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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.

Give them a spin...
AirFree Bike Tires  
Backyard Bike Mechanics Should Always Have a Handy Copy of ...
Bicycling Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair
 by Jim Langley, May 1999
Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance
by Leonard Zinn, April 2000
Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance
by Leonard Zinn, February 1998.

Summer 2001 Questions & Answers ...

(35 Q&A's Posted This Season.)


My name is Warren and I need some advice on the design of Shimano STI Ultegra shifters. I want to replace the shift and brake cables on my STI shifters, but am stumped at how to get at the brake cable end. I figured out that if I take off the small plastic cap on top, then I can get at the shift cable ends. I have successfully changed those, but how do I get at the brake cable end without serious effort? I have some basic bicycle repair manuals, but they do not provide a description of or give pictures of the internals of these shifters. I live in a small town about 80 miles from the nearest bike shop, so I try to do my own maintenance. For these shifters, however, I need help. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


Don't even think about trying to take anything apart. The brake cable should come right out the front. Sometimes, you need needle nose pliers to pull it out, and I often push the lever all the way to the inside and pull it back as far as possible so that it is easier to get inside it (this allows you to make the opening a lot bigger).



Please confirm that Sachs has a 9-speed road cassette with the old-style screw thread. Someone told me it was so. Thanks for any assistance.

Noel Brown


I assume that you are referring to a freewheel, not a cassette, and as far as I know, there is not a 9 speed, nor is there enough of a market for such a thing for it to ever be produced. Like it or not, freewheels are a thing of the past.



I am trying to find out what size my Cycle Gitane frame is? Can you tell me what the measuring points are for Gitane frames?

Thank you,


Most Euro bikes are measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the top tube. Some American companies measure center to top, or center to the top of the seat tube (usually for sloping top tubes), but center to center is standard procedure.



I have to replace the freehub on my 97 ProFlex Beast so I thought while I'm at it maybe I'll upgrade my Shimano LX Hyperglide 8-speed cassette to a 9-speed cassette. I've got SRAM 7.0 gripshifts. Can I use the same shifters if I upgrade to a 9-speed? Is there anything else I'd have to replace? And is it really worth it do you think? Not sure it makes a difference, but it's a Ritchey hub.

Thanks in advance,


For best results, replace everything. Your rear der may work, but your crank, chain, front der, and especially your shifters, won't work. I would not make such an investment on such a cheesy bike.



I just bought a new set of cranks for my specialized hard rock. I got the allen-type screws off that go into the bottom bracket (its a square BB). My problem is that the actual crank arms will NOT come off the bottom bracket.

I've pulled and yanked on them as hard as I can. I know they have come off before because my LBS replaced my crank about 8 months ago. Am I missing a step or do I just need to pull harder?

Thank you for your time,
Kyle Pennington


2 words: Crank puller.


Hello there!

I own a hardtail mountain bike and am just learning a bunch of new skills about the mechanics of switching out different components on the bike. What I'd like to know is where you can find single cogs (HG or IG) for sale for rebuilding and/or customizing a rear cassette? Also, I would really like to find some information about where to buy specific tools for disassembling SPD clipless pedals (in order to replace ball-bearings, and re-lube), as well as the disassembly tool for the standard Shimano Freehub Body (in order to replace worn bearings, and upgrade the pawl springs/add more springs and re-lube everything).

Thanks for your help!


Shimano cassettes were not meant to be rebuilt or customized. Like most Shimano components, they are designed to work for about 2000 miles and then be thrown away and replaced. After they have been replaced twice, the correct replacement becomes unavailable, necessitating a complete drivetrain replacement. That sounds like a sarcastic joke, but it is literally true. In the 9-speed era, it is almost a waste of time to clean and lube a chain, because by the time it gets dirty, it's worn out. You can buy certain cogs, but I don't think anyone would stock them. They are quite expensive, and to correctly get the hyperglide thing going, cogs should be matched from about 12 different 8-speed sets--so far there are only three 9-speed sets. While you can mix and match sets, it is not recommended. We usually only stock 11 or 12-tooth cogs, because people who don't know how to ride a bike frequently wear out the small ones, and guys who think they can ride faster if they just had a high enough gear (also members of the former class) put 11 tooth cogs on their road bikes. Little cogs are about $12 each, bigger ones average about $6, and most non-standard ones would be damn hard to get.

