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Bikexchange.com logo, link to Home                    Cartoon image of Andy the MechanicAsk the Mechanic
Spring/Summer 1997                    Autumn 96 ATM | Winter 97 ATM

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.

Read the Ask the Mechanic Disclaimer.

Spring/Summer 1997 Questions...

Dear Andy,

I am a low-budget biker. I purchased an old Nishiki from a friend for $10, put on new tires and water bottle. I added a new crank and bottom bracket and grabbed the derailers from a newer old Nishiki.

The frame I'm using now is big. I'm not sure I measured from the right spot exactly, but it is 61 by 61 cm. The newer old Nishiki is 56 by 51 cm. I'm six foot tall.

So what's the questions? Would I be better off throwing everything onto the smaller frame with an extended neck on the handle bars and with the seat moved back as far as possible or stay with what I've got?

The idea is keep it within my budget (cheap!) What do you think?

Martin Malley


Your question is impossible to answer. However one measures frame size is irrelevant--an old 60cm may have a 30" standover height and a short top tube, where a new 58 may have the same standover with a long top tube. These dimensions vary from year to year and vary widely among manufacturers. A person who is 6 feet tall could have 3 feet of leg and 3 feet of torso, or an almost infinite number of combinations. If you are comfortable on the 61 and have enough clearance over the top tube, then that's probably your best bet.


Dear Andy,

I  own a 1994 Bridgestone MB-2. It still has the original Deore LX 7-speed shifters on it, although it has many wonderful upgrades (i.e. Cooks Brothers Crnks, XT V-brakes, etc..) I would like to put a set of XT rapidfire shifters on it. What is the least expensive, and most effective way to make the switch from 7-speed to 8-speed; or is it possible to use 8-speed shifters on a 7-speed cassette by blocking out the 8th speed? I could use your help as quickly as possible. Thank you very much!



The 8-speed shifters will work with 7 cogs, so that would be the cheapest way to go. If you wanted to convert to 8-speed, you'd need to buy an 8 speed freehub body and cassette, and possibly some assorted axle hardware. We convert 7 to 8 speed wheels here for about $70.


Dear Andy,

Read with interest your Interbike Page. I am considering getting a 7-speed internally geared hub but don't know whether to go with the Shimano Nexus, the Sachs or the Sturmey Archer (very new, I understand). My heart wants the Sturmey (I ride one to work everyday) but I've heard that Sturmey's quality has gone downhill of late. I'd appreciate any comments or experience you've had with these. Thanks.

Francis in Philadelphia

Dear Francis,

As much as I hate to recommend that you or anyone else patronize a monopolistic, tyrannical foriegn power whose distribution and pricing policies border on illegal, buy the Nexus. I would strongly suspect you're right about the Sturmey, and I've had a heck of a time finding parts for Sturmey Archer recently. I believe that Pearsons Majestic Saddles is the sole US distributer, and their inventory consists of 2 triggers and a cable. The Sachs hubs are outstanding, but I would get the Shimano, because it is extremely reliable, easy to adjust and maintain, and you should be able to get parts for it for at least 3 years. We have sold a few Gary Fisher Alfrescos with Nexus 7, and I was very impressed with the smoothness, ease of shifting, gear range, and the Nexus brake. The only improvement to this bike would be to add the Nexus front hub, but that would hike the price quite a bit.


To all you folks with questions pertaining to off-beat bikes:

In the last 10 years, about 100 new brands of bicycles have come and gone. This is primarily due to the mountain bike craze and the ease of having your own special brand built to order in some oriental place (preferably not China). Since the 1890's, when Schwinn, Fuji, and Miyata were new companies, how many thousands of companies have come and gone? If you have a 1975 Lambert, I can probably fix it (I once had one), but I can't tell you much about it. So, as much as I'd like to help you folks find out about your Kettlers, Gitanes, Grandis's, genuine Schwinns, and Dinglehoffers, I'm a mechanic, not a curator. Also, I plain old get hostile about anything with an internal combustion engine (except for an occasional Wizzer in pristine condition).


