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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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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Bike Mechanics Should Always Have a Handy Copy of ...
Bicycling Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair
by Jim Langley OR...
Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance OR Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance
both by Leonard Zinn
Urban Mechanics Who Like Their Repair Manuals With an Edge Will Love ...
How To Rock and Roll : A City Rider's Repair Manual
by Sam Tracy
Spring 2005 Q & A's (30 posted this season.)
Threading a Threadless Could Render You Headless... (posted 6-21-05)
...and Welding Anything Aluminum Could Render You Senseless (posted 6-21-05)
Andy Speaking With a Forked Tongue re: Straight vs. Curved (posted 6-21-05)
You Rarely Top the Quality and Value of the Indy Shop (posted 6-21-05)
Front Derailleur Installation Throws Shimano Rider Off Track (posted 6-21-05)
Andy Gives the Latest Slim on the Tubular Rim (posted 6-21-05)
A Grease Port Would Make Daytona Hub Maintenance a Day at the Beach (posted 6-21-05)
Andy's 3-Prong Approach to Tire Toughening (posted 5-28-05)
'Pop Goes the Gears' Spells Double Trouble for Tandem Rider (posted 5-28-05)
More Chain Hopping Has Rider Hoping Andy Has Solution (posted 5-28-05)
Looking High and Low for Lower Gearing (posted 5-28-05)
Tough to Find Cassettes with Less Than Seven Gears (posted 5-28-05)
With No Index Shifting, Almost Anything Goes (posted 5-28-05)
Andy Has Key to Sora Shifter Removal (posted 5-28-05)
...and BMX Pedal and Chainring Removal (posted 5-28-05)
XT Shifter with 105 Derailleur Not Doomed for Failure (posted 5-28-05)
Andy Gives Mamma Bird the Good Word on Electric Conversions (posted 5-28-05)
Andy's Advice on Touring Bike for XCountry Trip--Buy Local (posted 3-22-05)
Getting His Bearing on All Those Ball Bearings (posted 3-22-05)
Excessive Chain Wear No Fair to Rest of Drivetrain (posted 3-22-05)
Upgrading Suntour Components an All-or-Nothing Proposition (posted 3-22-05)
Campy Cassette You Bet on Shimano Freehub from Wheels Manufacturing (posted 3-22-05)
Beware of Aluminum Frame Repair; Price for Ti Frame Pretty Tame (posted 3-22-05)
Freehub Replacement On Deore Should Be Free of Difficutly (posted 3-22-05)
I have a Dyno d 300 mountain bike. I want to replace the front fork with a suspension fork. It's a 1" steerer tube and it's threaded, and all the 1" forks I seem to find are threadless. How do I switch to a threadless system ( or can I have the threadless fork threaded at a machine shop)?
Thank you very much for your time.
You will die a violent death if you have a threadless steerer threaded. You must either change to a threadless system, or buy a fork with a threaded steerer. They are available, but not in mail order at blow out prices. RST makes a couple of decent forks with replaceable steerers, so that you can change the fork from 1" to 1-1/8" threaded to threadless, etc. These forks are priced from around $100, to about $180 for an air assist model.
I wonder if you can help. I've owned a Cannondale F700 for some years but am starting to find the ride position painful for my aching back. What I really need now is a comfortable touring bike. As I really like other aspects of my bike (lightness, quality-build, etc.), I wonder if there's a way of adjusting/amending the handlebars to a more comfortable ride. I think I need to have them raised significantly. I've been told that I need to find someone who can weld aluminum. Is this my only option or are there any products which I can buy?
With the Headshock system, your only option is to purchase a Headshock stem in a higher rise. Your stock stem is probably 10 or 15 degrees, and I think that Cannondale offers as much as 40 degrees. You may also consider a riser bar, either alone or in conjunction with the high rise stem. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO WELD ALUMINUM!! The above suggestions will get you a maximum of three inches. More height may be achieved with a higher rise handlebar. If money is no object, you could ditch the Headshock system, install a reducing headset, 1-1/8" fork, and cut the steerer tube as high as you want. This has the added benefit of actually being able to use a real fork, rather than that Headshock thing.
What is the difference in using a straight fork vs. a curve fork? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
I think that this is largely a matter of preference. Some folks (Colnago, for example) claim that the straight blades are stiffer, resulting in better performance (cornering). Either way, you get to the same point at the hub, or reasonably close (we hope that a 43 straight fork tracks the same as a 43 curved one). I think that straight forks may be more aero and aesthetically better, but that's just my opinion. Most modern carbon forks have fairly straight blades. I happen to like the wound up fork the best.
