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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.

Spring 2000 Questions & Answers ...


I am trying to come up with a new design for an aero handle bar, used to optimize rider position and aerodynamics particularly in racing applications. I wonder if you have any suggestions on what to build it from or a general design that would be suitable.



I don't mean to sound discouraging, but it's probably been done already. If it hasn't, your biggest problem will be getting around Scottie's patent, even though the bicycle division is gone, they still have the patent. If you could make something light and cool looking that actually works and avoided paying Scott for the patent, you'd have something. If you just want to build something and don't care if it can be sold profitably, look at the Scott DH bars and their countless variations, from Spinaci to Visiontech.

If you can make a Visiontech type deal out of, say, sheet titanium or nanotubular carbon, or something real exotic and expensive like, I know a place where they test stuff like titanium whiskered mmc, and get that thing down to less than 800g, triathletes would beat a path to your door.

Keep in mind that none of this stuff is going to fly with UCI, or even USCF, so they are your only market. You can use these things in USCF time trials, and for the moment, even in UCI time trials, but no road races. In order to make it light and somewhat more affordable, you might try titanium clip on type bars with a carbon air foil (wing, like the Visiontech).

Good luck,


I have a '99 Trek 930 with about 800 off-road miles. Bought it new in April. I want to change the chain, cause the shifting is getting a little jerky, but I cannot seem to find info on which chain can be used, or what the differences are between two or three different choices of chain. The Trek catalog says I have a Shimano 11-30 HG50-I, 8-speed cassette. I don't seem to be able to find a reference to HG50-I in any of the mail order catalogs, or at the Shimano or Trek web sites.

What kind of chain am I supposed to use? Will the Sachs chain work as well as the Shimano? Where can I get accurate information?

Thanks in advance,
Jim O'Brien


My picks for chains are KMC Z chain (silver) or the SRAM PC 51, preferably not obtained from a mail order catalog.


Hi Andy,

I am realtively new to cycling (five months) but have been hitting it hard. I have been riding road bikes (an older Peugot and now an older Trek). Both of them have given me an ache in the lower back after 30-40 miles. Is this normal, or is there a seat or handle bar adjustment that I am misssing?

Seems like I have tried a lot of different combinations. Both bikes have had the downswept road bike style handlebars.

Thank you,


Physiology is not my area of expertise, but here is two-cents worth:

1) Include stretches that involve the affected area in your pre and post ride stretch routines.
2) Use the off season to strengthen the lower back muscles. Start a weight program and/or an ab and back exercise routine. Crunches and lat pulls really help, and anything you can do to work the upper body contributes to effective cycling and overall fitness.

It's possible that your "older" bikes have short top tubes, which don't allow enough room for a more comfortable position, but if you've tried different stems and such, the problem could be your body, not the bike.


Hio there...

I have a show flat bike that has three-piece cranks that always creak on the left arm when I try to pedal... How do I get rid of the annoying creaks? I tried to oil it with spl100 lube and it still makes sounds...



If it creaks, it's probably loose. If you've ridden with it loose for very long, it's probably ruined. Torque both crank arms to recommended spec and then see if it creaks. If you put some miles on it and it stays quiet, it's ok. If it starts to creak after being torqued, then you need a new one.



I bought a used '97 Jamis Dakar Pro (Aluminum) recently. About 4 weeks later, I made a 2-foot jump with a perfect dismount and, apon landing, the head tube ripped right off the rest of the frame. (I have White Bros. DC90 DS's.) I wrote Jamis. They tried to ignore me at first, then, after some pulling, they answered with a short reply that gave me no answers. I really liked my Jamis and would hate to trash it. What should I do?

Anthony W
a.k.a. "Crash"


I don't know about Jamis, but I have never dealt with a bicycle company with a transferable warranty. That means lifetime for the original owner, normal use, no racing or jumping, etc. Since you are not the original owner, they don't have to do anything for you unless there is some sort of recall, like the ongoing Shimano crank recall, or the Huffy "Verdict" recall. (Who picked that name, your honor?) I would not advise attempting to fix an aluminum frame. It can be done, reheating a heat-treated frame severely weakens it, and it's real easy to burn through thin-walled aluminum tubing.



