Monday, January 28, 2008

Bicycle Lift in Trondheim, Norway

We need these on the many hills here in Santa Cruz to encourage people to start biking instead of driving. But, it should be free and maybe run on solar power.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Q&A: Freewheel/cassette not working/frozen

Q: Hi Jim,
This happened over the weekend (it was cold): When I tried to ride my bike on Monday the freewheel would not engage with the wheel (it just spun). I moved the bike inside (it was stored in the garage) and adjusted the quick release, laid it flat on the floor and it worked again. I am not sure whether I fixed the problem or not. I have no confidence to ride it until I really understand the problem or issue(s) (it’s a 12-mile commute). Could you give me some tips?

Q: Hi Thomas,
The freewheel (also called a cassette sometimes, though the two are different things) has little pawls and springs inside that work together to drive your bike. There's usually lubricant inside, too. My best guess is that the cold weather made the pawls stick and stop catching and driving your bike. When you brought your bike inside the heat warmed up the lubricant and the springs were then able to push the pawls back in place and drive your bike again. So, I think it'll work fine for your ride.
Apply a little lube to free frozen freewheels.
It won't hurt to add a little lubricant. To do this, lay your bike on its side with the freewheel facing up. Then turn the crank backwards and watch the freewheel move. You'll see that the part with the sprockets moves and the part it's turning on stays still because it's attached to the wheel. There is a small crack between these two parts of the freewheel and that's where you put the lube. A light spray lube like Triflow works fine. Or you can drip car motor oil on while turning the crank slowly to draw the lube into the crack and into the freewheel mechanism. You won't get all the oil in there but you just need to get some in there to refresh any lube that's in there and keep the freewheel working.

Note that if what you have is a cassette, it's harder to get lube inside it because there are pieces that block access to places to add lube. Click here to see a nice picture on Sheldon Brown's awesome bicycle website that shows the difference between freewheels and cassettes. Luckily, cassettes usually don't freeze or fail as often as freewheels and don't need relubing very often. If you want to relube your cassette you can remove the cogs (you'll need a cassette lockring tool and a chainwhip tool) to gain access to the body and drip some lube in. Or, if you want to do a professional job, consider purchasing Morningstar Tools' Freehub Buddy tools and lube that let you flush and fully relube it!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Q&A: Speed wobble, shimmy

Q: Just bought a new Colnago C50 and if I let go of the handlebars to make
adjustments, just sit up and take a break, or whatever, usually at speeds
15mph and greater, the handlebar/wheel starts to oscillate, if I don't put
my hands back on it quickly it will most certainly throw me off the bike.
Any ideas on what could be the problem?

A: Because it's a new bike I would strongly recommend returning to the
bicycle shop and asking the mechanic to test ride your bike so he can
experience the issue. Be sure to explain so he doesn't crash. That's the
best thing to do if it's new because it might be a bad frame or fork and as
long as it's new you should be fully covered under warranty. Usually, the
sooner you contact the shop and the newer the bike the more powerful the
warranty is and the easier it is for them to help you out. As you ride the
bike there is the issue of whether or not you caused the problem somehow.
But this bike is brand new so that's not likely.

Now, if you built the bike up from a frame, or something, it could
definitely be something mechanical causing the issue. The causes of wobble
are almost endless and all two-wheel vehicles (bikes or motorcycles) are
susceptible to this problem. If you want to do some research you can type
"high-speed wobble" or "speed shimmy" into Google and follow a lot of links
where people discuss this issue and what causes it.

Some things to check on your bicycle include:
-is the headset (steering bearings) adjusted perfectly?
-is the seat height correct? (too high and your weight will be too high,
which can cause wobbles if too much weight is way up high)
-are the tires bad (sometimes there are defective tires that have S bends in
them that can cause wobbles at speed)
-are the tires seated perfectly on the rims? (no hops or dips when you spin
the wheel and sight the tires)
-are the wheels true and round?
-are the spokes tight enough? (quality wheels, built well by a pro)
-are the wheels centered in the frame and fork and tightened securely?
-does the bicycle track straight at slow speed or does it pull to one side?
-do friends who test ride your bike feel this too (tell them to ride it
-are the hub bearings in the wheels adjusted correctly with no side-to-side
play when you wiggle the axles in your fingers or push/pull on the rim?

Those are just some of the checks you can do to try to find mechanical
problems. But, as I said, since this is a new bike I would let the shop
handle it and not accept it back until they fixed the problem. A bike of
this quality should ride perfectly at any speed. Ernesto Colnago would not
want it any other way. He's a class act.

