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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. (Submitting a question will put you on the list for our next seasonal email newsletter; your name can always be removed from that list at your request.)  

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Fall 2003 Q & A's (50 posted in this season's column)


I have been doing some serious mountain biking the last two years and having lots of problems with my bike. I'm heavier (190 pounds) than my riding buddies who don't seem to have the problems that I do. I have a dual suspension Jamis Dakar Expert. I've had the rear suspension bushings replaced and there is play again indicating they need to be replaced again. I also had the rear seat stay break at one of the weld points, which seems to be a Jamis trademark.

I also seem to destroy tires on an abnormal basis. Anyway, my question: Is there a mountain bike that is better for heavier riders that can take more abuse because of the weight?

     (*)/ (*)


I hesitate to make recommendations here, but I'll give you my two cents worth anyhow. First of all, in the realm of mountain biking, 190 isn't heavy. You can't even race Clydesdale. I have many customers who are way over 200, some that skirt 300, and while we don't have an inordinate number of problems, the biggest one is with suspensions. No suspension or aftermarket product is really designed to operate with over 230 pounds on it, and this can be a
problem with excessive bottoming out. There is a real need for suspension products and apparel for big guys, and as far as I know, it's not being met. 

It is normal to have to replace frame bushings every so often, about once every two seasons, on average. These are what we call DU or permanently lubricated bushings, and if you use any sort of oil or grease on them, you shorten their life considerably. If you are not contaminating them with lube and they still wear prematurely, I'd have the frame checked for alignment. Any frame can crack, but it is rare, even among cheap frames.

I'm not clear as to why you destroy tyres. Do you wear out the tread, or do you cut them up? In either case, weight is not the issue. If you wear out aggressive treads, don't ride on pavement with them. If you cut up tyres, get cheap, heavy-wire-beaded replacements.

I would look at so called "freeride" bikes to replace the Jamis. I'm liking the Trek Liquid bikes right now, but you may also look at Cannondale and Specialized. Also, Rocky Mountain tends to specialize in this sort of thing, so you may check them out. Typically, a Jamis bike is a decent, value-priced vehicle, but not my first choice.


PS: Just because you have an issue with bushings, don't be misled by a manufacturer's claim about bearings (Cannondale, for example). In the real world (rain, creeks, mud), bearings get contaminated and need to be serviced or replaced about as often as do bushings.


I am thinking of purchasing a new bicycle and I was wondering if you could give me some tips about how to pick a good, strong frame from a weak one. The type of riding I had in mind was rough, harsh "freeriding."



You'd think that nobody would make a "freeride" bike that didn't have a strong frame, but all you have to do is walk into a Wal-Mart and look at the crap with triple clamp downhill forks, and there you are! I can't speak for every manufacturer, but generally, if you buy a shop quality bike at this level, you'll get a pretty strong frame. Weight is not such an issue here,
so the strength of the frame and overall parts package is usually high. I wish they would get away from aluminum frames, but the market doesn't allow much deviation--you can either buy aluminum, or aluminum. This is one case where cheap straight gauge 7005 is probably not such a bad choice in frame materials. If you want something almost indestructible, build up a Burly Surly Instigator. This is a big-hit, hardtail cromoly frame. You won't have full suspension, but you'll probably never break it either. In full suspension, look at Giant, Trek, etc.


Dear Andy,

I've been a semi-avid cyclist for the last ten years (54 yrs old). I bought my 60cm GT Hybrid frame in the early 90's when I purchased my son's mountain bike. The price was reasonable, the frame bullet proof at 35-pound weight, but the componentry poor. The first thing that had to go was the cheap Suntour derailleur, upgraded to their top of the line until they went out of business. I'm currently running Ultegra 9-speed and am very happy with it. My problem--the original rims broke rear spokes (36 hole) in the first 100 miles, replaced with DT spokes that lasted 300 miles until breakage. I changed rims to Trek, Mattrix, 700C Titan-Tour (23 mm wide) and thought I had the problem licked until I recently noticed the rear rim is developing cracks where the inner rim meets the side wall and some spokes have noticeably pulled aluminum away at the reinforcing rivets. I estimate the distance on this rim to be about 3000 miles, but never have I had a broken spoke (32 hole)--apparently the center of the rim gives instead (deep side walls) of the spokes. The spokes remain tight and the wheel somewhat true. 

As I've stated, the bike weighs 35 pounds and I weigh 250 pounds and often average 20 mph on 15-mile trips. I'm not a believer in "less weight is better"--I always purchase strong and reliable regardless of weight. So, what is the strongest and most reliable 700C rim you can recommend that will take a 700 x 25 Avocet tire? I have a Wolber on the front with Dura Ace hub that was given to me. It appears very strong and the cone bearing is impeccably smooth with no discernible play at the rim. I have a second 36-hole Wolber where I'm thinking of changing the worn out 6-speed Dura Ace hub to a 9-speed Ultegra. They don't look great as the coating has worn off on the brake contact surfaces but they appear bullet proof like my frame. What do you

Bob Kellogg

P.S. What are your thoughts on cartridge vs. cone bearings? My experience says that Dura Ace cup and cone are best; cartridge wobbles!


Sun used to offer the Rhyno Lite in 700c, but I can't find one anywhere. That'd be my first choice. I've been real happy with Velocity rims, and they make a rim specifically for loaded touring and tandem use called the Dyad. We have a few Bontrager Clyde rims which are very strong for heavy or aggressive riders. Your best bet is to use one of the above with 36 spokes.
In general, I prefer cup and cone bearings to sealed. However, if you can spend more on a rear hub than most people do for a complete bike, make mine a King.


