution to this annoying problem?

Thanks for your time,

A: Hi Gary,
I believe that there are 2 factors. 1. Some brake pads are way too hard and as they age they get harder and I think these can wear the rim over time and remove some aluminum. Keep in mind that even a soft material can wear a harder one if it contacts it enough, like water on stone for example. But, I think softer pads that wear out faster are preferable to harder ones. The other issue and probably the more important one is that the wheel picks up dirt and sometimes bits of gravel and that gets into the brake pads, too. Then, the surface of the pads becomes a bit like sandpaper and they begin to sand away the rims removing aluminum and embedding it into the pads, too.

These issues definitely lead to rim wear and left unchecked you will wear out your rims if you ride enough. I've done this and seen it many times on road and mountain bikes. To prevent it I use softer brake blocks and check them and dig out bits of debris and aluminum whenever I am doing routine maintenance. Something else you can do is rebuild your wheels with ceramic rims. These are very expensive and don't come in all sizes but they have a very tough braking surface that holds up much better to the brake pads. Of course, an altogether different approach for people with compatible bikes would be to install disc brakes and stop braking via the rims. But, you need the right frame and fork for this.

The best bet for most people is to keep a careful eye on the brake pads and rims, checking them about every time you lube your chain (weekly for frequent riders). Keep the rims clean (alcohol works great for removing rubber deposits and general grime) and keep the pads free of grit and aluminum (pick it out with an awl or sharp blade) and you'll get the most life out your rims possible. And, as I said, in my experience, softer pads wear rims less than harder ones. Your bike shop should be able to offer different pads and explain which are softest, or you could sample them. They shouldn't be overly expensive. I've found that with the right brake pads I have a lot less problems with grit and aluminum getting in the pads and rim wear, too. FYI: My road bike sees the most miles and it has Shimano Dura-Ace brakes on it from about year 2000. The brake pads I'm using are Kool Stop "Dura-Type" #KS-DURAB. They make pads for most brakes www.koolstop.com

I hope this helps,

Friday, October 10, 2008

Interbike 2008 bicycle show outtakes

So you can enjoy some of the fun, here's a short video sneak peak from the industry-only 2008 Interbike Outdoor Demo and Bike Expo held in Las Vegas Sept 22-26.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Finley #2

John Finley Scott part 2... FYI: These videos were done by writer/producer/director Billy Savage, who also made the much-hailed full-length feature mountain bike history film KLUNKERZ, which is available at www.klunkerz.com

Finley #1

The late John Finley Scott was just inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame for helping to invent the mountain bike - way back in 1953! Here are a couple of fun YouTube video interviews with him.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

PRODUCT REVIEW: CarboCut Carbon Saw

Effetto Mariposa's CarboCut carbon hacksaw
If you do much work on carbon-fiber bicycles, such as sizing forks, seatposts or the new integrated seat masts, Effetto Mariposa's CarboCut carbon hacksaw ($74.95) makes cutting these carbon components much easier. The secret is the blade, which has a grit edge of tungsten carbide. Unlike a regular metal, toothed hacksaw blade, the CarboCut's saws in both directions with a grinding action leaving a smooth edge and never "fraying" (debonding) the carbon fibers. It helps that the blade is held by a stout metal saw frame, too. In use, the CarboCut works as promised. It cuts straight and true, is easy to control and it leaves a super-clean cut. Because the blade is thicker than metal ones, you may need to run the CarboCut through certain fork/seatpost sawing jigs first to widen the slot. But, the tungsten carbide blade cuts even hardened steel, titanium and even ceramics and masonry, so it'll size the jig's slot, too. The CarboCut accepts 10-inch blades (most regular hacksaws use 12-inch). This means it's easier to use and that it also fits nicely in bicycle toolboxes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Interbike 08 bike show report

Lance in action at Cross Vegas 2008!
Folks - Here's the Interbike report I promised earlier. To explain - in my 9-to-5 job I work for SmartEtailing, a company that provides a website service for bicycle retailers. We were at Interbike to report on the show so that our clients would have coverage on their websites. I'd like to thank ace reporters Will Calkins, Russell Eich, Keith Jennings and Shaine Smith for help with the story. The photo of Lance from the Cross Vegas race should whet your appetite. Here's the link to the full story. Questions? Feel free to ask and I'll see if I can point you in the right direction.

Q&A: clipless concerns; crankset removal; crunched dropout; stuck pedals

Soon, I'll report more from the Interbike bike show I attended last week.
But first, here are some of the latest tech Q & A's that have come in:

Q: Hello there,
I do hope that you can help. I am a fairly new commuter cyclist (6 months)
and am really enjoying it. I just purchased a pair of cleated shoes for my
clipless pedals (today), and am frankly a little daunted. I've been out
practicing and I'm not too fussed about stopping. What does concern me is
pedaling off from a stationary position. It is almost like I need something
to hold onto so that I can get both feet clipped on!

