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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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Summer 2006 Q & A's (20 posted this season, with 1,000+ in past seasons)


I am interested in buying a new full suspension mountain bike. My dilemma: Are hand-made frames better than manufactured frames?

I am looking at buying a Trek fuel EX 8 (standard equipped) which I am told has a man-made frame or a CREST M729FF, Fully 4 LAUDO with the components I want (which is a manufactured frame). Could you tell me the differences between buying one over the other?



You are faced with a primarily philosophical dilemma.  In this country, we have two opposing factions: the union worker, and the Walmart economy. The union worker expects everyone to support his high wages, but he
doesn't necessarily act in turn; while he earns more than his non-union counterpart he wants the most for his dollar, so he shops at online retailers and, even though the official policy is to boycott Walmart, this is where he buys his kids bikes.  I really don't have time, space or energy to get into the Walmart issues, suffice to say they are at least as nefarious economically as the union worker (in fairness, I need to at least take a swat at management, golden parachutes, etc.  Take that, Joe Montgomery, and your $50 million loan from your bankrupt company!) 

What the hell has that got to do with your question? Probably nothing. You'll pay more for a bike built by skilled American craftsmen, and you'll support the economy based around those who build bikes in Wisconsin.  Historically, factories in Taiwan, and now China, have been capable of fabricating extremely high quality framesets in a hurry and at a fraction of the cost of handmade.  Many builders, including Trek, have gone to these factories, not just to save money, but simply put, the Taiwanese have invested heavily in the tooling to
produce stuff which is virtually impossible, or at least impractical to produce in the states. My policy is to sell American (hand made) bikes whenever there is a choice.  If you can afford the Trek, buy it.  If it does not compare favorably with the other bike, and you aren't a union tradesman, buy the Asian bike.  Generally, the quality of the frameset is pretty high, but I'm not at all familiar with the bike in question. I just get irked sore when some guy makes a big deal about buy American, support the union worker, buys a so called American car, and he goes out
and buys a $100
Nextgoose for his kid. Please don't do that.


Hi Andy,

I purchased a Hed disc wheel recently with a 7-speed screw on cassette body. Is there anyway that I can convert it to Shimano 9-speed?

Thanks and regards,
Etienne Bonello


Sounds like you have a hub threaded for a freewheel.  Never say never, but using current parts and technology, there is no way to convert this.  I don't rule out the backyard machinist, but as for just buying something ready made, it does not exist.  You can buy up to 8-speed freewheels, but no 9-speed.


Hi "Ask the Mechanic"

I have an RST Omega T4 fork and bought Avid Ball Bearing Brakes to install on it. The space between the disk and the brake is minimal. I loosened all the red bottoms on the brake, but still do not have space to install it. My rims are Mavic Crossmax.

Please help.



Make sure to install the brake first without connecting the cable, and with both pads all the way out. If you cannot get clearance on one side or the other by sliding the caliper in or out, you can get shims that can either move the disc away from the hub, or that will allow you to get the caliper closer to the hub.  These usually aren't
necessary, but in some cases, must be used.


Hey Andy,

How do you take a gyro off a BMX?



There are a few different systems.  Most common now is the threadless. If this is what you have, remove the top (adjusting cap), and loosen the pinch bolts on the side of the stem.  The stem will then come off, and most of your gyro will come with it.  If your upper cable guide is held on with the upper headset cup (this is usually only the case with threaded systems), you'll need to pound out the upper cup to get this part off, and press it back in.  Neither procedure is recommended if you don't have at least a headset press.  The threaded model comes
apart similarly, except you need to remove the quill stem, unscrew the locknut while holding the upper cup, and unthread both headset pieces to remove the fork.



Do you feel that carbon frames have a certain frame life? I have a 1999 Colnago C40. I have an all carbon Reynolds Ouzo fork. I ride about 6,000 miles per year. I am 160 pounds. There are slight cracks in the head tube, but the local bike shop thinks it is probably just the paint. I am starting to think for safety as well as performance issues, it might be time to upgrade.

