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Bikexchange.com logo, link to Home          Send your questions to bicycle expert Andy Wallen. (Cartoon image of Andy)Ask the Mechanic

Winter 1998             Autumn 97 | Spring/Summer 97 | Winter 97 | Autumn 96

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.

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Winter 1998 Questions...

Hey Andy,

I just recently purchased a Bomber Z2 for my Dean Ti Frame. I will be installing a King H/S in it. My question is the Bomber came with a steerer tube that was separate from the crown. I have assembled bikes in the past (mostly roadies), but am a bit confused with the Bomber fork. When I install the steerer tube into the crown, should I "push" the steerer tube up to the point that the lip sits flush with the bottom of the crown, or do I leave some room there? I believe that the lip should sit flush. Is this correct?

Thanks for your advice,


I hesitate to advise anyone with a question like this. If you don't know what to do, ask yourself "Should I risk life and limb to save a few bucks by installing this myself?" Do you have a torque wrench calibrated to inch pounds? At any rate, the steerer tube should be flush with the bottom of the crown assembly, and every bolt on the fork and head set needs to be torqued exactly to spec, by someone who knows exactly how to install forks, unless you'd like to risk your teeth, collarbone and expensive frame on a hack job.



I have a Trek 950. I use it mostly on road. I need a tire that will hug the road and still be wide enough to go off road with.

Thank you,


There are several good road type tires that work off road as well. We've recommended the Club Roost Cross Terra for years. It comes in 2 widths and can be had for less than $40/pair. The new Bontrager Revolt SS is a very good high performance tire for about $65-75/pair.



I'm an avid road and mountain biker, I have a question about my '92 Giant ATX 770 (I know, its heavy I should replace it). It has 7spd LX, and was running fine until I replaced the chain (myself). It's used quality Sachs chain, and just counted links on the old chain to measure.

The problem is:

When under heavy torque the chain slips off the front ring and the top of my knee slams into the bar end, OUCH! On top of that my buddies blast past me, I lose my groove and get grease all over myself. I was thinking about replacing the rear cassette but the teeth appear to be in decent shape. One buddy suggested it is a front deraileur adjustment?


Bob Judge


Always replace cassettes when replacing chains, unless you replace your chain every time you ride, in which case cogs and or sprockets will not get worn down by a misshaped chain. I personally replace my mountain bike chain 4 times a year and consequently don't have to replace cassettes and sprockets as often, and also this helps prevent chain breakage. Buy a new cassette, and probably a new middle chainring.



I have an aging Nishiki Cascade '89.Can I replace my cantilevers with Shimano V-brakes? On a cheaper note, What kind of brake pads am I looking for, the don't have a post, just a place to screw the bolt in. Can I put the "newer" brake pads with posts onto my old cantelever brake?



You can use v-brakes if your bike does not have a u-brake on the chainstays. If your rear brake is located on the seatstays the way god intended, then your options are either get v-brakes and levers ($85-$400) or get v-brakes and adapters (still around $80 minimum). It sounds like you have older style cantis with threaded posts. There are many excellent brake pads that fit that type--Kool Stop, Scott Matthauser, Dia Compe, even Shimano.



Way out here in these Islands it is necessary to do your own maintenance. I would like to know the correct "feel" for adjusting the bearing play in standard bottom brackets, that is, those with cups and cones.

I have been adjusting them so that a barely perceptible play can be felt. I snug them up and then very delicately back them off. The problem is that they don't seem to last as long as they should. Perhaps only about 6000 miles till the bearing races become fretted. I usually have the same problem with wheel bearings and head sets. I have been told that I'm setting them too loose and that they will last longer with some pre-load. If so, how much?



It is very difficult to determine how much play is too much. For BB's I like to attach the right crank arm and adjust so that there is no perceptible play. When done with the adjustment, grab the right crank arm and wiggle it to detect play. When you are satisfied with the adjustment, remove the crank arm to make sure that the spindle rotates smoothly. This process can be very time consuming, even on a perfectly adjusted and maintained bottom bracket.