P.S. I'm currently using old Wolber sewups on my road bike, and they'll probably last forever, barring deer and little old ladies driving big new Fords.


I just found your fine site and read a few of Andy's columns. Thank you for providing a forum for honest advice. I am also a college-educated bike shop inhabitant. His responses seemed very realistic and helpful. I'm sure your readers appreciate his honesty.



Thanks bud! And we didn't even have to pay you to send this.

Andy "The Mechanic" Wallen
Jim "The Editor" Joyce


Greetings from PA! I've used Shimano 105 STI levers for a few years but I've upgraded one bike to Ultegra just recently. There seems to be considerable difference in the amount of finger force needed to "trim" the front derailleur between the two. I expected the Ultegra shifters to, at least, shift as smooth but it seems that the trim feature is much stiffer than the 105's. Is there some adjustment that can be made to loosen it some? 



The newer STI levers all require a little more force, and there's not much you can do about it.  Make sure that there is as little friction in the cable/housing/bb cable guide as possible--use either a Teflon cable or a high quality lube designed for cables. Squirt some plastic/rubber safe lube into the shift lever, and work some lube into the front derailleur. As these things get older, they get easier to push, and then they quit working, so you have that to look forward to.



I bought a used 1998 Trek 6000 mountain bike through the mail. I have gotten it all put back together except the headset. I can't figure out in what order to put the rings back on. It is the original headset and I believe the brand is Aheadset.

Thanks for any help or direction you can provide me.

Mesa, AZ


I assume that your problem is with the top part. There is a conical compression ring with a split in it, which goes into the top bearing cup. From there, there are a few spacers which go on in no particular order. What idiot took the fork off to ship the bike, anyway? All Aheadsets are not identical, but basically similar. Use the top cap for bearing adjustment only, don't go ham-fisted with it. Once play is removed with the top cap, securely tighten the side pinch bolt(s).

From the bottom up: possibly a plastic "seal ring" goes into the bottom cup, after the bearing (usually balls up), top bearing (balls down), top bearing cup, compression ring, spacers and stem.



I commute 13 miles to and from the centre of London U.K. and want to know whether solid tyres are really as bad as my local dealers claim. They say the roll resistance is twice as high and that they cause the rim to buckle due to lack of shock absorption. The thing is I often cycle home late at night through some less than safe areas and stopping to repair a puncture is not really an option! I ride a Lafree Twist electric pedal-assisted bike from Giant. I would be grateful to hear your opinions on this. 



I'm really unqualified to pass judgment on the state of the art in airless technology, as I have not tried any of these tyres. My understanding of the way things are in the physical world leads me to the conclusion that these tyres can't possibly perform as well as pneumatic tyres, except for someone who can't deal with flats at all. If the most important thing about your tyres is flat resistance, not smoothness, comfort, low rolling resistance, and light weight, then get a set. Now, the folks who make certain brands of these tyres claim that all of my objections have been minimized, but I have yet to try them, or organ meats.



My name is Ryan Notz and I'm a fairly accomplished amateur mechanic. I've built up several bikes on my own, both road and mountain and regularly repair all the bikes of everyone I know. However, there is one problem that eludes me and has mysteriously transferred from my old road bike to my wife's new one. I had a Cannondale frame that I built up with a new Shimano Ultegra 8-speed gruppo in 1997. It never shifted smoothly through all the gears, despite having half a dozen friends or professional mechanics look at it. It would either downshift well or upshift well, but not both, ever. I kept it adjusted to downshift smoothly and on the upshifts I would just give it a little extra shove through some of the middle gears and I lived with it. I knew it wasn't just how Ultegra was, because my father has the same components and same year and his shifted remarkably well. I put it down to the frame. Maybe it was out of alignment in the rear derailleur and the things that are more ass paining like the bottom bracket and cranks and the shifters. If you've ever come across a problem like this, please help me out of my misery.

Yours sincerely,
Ryan Notz


If everything else is perfect, and people who know what they're doing looked at it, and you have a genuine Shimano (no SRAM, Connex, KMC, etc.) chain, your problem is in the shifter. I've had a few 8-speed shifters that acted like this in spite of changing cables, housing, chains, cassettes, derailleur hangers, even derailleurs, and can only attribute the problem to the shifter. 


Hi Andy,

I'm trying to "fix up" an older Klein mountain bike frame with the pressed-in bottom bracket (bb). I would like to upgrade to a splined bb. Can the frame be threaded? Welded? Glued?

What axle size is needed if I use a double Ultegra crank? I'm trying to make a heavy duty commuter for the "harsh" winters.

Thanks for caring,
Don "Pancake" Callery


I believe that the Klein pressed-in bb is slightly larger in diameter than a threaded bb. This means that if you know a good machinist, a helicoil type insert may be devised. I don't know of anything ready made that will work, and I'm quite sure that this is something that the Klein people would discourage. You may inquire at Klein (now Trek) as to whether a ready made fix is available. I think they gave up on this idea at least 10 years ago.



I have a tire with a pedal-brake gear (I'm not sure what you would call the gear, but it doesn't spin both ways), and I want to replace it with a free wheel. I want to know how to replace the old gear with the new freewheel, and if I need any new parts (such as bearing, etc.). Thanks. 