Any advice? Many thanks,

A: Hi Dan,
My advice is to practice while you're standing on a grassy field. Don't
ride. Just click in and click out, over and over and over and over. You need
to train your feet how to get in and the only good way to do it is while
you're standing still on a nice, soft grassy surface. I would say about 100
times in and out with each foot should do it. You're training your muscle
memory to know what to do.

Also, be sure that your pedals are adjusted to be loose. Most clipless
pedals have tension adjustments. These come from the factory pretty tight.
By loosening them you can make it significantly easier to click in and out
of the pedals. If you're not sure how to do this, look for small Allen bolts
near the jaws of the pedals. Typically, you'll turn these bolts
counterclockwise in 1/2 turn increments to loosen the tension adjustment and
make it easier to get in and out.

But, it really helps to practice, practice and practice some more and the
best way to do it is over and over while you're standing in one spot. Keep
working on it until you can do it super easily and without looking down,
either. And then, practice on that same grassy, safe surface getting on and
off the bike for real.

With practice it will become very easy, natural and safe.

Hope this helps!

Q: Jim,
Do you sell a crank removal tool for a 1995 or 1996 (year purchased)
Crestline tandem bike. The ID of the threaded crank hole is 0.623 inches or
15.82 mm and the thread pitch is either 27 or 28. The cranks have never been
taken off and I want to repack the bearings. I've tried a three-finger gear
removal tool and got one crank (without sprocket), but so far the one with
sprocket has resisted. I've been soaking the joint with PB blaster. The
drive shaft is 0.514 inches between flats or 13.05 mm, and the shaft end is
threaded for a nut.


A: I'm afraid I'm not sure what a Crestline bike is, but you probably need a
standard crankarm removal tool, like the ones Park tool makes. Here's a

This is for removing standard square-taper crankarms. On these, there's a
square tapered hole in the crankarm and the bottom bracket axle has square
tapers on the ends. To remove, you remove the nuts on the threaded ends of
the bottom bracket axle, insert the tool and screw in the plunger that
presses on the bottom bracket axle and allows the crankarm puller tool to
pull the crankarm off the axle.

If you don't want to buy a tool, an easier way to get the crankarm off is to
loosen the crankarm nut and then ride around the block a few times. Without
the nut holding the crankarm on there the arm will gradually work loose
because it's on a taper, basically an inclined plane. Pretty quickly, the
friction will break and the crankarm will slide down the taper and be loose
enough to remove. But, do NOT ride with any pressure once the crankarm
loosens. Stop and walk home. If you pedal on a loose crankarm, the hard
steel of the axle will bite into the soft aluminum of the arm and can ruin

That should do it,

Q: Hi Jim,
I recently received a new Surly Crosscheck frame (chromoly) which I'm
building up. I tried installing the rear wheel today and was surprised to
find that the axle wouldn't slide into the derailleur side dropout. A quick
inspection showed the dropout 'pinched' to a more closed position
(approximately 1mm smaller). Can I fix this myself? bring it to a shop? Is
the dropout finished?

Any help would be appreciated!

A: Hi Joel,
It sounds like your frame got dropped somehow and landed on that dropout and
it got squished - a very common accident. To fix it, take a large
screwdriver. It needs to be about a foot long and with a sturdy flat blade.
Hold the screwdriver parallel to the dropout and place the blade fully into
the dropout. Pull down to lever the dropout that extra mm open until it's
back where it was. Metal has memory so it should go back almost perfectly
with one somewhat gentle pull with the screwdriver. You can make a cardboard
"feeler" gauge to check your work and make sure the dropouts are the same or
you can sight across them and eyeball it to make sure the bottom edges are
parallel. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it will probably be very close
once you get it back where it was.

This shouldn't weaken the dropout very much. It's a common accident and a
common repair and I've never had a dropout break after fixing one this way.

Good luck,

Q: Hi,
I have an bike from the late 70s and the pedals are stuck on the cranks.
I've tried my best pushing on the opposite crank and the pedal wrench (both
about horizontal) to no avail. I've squirted some WD-40 in there in hopes of
loosening them. Also, to no avail. I've checked and double checked that I'm
trying to loosen them in the correct direction. It's a Sugino Maxy crank and
Lyotard pedals. The pedals only have the flats at the base. No Allen key on
the inside.

Any thoughts?

A: Hi Joe,
I have a page on pedals with lots of tips on removal, on my site at this
link: http://www.jimlangley.net/wrench/pedalbasics.html

But, to save you the time of having to read the page, you might try taking a
propane torch to the crankarms and heating them up a bit. Also, I know you
said you're turning the pedals the correct direction, but since turning them
the wrong way is the most common reason they're hard to take off, be sure
you're turning both pedals towards the BACK of the bike to loosen them.
Heating the crankarms, too, should loosen the pedals and make them easier to
remove. Keep in mind that you need a decent amount of leverage to loosen
them. If you're using a short or weak or thin wrench, it can be almost
impossible. I use a proper pedal wrench that's about a foot long. If you
don't have something like that, you can use a cheater bar, like a pipe, over
a regular wrench, too. But, heating the aluminum crankarms will make them
expand slightly and should ease removal, too.

Hope this helps. If you simply can't get them off, you could ask a shop for
help. They'll probably charge you about $5 to remove the pedals. They might
even do it for free.

