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Stuck in gear and need expert advice? Ask Andy the Mechanic (a.k.a. Andy Wallen), the proprietor of Wheelcraft Bicycles of Wheeling, WV. (Please, no old bike & antique questions.) E-mail to ibike@bikexchange.com, subject "ask the mechanic," or mail your question directly to Ask the Mechanic, c/o Wheelcraft Bicycles, 2185 National Road, Wheeling, WV, USA 26003. Andy will e-mail your advice and we may post it afterward. Take a look at our back issues to find answers to all kinds of bike fix-it questions.

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Fall 2002 Q & A's (45 posted this season) ...


Hello,

I'm trying to ship my husband's bike but I can't seem to get the pedals off, and it won't go in the box with them on. How do I remove them?

Melanie

Melanie,

You need a pedal wrench, or a flat 15mm open end wrench (some crescent or adjustable wrenches will work). The right pedal (on the side with gears) comes off counter clockwise, the way things should unthread. The other one comes off clockwise, or the way things should thread. If they are on real tight or corroded, this could be a tough job. They usually come off with only moderate exertion.

Andy

Andy,

I am looking for the unusual spoke nipples for an older (1980's?) Assos aero wheel. It has an oversize cylindrical shape at the tubular tire side with a beveled washer at the hole for the spoke. Maybe it's easier to find another used Assos wheel. Any ideas? 

Bill Elliot 

Bill,

You've gotten your money's worth, so go buy a new wheel. Most things in cycling are not designed to last more than a few months, and replacement parts for most items over a year old are not available. I thought that Assos only made overpriced shorts, but they did "make" rims back around '84-'85, and my sources tell me that nothing is available that fits them. If this wheel bears enough resemblance to a Roval (another '80's relic), you can actually still buy spokes and nipples from a guy in Texas name of Bill Lewis.

Andy

Andy,

This is not a bicycle repair question, but maybe you can help me. I'm trying to find the grade of aluminum of my road bicycle frame. It's a 1998 Trek 1220. According to Trek's 1998 product catalog, the tubes were made of Easton ProGram Aluminum and the stays of Easton Tapered Aluminum. The tubes, stays and lugs are bonded together. There are no labels on the bicycle about the grade of aluminum and manufacturer of the tubes other than a Trek label indicating that it is constructed of Performance Aluminum. 

Can you tell me the grade of aluminum? 

Thank you,
MH

Michael,

ProGram aluminum is a highly manipulated 6061 alloy. Easton does not manufacture aluminum, they take existing tubes and manipulate them for higher performance in applications from bicycles to baseball bats. I think that most of the Easton stuff is of a 6000 series alloy, rather than 7000 (7005, etc). I'd speculate that all the US aluminum comes from Alcoa, possibly Reynolds, a.k.a. Coyote.

Andy

Hi Andy,

Enjoy your website and wished I had skimmed thru it before purchasing a new Royce Union GXA 2.6 Aluminum 24-speed (0690-01). I believe the GXA 2.6 is the model number as I can find  no other model number on the gawdy decals or in any of the bundled documentation. Unfortunately the manual bundled with the bike is a generic manual for all Royce Union models with hardly any info that applies to my specific model. And no info on the sorely lacking Royce Union website. Please don't berate me for my bad decision/taste. I guess I paid for what I didn't want...a Huffy! Argh ;-)

Anyway I have a rear flat tire and don't see an easy way to remove the rear wheel from the bicycle. The bike upside down and at rest the linear pull brake system's rear pads are pushed so far in that the width of the deflated rear tire will not clear the pads. Thus it would seem that I cannot remove the rear wheel without loosening the cable at the nut on the rear brake caliper, thus loosing any custom brake adjustment. There has to be an easier way! Is there a special tool/technique to spread the rear caliper without loosening the cable?

Also it looks like the tires are beginning to crack on the  sides? Is this normal after only five months of limited on-road use and when stored inside my home, away from the environmental variables? I'm thinking the cracking has caused my rear flat. The tires are labeled Duron Nylon 26 x 2.1. I read on your website to look for an ISO number but couldn't find such a number. The front tire shows two numbers "HF-888-2" and "P-004" with an embossed "3600AD". The rear tire shows "HF-888-1" and "M-270" with an embossed "3500AD". What can you recommend for replacement tires?

Also both tires show "35 min to 65 max PSI". Is 65 lbs PSI an unreasonably high maximum? I weight about 225 lbs if that helps.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Darren

Darren,

You should be able to get the tyre through the brakes if you unhook the "noodle", or curved pipe that the cable passes through. This is designed to pull through the hook on the brake arch, and allow the arches to open until the shoe hits the frame. All tyres crack after some time, but exposure to solvents and ozone (storage near gasoline or clothes dryers) can accelerate this process. You are better off replacing tyres with name brands like Michelin, Panaracer, Vittoria,etc. 65 psi is good for pavement use, use less air for off road.

Andy

Andy,

I'm a native of Wheeling now living in Virginia! My question: Is there a simple way to figure the 4-digit code for the bike computers when the instruction book gets lost?

Thanks,
Mike

Mike,

If you need a 4-digit number, it is likely to be the tyre circumference in millimeters; for example, a 700x20 tyre measures roughly 2090 mm, so you'd input 2090. This probably isn't true of all computers, but it works for me.

Andy 

Hi,

Just got a Trek 720 for our summer place. It was disassembled and shipped to me and I think we lost a locking nut for the front axle quick disconnect. All I have is the handle, threaded rod, and two springs...no type of nut for tightening. Is there a site to show me a diagram of what may be missing, as I have no manual either?

Thanks so much,
Pete

Pete,

Sounds like all you need is a quick release skewer nut, which is a fairly standard item. I don't know of any diagrams, but the "qr" consists of a skewer, two springs, and a nut. Any bike shop should have these nuts, if not a complete mechanism is only $10.