My girlfriend has a 1987 Cannondale T400 road bike and I have a 1991 Giant Cadex 890i carbon frame hybrid bike. After reading some of your comments about aluminum frames, I'd like to know how much longer we should keep our bikes. We ride mainly on the weekends (20-50 miles) and sometimes go on overnight tours.

I never go off road with the hybrid (it has narrow tires and the Newk combo dropstyle bar ends). We or a LBS overhaul the bikes once a year. They seem to be in good shape. The only problem is that the paint on Cdale frame chips waaay too easily. Is there any problem with leaving small parts of this frame unpainted?



I'd be more than a little concerned about both bikes, particularly the Cdale. Most likely the paint is chipping because of corrosion, and repainting the frame will, in my opinion, only disguise the problem. Any aluminum frame that's over 10 years old has, at best, an uncertain and limited future. I'd either put it on the trainer for the winter and replace it for real life use or recycle it. I think that you can get a frame replacement deal from Cannondale. It will cost you, but not near as much as buying a whole new bike. I'm not sure about the Cadex. Probably, if it's never been crashed, it should be alright, but I'd be looking for a replacement for that one, too.

Oh, by the way, to answer your question: I don't think that it matters to have exposed areas, other than cosmetics. It may slow down the inevitable decay of the frame to touch it up, but not much.



Hi. Just to start off I would like to say that my grandparents live in Wheeling and I'm coming up north to visit this winter and to go snowboarding for my first time.

Well, I want to make an aluminum flatland bike frame for myself and, maybe if it turns out good, start my own backyard company. I'm only 17 but my dad is very mechanic-like and he will help me. I don't know where to start. I know where to buy the equipment but I don't know what sizes the bars should be and all that other stuff. I hope you reply because I'm totally lost and I can't find help anywhere.

Thanx alot,
chaz "gonnahaveanawsomebikeifyouhelpme" dillon


Frame tubing is very expensive and rather hard to get. Most so-called frame builders have frames made in Taiwan, because, regardless of the material costs, huge ultramodern automated factories can crank out frames cheaply and very precisely. To build a bike from scratch will probably cost you over $150 even if you can buy materials wholesale. I would practice on junk, and then enroll in a frame building class, which usually includes some sort of high zoot material and professional instruction for a decent fee.

Aluminum is not a very good material to start with, as it ordinarily has to be heat treated after welding, and most of us don't have a tempering oven laying around. I'd get a set of Tange cromo tubes to play around with. Almost any "flatland" bike will have about the same spec: either 1-piece or 3-piece cranks, no threads in the bb, 1 or 1-1/8 headset (threaded or threadless), 7/8" handlebar clamp if you want to weld your own handlebar, etc. It would be difficult to deviate from this, but I would put an English threaded bb shell so that you could use ATB cranks and bb, rather than that crappy old ashtabula thing that you always get on a $500 freestyle bike.



What can I do to the shocks to make them spring better? I left my bike out in the rain for like weeks. Can you tell me what I should do for it and what I can do for the shocks?



Like most bicycle parts, shocks must be maintained, and they really don't like water. There are also about a million different brands of shocks, from the purely ornamental (Ballistic, Muffy,etc.) to state of the art (Marzocchi, Rock Shox, etc.). A good shock costs between $300 and $1500, and are pretty easy to take apart and maintain. Usually if you clean and grease the bushings and stanchions, they work great. The open bath type of forks usually require less maintenance, and all you have to do is change the oil from time to time. The sub $100 shocks, on the other hand, are not designed to work at all, and if they do, it is merely the luck of the draw. They are certainly not designed to work on, and I would not recommend taking one apart. I'm willing to bet that if you left yours in the rain for weeks, it is not of the best quality, and all I'd do here is spray a bunch of WD 40 or some sort of light lube all around the stanchions and hope for the best.



I break my 15-guage spokes often and was told to go to 14. Is that better than just getting new wheels?



There are many issues that cause spokes to break, and the guage is usually somewhat related to rider weight. I believe that it is more important to use a good quality spoke that is properly tensioned than it is to look for a bigger spoke. If you have broken more than one spoke, then it is likely that whoever replaced the spokes in question did not check the tension of the entire wheel. If you ride with too much or too little tension on a given spoke, it'll break. I believe that unless you are over 250 pounds, Wheelsmith 2.0-1.8 butted spokes are the best. I like butted spokes because they tend to stretch a bit rather than to break under stress.

