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Bikexchange.com logo, link to Home      Ad for Nashbar, ALWAYS a good deal.      Send your questions to bicycle expert Andy Wallen. (Cartoon image of Andy)Ask the Mechanic

Summer 1998         Spring  98 | Winter 98 | Fall 97 | Spr/Sum 97 | Winter 97 | Fall 96
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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.

Summer 1998 Questions...


I have a mt. bike with Shimano LX components, front crank with 22x32x42. I would like to ride it on the road periodically and I find that the 42 really wears me out. I would like to purchase another crank and install a more road worthy 39x53 or so combination (16 speeds will be fine). My question is: What is the cheapest way to do this? I am willing to spend the money for another crank so I don't have to change chainrings all the time. What I mean is I would remove the mt. geared crank, install the road geared crank, adjust the front derailleur and hopefully be on my way. I didn't want to get into swapping the bottom bracket, just the crank, and from looking in various catalogs (Performance, Colorado and Nashbar), I can't locate road gears that will fit on my LX crank. Thanks for your help.



The only way to get anywhere near that high a gear is to change the crank and ft der. If you have Rapidfire, your ft der won't work. It won't fit anything bigger than a 46T. It's totally impractical. Buy a used road bike.



I am having a problem with my front brakes on my mountain bike. When I use the front brakes, I get the most annoying screech, that can probably be heard two blocks away. Can I do anything about this?

Matt Ettinger


Squeaky brakes are usually due to lack of toe in. The front of the brake pad should be about 1mm closer to the rim than the rear. The pad also needs to hit the rim flat when viewed from the front. Other factors are worn or glazed pads, which can be sanded and cleaned if they are not too far gone, and dirty or greasy rims. If none of this helps, then you could have something loose which causes vibration ( loose parapush thingmas on v-brakes, for example). Sometimes, a booster plate can help both braking efficiency and squeaks.


My mechanic indicates that I need a new chain on my Gary Fisher Joshua. He says that the rear cogs should be changed when replacing the chain. This seems a little extreme for a bike less then one year old, and I don't hear other people talk about replacing the cogs when they break or replace a chain. Any advice?

Glen Getchell


If you don't replace the cogs, you most likely will experience an annoying skip when using the 7th and/or 8th cogs; or in some cases, none of your gears will be useable. It's possible that if you only rode the bike on dry Sundays with no hill climbing, you won't need the cassette. The best way to avoid excess cog wear is to replace the chain frequently (every 500 honest to God off-road miles), before it has a chance to alter the shape of your favorite cogs (and chain rings). Remember, mountain biking, when done properly, is expensive. If $40 per year for cogs and a chain is all it cost any of us, we should be grateful.



I want to take the gear indicator displays off of my new Shimano XT shifters. When I did so all I found was a small bolt-like mechanism which the indicator seems to plug into which makes it work. The bolt-like thing appears to be fairly well sealed, but if I leave it exposed would I wind up damaging the shifter? Any feedback or advice you might have would be greatly appreciated.

Thanx a lot!
Bennett Johnson


Sounds to me like you have the right idea. When you take off the indicator, it sort of looks like something's missing, so there you are.



I'm retiring soon, and would like to set up a small bicycle shop at my house. I've been involved with mechanical things all my life (aircraft, cars, etc.) but need to get current on bicycles. Can you suggest a book or training course that would help?

Scott MacGregor


Both Barnette's (719-632-5173, www.bbinstitute.com) and UBI (541-488-1121, www.bikeschool.com) offer excellent training courses for all phases of bicycle mechanics.



What's your opinion of Campy vs. Shimano and pros and cons of these two groups.



Your question rather puts me in a dilemma. On the one hand, as a retailer, I literally hate Shimano's guts if they have any. Shimano's distribution policy is quite unfair to the retailer, who has to pay nearly the same price as the mail order customer for a given part. How can I earn a living paying $33 for an XT derailleur when you can buy it almost anywhere for $35? However, if Campy were near as omnipresent as Shimano, I'd probably feel the same contempt for them.

You are probably after an unbiased objective opinion, so here it is. I appreciate the old world appeal and high quality of most Campy parts. If you buy record stuff (or chorus), it will probably outlast your frame. BUT--who wants to hang on to stuff forever, when technology moves at the speed of light. Some folks do. Most of us want the newest and slickest stuff, so why spend more on Campy stuff if you plan to dump (I mean upgrade) it every year or two? Probably the biggest downside to Campy is that it is not universal, nor is any part if the shift system Shimano compatible. You can buy Shimano cassettes, hubs, wheelsets anywhere in the world; I would speculate that most American bike shops have very limited Campy inventory--I don't have any.

Love 'em or hate 'em Shimano wins for practicality.



I just bought a chain for my bike. It happens to be a couple of links too long. I was wondering if you know a way to remove some links using tools I would probably have laying around the house.

thanx a lot,


If one of those tools you have layin' around the house is a chain tool, you're in, otherwise don't even think about it. Old timers always talk about using a hammer and 6 penny nail to fix chains on the old JC Higgins, but I don't recommend this procedure for a modern bike.