Friday, September 12, 2008

NEWSWIRE: Lance returns, Interbike looms

The big news this week is Lance's return to the Tour de France, a story so huge you probably already know all about it. If not, there's a major feature story on it on Vanity Fair's site here. For we Santa Cruzans this means The Legend will finally be pedaling into our bike-crazy city since his first race will be the Amgen Tour of California, and one of the early stages ends here. Yay! Whether he wins or loses the Tour, Lance's return to racing will also be huge for cycling in general and should boost cancer-fighting efforts, too, both great things.

The other exciting news is that show season has arrived with Eurobike in progress and Interbike commencing September 22 in Las Vegas where we'll spend the week in two-wheel heaven. You can follow the fun at VeloNews and MTBR. Look for stories, photos and videos as the shows happen. In the meantime, here's a sneak peak of one product I hope to see there, Yuba's Mundo utility bike. It might be just the thing to get you out of your car - or even your truck - more often thanks to its ability to carry long, large and heavy loads - and even passengers. Look at the stretch frame and built-in rear platform and you can see how this is possible. These clever work bikes are already changing lives around the world and there are other designs like this, too, such as the Xtracycle and the Worksman industrial bikes and trikes. Fun stuff!Why drive when you can ride?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Q&A: Correction - Mavic Tech Site login

Sorry everyone, and thanks for letting me know about the mistake - the correct login for Mavic's tech site where you'll find manuals and repair instructions for most of Mavic's wheels and components is as follows: Go to the URL http://www.tech-mavic.com For the Login use mavic-com And, for the password, use dealer

That'll do it! Ride safe out there,

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Q&A: Binding Mavic Ksyrium cassette

Q: Jim - The cassette on my Mavic Ksyrium rear wheel is binding. I first noticed this by seeing that if I spun the rear wheel by hand, every now and then the chain would suddenly start being driven by the rear wheel and the pedals would turn - almost like on a fixie bike with only one gear and no coasting feature. At first it only did this once in a while, but now it's binding all the time and when I am riding the cassette tries to turn with the wheel and this creates slack in the chain and I bet additional friction at the wheel that's slowing me down! Not good on what are supposed to be my fast wheels. What do you think is wrong, and do I have to return my wheel to Mavic for service, or is this something I can fix myself?
Thanks for any help you can provide,

A: Hi Lloyd,
The likely problem is lack of lubrication, or some grease that has gotten congealed and is now sticky instead of slippery, right where the cassette attaches to the hub. There are cartridge sealed bearings inside and also seals. All these things need to be nicely lubed for the cassette to spin freely and not bind or drive the chain forward. I recommend visiting Mavic's tech website at http://www.tech-mavic.com/, login "mavic-com" and password "dealer" (do not include the quote marks)
Mavic's tech site has the instructions for servicing almost everything Mavic
Here you'll find manuals for all Mavic products going back years, and instructions for your specific wheel (like the diagram above). Assuming you have a few basic tools (you'll probably need a 5 and 10mm Allen wrench and a way to hold the axle, such as an axle vise - or home-made version) and a little mechanical ability you should be able to fix this problem yourself by following the directions.
For a sticky cassette, you would disassemble the hub by removing the axle with Allen wrenches and then carefully pulling off the cassette (don't drop/lose the pawl springs!). This reveals the bearings and seals and you can check the grease inside and clean and lube as necessary. Use a light and safe oil (it mustn't attack rubber or plastic) on any seals because if they're dry they can cause the binding. Then reassemble the hub and you should be good to go. Or, if you'd rather let a professional handle it, any shop that sells Mavic wheels should be able to service yours for a reasonable fee.
Happy hub and cassette repairing!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Q&A: 3-speed cable; installing bottle cages on old steel frames

Q: Saw your site online,
I have what looks like a an old Raleigh 3-speed, which my wife likes very much. I just bought a basket for her and while putting it on decided to see if I could fix her shifter. The bike was only shifting to 2 instead of 3 gears. I tried adjusting the cable, which broke, naturally. Now I'm trying to find anywhere where I can buy a new one. Any help with this will be immensely appreciated and I will forever be indebted to you.
Imploringly yours,

A: Hi John,
First, you should call local bike shops as this is a relatively common replacement part if they do a lot of repairs. If the bike shops don't have one, you might next try a few departments stores, which often have bike sections and sometimes even stock replacement 3-speed cables. If both those ideas don't pan out, you can order one online from http://www.bicycletoolsetc.com/
Just use their search box up top and search on the word "Sturmey" and the cables should come right up.

Also, you didn't tell me how the cable broke, but if it broke in the middle, you can usually tie it back together, or add a piece between the broken ends, as a workaround until you get the new cable. Most British 3-speeds have clips on the frame that you can move down to essentially create slack in the cable so you can tie broken ends together. But this trick won't work if it broke at the head inside the lever.

