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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.

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Summer 2000 Questions & Answers ...

(50 Q&A's Posted This Season)


I have a Softride Powerwing triathlon bike with 650c wheels. The guy who had it before me put an aftermarket titanium cassette on it. My mechanic can't get it dialed in correctly. The shifts are very noisy.

All my other components are shimano, so I want to replace it with a shimano cassette. The cassette on it right now is an 8spd with gear ratio 11-21. I can't find a shimano 8-speed cassette with gear ratio 11-21. I was wondering if it was possible to buy a 12-23 8-speed ultegra cassette and take off the 23 and add an 11-tooth Dura-Ace 7700 end cog. Would this give me the smooth quite shimano shift I have had on all my other bikes. Any suggestions or ideas would be appreciated.

Andy Jordan


Ti cassettes usually don't shift well, and the weight is rather a non-issue due to its location. You can get Dura Ace or Ultegra cassettes in 12-21 or 12-23. I'm 97% sure that your 11-tooth cog is a shimano cog, so you can just replace the 12 with your 11 to get your top gear, and your shifting will be pretty good. You'll have a small jump from 11 to 13, but that should not present a problem.



I have a used mid-80s model Cinelli road bike full campy equipped. A nice bike. I get a lot of front end side to side shimmy above 22 miles per hour. The headset is tight and the wheels are balanced. I'm racing this bike and can't take my hands off the bars to put a jacket on or eat while racing. It would kill me. What's the problem? How can I fix it? Would a carbon fork help?

Sierra Vista, AZ


A bike this old is bound to have some worn out parts. I'd guess that the headset is worn out. You could have a wobbly tire, which can be hard to detect, and can even happen on a new tire. A bent fork is usually obvious, and would cause pulling to one side more so than a vibration. I suggest replacing the front wheel with a new tire on it first. This would eliminate the hub, rim, and tire. If you still have the problem, get a good quality (campy, delta, or ritchey) headset. While I really don't think it's the fork, a carbon fork makes a nice upgrade in terms of weight, comfort, and control.


Dear super mechanic guy,

I'm getting a new road bike and want to get the right crank arm length. I'm 35, 5'11" and 150 pounds, I live in a hilly area (Seattle), I like to spin at 85-95 rpms and I plan to race this season (mostly road races with maybe a few crits). I've just become a serious roadie in the last nine months. My current bike's cranks are 170mm. Too short? What's your opinion?

dave d


This is one of those physical questions that requires examination of bicycle frames, cranks, and body parts. In general, if you are 5'11'', I'd probably go with 172.5 cranks. However, if you are 5'11'', and your legs are 27", a shorter crank would be better, and if you have 30'' legs, a 175 might be better. It has been demonstrated that longer cranks produce higher speeds, although the long held belief is that shorter cranks are better for high rpms, and longer cranks are better for mashing.



My name is Michael and I'm a relocated New Yorker living in Reno, Nevada.

I've been looking for months via telephone & internet to locate a size 16 cycle shoe (mountain, custom, whatever). And please do not tell me about that custom shoe place in Colorado (Lamson)--they are not in business anymore. I cannot be the only person in the United States who needs a size 16 cycle shoe. Thanks!



As you probably know, stock shoes usually top out at size 48, or about 13. The biggest off the shelf shoe I have ever seen is the Diadora Jalapeno, size 52, which is about a 15. I happen to have this one in stock, and measured from the toe to heel inside, and it is 332mm. This shoe is average to slightly wide, and sells for $75. If you're interested, email at this address.

Other than that, there are places that do custom fits. In the past year, VeloNews did an article about a guy who does pro fit custom shoes. Unfortunately, I do not know who or where he is, but maybe you can look through 1999 VeloNews until you find it. Expect to pay as much for shoes as you did for your bike.

You may want to contact Leonard Zinn, who specializes in big and tall stuff. You can find his ad in most any VeloNews.


Dear Andy,

I'm fixing up my road bike and need some "how-to advice" on replacing the handle bar tape. Any and all help will be appreciated.



This is difficult to put into words. While I really hate "Bicycling", a recent issue--January, I believe--had a nice article with pictures, and it would be worth seeking out. If you use cork, start at the bottom end and tape the end of the tape, at the stem end, with electrical tape. You can start vinyl at the stem and smash it into the end of the bar with the plug. This also works for cotton tape. Use short pieces of tape to cover the brake bands, and overlap about 3/16".



How does the Ishiwata tubing of the '80s compare tensile-strength wise to today's True Temper?

James Humberg


I don't have any objective evidence of anything, but my opinion is that this tubing is probably at least as strong and almost as light as the best cromo in use today (there are different grades of Ishwata, and there are different grades of True Temper: cheap Ish is as good as cheap TT, and expensive Ish is as good as expensive TT). Now, there are some exceptionally strong and light tubesets that have come into use in the last few years, stuff like Reynolds 853 and Columbus Nivacrom, Genius, etc., but for dollar spent, the Ishwata stuff is pretty good.



I am looking for a front wheel drive gas engine for a bicycle. I saw them when I was in France and have seen them on rare occasions in the US. Do you have a source that I might contact in the USA to purchase one?