I was considering updating my bike and was looking at the Novara Trionfo (REI). I saw that a previous writer had asked your opinion about this bike and you had not recommended it. Is this a good bike for the cost? If not, why?
I don't have much experience with REI bikes, but I believe that a bike purchased from an independent retailer (such as myself) is much better in several respects, namely warranty service, and quality of assembly. Now, some indys do shitty assembly and some big boxes do good assembly, so caveat emptor or something like that.
I'd like to seek your advice in setting up the front derailleur on a Trek 5500 road bike with an FSA Compact crank (50/34) and Ultegra 9-speed components (double front, with 11-25 rear spacing). Despite going through installation and adjustment numerous times, the chain just doesn't want to shift from the small to big chain ring under normal pedal load. I've got the derailleur set as close to the big ring teeth as possible, and had to modify the hanger slot (for braze on) a bit to lower it further to the smaller 50t ring. In looking at it closer, the chain has a tough time rising on the inner plate off of the smaller 34t ring. I've adjusted the limits screws to see if I can get the right combo, but no luck. I've considered a few other options (going to perhaps a slightly bigger 36t ring, trying a triple front derailleur or one of the new Campy Compact FDs, or trying a friction shift lever instead of STI) and would appreciate your suggestions.
Thanks for your consideration.
This is what happens when you monkey with Shimano. Shimano stuff is designed to work extremely well within a very narrow range of tolerance. The further out of this range you get, the worse the stuff works. Some non-standard Shimano and brand x combinations work quite well, and others don't work at all. The crank you have is very popular, and therefore, should work fairly well with Shimano stuff, otherwise, who'd buy it? Start with the high limit screw backed off so that the chain would come off the big ring if you overshift (don't use the shifter to check this; pull the cable by hand). If the chain comes off, then you know that the limit screw is not preventing the shift. You need to look at the height and angle of the der. If you're sure all this is correct, then you might try a triple derailleur, as its radius is closer to the size of the smaller chainrings, but I doubt that this is the only solution to your problem. On the other hand, the only thing that I could guarantee as a sure fire cure would be the friction shifter. I don't know what else to tell you, except ask Lennard Zinn, as he may have more experience in setting these things up. My only experience is with a DA 10 speed, and the thing works practically flawlessly.
I have a Trek Hybrid Bike. I want to transport it by car, but do not want to use a rack. I want to take it apart, in the least amount of parts, and put it my car trunk. Where can I get information on the best way to do that?
Thank you for providing your web site.
Most decent bikes would have quick release wheels and seatposts. To get most bikes into most car trunks, the wheels and seat are all you need to remove. More disassembly than that would not be very practical for frequent use. I would try to get it in the car with only the front wheel off first, and if that doesn't work, take off the rear. I had a Nissan Sentra with fold down rear seats, and you could fit most bikes in there with only the front wheel removed. If you need to remove the rear wheel, it is easier if you shift into the smallest (highest) rear gear first.
Thank you so much for the good advice I have been able to read on the website. I am asking for an update of a question I know you have faced in the past. I am searching for a high quality tubular rim. I have ridden Mavic SSC and Campy Record Strada in the past; both were fabulous. Please send advice on what is available in 32H for a 190-pound roadie blessed with good roads.
Thank you for your time,
You can't beat Campagnolo and Mavic for tubies. I'm not sure if Campy is still in the rim business, but you can get Mavic Reflex or the Velocity Escape rims, which are quite nice. I have not used the newer Ambrosia rims, but they have a couple of nice high end rims as well. None of these cost over $50.
I've got a Campagnolo 9-speed Daytona rear hub with about 3000 miles. I'd like to do some maintenance (clean & lube) on the hub but can't find any information how to. I've already got the cogs off.
Can you help me out with some instructions?
The Campy hubs are quite a bit different than other designs in that your adjustment, which should always be done on the non-drive side of any hub, is done with a locknut held in place with a small (2-2.5mm?) set screw. If you loosen this set screw and remove the lock nut, I think the whole thing comes apart, with the drive side stuff intact. I know there is a nice diagram in the QBP catalog, and consumers can access this site (www.qpb.com ), and I would sincerely hope that at least as good a diagram could be found at the Campy site. I'm not a big Campy guy, so I can't tell you much specifically. I thought that most of them had a little grease port, which reduces the need to completely repack the hubs dramatically. I'm not sure if Daytona hubs have this feature or not. If you see a stainless circlip- like structure in the center of your hub, you can pump grease in through there.