I currently run with good results Shimano Barcons with a Shimano 8-speed rear
cassette via an XTR rear deraileur for road touring. I would like to exchange the shifters for Shimano Ultegra (9-sp) sti levers but keep the 8-sp, running a triple crank as before. Will this work?  If not any suggestions would be welcome.



This should work ok. You'll have an extra click, but the spacing is all the same.


Dear Andy,

Can you use a Shimano Dura-Ace 7700 Chain on a HG90 Rear Cassette (8-speed) and a 105 Front Chain Ring? I put this on my bike and it seems to work ok but I am just wondering if it could cause damage or problems down the road. Shimano says this is a 9-speed chain.



Yes and it's cheaper than the 8 speed chain.



I will try to make this quick.

I have a '97 Specialized Ground Control Comp that had the rear shock (ROCKSHOX Deluxe) replaced with the '98 model after the original failed. The '98 shock seems to have higher pressure (also verified by ROCKSHOX) which makes the rebound completely different then the original. ROCKSHOX has been of no assistance except to suggest upgrading (at my cost completely) to their Super Deluxe. I will not buy another rear shock from them at this point, and I'm looking for some suggestions on a replacement. Should I go to a spring less shock? I am thinking about maybe the Fox, maybe with remote lock out. All my riding is cross country and no down hill stuff. I do 20-50 miles a week of medium to hard riding and trail patrol duties. Thank you for your time.

Happy Trails and Sunny Days


I suppose your a bit bitter with RS, and I can understand that. They are the biggest and best, and its too bad that you could not get satisfaction through them. You will not be disappointed in any of the Fox products and the remote adjust feature is worth the money, especially if you're into XC. Air shocks seem to get more bad press than good these days, but I really like the Cane Creek and Statos shocks. Any of these will set you back a couple of hundred, but mountain biking, when done properly, is expensive.




I'm a freelance writer, and I'm writing an article on a career as a bicycle mechanic for Bridges Initiatives, a publication out of Canada. This article will be published in CD-ROM form and over the Net and will be available to high school and college kids across the U.S. and Canada who are considering career choices.

Would it be possible for me to ask you a few questions for this article? I'll be glad to ask the questions by email, or if it would be best for me to call, I'll be glad to do so.

Thank you for your consideration.

Robin Nobles
Robin's Nest for Writers and Web Surfers


I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about my line of work.


Dear Andy,

I have a sticking freewheel. What is the best way to solve this problem? Also what is a good way to prevent it in the future?

Thank you for your assistance.
Tom Baker
Middleburg MD


Are you THE Tom Baker, greatest and most powerful of the Dr. Who's? Probably not, he really doesn't strike me as the cycling type. If you do in fact have a freewheel as opposed to the modern cassette (people often say freewheel when they mean cassette), it is often possible to flush out contaminants without taking the body apart, which I would not recommend.

You can use a solvent/lubricant type stuff like "Blaster" (smells bad) or "Knock 'er Loose" (sounds rather sexist). Use the nozzle to blast the stuff into the crack between the outer body and the outer race (small cog side) and use plenty. Spin the outside of the freewheel as you do this. After it starts to free up a bit, shake out all the solvent that you can and let it drain for several hours. Then, lubricate again with a medium weight oil, like gear oil or light weight motor oil by dripping this into the same crack. If this doesn't work, it's probably not worth any further trouble. Buy a new freewheel and lube it with the medium oil before use and frequently (3-4 times a year ) thereafter to prevent said seizures. (seizements? seissures?)



I have just purchased a Ibis Mojo and I am in the process of getting some new components. I have never use compact drive and I was wondering if you could tell me what might the advantages of having that. I ride a lot of single track in the GA mountains, but also do a lot of riding on fire roads. I really don't have any complaints with what I have--12-32 rear, 26-36-46 on the front--but what might I gain or lose by switching to compact? Thanks for your help.



The reason that we have compact drive is that the gods at Shimano have decreed that it be spec-ed on every bike that normal humans can afford. When such a decree is issued, it is rarely ignored. (We may witness a very rare display of bike biz backbone when the new Dura-ace shoe-pedal gets poo-pooed this year, but, mind you, this is incredibly rare). The advantages are: 1) ground clearance. A 42 tooth sprocket measures about 7 1/8 inch in diameter. A 48 is around 7 7/8. Is 3/4 inch in diameter enough to get excited about? I'm sure it will make us all much better technical riders. 2) lower gear ranges--this is the real appeal or compact. Most of us would rather go slow than dismount, and we can't push those west coast 2x9 gears.

The disadvantages deal mainly with wear and tear. Smaller gears wear out faster than big ones. Chainsuck never had a name (although I had several names for it when I rode a Biopace-equipped GT in the 80's) until c drive came out. People who do not properly use their mountain bikes (pavement riders) usually complain of a lack of top end speed and want to put 46 or 60 tooth big rings on the c drive bikes, and rarely does anything bigger than a 44 work well. It's possible to mix components to an extent. Many of my customers use an xtr 12-32 cassette with an xt 20-32-42. Most derailleur handle some mixing very well. If you're a speed freak or pavement rider, you could use an xtr 24-34-46 with an 11-28 cassette. If you're a purist, only xtr is designed to work as a fully integrated non c drive group, and that is rather expensive.


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