Fossil fueled anythings are contrary to bicycle philosophy: they pollute, they are heavy, they void warranties, they make noise, they stink, and I don't like them. If you must have power, look at something like Zap (www.Zap.com) electric power. It's cleaner, as cheap, can be charged without using non-renewable resources (although it is primarily charged by plugging it in to your home AC outlet which probably burns coal or plutonium, or somebody dammed a perfectly good river to provide you with electricity). These units will fit almost any bicycle, and are a fairly good compromise between human and inhuman power. If you are in the market for a bicycle, EV Global makes some very nice electric powered vehicles.



I've a 1986 Centurion Ironman women's proportional model bike in almost mint condition. It was $600 or so new.

Any idea what I should ask for it now?



I talk to folks all the time who seem to have a notion that bikes don't depreciate. Nothing is further from the truth, and the incredible strides in frame and component technology in the last decade have made old bikes worth even less. What you have is a decent frame, and road bikes with similar frames but much better (at least better performing) components start at about $600. My general rule for trade in purposes is to depreciate a perfect bike by 35% after the next model year comes in, and 10 % for each model year to follow, which makes your bike worth about $100. Advertise it on the internet for $350, and if you get more than $100, consider yourself lucky. I've seen some used bikes purchased on the net that I wouldn't give $50 for that people plopped down $150-$250, so rely on the gullibility of strangers.



Can you recommend a book that will tell a non-mechanic how to adjust the new Shimano 9-speed brake swing shifting system?

thanks for your help,


Probably your best bet is to acquire the instructions that should have been provided with your bike or group purchase. These are referred to as Shimano technical manuals, and you can probably get them from Shimano, or maybe on their website. There are tons of books, and if I didn't harbor an intense dislike for Bicycling, I'd recommend their Complete Guide to Bicycle Repair, available from American Cycling Publications (800-282-2453).



I have a Litespeed Tachyon with a Profile BDC bladed carbonfiber fork. The fork also has a carbon steerer. My problem is that I cracked the steerer by overtightening the stem (threadless). Is my fork just junk now or can a new steerer be put on or is there a way for me to fix it myself? I really don't want to pay the money for a new fork if I don't have to.

Dave Crosby,
Oahu, Hawaii


Get a torque wrench, for God's sake, this ain't no Huffy! Your options are...
1) See if Profile can glue a new steerer on and how much it will cost (this probably is not an option as I believe this fork is made in Taiwan, and I know that this process for a bike frame is about $300)
2) Buy a new fork and see if you can salvage the part of the steerer tube below the crack and sell it to someone with a smaller frame--make damn sure that if you cut off the cracked portion, the crack is completely excised, or you could have a liability issue, I would not resell the fork with out complete assurance that the crack is gone, like have it x-rayed or something.
3) Lop off your head tube to fit the part of the fork that is not cracked (that's a joke, son, but people do stuff like that all the time and think nothing of it). It's possible that profile has some sort of crash replacement policy which might allow you to buy a new fork for less than full retail. I'm not sure about this, but it's worth looking into.



The bike in question is a Schwinn Le Tour (Circa 1988). It has about 900-1000 miles. After they put the new freewheel on it it started to develop the annoying habit of "slipping" gear teeth when I start up from a stop. It does not actually change gears..it just slips about 1/4 to 1/2 crank rotation. This happens when I'm really torquing on the peddles...like when I'm attempting a quick start in heavy traffic from a stop. I usually start off with the chain on the middle to larger (not largest) gear on the freewheel.

Its been suggested that the deraileur is out of adjustment..or the chain's worn..or a combination. I can put on a new chain..but I can't find a manual so that I can attempt to adjust the deraileur. It's a "Suntour Accushift 3040 Blaze"...standard on that bike. Any suggestions on where can I find one?



Suntour, as related to the product in question, has been out of business for several years, and compatible parts are not available. Whatever sort of freewheel you have on there may work with your drivetrain only by coincidence. The problem you describe is the old chain disagreeing with the new gears. You should always replace chains and cogs at the same time on a bike this old. If a new chain does not take care of the problem, then it is most certainly a compatibility issue between the freewheel and the shifters, and the only solution is a drivetrain replacement. I have had some luck with Shimano cogs and Suntour drivetrain parts. It is not perfect, but in many cases works at least as well as the Suntour cogs did in the first place.



I want to build a multi-geared unicycle, and not a giraffe. A very elegant solution would be a multi-speed fixed-gear hub. As far as I can tell, these no longer exist except in museums and a deraileur (not allowing the chain to move backwards) would not suffice. Do you have any ideas?

I have access to a machine shop.

By the way, Cool Site!



You could get a SRAM, Shimano, or Rohloff internally geared hub and jam the freehub mechanism so that it no longer freewheels. People often do this without trying. It's an expensive proposition, but probably the only one. Even a lowly 3 speed hub will cost about $50 (used ones are widely available) and the SRAM Spectro 12 speed fetches close to $400.


PS. Once you get the gear thing figured out, go full suspension, with a Gazzolodi 3.0 tyre.


I have a second hand Proflex 454 with a Fastrax front fork suspension. I need to know about maintaining that Fastrax suspension properly. Unfortunately I have no manual, the Fastrax was added after the bike was made by Proflex, and I cannot seem to find a web site or e-mail address for Fastrax.