Andy

Hello,

I am upgrading a Manitou Magnum rear fork on a Specialized Rockhopper 2000 to a Marzocchi Atom Race 2001. I am wondering if it is difficult to swap them out myself or is it worth the $40 to have a bike shop do it? I have never done this before but am mechanically inclined.

Thank You,
Bill Matthews

Bill,

Installing a fork is not rocket science, but if you lack the proper tools, I wouldn't tackle it. You'll spend at least $40 on tools, so if you want the satisfaction of doing it yourself, why not? Just don't do it to save money, and don't do it without a crown race remover, crown race installer, star nut setter, and saw guide.

Andy

Andy,

How do I remove the fork of a road bike from the handlebars?

ThunderK

Thunderk,

Handlebars (except for Cinelli alter and ram) are attached to the fork by a stem. It is easy to remove the bars from the stem, which is just a matter of removing the face plate on newer stems, and pulling the bars off. If you do not have a detachable face plate, then you'll need to remove at least one brake lever, loosen the stem bolt, and thread the bar through the stem. 

Stems come in two varieties: quill (old), and aheadset. Quill stems have a "quill" that goes down into the fork, with an expander mechanism to hold it in place. You loosen the bolt, and sometimes you must tap the bolt down into the fork to release the expander, or wedge. To remove this type of fork from the frame, you would then unthread the locknut, and the top cup of the headset. Once these two nuts are off, the whole thing should drop right out. 
The aheadset, or threadless stem, is much easier to deal with. You just loosen the clamp bolts on the side of the stem, and the stem slides right off. Pull the spacers, top cap, and bearing out of the top, and the fork will fall on the floor.

Andy

Hi

I want to replace the fork on my bike. The replacement fork that I got has a long steerer. What
is the best way to cut it? Hacksaw?

Thanks for your help,
Kevin Eng

Kevin,

It is best to use a hacksaw and a saw guide, such as the ones made by Park. Other mitre type guides may be used, and you could probably do it with a tubing cutter. The cut must be straight, and the inside and outside of the cut steerer must be de-burred before installation.

Andy

Andy,

I want to get a new fork for my road bike.  What are the pros and cons of threaded versus threadless? Also, how are forks measured? When I see an ad for a used threadless fork "cut to 19 cm" what is this measurement?

Also, if I go with a threaded fork, what measurement do I need to make to determine the length of steerer needed?

Thanks,
Eric

Eric,

There really are no advantages to threaded systems, and threadless will likely become the only option in the near future. It seems obvious, but the steerer tube is measured from the bottom, where it meets the crown, or the bottom of the headset, to the top. If you are measuring a steerer on the bike, measure to the top of the locknut if threaded, or to the top of the steerer, which should be visible through the clamp in the stem, if threadless. Forks are not adjustable; if you buy a fork cut to 19 cm (I would never say "19 cm", but "190mm"), then it either fits your frame or not. Also, good sense says don't buy a used fork, especially carbon, especially carbon steerer cut by who knows and with whatever.

Andy

Hello Andy

My son has a Cannondale Raven with a Super Fatty Headshock (HF99SFD) fork that has bent some. He took it to a dealer here in Tokyo, Japan and they said it needs to be replaced at around $530 in yen.

Is there any place he can get a fork like that one at a reasonable price, or are the forks able to be repaired back to normal without any problems?

Jack in Tokyo

Jack,

You have two expensive options: Buy the fork, or buy a headset adapters, stem, and your choice of 1-1/8" forks. Only Cannondale forks fit Headshock frames, and they go for about $500. Your second option will cost about $350 average, and will cause the front of the bike to be a bit higher than it is now. Should have thought of this when shopping for Cannondales.

Andy

Andy,

I have a 3-piece crank with sealed bearings and my bike shop told me I needed a special tool to remove the cups. Is there any other way to remove them? 

Also how does a cup installer and remover remove the cups?

Eminem

Em,

I'm not aware of anything designed to remove bb cups, other than perhaps a headset cup remover, which may not always work. I'd gently pound (there's a poem in words like that) the cup out with a drift punch, or a piece of pipe of almost the same diameter as the inside of the cup (would be best). While you can employ the "gently pounding" method of installing cups, you risk crunching your bearings, even if you "gently pound" on a piece of wood rather than directly on the cups. You can buy a cup installation tool, or you can easily improvise one, using a large bolt--long enough to go through the bb, cups and bearings and extend out about 2 inches. A piece of all-thread works well for this. Find some large washers, about the size of the outside of your cups, and put them against the cups, with the bolt through the center. Thread nuts on each side of the bb cups, and snug the nuts against the washers, to apply pressure to the cups. Before you get out the 12" crescent wrench, make sure that the cups are going in straight. As you tighten the nuts, the cups will be pressed into the bb shell. A pro quality cup bearing press works just like this device.

Andy

Good Day,

I was given a Spin 26" front mountain bike wheel last summer; the problem is I cannot find a matching 8-speed rear. I know the company is out of business. Any ideas where one can find one?

Dennis

Dennis,

I have no idea. Post some ads, someone probably has one to get rid of. Don't pay much, as they weren't so good when parts were available, so they are about worthless now.

Andy

Andy,

I live in the Seattle area, and have recently taken up the sport of cycling for exercise and pleasure.  I've purchased a road bike made by Iron Horse (cyclone), and wanted to know if you have any advise on riding in the rain, and it's effects on the bike, i.e., will it harm the bike, and if not, what should I do after a ride to ensure best continued performance from the bike?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Matt

Matt,

The main problem with rain is rust. If you can keep your drivetrain, mainly the chain, clean, dry and well lubed, you should be fine. If it gets wet, dry off the chain as soon as you are done riding. I'd use a wet lube-either Finish Line XC or Triflow--as opposed to light weight, dry stuff like White lightning. These clean lubes are great until you ride through a downpour and they wash off. Your chain will start to squeak immediately. 