Dear Andy,

How would I go about disassembling a set of 1993 Shimano Ultegra STI lever to clean them?

David Faller

Dear David,

I would only disassemble these levers if I was experiencing a problem--you can do a fairly good clean and lube with Finish Line Eco-tech degreaser and a good light spray oil. If you must, you can peel off the name plate on the front of the lever, remove the small stopper screw revealed when you push the lever toward the center of the bike and remove the fixing bolt (usually an 8mm bolt--use an 8mm socket). Some older STI levers require a few special "tools" to get to or beyond this point--I'm not sure whether yours falls into this category or not. Assuming that standard tools will get you to this point, the plastic lever cap, spring and dust seal will pull off. Shimano suggests swishing the lever in kerosene and allowing it to dry. I guess that this accomplishes both cleaning and lubing; however, I'd rather use something a little more environmentally friendly and less toxic (Eco-tech). Do not attempt to dissassemble the lever any further. I know this sounds a bit vague, but essentially you just remove the lever, clean it, lube it and bolt it back on.


Dear Andy,

I have a Giant Kronos road bike that has a sealed cartridge bottom bracket. I have around 1500 miles on the bike. When will this bottom bracket need replaced? Thanks.

Bill C.

Dear Bill,

Most likely, your bike has a Shimano un-72 or cheaper bottom bracket. These things can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 5 years. As a rule, it's cheap and easy to replace them every 2000 miles (more frequently if you get your bike wet a lot), or upgrade to a serviceable bb such as American Classic and probably never replace it if it is properly maintained. Maintenance for the Shimano units involves throwing them away and replacing them.


Dear Andy,

I forgot to ask this question the last time I e-mailed you. I have a 1995 Giant Kronos with EXT-TEC hubs and one of my front cones is starting to pit. The nearest bike shop is 75 miles from my home. Is there a way that I could get this and other small parts through the mail or do I have to take the cone in and show it to the mechanic at a bike shop?

Bill C.

Dear Bill,

Small parts such as axle cones or even axle sets are not generally available through mail order. Most shops do not stock a lot of them, especially exotic (non-Shimano) cones. If you can provide me with very specific information on these hubs, I may be able to find you a pair of cones. I'll see if I have any info on these hubs and if there is a compatible Shimano cone, but I'm really not familiar with this brand.


Dear Andy,

I have a friend's wheel apart on the floor here. We have a Suntour Power Flo 7-speed cassette that is ridden hard on a mountain bike. We diagnosed the symptoms of an excessively slipping cluster to the "Body," that small cylinder that contains the pawls and springs. The lockring that retains these parts is on pretty doggone good.

My question is-and I have a follow up, please-

What direction are these threads? I'm not sure if they are the good old familiar "lefty-loosey, righty tighty" right-handed ones or if they are that elusive left-handed thread reserved for left pedals on one-piece cranks like on my mom's tank bike, right-side fixed cups and some 80's Chrysler car lugnuts if my Chilton's memory serve me correctly. After you tell which it is and I pop it open to find the pawls and springs worn but the body ratchet O.K., will you folks have any of those now ever more rare Suntour small parts available for purchase? Are there any other left-handed threads lurking out there on a bicycle that I should know of before I bust a knuckle or strip something that I assumed was a frozen right-hand thread? (BTW, I work on the Space Shuttle for a living and have yet to encounter a left-handed thread on it).

John Kazeva in DC. Editor note: Check out John's website, Bicycling In the DC Area

Dear John,

Are we talking about a freewheel or a cassette here? Neither one is easily serviced and I wouldn't take the body apart unless you really enjoy tedious, time consuming, aggravating activities. It sounds as if you are describing a freewheel, and the lockring is indeed left hand threaded, and is probably on quite tight (the race on cassette bodies are also left hand threaded and difficult to remove). Suntour parts are difficult to come by. However, if I'm not mistaken, the Powerflow 7 cassettes of 1993-94 were Shimano compatible, so it stands to reason that Shimano freewheels or cassettes of the same vintage should be Suntour compatible.