And, to adjust the cable properly, the best way to do it is to shift the bike into the easiest gear, which is first. The lever will be all the way down. In this position there should be very little play in the cable. Also, before you attach the cable, be sure the indicator rod (the piece screwed into the Sturmey-Archer hub; photo by Sheldon Brown) is screwed all the way in and then backed off slightly if needed to align correctly with the cable. Also, it's a good idea to grease the cable where it runs inside housing and under or over pulleys. And, when the cable is adjusted correctly and the bike is shifting properly use 2 pairs of pliers to lock the cable adjustment by tightening the knurled lockring on the indicator against the end of the cable. That way you won't lose your adjustment over time.

You can learn lots more about adjusting Sturmey-Archer 3-speed on Sheldon Brown's awesome website here: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/sturmey-archer.html

Hope this gets you going,

Q: Several of my friends and myself with old-school 70's steel frames(Reynolds 531 DB, etc) are thinking about getting water-bottle fittings installed. The local shops want to drill a hole in our frame tubes (down- or bottom-tube) and insert a pop-rivet nut. That meets our need but we're all worried about putting holes in our old, thin-wall tubing.

Any ideas, anecdotes?

A: Good question, Oran. If you look back at quality steel road bikes made before around 1970, you'll see that very few framebuilders ever installed braze-on water-bottle bosses on the frames. Instead they insisted that you put clamps on the tubes to hold your bottle cage on. This looked ugly, but the framebuilders said that if you drilled holes in the frame tubes it would cause them to break. (It's usually not a good idea to drill holes in structural frame members like bicycle tubes because the stresses of riding can gradually work on the edges of the hole and create shear points and over time you can have cracking or tube breaks that start at that hole, the weakest point in the tube.) It's important to understand that butted steel tubes are weakest in the center of the tubes, which is exactly where you drill the holes for the bottle braze-ons. Here, a quality steel frame tube could be less than .5mm thick.

Slowly the concern over the tubes breaking changed, though, and by the mid to late seventies most steel bikes came with bottle bosses brazed onto the frames, usually on the down tube only, but later on both the down and seat tubes, and then even later, also beneath the down tube on touring bikes (usually used to carry fuel for your stove). The reason this happened was because the braze-ons used and the installation of them addressed the issue of the holes weakening the thin-wall tubing.

The braze-ons were designed to reinforce the tube at the hole. Most were threaded inserts with a reinforcing rings or tabs that rested against the tube and when the braze-on was brass or silver soldered in place, it actually doubled, or more than doubled the thickness of the frame tubing at the hole making it plenty strong. This is the key reason they worked: they reinforced the tube and they were soldered in place.

That gives you some background. Rivet-type bottle bosses came along with aluminum bikes and they usually work fine on them, but I'm not sure I'd trust them on a nice old steel frame. I'm sure they would work for a while and maybe forever if you don't ride that far or all that hard. But, I'd worry that since they aren't actually brazed to the frame, that the holes in the frame could develop stress cracks over time, which could travel outward and into the tube. I've just seen too many broken steel frames from cracks like this, so I'd worry about it. If it was a heavy-duty steel frame it might work fine. But, a nice Reynolds double-butted frame has thin, thin tubing.

I'd recommend having a local framebuilder braze some bottle bosses on for you instead, or going low-tech and just using boring old bottle-cage clamps. The only drawback to having bottle braze-ons installed is needing to repaint the frame at the braze-ons. (Some people just touch it up with primer and don't worry about the looks - or, if you're good with painting, you might be able to match the original paint finish pretty closely and almost make the bottle braze-ons disappear.) But, you'd at least have a permanent high-quality job that you could rely on - and your frame wouldn't break.

I hope this helps and thanks for keeping those classic bikes on the road, Jim

Thursday, August 21, 2008

RECALL NOTICE: Cervelo Wolf SL fork

Folks - If you ride a Cervelo bicycle that's equipped with a Wolf SL fork
made by True Temper Sports (I do), please stop riding it immediately and
bring it to your bicycle dealer for replacement. The Wolf SL fork has been
recalled due to several reported failures leading to crashes and injuries.
Cervelo says, "The recalled forks have a clear coating over black-painted
carbon fiber, with the words "Wolf Superlite" and related logo just below
the crown on each fork leg, and the words "SL" on each leg above the fork
blade dropouts. There is a True Temper CRTMC logo on the inside of both fork
legs. The recalled forks could have been included on the following bicycle
models: R3, R3 SL, Soloist Carbon, Soloist Carbon SL, and certain P3 Carbon
framesets and complete bicycles."

Here's a link to Cervelo's recall page, which has photos and more:
Here's a link to the BikeBiz blog that has links to some examples of broken
Wolf forks with photos:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NEWSWIRE: Crankset Transmissions

Most multi-speed bicycles rely on an elegantly simple and super-light device called a front derailleur that shifts the chain across the different size chainrings to provide a wide range of gearing. The primary disadvantage of this system is a different chainline for each chainring, which can result in dropped chains, chain suck and sloppy shifting. The need for several size chainrings can also cause clearance and suspension issues on certain mountain bikes. Recently, component maker TruVativ leaked news of its HammerSchmidt transmission, a crankset that solves all these issues by providing 2 gears from a single chainring crank that works with internal planetary gears, which is similar to how 3-speed hubs work. There's an excellent report on this ingenious new transmission, complete with videos, here. However, TruVativ isn't the first to invent something like this. There were front transmissions dating back to the turn of the century, and there's at least one other modern one, made by Schlumpf Innovations. Designed to work on road and mountain bikes, Schlumpf's Speed-Drive and Mountain-Drive have a clever shifting technique: you tap the crankarm cap with your heel to shift gears! Learn more on this cool crank here.