Don't overdo it with the lube. After you dry off the chain, drip a very small amount on the bottom part of the chain as you pedal backward. Wipe off the excess. Even if you are riding in the rain, you don't want an accumulation of goo on the chain, so clean it off if it starts to build up. 

I'd also try to put some sort of lube in your cable housings, just to prevent the cables from rusting. Here the lightweight lubes may be best, as they probably won't react with your cable housing lining. Also spray a little lube on your derailleur pivot points. Hopefully, your bike came with stainless spokes.

Andy

Hi there,

I have a set of Shimano 8-speed STI's and have discovered that the right side lever is lazy when changing down from the big sprockets. There is no problem when changing up. The cables seem fine and the derailleur seems fine.

So tell me, is it possible to repair the lever, like changing a spring, or is it a case of replacing the set?

Thanking you, 
Neil Preyser

Neil,

When STI levers die, they're dead. Some folks claim to be able to fix them, but the real problem with that is, you can't buy internal replacement parts. Your problem is that you can't really buy 8-speed levers any more, at least not Ultegra level. You can buy individual levers, and if you could buy an Ultegra 8-speed, it'd cost well over $100. Since you can't buy Ultegra (not new anyway, and you don't want to buy a used one), you can replace it with Sora, for around $80, or replace the entire drivetrain with Ultegra 9-speed.

Andy

Andy,

I have just recently purchased a Roadmaster (Elevation) mountain bike with 12 gears, a click system on both sides of the handle bar (Hi-Low).

My question: What would be the proper method of changing the gears to where I don't mess up the gear system?

Thanks for your help and input.

Richard

Richard,

There is no "proper" method of shifting. You want to avoid cross chaining, where the chain is stretched to extreme gears, for example, 3rd front-1st rear. Otherwise, you should be able to shift up to four gears with one twist on the right, and one at a time on the left. Don't expect much out of the "Toadmaster".

Andy

Hi,

I have a Mongoose D40r, 21 speed, and all I do is ride around on the road. I am not hard on it at all. Recently the derailleur in the front will not go to the biggest sprocket, and when trying to get it to go there, I about wear the skin off my hand trying to get the shifter to point to the H. Then, the rear shifter feels okay but will not go to the biggest or smallest gears. I can't find any instructions on how to adjust this system and I was wondering if you could give me some.

Thanks,
Nathan

Nathan,

If your shifter is hard to turn, it may have parts broken inside. Before taking it apart, make sure there are no kinks or sharp bends in the cable housing from the shifter all the way to the derailleur. If you can remove the cable, look to make sure it is not fraying or corroded. If you don't see a problem with the cable or housing, and your derailleur limit screws are properly adjusted (if you can pull the derailleur into the high position with your hands, or by pulling the exposed cable, then it's ok. If you can't pull it manually into that position, the screw must be backed out), you may need a new shifter. Some of these bikes come with a Sun Race or torque drive shifter, which is not a real good one to start with. Replace it with a SRAM or Shimano part. These things can sometimes be repaired, but replacement is less than $15. 

If you can't hit the extreme gears in the back, check the limit screws. This is easiest to do if you disconnect the cable, and pedal until the derailleur stops. It should stop on the smallest cog. If it does not, you need to unscrew the high limit screw until it goes onto the small cog. Likewise, if you cannot force the derailleur to put the chain on the biggest gear, you need to unscrew the low limit screw. Make sure that nothing is bent, like a derailleur hanger. If you have the limit screws properly set, finish adjusting the gears by cable tension.

Andy

Andy,

For reasons which will have me branded 'retro grouch', I want down-tube shifting for a Steve Rex frame on which I am planning to install current Campagnolo Chorus components. I have heard scuttlebutt indicating: 1) Campy, in their infinite wisdom, is not producing down-tube levers for 2001/2002 component groups; and 2) no previous versions of Campy down-tube levers work (in index mode of-course) with the newer (2001/2002) derailleurs/cassettes. Can you confirm or deny whether this appalling rumor is true?

My other option is to use a nearly complete, NOS Suntour Superbe Pro group (circa 1989/90) that I've had for a while. How would you rate the performance and weight of this group vis--vis the current Chorus group? Largely a subjective issue, but I would be quite interested in an educated opinion.

Thank you,
Michael Doleman

Michael,

I used to love Campy stuff, but I think that they've really gone too far with complex compatibility issues since the advent of 9-speed, further complicated with 10-speed stuff. I now officially discourage purchasing Campy stuff in general. The only downtube levers that I know of are not compatible with 2001-02 components. You can use bar end shifters for new 9 or 10 speed, which would be very 70's if you actually plug them into your handlebar, rather than into one of those hideous cow catchers (deer catchers, in my circumstance).

If you use the Suntour, you'd get my vote for 3rd place retro grouch of the year (you'd have to use Huret Jubilee, with a Maillard helicomatic hub to get 1st, Campy highflange hubs with a 5-speed corncob for 2nd). No idea on the weight, but the crank is pretty darn nice (I have one on my training bike). I don't think that the shifting on the Suntour stuff is that great, but it works. Of course, it anything breaks, replacement is almost out of the question, just like the Campy stuff you bought 6 months ago. 

You want to talk retro? I recently serviced an early 70's Falcon or Windsor-made Merckx with a rod activated front derailleur. Your reach down to a lever on the seat tube, and a rod connects to the front der--no cable. Very cool, in a primitive, Raleigh sort of way.

Andy

Hi

We have to do a paper on a career we would like to do after we graduate and we have to interview someone about the career. I am thinking about becoming a bike repairer and I was wondering if you could answer some of these questions:

1. What is your name? (name of business)
2. What types of things do you do as a bike repairer?
3. What is the average salary per year? (month)
4. What hours do you work? When do you start and get off?
5. What do you like about your job? Dislike about it?
6. Do you get paid vacation days?
7. What is needed to get hired? Any college or basic training?
8. Why did you choose this career?
9. If you just graduated and were choosing a career would you have still picked this?