Kevin Roberts


I'd be more than a little worried if it were my bike, and my lawyer would smack me if I ever implied that any carbon part was safe if there was any question whatsoever concerning its integrity or safety. The reason we say "catastrophic failure" is that it happens suddenly, without warning, with little if any chance of saving yourself.  There are a couple of possibilities--if you have finish checks, this would have most likely occurred during your first year on the bike, and would be the only thing that I wouldn't be concerned with. However, if you are not 100% sure that this is what you have, you need to have the frame looked at by a carbon expert. Even then, it's often hard to make a determination by non-destructive means.  A new C50 is quite an investment, but much cheaper than risking frame failure on a 50mph descent. If you don't want to send your frame back to Italy, the folks at Calfee Design now repair carbon frames from other manufacturers.  You could call them for an opinion about your frame before you decide what to do. 1-800-965-2171.



I am a first time buyer still under warranty with a Giant tcr 3 composite frame road bike. My question: What is the difference between the 2-crank gear wheel with a 9-gear cassette, which I have, and 3-crank gear wheel with a 9-gear cassette? I will be cycling over steep climbs and long road trips. Which is better?  I am 50 with 20 years as a pro athlete so I am still very fit. Thank you very much.

Bobby Russell


The triple will give you a much lower gear for climbing or traveling with a load. I usually recommend triples for guys over 50, or casual, less competitive riders, or anyone who has knee or other physical issues that pushing too big a gear may aggravate. 

The disadvantages are small; you give up one tooth on your highest gear (2.2 gear inches), and you may have more shifting problems than with a double. I don't advise buying a triple for racing, and I'm more inclined to suggest compact cranksets rather than triples for most applications, especially if you just bought a bike and don't
want to replace most of the drive train. The compacts are a compromise between standard doubles and triples, and offer the shifting advantages of the double, with nearly as low a gear as a triple. If you are getting up your hills without excessive pain and suffering, you're okay with the gears you have. Until you get too old or life gets too hilly, use the double.



I read a reply you gave someone regarding Roval Aero spokes. You said that Bill Lewis in Texas could supply them.
Could you tell me how to get in touch with Bill, as I just got some Roval tubular wheels and need to replace some of the spokes?

I'd appreciate any help you could give me in this matter.

Miami, Florida


Their website is www.wmlewisimports.com. I don't know what impact this will have on your spoke search, but Specialized bought the rights to market Roval wheels last year.  These wheels are not the same as the old ones.  Try WM Lewis; they should at least be able to direct you if they are out.



I am looking to get a bicycle mechanic stand for my husband for his birthday and I can't tell what the best product would be for him. I don't know if it matters, but he is a mountain biker.

Your help is greatly appreciated.



There are several repair stands at various prices, so I guess it depends on how much love (or cash) you have.  You can't go wrong with Park, starting at under $100 for the PCS-9.  The more expensive Park stands, as well as the Topeak and Ultimate work stands, are quicker and easier to set up and adjust.  I like the Topeak because it is
easy to set up and has a digital scale, so you can settle weight arguments right there in the workshop. Topeak, Ultimate, and upper level Park stands come in at $250-$300.



I am building a hub assembly for a trike and I cannot find dimensioned drawings of disk brake mounts. I know that there is 51mm between the mounting holes but I need to determine their precise location relative to the center of the hub as well as diameter of the holes. I would also like to find standard hub/brake disc dimensions. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Graham Gallamore
Oklahoma University
Mechanical Engineering Department


I don't think that there really is a standard here; each manufacturer makes a big rotor and a small rotor, but the actual diameter of each varies slightly.  For 6" rotors, the lower rear hole is around 45mm from the hub center; the lower front is about 55mm for direct mount, slightly more for most forks that require adapters, and this can
vary slightly with the fork manufacturer and model. The rocket scientists at Touchstone Research Laboratory (www.trl.com) made a 'bent to demonstrate one of their proprietary materials, and I sold them Hayes brakes, so they just determined placement based on the brakeset.  Caliper mounting bolts are normally M6x20.  You might get better info from www.hayesbrake.com by calling their tech guys at 1-888-686-3472.