Is there anything you can offer to help me?

Thanks very much,
Marc H. Richman


If you bought a second hand Proflex, chances are they saw you coming. I have never heard of Faxtrax, and doubt that the company exists or that the fork was ever meant to be serviced in the first place.



I have a 26" Montague bicycle that folds at the seat tube and can be checked on airplanes. I've upgraded most of the components and converted it to pretty close to a road bike with 1.25 tires, etc. I would like to upgrade the fork and possibly replace the mountain bike bars with drop bars.

What I'd like to get is a threadless fork that is reasonably light, and would accept the 26" rims. This would also allow lots of options for the stem. Where can I find the parts, and is there any problem with compatibility with the frame that now has a conventional head set?

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You'll need to replace the stem and headset to use a threadless fork. Good quality rigid mountain bike forks are hard to find. I can probably get a Tange (app. $50) or Kinesis (app. $130) in either 1 or 1 1/8.



I have a Cannondale road bike that I need a 1-1/4 threadless stem for. I have searched all over but no luck. Any suggestions?

Doug Caporrino


You either need a 1'' stem or a headshock stem. You can only buy headshock stems from a Cannondale dealer. They are available in a variety of lengths and angles and sell for around $50.



I am trying to find information on Beach and Cruiser style bicycles manufactured at the present time. Can you give me a list of some of these manufacturers please?

Thank You,


Literally everybody has a cruiser these days. Most of them are Asian made, and sell for $150 and up. Electra specializes in cruisers and probably offers more options, at a higher price. We have sold Hampton Cruisers, Jamis Earth Cruisers, and Fuji Captivas. Hamptons and Fujis are the cheapest, and it is rather pointless to compare bikes at this level. They all have 1 to 7 speeds and weigh as much as a compact car, so buy the Fuji and save a few bucks.



My son has a 6-month-old Royce Union dual suspension bicycle. It has Ballistic front shocks. Today, the "shock-part" of the fork broke off clean. It broke just below the weld. Have you heard anything about a recall from Ballistic? We can't seem to locate Royce Union's phone number in the owner's manual. My son lives on his bike, and we hope to have it repaired as quickly as possible. Any advice you can pass along will be appreciated.

Thank you,
Amy Walker


There are so many cycling related products recalled that it is almost impossible to be aware of all of them. I tend to only notice ones that have an impact on independent bike shops. I did a little research, and there is a recall of Rand/Ross suspension forks, but I'm not sure it that's a Ballistic. My experience has been that the Ballistic fork and especially the Royce Union bicycle are of such poor quality that one should expect things to break if the bicycle is ever actually ridden. However, a few companies (Vision, for one) use this cheezy fork on their high dollar recumbents, so that would indicate that either the fork is not as bad as I think it is (unlikely), or that they can make decent money charging customers $200 for a barely functional $69.95 shock absorber. Check the CPSC web site at cpsc.gov to further investigate the situation. I have no idea how to get in touch with Royce Union or Ballistic, but if the bike is only 6 months old and has not been abused, you should be able to get it fixed where you bought it, as almost all bikes and parts have at least a 1-year year warranty.



Where can I get a right side SunTour XC thumb shifter, in chrome ?



Suntour, as it used to be, ceased to exist about 6 years ago. Your chances of finding a match are near zero. To my knowledge, there are very few if any sources of old Suntour stuff, a lot of companies bought up the right ones to use for rear shock controls, but I wouldn't count on getting one. We have a few, 7 speed, I believe. If you can tell me more specifically what you have (what year and how many speeds) There's a long shot chance that we have one in stock.


Dear Andy,

My bike has a bent rim and I would like to try to repair it myself. Could you tell me how to straighten out the bent rim and what tools I need to do so.

Thank you,


Bent is a relative term. Rims that are truly bent can't be satisfactorily straightened. Steel rims that are only marginally out of true in any direction are usually a lost cause. If your aluminum rim is not true, it can usually be straightened; however, there are times when even the best of rims is ready for the recycle bin, and the average Joe probably can't make this call--in other words, some people work for hours on something that cannot be repaired, because they don't know better.

At the very least, you'll need some sort of truing jig and a spoke wrench. As for how to proceed, the principle is simple, but the act requires experience and knowledge which I really can't impart here. You basically either tighten spokes on the opposite side of the spot or spots where the rim contacts the indicator of your jig, or you loosen the spokes on the same side of that spot or spots. You must also keep in mind that excessive tightening of the same few spokes in order to achieve lateral trueness will create flat spots (out of round, or not radially true) and will probably screw up the rim centering (wheel dish), so you must constantly be aware of all 3 components of wheel truing, even if your objective only involves one.

Most folks should just take it to a shop. There, usually for no charge, they can tell you to scrap it or they can fix it for about $10-$12.



I am doing a report on bike tire sealants. I would be glad if you were to write me on your opinion on this. Thank you for your help.



I'm not sure what specific information you require, but in general, Slime seems to be the product of choice, and for the most part, it works. We use a similar product (MK 30, with Kelvar) with overall good results. Some time ago, there were some environmental concerns with these products, and I'm not sure whether the products were re-formulated, or that the controversy just died down.