While you can take apart a Shimano freehub body, there's not much point. You may be able to find pawls and springs, but they will be exactly like what you have. Other than XTR or Dura ace, freehubs only cost $25, so spending six hours rebuilding one is not a good use of time. A set of Morningstar freehub tools makes a lot of sense. You can use the dust cap remover if you want to keep you Shimano dust cap, and the freehub injector is the easiest and best way to keep the pawls clean and lubed. I usually replace the Shimano dust cap with the Morningstar aluminum cap. The dust cap is a good investment even if you don't use the injector, because it makes servicing the outbound bearings much easier and you don't bend it up taking it out and reinstalling it.

There are only a couple of tools for the SPD. You should have a gray plastic thing that came with the pedals. This takes the spindle out of the body. The only other tool that I know of is a bearing adjustment tool, which sells for around $30. I can provide you with all the aforementioned tools if you can't find them locally.


Hi there,

On my front wheel I have a few loose spokes and my wheel wobbles quite a bit. My bike is brand new. What spokes do I tighten and will it mess up my bike?

Mr. Pointer

Mr. P,

There is a high likelihood that you will screw this up big time. Get it to a shop and pay the guy $10 to true the wheel.



Looking for a web site that offers instruction on truing wheels. Having a heck of a time finding
this. Can you help?

Joseph A. 'Gus' Saar
Tracy, CA 


There is no website that I'm aware of.  Get Jobst Brandt's "The Bicycle Wheel"  and you'll
learn all you need to know.  I don't tell people how to true wheels, not because it's what
I do for a living, but because most people lack the patience, ability to follow instructions, 
or je ne se qua, so that this procedure has a higher than average probability for disaster.
Essentially, you either tighten or loosen a spoke to move the rim in a given direction,
but you must keep in mind that lateral corrections can affect radial corrections, and vice
versa.  People often bring me wheels that have had the same spoke repeatedly tightened, 
to the point of overdoing it, such that attempting to save $10 on a repair resulted in the
necessity to purchase a new rim.  You must invest in some equipment, and if you're using
good light expensive stuff, you need a tensiometer.  You can get by with a cheap truing jig,
but don't skimp on the spoke wrench, and if you don't buy a self-centering stand, either get
a dishing gauge or make sure to have your work checked by someone who does.


PS:  A Park TS-7 stand with dishing gauge can be had for under $100.  The auto
centering Park TS-2 is about $220.  Minoura makes a much flimsier tool for about $75,
but I recommend the Park stands.  Get the proper sized Park wrench so that you don't
round off your nipples (ouch!).


Great site you've got there.  Any ideas as to how to true Mavic Classic Pros?  When you
turn the spoke nipple, a lot of times the entire spoke will turn due to the hub/spoke design.
What difference does it make if the design is 40 % stronger than a regular set up if you can't
true them?  I assumed (yeah, I know) when I bought the wheels that the spoke heads would
have been slotted or squared-off or something in order to prevent just this situation from
occurring.  But Noooo!  I was thinking about using a vice-grip to hold the spokes in place
while truing or possibly loosening up all the spokes and using loc-tite (sp?) on the spoke
heads and then try to re-true.  I sent the wheel back to Mavic and after three months I got it
back in the same condition, except with a new rim (which in my opinion, didn't need to be
replaced). The drive side spokes are ridiculously tight and the non-rive side are pretty loose
and not evenly tensioned at all.  It still pings when I ride it, just like it did before I sent it in.
Any suggestions?