Straight guage spokes, and I would expect fatter ones to be worse, have a tendency to be brittle. Have your wheel rebuilt with good stainless db spokes, by someone who knows what they are doing (and who not only owns a truing jig, but also has a tensiometer), and you should have no problem. If you have a stock wheel on a low to mid priced bike, you'll be wise to replace the whole wheel for the cost difference.



My bike has Shimano Ultegra components. I also have the bike outfitted with a Shimano Flight Deck computer. The rear deraileur slips when shifting between middle gears (i.e., 4-7 rings) regardless of which front ring is being used. The computer does not pick up on the slip and, therefore, loses track of which rear ring is engaged until you max out on either the first or ninth ring. How do you make adjustments to prevent the unwanted shifting?



Call a cog a cog and a ring a ring, please. Cogs are in the back and rings (chain wheels) are in the front. You either have a misaligned rear triangle, deraileur hanger, or dropouts ( or any combination of the 3) , a loose cassette, worn out parts (either the shifter or deraileur), or simply a loose shift cable. Any of these things could cause problems in the middle of the cassette.


Hi Andy,

I have two bikes: 1) a 21-speed road bike with Shimano RSX components and a 7-speed rear freehub and 2) a 21-speed hybrid bike with mixed Shimano components (most notably Deore XT rapid fire shifters) and a 7-speed rear freehub. Both bikes have 130mm rear dropouts.

I would like to replace the wheels on both bikes. It appears to be hard to get 7-speed freehubs anymore. Do you have any suggestions. What will it take to upgrade the bikes to 8-speed freehubs?

Any suggestions would be appreciated.



Seven-speed hubs, freehubs, and cassettes are widely available. An 8-speed freehub will accommodate a 7-speed cassette if you want to go XT or better quality. You need 4.5mm of spacers to adapt a 7-speed cassette to an 8-speed body. 8-speed freehubs can be installed on 7-speed hubs as long as the correct spacing is maintained. In other words, you can unbolt your 7-speed freehub bodies, replace them with 8-speed, adjust the non-drive side spacing so that you have 130mm, stick an 8-speed cassette on there and ride away.



As I was pulling into my driveway the other day on my Trek 1220 (about 5 years old), my front wheel became stuck in a gap in the pavement. I couldn't disengage my feet from the pedals quickly enough and down I went, taking the bike with me. As a result, the rim and several spokes were bent. The rim is a 700c Heat Treated "Titan Tech" on which is mounted a 700x25 tire.

My question is: Is it possible to repair the bent rim or am I better off replacing the wheel? If repair is not recommended what should I expect to pay for an equivalent replacement ?


A similar or equivalent rim can be laced onto your existing hub if everything else is in good shape. This type of repair would cost about $55. If your hub is below 105 quality, then it makes more sense to buy a new wheel, for just a few bucks more.



I just purchased an EMS fork to go on my Trek 5000 frame. I love the fork but the only problem is is that my Ultegra front brake axle is not long enough. I've talked to local bike shops (I'm living out in the fringes here...) and they can't help me.

Could you recommend a solution to this problem. Again, its the bolt (axle) that goes through the front fork. Either I need a longer axle or a longer nut on the back.

Best Regards,
Don Ricker, President
AKA (Atlantic Kayak Association)


We have a long titanium brake nut for about $9.50 plus shipping. I thought that Kestrel forks came with the nut, but I could be wrong.



I have been told by every bike mechanic, Shimano tech people, and all my cycling friends that I would need to use a Shimano 9-speed rear deraileur when I upgrade. I could not understand why and no one can explain. The deraileur moves whereever the shifter tells it to move. The distance it moves is the same end to end. The only thing I could see is the jockey pulleys may have thicker teeth.

Well, about a month ago, I did upgrade to 9-speed keeping my old 8-speed deraileur that I had been using on a 7-speed set up (which everyone told me would not work). I have raced 4 crits, have ridden 700 training miles, all without a missed shift. Everything works great! What's the deal?