The advantages are that sealants coagulate when there is a small puncture, so quickly that air loss is minimal, usually not noticed. They work on the most common punctures, usually up to 1/8 " in size. Flats are usually caused by thorns, tacks, pieces of wire, or small shards of glass, which are exactly what sealants seal. I know people who have ridden in desert areas where a large thorn called a "goat head" literally destroys untreated inner tubes, but don't flat Slime filled tubes.

The biggest disadvantages of these products are added rotational weight and difficult installation. I have put Slime into a presta tube, and it is not recommended. If you have presta valves, it is best to buy the pre-treated tube. We've had difficulty getting it into certain brands of shrader tubes as well. Also, this stuff does not work after the fact; it must be installed before the tube gets punctured. There are products that claim to seal an existing puncture, and I have yet to see satisfactory evidence that they actually work.



How you doin? I've got a Haro Backtrail X2, and I've got bent axles, I bend axles like they were like butter, all I do is grind on cement ledges.

My friends do the same and don't bend their axles. I do have 14mm axles. My question would be... what can I do? I also have another question, what does the "t" mean when you buy an axle and it says 24t or 26t or whatever? And what size could I use, with the Haro Fathubs.

One last question. I'm thinking about buying these new XS 4x4 hubs, they have 4 sealed bearings. More strength? So what should I do?



I'm not up on Haro stuff, so I really don't know what kind of quality hubs are used on your wheels. Most of the time, you can upgrade to CroMo axles if you don't already have them. The hubs with additional bearings will support the axle better and should reduce bending or breaking stresses. No matter what equipment you use, you must keep in mind that it has limitations, and may not stand up to what you are doing for very long. It's much the same with mountain bikes--no matter how much it costs, if you use it for what it is intended (and for what is not warranted), parts don't last long. The "t" refers to the axle threads per inch.



Three of us in our bike group have experienced cracked rims on our fairly new Trek 7500 bicycles. We do only road riding.

Has Trek done anything you know of about this problem?

WA Frambach


It is unusual for 3 people to have the same problem if there is not a production problem. I don't know of any recall or organized inspection of 7500s. By my standards, cracked rims would mean cracked through and unrideable, not just cosmetically cracked. I also don't know how new fairly new is or if all 3 bikes have the same rim. Any part of most bikes has a 1-year warranty, so I would go to your Trek dealer if they might qualify for warranty replacement. If your bikes are more than a year old, you might complain to Trek or to the rim manufacturer.



I have an 8-speed Shimano Dura Ace lever that only advances one click (it's the front der). How can I find info to dismantle the shifter?



I assume that you have an STI shifter. Shimano's web site may have information; however, aside from cleaning and lubrication and blade replacement, there's not much you can do with these. It's not likely that it can be fixed.



I'm in the process of rebuilding an old bike. I recently purchased a new set of Rock Shox forks for this project. Here's my problem.... the forks are 1" threaded for a 1" head tube. I have all the cups and cone ( which are still on the head tube), bearings, and other original parts, but what do I do about a fork crown race? Do I have to get one pressed on, or is there something that can just be slipped on the steerer? The forks are '99 jett xc, and have no crown race, what do I do?

Thanks in advance,


Assuming that everything is the correct size, your options are...
1) Remove the crown race from the old fork and install it on the new one. This involves the use of specific tools you may not have, and it's really not a good idea to go changing headset parts without them. You may be able to pound the race off the old fork with a hammer and screwdriver, but you really ought to use a slide hammer to set the race on the new fork.
2) Find a new matching crown race and install it on the new fork. In 1" steerer tubes, there are 2 ID sizes, 26.4 and 27.0. Make sure to get the right size, if available. See 1.
3) Replace the entire headset, really your best option on an older bike, good ones are only $25 and up. See 1 and 2.



I'm doing a science project on the difference of 1-piece and 3-piece cranks. I was wondering if you knew of any websites for information on how they both work.

I know a lot about them but I just need to know how 3-piece cranks are stronger than 1-piece.

Can you help me?



I'm not sure that I would accept internet information if I were your teacher, as there is a lot of totally unverified information being passed around as substantiated fact on all subjects, especially bicycling.

Generally speaking, 3-piece cranks are of a better quality than a 1-piece. This does not mean that you could not make a 1-piece crank better or stronger, but that most companies don't. The design of the 3-piece is much easier to change parts or to service bearings. Most 3-piece designs are much stronger and lighter that a 1-piece, and hollow crank arms have an even higher strength to weight ratio.

Remember, there are no absolutes when discussing bike parts. "The strongest" or "the lightest" does not exist. Price, however, does exist. For BMX bikes, the cost difference between the cheapest 3-piece and the most expensive 1-piece is about $125 or so when you consider changing the bottom brackets, so most consumers, and bike companies, opt for the cheaper 1-piece cranks.

You might try the Shimano web site. You can find an explanation of the difference in strength between melt-forged and the new Hollow tech crank arms.

Hope this helps,


How do you use a presta valve tube? I am new to them and I am using a 30 mm valve ext on a trispoke rim. Thank you for any help in this matter.



