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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," and tell us where you live. 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 (do not submit a question if you don't want your Q&A posted in a future column). Take a look at our back issues to find answers to all kinds of bike fix-it questions. 

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Fall 2004 Q & A's (35 posted this season.)

Andy,

I need your opinion on these brands:

TREK Comfort Navigator 300/500, or Hybrid 7300, or the SPECIALIZED Comfort Expedition Sport/Deluxe, Hybrid Crossroads, Sport/Comp.

I'm really puzzled as which to get, 26-inch or 700 tires. I want the security and adaptability of 26, but am afraid that they might slow me down too much (though I will not be going very fast anyway). I'm 56 years old with back issues. I'll mainly be going out for recreational riding.

I'd also like your opinion on Rapid Fire Shifters vs. SRAM MRX-Plus. Also, is it important to look for all matching brake-derailleur components? 

Should I be concerned that aluminum is not as strong as Steel? Should I try to get a frame made in the US? Only the higher end models seem to offer this. I was interested in Cannondale at first for this reason, but got turned off finding out that they filed for bankruptcy. I read that frame and tires are the most important things to look for. Is that true?
 
Signed,
Puzzled

Puzzled,

26" comfort bikes are really pigs. I sell a ton of them, but I can't relate. If you want comfort and don't care about speed, and I don't mean race level speed, buy one, but ride it first. They are sluggish and handle poorly, and I frequently worry about those stoopid hinged stems breaking or coming loose. Amongst these bikes, I don't know of any that are US built, unless Cannondale has stooped to building them. A hybrid makes a lot more sense. One that is really cool and made in the US (and expensive) is the Gary Fisher Fast City. This bike uses the same frame as the Fisher 29" wheeled mountain bikes, so if you don't like the skinny (38mm) tyres, you can replace them with up to 2.125" wide tyres. Some of my customers have done similar swaps on less expensive bikes. Most hybrids can accept a 700x40 tyre, like the Ritchey Alphabite Trail Mix. The Fisher Utopia at about $700 is also US built, as is the trek 7500.

Andy

Hello

My bicycle keeps on skipping gear links. Is there any way I can remove a few of the links? The gears hang a bit low from the bike. I don't have too many tools either. Please instruct me on removing a few of the links.

Thank you very much,
Vijay

Vijay,

If you have a single speed bike, it may be necessary to either slide the rear wheel back, or to remove a link or two from the chain. If your wheel is all the way back and the chain is still slack, you must remove links, which can only be done with a chain tool. If you have a multiple geared bike, removing links may or may not be an option, as the source of your problem could be almost any or all or your drivetrain.

Andy

Andy,

This is a bottom bracket question. I'm working on someone's Cannondale f500 for them. His BB is shot and needs replacing. I was able to take the cartridge out but the cap on the other side will not budge. I've tried using a pipe over the wrench for leverage and it still will not budge. The cartridge came out of the left side of the bike while turning it counterclockwise, but the cap on the right side will not move either way. Any suggestions? I thought it was supposed to be the other way around, cartridge on right, cap on left. Maybe I'm confused. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Brian

Brian,

Various cartridges are attached to either side. The drive side cup is reverse threaded, so it will come out turning clockwise. I sometimes use a long pipe for this situation.  You may be experiencing galvanic corrosion, or cold welding.  It may be necessary to cut the cup out. At least you don't have a stuck cartridge, as it is much easier to cut out a cup than it is the entire thing.

 Andy

Andy,
 
I was wondering if it is possible to have three chainrings in the front and six or seven cogs in the rear for my 1970 Schwinn Super Sport. It currently has two in front and five in the rear. Please advise me.
 
Thanks, 
Vasco

Vasco,

You could do this, but it will cost you. You may need to spread the rear stays to accommodate the 6 or 7-speed freewheel, and you'll definitely need a longer axle and appropriate spacers. You could need new front and rear derailleurs, among other things. Expect to spend about $100.

Andy

Andy,

Will Look PP 236 road pedals (circa 1999) thread into Campy road cranks from 1990?

Thanks,
Charlie

Charlie,

Yes.