Gray Paul,

The thickness of an 8-speed cogset is exactly the same as the thickness of a 9-speed one; therefore, any deraileur capable of moving that distance should work (whether tagged as 8 or 9-speed). My experience has been that 9-speed ders work better on 8-speed cassettes better than the inverse, but the performance is acceptable either way.



I need your input and advice. I want to build the ultimate bicycle for my type riding. However, I don't want to waste money on components that I don't really need. Weight isn't a huge concern but lighter is better. I can probably spend what is necessary to create the bike that I want. However, I want the maximum "bang for the buck," so to speak.

A little information: I ride primarily rail trails, greenways, "downtown" cobblestone streets, and soft sand single track. I'm in the Orlando, Florida area and we essentially have no hills or serious grades. At times, I will ride 50 miles or more on rail trails. Currently, I ride a 2000 Cannondale F-500 with a suspension seat post. I'm pretty satisfied with this bike but feel that there is room for improvement.

I plan to build my "dream bike" with a Cannondale CAAD-3 frame, Headshok Fatty-D and Continental Town & Country tires. Other than these components, I'm completely open to suggestion. I'm looking for maximum reliability, smooth/quick/positive shifting and a comfortable ride. I don't intend to give this bike any real abuse.

Your input would be greatly appreciated.

Larry Lee
Orlando, Florida


Even if you are not going to use this bike in competition, I would spring for most of an XTR group. It's just the most precise and reliable shifting available. Under conditions you describe, the brakes may be overkill. You could get away with good quality canti or less expensive V type. Good wheels are a good investment. XTR or high zoot American hubs with Bontrager Mustang, Maverick, or Valiant rims are well worth the money. That's about all I can say about that.



I was recently given an oldish bike which has 3-speed Shimano internal hub gears. Its the type that has a cable operated lever on the hub which depresses a pin which in turn selects the appropriate gear. Unfortunately only one of these gears seems to engage (high gear). I have spoken to my local bike mechanic who has never had to repair them, so was of no help to me. The pin is spring loaded internally, the gear changer seems to operate the lever through its full range of movement, and I have pedaled backwards whilst trying to change gear--but no response.

The bike is in excellent condition, so was wondering if it is worth it to attempt repair the gears or see if I should try and find a second hand replacement hub set. What do you reckon? Can you help?



Three-speed hubs can be rebuilt and new parts are easily obtainable; however, most mechanics nowadays have not had the experience of rebuilding said hubs. It is tedious and time consuming, and even though 3-speed wheels are relatively expensive (about $75 for a decent rear wheel), the cost of labor and the condition of the rest of the bicycle make this option expensive. I would estimate replacing any parts would probably come very close to $75 as well.



A 1997 Bianchi GX frame or a 1997 KLEIN Mantra comp frame? I am looking to get started into full-suspension. I am an average rider looking to try something new. Which do you think is simply better? I am looking for quality and performance. Thanks.



I vote for the Klein, because Klein is a dedicated manufacturer. They don't farm out to Taiwan or China, so there's more quality control and attention to detail.  Also, Klein is owned by you know who, so there is fantastic warranty support behind the product. Only a few Bianchis are worthy of the family name, the majority of them come from Giant or Ideal or what ever Asian factory can crank them out cheapest.



I have a GT Outpost and was wondering if you could tell me how to take off the old fork and put on a new shock.

Thank you,


This is really not the type of question I can go into here. It takes several tools that you probably don't have, and you really can't do a proper job without them. I recently saw an article in "Bike" that described how to do a half-assed job using common hand tools, so you may want to hunt that down. I can go into some of the top stupid things I've seen when do-it-yourselfers attack...

1) Cantilever brakes on a hangerless fork--hope your insurance is paid up
2) Solve problem 1 with V brakes, with incompatible levers
3) What star-fangled nut?
4) Threadless fork with threaded headset, or vice versa



I'd like to put a Shimano 105 road crank on my 1999 f500 Cannondale. Is this possible? What bb would I need? I'm trying to make my bike more of a cyclocross-type bike. Thanks for your time.