Ordinarily, you unscrew the valve all the way. I tap the valve to release a little air, to insure that the core isn't stuck. Then you just stick your pump on the valve and pump (you need a presta head pump). Adapters for schrader pumps are available, and you just screw this on after unscrewing the

Most valve extenders don't work very well. We prefer to buy the long stemmed tubes if needed. When using the extender, unscrew the valve all the way, and install the extender with a small piece of teflon tape wrapped around the stem. I don't think that schrader adapters will work at all with the valve extender, but you can use them if you spring for the 48 mm valve tube for about $1 more than the standard size.



I am thinking of buying a Rans recumbent tandem, but I'd really like to put an internal hub three-speed shifter like BikeE uses. Can that be installed in place of the front derailleur?



All you need is the SRAM or other 3x7 hub and the appropriate shifter and you're in business. I would imagine that 3x8 or 9 setups are or will be available, and you can probably keep the triple crank and just manually place it on the desired ring. You could even use the gear combinations available with the triple crank and the 3-speed hub. You'd have 21 gears with the small chain ring, 21 with the middle, and 21 with the large, if you shift it manually. A 63 speed 'bent, imagine that!



I have an older Trek 1100, circa 1992. I would like to upgrade it, but I also have a wife and some kids who need to eat every now and then so money is an issue. My question: I just got a good deal on a pair of Mavic CPX-21 wheels on 1999 Ulterga hubs with 7-speed Shimano cassette. I would like to go to 9-speed combined shift/brake levers. (I now have Suntour Command shifters and an Edge rear derailleur). Can I use Veloce Ergo power levers, derailleur and chain with a Shimano 9-speed cassette, or must I stay with Shimano all the way? I would prefer the Ergo levers.

Steve M.


First of all, if your 1999 Ultegra hubs came with the 7- speed cassette, they are much older that 1999, like maybe 1995. You can not use Ergo 9 with Shimano. If your hub is in fact only 7 speed, it must be converted to 8/9 speed, and then you can use any of the Shimano 9-speed systems. In order for this to function properly, you'll need the appropriate crank, front and rear der, chain, and shifters. If you want Campy, you'll have to buy the whole shootin match.



I have the opportunity to buy a Mongoose MGX D50i at a big discount of $250. It looks like a good bike with front & rear suspension, 24 speeds, fine components. I've heard some good things about Mongoose mountain bikes, but question things about this model. Any thoughts? Thank you for any help!



You certainly haven't heard good things about mongoose here! This bike is a huge deception. For about 20 years, Mongoose bikes were made by the big factories in Taiwan and sold and serviced by independent bike shops. The IBS mongoose is still available, and is probably as good as anything in its price range. However, since the acquisition of Mongoose by Brunswick (also owns Roadmaster), a vastly inferior bicycle has been foisted on the public, sold in Wal-Marts, Kmarts, Toyz-r-us, etc. You wouldn't spend $250 on a Roadmaster, but the bike you're looking at is no better. If you ride it (Brunswick hopes that you won't) the hubs will collapse, and the gears won't shift. The dual crown fork won't boing, and the rear end, although heavier than most complete bikes, will flex.

You cannot buy a full suspension anywhere that is safe to ride for less than $600. Your $250 would be much better spent on a more ordinary looking bike sold by an independent bike shop, but it's your money.


Hi Andy,

About four months ago I bought a Trek 930 singletrack, steel. I have a couple questions about it.

For a month I've been using only my largest front chainring because the middle one is all bent in; the largest and smallest are fine. When it got bent in, it caused the chain to dig into the chainstay. There is a dent/furrow about 3 mm deep and 6mm long where the chain struck. This hasn't seemed to affect the ride at all, but I'm wondering if there are any problems that may result of this. (I'm 5'11 and 210lbs.)

I have a Sugino 700 crankset on the way from supergo, along with Shimano 636 pedals, and a large tool set, that has almost everything. Do you think that there will be any problems installing the crankset in place of my current Acera crankset? Any suggestions?

I recently got a PostModerne suspension seatpost. There is a line on the bottom that says minimum insertion, however I have it 2 cms beyond that sticking out. Is this dangerous. (It replaced a aluminum post that I bent doing wheelies over jumps.)

My front deraileur is Acera and is attached by a strange ring that is between the bb and the crank. I've only seen the clamp on front der, so I'm wondering what this is. Bad or good? Any compatibility problems this might cause w/ my new crankset?

Any other tips or suggestions would be great!

Thanks a lot,
Luke Idziak


Your frame is probably going to eventually break, when and where I can't say, but a gash of this description sounds serious. It would cost more to repair than it is worth, but equivalent frames can be had for less than $300. Since your frame is already trashed, you have nothing to loose by riding with your seatpost too high, although I might recommend a skate approved helmet with extended medulla oblongata coverage. Normally all that happens here is that the seatpost clamping area deforms, or the seatpost bends, but catastrophic failures are not unusual.

As for the crank, there should be almost no problem. If you have indexed front shifting, the bb spindle length must be exactly mated to the crank. If you have non-indexed Grip Shift, then it probably won't matter too much. The front derailler should work okay, even though it is a sloppy, poorly designed piece of garbage. If your doing all this, I'd replace the bb, because if it hasn't failed yet, it will very soon. It is probably an LP 20, which is gritty when new and rather quickly develops a lot of slop.