TruVativ's HammerSchmidt and Schlumpf's Speed-Drive

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Q&A: strong wheel, finding old bike parts, fixing a foot brake

Q: Hi Jim,
I'm a large male - twenty stones (280 pounds) - and I use my cycle to
and from work about eight miles a day most along a cycle path. I also
use it for pleasure. But the problem I have is that in the past twelve
months I have buckled three rear wheels. I have been told it is
because of my weight and that I should get a reinforced wheel. Could
you give me any advice?

Many thanks

A: Hi John,
My recommendation is to bring your bicycle to a good local bike shop
that has a reputation for high quality wheelbuilding. If you ask other
cyclists you should be able to find out who builds great wheels at the
local bike shops. A good builder will look at what you've been riding
and listen to how you use your bike and design a custom wheel that
will hold up for you. There are many options from different spoke
gauges, to more spokes, to heavy-duty rims. A good custom builder will
pick just the right components, build a very nice and strong wheel and
then guarantee his/her work, too, so that if you have a problem in the
future you will get your wheel fixed for free.

That's what I recommend and I'm sure you'll get a dependable, nice riding wheel,

Q: Jim,
I have a 1936-7 Roadmaster classic cruiser bicycle that I reacquired a
couple years ago after my Mom passed away. I am trying to restore it
to it's condition at my boyhood. My step Father did some changes to
it a several years back
discarding the fenders and apparently misassembled the coaster brake. I
have downloaded the exploded diagram of the brake and find that the clutch
retaining ring part# 110B1/2 is missing. I either need a replacement ring
or the specifications for it so I can make a replacement. Also I would like
to purchase replacement fenders.I hope that you can help me with these items.

A: Hi Richard,
Morrow hubs and parts for classic old cruisers are getting a little
hard to find. I think your best bet would be to search eBay.com for
Morrow hubs or wheels with Morrow hubs or a complete bike with a
Morrow hub that you could buy and rob parts from. Similarly, you might
find a bike with the right fenders, too, if you're lucky. You might
also try contacting the guys on the www.thecabe.com website and see if
any of them can help you out. Maybe they have an old hub or some
spare parts. Another way to find vintage parts is at bike/car
swapmeets if you're lucky enough to have one in your area or are
willing to travel to one. One of the biggest is the Hershey swap meet,
which takes place in April each year. It's primarily for antique car
buffs, but is known for having loads of two-wheel deals, too, since so
many car collectors love bicycles, too. But, any car meet might have
vintage bicycle stuff, too, so they're all worth checking out when
you're hunting for parts. You might also try the folks that run the
Copake bicycle auction each year: http://www.copakeauction.com/

I think one of these things will get you going with just a little luck and
persistence. Good luck!

Q: Hello Jim,
Maybe you will have a possible answer that I just can't find on the internet.

I'm having a problem with a Shimano CB E110 coaster brake hub that
came with a single speed bike I purchased about a year ago. I've been
working on bikes as an enthusiast for about 30 years, but not much on
coaster brake (foot brake) bikes.

The Shimano CB worked fine until recently, when it developed a 'clunk'
and 'release' sort of response to pedaling backwards to engage the
brake. It brakes just fine however. Mostly annoying, but probably not
a safety problem. I hope. That's why I'm asking around as to what it
might be.

I've had it apart, put in a new spring, new bearings, new grease (high
temp), and adjusted it perfectly. No play, no binding!

But, now it's starting again, just a little bit though. I can't get it
to 'clunk' and 'release' on the bike repair stand, only in operation.
My LBS owner and friend suggested possibly the front ashtabula
chainwheel was moving a bit because of looseness (NOPE), or that the
rear cog was worn and chain was catching and releasing (NOPE - all
brand new and not that many miles on them). Any ideas?

Thanks much,

A: Hi Phil,
It sounds like you've checked the right things. I would have checked
the ashtabula sprocket, too, that was a good suggestion. Did you check
that the rear cog is not damaged? It attaches to the hub with small
tabs on the inside hole in the sprocket. These tabs can get worn and
if so the cog can slip under pressure and then release as the damaged
tabs refind their respective slots in the driver in the hub. You'd see
this on the cog but only if you look closely. There can also be
snapring problems that allow the cog to move and can cause problems.
You might check those things - that the tabs aren't worn and that the
cog is sitting securely and stays put on the hub driver. A new cog
would fix these issues, maybe a new snapring, too.