I assume that you want to use a double, so that should work with a 110 mm bb. You'll need a new front deraileur, most likely a 105 or similar, and I'd suggest no bigger than 50t on the outside. I suppose you could use a 105 triple with a 118 mm bb if you wanted, also with the corresponding 105 deraileur.


Dear Andy,

I have 7-speed STX-RC deraileurs and drive train (IG compatible) on my Trek 7600 and would like to go to a tighter ratio cassette (12-21, 11-23). However, I am having difficulty finding one that is both 7-speed and IG compatible. Any suggestions?



You want a road cassette, which are all HG. The IG cassettes work best with an IG chain, etc. Contrary to the common misconception, the thing will not blow up if you use HG cogs with IG stuff. Since you should change chains when you change cassettes, get an HG70 with a Sram PC-51 or better chain.



Steel or aluminum? I'm 240 pounds and athletic.



Your message is rather cryptic, but I gather that you want me to make a recommendation as to whether a steel or aluminum frame would suit your needs best. Most people think that aluminum is the best frame material, without regarding the fact that cheap aluminum frames (unbutted 7005) are inferior to comparably priced cromoly frames. There is practically no weight difference, and cheap aluminum bikes have a harsh, choppy ride. This is especially true of road bikes. On the ATB side of the issue, no aluminum frame can be repaired, so if you are an aggressive mountain biker, steel frames can be bent or welded again if needed.

With your weight, I'd spring for a good quality steel road bike, such as a Lemond or a nice Italian frame if it is in your budget. Same for the mountain bike, although good steel frames are getting hard to find. The 1999 Fisher Aquilas and HooKooEKoos are still available, and I believe that there are some Bontrager Privateers still available.



I have a few upgrade questions, all pertaining to the same bike. It presently has a Dura-Ace gruppo, circa 1990. The front is a 52/42 and the cassette is a 12/21.

1) What do I need to do to upgrade to the new integrated brake/shifter system by Shimano (I don't know the trade name off-hand)? The bike is a Kestrel 200 presently set up with a down tube shifter.

2) What are my options regarding wider gearing? It's been a while since I have ridden, and I could use a more forgiving gear for hills.



All you need is a Dura-Ace 8-speed STI lever set. The cassette can be changed to 12-25 or maybe bigger, but I believe that 1990 Dura-Ace freehub bodies are not compatible with new cassettes, so you'd need to change the freehub body. I would also buy a 39-tooth chain ring to replace the 42. Your total cost for parts should be about $400.



I have two questions for you:

1) Would there be any problem, in regard to flats, if I put a 26x1.25" road slick tire on a 26x1.5" mountain bike rim to use on the road?

2) Theoretically, when riding on the road for long distances (80 miles/day) for a week, would a biker expend a lot more energy by using a mountain bike with 26-inch wheels versus the standard road bike with 27-inch wheels if the tire resistance and cadence were the same for both?

Thanks in advance,


First of all, designations like 26x1.5" are virtually meaningless, as one brand of 1.9 may be smaller than another brand of 1.5. To determine whether a tyre will fit your rim, you either need to measure it, or find an ERTO or ISO number on the sidewall. This would be a number like 54-559, where the first number is the actual width of the tyre section. If this number is about 1.6 times the actual measurement of the width of your rim (in mm), then it will fit.

Narrower tyres are more prone to pinch flats than wider ones, but for road riding, it should not make a lot of difference. As for energy expended, the gearing and overall design of the mountain bike make it less efficient than a standard road bike. Incidentally, 27" wheels have pretty much gone the way of biopace chain rings. Any road bike made in the last 10 years most likely has some width of 700c wheel. The top gear on a compact drive mountain bike yields 99.3 gear inches, whereas the top gear on most road bikes yields 119.3 gear inches.