I'm really not familiar with this wheel system.  I'd say if it was fixed at Mavic, then this is
as good as it gets.  It is normal to have tight drive and loose non-drive-side side spokes.  Spoke
wind up is also a normal situation, which is best remedied by slightly over-tightening
the spoke by about 1/4 turn and then backing it off by that amount, more or less,
depending upon several factors.  This will put aero spokes in the proper position and
should eliminate the ping, but it takes a great deal of patience to unwind 28 or 32 spokes. 
In building straight pull spoked wheels, I've found that it is difficult to get a loose spoke to
"catch," but if you can hold it until a little tension is applied, then it usually holds.  If you'd
 spent half as much on an Ultegra/Velocity wheelset, you wouldn't have any of these problems, and you'd probably be just as fast.



I have a 1999 Fatboy Specialized (A bmx bike) and I need to know how to take off the
chain wheel to replace it. Can you help?



I don't do Specialized, so I'm not sure whether you have a 1, 2, or 3-piece crank.  Some
1-piece cranks have spiders, so that you just take off the five chainring bolts and replace
the ring.  Most 1-piece cranks require complete disassemble--take off pedals, remove locknut
and bearing cone from the left side (left-hand thread),  remove the crank, unscrew the right
hand bearing cone (right hand thread), and off it comes.  So, I guess you either have a
spider and it's easy to just take off the five bolts, or you don't and you have a big greasy
job ahead.



I'm trying to build a recumbent. I don't want to weld and I'm searching for joints or attaches in general to set up the frame.

Any information?


I really don't know of any sort of connection other than welding that can be used for this purpose. There are connections made for folding a bicycle, but these have to be welded in place.



My bike is a '97 Jamis Dakar Team with XTR drive train. The middle chain ring and possibly the other two need replacement. The cassette my Local Bike Shop suggests I use is the Shimano LX. I'm not sure exactly why they are having a problem getting the replacement XTR or XT parts I need, but...

My question is what information do I need to relay to a parts seller to get the "exact duplicate" of what came on the bike (one problem the LBS has had is getting four-bolt chainrings that fit my crank -- they have tried three so far), or something of comparable quality that works.

I don't want to embarrass the LBS, however, he suggested I bring him the parts, and he will put it all together. I would be grateful for your advice as to how to identify what I need, and where to get it.

Thanks in advance,
Dave McCatty


When a customer asks for XTR parts, he should get exactly that. If the shop has to order XTR parts, then that is precisely what they should do. Why any shop would hesitate to sell you what you want is beyond me, especially when you want a much more expensive cassette than the LX. XTR parts are not hard to find, you can still buy 8-speed XTR cassettes and chain rings, and XTR cassettes shift much better than anything else, and are among the only 12-32 8-speeds available. Tell your LBS that that LX cassette and those chainrings that don't fit would be mighty uncomfortable if he were to stick them where I'd recommend.



Why can't I get my Campy to work right? I have mid 90's Chorus 8-speed groupo (ergo levers, rear der., front der., crank 39/53).

Frustration #1

The front derailleur ergo lever requires ONE PLUS shifts/swings to get the chain on the big ring (hard to get a jump on my racing pals when I'm wrenching my wrist and the chin is grinding the inside of the front der plate while I reload the ergo lever for another swing). The front der is not the groupo original (purchased it March '00, Chorus model #7). The current BB is non-cartridge type Shimano 11.5mm '90 model #DH-5 (I am aware that that year crank/groupo uses a 111mm BB, but I figured .5mm couldn't make that much of a difference). I have fiddled with the limit screws and chainring alignment (top visual) and have the proper clearance spacing (1mm according to the Campy manual). Most recently I have been dropping the chain with a big ring/small ring downshift (three times on my last ride!).

Frustration #2

I am using an 8-speed Sachs freewheel (12-24) on some very sweet ole' Specialized hubs. I have the rear axle spaced out properly and the dish set-up well, but I can't seem to use my top (biggest) three gears when I am in my big ring. There's a lot of noise and chattering back there and I can't shift down without over shifting (extra click). I know I'm not supposed to use the BIG/BIG combo (I don't) but I would really like to use the two gears for quick/standing uphill climbs. The rear derailleur shifts well when I combo-shift/double-shift but I really loose ground with the pack click-clacking away with both hands trying to get that perfect gear combo.