I broke my rear derailleur cable at the shift lever when trying to adjust it. I have a new Dura Ace 9-speed system (5000 miles - 6 months). I put in a new cable. When I try to shift out of 9th gear, although the rear derailleur moves as expected, I do not get the click I expect and the chain falls back to 9th sprocket.

Is the shifter broken?
What do I need to do?


Is the shifter broken? Could be. Is the cable improperly installed? Very likely. Is the cable too loose? Extremely likely. Can I heal this on line? No.


PS: What do you need to do? Find a good bicycle mechanic and pay said mechanic to fix it.


I saw that in the past you advised to never, ever use lithium grease on any part of a bike. Why? Since, I just used a heavy dose of Li grease on my bottom bracket I guess I'll have to go redo it.


Jim Esplen
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center


I suppose that lithium grease is subject to debate. Tri Flo still makes a lithium grease for bicycles, but most specifically formulated bicycle products (Tri Flow is all purpose) are not lithium based. Some grease formulations degrade seals and other plastic or rubber parts. To be on the safe side, I use Finish Line teflon grease on good bikes, Englund's Slick Honey for suspensions, and boat bearing grease for Huffy's. Lithium grease does have a tendency to collect particulate and become abrasive in some applications. Your bike will probably not explode if you are using it, but there are so many superior products available, I cannot recommend lithium, unless you are bipolar.



I have a Cannondale F600 which I love. The only things that stink are the head shocks. They busted 3X in the first year I owned them. I want to put regular shocks on my bike, probably RockShox DHOs. I have seen a sleeve in the past that could be put into the fat head tube of my bike that would allow me to put on the normal shocks, but now I can't find it. Could you tell me where I could find it or who manufactures it?

Much Thanks,


Headshock reducers are available from a number of sources. I can get you one if you can't find it. I would expect to pay about $40 for this item, and you should have a headset press to install it. You'll also need a 1-1/8" headset, from about $25.



Is there a kit or adapter to convert a one-piece Ashtabula crank bottom bracket to a 3-piece crank BB with English threads?

Mike Cambron


There are a few ways to do this. The best one is the MRP conversion kit, which allows the use of any bottom bracket, and does not add unwanted length to the spindle, like some of the other designs. We sell this kit for $44.99, and you can use any English bottom bracket and crank set with it.


Hi Andy,

Is possible to buy just rear shocks to replace a Rock Shock that is blown on my '97 Specialized FSR? How much should I expect to pay for a replacement, what brand do you recommend, and how much to install it?

Thanks for your help,


Rear shocks are widely available from RockShox, Fox, and Stratos, to name a few. Some of them come with various stroke lengths, and all of the coil over shocks can be ordered in several spring weights in 50 lb increments. Prices range from under $250 to about $400, and installation is usually very simple. Some people feel that if their old RS blew up, then RS doesn't make good shocks. If that's the case, get a Fox Vanilla, or Vanilla float if it is in your budget.

I think that Fox shocks are smoother than Stratos or Cane Creek. We'd charge between $18-$30 to replace the shock, depending on exactly what's involved.



I, too, am an aging boomer trying to get from here to there faster yet only on a recreational basis. I don't race, but ride about 100 miles per week. Occasional century. Am currently on a Lemans Centurion (w/ Ultegra 9-speed and mavic classics) which has been true blue and comfortable. I don't want to be shaken to death when I ride, but would like something a bit more quick and responsive. Oh yeah, I ride a big bike--I'm 6'4" and weigh 205-210. Does my physiognomy preclude my upgrading to either carbon or aluminum?

Please advise. Thanks.


If you buy a good aluminum or carbon bike, you're not going to destroy it just because of your weight. Both aluminum and carbon have limited life spans (more so than steel or ti), and I would predict that that life is even more limited when using longer tubes and a heavier rider. I don't know what a Lemans Centurion is, so I 'm not sure what your frame of reference is.

Any aluminum bike is going to be stiff in all directions. This means that it'll climb and accelerate better than most steel or budget ti frames. It also means that you'll want a suspension seatpost and a Rock shock, as aluminum is quite unforgiving. Some folks counter the harsh ride with tubulars, and to an extent this works. Most people, however, should not use tubulars. They tell me that the Cannondale CAAD 4 frames ride a little better than other frames, but so far, that I have not experienced a CAAD 4 ride, and I'm skeptical. See if you can test ride one on a rough road.

Carbon fiber has many variations, from whippy and unstable to rock solid. While I like Kestrals, I think that the best combination of comfort and ultra high performance can be found in the Trek OCLV frames. It's also less expensive than high zoot frames that really aren't as good. Any carbon will degrade, and not survive crashes as well as other frame materials, but this frame, even in a 58 or 60, will accelerate similarly to aluminum, but with a lot more cush.

My all around favorite frame for the big guy is the Colnago Master Extra Lite. It is heavier than all these high tech materials, but it is like a precision surgical instrument. The ride quality and handling characteristics defy description, and it is so much classier than any off the shelf bike. Comparing this bike to the others is sort of like comparing a 72 Mustang to a Testarosa. They both have a lot of horsepower, but which one would you rather drive all day?