I recently bought a 1997 Trek 520 (new but never sold by my local bike shop). I just completed a tour and have decided that I would like to change the crankset for one which allows lower gearing. the bike came with a Shimano 105 Triple (30-42-52), Shimano 105 front deraileur, Shimano Deore LX rear deraileur, Shimano 8-speed cassette (11-30), and Shimano Ultegra bar end shifters. Not sure what the bottom bracket is. Any suggestion on models of cranksets (in the 24-36-42 or lower range) for which I might exchange the current one (that won't require me to exchange all of my components)? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Sue Keller,
Indianapolis, IN


Why anyone who lives in Indianapolis would need anything but a straight block 42/54 is beyond me! Where do the mountain bikers train, on the interstate on ramps? Maybe you're planning a trip to West by God Virginny or something, so you can gear this thing down a little by replacing the small ring with a 26 (better shifting with a 28--the ft der will probably drag if you use a 26, but will work okay in most gears). You have described a mixture of atb compact and standard, and to use anything near a 24, you must replace at least the front der and probably the bb. If you really must go that low, and you're willing to give up your top end (it'll be darn hard to pedal at highway speeds, you'll need a cadence of about 150) get a Sugino mighty 350x. I'd get this one because the chainrings are replaceable, so if you don't like the gearing, you can change one or two rings. It also comes stock with a 44-tooth big ring rather than a 42. Your bb may be a little too long, but it might work since you're not using indexed front shifting. The 105 front der probably won't work at all, but STX or Alivio ders are not very expensive. The cost for all these parts should not exceed $100, and shop labor should be less than $40.



Can you recommend a good book that covers deraileur adjustment? I have a Shimano Altus C20 that needs periodic adjustment, and I'd like to be able to do it myself (especially since it usually goes out when I'm on the road).



I like Lenard Zinn's "Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance" for easy to understand instructions of this nature.


Hey Mechanic,

What happens if your brakes don't work, as in when you pull the brakes they stop the tire but continue to hold on to it? It might help if I told you that I have a Mongoose Hoop-D.



Your center bolt is probably too tight, or your cable is rusty.



I have a '91 Cannondale SM800 that has spent its whole life with me. It had been used almost exclusively for commuting initially, with a few mtb excursions here and there--mostly in river valleys--so nothing too punishing. It had been unused for nearly two years, and just recently I cleaned it up and have started taking it on long, mountainous rides. It is performing beautifully, and I love this bike.

I had been considering adding a suspension fork and upgrading the cantilever brakes to V-brakes, but then I read that you feel an Al frame should only last about 5 years. Hmmm... should I save my money and buy a new bike instead of upgrading this one? This bike has an Al fork (C'dale Pepperoni), too.

I always had the memory of the "lifetime frame + fork warranty" in my head as I took this bike on its first screaming downhills (which I guess C'dale has since rescinded) thinking that I was finally tapping into its full off-road potential. Even though this frame has been babied until now, is it possible that I'm pushing my luck? Should I replace it simply out of concern for safety?

Andrew Stuart


Cannondale's warranty only covers manufacturing defects. Aluminum has a very finite life span, and is subject to cyclical fatigue and catastrophic failure. A bike this old should be inspected on an annual basis. It would be foolish to invest in a frame this old. You may have a recalled Pepperoni fork, and you have exceeded the expected life of this frame. Cannondale does have a crash replacement program where you can buy a new frame at a discount. About four years ago, in an effort to stymie litigation, Cannondale started to put warning stickers on the bikes so that people are aware that small cracks or scratches can develop into huge fractures. If you want a second opinion, see Mountain Bike Fiction, May 1995.


Dear Andy,

I'm pretty new to cycling, but I know enough to lube the chain, cogs and gears regularly.

Trouble is...what with? I started out with good ole oil but it sure does mess up the hands and legs when they get near the chain. And it seems to attract dirt and then save it up for later. Dry lube seems better, but it makes the gears and chain noisy and I wonder if it really is doing my bike any good. The chain looks cleaner and doesn't seem to have much dirt sticking to it. Do you still have to degrease the chain and gears with dry lube? If so, what with? If I wanted to go back to oil, how the heck do I get all that waxy dry stuff off?

Could you please give me the "good oil" on this problem?

Brisbane, Australia


"Oil" can mean anything from 30w motor oil to sewing machine oil. People do use the most heinous concoctions on their chains, including motorcycle chain lube and motor oil. I find that a clean drive train with something like Tri Flow can be kept nicely clean with nominal effort. This means starting with everything very clean, and routinely cleaning everything to keep it that way. Don't use very much petroleum based stuff, and once it has been worked into the chain, wipe it off. Stuff like White Lightning also works well with a clean start, and it should be easy to get off if it is applied according to the directions. It does build up and has to be cleaned periodically, but not nearly as often as the petroleum-based stuff. You also must reapply it more often, and the dry stuff has to be wiped off after it is worked into the chain.