Is this a chain-line problem?

I really love the heritage of the Campy stuff and it looks like it was made just for my Pinarello, but I long for the days of precise and care free shifting with Shimano. I really don't want to upgrade to 9-speed as a quick cure (other riders tell me it's much better). Can my 8-speed system be saved?

Any advice would be much appreciated.



1. Campy cranks should never be used with a Shimano bb.
2. Get new cables, cable housings, and lube them, or better yet, get Teflon
3. Make sure that your chain is long enough, or that your der is not jammed.
4. Check your frame alignment, hanger and dropout alignment.
5. Clean and lube both shift levers or, if you're a masochist, overhaul them.
(Zinn recently outlined this procedure in
Velonews, or you can buy his new book on road bike maintenance.)
6. If all this fails, chuck it and buy a cheap Tiagra group. It'll shift like there's no tomorrow, although with a lot less class.



Subject: Rohloff internal geared hub

Interested in info on this hub. Told that it may be the up and coming thing after the SRAM internal geared hub...less resistance to 95-98%. Also no redundancy within the gear ratios. Can this be true?

Don Peters


I did a little research on this hub. While it is ridiculously heavy at 1730 grams, that number compares favorably to an XT drivetrain at approximately 1400. You could (I wouldn't) use it without any handbrakes, and actually be lighter than an XT group. At whatever gear you start with as high, it shifts 13.6% lower, times 14 gears, closely approximating the standard 24-speed drive train, with no redundancy. You'd probably start with about 21 gear inches, and should wind up with a low gear of around 110. Rohloff is a German company who used to make chains and such for Campagnolo, so I presume that the hub is make in Germany. For it's whopping price tag (about $1100) it certainly should be made in the Mercedes factory.

Dear Andy,

I am an ex-triathlete, cured for almost 10 years now. However, my wife signed me up for a sprint triathlon, in about 4 weeks.

I am looking for a pair of the old Scott DH handlebars that I used to ride back in the late 80's or so. I just do not like anything else I have seen.

Do you know where I can land a pair?

Best regards,
Bill Nighan


The Scott DH has been banned by Trifed for at least 10 years, and has not been made since 1988. The Scott company suspended US operations just before selling Schwinn to Questor a few years ago. So, if you can find a pair of these antiques, and mind you, any hunk of normal shaped hunk of aluminum over 10 years old is dangerous, so multiply the risk factor about 8 million times for these things, you can only use them in events where nobody cares what equipment you use. Give up and buy some clip ons, man. Some things were meant to be banned, like EPO and DH bars. Do you still have one of those leashes guys used to wear with their DH bars?


Dear Sir,

I have a Cannondale H300 Hybrid 24-speed bike. I'm curious as to whether the optimum approach in downshifting when approaching a hill is to shift the rear derailleur first or shift the front derailleur first.

On level ground I usually have the front derailleur on 3 and the rear derailed on 6 or 7. I know a lot of this is trial and error and I should be maintaining a constant cadence (e.g. 70-90 rpm) in any gear combination, but I'm not sure about the optimum ways to accomplish this, since one can downshift by using the front or rear derailleurs.

So which should I downshift first, the front or the back? Also, what's the best gear combination to start off with on level ground?

Any advice?
Steve Bailes


There really isn't a "right way" to shift as related to your question. I'd shift to the lower front ring when approaching a hill, and downshift the rear as needed. While shifting the front first is a bigger jump, it minimizes the chance of throwing the chain off. Many a time in mountain bike races, I've gone from 37th to 52nd place because I tried to gut out a hill, had to shift to the granny up front, and lost the chain because of the stress and rotten luck involved in the shift. Had I shifted to the granny in anticipation, upshifted the rear until I needed a lower gear, and proceeded to gradually shift to lower gears in the rear, I could of held on to my 37th place, and maybe even worked my way up into the top 30. If your rear der is properly adjusted, you'll never throw the chain. The same cannot be said of the front. Start off in the middle ring and the middle of the cogset, usually.