Thanks,
Remington

Remington,

This is one of those jobs that you have to love. It doesn't pay well, and it's not always fun. You do get a great deal on bikes. Here you go:

1. What is your name? (name of business)

Wheelcraft, Ltd.

2. What types of things do you do as a bike repairer?

I do everything: build bikes from scratch, assemble new bikes, wheel building, wheel truing, lots of tire/tube repair, tune ups, frame alignment, estimates, and unfortunately, all too many Huffy/Murray/Pacific/Mongoose problems. Also, since this is a very small business, I have to sell bikes and accessories, sweep the floor, etc. 

3. What is the average salary per year? (month)

I don't know the average salary, but I know that very few mechanics make over $20,000, and most shop owners don't make much more than that. Depending on where you work, business can be seasonal, so you may make $1000-$1200 per month in the summer, but get laid off from October to March. 

4. What hours do you work? When do you start and get off?

I work over 60 hours per week in the summer, and about 40 in the winter. I start at around 9 in the summer, and leave as soon as possible, which usually turns out to be 7 p.m., and sometimes, come back after supper and work until 9:30 or 10. When we hire mechanics or assemblers, I don't expect them to work as much as I do, so they usually have a 6 to 8 hour day, and less than 40 hour weeks.

5. What do you like about your job? Dislike about it?

I like almost everything about my job. Most of my customers really appreciate what I do. Even though I work a lot, I feel like I have a lot of control over what I do, because I make the decision as to what gets done now, and what gets done later. Top 5 dislikes:
1) Mail order (and internet) prices.
2) People who bring up #1.
3) Junk bikes (especially Pacific--this includes Mongoose, and soon will include Schwinn/GT.
4) People who won't take no for an answer.
5) Not being able to ride 5000 miles per year.

6. Do you get paid vacation days?

We get an all expenses paid three-day "vacation" to sunny Las Vegas every year for the Interbike Exhibition, and that's about it. I'm salaried, so I get paid whether I work or not, but I really don't get what you'd call a vacation.

7. What is needed to get hired? Any college or basic training?

You should have a degree in music education, with 12 hours toward your master's degree. Seriously, I'd try to get some training, if you can. I would much rather hire someone who completed a training program than to hire someone who thinks they know what they're doing.

8. Why did you choose this career?

I choose to do this when I realized that I would never get along with any school superintendent in any district in the universe, and, by association, would never be able to do the will of anyone in any position of authority; in other words, I must be my own boss, because anyone else called "boss" is an incompetent boob. I also love all types of cycling, and had worked in a bike shop during and after college.

9. If you just graduated and were choosing a career would you have still picked this?

No. It's too hard to make a sufficient income at this job.

Andy

Andy,

Would you know where I might be able to obtain a fork rebuild kit and an elastomer spring kit for a 1997 Manitou FS Bulge fork?

Thanks,
Tony G.

Tony,

A recent trend has developed in the bike business. It goes like this:

In short, you're screwed. Answer does stock stuff from way back in 2000, which is way better than Rockshox or Shimano, but that doesn't help you out. There may be some parts available that will interchange with what you have, but I wouldn't bet on it. You can ask for an Answer at (661)257-4411.

Andy

Andy,

Hi. I'm thinking of buying one of REI's bikes, the 2001 Novara Gran Fondo. It has a RockShox (Metro SL) front fork. I've never had a suspension fork. (In fact, I've never had anything but a 35-year-old Frejus until it got stolen a few months ago.)  I just checked the downloadable owner's manual at RockShox, and it says that their Metro SL should be oiled after every eight hours of use. After every 20 hours of use, the manual says it should be disassembled by a mechanic, cleaned with a solvent, and re-greased. Would I really need to do all that the keep the suspension fork safe and functional?  Also, how long a life is realistic to expect for this suspension fork?

I've read that you think aluminum--as a frame material--is generally a poor choice for durability.  REI says that the frame for their Gran Fondo is "AN6-T6" aluminum. Do you think it's reasonable to expect the frame to last for 10 years or more? (In case it helps you answer my question, I weigh 160 pounds, and I'll be using the bike mainly for commuting to work on asphalt streets, but occasionally for trips like on the packed gravel of the C&O Canal.

Thanks so much.

Bill Bleich

Bill,

The REI bikes that I have seen have been slightly above junk status. The finish, design, and assembly have been substandard. They are cheap enough, but that's really all they have going for them. I have not seen a Surly, but I would bet that it is a cut above the REI. I have seen a Lemond Poprad, which sells for around $1000, and is very well made. Either the Surly or the Poprad would weigh around 22-24 pounds depending on pedals. 

Andy

Hey,

I have a 20-inch Haro bike. I was wondering if you help me to lace up the rim. I have one side done but I can't get the other side right. I keep putting then in the wrong pattern or they will not tighten all the way down so I have a little spoke sticking out.

Thanks,
Chris

Chris,

This is a little outside the realm of what your average home mechanic can do. The principle is simple, the execution, not so simple. Your first mistake is that you don't do one side then the other. You could do it that way, but it's not the easiest or best. 

You have four sets of spokes; two outbound, and two inbound. You want to put all your inbound spokes in first. This means that on one side of the hub, you put all your inbound (heads out or elbows in) spokes in--every other hole in the hub, and every four holes in the rim. Do this on the right side, flip it over, and find the hub hole that places the first left-hand spoke parallel to the first spoke (nearest the valve hole) of the right side. Install all your left side inbound spokes, and insert your rh outbound spokes (from the left side, don't invert the wheel). After you have the rh outbound spokes in, flip the wheel, and cross one spoke over the others in your pattern (either three or four crosses). This spoke should pass over the first two or three spokes, and under the last one on its way to the rim. Install the rest of the rh outbound spokes, every four holes in the rim from each other, and proceed with the he ob spokes, in exactly the same manner.