You can't change a coaster hub to freewheel. Your only option is to buy a new wheel. 



My LBS seems to be unable to sort out the Fatty dl Headshock on my Cannondale Jekyll 600.
They seem to be unable to prevent the suspension from 'topping out', despite being authorized Cannondale repairers.

Fortunately there were other similar bikes in the shop which had been set up correctly. (These were second hand trade-ins and had not necessarily been set up by the shop.) There were also new Cannondales that also 'topped out'.

Obviously somebody doesn't have a clue. Could you shed any light on this problem for me please as this is the third time my bike has been in for repair and it is only five months old.

Phil Marney


Probably the biggest reason that I no longer sell Cannondale is the Headshock. They are hard to service, and you need a bunch of proprietary parts and tools to work on them. We have less trouble with our $75 RST forks than with Headshocks. I'm not sure what you mean by "topping out," but I guess that you don't have damping, so that when compressed, the fork violently springs back, like a pogo stick. If this is the case, you either have a bad seal in your fatty cartridge, or some other cartridge related problem. Demand a new cartridge. If by "topping out" you actually mean bottoming out, where the shock compresses too easily, on small bumps, then you have an air leak. Either problem can be solved by someone with Headshock experience, but since it's a new bike, demand new parts. Better still, trade it in on something with a Psylo or black fork.



After a dozen years off of bikes, I finally got back onto a bike. Before, I  really enjoyed working on my bike, and I want to get back into it with the used Trek 820 that I just purchased. I'm comfy with repacking wheel hubs, etc., but I want to replace the fixed fork with a suspension fork. Two questions: 
1)  What are the gotchas waiting for me? 
2)  Do you have Trek 820 fork spec's handy?



The only specs you need to look at are diameter, and length if you are using a quill stem and threaded headset. If your bike is a few years old, it will have a 1" threaded system, and your fork choices will be very slim, i.e., RST, or RST. If you have a 1-1/8" threaded steerer (locknut measures 36mm), you can find a few threaded forks, and you'll have to measure the length of the steerer (bottom of headset to top of locknut), or you can replace the fork, stem, and headset with a threadless system. The 1-1/8" threadless forks come in every imaginable price and quality range, and the steerer lengths are all the same (cut to fit). You should invest in a few tools, such as a star nut setter, saw guide, and slide hammer to press on the crown race, and headset tools if you decide to go with a new headset.



Can you explain some of the theory on fore and aft positioning of cleats on bike shoes? For background: I have Sidi mountain bike shoes with Ritchie pedals and cleats which I use with my XLab Tri bike. I seem to remember the bike shop where I bought them with my Bianchi telling me that they positioned the cleats as far forward as possible because of my inexperience (18 months ago). I've logged 3,000 miles on the Bianchi and XLab since then so I'm wondering if moving them could help my performance (or just make my knees hurt.) 

Also, can you recommend a way to get one of those very same pedals unfrozen from the crank arm? I recently removed the pedals for shipping and only hand-tightened them when I put them back on. I couldn't get them back off again and had to ship my bike home with the pedals still on! I'm guessing a bike shop I visited tightened them extra tight for some reason since there's no other explanation and I've never had this problem before. I got one off at home with a monkey wrench and hammer but can't budge the one on the right side. I need to fix this problem just in case...Can you help?



There are two (at least) schools of thought as to cleat positioning: bike shop BS and science. Guess which was applied in your case? The truth of the matter is that most shops aren't qualified to do this, but since you expect them to know more about this than you do, you believe what ever they tell you. Folks who work in bike shops don't make much money, and bike and cleat fitting equipment is expensive. Compound this expense with the fact that people who buy bike stuff are generally cheap, in an extravagant sort of way, and it's easy to understand the BS school of thought. 

Science can be taken to extremes. Velonews ran an article on this subject, where your pedal/seat/cleat position can be analyzed by recording your pedal stroke with sort of strobe lights to indicate problems. This type of analysis is very expensive, but beneficial for people with less than perfect anatomy. There are less expensive means to arrive at a good fit, to be sure.

In the absence of scientific instrumentalities, might I suggest a little trial and error. Why anyone would tell you that it's better for beginners (or anyone, for that matter) to start with the cleat positioned all the way forward totally escapes me. Start neutral, in the center, both fore and aft and left and right. Take some time to think about what you're doing, preferably on a trainer, so you can hop off and make adjustments. If you can find someone who knows what they're doing to watch, it helps. You want the spindle close to the ball of your foot to start, and this position is attained by sliding the seat on the rails, and/or moving the cleats fore or aft. Keep track of what you have changed by marking the cleat in relation to where it is on the shoe. You want a pretty straight, even stroke. If the cleat is too far left or right, you should see or feel it in your knees. Moving it fore or aft, even a minute distance, will change muscle stresses and the amount of power you get out of each stroke. I think that one can intelligently and methodically get a pretty good handle on these adjustments, but there is no substitute for a Fit Kit or similar device. 


PS: Don't ride a tri bike in mountain bike shoes. It's a point of style, but there is a tremendous difference in comfort and power output if you can upgrade to carbon-soled road shoes. Nike recently had some close outs on the old style Poggio, which is a fantastic shoe for the money.


I'm interested in getting a cyclocross bike, for city commuting, winter training, and light off-road use. I weigh 190 pounds and currently own a new set of Mavic Open Pro rims built up with Dura Ace hubs and 14/15 spokes. Would these be good for this use, or do I need wider and/or stouter rims? Also, any tire recommendations?