At any rate, if you want to keep the Suntour drivetrain (because of its incredible precision, no doubt) try slapping on any old freewheel or cassette. Most of the time, the performance is not perceptibly worsened. In fact, I have a cannonade racing bike with a Suntour Sprint drivetrain, and it actually works better with a Sachs freewheel than with a Suntour. Buy a Falcon freewheel for $15, or bolt on a Shimano system for about $50, because you won't find freewheel parts anywhere. Normally, the fixed cup of your English threaded bottom bracket is left hand threaded, as is the left pedal. I think it's one of those French things, like presta valves, that doesn't really have an explanation or function, but won't change anytime soon.


Dear Andy,

I am new to cycling and am having trouble adjusting my rear derailleur. It is a Shimano Acera-X and no matter what I do it does not seem to want to stay in gear 1. Any help you could give me on the adjustment process would be greatly appreciated.

Michael at the University of Florida College of Law

Dear Michael,

You cannot get into first gear for one or more of the following reasons:

1) Your low limit screw is turned too far in. This screw is marked by a barely visible "L" on the back of the derailleur. If you cannot force the derailleur in first gear by pushing it with your hand while turning the crank, turn this screw counter clockwise until you can.

2) Shift cable is too slack. This would have other symptoms, like not being able to shift off the 7th cog. Either tighten the cable with adjusting barrels or by loosening the anchor bolt and pulling the cable tight.

3) Your der. hanger is bent. This should be checked by a competent mechanic and would be indicated when 1 and 2 fail.



My girlfriend bought a 1995 TREK 850 and, a few months after she got it, the headset became stripped. (She never did anything but on-road riding.) Since then, she has purchased another bike but what should we do with the other one? Will TREK fix it if we ask nicely? The dealer was less than receptive to our needs...

Randy in Columbus

Dear Randy,

This is a rather sticky situation, and my opinion may not be very helpful. Trek probably would not fix it unless it has been determined that they used a defective part (possible but not likely). The manufacturer's warranty usually only covers the frame and mechanical parts, and it seems to me that you either have an assembly problem or an abuse/neglect situation. While you say that your girlfriend did not abuse the bike, how long did she ride with a loose head set? If I made a decision in a similar situation and the bike did not come back in for a 30 day check up, then you would have to pay for the repair. Good mechanics should check head sets in the assembly process; however, especially with threaded head sets, there is no guarantee that it won't loosen up the first few rides, especially if it was just casually checked during assembly.

On the bright side, you could only have a stripped locknut, which would only cost a few bucks, and if the entire headset (hopefully not the fork) needs to be replaced, one of equivalent quality should run less than $40 installed.


Dear Andy,

You wrote the most impressive bike trade show report I have ever seen(see Andy's Interbike Feature). So, well, meaningful. I'm a long-time roadie (since 1969) who, when I want to see the natural world, prefer to walk rather than ride. Maybe I'm just chicken to take a header (having never fallen on my bike as an adult save for twice with my wife on a tandem). I have a 1993 Campy Record grouppo using a Campy OR triple crank (they came out with the road triple the next year, and Bicycling Mag started "discovering" what so many bike tourists have known for decades). I use a regular Record rear derailleur, and it works fine. I really like the setup, and find that I stand on the bike a lot more when I can shift. All of that is give you a brief profile of me as a non-techno-phobe but not-quite-techno-weenie. So I was real skeptical of Campy and Shimano's new 9 speed groups, and Bicycling's eagerness to embrace it. There's a nice argument against it in that blatant pro-Campy web page, can't remember the address right now. I've read all of the Rivendall's website, and find their arguments interesting but not compelling. I really like the old bikes, but I think some of the newer developments are improvements if you can afford them (I can, to some extent). Your review was short on hype and long (but not long-winded) on what was useful at the show. I don't see that kind of review elsewhere. So please take my comments on your writing as high praise. Keep it up!