That's how it goes. I know a picture might help. There are lots of books, even a video that explains this process. Check out The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt for detailed info. 

Andy

Hey Andy,

Just found the site and enjoy what I've seen thus far. Like you, I'm a great fan of steel (all 3 of my bikes--two Bridgestones and a Breezer--are crafted from the "old" stuff), but my favorite ride is in need of a new rear hub.

Problem is that it's a freewheel hub and spacing is 130mm and of course all the newer mountain stuff is 135.

I've only been able to find two companies (Phil Wood and American Classic) that make a hub that (I think) will work and while both make great hubs they are quite expensive. I have from time to time seen New Old Stock (NOS) free hubs on e-bay that are 135mm.  What would be required to convert such a hub to 130?

Thanks,
Dan (WV native now in VA)

Dan,

Only take space off the non-drive side. You may need to buy some hub spacers of various thicknesses to get this to work, but essentially, you'll remove 5 mm off the non-drive side, and lop off about that much axle. Don't mess with the spacers on the drive side!

Andy

Hi Andy,

I have a question about a Cannondale Jekyll 600 (medium size) I just bought. I read the manual and it says a mountain bike should have a minimum of 3-4 inches stand over height, depending on terrain. I have a max stand over height of two inches, if that much. Is it an important factor? Is it worth taking the bike back if it has not yet been ridden? I think the height of the bike can be adjusted with the shock.

Joseph

Joseph,

The correct size of a mountain bike is directly related to its intended use. The more intense the riding, the smaller the bike should be. Ever see somebody dirt jump on anything other than a 20-inch-wheeled bike? Same for trials--grown men on tiny bikes. Two inches over the top is great for light duty; on pavement riding, in fact, I even encourage customers who don't intend to go off road to get a bigger bike for comfort concerns. If you plan to play rough, you need more like four inches for safety and maneuverability.

Andy

Andy,

Do you go faster with bigger or smaller gear inches if, of course, the wheels and cadence are the same? Will 53/11 (125 gear inches) or 56/12 (121 gear inches) be faster (26- inch wheels)?

Thanks,
Steve Plymale

Steve,

Bigger is faster; smaller gear inches are your granny gears. 

Andy

Hi Andy,

Just found your site and love it. My question is regarding a 5-year-old Giant (Iguana model) mountain bike I just picked up for $100 with less than 25 miles on it. Everything about the bike is great but I've noticed that when I ride on pavement with no hands I have to lean the bike to the right about (I'm guessing) 6-9 degrees in order to maintain balance. I'm sure about the bike history, but is this a sign of worse things to come? It's not really that big a deal to me, but if it's not too much trouble to fix, I probably would. I just don't have any idea what the problem is.

Thanks,
Chris

Chris,

I'd look for a bent fork, or a worn headset. It could be a wheel not centered, but most likely is one of the first 2 items.

Andy

Andy,

The basic question is "How often should I have my bike overhauled?" but I know the answer is: "Well, it depends."

Can you tell me how to figure out how often to overhaul my bike? I am a road biker only and put approximately 2,700 miles on my bike this year. My bike is a 6-year-old TREK 1220 that was overhauled last year.

Thanks for any info you can give me.

Fred 

Fred,

Yes, it depends. It depends on whether you'd like to use original parts forever, or replace them prematurely due to neglect. Overhaul cup and cone bearings every 3,000 miles--more if you ride in wet conditions. This means your headset and both hubs. Most bottom brackets are disposable, so you just ride them till they wobble. From a prevention standpoint, replace the bb (with an upgrade, most OE bbs are junk) every 3,000 as well, if it lasts that long. We don't do a lot of overhauls because we sell a lot of sub $300 bikes. These engineering masterpieces have wheels that can be replaced for about what you'd pay for two overhauls. I like to repack my personal hub bearings every winter, mainly because they roll faster with clean grease and a good adjustment. If your $40 wheel has scored bearing surfaces, it may cost near $40 to replace parts, and if the actual cups get scored, it'll never run right. The exception here is Campagnolo, whose cups can be replaced, for a minimum of $50 per.

Andy

Andy,

I've been riding an aluminum bike for 10 years but it's become too harsh for my now-60-year-old body. I found a new old-stock Trek 400 (never used) for $350, same frame size the same as the aluminum I've been riding. About the only thing that I'd have to do is change the stem for something with a longer quill and shorter extension. Is the 400 a decent bicycle? Thanks for your opinion. 

John Myers

John,

This is a good bike, but I don't think they've made them for many years. Should be an American made chromo frame, with mid range, but outdated components. 

Andy

Hello,

I am looking to purchase a bicycle floor pump for my road bike.  I have heard that Silca and many others are "good".  Any suggestions on that?  Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Paul

Paul,

Like most bike-related products, magazines such as "Bisickling" emphasize convenience, speed, sex, etc. over long term durability, hence the 1,000-mile chain (if you're lucky), and the 500-mile cassette. They would have you believe that an expensive pump that inflates tyres quickly is superior to a Silca, which will outlast 10 bike frames, and can be rebuilt quickly and easily with cheap, readily available parts. Bike riders don't get much upper body exercise, so I heartily endorse the Silca over one of those disposable pumps that may inflate your tyres with fewer strokes. It's one of the few cycling related items that you can pass down to your grandchildren. Buy six quick pumps or one Silca. Unless you are short, spring for the Super Pista, as it is longer and therefore pushes more air for stroke. After all, we think we are athletes, so doesn't it make since to utilize our athletic prowess to inflate our tyres? If you want fast inflation, buy a low volume compressor, not a disposable plastic pump.

