Friday, February 29, 2008

Q&A: Brakes and Tyres

Q: Hi Jim,
Thanks for your FAQ - most interesting. I have a couple of questions.
1) I had to replace the inner tube on my bike last night as it was
punctured. I took the old one off and it was 26" but the wheel itself is a
24" wheel. The tyre was 26". What is the correct size tube? I stuck a 24"
one on which I happened to have - will this be a problem?
2) My brakes are not effective. There seems to be plenty of rubber on the
blocks and I have adjusted them so that they are as close to the rim as I
can get without actually touching and I hardly need to touch the brake lever
to apply them but even if I really squeeze both levers, I cannot stop
rapidly. There seems to be no friction between the brake blocks and the rim.
What should I attribute this to?

Kind regards and many thanks in advance,

A: Thanks for the email, Will. I bet someone didn't have the right size tube
so they put that 24-incher in there. That will work in a pinch because tubes
are made of stretchy butyl rubber, and also because the difference in size
between 24- and 26-inch wheels isn't that great, however, the right size
usually makes it easier to install the tube. So, you might want to replace
the 24 with a 26 at some point. Functionally, once the tube is inside the
tire it'll work fine.

On your brakes, what might have happened is that the brake pads might have
gotten old and hardened, or maybe they're filled with debris (small bits of
gravel from the road and metal bits from rim)? It's a good idea on most
bicycles to replace the pads about yearly depending on how much you ride
just to ensure that you have good, sticky rubber on there. If you don't have
replacement pads available you can sometimes get old pads to grip better by
checking them and removing any embedded debris in them with an awl or pick
or pocket knife, and then sanding them gently with sandpaper to expose a new
surface of rubber. Obviously, this won't work on worn-out pads. You'll need
to replace these. Ultimately, for safety, it's always best to go with new
pads, but if you were stuck without you could try cleaning and sanding the
old ones like this and it might get you by until you can get the news ones.
Keep in mind that most bike shops have a good selection of replacement pads
and replace them for you while you wait in most cases and not charge you too
much, either.

The other possibility is that the rim has some lube on it or even simple
dirt and grime from the road. As the braking surface the rim needs to be
kept nice and clean. For this you can use something like rubbing alcohol
that will cut through any grime and oil and evaporate quickly, too.

Just to be clear, you should check both the brake pads and clean the rim,
not just one or the other. The brakes are a system and all components should
be checked. Along that line I would also take a close look at the cable and
make sure that there's no extra friction in the cables and housings when you
operate the lever and also that the brake springs are nice and tight and
cause the brake to open smoothly when the levers are released.

As I said, most shops would have any parts you need and be happy to check
your brakes out and set you up with what you need to tune them up yourself,
or do the job for you for not too much money. Any time brakes are involved,
it's worth it to be safe and if you're not sure about proper adjustment you
might want to leave it to the pros. Sometimes they'll even show you what
they're doing or walk you through what you need to do so you can learn, too.

Have fun fixing up your bike!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Q&A: 25- to 27-tooth cassette

Q: Hi Jim,
I want to change my cassette from 11-25 to 12-27. I bought a new 10-speed cassette but I wondered if I need to change the length of the chain with the bigger rear cassette?


A: Thanks for the email, Leon. Unless you have something unusual in the way of a crankset or rear derailleur, that should work fine without changing the chain length. I ride a standard 39/53 Shimano Dura-Ace 10-sp drivetrain and have 2 wheels equipped with those same cassettes and I switch back and forth all the time and it works just fine.

Good rides!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Q&A: Removing an old 10-speed's fork

Q: Hi Jim,
I'm at a bit of a stand still on a bike I'm working on, an old Fuji Gran Tourer. I'm trying to remove the fork from the frame. My goal is to powdercoat the bike, and turn it into a commuter bike. I've done the obvious (or at least I think I have) for removing the fork.
- I removed long threaded bolt that keep the stem connected to the fork.
- I took off the nuts just above the upper bearings, and it looks like I
didn't need to.
- I've tapped on the fork with a hammer (with increasing force as its given
me more frustration)
- I tried coming up from the bottom of the fork with a thin pipe, tapping the wedge from there
No luck yet. It's as if the stem feels welded to the fork. Any suggestions?