I have a trike bike that I use at work. It is a Mohawk. I have e-mailed them twice to get parts for the bike. It needs the bearings were the brake is. I think they call it a drum. Can I get it at a local bike shop or order it from them?

Chuck and Donna

Chuck and Donna,

I am not familiar with this company; however, bearings are more or less standard. If it is a sealed bearing, get the number off the rubber seal (should be 6001, 6900,  or something like that) or remove it and take it to a good bike shop. If you have cup and cone retainers, you should take the assembly out to determine the replacement.  If you have cartridge bearings and know the number, I probably have it in stock.



Could you help me figure out what derailleur hanger fits a Jamis 2005 Ventura Sport? Please help!



Any shop can order Jamis hangers from QBP now--used to be you had to be a Jamis dealer, which I am not. I have seen an online hanger source, but the name escapes me. Anyhow, you just need to know the brand and year in most cases.



Speedometer stopped working. All parts intact. Need replacement cable and speedometer for DXC 5000 Dual Action Cycle  (Exercise Bike). Live in Ashtabula, Ohio. Can you help?

Thank you for your time,


Home of the Ashtabula crank, no doubt.  You can buy a generic speedometer cable, and it may or may not work.  They aren't exactly standard, and my supplier only sells one type.  I usually install bicycle computers on exercisers with defunct speedometers, as it is simpler to replace a battery every 2-3 years than to try and find a cable.  Also, the cyclometers are much more accurate.



I've been given a 5-speed bicycle that has the skinny tires on it. I would like to change them out for mountain bike tires. Is this possible? I am guessing that I would have to get different rims as well. Am I correct? Thank you for your advice.

The Schurmans


If your tyres have a fractional size, like 26x1- 3/8", you can only use that size of tyre on your rim. If your tyres have a decimal size, like 26x1.5", you can put any decimal size tyre of the same diameter on that rim, up to the limits of your frame.  If you want ATB tyres on a fractional sized bike, sometimes it's possible to change wheels,
but often you run into brake problems due to the location of the rim in relation to the caliper.

PS: You can also change wheels if you have 27x1-1/8 to 1- 1/4" tyres (use 700c rims, up to 45mm widths are available) or you can buy 27 x 1- 3/8" tyres.


This is a very simple question and I am looking for advice from someone who has obviously been around bikes for a long time.  I would like to know if there is a chain lube or other automobile lubricant, etc. that is bombproof for chains.  I have a commuter bike (60's Cruiser) that is left outside my apartment in the rain/snow/etc. and I want a lube that actually protects the chain from rust.  I know this is neglect but there is no room in my apartment for another bike!

A thousand thanks for your help.

Chad Baker
Boulder, Colorado


Since it's a cruiser, you probably don't have to worry about clean, light, high tech lubes.  I hesitate to recommend grease, but it has been done. I would buy myself a KMC rust buster chain, and use a heavy lube like Finish Line Green Cap.


Hi Andy,

I've recently bought a 2004 Litespeed Tuscany. It's an ex-demo so it has only done a few hundred miles but it has a SRAM PC59 chain on an Ultegra 9-speed groupset. 

The drivetrain is very noisy and I can't adjust it to get it to run smooth across the whole cassette--the chain appears to jump off the jockey wheel every six links. The SRAM chain geometry seems a bit different to the genuine Shimano chain. Have you experienced any incompatibly between Shimano and SRAM gears? My thoughts are to buy a genuine Shimano chain. Any ideas?