I have a Nishiki Cascade (Cummingham Design).

My bike lock has locked up and I need to get it off.... my only route other than cutting it off by a locksmith is to remove the handle bars...

Do you have any experience or ideas on how best to get the bars off?



I'm trying to visualize a situation where getting the h-bars off is going to unlock a bike, or a situation where it is difficult to remove the bars. I remember these Nishikis with E stays and bizarre suspensions, but I presume that the bars are clamped to the stem just like anything else, and you would loosen the pinch bolt and slide them out. I'm not totally sure, but I imagine that it has a quill stem, and you loosen the center bolt to remove it.

If the wedge is stuck, sometimes you can loosen the bolt and free it by tapping on the bolt with a mallet. Sometimes, quill stems get seriously, hideously stuck and, if that is the case, I would seriously evaluate the worth of the bicycle, fork, or stem and decide which one to destroy. If this is the case, call a locksmith.



I am having trouble servicing my Manitou Spyder fork. I can't seem to find out how one goes about removing the lower legs. There are no allen bolts on the bottom of the legs like on Judys and other forks.

Matt D


We just got our nifty new Bike-a-Log tech manuals on CD-ROM, so I looked up your fork, and there is a crappy 3-page owner's manual that says you should clean and inspect your fork, and not much else. There is great detail concerning the SX and Xvert forks, but nothing on the Spyder. Truthfully, since the Mach V debacle, we have avoided Answer stuff like the plague, so I have only seen a few of these forks, and really don't know what's in there. There must be an allen bolt below the elastomer stack that you can access with a long (probably 5mm) hex tool. You might try www.answerproducts.com, or calling them at 805-257-4411.


Dear Andy,

Spinskin vs. Tuffy. I get a considerable number of punctures almost each time I go out cycling and have found these two products advertised on the web. Could you tell me which is the best, or, at least, what are the differences between them, and whether I could use them both? Thanks a lot.



I regard the Spinskins as a good "competition" product. What most people fail to realize about competition products is that they cost a lot more than non-competition products and wear out or break faster. This is almost universally true, whether the product is an innertube or a frame, and consumers tend to whine about spending all this money on something that breaks. The skin will do a very good job of preventing punctures and even pinch flats to an extent. It is also significantly lighter than anything else like it, and amazingly enough, hideously overpriced. It will also disintegrate into a worthless pile of crap the first time you decide to remove it (changing tires, radially truing wheels, etc.). As long as one understands these characteristics (and that high price does not equal long life of any race-oriented cycling produce), it's a wonderful product.

Mr. T, on the other hand, is heavy and cheap. It'll prevent most sharp objects from causing flats, and is especially effective when riding the mountain bike through multiflora-infested areas. I would estimate its life expectancy at around 40 years, so you can take it out of one tire and put it into several other sets. It is a little difficult to install, and won't do much for pinch flats, and has a tendency to actually cause flats at the seam, due to minute movements back and forth over time. The end of the Tuffy sort of saws a hole in the tube. This takes a while, and can be delayed by running moderate to high pressures at all times.

All things considered, I would buy the Tuffy. One more caveat concerning Spinskins: They inevitably cause a wobble, which can be very annoying. I've tried installing them in several different ATB tires, and using talc, meticulously reentering them and you still get this very pronounced wobble.



My Ultegra shift levers rattle when I ride over rough roads (often). This rattle is not from the plastic cap on the front. Per Shimano instructions, I have popped the cap off, tightened the screw underneath, and reattached the cap (which is tight). I believe the rattle is from the upshift and downshift levers. Can anything be done about this, or is this one of those "live with it" situations?



We've tried several methods to stop the rattle, and nothing seems to work. I believe that it was engineered into the levers as a reason to upgrade to Dura Ace, which does not rattle. It is, I believe, a "live with it" situation.


Dearest Andy,

Help! I love my Giant '99 mountain bike, but EVERY time I take it out for a spin some little adjustment needs to be made afterwards. Am tired of bringing it to the shop from where I bought it, but haven't the foggiest notion as to how to fix it myself.