The other things that you didn't mention are the brake shoes and the
hub shell. These hubs are pretty basic and not too terribly tough. The
brake shoes can wear funny and that can make them jam a bit. You could
compare yours to new ones and see how they compare and put in new ones
if yours look worn or shaped funny. And, you should check the inside
and the bearing surfaces of the hub shell to see if you can spot any
small cracks or bearing wear marks and even scoring inside that could
be caused by lack of lubrication or bad, worn brake shoes or grit,

Oh, one basic thing some people don't realize: you should lube all the
parts up with a decent bicycle grease. If you run it dry or nearly
dry, it's sure to jam. You need to lube it good.

Maybe something here will help. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

NEWSWIRE: Albany Highwheel Event A Hit

Last weekend was the Albany, California (near Berkeley) Criterium and since it was the city's centennial, the promoters decided to hold a special highwheel bicycle event as part of the festivities. I brought my 1886 Victor Light Roadster and had a blast getting schooled by the other riders in the skill events, the slalom, the slow race (the last to cross the finish line wins; "ready - set - slow!") and the straight-and-narrow, where you have to ride down a decreasing-width lane formed by tape on the road. The person who makes it the furthest without touching the tape with his tire wins.

Then came something I'm good at, the mile race. Fourteen riders participated and we started together. To mount one of these antique bicycles (sometimes called an Ordinary, because it was the ordinary bike of the 1880s - or a Penny Farthing, a British term based on 2 coins that, when placed side by side, resemble the bikes), you put your left foot on a little step on the backbone (the frame). You then push with your right foot to get the bike rolling. Once the bike's got just enough speed to balance it, you push off with your right foot, push up on the step with your left foot, boost yourself into the seat and find the pedals with your feet at the same time. Getting off is the reverse - or, if you're brave, you can jump off.

With everyone safely underway, we tore around the course, the guys on the smallest wheels (equal to smaller gears) getting an early lead and keeping it all the way to the slight climb on the backside of the course. But, with my 56-inch wheel, I was able to gradually overtake the leaders and pull away around the last corner for the win. The photos show a "brace," a common 1880s crowd-pleaser, where we line up on our bikes by holding each other's handlebars for support, and me finishing the mile. For more on highwheeling:
The brace

The winner!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Q&A: Speed wobble; mtb tire sizes,

Q: I have a Schwinn GS hybrid. It's equipped with what they call a carbon
"flex fork" that has very little rake as compared to my other bikes. I've
had 3 incidents where I got high speed wobble in the 35-40mph range. I
managed to get it whoa'd down before a crash, but it was very scary. I've
never had this problem on any other bike. I've checked the headset, wheels,
bearings, etc. and all seem fine. I've given it a lot of thought and it
seems to happen when I'm leaning to the right or off camber leaning to the
right. The fork looks like it "melted" during the wobble. I'm an old coot,
don't need to have a high speed crash. Got any ideas?


Hi Fritz,
Speed wobble on bicycles and motorcycles is a fairly common problem so the
first thing is to have a plan for when/if it happens, and one thing you can
do that will usually get the bicycle under control immediately is to stop
pedaling and clamp your knees against the top tube. This will brace the top
tube and should stop the speed wobble right away. This is an old trick but a
good one to know because speed wobble can happen and sometimes even on bikes
that never wobbled before.

Finding the cause of a wobble and eliminating it can be more difficult. You
might start by replacing your wheels with someone else's and going down the
same hill where your bike wobbled and see if it does it with the different
wheels. If not, it might be that the spoke tension of your wheels is too low
or that you have a defective tire with an "S" in the casing from a stone
bruise to the casing.

It can be helpful to get a second opinion, too. If another person can't get
your bike to wobble on the same hill that it just wobbled on for you, you'd
have reason to suspect it could be how your bike is set up to fit you. For
example, if the seat is too high, your weight is too high and that can
affect how a bike handles. It sounds like you checked for the usual culprits
like a loose headset, warped wheels, loose wheel bearings. You might try
tightening your headset a bit. Usually there's a bit of tolerance and you
could try setting it a little tighter than it is and see if that helps damp
the front end and stop the wobble.

Hopefully one of these tips will help you solve the wobble, but I have seen
bikes that just wobbled under certain riders and under certain conditions. I
have a very nice road bike like this in my garage. It wobbles for me on
steep hills so it's reserved for people who weigh less and none have ever
got it to wobble. I believe the tubing in the frame is too light for my 170
pounds and where it's positioned on the bike when I ride it. Put a 160 pound
guy on it and it's fine.

And, I should add that I don't think the carbon fork is the issue. You could
certainly swap out the fork to see if a different one would stop the wobble.
But, my Litespeed has one of the lightest carbon forks made on it, an old
Look HSC, and even though it looks scary flexible on bumpy descents it has
never wobbled.

If you have a good mechanic you could have test ride your bike that would be
a good way to go, too, especially if he can experience the wobble.

Good luck. Let me know if you figure out what's causing it,

Q: Jim - Will a 26 x 2-inch tubeless tire fit properly on a 26 x 1.75 wheel?
Also, what width range of tubeless tire will properly fit a 26 x 1.75 wheel?