Andy

Andy,

I have a KHS brand Eastwood model 21-speed bike with Shimano shift hardware. If I pedal firmly in higher gears (and sometimes lower) the chain jumps, often so violently that my push foot ends up off the pedal. What could cause this?

Flngman

Flngman,

Sounds like a classic case of worn cassette/chain. Get both replaced. You may also have a worn chainring or chainrings, but the cassette is much more often the cause of such behavior. Incidentally, I usually recommend chain changes at 1000 mile intervals for the VVT, and 2500-3000 for the road bike. Just for laughs the other day, I checked out the Shimano spec. Try 500 mountain/1000 road! That's official.

Andy

Andy,

I have new Mavic Crossmax USTs with ceramic rims, Titus Motolite, with v-brakes, and ceramic brake pads that are year old. It's very noisy and I don't know how to toe the v-brakes. How can I eliminate this obnoxious noise?

Dean,

Don't use old pads. Toe them in so that the front hits about 1mm ahead of the rear, and make sure that the pad hits flat as viewed from the front.  If you have Shimano parallel push mechanisms, it could be sloppy and the source of the problem, or if anything is loose or worn (pivot bushings, for example), that could cause excessive noise as well.  Generally, I don't toe in v-brakes for people who want high performance.

Andy

Andy,

I've just started to ride BMX and I'm having problems with the handlebars getting out of alignment with the fork, wheel, tire, etc. What can I do to tighten it?

Kevin

Kevin,

If you have a clamp on stem, make sure to tighten the pinch bolts evenly. It's always best to use a torque wrench for this purpose. Quill stems (one bolt that goes down the middle) are prone to slipping, and sometimes a new stembolt and wedge help to prevent that.

Andy,

I am overhauling a 1980's Fuju road bike. However, the stem appears to be stuck. All of the bolts are loosened and and I don't know what is holding it in. I've had it out before, and remember nothing special about removing it. Should I get a hammer out? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  

Thank you.
Michael

Michael,

You might tap the center bolt with a mallet, to loosen the wedge. If that doesn't work, it could really be stuck, and you may need to cut it out.

 Andy

Andy,

I was disassembling a road bike for the first time, and I found that I have no clue how to get the front fork off. After numerous tries I was still unable to do so. I would like to clean the entire bike, and then repaint it. Would you be able to help with any tips that would let me do so.

Thanks,
Mike H.
Pittsburgh, PA.

Mike,

If you have an older bike, first remove the stem. There is a bolt that runs through the center of the stem. Loosen this, and you may have to tap it with a mallet to get it unstuck. After you get the stem out, loosen the headset lock nut (the one on top) and completely remove it. Then, remove any washers, and unthread the top cup of the headset. You fork will now be out of the frame. You'll need a headset cup removal tool to get the cups out of the frame, and a press to reinstall them. Newer bikes use a threadless headset and are much easier to deal with. Remove the Aheadset cap, in the center of the stem. Loosen the pinch bolt or bolts on the side of the stem, and your fork is off. 

Andy

Andy,

What is the difference between a regular hub and a cassette hub ?

Adam

Adam,

A cassette is a gear or group of gears that slide onto a splined driver, or freehub body, and are held on with a threaded lockring. An old school freewheel is a cluster of gears attached to a body containing bearings and pawls, and this threads onto the hub. The cassette has several advantages, the biggest of which is that axles are supported by bearings very near the end of the gear side, resulting in fewer bent or broken axles. 

Andy

Andy,

You're site is great. I need help.

I'm new to the Campy Record 10 speed world. I have a newly built Moots road bike with Campy triple (30, 39, 53) and 11-23 cassette. Under load, the bike performs flawlessly when in the smallest chain ring. When in the middle chain ring and in the middle of the cassette, the chain either skips (but stays on the cog) or jumps to the inside chainring or completely off to the inside. Again, this only happens when I apply a lot of force (sprinting/climbing). I have a brand new Moots road frame so I'll trust that frame alignment is not an issue. The derailleur hanger appears to be aligned. When in the largest chainring and smallest cog, the rear-derailleur bottom jockey wheel is pulled slightly forward out of perfect vertical alignment with the upper jockey wheel. Derailleur adjustment seems to be spot on. Do you have any insights into what the problem could be? This is a very un-nerving and unsafe situation as I don't feel comfortable getting out of the saddle and torqueing up a hill when in the middle chainring for fear of the chain jumping off.