I have a road and a track bike from the early '70s, both of which need new tires. They have D'Alessandro Speciale on now (put on about 10 years ago). Will the tubulars sold today ("700c") fit on the Fiamme and Mavic rims on these elderly bikes? Would they be "safe" (as "safe" as a tubular can be), if they fit at all? These are both good-quality bikes, not consumer-grade (the road bike is all-Campy, Mercian 531).

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Bill Evans

Bill Evans (jazz pianist extraordinaire),

A 700C tubular is a 700C tubular. Get yourself a pair of Conti Sprinters or Vittoria Corsa CX, or maybe even Michelin, and you'll be fine.



I have Rapid Fire shifters (ST-M091) and a new HG90 Free hub (14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 31). When I am riding, the chain will not stay in the 21, 24, or 28 tooth configuration unless I hold the thumb lever in place while I am riding. Is there an adjustment or do I need some new shifters? Thanks for your help.



You could have a loose cable, a badly adjusted rear der, or a worn out shifter. Ordinarily, if you can shift between some gears smoothly, but not others, it would be a worn out shifter. If the cable is slack, you'll need to double click to shift from the highest gear to the next one.



My wife is looking at getting a new red/white/blue Trek 1000 Alpha Series road bike, about $600. This seems to be a "entry level" bike, and I'm into off-road so my knowledge is limited here; what are your thoughts of it. It's equipped with the following:
Shimano Sora gruppo
Sora Flight Deck controls
Promax brakes
Alpine2 Vuelta wheels
Aluminum frame w/cro-moly fork
Cyclone crank.

Thanks for your time to respond.



A $600 bike will have some shortcomings. Sora doesn't shift as easily as other shifters, and I didn't know "ProMax" made road brakes. I have no idea what Alpha aluminum is, but I'm sure it's better than "boron titanium". It is darn tough to find anything that looks like a road bike for near this price, so if this is your budget, you probably won't do any better, and Trek is a good company as far as warranties, customer service, etc. goes.



I have been trying to determine what the maximum and minimum widths for a mountain bike tire are. I have spent two hours on the Internet trying to find out what the numbers in tire measurements refer to. I have come across three different formats, but I can't figure out what they mean. The first format is (for example) 26 x 1.95". The second is (for example) 700 x 32c, and the third format is (for example) 49/48. I assume in the first format the numbers are inches, but then there is the question of what is being measured. Circumference and height? And width? For the second format I would guess that "c" for some crazy reason stands for millimeters, but as for the third format, I can't even venture a guess. Please help me.

The reason that I asked is that I am considering buying a mountain bike, but wanted it to be more comfortable. While perusing catalogs form Trek, Cannondale and Bianchi I came across a class of bikes called "comfort" bikes that are described as being for the city rider. So at first I thought these must be hybrids that have some extra padding, and that they must have thinner tires than true mountain bikes, but that is not true (One of Trek's mountain bikes has the same stock tire as one of their comfort bikes). So it seems that they are really exactly what I want - mountain bikes without the edge.

Meanwhile I am a 30 something just getting back into biking since a 10 year break. I plan on doing some intermediate off roading (by intermediate I mean much more than fire roads, but no "big air" off some 5-foot-tall glacial boulder). My thought process was that what makes a mountain bike able to go off road is primarily wide tires (I know there are other things but even the best mountain biker on the best mountain bike would not be able to ride very long if s/he were on thin tires, right? So I figure it must be is mostly the tire width that we need for off roading).

So while I have you one the line, even though this is not a tech question, am I nuts for thinking of getting a comfort bike for intermediate off roading?