A: Hi Kyle,
I think your problem is that you removed the stem bolt. Put the stem bolt back in the stem and thread it into the wedge that's still stuck in the bottom of the stem and holding the stem tight in the fork. Don't tighten the stem bolt. Just put it in and screw it into the wedge a few turns. Now take a block of wood and rest it on top of the stem bolt and then hit the block of wood with a hammer. This will knock the wedge out of the bottom of the stem and once that happens the stem will break free from the fork and you'll be able to take the fork out of the frame. Note that you never need to completely remove a stem bolt, unless it's damaged and needs replacement.

Hope this helps,

Monday, February 25, 2008

Q&A: Folding repair stands

Q: Hey Jim,
I'm looking for a lightweight/compact bike stand that I could travel with for use on my tours (for basic assembly and minor bike tuning/cleaning).
I've seen a couple of lightweight folding models that hold the rear wheel only, and will fit in your suitcase. Any ideas or suggestions?


A: That's a good question, Rob. The only folding one I know about is the Topeak FlashStand

I haven't tried it but it looks like it should work okay for this type of stand. The only other ones I know about are the ones that don't fold. I think they're called Multi-Stands, if I remember right. They're just chrome-plated bent wire. Those would fit in a suitcase and work okay, too.

The only bad thing about the little Y stands like this is that it tires your back having to bend over to work on the bike. The way I work around this is putting the bike up on a table, but you've got to find a table.

You might also consider a folding stand like Ultimate Bike Support's models. Those only weigh about 12 pounds and fold up small enough to take with you
as a carry-on or even fit in a big suitcase, but they would take up a fair amount of space compared to the little Y stands. Ultimates are pro-quality stands, though, and if you were working on a bunch of bikes they would really be nice to have:

Hope this helps,

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Q&A: Rubbing noise

Q: Hi, I recently bought a 2007 felt F75 and after about a month of use I
noticed a loud clicking noise originating somewhere on the bike. The noise
comes when I am out of the saddle leaning from side to side to get up a hill
or sprint at the end of a race. The noise occurs when I am on the left. Any

Thank you very much,

A: Hi Eugene,
It's probably the chain rubbing against the front derailleur. Keep in mind
that you need to "trim" the front derailleur with a slight movement of the
left shift lever whenever the chain has been shifted up or down the
cassettes cogs most of the way. As the chain is shifted up toward the
largest and down toward the smallest cogs it gets closer to the front
derailleur cage. If you don't move the left lever and move the derailleur
slightly (called "trimming") it can rub against the chain when you're
pedaling forcefully.

The other possibility is that the front derailleur is out of adjustment. If
that's the case I'd recommend heading back to the shop where you bought the
bike and explaining the issue. Be sure they take a test ride and push hard
like you are when you get the noise so they can hear it for themselves. It
should be a quick and easy adjustment for them to make. And, if you bring it
to the shop and it's something else, like that something has come loose,
they should spot that and fix it, too.

Hope this helps quiet your rides,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

NEWSWIRE: Handmade Bicycle Show reports

You may have heard that the North American Handmade Bicycle Show was held February 8 through 10 in
Portland. I wasn't able to attend this year and it is moving to Indianapolis
next year so unfortunately I'll miss that one, too. In case you weren't able
to attend either, I thought you might enjoy reading the program from the
show, an Adobe PDF document that you'll find at this link: For a virtual show experience, go
to this flickr page with hundreds of photos from the show: Some fun stuff!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Q&A: CycleOps PowerTap power meter review

Q: I'm writing you because I have been researching power meters and I have
some questions for you. I have read that there are a lot of problems with
the harness on the wired CycleOps PowerTap. I have also heard that the new
wireless version suffers from battery issues. What has been your experience
so far with your PowerTap? Have you had any problems with irregular readings
or black outs? I would hate to spend $1500 on a brand new wireless unit to
have to send it back for warranty repairs soon after. What can you tell me?

