Monday, September 29, 2008

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

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.

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