I have a Performance custom bike with combo brake/shifter, Shimano ST M 750 . I can find nothing on maintenance or a breakdown diagram of this component. It is getting "sticky"-- in other words it does not always ratchet up on the shift. I would like to see some other specs on it. Can you help? Is there a site with advice or whatever?
I don't meant to sound discouraging, but usually when a Shimano shifter doesn't perform up to snuff, it's trash. It is possible to do nominal cleaning and lubrication, but it is highly unlikely to do any good. There are folks who claim to have fixed Shimano shifters, and I don't doubt it. If you can fix a Rolex, you can probably do a fair job on Shimano shifters. Have you priced Rolex labor rates lately? We always replace quirky Shimano shifters. The problem comes in when you have the STI type and they no longer manufacture a pod to fit your bracket. Then you have to either cut it off and mount your shifter to the bar (you can buy individual left or right shifters) or buy an all new STI shifter. Before pronouncing it dead, make sure that you have a good cable and housing, and that binding is not occurring elsewhere in the system, and spray a plastic safe degreaser (FL Echotech, for example) on the mechanisms (don't disassemble any more than needed, usually just remove the plastic cover), dry it and re-lube with a plastic safe lube.
Last month I purchased a 59 cm LeMond Buenos Aires which is satisfactory in all respects except that there is a pronounced front wheel wobble when I remove my hands from the bars in excess of 18 mph. My LBS has examined tightness of the hub and alignment of the fork, they looked at the headset, and have pronounced all systems sound. Nevertheless, the high speed wobble continues to shake things up unless I keep my hands on the bars. I'm thinking that a
brand new fairly pricey carbon/steel bike should be more stable and afford me the opportunity to rest in an upright position when I feel like it. Any advice?
I would suggest trying a different front wheel and tyre. The Rolf type wheels sometimes develop high speed shudders, which are difficult to correct. I think it has to do with the rim extrusion or something. It is also possible that you have a less than perfect tyre, or that the tyre is not properly seated. In any case, I don't think that it is due to the frame, fork, or headset.
I have a road bike and can't ride bent over any longer. Is there any technical reason I can't change the handlebars to straight ones for a more upright riding position (I know I would also have to change out the brake levers and shifters) and put on larger tires, seat, etc., and have it work just as well as getting a new hybrid?
Thanks for your advice.
Los Angeles, CA
It's not too big a deal to change bars, stem, brake levers, etc. on a road bike. You may run into compatibility issues with shifters, depending on the age of the bike. You will be limited on tyre size, as most big tyres won't fit into modern road bike frames. 700x28C will fit most road bikes, but anything bigger, especially if it is a taller profile tyre, won't fit into the fork or chainstays.
I live in southern Arizona. On the highways and streets there are a lot of thorns from the Mesquite trees. Flats are not an uncommon occurrence. Is there a heavier treaded tire that would work with the Trek 7200 system?
I understand that people out your way actually use tyres inside of tyres to prevent flats. I would look at a 3- pronged approach, much like the goat head thorn: 1) Vittoria Randonneur tyres--heavy, slow, the most flat resistant tyre made; 2) Mr. Tuffy tyre liners, just in case anything gets through the Randonneur; 3) Slime, in case something penetrates the first two lines of defense.
I have an older tandem. The problem is every time my wife and I stand up to climb a hill it starts popping gears. The chain measures okay and the gears do not appear to be worn. We can pedal as hard as we like in our seats but the minute we stand up it will pop. There does seem to be a minimum amount of torque to make it pop even if we stand up and pedal. HELP! We are going to be biking the Continental Divide this summer near Glacier Park, and we may need to stand up.
You have thtree or four potential causes, and the best cure is to do all four. The chain has carved into the cassette, one or more chainrings, and/or derailleur pulleys. I could be wrong, but I suggest a new chain, cassette, middle or all three chainrings, and pulleys.
Hope to resolve a chain-hopping problem I'm having since replacing the chain and freewheel. This occurs when riding the middle range gears. It occurs when riding either the small or large front chain ring. The chain is for an 8-speed freewheel, the new freewheel is a 7-speed, with the chain-length same as the old chain. The rear derailleur is aligned as well. Any ideas you have on this would be greatly appreciated.
If you have a new chain and freewheel, you must have some other worn gear or gears. It is most likely the front chainrings, but could also be derailleur pulleys.
I am currently building a bike for Randonneuring. I would like to get a stiff, low Q factor crank with two chainrings ( 46 and 36 teeth). The smallest chainring I can put on Shimano or Campy 2- ring cranks is 39. Any suggestions?