I just noticed "litespeed vs aegis" in your subject prompt. Neither bike is aluminum, and I don't like aegis. I also wouldn't buy any of the entry level litespeeds. If that's where you're headed, the Tuscany is probably too whippy in a large size, so you'll have to spend a few bucks. At this price level, the Master has no competition, unless you want to weigh the bike rather than ride it.



I have a Cannondale Caad 3 with '99 campy record equipment. I've purchased a set of Mavic classic elite wheels which have the Shimano-style free hub. What would you suggest I use for the cog set to get campy indexing on the Shimano free hub?

My local bike shop said the spacing on 9-speed campy and 9-speed Shimano is close enough to work so I've tried the Dura ace 9-speed cog set and it works, but not very well. I know there must be a good solution because I see in the magazines pro riders riding campy equipped bikes with mavic wheels.

What are they using for cogs? Thank You for your help.


If you have campy stuff, why did you buy a Shimano wheel? 2000 model wheels, referred to as M9, are easily converted to campy with a Mavic M9 cassette with yellow spacers or a Shimano cassette with Mavic HG/CC9 spacer kit. Wheels Manufacturing used to make all sorts of conversion kits to change Shimano to campy and vice versa, but I don't think that anything will work to use campy 9 on a Shimano freehub body. It may be possible to purchase the M9 freehub to retrofit a 1999 wheel, if that is what you have. Otherwise, you'll either have to tolerate the situation or sell the rear wheel and replace it with a campy compatible one. As you may have determined, the pro riders are riding campy compatible wheels with their campy stuff.



How do you install a profile 3-piece crank on a bmx bike?



I think your problem may be how to install the bottom bracket, as the crank arms will just bolt onto the spindle once this is accomplished. You may want to take it to a shop with the proper tools to install the bearing cups. These may have to be pressed into the frame with a bearing press. This is an expensive piece, and it would be a shame to screw up a bearing cup by trying to install them with a hammer or something.



I have a Specialized Globe with a in the hub 7-speed gear system. I got a flat, and I am not sure what to do about the gear and brake linkages that are attached to the hub. What gear should it be in when I disassemble? Any hints on hooking every thing up when I am done? Any help would be great.

Brendan Hallett


You must remove the brake cable (unless you have the coaster brake) by pulling the anchor bolt out of the slot in the brake arm. Then, with the bike in 1st gear, pull the gear cable housing away from the casing holder, and slip the cable through the slot. Then, remove the cable anchor bolt from the cassette joint pulley. From there, it is just a matter of loosening axle bolts and removing the wheel. Carefully reverse the process when reinstalling the wheel.



I have a Mongoose BMX freewheel and I was wondering if you could tell me how to take it apart to clean it and regrease it. Thanks.

Mystery biker,

It's probably best not to take it apart. I would try to clean and lube it without opening it if possible. You can soak it in solvent and then soak it in oil (use motor oil or something rather thick. If you must take it apart, there is a lockring with 2 notches on it. This threads on reverse, so when you turn it clockwise, it loosens. It will thread off the body, and then you have zillions of very small ball bearings, springs, and pauls.


Hi Andy,

What do you think of the year 2000 Mavic cranks and bottom brackets? I am interested in putting the cranks on a Specialized Epic that is about 6 or 7 years old. Any compatibility problems with an 8-speed Ultegra rear der? I look forward to hearing your comments.



Older Mavic cranks were pretty nice stuff, so I suppose the newer ones should be of decent quality. This seems to be priced comparably to the Ultegra set up, and if you believe the catalog, slightly lighter (805g as opposed to 865g). It's designed for 9 speed, so a 9-speed chain would be optimal (probably not necessary). I wonder who makes Mavic's non-wheel parts this year, as they are pushing brakes, front deraileurs, cranks, and bottom brackets. Could be Sugino or SR. I also have not seen one of these yet, and wonder whether it may suffer from Shimano's bottom bracket patent. They tell me they are not licensing this design freely, and I don't think that Mavic's design is different enough to survive an infringement suit.



I have a Giant Rincon Mountain Bike with a Front Shimano 100 GS deraileur. The chain came off while riding and got hung up. I might have bent something getting the chain loose, but am not sure about that. I messed around with the two adjusting screws and also had the cable loose. Now I am stuck on the middle sprocket (of the 3). Guess I made a bad situation worse. Can you help me?



See Winter 2000 Ask the Mechanic.


dear mechanic,

Forgive me if my question is a little too "easy " for you but. I have a set of rock shocks judy cartridge system xc's, all I need to know is how to oil them from time to time. I unscrewed the cap and pulled out the spring with the spongy oil rag on it. What type of oil and how much do I put in it. I paid enough for these shocks I don't want them to wear because of something simple like oil problem...

thanks ..matt


You want to oil the shock externally pretty often. RS recommends RS brand shock oil, but you can use Finish Line, etc. The oil bath should be changed once a year and the weight of the replacement oil can be changed, if desired. If you do not have a Rock Shox service manual, you can find it on rockshox.com. You also have oil in your cartridge, but that should probably
shop serviced if needed.