If you could give me a starting place I would be grateful. Presently the back tire rubs against the frame and the brakes. Have tried to push it back into alignment, but it will not move. What's up with that?

Clueless in California


I'm a little clueless myself. Assuming that your rear wheel is trued and centered and your frame is not bent, it should be no big deal to straighten the wheel in the frame. Make sure that the quick release skewer is nice and tight. It is possible that you have tacoed the wheel, in which case, you will need a new one. This is pretty obvious, as the wheel assumes the shape of a food item.



Hi! I own a mountain bike. I wish to repaint it. I need your advice on the right steps I must take to have a good painting, without anymore rust. Thank you.



It's best to have the frame completely stripped of all paint, then sprayed with a good primer. Epoxy primer is expensive, but is best to use on bicycles. I highly recommend acrylic urethane paint over lacquers, as these types of paints are fairly easy to work with and extremely durable. It's a tough job, and materials are expensive. You can get a decent professional paint job for around $100, more if your frame needs to be disassembled.



I've got 2 bicycles and they both have 2 flat tires. I've never changed flat tires on bicycles before and I want to know if it is very difficult. I also need to know what size tire to buy. I do not know what they are. Is there some kind of way I can measure the wheel so I will know?

Also, one of my bikes is a touring bike and it needs new tires, too. What should I look for in new tires? I don't plan on any off road riding, but I want something that is dependable.

Thank you,


There are a few basic rules in tyre changes--put the rear der in highest gear, use actual tyre tools to remove the tire, inflate new tube till it holds its shape, and don't use tools to install new tyre, unless you're using a speed lever or quickstick. The size of the tyre is always somewhere on the tyre itself, either embossed or screened on. If you try to measure anything, you may come close on the diameter, but you'll certainly have to guess on the width, so if you can't read the size, take the wheel to a shop to match it with the closest size. Conti, Panaracer, Michelin, and Kenda make decent tyres in all sizes.



For five years, I was a diehard bicyclist who did mostly on-road mountain biking in the Berkeley Hill in California. Ultimately, I was so into bicycling that I purchased a new, top of the line road bike, road it for a month and then proceeded to burn out of bicycling. My bike was relegated to storage for the next 8 years.

Now the 8 years have passed by and suddenly--and surprisingly--I find myself back on the old, but like-new, un-used bike (e.g., last weekend, I did a 70 mile day trip). The Bike is in relatively good shape but I was wondering if there was any type of maintenance beyond lubricating the chain that I needed to do in response to the years of idle storage in my closet. It was always stored indoors so the elements had very little obvious effect on the bike. Any suggestions?

Kevin O'Neill


As a cheap precautionary measure, we always replace cables on bikes that are over five years old, regardless of use. The last thing I want to do is send somebody out on an older bike with rusty brake cables, and it only cost a few dollars. Depending on where and how the bike was stored, tires and brake shoes are probably starting to crack. Other than that, a thorough drive train cleaning and relubrication should do it. It is likely that any and all bearings will need fresh grease, as most grease dries out over time, so you may want to crack open the front hub and see what it looks like, or just go ahead and overhaul everything now and be done with it.



I bought a used '97 Jamis Dakar Pro (Aluminum) recently. About 4 weeks I made a 2-foot jump with a perfect dismount, and apon landing the head tube ripped right off the rest of the frame. (I have White Bros. DC90 DS's) I wrote Jamis. They tried to ignore me at first, then, after some pulling, they answered with a short reply that gave me no answers. I realy liked my Jamis and would hate to trash it. What should I do?

Anthony W.
a.k.a. "Crash"


I don't know about Jamis, but I have never dealt with a bicycle company with a transferable warranty. Lifetime to the original owner, normal use, no racing or jumping, etc. Since you are not the original owner, they don't have to do anything for you unless there is some sort of recall , like the ongoing Shimano crank recall, or the Huffy "Verdict" recall. (Who picked that name, your honor?) I would not advise attempting to fix an aluminum frame. It can be done, reheating a heat treated frame severely weakens it, and it's real easy to burn through thin walled aluminum tubing.


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