Your rims are probably fine. Road rims are commonly used for cyclocross. I like the Vittoria tyre, but Hutchinson, Michelin, and Bontrager Jones are very good.

The best budget tyre is the Ritchey Trail mix.



I just bought a bike (okay, it’s an adult trike) for my mother and me to share and have run into a small problem. The inner tube stems seem to be very different from what I knew as a kid. They have what looks like a nut, a long hollow screw thing, another nut and a rubber cap--they don’t work with the old bicycle pump either. The instructions came in, I think, Chinese (no English), the bike is called a “Rickshaw Express” and the seller included three normal inner tubes.

Is there a pump that would work with that? Should I just use the other tubes? 

Thanks for any help,
Jackie in MD


I think that you have what is called Dunlap or Dunlop valves. There are pumps that fit these, but they are most common in Europe. There is no reason not to use plain old Schrader (American) valve tubes.



I have a Shimano Rapid Rise Index Shifter and when I shift into 7th gear my chain pops real bad. Do you have any suggestions of what could be my problem? 



My first guess is worn out cassette/chain. These items must be replaced together. Usually, the smallest cog (7th in this case) wears out before the larger ones. A new chain will mesh fine with the larger cogs, but won't stay on the worn, smaller one. It's possible that the high limit screw is out of whack, allowing the chain to almost come off the 7th cog, but not quite. Check this first, but I'd bet on the cassette and chain. 


Hi Andy,

I have a clicking/creaking noise emitting from my front chainset. I can't decide if this is due to the crank or bottom bracket.

I have recently installed a new chainset on my mountain bike along with a new chain/freewheel/bottom bracket.

At first there was no noise but now--and particularly when I ride up hill or under pressure--a clicking and creaking noise appears.

I have greased up the bottom bracket and cranks to no effect. Also the bottom bracket test (inspecting if the cranks can move laterally) has proved negative.

Any ideas?

Many thanks,

BTW - Great site, love the layout, ease of use and great information resource. Keep up the good work!!


Creaks can be hard to localize. If you have indeed done everything right, to the proper torque and all that, then I'd look elsewhere, such as quick release skewers or seat bolts. The most common creak is the one that your crankset emits just before it wallows out to the point of being useless, which is due to riding with it loose. Shimano bottom bracket cups, especially in non-ferrous frames, can be silenced with Teflon tape. 



I am building wheels for my 20-inch BMX bike and the front wheel doesn't lace up. Can you tell me how to find out what size spokes I need to lace it?



You need to take your hub and rims to some place that has either software or a spoke-sizing system, and they will (they certainly should) charge for this service. 


Dear Mr. Mechanic,

I am writing from Zimbabwe to enquire about racing wheels for my son's bike which is a Trek 1200. Sean is 16 and it is his birthday. We would like to get him Zipps or racing wheels for his bike. Not knowing anything really about cycling I would be very grateful for your advice. He does triathlons and is aiming at representing Zimbabwe this year. Please, could you advise on the wheels that we need to get for him and the price of them, and possibly if there are any shops in South Africa or England/Ireland where we can purchase them.

Thank you for your time.

Kind regards,
Deirdre O'Sullivan


I  have a Schwinn LeTour that seems to want to veer left all the time. This becomes apparent when I take my hands off the bar.  I have to struggle to keep the bike on track and lean to the right.  The bike performs well otherwise and is in tune.  It's been this way since new.  Can you suggest trouble shooting tips?  Thanks much.

Edwin Eppich


Look for a bent fork, pitted ("brinnelled" I think is the word) headset, or a rim that is not dished, or centered on the hub. 



I ride a BikeE CT with a Sram 3X7 rear hub, 7- speed hyperglide C 11-28 cassette, Sram 3.0 rear derailer, Sram 3.0 Grip Shift. I had to replace a broken rear spoke and needed to remove the cassette to do so.  Because the cassette tool I had did not fit over the axle, I removed the right hand nut to tear down the hub and removed the cassette that way. I then removed the cassette with the cassette tool and chain whip, cleaned and reassembled the hub (I did not remove anything from inside the hub, I did apply bearing grease to exposed bearings with a syringe). The cassette was four separate pieces, cog 7, cog 6, a spacer and cogs 5 thru 1 were riveted together. The wheel spins fine, the rear derailleur shifts fine, the 3- speed hub shifts fine. When riding, gears 5 thru 1 grind whatever gear the hub is in. I cannot detect anything with the rear wheel raised. Gears 6 and 7 are smooth and quiet. I have tried adjusting the derailleur and took up cable slack. Your advice would be appreciated.

Thank you,
Jay A. Ault


It's possible that your cassette is not tight enough, but this would normally cause poor shifting as well. I don't think that it's related to anything you did inside the hub, and it may be something that was going to happen anyway, perhaps due to chain and/or cassette wear.



I have just bought a new Giant NRS AIR from a local bike shop. The bike performs and handles well. However, climbing up small hills on second gear (low gear), it tends to slip but stays on that gear. I don't know what could be the problem but I had the bike shop look at it. They adjusted it accordingly but it still persist only on hills. I have no problems with it on flat areas. Any idea what is causing this? 

Sam Peralta
San Diego


This type of symptom points to worn or improperly shaped teeth on the gear in question. If you are referring to 2nd as the front gear, and this occurs regardless of what gear you use in the rear, I'd be willing to bet that a new middle ring will cure the problem. If you are referring to 2nd gear in the rear, then a new cassette, and perhaps a new chain are needed. If the bike is new, you should be able to get the parts covered, provided that the normal wear and tear clause does not apply. 



