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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 ibike@bikexchange.com,  subject "ask the mechanic," and tell us where you live. Or, mail your question directly to Ask the Mechanic, c/o Wheelcraft Bicycles, 2185 National Road, Wheeling, WV, USA 26003. Andy will e-mail your advice and we may post it afterward (do not submit a question if you don't want your Q&A posted in a future column). Take a look at our back issues to find answers to all kinds of bike fix-it questions. 

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Spring 2006 Q & A's (30 posted this season)


I found your web site when I was looking up Xero wheels. I have a Jamis Ventura with Xero Lite XR3 wheels. My spokes are breaking after only two years of use. I average approximately 2,000 miles per year, and I'm a female averaging 145 pounds. So weight should not be a problem. I am having trouble accessing either the Jamis website for customer service or the Xero website customer service. Would you have any solutions?

Winnie Tauber
Spartanburg. South Carolina


I don't know much about these wheels, except they are used a lot and don't cost a lot.  Supposedly they use DT Swiss spokes, which usually hold up well.  It's possible that there's an alignment problem in the hub flange or something, but I've often found that once one spoke breaks, the rest follow. I would respoke the whole thing with high
quality spokes and hope for the best. Compare the price of this with the cost of a new wheel first--I would probably charge between $45-60 depending on rim profile and spoke choice.



I have an older Shimano 105 rear cassette hub that I use as a training wheel. There is a persistent rattle coming from the rear end of the bike when I shift to the highest two gears (smallest cogs).  I think it is from the hub but I cannot tell.  It is paired with an Ultegra derailleur and chain.

Very respectfully,
LCDR John Menoni
Pers 43A, Helo/VFA/VF Captain Detailer
United States Navy


If you only get this noise on this wheel, I would guess that the cassette is loose.  If the lockring is tight but the two smallest cogs still rattle, you can put a small (.5 or 1mm) spacer under the large cog.



After overcoming an enormous resistance to pedaling my Tunturi exercise bike, I noticed that the (non-electronic) odometer no longer registered my mileage. Did some wire connecting the pedals to this device come loose or break?



You need a cable for the speedometer. These things can be tough to find, as electronic speedometers are much more accurate and reliable.


Hi Andy,

First, your site is great! I really like the different Q's and all.

I got a big problem:

I destroyed the threading in the inside of the bottom bracket (in the socket, in the frame). My mechanic said it looks like it can't really be re-threaded totally, he said something about a Hollowtech crank (Shimano) that might save it. but he wants about $300-$400 for the whole business. 

I was wondering if there are any other options or different pieces I can use to save my frame (as cheap as possible).

Thanks alot,

P.S. I'm from Brooklyn, NY


If the threads in the frame are destroyed, the a Hollowtech crank won't help. You either need to repair the threads, which can sometimes be done, or tap it out to Italian and replace the bb with Italian threaded parts.



I moved a new chain from one frame to another, but when I put the pin back in the link, the link was stiff, and would barely move.

What should I do?



You can sometimes flex the side plates and free up the stuck link, or sometimes you can use the chain tool to push the pin back the other way slightly.


Hi there,

I have a 1998 Klein Pulse comp and I bought it used without a bottom bracket. My local bike shop doesn't know what size the bottom bracket is, do you know?

Modesto, California


I think this will be about the 53rd time I've said, "BB spindle length determined by the crank, not the frame."  You need to measure the shell width if the bb in question is specific to 68 or 73 mm shells, but the spindle length depends entirely on the crank.  When in doubt, get a 68x113.



I have a '99 Gary Fisher Excalibur with a '02 Paragon frame. I am interested in doing two things: 1) Switching to a freewheel single speed, and 2) switching to 29" wheels.

Can I get a 29" wheelset with a single speed hub that will fit in my frame and work with my Hayes hydraulic discs?

I've been looking at an American Classic Disc 350 29" single speed wheelset or the Mavic Crossmax SLs (don't think it comes in 29") but both are a little to pricey for me. I would keep the wheels I have and just space the rear hub for a single gear, but they have seen a lot of bumps and really could stand to be replaced.