Regards,
Fred 

Fred,

I'm not sure, but you could have a bad chain, or an improperly installed connecting pin or link. However, if this was the case, it should happen in most gears. Pedal backwards and see if a link sticks in the derailleur. You might check the chain line, and look for bent or deformed teeth on the cassette and chainrings.

Andy

Andy,

I have a Specialized Crossroads Comp hybrid bike. I also will retire in 18 months and I’m very interested in doing some touring of up to one week of up to 80-mile days. The type of touring will be from motel to motel with most of my meals in restaurants. The extent of my bags will be on my rear rack with a hand bar bag (flat bar) for easy access. The specs of my bike are as follows: Wheels 700x38; 27 speed; triple ring 48x36x26; and 11x32 cassette. What modifications to my bike if any would you suggest to making this a better touring bike? 

Frank Russo

Frank,

The bike is fine for the type of thing you're doing. You'd go faster on a bona fide touring bike, but maybe that's not so important. A good compromise would be some more road oriented tyres. Get something in a higher pressure, slightly narrower, like 700x 28. That's about all I'd change. 

Andy

Hello,

I have a question about spindle width for a Campy Centaur 10-speed triple. Would you recommend a 111mm or 115mm?

Charles

Charles,

Usually, shorter is better, but it really depends on your frame. 

Andy

Andy,

My daughter has a 9-year-old son with a handicap. He has Prader Willey Syndrome. He does not have the ability to ride a bicycle. He has no balance. He needs a 3-wheel bicycle that looks like a boys bike. His class has bicycle days and he cannot participate because he has training wheels and is made fun of. My daughter does not have a great income and is a single parent. What would the cost be of a bicycle that is cool looking for a boy to ride along with his friends? We need one that is not too expensive. Can help us? It would be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you,
Virginia (grandma)

Virginia,

Most of the adult 3-wheelers are somewhat expensive and not at all cool looking. There are heavy duty balance wheels which attach to any bicycle. These wheels use 16" bike tyres and tubes, and will support a lot of weight, and are pretty maneuverable, more so than an adult trike. I think these cost around $160, or about half the cost of an entry level trike. If you can budget for it, there are 3-wheel recumbents that are very nice, but in the $1,000 ballpark.

Andy

Andy,

I have a FUJI Cyclocross that came equipped with Shimano 105 STI shifters and double crank. I've recently swapped out the bottom bracket, front/rear derailleurs, cassette, chain and cranks to make it a triple system. All are Shimano 105 components. The problem I'm having is the front derailleur attachment point won't allow it to shift to higher gears. I had Shimano Deore LX originally. How do I make this work? Is there a special adapter to bolt onto derailleur to change the angle of pull?

Tom 

Tom,

There are no such adapters. If you are trying to use a top pull derailleur on a bottom routed bicycle, forget it. If you have the right derailleur (it should be a 105 triple, if that's what your other stuff is), it will work. Otherwise, it probably won't.

Andy

G'day Andy

Just a quick question and please excuse me if I've got the terminology wrong but I'm still a novice to bike maintenance. I recently bought a second hand GT bmx and I was led to believe that it was sitting in the garage for several years, hardly used.

The other night I was on my bike keeping a slow pace as I was "walking" my girlfriend home. I was more or less standing upright on the pedals, coasting and back pedaling a lot just for the fun of it.  When I got home I noticed the pedals would smoothly spin forward but if I reversed the spin, the rotation was rough.

I'm wondering if the bearings were finally worn out or did I damage them by standing upright and backpedaling?

Thanks for any light you can shed.

Happy

Happy,

Your freewheel probably needs lubrication or replacement (about $10), and/or your chain is too tight.