A: I can only speak from my experiences with the CycleOps PowerTap, Roberto. I have had the
wired one on my bike for about a month now. I installed the same model on my
friend's bike 3 weeks ago. And, I helped my coach install the wireless one
on his bike about a year ago. All 3 of these have worked very well, no
problems at all so far. No harness or battery or blackout or irregular
reading issues.

I have also ridden mine in the rain 3 times even though I was told they are
not very waterproof. I have not had any issues. I will try to keep it dry
but if I get stuck in the rain I think it'll be okay as long as I don't
really soak the rear hub by riding through a creek, or something silly like

My friend's wasn't working one day but it turned out that he had just not
pressed the head firmly into the mount. There's a little detent and you have
to push the head until it clicks in place or the pickups won't get a signal.

My coach has the most miles on one (his is the wireless one) and he says the
only issue is that since it's wireless he will sometimes lose the signal
when he's near high power lines but otherwise it works great.

One thing I notice is that the display can sometimes get little dark patches
on it. I checked with the other guys and they've seen this, too. It doesn't
seem to cause any problems, just looks a little bad.

Overall, though, our experience with the PowerTap has been very good and I
would recommend them, wired or wireless. FYI: One of our teammates has the
SRM power meter, which is more expensive than the PowerTap. He has had to
send it back to the factory twice for repairs and has more difficulty
setting it on rides to display what he wants to see for the day's workout.

I have also tried the iBike, which is a neat little unit and has a nice
price. The issue with that for me was that the roads here are so bumpy that
they effected to accuracy of the readings so I decided to spend more money
and get the CycleOps PowerTap and so far it's been really nice and worked

I would say that the instruction manual could be better written and easier
to understand. You can figure it out and learn what you need if you read it
a few times and also read what's on their website. But, if you were in a
hurry and didn't read carefully I can see how you might never fully
understand how to use the different functions of the PowerTap. Luckily I
have teammates using it so we compare notes and teach each other and that's
been a big help. Ideally the CycleOps people would polish their manual and
improve it. The PowerAgent software, however, was easy to setup and use -
though I did need to download it from their website since the CD that came
with the PowerTap was a bad one.

Overall, though, we all have been very happy with our PowerTaps so far.

I hope this helps,

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bicycle Burnout

I didn't know it was possible to do this on a bicycle and on pavement (watch to the end). This guy's got skills.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Q&A: Mead bicycle restoration help

Q: Jim - Been doing some searching for bicycle parts for a Mead bicycle and
stumbled onto you. May I ask a question? I'm trying to begin the process of
restoring my dad's Mead Crusader that originally had a spring fork, I think
Mead called it a knee-action fork. To my dad's recollection, it was built
around 1940, and as a kid my dad thought it was too slow with that spring,
so he removed it and put another generic fork on it. I would like to find
that fork. Any ideas as to where I could begin my search? There are a number
of things that will need help to get it restored, but this fork is the first
item I would like to tackle.

Many thanks for your assistance,

A: Hi Scott,
I'd look for the fork on You may need to buy a whole bike to
get the fork but if you check ebay enough, sooner or later almost everything
under the sun turns up for sale on there and then you just have to win the
auction. You could also contact the folks at which is a
website of folks interested in balloon tire bicycles like your Mead. Here's
an ad for a 1936 model It's
possible that one of these collectors has a fork for sale. Just do your
homework and don't pay too much. There are nice collector types and there
are those that are in it for the money. You want to do business with the
former whenever possible. Another possibility is a bicycle auction like the
Copake Auction, which takes place in New York every April. They see a lot of
bikes and you might get lucky and find one there. One more resource is a museum in New York that
might be able to offer suggestions on other sources to find the fork/info
about your bike:

I hope these links help you get that classic back on the road!