Thanks for your thoughts,
Phoenix, Arizona


29" wheels only fit frames designed for 29" wheels (imagine that, nothing's compatible in this business). You might cram it in there with a small enough tyre, but I doubt it.  Even if you did fit the rear wheel into the frame, any kind of front fork that accepts a 29er is going to really customize your geometry. I estimate that most 29" tyres have about a 370mm radius, and your frame might accept about 340-350mm. If you want 29" wheels, get a 29" bike, simple as that.


Hi there,

I have an old Centurion with a 7-speed Suntour GPX group. Well, the 13-24 freewheel is finally crunching and making all kinds of noise on the climbs, and lube no longer helps. The wheels have the GPX hubs, and I wanted to know if a Nashbar generic freewheel can work. I'm mainly concerned if the threads are the same. It says SIS compatible, but I'm really not sure. The bike just isn't worth spending $50+ for an original freewheel, when I can get this generic for only $20. What do you think?


Aaron Meisenhemier


The threads are the same, but the index spacing is slightly different, so you may not get those precise Suntour shifts anymore, but it will work, sort of.



How do I stop breaking my U brake cable between the arms? I saw a kid at my local bike park who had a triangle piece that connected to the main brake line, and had a chain running down to his U brake arms. Is that a custom piece or can I buy it somewhere?



If you've broken a few, maybe you need to look at either a new brake, or at least a new cable carrier.  Get a nicely finished aluminum one, not a cheap steel one.



My husband wants to buy an adult tricycle with five speeds and hand brakes.

There is a glut of information on the web about adult trikes, but each website wants only to promote its own product. Is there a place where we can learn how to compare the trikes for sale and make an informed decision before purchasing one?

Thank you,
Susan Parker 


I don't know of any place to look at comparisons.  In my experience, most trikes are unrideable garbage. This is distressing, because you have people with balance problems or other disabilities who need these vehicles, and most of the sub $500 trikes, I can't ride.  They are almost impossible to start without assistance, they have an enormous
turning circle, and it's easy to lift one wheel off the ground while turning. Hills? forget it.  The Worksman Trikes are of extremely good quality, and somewhat easier to ride than the cheapos, starting at around $500.  If you actually want to go somewhere on a trike, we get a product called the EZ Racer Recumbent Trike. These are easy to ride,
can go up hills, are very comfortable, and almost as manouverable as a standard recumbent. I think these have gone up to near $800, but well worth it. If price is not a concern, Greenspeed makes high end versions of the 3-wheeled recumbent.



I'm writing form Ecuador. 

My bike shifts well in the small chainring up front, but in the medium chainring, when my pedal stroke gets stronger, it jumps so hard that I almost even lose control every time I pedal hard (very dangerous in trails and street). My front derailleur is is Deore and the back in an XT. I don't have a big chainring up front, instead I have a bashguard. I think it's the calibration, but I don't know if it's the front der or rear der.

Thanks a lot,


Sounds like you have a worn out middle ring. If everything else is ok, then it's definitely the chainring. If it's that worn, then you may need a new chain, and if you get a new chain, you must buy a new cassette. Start with the new chainring and go from there.



I have been desperately searching, and can't find an answer.  I have a nutted skewer on both front and rear wheels, and frankly I'm sick and tired of needing to carry a wrench when I ride.  Can I just buy a Quick Release skewer (keeping skewer length in mind for front and rear wheels) and replace my nutted skewers, or do I need to get a whole new set of wheels/hubs?  I currently have adjustable cup and cone hubs on both wheels.



Many front wheels can easily be converted to QR, but you can have a hard time getting parts to match on rears.  Keep in mind that a QR axle is going to cost around $12, and skewers usually cost around $10, so unless your wheels are worth more than $44 plus labor, look at new wheels.



Is it possible to use a 32-11 mountain bike cassette on a road bike? I'm guessing that I would also need a new chain and a different rear derailleur. I ride a lot of steep hills and don't want a triple chain ring.