Andy

Hi Andy,

I see you've recommended the Gary Fisher Tassajara in the past. I have a 1999 and it's been a great bike. Some of the components are beginning to wear and I'm looking for upgrades, which can be hard to find for 8-speed bikes like this one. Can you recommend a replacement for the Shimano Acera front deraileur and crank, something which will work with the stock Deore LX rear? Since these parts are increasingly scarce, a few options would be terrific. Thanks!

Stephen Marinick

Stephen,

You can use 9-speed cranks and derailleurs with your 8-speed drivetrain. You can even use a 9-speed chain. You cannot go the other direction without problems. If you replace the aforementioned parts with XT, then you can use it until you are ready for the next step, which would involve shifters, cassette, and chain. This way, you can budget the upgrade over time. For what it's worth, you can buy stuff like Race Face cranks with their brand of 8-speed rings, but that's expensive, and if you do go 9-speed, you'll need new rings.

Andy

Andy,

I am looking for bushings for a GT I-drive (for the suspension itself). Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

David

David,

You are probably a year late and a dollar short on this one. Having had first hand experience with the highly trained parts department at Pacific cycle--their philosophy is that, since the moron at Wal-Mart can't replace anything on the bike, give the customer a new bike if he has a problem. We don't have no stinkin' parts. Ask for a bushing, and they'll likely respond "would you like fries with that?" or "what's the Pacific part number?" Unless you can find a GT dealer who purchased these parts before the Pacific takeover, you'd have a better chance of finding a bushing for a Huret Jubilee shift lever. 

Sorry to break it to you,
Andy

Andy,

I have a 1999 Extreme X1 Haro. I have heard that there could be some problems with the rear suspension--that it is weak, welds break, etc. Is this true? Is the 2001 suspension stronger? Would it fit on my 1999? If so would you know where I could buy one? I have contacted Haro, but I never get an answer from them. Nice bike, poor customer service.

Thanks,
Bob Dornic

Robert,

Actually, Haro service--warranty, delivery, product knowledge--is darn good for a small company, much better than companies like Darby or Cannondale. Nobody is going to tell you that your bike is going to break unless there is a recall, and they most likely are going to reserve parts like this for warranty situations rather than sell them to consumers. I have not heard any complaints. Any full suspension mountain bike is more inclined to break than something like a beach cruiser, due to the propensity of riders to abuse them. I would guess that Haro would be very good about replacing parts under warranty, even if the circumstances of the breakage were suspect. Any warranty has many disclaimers, and if the manufacturer wanted to weasel out of a warranty claim, they usually could. One reason that Haro is where they are today is that, in the interest of consumer relations, they keep the weaseling to a minimum. Until your bike breaks, don't worry about it. You could have spent $6000 on an Intense, and it could break just as easily as your Haro.

Andy

Andy,

My bike is equipped with Shimano Alivio rear derailers and an 8-speed Sunrace freewheel (13-28). My problem is that when I apply a lot of torque on up-hills, the chain seems to skip a bit about once every two or three revolutions of the crank. It's not consistent how often it skips. I removed the freewheel and examined it.  It works and sounds smooth, and the teeth seem barely worn (the bike only has about 1,000 miles of easy commuter type trails like the C&O Canal Towpath). I replaced the chain but that didn't help. Where do you think the problem is?

Tom,
Ft. Belvior, VA

Tom,

If your problem got worse when you replaced the chain, then you need a new cassette. The Sunrace cassette is not a good one, so I'd replace it any way. Get a Shimano or SRAM cassette, and if nothing else, your shifting will improve dramatically. If the new chain and cassette don't do it, look at a new middle chain ring, and check the condition of the derailleur pulleys. Modern drivetrain parts wear quickly, so 1,000 miles is not out of line for replacement. Usually, small gears (11, 12, 13-teeth) wear out the quickest. If your chain tends to skip more on these gears, then I'd be pretty certain that the cassette is the problem.

Good luck, and don't ride on that artillery range!

Andy

Hi Andy,

I live in England but am really a small town girl (granny, really) from Southern Illinois. Cars are expensive to run here so I recently bought a used ladies 12-speed bike in decent condition. I figure I can get around and keep fit as well. I am a total novice when it comes to bike gears. The bike had been in a shed for several years and needed some general maintenance and clean up.  I find that now as I pedal, it slips its gears. Everything else with the bike seems okay. Any advice on what to look for and how to solve the problem?  I need to learn how to do this myself rather than take it to a shop any time there's a problem. Your help and advice are most welcome. Thanks. 

Sincerely,
Susan Donnelly in East Yorkshire on the North Sea

Susan,

I wish more Americans would do as you are. I think, though, if gas was $5 per gallon, people would still drive their Excursions to the grocery store for one item. 

Your problem could be any number of things. Spin the pedals backwards and look for a chain link that sticks in the derailleur. Inspect the pulley wheels on the rear derailleur, and look at the teeth on both the cogs and chainrings. If it has indexed shifting, and the problem is more pronounced on one gear, you probably need a new chain and cassette, or freewheel. If it truly slips, as in you pedal, but the wheel does not move, the problem is either the freewheel, or the chain ring is disconnected from the one-piece crank. 

Andy

Andy,

What are the dimensions of the Schrader and Presta valves (i.e., diameter and threads per inch?)

Thank you,
Don Weiner

Don,

I have no idea. Not even a clue. Since we are constantly having flat tyres, we consider anything (valve caps or Presta nuts) a hindrance to flat tyre repair, and consequently don't use them. That's another reason to use tubulars--no threads on the valve stem. You could use the optional valve cap, but when you have a flat tyre, seconds count, especially when you have to unglue, surgically repair, close the wound, and re-glue the tyre. Hell, even Sutherland's doesn't go into thread pitch. According to Sutherland's the hole sizes are: Presta, 6.8mm; Dunlap, 8.3mm; and Schrader, 9.0mm. That's all I know about that. 