Designations like 26x1.9 or 26x2.0 are more or less arbitrary. The real number is going to be the ISO number, which is the tire size in millimeters. Most tyres have these numbers, but they are not on the label. This would be a number like 700-28, embossed on the tyre, but not colored. Numbers like 44/50 are actual measurements of the carcass width, followed by the actual measure of the tread width of a 26" tyre. This is the best number to look at for 26" tyres.

To determine the narrowest tyre for your rim, measure the rim, and multiply by 1.2. This is the width, in millimeters of the narrowest tyre you can safely mount on your rim. Don't take your comfort bike to Moab, but for mild off roading, it'll work. Hugh Jass used to finish 24 hours of Canaan on 26" 3-speed road bikes, so anything is possible, in fact your comfort bike is way superior to these guys' equipment, and they used to finish the race, which is more than I can say about guys with $3000 mountain bikes who didn't wear women's clothing.


Hey mechanic could you help me?

I was wondering if you could possibly refer me to a site or send me directions on how to remove and put on 3-piece cranks. I need this ASAP because I'm ordering a new bike all separately so I need to take the 3-piece cranks off of my old bike and on to my new one.

thanks for your time,


You need a crank extractor, and probably some sort of bb tool, depending on whether you have a bmx bike, or a road or mountain bike. Unless you want to buy $25 or so worth of tools, take it to a shop and have it done.



Subject: Freewheel removal for a '98 Dyno Air

Can you tell me exactly how to take this freewheel off and the tools needed for this job.

Thanks Alot,


You need a bmx freewheel remover ( who would have thought that's what it's called?), unless some idiot screwed it on backwards, which happens a lot. If that is the case, and the four slots for the 4-pronged tool to fit into are not visible, then you need a new wheel and freewheel.



I just purchased a new wheelset with Dura Ace hubs. I think the rear hub is too tight, and want to adjust it. I have the right size cone wrenches, but I can't figure out how to loosen the cone, because it just turns. I can't get to the flat on the lock nut on the other side to hold it still, because the cassette is in the way. Do I need to remove the cassette?



Always adjust from the non-drive side. If the locknut on the drive side is loose, then you'll need to remove the cassette and lock the locknut onto the cone, loosen the non-drive locknut, and adjust on that side of the hub.


Hi Andy!

I just bought a Royce Union VXA 2000. I wanted a dual suspension MB to help keep in shape when I'm not racing motocross. It's my first all aluminum, full suspension bike and I really like it. I know, you've said that any good full suspension bike will cost upwards of $600. I paid $400 for it which, I figure, leaves room to purchase a few upgrades.

Well, anyway, my problem is this, the crank began to creak after I had ridden down a rather rough, rocky, mountain trail. I noticed it when I began to pedal on level ground again. It seems get louder the more pressure I exert on the pedals. Is this because of the aluminum frame? I've had the bike checked at a local shop, and they can't find the origin of the noise. The bike shop has checked, and double checked the crank and bearings for tolerances, and they're up to specs. They also checked the rear frame and it's in order. There is no grinding sensation, just a creaking sound. What do you think is causing the noise? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

By the way, what is your opinion of this bike and the price? I ride the bike for fun and don't plan to do any racing with it so I couldn't see myself spending a lot of dough. Thanks again, and keep up the EXCELLENT WORK!

Congratulations! You have purchased the most unmitigated piece of crap ever to come out of a Chinese prison labor sweat shop. I'm surprised that anyone at a bike shop would even attempt to diagnose or repair anything on a bike of this level. You'll keep in shape, all right, by lifting this in and out of your house. How anyone can justify this much money for something this pathetic is beyond my comprehension. Any number of sub-standard components could be causing the sound in question, and it may well be a warning signal that this so-called bike will self destruct without warning. Take it back! Don't ever, ever ride this thing off road. If some company came out with a MX bike that cost 1/3 of a Yamazuki, would you feel safe riding it the same way you usually ride? The same is true of bicycles, golf clubs, or kitchen knives. Some things are worth the money, and some things are worthless.


