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Bikexchange.com logo                                   Email Andy with all your fix-it questions. (Cartoon image of Andy)Ask the Mechanic
Autumn 1996
Ask the Mechanic Disclaimer

How can you keep your classic from becoming extinct? What's the best way to lube your freewheel? Stuck in gear and need expert advice? Ask Andy the Mechanic (a.k.a. Andy Wallen), the proprietor of Wheelcraft Bicycles of Wheeling, West Virginia. We welcome your questions. The squeaky wheel gets the grease! Email to ibike@bikexchange.com, subject "ask the mechanic." Andy will email you your answers and we may post them afterward.

Dear Andy,

A friend has a 700c wheel (Mavic rim, White Industries hub, and DT spokes) which was built by a local shop. The wheel keeps making a popping sound, but nothing happens. No broken spokes, etc. and the wheel remains in true (approx. 400 miles of use). This sound goes away after awhile but then returns. Any ideas on what's causing the sound? Many thanks for your help.

Ron K.                                                                  (posted 9/28/96)

Dear Ron,

I suspect that your popping sound is happening in the hub--assuming that the spokes are all properly tensioned and intact. The White Industries hub is among the best, but it has some idiosyncracies. Without having it here to inspect, I would have to guess that either there is a bad bearing (this could happen even if the hub was brand new), or, most likely the preload is not adjusted properly. Another possibility is that the set screws on the adjustment collar are not secured, causing noise and friction as the screw rubs against the hub shell. If the sound is more pronounced while standing, especially if it is the front wheel, I would attribute it to slack spokes or possibly a loose eyelet in the rim. It's possible that all you need is a little more grease in one of the bearings. Check all this stuff out, and if it still makes noise, either get yourself a $60 wheel or turn up the radio.

Dear Andy,

How much lubrication should I put on my road bike chain? One friend recommends just a thin coat of Teflon spray. My brother says I should have a fair amount of lithium grease on there. Which is better and why? Thanks.

Mike S. in State College, PA                                        (posted 9/28/96)

Dear Mike,

Never ever use any lithium grease on any part of any bicycle. It may be ok for seatposts or quill stems, but not for bearings, and certainly not for chains. To properly lube your chain (road or atb), first make sure it is clean. "Clean" is a relative term. At least wipe off the chain, derailleur pulley wheels, rear cogs, and chainrings with some degreaser (Finish Line, Citrus Solve, Joy, Windex, etc.) A good chain cleaning system is highly recommended, and in some cases, a total teardown is necessary. Once you are sure everything is relatively clean, apply a bicycle-specific lubricant (I can not say that Teflon, oil, or synthetic is preferred---it depends on the situation) to the chain by dripping it onto each link from the underside of the chain. Rotate the pedals backwards until each link has been lubed. Run the bike through the gears and let it set for a few hours. Then wipe off any excess lubricant from the side plates of the chain. This will help prevent gunk build up and help keep the drivetrain clean. The preferred lubricants in my shop are: 1) Triflow--works for everything, and it's cheap; 2) Finish Line prolube (teflon)--very clean, effective lube, requires more frequent applications and good clean components to start with; 3) Finish Line Cross Country Lube (synthetic)--thick and gooey, attracts dirt, but lasts a long time, especially in wet conditions--nice bouquet; 4) Thin Grease (Finish Line, Nuke Proof, Park, etc. ) for hardcore, stupid, muddy mountain biking. Mud removes almost any other lubricant, so for really horrible mud grease is ok. Requires thorough cleaning and probably disassembly of entire drivetrain after use.

Dear Andy,

I want to get my first high quality, new bike. I'm getting a mountain bike. What steps should I take to get the proper "fit" from a dealer? Thank you.

Bridget D. in Columbus                                                      (posted 9/28/96)

Dear Bridget,

In sizing a bicycle, several factors should be considered. Above all, the size of your bicycle should be safe. The "standard" safety measurement is "standover height." This is the measurement from the floor to the center of the top tube of the bicycle. For mountain bikes, especially if they are going to be ridden under gnarley circumstances, smaller is better. I recommend at least 2 inches over the top tube, while 4-6 inches might suit you if you are planning to ride technical stuff. Whatever your leg length may be, you also want to consider how the bike feels. Top tube lengths vary, so if you have a short upper body and longish legs, the so called NORBA geometry may not be for you. Most ATB enthusiasts like a long top tube (approx. 23") with ample, safe standover height. My advice is to try at least 2 frame sizes and at least 2 different brands of bikes to find the best fit.

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