A quick tip that every cyclist should keep in mind is that many bikes can
wobble at speed. Sometimes it's the road that causes it and it can happen
out of the blue on a bike that never wobbles in general. When this happens
keep in mind that you can almost always stop speed wobble immediately by
simply stopping pedaling and bringing your knees together and clamping them
against the top tube of the frame. This braces the top tube and should stop
the wobble right away. Remember this tip and it can save you if this ever
happens to you. I had to use this trick in the World's Toughest Triathlon
descending Monitor Pass at close to 60mph (I had just passed a Porsche!).
Had I not known it, I would not be typing this today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

GREAT TIP: Bike cleaning made easy

Here's a super tip that'll make your bicycle cleaning easier than ever and that works on steel, titanium, aluminum and carbon bicycle frames and parts, too. Plus it takes only minutes and gets such nice results you'll want to do it after every couple of rides. (If your bike's a filthy mess from muddy rides or endless miles without cleaning, start by washing it with soap and water first.)

Simply spray Lemon Pledge furniture polish on your bicycle and then wipe it off with a soft cloth (or, if you prefer, spray it on the cloth and wipe). This will clean your bicycle and parts, leave a nice wax finish that helps keep it clean and makes it shine like it was new, too. It even works on unfinished carbon components giving them a lustrous shine and adding a protective coating.

The best part is how little time it takes. Just spray and wipe. There's no drying or excessive wiping needed though you can polish as much as you like. Keep a can of Lemon Pledge on your workbench and make bike cleaning easy and fun! It's much more satisfying than dusting the furniture in your house.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

Q&A: Bicycle saddle seat advice

Q: Dear Mr. Langley,
I am 44 years old with a 1 1/2 year history of enlarged prostate/ some ED problems. Things were under control until fairly recently when symptoms returned. I began bicycling pretty regularly in Oct/ Nov of 07- first on my old Ross 12 speed road bike (in very good shape after many year of non-use) and now on a Trek FX2 that I recently bought and LOVE. I have been riding 5-6 days per week for about 40 minutes. I feel better, lost a few pounds, and most of all enjoy myself.

Now the down side. I saw my urologist yesterday and he found the return of symptoms and my new  obsession with bike riding to be too much coincidence. He wants me doing any exercise but bike riding. My problem is this is the first exercise I have done consistently in years, and I don't want to give
it up. I am 5' 11' was 290lbs and I'm now 280 after riding a few months. While I didn't have any numbness while riding, I can see his point after getting a brief anatomy lesson from him. I am thinking of getting either one of the many saddles with the perennial cut-outs in the middle (but still with a horn), or I am very intrigued by the Moon Saddle I saw linked from you site. Most of my riding is on flat residential streets, laps around a
1.6 mile loop.

The Moon Saddle looks like it would cause the least amount of pressure on the perineum, but I still want enough stability to ride fairly aggressively for fitness. Any thoughts/ comments you care to share would be greatly appreciated.

A: Sorry to hear about your troubles, Jim. It sounds like you may have already found my saddles page on my website where I try to answer every question under the sun about seats and seat comfort and how to prevent ED issues. If not here's the link:

I'll add a few more thoughts here but first I need to make sure you realize I'm definitely not a doctor and I don't have any special knowledge of the body or ED (erectile dysfunction) apart from what I've read and learned over the years as a bicycle expert. I personally have had numbness but luckily never any ED issues.

However my friend Ed Pavelka, the former owner and publisher of and former executive editor of Bicycling Magazine did suffer from ED due to cycling and wrote extensively about it
for Bicycling Magazine in around 1997 bringing the issue to the public's attention nationwide for the first time. If you did a little research you could probably find his articles online or I might be able to find it in my
pile of back issues if you'd like me to dig a bit.