Hi Andy,

I just finished building a road bike, using an Ultegra 6500 group (53/39 crankset, 9-speed 12/23 cassette) and a 1997 Serotta Atlanta frame. I'm getting a lot of chain rub against the outer chainring when the chain is on the inner chainring and on any of the outer three cogs. I measured the frame and it appeared straight; I checked the chainline and it appeared OK--the space between the two chainrings lines up with the middle cog.

I shimmed the BB out by 2mm and got rid of the chain rub except for the smallest cog, but then the chain started dropping off the inner chainring. I removed one of the shims and eliminated the chain drop problem, but then the bad chain rub came back on the two smallest cogs. Aaargh! Any thoughts on what to do next?



If you are using all Ultegra parts, particularly the crank and bb, then everything should work. I believe that there is only one bb size that works with the 6500 crank, so if that's what you have, it should work if everything else is in proper alignment. Either your frame is bent, shell is not properly faced, crank is bent, der is not in the right spot, shifter is not trimming (either because it is defective or the cable tension or lack of lubrication does not allow it to trim), the moon is exerting excessive magnetic force on your bike or any combination of the above.



I have rock shox indy C. The other day I bent them when I hit a tree. Well, the rim has no marks from the collision, the shocks are bent up around the area that it connects. What can I do? Am I just forked!?



You are pretty much forked. It would cost almost as much for a crown/steerer assembly as it would for a new fork. You can get decent shocks such as the RST 281, Gamma, Delta, and Rock shox Jett XC, etc, for less than $200.



First of all, I'd like to thank you for this "Ask the Mechanic" feature on the web page, it's a valuable resource for those with questions like me.

I'm looking for some new road pedals and would like your advice on what is the best buy today. I had some old Sampson with Sakae cleats but, the height of that cleat makes walking a bit odd to say the least.

Also, what does SPD stand for? Can you recommend an issue of Bicycling or some similar mag that has done an article with pedal/cleat comparisons?

Dave D.
N'ville, MI


If you want a walk-able cleat and a good pedal, look at Shimano road pedals, or if you buy generic pedals, get Shimano cleats or pontoons if you use road shoes. The pontoons can sometimes be fitted to a non-Shimano cleat. These are pieces of plastic that surround the cleat and allow pretty good mobility off the bike. On mountain bike shoes, the cleat is usually recessed into a pocket to permit mobility. "SPD" stands for "Shimano pedaling dynamics." You can get generic mountain bike pedals (double-sided; most road SPD type pedals are single-sided) for less than $50, and the cleat can be modified to fit Shimano pontoons for about $20.


Hey Andy,

I'm trying convert an RST suspension fork to fit on my bike . The problem is that my bike requires a threaded 1'' steerer tube, but the RST fork has a 1-1/8" steerer tube that is threadless. Is it even possible to get this fork to fit on my bike? The steerer tube on the RST is bolted on. Do they make a threaded 1" steerer tube with the fork end of the tube at 1-1/8" so that it can bolt onto my RST fork?



The beauty of these cheap RST/Mozo forks is that they have replaceable steerer tubes. You can get a 1" adapter and the appropriate steerer for about $25.


Hay Bud,

I'm considering a pair of Mavic tubeless rims/tires. What have you heard about them? Although I do race (sport class), I mainly love racing my friend on all types of terrain, and I'm worried about flats. Please tell what you know.



Tubeless tyres are mostly a downhill thing, as they are less prone to pinch flats and can be run at very low pressures, and after spending $7500 on a bike, what's another $1000 for wheels and tyres? There are systems that should soon be available which use an easy to fix tyre, and can be used with a tube if needed. Bontrager and Rolf are using this system, and I believe that Maxxis has a system that only requires a valve and rim strip to install tubeless. The Mavic/Michelin/Hutchinson is a sort of a latest and greatest thing, but it costs a lot, and is more difficult to use than these new generation systems.



My brakes on my current freestyle bike are not very good. Could you recommend some good v-brakes in the $20 range?



V-brakes won't work very well with your rotor. The only way to make the rear brakes work is to use a non-linear pull lever and a cable doubler at the brakes. Brakes on freestyle bikes don't work well because you are using all kinds of cable and it gets bent and twisted between the levers and the brakes.