I am having problems when I shift my bike into a higher gear. Every I do this, it jumps back to the prior gear. Any tips, thanks! 



With indexed systems, anything that causes friction from the shifter to the derailleur can cause this sort of behavior. The most common source of said friction is rust or gunk inside the cable housing. Sometimes, a new cable will cure it; sometimes, you need new cable housing as well. Look for sharp bends or breakage in the cable housing.



I picked up a thorn in my rear wheel so I removed the wheel and patched the tube. I am regretting this from the onset mind you. The bike is a used Fuji and has been great so far. Long story made short, after I reassembled everything, the shifter is not working and I keep getting slippage in my pedaling. I have not given up the battle but I could use some advice.

Stuck in the garage,


There's only a few possibilities related to the act of wheel removal. If you have a derailleur with an attached hanger, which hooks around the axle, you must make sure that it is bolted to the frame, with the "D" shaped nut seated in the dropout--the curve of the "D" fits into the curve of the dropout. People frequently take this thing apart and bolt it to a rack boss or something. Whether you have this type of derailleur, or the direct mounted type which attaches to the frame via a large pivot bolt, first shift to the highest (smallest cog) gear. Pass the chain over the smallest cog, around the top derailleur pulley and in front of said pulley, and around the rear of the bottom pulley. Some derailleurs have a little hook or chain guide, that people often don't see, or don't realize that it can cause problems if the chain gets in front of it. This is attached to the rear cage of the derailleur, and is located just below the top pulley. On older bikes, it touches the front cage. Your chain must go inside of this guide to work right.



I have a question about how to remove the Suntour 7-speed cogs from about a 10-year old mountain bike rear wheel that I have.  I say "cogs" because no one seems clear on whether it's a cassette or a freewheel. My gut tells me it's a cassette, because the space in between the smallest and second smallest cog kind of look like there might be threads underneath, while the rest of the cogs have what look like spacers between them.  I took it to two local bike shops, both of which thought it was a freewheel.  But it has only two very small prongs and none of the Suntour tools fit in there (the standard Suntour 2-prong has prongs that are too big).  I tried removing it with
two chain whips, but it didn't budge-- it is of course possible that I was doing that wrong, as I am not terribly experienced at this.  I couldn't get the chainwhips on the two smallest cogs at the same time (the chain part of the whip is too wide), so I used the first and the third cog.

The wheel is old and has a broken spoke (thus the need to get the freewheel off), and I rarely ride this bike any more, so it's more a matter wanting to fix it than of absolute necessity.  The bike shops told me to just buy a new wheel.  Aside from the broken spoke, it is in perfectly reasonable shape.  The sprockets all say AP II on them, if that sheds any light on it. I'm guessing that is a Suntour model name.

Any thought you have would be welcome.

Ed Parrot


If you do have a cassette (make sure that you are using genuine park or Suntour tools to determine that it's not a freewheel, as this business about two prongs sounds like a freewheel) the only way is with the chainwhips. The problem here is that if you can't budge it with the chainwhip handles, 9 times out of 10 you'll break the chain if you use a cheater bar. Some things just don't come loose. 



I recently bought a Mongoose XR-100 and am wondering about the sizing of the bike--actually, the seatpost length. I am six feet tall and, in adjusting the bike to fit me, I have had to raise the seatpost considerably. There are about 3-4 inches of post left after sizing it to my height. Is this normal, or are there other adjustments I need to make?



As long as your seatpost is not past the maximum height mark, you're okay. When the seat gets raised above a certain point in relation to the handlebars, the comfort level goes down. This means that your bike is too small for it's intended use. It is possible to replace either the bars or the stem if this is the case.


Hi Andy,

I've got two Sachs Aris 8-speed freewheels (not cassettes) and want to know if they're they compatible with Shimano STI dual control levers?

I have an Ultegra triple crankset and Ultegra 9-speed triple rear derailleur with downtube shifters and would like to upgrade to the STI levers. I understand the 9-speed STI levers can be converted to 8-speed by changing the anchor bolt connection on the 9- speed derailleur. Are you familiar with this set-up? Will it work with the Sachs Aris 8-speed?

Thanks a lot,
Rick A.


Nine-speed levers only work with 9-speed cassette. The deal with the cable position applies to using new 9-speed derailleurs with old 8-speed shifters and cassettes. There is no commercially available 9-speed freewheel, so if you want to go with new shifters (except 8-speed Sora), you'll need a cassette rear wheel and cassette. 


Hi from Australia,

I bought a custom made Reynolds 531 road frame from a reputable builder about two years ago and in that time have had two broken seat tubes and just recently one broken what-do-you-call-the-tube-from-the-headset-to-the-pedals, just near the head tube. Someone I asked for advice said that there's no way I should be breaking 531, all I do is commute on it, about an hour a day.

The only thing that I can think of is the way the front forks seem excessively whippy. Every time I use the front brakes I get pretty bad vibration from the front wheel. The headset is tight, the movement comes from the forks themselves bending. They're the forks that came with the frame so I'm assuming they're 531 as well.

I put it down to the tubing when I first bought it, but I'm wondering if this vibration is the culprit in my frame woes. Any ideas?



Unless you weigh 400 pounds, I'd have to question the reputation of your reputable frame builder. This stuff just doesn't break. The fork has nothing to do with it. You may have better luck with an 853 frame, but I wouldn't expect the tubing you have now to be that weak. 