Andy

Andy,

I just inherited a GT Outpost 21-speed mountain bike from my brother. Unfortunately, he left it parked outside of his college dorm all year and now the chain is rusty beyond repair and the cassette is rusted and needs replacing. Everything else is okay, I think. I'd like to fix all this on my own and learn a little about it instead of mindlessly taking it to a shop. I'd rather not invest that much in it since it was a freebie. 

Could you point me in the right direction and where to start?

Thanks,
Aaron in Virginia

Aaron,

Get a chain tool and a chain that fits seven cogs. Count the number of links on the old chain, and cut the new on to the same size. Install and go, if that's all that's wrong with it.

Andy

Andy,

I'm aware that the column guidelines say no old bike questions, but that's a small part of what I need to know. So here goes:

Last summer, and on into last fall, I built myself a mountain bike from the ground up, with (almost) all the parts I always wanted. A woman I know was talking about her old road bike, and said she'd like to upgrade/convert/update it to make more or less a modern hybrid bike, that is, she'd like some off-road capability, but doesn't need a suspension fork. She just wants the availability to hit the occasional dirt trails as well as good on-road manners. I told her about how I put mine together, and she offered to pay me to do some work on hers. So, the question is, do you think it would be possible to convert the bike the way she wants, with some skinny but
knobby tires, flat bars, and new components, or should I go with her other option, and just put together a whole new hybrid bike for her? I guess the main part of the question is just whether old-style road bikes are able to accept modern components. It looks okay to me, but then I'm not a professional bike mechanic, just an amateur one. 

Thanks for any help you can give me!
Bissno

Bissno,

The only limiting factor for this would be the size of the tyre that will fit into the frame. If it is a 700C wheel, you have many options, including hybrid or cyclocross tyres. If it is a 27-inch wheel, you can sometimes use a knobby like the Tioga bloodhound (27x1-3/8" rather than 1-1/4"). Make sure to use a mountain bike or hybrid stem with flat or riser bars, as the clamp diameters are different for drop and flat bars. Other components will fit as the budget allows.

Andy

Andy,

Hope you can help me with a gearing upgrade question. I have an 1977 Motobecane 10-speed bike that I now use exclusively on a trainer, but would like to improve the gearing on it. I have an extra wheel from my roadbike with a Campy 10 (13-29) sprocket on it. Can I have the rear  dropout spread apart enough to accept this wheel and then just change the rear derailleur and chain? Will a Campy 10 chain work with my old chainrings? The cranks are Stronglight. Thanks for your help!

Dave

Dave,

You'll need a 10-speed compatible crank, chain, cassette, and derailleur. You can spread the frame easy enough. 

Andy

Hi

I have a Raleigh M-400 and wanted to know if the stock fork can be upgraded to a Marzocchi Z-1 FR SL with a 210mm 1-1/8" steerer tube that is being taken off of demo bike. 

Thanks, 
Mike

Mike,

Whether or not the fork fits will depend on how tall your headtube is, or how long the steerer on your old fork is. If 210 is only five or so mm short, you can take out a spacer or two to make it fit.

Andy

Andy,

I've got a 1998 Specialized Stump Jumper Pro with a Rockshox Judy XC front fork. I don't want to put a lot of money into it because I'm saving for a new bike within the next year or two. I'm looking to rebuild the Judy XC front shock and I'm wondering if you could recommend a good after-market kit for this? 

Doug 

Doug,

Since Rockshox doesn't stock old parts, you'll have to cross reference to get bushings. If you know of a shop that does business with BTI, you should be able to get bushings, if that's what you need. Your best bet for internals is the Total Air cartridge. It's easier to install than the RS parts, and is available to fit your fork. You can now get this kit for single or double sides, and can add an oil bath. I highly recommend it for older forks. 

Andy

Andy,

I need to know how to remove the freewheel on my BMX bike. I have a four-prong freewheel and I bought a four-prong freewheel remover and I just need to know how to use it. Also I need to know how to put on a new freewheel.