Some thoughts about your situation that should help (in no particular order):
-I wonder when you ride if you stay seated most of the time? This is a common "problem" or mistake people make. Ideally you will stand up every 10 or 15 minutes to relieve the pressure. I've always lived where it's hilly and I stand up at least for a few pedal strokes almost every time I come to a hill. But, even if it was a flat road, I'd still stand up once in a while to relieve the pressure. It's also good practice to move around on your
seat, slide forward and back, wiggle around a bit, too.
-Bike adjustment is crucial for seat comfort. The top of the seat has to feel neutral to your crotch. If it's digging in or isn't comfortable to sit on, it may be angled up or down or just not the right shape for your pelvic structure. You need to find a seat you can sit on that fits right and you also need to set the angle right for your body and bike. Usually this means the top of the seat is parallel to the ground or tipped up ever so slightly, no more than 3 degrees.
-It's likely that as you ride more and more you'll drop more and more weight and the less weight you're carrying the less weight you'll be placing on your seat and blood vessels. Any exercise you do off the bike that helps you drop some weight will make it easier on your body to sit on the seat. One exercise that's easy to do that can help is crunches (mini sit-ups). This will strengthen your abdominal muscles/core muscles and these help you control your posture when riding your bike and allow you to support your weight more with your upper body, which helps take some weight off the seat, too.
-If a bicycle isn't set up for the rider too much weight will be on the seat. For example, people think flat bars are more comfortable than drop bars, which might be true, however, if the flat bar is so high and so far
back that it pushes your upper body rearward then it is essential putting more of your weight onto the seat. The seat on a road bike that you travel distance on was not designed to support all your weight. It's only supposed to support about 1/3 of it or a little more, the rest being on the pedals and handlebars. Often if you shift the weight forward with a longer stem or different handlebars you will relieve a significant amount of pressure from the seat/crotch.
-If you would like to do an easy experiment to see how much weight is on what part of your bike you could get 2 identical design bathroom scales and put one under your front wheel and one under your rear wheel. Then just sit on your bike holding yourself up by resting a hand on the wall, or something. Ideally the weight distribution will be about 60/40 rear/front. If it's 80/20, it's no wonder your seat is hurting you.
-Seat height is key for numbness and ED issues, too. If the seat is too high it will be jammed into the crotch. You will not have enough weight on the pedals. Too low is also bad because you can't support your weight well with your legs bent too much when you pedal.
-Tire pressure is another factor. Ideally if you are suffering pain and numbness you want to make your bike ride relatively soft. As a larger rider you need enough air in the tires to keep them from bottoming out over bumps, but you want to find a happy medium that protects the tires and rims but allows some cushioning over bumps and rough roads, too. If you are riding skinny tires you might try going with a slightly fatter tire and running a few psi less to soften the ride.

I know you asked about the Moon saddle [UPDATE January 2013: Their website is still live but a reader reported in the comments that he ordered a seat and did not receive it, so they may be out of business now. So do NOT send them any money unless you're sure they are doing business.] but I wanted to go over all these things first because in my experience it's more likely that the issue is caused by equipment or riding style than it is by the seat itself - though if you have a seat that doesn't fit your body that can certainly be one of the main contributors. I would typically not go to an alternative design seat until I had given regular seats a fair shot, though. Standard seats have been refined for over 100 years and it's highly likely that you'll prefer that type as you ride further and longer.

Earlier I mentioned Ed Pavelka. He is currently recovering from a broken hip and laid up in a hospital so he won't be able to answer email and I know that he usually tells people that things have changed since 1997 when he wrote that article and he doesn't like to discuss his experiences back then too much as he feels there are other people more expert. However, the result of Ed's ED, which would have been when he was about 50 years old, I believe, was that he took some time off riding his regular road bikes and rode an Easy Racers' recumbent bike with a mesh seat that resembled a lawn chair He rode this for one season and his blood flow returned completely. He was then able to get back onto his regular road bikes and never went back to the recumbent and has been riding strong ever since.

I would think that if you can check your bike fit, get it right, and be careful how you ride your bike that this issue will go away on its own with a little time. But, as I said I'm just a bicycle expert not a doctor so please do what's best for your health. And, I apologize for the length and rambling nature of this email, but I sure hope it helps you enjoy your cycling,

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Q&A: BCD of Stronglight 49D triple

Q: I recently inherited a Stronglight 49D triple crankset. The middle
chainring, 40T, is well worn and probably needs replacement. (I haven't
installed the crank yet.) I haven't been able to discover the BCD of either
the very small 5 center bolts or the larger 6 holes on the 2nd ring to see
if there are replacement rings to be purchased. Do you know if replacement
rings are available to fit this?
Thanks and Regards,

A: Hi Steve,
It's been awhile since I've seen one of those but I think what you have is
essentially a TA bolt pattern with a 50.4mm bolt circle diameter for the
chainring that attaches to the crankarm. And, I think the bolt circle
diameter for the other rings (that attach to the chainring that's attached
to the crankarm) is 86. Another measurement you can use that's easy to take
with a ruler is the bolt hole to bolt hole measurement. Just measure from
the center of one hole to the center of the next hole. Using that
measurement I think the first measurement will be 29.6mm and the one for the
chainrings that attach to the chainring will be 50.5mm.