A: Hi Chuck,
26 x 1.75 is a standard size used on some mountain bikes, so pretty much any
26 inch "mountain-bike" tire will fit, including 26 x 2.0, 1.5, 1.9, 2.3,
etc. Tubeless tires usually come in the wider sizes, though, and any of
those should work fine on your wheel. There are also skinny (not tubeless)
tires meant for road use like 1.25 and even 1 inch that will work, too, as
long as that's a modern wheel you have, and not something very old without
rims that'll hang onto a skinny tire. And, if you go with a skinny road tire
it's best to replace the tube with one that fits, too, otherwise it can be
super hard to mount the tire.

Hope this helps,

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Q&A: Sticky pedals, dry lube, new brake hoods, clickie fixie

Q: Jim, I am a bit of an addict - doing spinning classes about 5 times a week. I love my clipless pedals and shoes but have a hard time clipping out - even broke a shoe trying to clip out. Someone suggested spraying Pam or WD-40 on the clips - any advice on this? Just in case you're picturing a large woman, I am about 5' 6" and 120 lbs, so not a big brute : ) Any advice would be greatly appreciated,

A: I can relate, Paula. I'm an addict, too, and never miss my rides. You didn't mention what type of pedal system you have. If you have plastic cleats and pedal parts, like used on Look clipless pedals, you can certainly try spritzing your pedals and cleats with a cooking spray like Pam or you might try a furniture wax like Lemon Pledge or a car spray polish like Armor All, I'd be a little worried about using WD-40, though, as it's more a penetrating lubricant than a slippery wax and it might gum things up over time where the slippery sprays shouldn't too much. On clipless pedal systems that are all, or mostly metal, like Shimano SPDs or Speedplay, the lubricants like WD-40, should work fine, not gum things up too much, and also last longer than the waxy sprays. Just don't walk into your house with your cycling shoes on or you'll transfer the lube from your cleats to your floors.

If you do have a Shimano SPD system, keep in mind that one of the most likely causes of difficulty getting out of your pedals is cleat wear. Over time the little metal cams on the cleats that open the pedal jaws when you twist your feet to exit wear down. And, when they wear down enough, you twist your feet and the cleats can't spread the pedal jaws enough for you to get your feet out. Replacing the cleats will make the system work like new again. It takes me a few years to wear out a set of metal cleats, though, so if yours are new, that's probably not the problem. Note that this can happen on plastic cleats, too, which wear out from walking, and a lot faster than metal ones, if you walk a lot in your cycling shoes. You can look at plastic cleats and see the wear pretty easily. Look for too-thin edges at the front and rear and rough or chipped edges, all signs it's probably time for new cleats.

Keep in mind that most modern clipless pedals have adjustable release tension, too. Look for a small Allen screw on the backs of the pedals (photo). Turn these in 1/2-turn increments counterclockwise and you should feel a significant difference in how hard it is to get out of your pedals. You can hold your shoe in your hand and click it in and out of the pedal to feel how much easier you can make it. On Shimano pedals there's a lot of adjustment and you can make it much easier if it's at the hardest setting when you start. Also, on two-sided clipless pedals like Shimanos, you can also set one side loose and one side tighter if you wanted a choice, say for riding for fitness when you don't get off the bike much, versus riding off road where you get off a lot.

If you have plastic cleats (like Looks) and they're mounted on a small shoe, it's also possible that the cleats bent slightly when the cleat bolts were tightened down (to conform to the curved shoe soles). This can happen on a small size shoe and if it does, the curve placed in the cleats when you tighten them fully makes it harder to get out of the pedals. The solution is to loosen the cleats and place shims beneath them until the cleats can be fully tightened without changing shape (the bottoms should remain flat when the cleats are fully tightened on the shoes; the cleats shouldn't be curved at all).

Hope these tips help you solve the problem,

Q: Hi Jim, I'm wondering about "Sosmetal Slik & Kleen." It's a dry lube and I'm wondering if you can tell me is it any good for the bicycle chain? I've tried it and it seems to do well and without any dirt or dust getting stuck as when using a regular type oil. I appreciate in advance your answer.
Thank you,

A: Sorry, Bob, I've never heard of that lube. Is it made specifically for bicycles? There is a bicycle lube called White Lightning http://www.whitelightningco.com/ that's wax-based and pretty good for dry climates/areas. I've used that a lot and thought it worked nicely, though you do get a waxy build-up on your chain and cassette over time. But, it does lube okay and keeps your drivetrain relatively grime-free.

Q: Hi Jim,
I have a bicycle that I built in the late seventies with components from all sorts of places. The brakes are Zeus 2000 center pull and the gum rubber brake hoods are in need of replacement. I have not found Zeus replacement parts but have heard that the campy replacement hoods will fit. I am wondering what the best way to replace these hoods would be. I really don’t want to remove the levers from the handlebars since I have leather handlebar covers that are sewn onto the bar. Is it possible to replace these hoods by removing the brake cable and going at them from the front?