Dear Andy,

I am thinking about converting my campy 8-speed to 9-speed. However, I use trispokes with a Sachs freewheel. Are there any 9-speed freewheels I can use instead? Do you have any suggestions? Any 9-speed freewheels designated to come on the market soon that I can possibly use? Thanks for you time.

Steve Grusis
Mid-Cal Racing
Fresno CA

Dear Steve,

At this point, no 9-speed freewheels are available, and I rather doubt that they ever will be, as this is considered to be obsolete technology. Theoretically, since a Shimano 9-speed cassette fits on an 8-speed cassette body, then a 9-speed cog and spacer kit could be designed to fit on an 8- speed freewheel body. However, it's not likely to ever happen.


Dear Andy,

I have an 18-month-old R-500 triple Altus setup and at the front low area of each pedal stroke it clicks. Only in the middle chainring. Not loudly but irritatingly. We have switched chain, bottom bracket, and pedal. Cannondale is sending a new crankset but I'm wondering if all those "weird" teeth on the Altus chainrings may not be the problem. Waddya think? I'm also 200 pounds. If that makes any difference..

Tom J.

Dear Tom,

All Cannondales click and creak! That's why you bought it isn't it? Eliminating creaks and clicks from aluminum frame bikes can be extremely difficult. The last time I silenced a Cdale, I charged the customer $85, and he got a bargain. If it truly occurs only in the middle ring, then either a chainring bolt is loose or there is a problem with that ring. However, the source of this sound could be almost anything, from the handlebars to the seatpost---the bottom bracket is also a prime suspect. If you are over 200 lbs., I would suggest upgrading to a forged crank, just for increased strength.

Good luck,

Dear Andy,

I have a 1998 Trek 730 and would like to change front sprockets from 42 teeth to 46. I'm a new rider. After asking a local bike shop owner who told me it would cost $300-$400 for the new cranks and derailed I was a little disappointed, since the bike cost me $400. Can you help me?


Dear Robert,

Changing things on this bike is an expensive proposition, but not that bad. You have a compact drive system, and the front derailleur will not work well with much more than a 42, although we have gone to 46 with a noticeable loss of performance. The best thing to do is to give up on your low gear, get a regular crankset (24-34-46/48), or a road triple (30-42-52/53).This will cost you $75-$250, depending on quality. It's likely that you'll need a new bottom bracket at about $30, and definitely a front derailleur at $30-$50. So that puts your parts total at a minimum of $135, and I would expect a labor charge of at least $25. There are really no other options. I generally try to steer customers who want higher gearing than 44-11 toward road/touring bikes.


Dear Andy,

I would like to get a new road bike and am unsure about what dimensions I should look for. I am 6'2" tall. I do occasional rides of 50 miles at a leisurely pace, not a racer.. I don't have a whole lot of money to spend since I'm raising two sons that suck the money out of me. I do, however, like to ride. I would like to know what I am looking for as much as possible before I go and purchase the wrong cycle.

Presently I have a Schwinn Guadalupe road bike and I am having trouble finding parts for it.......its an old bike but has served me well.

Any advice?
Thanks, Mark :-)

Dear Mark,

Getting a bike to fit requires more than just your height. It is not likely that a good fit can be achieved without going to a shop and at least trying 2 or 3 different frames. All brands are not the same--You may like the standover height on a brand x 62, but the top tube might be too short. Stems, seatposts, and handlebars can be changed, but the basic frame fit is still critical. Also, keep in mind that while one can buy a fairly nice atb for under $600, even Taiwanese road bikes are much more than that at entry level. Beware or those "made in USA of foreign and domestic parts" frames, as these are usually of Asian origin (stuffed into a box in the USA). Usually, a person of your size can find a good price on a close out bike, as most manufacturers sell out of 52-58 cm frames, but often have leftovers in the 48, 50, 60, and 62 sizes. Check out the 1997 or '98 Lemond bikes. They are a very good value, starting at about $750.

Good luck,

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