I had a flat tire and had the inner-tube replaced. The old one looked ripped to shreds. Any ideas on what may have caused this? Thanks.



This kind of thing happens when the bead lets go. This can be caused by too much air pressure, or by an improperly seated bead. Often on cheap tire/rim combinations, the tyre fits loosely, and is subject to blowing off if you're not real careful when inflating it. Using air compressors is almost a guaranteed way to blow a tube.


Hi Andy,

I have this bike and like it. I know it is not top of the line but for commuting and fitness riding in the city it is great--very solid. I am getting a better bike soon, but want to keep this one and keep riding it. I have been told that the derailleur has parts of it that are plastic--is it possible or even necessary to upgrade it. My only worry is durability. I have had this bike for almost four months and have been riding at least 20 miles a day. For my taste the gears are operating fine but I just would like it to be as solid and durable as can be. Can you advise me?

Knez Jakovac


If it's to be a second bike, leave it as is. My advice to most people with lower level stuff is to wait until something shows some signs of wear and then replace it with something better, but don't go overboard. Don't put XTR cranks on a $300 bike, etc.



Does any one know about Urania Bikes? I have a men's large frame--think it was made in the UK. Has disc brakes and Sturmy Archer 3-speed.



Never heard of Urania. Sounds dangerous, possibly atomic. Two years ago, nobody heard of Orbea, and two years from now, we'll be saying, "What's a Schwinn?"


Hi Andy the Mechanic,

My bicycle history is mostly on 20- inchers and I recently borrowed a MGX d50i for getting around campus.  I just read your response to someone who purchased the same bike and now I'm worried I'm going to demolish it on stairs 'n such.  What would be your recommendations for a full suspension bike for taking drops off stairs etc.-- but in the $500 range-- that I'm least likely to break?



When I get specific about brands not to buy, people take it kind of personally. So, let's just say that 99.99% of the time, if you buy a bicycle from a source other than a bona fide bicycle shop, you'll get crap. On the one hand, $500 won't buy much. On the other, there are really decent bikes available that may not be the lightest, trickiest state-of-the-art machines, but will hold up very well with a minimum of up keep. I suspect that your friend's bike is not one of these, but I know nothing of the Mongoose line except for the twisted, wretched, hefty hunks of scrap metal that people bring in here and say: "$75! It's a brand new bike!" Look at the Trek Y 26, or Giant has a few above average bikes in this price range. 



I have a Lemond Poprad cyclocross bike, and have a question about the drivetrain.  This bike comes stock with Shimano Sora components.  I have recently ridden a road bike with Campagnolo Chorus and want to upgrade my bike to Campy components.  First, Campy recommends a wet lube to keep the 10- speed shifting smoothly. On a cyclocross bike, is this asking for a drivetrain that will be more difficult to clean or wear prematurely?  Second, what components do I need to make the change, specifically: Do I need a new rear wheel to go from Shimano to Campy?

Michael Rivers


You need a second mortgage to finance this project. You must buy 100 % Campy to do this right, especially the rear wheel. I don't know what would happen if you used the Sora crank/front derailleur combo with 10- speed, but I'd hazard a guess that the chain won't fit onto the chain rings real well. The Campy front shifter will shift anything, so you might skimp on the front derailleur, but that's miniscule compared to the cost of everything else. Use what ever bike specific lube you like, I mean really, what's so different about Campy and Shimano that the lube you use on Shimano will cause campy to self destruct? Sounds like BS to me. 


PS: Before you get your second mortgage for Chorus stuff, take a look at 105 or better Shimano stuff. I would buy Shimano solely because even the 105 crank/bb combo blows away any Campy crank in terms of stiffness.

Hi Andy,

I have three questions for you and trust that you van help:

1) Do you have a service manual for a RST 381R shock or generic service instructions for shocks?

2) What chain lube would you recommend for long races, 80 km plus, in extremely muddy conditions?

3) I have a pair of Rolf Dolomite wheels on my MTB, the back wheel just never seems to last a long race without the spokes becoming loose. My mass is 73 kg-- could I be too heavy for them or am I doing something wrong?

Look forward to hearing from you.



I don't have anything on the fork in question, and there really isn't a generic manual, as all forks come apart differently. Most RST forks are at the low end of things, not very complicated, and don't need much maintenance other than cleaning and lubing. If there are no bolts visible on the bottom of the lower legs, chances are that the legs are held on by bolts beneath the springs. To access this, remove the top caps and what ever else comes out of the inner stanchion. Use a flashlight (torch) to see if you need an allen wrench or a small socket. Normally, loosening this bolt will allow the lower legs to slide off, and you can clean and re-grease the bushings and inner stanchions without further disassembly. 

No chain lube works very well in the mud, but Finish Line cross country works a lot better than some of the clean lubes, such as White Lightning. I have not tried the White Lightning Race Day, but my feed back on the product is mostly good. 

Have your wheel checked for spoke tension. A few loose spokes can make it impossible for the wheel to stay true. I don't think that you have enough mass to cause problems here. I sometimes use a product called Spoke Freeze by DT Swiss to treat spokes on a pre-built wheel. Once your spokes are at the proper tension, this will help them stay put. 