I purchased a 99 Mongoose 450 Crossway for commuting to and from work this fall, but in the three months that I have been making the commute (about 20-22 miles a day), I've gone through three rear axles. It is unclear to me if the problem is a result of poor road conditions in downtown D.C. or a question of torque stress, but I can't afford to buy a new axle and bearing cone every 6 weeks, particularly as part of my decision to commute had been the idea of saving money on the D.C. metro. For what it's worth, while the axle has bent several times, the wheel has remained true.

I've spoken to a few local mechanics about possible fixes, with some suggesting that I upgrade to a cassette hub with a thicker axle. Would this be your advice as well?

Please pardon me for double-dipping, but can I also ask if a cassette hub will be compatible with the Shimano NEXAVE 7-speed rear deraileur that came standard with the bike?

Okay, really pardon me for triple-dipping, but would you suggest that I replace the chain as well? I've only been ridding this bike for about 4 months, but at approximately 350-400 miles a month, the chain's probably taken more than usual wear.

Thanks in advance for any advice. This is a great resource for bikers.

D. Scott


Cassette axles are much stronger than freewheel axles, so if you invest in a good wheel (LX or better hub), your chances of bending or breaking axles will diminish considerably. You'd need a cassette of similar dimensions, as the nexave derailleur really doesn't like cogs smaller than 13t. You may have to replace the chain when you replace the rear cogs. If there's any doubt about whether to change it, or if it's a cheap chain, replace it with a Sachs or KMC.



Will Shimano shifters fit on a 1999 Cannondale super V freeride-900 with coda disk brake levers.

Can you suggest a better shifter than the stock one (grip shift 9 speed)?


I'm not familiar with this product, but I would imagine that rapid fire levers would fit. Some brake levers are specifically designed for Grip Shift, but I rather doubt that these are. If so, you can probably buy replacement blades that are shaped a little better for a specific shifter.






You need the proper tool to fit the freewheel. If it is a single speed (bmx) freewheel, usually a 4 prong tool fits. You bolt it onto the freewheel with an axle nut and use a large wrench or put it in a vice and it threads off counter clockwise. If it is a 6 or 7-speed freewheel, then it probably needs a splined (Shimano) tool, which is used just like the 4-prong tool. People and sometimes bike factories tend to put bmx freewheels on backwards, which is fine until you need to take one off. It is almost impossible to remove a bmx freewheel which is on backwards (maybe I mean upside down, with the notches toward the spokes).



I have a question and I hope you can help me. I have an 18-year-old Ross mountain bike (Mt. Whitney model). It has cantilever brakes (Shimano). Do you think the brake bosses can accommodate the V-type brakes on the market?

I know that I could take the bike to a shop and they could help me, however, I live in a rural area and do not have easy access to a shop.

Thanks for your help.
Paul Lyons


Unless your bike has a U brake on the chainstays (underneath the bike),
you should have no problem, provided you use V-brake levers or an adapter so that your existing levers can pull enough cable to actuate the V brakes, such as the QBP Travel Agent.


Hello Andy,

I came across your neat website on bike maintenance. I get the feeling you are pretty well versed on maintenance for our two-wheeled friends. However, I searched around ta bit and did not see any references to the Freehub. , 50% of the drivetrain. So...... It brings me to ask... If you have used the little puppy I produce--The Freehub Buddy--to service that little walnut?

If you have & I missed it I would not be surprised , I did not glean through every page because of time constraints. If you have used it I be glad to hear what you had to say. Being self-steering, I like feedback. I know what works for me in my climate/conditions, but I would like to ask you what you use to lube the freehub mechanism and why, if you lube your at all. They really do need a good lube to last. That is one that meets the conditions it is going to see. I'm studying lubes for awhile, I take in all advice. Thanx for your time.

Happy Trails,
Paul Morningstar


We have used the same Freehub Buddy here for about 7 years, to flush out gritty, dirty freehubs, and to lube new ones. I have received very few requests for information on lubing freehubs, so there may not be any references on the subject here. I'm sure that I have recommended it recently.

Contrary to popular opinion, I like to use Finish Line white Teflon grease on mountain. bikes. It is real stiff at first, but quickly loosens up, unless it's real cold out. My reasoning for this is that grease has got to be better than water and rust, and it really holds up to mud and hosing the bike better than liquid lubes.

I don't believe that there's a perfect viscosity for freehub oil. I've used washing machine oil, with no specifications on the bottle, and it was nice and thick and works quite well. This stuff is similar to automotive gear oil, maybe slightly thicker and stickier. I've also used Finish Line green cap. It's not quite thick enough, but it's not bad.


Hi Andy,

I recently bought a Litespeed Saber and wanted to put the Spinergy wheels from my old tri-bike onto the new Litespeed. Both bikes have the Shimano cassettes ( the new bike has a 9 speed ). How do I remove the freewheel cassette? I looked at it and couldn't see how it came off. I am used to the old threaded gear cogs and have the tools for that. Does the cassette require a new tool? Any help would be appreciated.

Steve Walker


You need a cassette lockring tool and a chain whip to get this off and back on. You can either put the lockring tool in a vise, or try to hold it with a wrench as you turn one of the middle to larger cogs counterclockwise with the chain whip, or depending on your preference or situation, hold the cog with the chain whip and turn the lockring tool counterclockwise. Both of these tools can be purchased for less than $20.


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