Andy

Andy,

It's time for a new bike. How do I go about sifting through all of the materials about compact vs. standard, fiber or chromo this, alum that, TIG this, brazed that, multi-shape this, over-sized that? You get the picture.

How do I decide if a $1200 frame is better than a $600 frame? Is it always you get what you pay for?

Is there a significant difference in frame and components selection if riding 1500-2000 miles a season?  Obviously I want it to last.

Tom

Tom,

If I knew what to buy, then I wouldn't have all this left over crap cluttering up my store!

"Bisickling" rag is a fountain of disinformation, or maybe that should be misinformation. The truth of the matter is, most manufacturers are using aluminum almost exclusively. If you spend enough on an alu frame, it'll be as light as possible. It may last your 2,000 mile season, if you are light and don't abuse it, and it'll have a 1-year warranty, and cost of over $1,500. These would be your Starship, Altec 2, etc. frames form Cinelli, Colnago, etc. The quality of that aluminum contrasts greatly from the total crap used by most manufacturers--Derby, Fuji, Pacific, etc. (so-called 7005 alloy)--that is so cheap. They should give it away. But the former is heavier than a good steel frame and has the ride quality reminiscent of the old penny farthings, a.k.a. boneshakers. In between is the stuff made by Trek and Cannondale--reasonably priced, reasonably light, durable to a point, even guaranteed for life. The ride quality of these 6000 alu frames is better than the 7005s, but it is pretty unforgiving. I only recommend these frames to bigger (both taller and heavier) guys, or to younger riders who don't care so much about ride quality. 

My opinion is that for the money spent, most people are better off with high quality steel. This opinion is not shared by many; however, it is a fact that people ride 30-year-old steel frames every day and enjoy it. A good quality steel frame will be almost as light as alu, will out last it, and will be comfortable on an all day ride. It will be half the cost of titanium, (not counting chi-com-prison-labor made ti, like Airbornes) and should last nearly as long. If you buy a steel frame, you will lose in weeny points, but you'll be happy with your investment.

I have some issues with ti. Without going into details and opinions, it is either cheap and crappy (Airborne), or it is too expensive to be worth the money to most consumers. Buy a Lightspeed, Merlin, Seven, or Lemond if you have no price restraints; otherwise, look at something else. 

I ride a carbon bike, and I love it. I know that it will not last as long as steel or ti, but I don't care. A good carbon frame can have all the positive attributes of all the other materials, without most of the negative attributes. My bike has survived a few crashes without breaking, most recently 40 mph into a large deer, so it is more durable than ignorant people would have you believe. Carbon is relatively expensive, but anything worth buying is.

Don't buy mail order, and insist on test riding several bikes. If you think the guy at the shop is an idiot, you're probably right, so go somewhere else, somewhere with a reputation. Buy a frame, not components. You can get a crappy Raleigh for almost nothing, spec'd miles ahead of anything else, but you are paying for components, and getting a giveaway cheap frame.
My picks for under $3,000 include the Calfee Luna (built to order for $1,200, no fork), Trek OCLV (5200, 5500, etc.), Lemond 853 bikes (namely the Zurich) several Torelli bikes and framesets (your best buy in good steel), and, if you must have aluminum, Cannondale has a whole pile of bikes from $800 and up, but I'd buy a Klein.

Andy

Dear Andy,

I am shopping for a new road bike and I have two questions: 

1) What are the differences between Shimano's 105, Ultegra, and Dura-Ace product lines. Is there much of an improvement in each step up?

2) I am looking at GIANT road bikes. Do you know of any pro's or cons on the company and it's "compact" frame design?

Thanks for the advice,
Mike Wing

Mike,

There are no significant differences between 105 and Ultegra, other than price and finish. Performance is nearly identical, and weight is not too much different. Dura-Ace is good enough to win major UCI races, like that that little race in France; it is much lighter and more durable, and has a 3-year warranty. Unfortunately, I don't have the specifics as to weight on these products at my fingertips, but you won't be building up a 15 pound bike with Ultegra. For the Average Joe, Dura-Ace is not necessary, but if your shifter breaks after two years and 12 hours, the extra money spent on Dura-Ace is not a bad investment. 

I'm not a fan of compact frame design, but it is widely used and accepted, and Giant was one of the first companies to use it. Giant is probably the finest (and largest) mass producer of bikes in the world. Apologies to Trek, but who builds your sub-$500 Treks? Giant does, at least the better ones. Most well made, inexpensive bikes are made by Giant, regardless of what the decals say. You can't beat their bikes for the money. Unless you have a problem with Asian built frames, buy the Giant.

Andy

Andy,

I am wanting to build a road bike from the frame up. Just to have done it. Any recommendations on getting started? Not sure what brand of parts to use where; and what is compatible with other parts. 

I have my eye on an unpainted Columbus Chromoly frame for starters.

Thanks,
Steve

Steve,

For best results, you should buy a complete gruppo, or kit. A gruppo is all the Shimano or Campagnolo (Campy) parts you'll need to build the bike, except rims, spokes, tires, bars, stem, tape, other details. A kit has everything but the frame. You can mix and match most Shimano parts, but parts of the same quality seem to work better together. If you use Campy stuff, you can run into some compatibility issues when you mix groups. All Shimano 9-speed stuff works with other 9-speed stuff. If you get older 8-speed Shimano stuff, it all works pretty much together except for Dura Ace, which should only be used with other Dura Ace stuff of the same vintage. You can buy some stuff, cranks and wheels, for example, that are not made by the Big Two, but can be compatible with either one. Make sure if you buy third party rear wheels or hubs that they are compatible with the brand of drivetrain parts you are using. You're going to have a minimum of $600 in parts, and probably much more. 

Andy

What's up Andy,

I have a 2000 Free Agent Flying Fortress and recently I snapped my brake line. I tried to repair and tighten my brakes; my bike has 990 mounts and the brakes are Pro-Star 931 u-brakes. Thanks for your time.