Any Ideas?



You're right.  New chain, ATB rear der, it should work fine.  I set a guy up with the same setup for a USA perimeter ride and he had no complaints.



I recently changed out the rear wheel on my Cannondale road bike.  When putting it back in, I seemed to have knocked off the adjustment on the rear Shimano 600 brake. Any tips on how to re-align the brake? It is rubbing against the rim and the wheel is sitting centered.

Tim Hanft


You can roughly center the brake by loosening the 5mm bolt on the inside of the seatstay bridge, moving the brake into the desired position, holding it in that position whilst tightening the bolt.  If it's still off a little, use the screw on the right hand side of the brake.  Clockwise moves the right shoe away from the rim, counter clockwise does the opposite.


Hi Andy

I have recently ordered a sprocket to put on a 20" Schwinn bmx bike but I am having trouble getting the old one off. How would you recommend doing this? If you could reply to this I would appreciate it.



You need a freewheel removal tool--about $8. Whether you need it now or not, get one that fits 14mm axles. Bolt it onto the freewheel and use either a vice or a long crescent wrench to get leverage, as these can be tough to break loose.



I've got a Cannondale Super V 1000 that I love and it's been upgraded quite a bit for racing.

I've recently installed a lightweight set of American Classic disc wheels and am attempting to install a rear Hayes Mag disc brake caliper and nothing seems to fit. The caliper attaches to the frame just fine using the International standard adapter, but the rotor is too far away from the caliper and the rotor also seems too big as it won't clear the caliper (160mm rotor). Do I just need to shim the caliper closer to the hub to meet the rotor and shim it higher as well to clear the rotor, or is there some sort of adapter made for this bike?



If it fits perfect, then why doesn't it work? I certainly don't know, except they discontinued the V many years ago, and I really don't know what sort of disc technology C'dale was aiming for here, but it probably was their own (proprietary systems that aren't compatible with anything else, a Cannndale hallmark). If you have an ISO mounting bracket, 6" rotor, caliper for 6" rotor, a chimpanzee should be able to get it together. If the bosses on the bike are screwy, Steve Gravenites himself couldn't fix it, at least not without a torch.



You've touched on this subject a couple of times, but I didn't see quite what I was looking for in the archives. I've seen lots of advice about restoring expensive vintage bikes to their former glory and upgrading aging but fairly modern bikes' drivetrains. I find myself somewhere in between these extremes.

I still have a mid 80's Chesini Olimpiade that I bought in high school. The frame is 55 cm, Columbus Aelle, lugged and brazed, Gipiemme dropouts, 126mm spacing. The components are a hodgepodge of what I could afford back then. It used to be reasonable gear (105 bottom bracket and crank, Dura ace derailleurs, Suntour friction shifters, Wheelsmith wheels, Specialized hubs and Wolber TX rims--with freewheel, Campy NR brakes, etc.) I like the bike just fine, 
but I don't love it. Another factor: the frame is fairly well scuffed up and could use refinishing.

The frame is solid and stiff, is nicely brazed and finished, but is not light. I'm close to 200 pounds, though, and don't race, so sturdy trumps light but fragile.

On a recent charity ride I found myself envying the STI shifters and 10-speed cassettes on the ubiquitous Treks and Lemonds. I'd like more gearing flexibility and lighter weight, but I don't want to spend a ton of money.

In my situation, would you:

1. Slap on a triple crankset and call it done?
2. Repaint, spread the rear triangle, and stick on a new gruppo? If so, what? 105? Veloce?
3. Scrap the whole idea and go shopping for a new bike? Any bargains around in a lugged steel frame or other recommendations?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Bryce Krug in St. Louis, MO


Slap on the triple and be done with it.  If you don't love the bike, there's no way to justify the expense, and I don't know if you will run into dropout-derailleur hanger issues or not, but you might.  Even 105 or Veloce is going to cost $700-800 by the time you get wheels and such. On the other hand, the cost of a well made steel frame these days is
pretty high, so upgrading may make some economic sense when you look at steel frames available today.