Hi there

Hope you can help. I've got a Suntour 7- speed cassette that I can't get off the hub. I've managed to undo the smallest sprocket but the next one in just won't budge. So far I've snapped two chain whips even after soaking the offending sprocket in a penetrating fluid. The previous owner obviously had the same problem as approximately 50% of the teeth are missing on this gear. Can you offer any alternative approaches. I'm thinking of using a vice next before the dreaded angle grinder! 

Many thanks,


You may have to cut or chisel this cog off. I'd probably cut a groove in it with a moto tool and try break it in half. The hard part will be to find a cog to replace it. 


Hello Mr. Wallen,

My name is Joe and my question is: If I want to change my quill stem on a Trek 1000 to a regular headset and stem (road bike), what do I need to know and how do I find out if I need a threaded or threadless headset? Plus, how do I choose a stem? Thank you for your time.

J. Donato


You must want to change to a clamp on, or "threadless", or Aheadset type stem. You need a threadless fork, Aheadset, and stem. There are many theories about choosing a stem. The best way is to go somewhere that has some sort of a "fit kit" machine and get the measurement from there. Lacking that, and the opportunity to use trial and error, unless you want to buy a bunch of stems and install them to find they aren't right, try to match the stem you have. If you felt that it was a little too short or too long, or that you'd like to have the bars higher, factor that into what size you buy.



I recently bought my son a 20-inch Mongoose "Toast" BMX bike and the rear brakes are rubbing against the rim. The rear brake has a straight line connection from the left to the front, how do I adjust it? 



If you have a "V" or linear- pull brake, there are little screws on each brake arch. If you turn one of these clockwise, it pulls that shoe away from the rim. If you turn it counterclockwise, it moves that shoe closer to the rim. If you have "U" type brakes, some of them have the same adjusters as the "V" brakes. Others have a spring tensioner directly on the spring and pivot. The tensioner has flats for a 13mm wrench. Loosen the brake stud bolt slightly, and turn the tensioner in the direction that you want to move the pad. Hold that position while securely tightening the stud bolt. Side pull brakes usually have flats for a brake wrench near the pivot bolt, which can be turned to center the brake. 



I have a 2001 Haro V3 and it has a Truvativ X-Force chain ring, I want to replace the outside ring with a bash ring, but I can not get any of the four bolts off. The side facing out has a standard hex bolt, but the backside is perfectly round, nearly flush and appears to be stamped on like a

When I try to unscrew it the back just spins. Can it come apart or are all three chain rings one assembly that can not be taken apart ?



I'm not familiar with this particular crank, but it's not possible to change rings on some low end models. The things that look like bolts are actually rivets. If you have genuine chainring bolts, the female nut on the inside has two slots for a chainring nut tool.



I purchased an OCR 3 last month. I'm happy with the bike's performance. I've read that the Shimano 105 is a better than the Sora. I asked my LBS mechanic to upgrade me to the 105 and he is replacing the front and rear derailleurs. Should the brakes, cassette, or hub be changed out, too? I am a novice but extremely into the sport after only a few weeks.



In my humble opinion, the only things noticeably better about the 105 group are the shifters and the crank. The derailleurs, brakes, and hubs are not going to change the performance much at all. They may be slightly more durable and look better, but you won't notice anything except a lighter wallet. Going from a Sora to a 105 crank and bottom bracket makes a very drastic difference, as the Hollowtech or Octalink crank/pipe billet spindle combination is about 50 times stiffer than the Sora set up, and the weight is quite a bit less. This is the most significant difference between 105 and Tiagra (and Sora). I prefer the position of the release levers on Tiagra or 105 levers to that of the Sora levers, but you may be happy with the Sora shifters. 



I have recently developed arthritis in my left thumb joint and it has become very difficult and painful to upshift my front derailleur. I have a Shimano Tourney Derailleur with a SRAM MRX Classic shift lever. 

Can you recommend some type of shifting mechanism that does not require the use of the thumb, or at least one that is easier to use?



About your only options are a thumb shifter or a rapid-fire-type shifter. The more expensive Shimano shifters don't require much effort to push, and they don't have to be pushed quite as far as the cheap ones. I'd go to a shop and try shifting an XT or XTR shifter. A less expensive possibility is the Nexave tap fire shifter. You may like this design, and the pair will cost less than a left hand XT shifter-- about $50.



The small lever on my right brake/shift lever has play in it and rattles. Is there an adjustment to snug it up?



There's no adjustment; it's just one of those things. Your rattle is probably coming from the plastic cap that covers the front of the shifter. I have heard that you can take this off and use a bit of silicone goo to quiet the rattle. 



I have a steel frame bike that is 18 months old. I just learned that the shop that built it did not use an anti-rust prep. There is surface rust in the seat tube.

What product should I use and where can I get it?



Remove the visible rust with a flex-hone, and get a can of Weigle's Frame Saver, available at most bike shops. 



I have a BMX Dyno Comp. When ever I go to pedal this bike (as I would normally) the bike has a habit of not connecting. What I mean is that when I pedal, the tire doesn't move, but everything else does.  It is not the chain or the front half of the bike--the problem lies within the wheel it self.  Of course, you probably knew that.  But, my question to you is, is it easily fixable by myself, and if so what tools would I need? Or is it something I would have to take to an expert?

Another quick question: How do you remove the cassette on a BMX bike?

Jon Kleven


If you have a freewheel on your hub, it's broken. It is easy to replace if you have the proper tool to remove the old one. If your bike has a cassette hub (more expensive bikes, over $500), then the drive mechanism has a problem. Some cassette hubs are easily serviceable, like Chris King, while others may not be serviceable at all.