A Ritchey Pro 110 V comes with 34/50, which isn't too far off. I think that FSA makes a fancier, more expensive crank with similar gearing.
I have a Schwinn World with Shimano SIS shifters and derailleurs, 6-speed. The rear wheel on the bike is not original to the frame and the shifting is not so smooth (the rear wheel and freewheel are beat up, but the bike is fine).
I am thinking I should replace the rear wheel, freewheel and chain. My question is, what are my options for a 6-speed freewheel? Or, since freewheels are now becoming obsolete, will a switch to a freehub and cassette work with the SIS rear derailleur?
You're going to have a tough time finding less than a 7- speed cassette. Shimano, Falcon and Sunrace all make 6- speed freewheels. Shimano offers 14/28, 13/24, 14/34, and 14/28 gearing options, and all of them except the 14/34 will work with your derailleur.
I just wrote and didn't say that I am writing from Chicago. Sorry about that. Well, since I have your attention, I'll ask another question...
I am also fixing up my old Trek 300. In a class at my local bike shop, I built my first wheel (yippee!) and have put it on this bike. The cassette on the new rear wheel is a Sram 8-speed. My problem is the shifting (and riding actually) is kind of rough with the new wheel. The rear derailleur is a Suntour Mountaintech. The chain is old and I figure that is the first thing I should change. If I get a Sram chain will I be okay? Or do I need to buy a new rear derailleur? Or worse, do I have to get a whole new drive train? (The wheel that used to be on the bike was freewheel, 6-speed, Atom, made in France).
Thanks so much! As a learning home mechanic, I am glad I found your site!
As long as you aren't using indexed shifting, almost anything goes. Your old chain has two problems: it's old, and it's designed to work on six gears, not eight. I think that the old Mountech will handle eight gears, but can't be certain--it's not designed to move that far, but it may move far enough.
I have recently purchased a frame equipped with Shimano SORA shifters.
I wish to remove the shifters and put them on my current bike. I have no idea how to remove them from the bars. Can you help?
A very knowledge- less have-a-go mechanic,
There is a bolt under the outside of the hood. If you look at the lever body, you'll see a channel in it to facilitate the insertion of a 5mm Allen key.
I was wondering how to take off the strokers and chainwheel on my Mongoose BMX bike.
If you have a 1- piece, remove the left pedal (reverse threads--unscrew clockwise), then the locknut ( also reverse thread), lock washer, bearing cone and bearing. The crank will then thread through the bottom bracket shell. Chainrings are held on with the right hand bearing cone, which is normal thread and comes off counterclockwise. If you have a 3- piece, there are several options, but most come off easily if you loosen the pinch bolts and remove the center bolts.
Can I couple a Shimano XT shifter to a 105 front derailleur?
It will work pretty well. Not recommended by Shimano, but it works satisfactorily.
What info can you get for me on kits to convert my mountain bike to an electric bike.
What should I look for in a charging system, mounting system and other specifications etc?
Get the Currie drive system. It is very reliable, easy to install, and most important, does not use tyre friction to propel the bike--it has a little chain that attaches to the rear hub. If you buy any other electric drive system, expect trouble.
I am planning on riding my bike across the country this summer. I am looking for a touring bike in the $1,000 price range. Everyone has been telling me to buy a different bike (Trek 520, Cannondale T800, Jamis Aurora). Just wondering what your opinion is. Thanks.
A somewhat confused future transcontinental bicyclist,
Buy what your local shop sells. There's not a huge quality difference in what you're looking at, but keep in mind that aluminum is going to make for a long day in the saddle, as they ride rough, which is contradictory to good touring bike design philosophy (comfort and reliability over speed, handling, or weight). Trek or Fuji would be my picks.
I have a question about the front wheel bearings on a Nishiki 27-inch bike. How do I replace them? I took it apart to clean and, being a novice, all I saw were individual balls. Can't figure out how to reassemble.
Put 10 balls in each side of the hub. Stick them in place with a gob of grease. You should have one side of the axle with the cone and lock nut on it. If not, you need to have a cone against the balls, a spacer or washer (same number on each side), and a locknut. Adjust till there is a slight amount of play (quick release wheel), or no play at all (nutted wheel).
Could you tell me on average how many miles I can expect to get from a Campagnolo 9-speed road chain (Daytona group). I don't ride in the rain or overly dirty conditions.