I have an aluminum bolt that is stuck in an aluminum bracket. I tried soaking it in penetrating oil for about a week, but the bolt won't budge. Do you have any advice for loosening "frozen" aluminum parts?



Frozen bolts can be very difficult to remove using sound methods, and if you are dealing with aluminum, unsound methods aren't an option. It is likely that you'll have to destroy something. I usually consult a professional machinist before I permanently damage something.


Hi Andy,

I have a Crossmax XL disc hubset which has been very good but lately I have noticed that there is movement of the freewheel against the hub/axle.

It would seem that the plastic (ceramic?) inner bearing has worn. This to me seems very difficult to repair. Would it be difficult to remove this inner bearing surface and place a conventional sealed bearing? Or would a replacement be better? (What bothers me about replacement is if the axle is worn then a replacement won't help--it will still have the slop.)

Your sage advice please Andy.



I'm not too familiar with this particular wheel, but most high end Mavic wheels use 4-cartridge bearings. If one is bad, replace all four. It is not likely that the axle is bad, but I'm sure that all these parts are available. You can replace these bearings with Mavic replacements, generic, ABEC, Enduromax standard or Enduromax
ceramic hybrid. I really like the ceramic bearings, but I'm not sure I'd want to shred these on a mountain bike wheel, as they are about four times more than your basic bearing. Whatever level of quality you choose, you must get the correct bearing, either from your owner's manual or from the bearing seal (6002, 6903, etc.)



Could you email me directions on how to put the spokes back on to a backstep break tire? I can't find any on the Net for that. I could only find directions for the front tire. 



Follow my instructions for wheel lacing, but you should remove the drive gear first. On coaster wheels, there is a steel snap ring which holds the gear on. Pry it open with a screwdriver and the gear slides off.


Respected Friend,

Can spokes from a damaged rim be re-laced to a new rim without adversity? The spokes retain flex and have no visible signs of fatigue. Mavic 217s seem to develop cracks at the eyelets.



Yes and no.  I try not to reuse spokes if they are more than 3 years old, if they are not identifiable as Wheelsmith, DT, or Sapim, if they have to be fully removed from the hub, or if more than one has broken in the last few months. Normally, if someone has a fairly new wheel with good spokes and just need a rim laced to the existing spokes, it may be okay to reuse spokes, according to good judgment.  However, if you want to be sure that you aren't going to have future problems, get new spokes.  Also, if you are paying a guy labor to build a wheel, it doesn't make sense to cheap out on spokes.



I currently have a basic road bike equipped with Sora shifters and the rear derailleur. Can I just upgrade the cassette from the Sora 8-speed to 105 9-speed without the need to change any other components on the bike?  

Thanks for your time and attention,


The 9-speed cassette will fit on your hub, but you need a bunch of parts, most notably, and expensively, the right side shifter.  I think that the derailleur may handle 9-speeds, but beyond the shifters, other issues may surface as a result of using a 9-speed chain on a mostly 8-speed drive train.  The chain, cassette, and right shifter are 100% necessary, and you may need a new crank, or at least 9-speed chainrings, and a rear derailleur, if not a front one.



Hi. Fixing a BMX it's very rusty and I'm wondering if you have any idea how to remove it. 

Benn in the UK


You can only remove surface rust; if it's too deep, your chrome is gone anyway.  Use naval jelly, followed up with chrome polish. You can get a lot of rust off with a mildly abrasive chrome polish alone.



I am wondering how to get rid of this annoying clicking sound coming from the bottom bracket area on my titanium road bike. I have taken apart the Dura Ace 7700 splined bottom bracket several times, re-greased, set the tension loose, tight, to no avail. It is actually quite new, maybe 1,500 miles on it, any ideas?

Time ticks on,


This bb can be troublesome because the bearings have to be adjusted and they are somewhat delicate; you can easily over tighten them and screw them up. I always use two layers of Teflon tape on the bb threads and ti prep on the bb shell.  A nickle's worth of Teflon tape goes a long way towards silencing bb creaks and it helps prevent loosening of the cups. If you use the tape and it's properly adjusted, replace it with Ultegra. It will be a few grams heavier, but probably won't make noise.