Thanks for your advice,

A: Hi Rick,
I can't remember Zeus brake levers as they were pretty rare and I didn't work on many over the years. But, in most cases, you can slip the rubber hoods off the levers once the cables have been released from the levers. Old hoods will probably tear off, too and you probably won't mind ruining them if it's time to replace them. Be sure to remove all the rubber if some pieces are left stuck to the brake lever hoods. Lighter fluid or rubbing alcohol will free rubber pieces really stuck to the lever.

To get the new hoods on, soak them in warm soapy water for awhile. This will make them softer and slippery and they should slip right over the brake levers with a little care. Be sure to protect your leather tape so the water doesn't stain it. You could wrap plastic around it until the hoods are on and dry.

If you run into tight, or older rubber hoods that simply won't go on without risk of ruining them, you should be able to remove the brake lever handles, too. On high-quality levers, like Campy, there's usually a set screw inside to loosen and then you can push out the main pivot pin that holds the lever handles in place. Once this pin is out, the handles will come out (the lever hoods stay attached to the handlebars) and you can simply slide the rubber hood onto the brake lever hood without having to stretch the rubber much at all. It's a little tricky putting the lever handles back in place but not too hard. You just need to hold the rubber hood out of the way to slide the pivot pin back in place. Don't forget to tighten the set screw.

If you can't get the lever handles out of the lever, you can also remove the levers from the bars without unwrapping the tape, but this is trickier. It's easy enough to remove the levers by unscrewing the main screw inside the levers. This will let you remove the levers from the bars (just pull). BUT, when you remove them, the clamp and pull-up nut remain behind on the handlebar. Also, the bar tape stays the way it was wrapped. Usually, the lever was installed BEFORE the tape was wrapped. This means that if you remove the lever this way, the tape stays in a position that makes it tricky to get the lever back in the little pocket it was in before (formed by the tape).

Also, getting the screw in the lever to find and tighten into the pull-up nut and clamp still on the bar is tricky. It can be done but it takes patience and a little luck. One trick is to put a cardboard shim behind the pull-up nut to "jam" it in place so it can't move as you try to find it with the main screw when you're trying to reattach the levers. You will also need to wiggle or pry the bar tap/leather back over the hood the way it was before slipping a screwdriver or something like that beneath to fit the lever and tape just right so everything is right again. I've done this, but it's easier, of course, if you can just slip the hood over, or remove the lever handles only and leave the brake hoods on the bars.

Actually, now that I explained all that, because you have leather, it's possible that your setup was designed for easier lever removal. You might loosen a lever and see if the leather is entirely beneath the lever body and the clamp and nut are easy to access. If so, it should be pretty easy to remove the levers, slip on the new hoods and reinstall the levers.

Hope these tips help you out. Let me know how it goes,

Q: Jim - Here is a photo of a bike I built from scratch. New steel frame, all new parts. I have several bikes. My multispeeds are solid and quiet, carbon and steel. My singlespeeds, both a Bianchi San Jose and this one, go tick, tick, tick as I pedal, especially under a load. I had the bottom brackets rebuilt three times, even used plumber's tape on the BB threads. New chains, adjusted both, found the tight spot and adjusted to compensate for it as told to do. Still that ticking sound. Lubed the pedals, checked the SPD cleats, tight and lubed. Tried different shoes. Tick, tick. The mechanic at the bike shop told me to "ignore it and get used to it." Why do singlespeeds tick?

A: That's a sweet looking bike, Bill. But, it's hard for me to tell whether or not I could help with the tick on your bike. In my experience fixies and track bikes do tend to have a little more drivetrain noise, but I don't think of it as a tick but more like a constant running noise from the chain links and sprockets. It's not anything I'd worry about. 10-speeds make noise, too.

But, if I heard a regular, tick, tick, tick like on one pedal stroke or something, I'd try to figure it out. Maybe it would be possible to get rid of it and have a quiet ride.

Have you tried loosening your chain so it seems too loose, to see if the noise goes away? Have you tried checking the alignment of the cog and chainring to make sure they're perfect? Have you looked at the cogs and chainring very carefully under a bright light, one tooth at a time, to make sure no teeth are slightly bent, or out of alignment? Has the chain got a nice coat of lube on it? Are the chainring bolts nice and greased up? Were the pedal threads greased when you put them in? Did you check your shoes to make sure nothing is loose on there. On my Sidi shoes for example, I only use 3 holes to mount my Look cleats. That leaves a couple of other holes for other cleat systems. Problem is, the metal inserts in these holes are loose in the shoe. It took me a while to figure out that they were rattling in there and on every pedal stroke I'd get a click, click. It drove me nuts. I fixed it by putting a screw in those holes to lock that part of the shoe down.
Another possibility is the chain. Sometimes people run basic coaster-brake-style chains on fixies. It's my experience that a derailleur chain, which is more flexible, will run more smoothly and quietly. You might try that if you're running the more basic, less expensive coaster-brake chain.

Maybe one of these suggestions will help you find the problem and have a nice quiet ride again. I hope so. Thanks again for the photo. I enjoyed seeing your masterpiece. Very nice! Oh, be sure to check my extensive article on finding and fixing bicycle noises if others crop up. It's here: http://www.jimlangley.net/wrench/keepitquiet.html