As far as whether you can get replacement rings or not, I'm not certain, but
I think the company Specialities TA might still make rings to fit that
crankset. I found their website (they're in France) and the email to contact
them is Or, you might try contacting Peter White Cycles
as I believe he stocks TA. Peter runs a bike business in New Hampshire. His
website is

If that doesn't work, my next suggestion would be to send a message to the email list, which is a group of people who love
vintage 10-speeds. It's possible that one of them (they're all over the
world) might have a replacement chainring they'd sell you.

Hope you find what you need to keep riding that classic crankset.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

COLLECTIBLES: Head badges!!

I was lucky to find this Chief badge the other day. It's from a Chief bicycle built around 1915 by the Davis Sewing Machine Company and sold by Sears. To give you an idea of what it looked like when it was new I found a picture of a reproduction chief badge with full color. That's not paint, it's cloisonné (melted porcelain), which gives it the brilliant color.

My badge, the original, was recently found in Iowa in a field. Apparently a house had been there and the badge must have belonged to the owners and been lost at some point. During plowing this fall the badge was unearthed and put on auction on eBay, which is how I ended up with it. I like the original a lot more than the reproduction, but seeing the new one makes me want to find an original in newer shape someday.

If you like bicycle head badges (also called nameplates) there are many more wonderful ones at these links: my collection, David Spick's Argentina collection, German gallerie (lots of cool modern badges).

Rare and beautiful

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Q&A: Klein pressed-in bottom bracket

Q: Hi Jim,
I have a circa 1989 Klein Quantum frame (actually a complete bike, my first true quality road machine at the tender age of 37 :-). It now lives a second (or is it third life) as my indoor training bike on my rollers. I have noted a noise that comes from the bottom bracket area. I have done the diagnostics required to isolate the noise and I'm sure that the bottom bracket is where the noise is coming from. The mileage is well north of 100 thousand miles so I'm not surprised. I have been attempting to describe to folks at my LBS that there is no lock ring or other securing device on the outside of these bearings, I think they might be thinking I going blind or loony or something... Based on the info I have been able to gather thus far, the late eighties/early nineties Kleins used a proprietary pressed in to the shell bottom bracket bearing/spindle arrangement. Anyway, I'm in desperate need of information on how to remove the old bearings from this type of bottom bracket/shell. I think I have a Park Tool press that will handle the installation of new bearings (although any help/info in that area would be appreciated as well). Any help or a pointer to an information resource for how to remove the old bearings would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for any help you can offer,

Hi Rick,
There's a possibility that the bearings aren't damaged but only out of grease. It tends to go away with enough pedaling. You might look closely and see if the bearings have black plastic seals on them. If so, you could gently try to remove these with a razor blade or Xacto knife, etc. You just get the tip beneath the edge of the seal and gently, gently wiggle it free. If you can that, you'll see the ball bearings inside and can pump some good grease in, press the seal back in and probably be good to go. (You won't even need to remove your crankarms.)

If you can't see the ends of the bearings or they're steel, not plastic, then your bearings weren't made to be serviced this way and will probably need to be replaced, or removed from the frame to regrease them. If that's the case, the easiest thing might be to contact Trek Bicycle Company (they own Klein now) and find out where your nearest Klein dealer is, or was. What you need to find is a retailer who has the tools to service these old dedicated Klein bottom brackets. Klein dealers used to keep these and if you can just find someone local who has them they'll be able to help you out with removal, regreasing and installation.

You could also try to do the job yourself. The Klein BB is only comprised of the spindle and bearings (3 parts). Everything is held in by tight fits and locktite. To get the BB out you need to knock it out. To do this, support the frame's bottom bracket so you can strike the BB axle with a hammer to knock out the BB. You might have a friend hold the frame so that the edge of the BB is supported on your vise (put wood blocks or brass jaws on the vise to protect your frame).

Then, be sure to rest a piece of wood on the BB axle so you don't damage it.
And then hit the block of wood to knock the axle and BB out of the frame. This could take a little work. Heat will loosen locktite so you could try heating the bearings first with a propane torch but don't get the heat near the frame paint or you'll burn it and you don't want that. Another way to heat it would be to soak the BB in a pan of boiling water (assuming you can find something big enough) - and hot water shouldn't harm the paint.

If you pound on one end of the BB axle and the BB doesn't come out, try the other end, too. With patience and persistence it should come out eventually. If you get it out and find that the bearings are rusty and worn out, you can buy replacement bearings online. Just measure yours carefully so you know what you need. And order good ones. I believe Phil Wood may make these, too Maybe you can find the type that can be lubed by lifting the seals. Then you can easily lube them every year and keep the BB going for another 100,000 miles!

Hope this helps,