The best thing you can do if everything is properly adjusted is to use clean, fresh cables and lube them well (we use finish line green cap). Also use very good cable housing. Make sure you have fresh brake shoes and clean rims. If you are trying to stop with mags, forget it.


Dear Andy,

I want to get a new fork for my '99 Schwinn Mesa LE. I found one for half the price and called the store where I bought my bike and asked if they would put it on. They said they would but it would cost around $75 and kept on asking why I wanted a spring fork. I was wondering how to install the fork myself without messing up the headset or the stem. Could you please send me a step-by-step procedure for this kind of process? Thank you for your time and consideration.



I don't recommend fork installation for most people. You need some tools to properly remove and install your headset parts, and your new fork will have to be cut to fit your bike. $75 sounds a little high, but you did not buy your fork from your dealer, so most places will charge more for parts purchased elsewhere, and some places will not install such parts at all.



I have the opportunity to buy a used Proflex 454 with a computer accessory for $275. I have just recently started biking and I don't know if this is a good deal or not. I did find something regarding a recall on the front shocks of the Proflex 454, but I am not sure if this is relevant. I would like your opinion on this bike: What is it worth if new? Is it durable, low maintenance bike, etc?

Thank you,
Sam Saville


I would not buy a used full suspension bike unless I knew the owner very well. FS bikes are ridden hard, crashed, abused, and poorly maintained--if at all. This is a generalization, but look what the bike is designed for. Some folks ride pavement and have them serviced twice a year, but that's not normal. K2, the company formerly known as Proflex, formally known as Offroad, has built a reputation for offering low-priced, full suspension bikes. They are not a good quality bike (far better than Muffy, Pacific or Nongoose) and most of their designs are overly complicated and require more maintenance than better bikes. I'm not sure where this bike fits into the lineup or if the price is right, but I do know that the Proflex brand has not been used for about 4 years.



I have an Eddy Merckx Columbus TXS frame which needs repainting. The chainstays, dropouts and front derailleur hanger are chromed but require re-plating. I am having some difficulty finding a place which will re-chrome and repaint. Most shops will repaint only. Any suggestions who will do both and do it well?

Clark Owen


Sorry to be late with the response. Good chrome places are hard to find. I had some work done by Hutton Enterprises of Wintersville, Ohio, and it was very expensive, but probably prettier than what originally came on the Merckx. You can call them at 740-264-6800.


Dear Andy,

I am a 13 year old, from Cave Creek Arizona who loves bikes and biking. I mostly feel comfortable working on my own bikes but, dream about someday working in a bike shop as a mechanic. (Sounds better than a job at McDonald's when I'm old enough to work) I would like to learn more about becoming a mechanic and my Mom said it would be okay for me to go to mechanics school. The problem is, I can't find anywhere to go and the local shops don't seem to know either. Can you tell me where I would find a mechanics school or certification training program? I would really appreciate the info!



You can get training form several places. I think a web address is bikeschool.com. You can call UBI at 541-488-1121. Barnette's is the oldest mechanics school around, but I don't have a contact number handy.



I need a new rear rim. I live very far from a bike shop. Can you recommend a rim that can handle hard hits against curbs and roots. I hope to only replace it this one more time.



You can break anything, regardless of claimed durability or price. If you don't care much about excessive rotational weight ( the worst kind), get a Sun Rhyno lite. It comes in 3 colors, and 20, 24, or 26" sizes.


Andy the Mechanic,

I just bought a road bike frame--just the frame and bike post. I want to get into road biking seriously. How much would all of the extras cost me and what should I look for as a starter who is willing to take it seriously?



If you have to buy everything to build a bike with all new parts, you're looking at way over $400, probably nearer to $500. Fuji now offers a Sora-equipped steel road bike with everything for $500. Unless you have some useable old parts, access to decent used parts or close outs, or the frame is really special, you'd be better off buying a whole bike.


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