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,