Thanks,
James Dickson, a BMXer

James,

Engage the tool in the slots. Use your axle nut to snug the tool in place. If you have a vice, put the tool in the vice, and turn the wheel counterclockwise. Once the freewheel breaks loose, loosen or remove your axle nut, and spin it off. If you don't have a vice, get a large crescent wrench and a friend to help. One of you can hold the wheel, and the other can operate the crescent wrench. Remove by unscrewing. You don't really need a tool to install the freewheel, just screw it on by hand, and pedaling the bike will tighten it. Put a little grease on the threads before you put it on.

Andy

Hi,

My inner tube popped and I was wondering if it could be fixed or should I just buy a new tube. Also I was looking into those slime filled tubes because I get a lot of flats. I was wondering if you could recommend a good brand. I have a 26-inch mountain bike. Thanks for the help.

P

P,

I like the genuine Slime brand. These will stop flats caused by most small sharp objects. If you in fact popped the tube, slime won't help you, it is ineffective against pinch flats and really large cuts. 

Andy

 

Dear Andy,

I have a very puzzling situation that I haven't been able to resolve on my mountain bike. I had a problem with my chain last year, which I hoped to remedy by taking it off, cleaning it thoroughly (degrease, scrub, etc), and then putting it back on.

I rode for about 15 minutes and then the problem started again. The problem is that when I am on the middle ring in the front the chain falls off sometimes. It falls off to the small ring or sometimes right off past the small ring. I don't notice the problem when I am actually riding on the small ring.

It seems to happen whenever I backpedal (get pedals in position to start out, etc.) or if I go through a really bumpy section where I am not pedaling. When I pedal or shift, it does not do it. It's only when I'm backpedaling or not pedaling at all. And it is not related to a shift at all.

Any help?

Thanks,
Garon Munch

Garon,

This is unusual. I'm not sure where to start. It may have to do with your chainline, in which case a shorter bottom bracket spindle may work. Since it happens when coasting, it may have to do with the freewheel or freehub. Check to see which gear in the back contributes to the problem. If your front der is way out, it may cause such a problem, as could a bent chainring. 

Andy

Andy,

Someone recently changed tires on two 10-speeds that I have, now they can't seem to get the chain back on in the proper position. Can you please tell me how to thread the chain back on or where I could possibly print off a diagram so they could see how this is done? This would be greatly appreciated if you could.

Thanks ever so much!
Lela Brewer 

Lela,

Shift both shifters to the smallest cog position. Guide the top of the chain over the top of the smallest cog on the rear wheel, while pulling the wheel up into the dropout. Unless the derailleur came off or got knotted up, this should get you going in the right direction. The chain should pass over the top of the smallest cog, in front of the top derailleur pulley, and behind the bottom pulley. There should be an upper and lower chain section that are parallel to each other, with the only bends being the "S" shape around the rear derailleur.

Andy

Andy,

How do I remove a link from a bike chain without any special tools?

Harrison,

While you might pound it out with a small punch or nail, there is no way that I can recommend without a tool. You'll probably wreck the chain if you don't buy a tool.

Andy

Dear Andy,

Yesterday I transported my bicycle (Ridgeback mx45) on the plane from the UK to Switzerland. I had to turn the handlebars round, let the air out and disconnect breaks to take off the front tyre etc ,etc. I bought the bike about a week ago and everything was running smoothly when I gave it a few trial runs before I brought it over here. I have been on it today and I have noticed that the gears keep shifting to a lower gear when I am cycling without me doing anything. I am assuming that they may have been knocked off during transportation as the bike wasn't in a box. Do you have any ideas what might have happened and what I can do?

Best wishes,
Louisa Patterson
Clavadelerstrasse
Davos Platz
Switzerland

Louisa,

Most likely, you have done something to tighten the shift cable. Possibly one of the cable housing ferules is out of the cable guide on the frame. It is also possible that you bent the hanger, or the rear der, but I think it's probably a cable issue. 

Andy

Hi Andy,

I just received a Gary Fisher Tassajara bike in the mail disassembled. Could you tell me what order the pieces of the headstock/stem are supposed to go in? It's a bunch of black rings and bearings! 