A question:

I weigh 190 lbs., am 6'2" (a little overweight, but it IS that time of year), and broke a couple of spokes in my Schwab-built Record wheels with 32 DT 14 straight gauge spokes and Sun aero sewup rims. So I tightened all the spokes maybe turn. A year later, I discovered that the spokes pulled through the rim (no grommets). The rims stayed true, otherwise.

So I need to buy some new rims. I have built two wheels in my life, and don't want to take the time to build them myself and possibly screw it up. I do most any other kind of bike repair and maintenance, though, and enjoy it. What would you recommend? I'm leaning toward Campy rims, because they're relatively cheap, come with grommets, and are otherwise relatively light. Mavic's GP4 is probably fine but it seems heavy. I don't race, but I do like to accelerate a lot, so I'd prefer something light yet sturdy. Mavic also has new this year a sewup version of their Reflex, which is very light (375g) and hopefully strong. Would that be a good rim? Jobst Brandt says that 14-15-14 gauge spokes make a stronger wheel than straight gauge because the compression loading is absorbed more by the thinner inner gauge, so that the whole head doesn't move around in the hub as much as the straight spoke's head would. If that is true, would the new DT 14-17-14 spokes be better yet?

I'm sure you would have to be more careful with windup when tightening the spokes during building. Can you, at your shop, take my hubs and build me a pair of wheels with these components? How much would you charge (for what rims and spokes). Please let me know.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and keep up your good work. I hope your business thrives. I like what I know about your business style, too.

Thank You,
Mitch Hull, Rheologist, A.E. Staley Mfg. Co., Decatur, IL 

Dear Mitch,

I appreciate your appreciation and I'll help you out if I can. It is a CRIME that Mavic no longer makes a nice light tubular rim like the GL280 or GL330. All of this aerodynamic stuff going on makes it tough on the guy who just likes to climb hills or ride on a comfortable wheel. What's really sad is that most high zoot tubular rims are geared to triathletes, with deep v sections, not much resiliency, and extortionate price tags. When you ride a real stiff bike in a place with chewed up roads (like here in Northern WV), there is nothing like a good (even cheap) tubular tire to take the edge off.

My suggestion is to get a rim with eyelets, with a shallow v section for strength, and use the thin butted spokes. I don't have much experience with the DT spokes you mentioned, but have logged many a brutal mile on Wheelsmith XL-15's on my mountain bike. I've only broken one spoke it 2 years, and that was due to a large stick through the wheel. These skinny butted spokes have to be carefully tensioned, and when they are re-trued, allowances for windup have to be considered. Since Mavic is really not doing much with light weight tubulars right now, I would consider the Campy Seol 88 rim. It's fairly light (about 420 g, I believe) and has grommets and a shallow v section.

Should be had for less than $60 each, and should be pretty tough, especially since you'll be using spokes that are about 6mm shorter than with a traditional box section rim. I usually charge less than $25 per wheel to build, using proper lubrication at the hub and rim, and Wheelsmith spoke prep. The spokes I suggest would cost about $.65 each with brass nipples. The only problem with shipping wheels is that even if they leave here 100% perfect and are professionally packed, by the time they have gone through UPS or other handling, they need to be trued again (if you're lucky, that's all they'll need). Call me (1-304-547-0202) and we can discuss other options.


Dear Andy,

Do you know where I can find Benotto Handle Bar tape? It used to be real
popular but must have taken a big back seat to padded tape. Anyway, if
you're mounting bar end shifters in a clip-on or cowhorn bar and you want
to end the tape inside the bar (held in place by the shifter) only thin
tape like Benotto will work. Easy to work with and looks great too. Any
ideas? Thanks.


Dear Rick,

I thought that Bennotto (or however it's spelled) died a well deserved death in about 1983 or so; however, according to Bikealog, it's available through at least two distributors in the US, presumably still in its slippery, unpadded original state. Contact your local shop, and if you don't have any luck there, check with me. The Bennotto tape is still a bargain at about $5.00 a roll.


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