I can't speak knowledgably about Campy, but Shimano chains don't last very long. Shimano recommends replacing the chain every 1,000 miles. I hear that Campy chains do last a bit longer. You need to understand a few things about this. We are talking about 1,000 miles, more or less, until you get measurable elongation. You can ride for perhaps another 3,000 or more miles before you notice any problems due to this elongation, but riding with an elongated chain accelerates wear and tear on other parts, mostly the cassette. If you ride for, say 5,000 miles and develop shifting problems, you'll need a new chain, cassette, and maybe a new chainring or two. If you'd have replaced the chain five times in that span, you could probably get away without replacing additional parts. Do the math. In Shimano terms, the consequence riding your chain to death averages $150, while five Dura ace chains costs about that. Now, if you are riding Dura ace or Record 10 cassettes, then the ride-it-to-death price quadruples. Much was made of this issue on the Velonews website last year (www.velonews.com).
Mr. Zinn has his opinion, but the value in this discussion is the feedback from average joes.
I am fixing an older Diamondback Wildwood mountain bike for a friend. I think it's a 19 97-99 ( not sure) but I took the chain off to put a new one on and I can't remember how it was routed. I would appreciate it if you could help me. Thank you very much.
I can try to describe, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Put the front derailleur into 1st gear, and the rear into the highest (7th or 8th, I imagine). Pass the chain over the smallest front sprocket, and through the front der. Pass it over the smallest rear cog, and in front of the top pulley wheel. If there is a little tab on the deraileur cage below the top pulley wheel, make sure to go inside of this. Pass over the rear of the bottom pulley, and there you are.
I would like to upgrade the Suntour components on my 1982 Specialized Sequoia. What fits?
Anything fits, as long as you replace everything. In other words, don't replace the shifters and derailleurs and try to hold onto your crank and freewheel. You will need a new rear wheel if you have an old Suntour cassette, or want more than 7 gears. My suggestion for an old bike is to buy mostly Deore or Deore/LX mix, rather than spend enough to buy a new bike (XT/XTR). But you must buy everything--brakes, crank, shifters, derailleurs, bottom bracket, etc.
Can you tell me the best way to install new road bars in a traditional quill stem without scratching the bars? It's been ages since I've done this, but I clearly recall getting what's supposed to be the nice shiny polished sleeve on either side of the clamp all scratched up, from sliding the bars through the stem clamp. Many thanks!
There is a tool for prying open the stem, which works sometimes. It works at least as well as a large screwdriver. I don't think that there is an easy way to do this, but using something to pry the stem open definitely helps. You might also try grease on the stem or the bar, to minimize scratching.
I've got a pair of Mavic CXP 21 wheels with Shimano 105 hubs, 8/9speed compatible. I was wondering if it's possible to put that on my Trek 720 with a Campagnolo Chorus 8-speed group?
Will the campy cogset fit the rear 105 hub? Are there any options to get this combo to work?
Appreciate the time you take to read up on this,
P.S. That bike mechanic column sure is a nifty thing!
You can buy a Campy compatible cassette that fits on a Shimano freehub made by Wheels Manufacturing.
I have a GT aluminum frame road bike with a crack in the seat tube. The company has been bought out by Schwinn and is not honoring the lifetime warranty. They have, however, offered to send me a titanium frame for $495. My question is: Can the frame be repaired and, if it can, what would be the best kind of repair? Also, do you know of any shop in the Midwest (Missouri) that would repair the frame? Do you think $495 for a new Schwinn titanium frame is a decent price? Thanks so much for the information.
There is only one company in the world that makes the dubious claim that they can satisfactorily repair aluminum frames, and they are somewhere in Canada, and I believe that they will charge you almost as much as the price for your ti frame. It is not recommended to ever attempt to repair aluminum frames for several reasons--it's easy to burn through, and most alloys are designed to be welded once, then heat treated, never to be torched again. I personally wouldn't be caught dead on anything that says Schwinn on it, but you can't find any ti frames for twice the price that they are giving you. In fact, you probably won't find a decent aluminum frame for that, but you might check with a Cannondale dealer about their trade in sale.
I need to replace the freehub on my Deore disc hub. Do you start from the non-drive side? Which side does the axle come out and which bearings go in first? Thanks a lot.
Loosen the locknut and remove the cone from the non-drive side. After you get all the bearings out, use a 10mm allen wrench to unscrew the freehub bolt. This is a standard, clockwise threaded bolt, so you unscrew it counterclockwise.
What info can you get for me on kits to convert my mountain bike to an electric bike? What should I look for in a charging system, mounting system, and other specifications, etc?
Get the Currie drive system. It is very reliable, easy to install, and most important, does not use tyre friction to propel the bike--it has a little chain that attaches to the rear hub. If you buy any other electric drive system, expect trouble.
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