Thanks!
Mark Lorenz

Mark,

I'm sure I've covered this before. All headsets are not the same, so it's going to require a little common sense. Usually, bottom balls up, top down, but if the cup goes on top (rather than the race), the top balls go up as well. Top race or cup, compression washer (cone shaped hickey with a split), then bearing cap. Spacers, stem and adjusting cap. What idiot took off the fork to ship it, anyhow?

Andy

Hi,

I have a 1989 Trek 1000 road bike. I've ridden it occasionally throughout the years, but I doubt I have more than 3,000 miles total on the bike. It still has all original Suntour Edge Accushift components. I'm assuming that this bike has the bonded aluminum frame, as most of Treks mid-priced line did at that time. I've always taken good care of it, and recently had it tuned and the bottom bracket rebuilt. It still looks practically new. My question...

Your articles don't tend to rally around the bonded aluminum frames. I just want to know if there is any problem with putting some more long miles on this bike. It has years on it, but relatively few actual miles. Is the strength still there? I've taken it out for some 30-40 mile rides in the last couple of weeks, and all seems fine. I just want to know your take on the safety of the frame. I
do believe at the time that these Treks came with limited lifetime warranties.

Additionally, could I upgrade to a Shimano 105 component set, that is, if the frame is worth the upgrade? Thanks.

Ray H. Woodward

Ray,

Without seeing it, I'd say replace it. Before upgrading anything, price new bikes. If it has not been used much, it might be okay. The problems with I associate aluminum usually involve cyclical fatigue, small stress cracks or other stress risers, and an almost imperceptible frame fatigue, where the bikes just doesn't have that stiff aluminum feel anymore. By the way, this applies to all aluminum parts, not just the frame. If I had my choice, I'd much rather have my seat stay rip off at high speed than try to make a turn with half a 14-year-old handlebar, but I'm just funny that way. 

Andy

Hi,

I have a problem with my bike! One of the spokes broke off of  my rear wheel right at the rim.
I'm not to sure on what to do here.

Thanks,
Christopher

Christopher,

Spokes on rear wheels require more tools and effort, due to the presence of a freewheel, or some other sort of gear cluster which impedes installation of spokes. You must remove this, and in order to do that, you need the correct tool--either a specific freewheel remover, or a cassette lockring tool and chain whip. If the spoke is broken off in the nipple, you'll need to remove the tire and tube to get the old nipple out and put a new one in. Then, you should have some means of truing the wheel, which requires at least a spoke wrench and a good eye, or preferably a truing jig. Take the wheel to a bike shop. They can give you an estimate, or sell you the correct size spoke and tools if needed. 

Andy

Andy,

Without a gadget for doing this job, how can I get close to a straight running wheel on my son's little bike?

Alan,

Chances are, you can't.

Andy

Andy,

My son races a Powerlite BMX Junior size bike.  He has the original chromoly forks with the star nut welded in. I want to replace it with a carbon Answer fork. Are there any special tools I need or does the old fork just slide out (once the star nut screw has been removed)?

Thanks,
Mark

Mark,

The old fork will just slide out. The only tools you may need would be a star nut setter for the new fork, but I think that all carbon forks usually use a plug in type. If you are also replacing the headset, you'll need headset tools, and if not, you'll need to take the crown race off the old fork and put it on the new one with a slide hammer. 

Andy

G'day Andy

Just a quick question and please excuse me if I've got the terminology wrong but I'm still a novice to bike maintenance. I recently bought a second hand GT bmx and I was led to believe that it was sitting in the garage for several years, hardly used. 

The other night I was on my bike keeping a slow pace as I was "walking" my girlfriend home. I was more or less standing upright on the pedals, coasting and backpedaling a lot just for the fun of it. When I got home I noticed the pedals would smoothly spin forward but if I reversed the spin, the rotation was rough. 

I'm wondering if the bearings were finally worn out or did I damage them by standing upright and backpedaling? Thanks for any light you can shed. 

Happy

Happy,

Your freewheel probably needs lubrication or replacement (about $10), and/or your chain is too tight.

Andy

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