Hi Andy,

I'm looking for a lightweight crank puller for a Shimano tapered crank. I will be using it while loaded and touring, but I am trying to keep my pack weight as low as possible. Do you know of any light weight versions or which, if any, is the lightest on the market?

Thank you and happy cycling.
Andy Janz


About the only thing I'm familiar with is distributed by United Bicycle Tools, and it's very small but functional. I wouldn't want to use it everyday, but for space and weight considerations, it's perfect.


Hey there,

Regarding my '97 Rock Shox Indy XC: I'm tired of having to take my fork into the shop to have them do work I'm sure I can do myself. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a tech manual and don't really know how to service my fork. Can you explain how to do this? All I know is that I need a long allen wrench. 

Andrew K


The fork in question is pretty simple and shouldn't require too much other than cleaning and greasing stanchions and bushings. For that process, all you need is the long (6mm, I think) allen wrench, rags, and some fork grease. You can get service manuals at www.rockshox.com.



I have RST Mozo Pro front shocks and on the box it says it has 3.5 inches of travel. However, I have only ever reached 2.5 inches of travel. I've gone off cliffs, basically, and have bunny hopped off sides of cars and still nothing. It compresses nicely however it doesn't live up to what it says.



There is such a thing as "claimed" travel, and then there's actual " measured" travel. The claimed travel may occur in lab test conditions, but usually is at least 15% less than actual travel. The travel goes down as the preload goes up, so if you turn those knobs down, you may wind up with only 1" of travel. There's also such a thing as claimed weight, but we'll not get into that now.



I ride a 2000 Trek 6500. I was out on the trails today up here in Wisconsin and when I got back to the parking lot I noticed that on the right side of my fork (Manitou Magnum R) oil was coming out of the top of it and running down the side. I think this might have happened when I came off a ledge and dropped about eight feet onto the ground. Could this oil leaking out be the sign of a serious problem or not?

Thank You,
Wisconsin Trek


You've probably blown a dampening cartridge or seal in such a cartridge. The fork may still function, but will usually rebound too fast, or without smoothness and control. 



I need some pointers to solve a problem that has developed with the rear derailleur on my wife's touring bike. It shifts up fine. Shifting down, though (i.e., from larger to smaller gears cogs), it 'clunks' into gear. I've eye-balled the effect carefully and it appears as though instead of the chain engaging the gear cogs one link at a time it rides on top of them and then engages all the links at once. The effect when riding is both the 'clunk' plus (more worryingly) some free travel in the pedal crank as the chain skips forward slightly until the links slot on to the gear cog. If I'm pushing uphill at the time this is both scary and dangerous.

I've had the wheel apart to check it out--all the gear teeth look fine and the freewheel runs smoothly.

I'm perplexed and am now about to resort to the desperate measure of cleaning the chain. I've searched the net and not found anyone describing a similar problem.

Any pointers?



If you have a Suntour drivetrain, you can't fix it. If you have a Shimano drivetrain, check the following, in this order: 

1)  Cable and housing-should be clean, lubed, no kinks in housing.
2)  Measure chain for wear. If it has elongated links, replace the chain and cassette.
3)  Make sure that the derailleur returns to its rested position (high gear) smoothly with the cable disconnected. You could have some obstruction, such as bent linkages or warped plastic.
4)  Check the pulley wheels for worn teeth and smooth operation. The upper wheel must slide back and forth slightly as well as turn freely.
5)  Make sure that the derailleur hanger is not bent inward.



I am having a really frustrating drive train problem. I have a trusted LBS that hasn't been able to fix it. I have tried finding advice on the web, books, etc. so far with no help. This is really killing me! Here are the facts: I have a '98 GT LTS 1000. It is a full suspension bike, with an 8-speed configuration, rear derailleur XTR Rapid Rise, front LX.

What happens is the chain comes off the front middle ring when I am pushing hard uphill, over bumps, when the back end is bouncing a fair amount. It happens in the saddle and out. The chain actually comes right off, and gets wedged in near the bottom bracket. If I am on the smallest ring it falls off, too.

Here's everything that I have tried so far:

1)  LBS tune up.
2)  LBS tune up again.
3)  LBS went over chain link at a time, and rings tooth at a time.
4)  I replaced chain
5)  I replaced cassette (mainly did this because original was two years old, didn't think it would do anything, and it didn't)

Also had to put a link back in the new chain because gearing on new cassette changed.
It went from an 11/30 to a 12/32

I have new rings coming this week, but am very doubtful they would do anything.

When the chain comes off, it is under a high stress situation, and I feel it kind of snap under me, and I go flying forward. I forgot to mention that this happens when the cassette is in mid gears 3, 4, and 5.

I measured the chain line, according to the method described in Zinn, and it seems reasonable. I can't remember the exact numbers, but they were consistent with "Shimano recommendations". Not what Zinn calls an ideal chainline, but also not unreasonable.

The drive train has always been finicky with this bike. Initially it took several trips to the LBS to get the rear shifting correctly. It finally took a new cable, and then I was good for about six months. Now this has been killing me for about two months. I have been riding it twice a week in warmer months since it was new, two years ago (it was a leftover from earlier year). So it gets a fair amount of use, but I find it hard to believe things should be worn out.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you,
Howard Richards


I'd have to guess that you have some sort of frame misalignment, like your rear triangle is not quite where it's supposed to be. It's possible that you need a shorter bottom bracket, but I bet it's your frame. 


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