Rick Palmer
New Plymouth, New Zealand


I wouldn't say that SRAM chains are not compatible with Shimano, but Shimano stuff works better with Shimano chains.  If you are experiencing noise or sluggish shifting, switching to a Shimano chain can clean it right up.  I'll go out on a limb and suggest that regardless of your drive train, switching to the DA/XTR chain will make more than a psychological improvement in performance. Try it, it's only $30.  As always, new chain = new cassette for best



I recently replaced the chain on my mountain bike which happens to be a 9 speed. I've done this many times before no problem but this time I encountered a tight link. Since my chain is a Shimano 9 speed it does not fit into the tight link cradle of my Park chain break tool. I tried using the flex method using my thumbs but I could not loosen it. My husband even tried flexing it but even he wasn't strong enough. I ended up taking the bike to my local bike shop. Any advice on how to fix this problem should it happen again the next time I replace my chain? 

Thank you for your help!
Susan J. Bush


Usually if you use a good tool that has a fresh pin, you can work this out. The beauty of chains by SRAM and Wipperman is that this problem is completely eliminated by using connecting links.  I highly recommend middle priced SRAM chains, unless you have a sensitive drive train that only works with Shimano ones.


Hello Bikexchange and Andy,

I have a 1992 Cannondale Delta V 2000 with a blown out Marzocchi front shock cartridge. It won't hold air... at all. Do you know of anyone or anyplace where I can find a new old stock or replacement for my most glorious bike?

All the Very Best!


I assume that you need a Headshock cartridge.  I don't know if newer cartridges are compatible (most likely not), so as for new parts, you'll need a fork.  I just referred a guy to Hippie Tech Suspension for Rockshox repair; these guys have collected NOS parts for most suspensions, and they have a highly touted repair service.  If you don't want to spring for a new fork (and I really have to put on my aluminum police hat here--you really should consider replacing this entire frame, especially if you have ridden it off road) I'd check them out.  Keep it in perspective, as a new fork will cost more than the bike is worth, and if you get it repaired, you still need a new frame, IMHO as they say.


Dear Andy,

First, I enjoy your site very much. 

Here's my problem: I want to rebuild a rear wheel, but the axle nut on one side is stuck. I can't get any leverage to remove it because the axle just spins.

What can I do? Is there some way to secure the axle from the other side without damaging the threads, so as to get the leverage I need to turn the nut? It is a puzzle. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.



If your axle is turning, secure it with the nut on the opposite side. Shoot the offending article with penetrating oil and try loosening it.

You sometimes have to work between the left and right sides to get them both off.  You may need a cone wrench to hold the axle in place while you unscrew the nut as well, but usually the nut on the other side will do.



Where can I find a bicycle mechanics school in Canada? If there is not one in Canada can you recommend one elsewhere?



Don't know about Canada, but if you live in B.C., it's not too far to Portland OR, home of United Bicycle Institute (www.Bikeschool.com, I believe). Someday, I want to discuss US Imperialism with a Canadian (ex. the recent unauthorized sub in Canada's territorial waters, the Marc Emery case, etc.). Love my country, fear the government.  Fix bikes and be happy.


Hi Andy,

I've done some off-road riding on my old, chunky, cheap Raleigh with no suspension and gears that don't shift properly. I bent the frame when the rear wheel slipped out of the slot on an uphill section. Now I want to get a decent bike purely for off road as I now have an old road bike for commuting.

The thing is, I've been looking around the Internet and my local bike shops for ages and, not knowing much (well, anything to be honest) about this kind of thing, I just can't seem to distinguish the genuinely good deals from the gimmicks and junk that I know must make up a good proportion of the offerings in my price range. I'm looking to spend about 300 ($530) but I could go up to 350 ($620) at a push. 

Could you recommend a good all-round bike for the money? I've heard the Claude Butler Cape Wrath is very good for the money but it's just out of my price range. Would it be worth going over budget for?

Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated.



This is tough for me because I don't think that Claude Butler is distributed in the US, so I don't exactly know what we are comparing to. If I'm not mistaken, most US bikes would cost too much in the UK due to tariffs, otherwise, I'd highly recommend something like a Gary Fisher Wahoo Disc, at under $500.  While I don't know Claude, I do know
Falcon, so I'd presume that the Falcon stuff is still pretty good.

Also, I did google up a few positive reviews on the bike in question. My suggestion is to avoid department store junk and mail order. Buy your bike from someone who can fix it if things go wrong.


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