Jerome

Jerome,

With U-brakes, there are only a couple of ways to adjust the brakes. The yoke should be as low as possible. On some frames, there is a plastic guide that routes the straddle cable around the seat tube. I usually don't use these, as they add friction. If the yoke is in front of the seat tube, adjust the cable coming into it so that it almost touches the seat tube. If the yoke is behind the seat tube, you want it real close to the brake arms. Pull the straddle cable so that each brake pad is about 2mm from the rim. Fine adjustments can be made with the brake lever adjusting barrel, or the adjusting barrel that is either mounted on the downtube or through the seat tube. If you replaced an upper gyro or oryg cable, it should have some sort of instructions with it. Basically, you want to unscrew one of the adjusting barrels enough that the gyro unit is very low, but not touching the lower cable stop, and you have to spend a little time balancing the gyro using the four cable adjusting barrels. 

Andy

Andy,

I just had my "Hilly Hundred" weekend in Indiana trashed by a Shimano 105, STI, front shifter on our tandem that incrementally stripped it's teeth and lost the ability to go to the big ring, then even the middle ring. I am considering the options for replacement and heard some opinions, how about yours?

STI, 105 level, is out. It feels cheap and I am soured by getting left high and dry once with it. Ultegra (bolt-on upgrade) has some bad reports this year and sounds like another cheap imitation of Dura-Ace. You had any experiences with Ultegra STI levers?

I may forego all modern conveniences and trash what's left of STI and buy some Dia-Comp road levers and Dura-Ace bar-end shifters. I can ride in mittens again (in the wind blocker's seat) and I can use the "switch to guns" mode and ride with friction shifting instead of dismounting and
staring hatefully at the completely un-rideable bike in the event of some miniscule adjustment need.

What do you think?

ANDY in Pittsburgh, PA

Andy,

I'd either buy an Ultegra lever, or go with the bar end idea. New 105 and Ultegra stuff has a 2-year warranty (not much help when it gives it up on a ride), and it works well, when it works. Both 105 and Ultegra have been redesigned since the 2000 model year, to eliminate some problems with premature failures. None of the STI stuff is going to last as long as the bar ends. Have you ever heard anybody say, "Man this bar end shifter is a piece of crap, it only lasted two years and 12 hours"? Brand new STI stuff can just quit sometimes. This is the price of convenience. Also, if your front shifter went, your other one can't be far behind. 

Andy


Hi Andy,

I'm wondering what to do with my old 1992 Giant ATX 770.

I've got a full suspension Diamondback V-link that I regularly ride in the woods with my Labrador. (The bike is too tall for the Labrador). And my road bikes are a 1970 Peugoet Px-10 and a 1990ish Trek 520 touring bike.

So I have this 10-year-old, rigid chromoly-framed mountain bike hanging in the garage, and I'm looking for ideas. Add a Rock Shox? Keep it rigid? Change the tires and point it toward Hybrid? 

I imagine there are a lot of older rigid bikes tucked away in garages nowadays.

Thanks for your suggestions,

Rick Todd
AKA the Mad Catter

P.S. I'm thinking about adding a Rock Shox.

Rick,

The only problem you may run into is if you have a 1-inch steerer tube. You can still get forks to fit, but your selection is limited. Also, most new forks require the use of V-brakes, as they have no hanger for cantilever brakes. Otherwise, it's no big deal to put a shock on this bike.

Andy

Andy,

About six weeks ago, I bought two new 2001 Gary Fisher Solstice comfort bikes. My wife and I have ridden these for a touch over 300 miles, all in dry weather on blacktop rail-trails (Wheeling, WV, Lisbon, OH, etc.). I can't believe how dirty the chain, chainrings and cogs are already. I have seen ads for fancy "chain cleaning" machines that use brushes and fluid to clean the chain, special brushes for cleaning the cogs, etc. A local bike shop mechanic said to use kerosene and a tooth brush. What is the best way to clean these components and what lube to use?  Is this a normal time frame (300 miles) to need this type of service? Or, is there some lubricant on these from the manufacturer which attracts this dirt?

Thanks for your advice.

JD

JD,

There are a number of so called "clean" lubes on the market. Some are better than others, but none of them work on a greasy chain. To use this stuff, everything in your drive train must be fanatically, meticulously, "anally" clean, and new bikes come with a glob of stuff on the chain that's designed to prevent rust for as long as that chain sits on a shelf. Whoever told you to use kerosene and a toothbrush should use the same on his teeth. Get a chain cleaner, such as the ones made by Finish Line or Park. It's much easier to clean the rear cogs if they are removed from the wheel, but there's where you may use your buddy's toothbrush, sans kerosene. Get a real degreaser, such as Finish Line Echotech or citrus, or White Lightning Clean Streak. After the chain and anything that it contacts is meticulously clean, rinse with water (for most degreasers, read the label to be sure), and dry. For lubrication, I use White Lightning for most conditions. I like to warm and dry the chain with a hair dryer before applying the stuff. Otherwise, follow the directions on the bottle. If you get everything real clean to start with and follow the directions, you'll be able to cycle in white pants with no smudges. If you don't want to go to all that trouble, don't waste your money on "clean" lubes, and use Tri Flow, lightly applied over whatever you now have, and wipe it off after applying.

Andy

Hi,

I got a set of used Rolf Vector Pros recently. They spin okay but the bearings on the rear wheel seem to be a little too tight and don't spin as freely as the fronts. How do I adjust them and take them apart to where I can re-grease them. Or is this something best left to a bike shop?

Thanks,
Don

Don,

I believe that the Rolf rear has four sealed bearings. Some folks believe that you can lube these bearings; I however, contend that the act of removal destroys them. I'd replace them, and if you don't have cartridge bearing removal tools and presses, I'd go to a bike shop for the procedure, at about $45-50.

Andy

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