I have a Nishiki Bike with a chain on it, yet when you turn the pedals the crank does not make the chain go around. It is a 15-speed mountain bike, (Shimano 100GS front crank) Nishiki Series 500 Manitoba bicycle. Help!

Dean Resnekov


I think that you mean that the chain goes round, but the wheel doesn't.  If the chain were on the chainring (up front), then the only way that it would not turn would be if it were locked up. You either need a new freewheel (about $25) or a freehub body (same price as freewheel, but more labor).



If I have 700c size road rims, does it matter if the tires are size 700x23 or 700x25?  I have size 700x25 tires on there now and I'm just wondering if it matters if I put 700x23 size tires on next time or not. Thanks.



You can fit almost any 700c tyre on almost any 700c rim. I have a Gary Fisher 29er, and you can put 700x28 up to 29x2.125s on there. The limiting factor is the frame.  Most road frames won't accommodate bigger than 700x28, but the rims can fit anything from 700x18 through 700x40. You want to make sure that the tyre is about 1.5 times wider than the rim, beyond that, almost anything goes, if it fits in your frame.



I have a bike with 26" wheels (650c) and skinny, 1" tires.  Is the 26" wheel inherently faster or slower than a 700 c (27") wheel with the same width tire. Why?

RDL in Bethesda, Maryland


Great question! There has been much debate on this subject, and I really don't think anybody has a lot of empirical data to back up an opinion.  On the one hand, smaller wheels naturally have less rotating mass than big wheels, and that's the holy grail of bicycle design. On the other hand, many pro riders have noted that 650 wheels don't handle as well as 700c. The trend at triathlons seems to be going back to 700c wheels, where 650s have become standard issue over the last 10 years. My opinion, backed up with that of a few Ironman distance guys, is that 650c wheels are faster. So there.

I ride 700's exclusively, though.


Hi Andy,

In an attempt to get easier shifts on a three chaining Shimano, I upgraded both the front derailleur to Ultegra and changed the shifters to ball bearing Shimano 660's. (I have a flat bar "road" bike.) Going up to the third chaining still takes considerable thumb force. However, down shifts are easy and crisp. Likewise, the rear Shimano 105 shifts smoothly and crisply in both directions. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

Many thanks!
Ted Jackson in New Jersey


I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your flatbar shifters are not compatible with the Ultegra derailleur.  According to Shimano, only R440 or R443 fronts can be used with R440 or R660 shifters.  That's not to say it won't work, it's just not supposed to work.  Use a nice slick cable--SS Teflon is best--and new cable housing, and keep in mind that you'll probably have to compromise somewhere with this set up. I had a customer make the same mistake with an all Dura Ace bike, and we got it to work fairly well after some struggle, but a good slick cable is key.



I have a Trek 1200. It has a SHIMANO RX100 front DERAILLEUR. It has recently become very difficult to shift to the largest sprocket. I adjusted the tension of the cable but that did not improve the situation at all. The bike probably has between 1,000 and 2,000 total miles. The only maintenance done has been tire and tube related, although I believe I did replace the chain some time ago.

I am 72 years old and do not ride long distances any more. I now live in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

Suggestions would be appreciated.

Bob Poland in Fort Collins, Colorado


I would replace the cable and housing.  Get good stuff, and if you don't use a Teflon cable, lube the cable with Jonnisnot or Finish Line green cap.  Unless your derailleur is jammed up, this should take care of the problem.



I am working on an idea which calls for a left side gear assembly, do you know if I can find something like this or whom may be able to fabricate one for me.



There are left side drive (LSD) freestyle bikes, but they only have one gear.  As for multi-geared systems, to my knowledge, nothing is out there. You can purchase wheels or hubs threaded for LSD freewheels and freewheels in limited sizes almost anywhere. Hope this helps.


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