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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. (Submitting a question will put you on the list for our next seasonal email newsletter; your name can always be removed from that list at your request.)  

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Spring 2004 Q & A's (50 posted this season)

Andy,

What do you do if your chain keeps popping off after you tighten it?

TKA

TKA, 

If something is bent or your crank bearing is loose, tightening the chain won't help. Look for bent teeth on the sprocket, or a lot of play in the crank. You could have a damaged link or section of chain as well.

Andy

Andy,

I have a Trek 7300 and would like to raise the handlebars higher. Is this possible? If so what are the steps to insure safe riding?

Kevin

Kevin,

The current model 7300 has an adjustable quill stem. You can adjust the angle by loosening the bolt on the bottom and pulling the stem to the desired angle, or adjust the height by loosening the center bolt and raising to the desired height, making sure not to exceed the maximum mark. Only loosen the center bolt a few turns--you don't want to completely unthread it. If the stem won't move freely, the wedge is jammed, and can usually be unstuck by tapping with a soft mallet. While your at it, apply grease or anti-seize to the stem to prevent future problems. If the stem is maxed out and you'd still like more height, you'll need to find a replacement stem with either a longer quill (the part that extends down into the steerer tube), a steeper angle, or both.

Andy

Andy,

I'm looking for a spoke tension spec for (new) Weinman 219 alloy wheels (Weinmann rims). There are no bushings in these 27" x 1.25" alloy rims, and the (new) spokes are double-butted SSTL measuring .0625" diameter. 

I plan to use a Park tensiometer. The spokes seem very loose at present, but really don't want to overtighten them. 

What do you recommend? Is there a source for specs?

Help much appreciated,
Tom

Tom,

The proper tension should be recommended by the spoke manufacturer, which in your case is probably anonymous. Don't measure anything in inches if you want to talk to me. Generally speaking, front and drive side rear spokes should be in the neighborhood of 90-100 kgf. Your tensiometer should have some provision for calibration between butted and double butted spokes, but you're going to have to use millimeters, not inches, as in 2.0/1.8mm, or 14/15 gauge. 

Andy 

Andy,

I have a bike that I think is a '97. It has a 7-speed Shimano Alivo components. Recently I bent my derailleur and I need got get a new one. The local bike shop also said my chain is getting old and I need a new one. I have been thinking a lot about upgrading my bike to an 8-speed or even a 9-speed in the back. It seems to me that if I'm getting a new chain and derailleur, I might as well just get a new cassette and shifters as well to make my bike a 9-speed. My question is: Can I do this? My main concerns are would I need to buy a new rear hub to fit the 9-speed cassette and would my frame be wide enough to hold all 9 gears? Also, would a 9-speed chain be compatible with my crankset in the front?

Mike

Mike,

If you want optimum performance from the 9-speed drive train, you'll need everything. If you use a gripe shifter for the front derailleur, your crank will work. If you use rapid fire, it won't work as well as it could unless you replace the crank. So, you'll need shifters, crank, bottom bracket, front and rear derailleurs, chain, cassette, and you'll need to use the 7-speed hub, a 8/9-speed freehub or new wheel. Frame spacing is the same for 7, 8 or 9 gears. 

Andy

Andy,

I fell with my bike and the handlebars were slightly bent. I straightened them but now have a steering problem. When the wheel is pointed straight forward it is difficult to turn the wheel. It is almost like the wheel is "clicked" into that position and I have to use force to move it to the right or left. After it moves out of that "groove" the steering is fine until it clicks back into the groove, then the problem recurs. Help please. What is wrong?

Al

Al,

You probably have a worn headset race, which you didn't notice until the crash, which may have tightened the headset to the point that it binds. It's possible that something got bent, but I'd start with a new headset, which can cost anywhere from $6 to $130, plus installation. 

Andy

Andy,

I have a Cannondale V900 and I'm trying to upgrade the forks. The forks that I have purchased have a standard 1-1/8" steerer tube. I have purchased the Cannondale headset reducer but either I don't know how to install it or I need to buy more parts like a new headset and stem. Can you help me with some installation tips? I have searched the internet with zero luck.

Thank you,
DuWayne

DuWayne,

You need to purchase a headset press. If you don't plan on installing a lot of headsets, it would be far more economical to pay someone to do this for you, as you really should have a few other tools to do this right. Cane Creek makes a head set that doesn't need a reducer, which makes a much better job of this and doesn't elevate the front as much. If you can return your reducers, I'd highly recommend searching out and purchasing this headset. You will need a 1-1/8" headset and a stem to complete the job.

Andy

Andy,

I'm older (get the picture) and like to ride the paths on rail trails and the road. I would like a bike with the gear ratio of the road bike (top end speed) but really like the upright riding style. I can't find a hybrid that can keep up with my son's Diamondback without spinning my legs off. I have an old Concord--is it worth pulling new wheels and components to meet the my needs or have I overlooked the Hybrid with a 52-cog crank and 11-cog cassette?

Ed Stewart

Edward,

Look at flatbar road bikes like the Trek 1000. These bikes come with a 52/12 high gear and upright seating position. Nothing comes stock with a 53/11, which is as it should be. All triples have a 52/12 high, doubles have 53/12. And 53/11 is for the USPS team or folks who have delusions of being on such a team (or people who live in Indiana or Nebraska). 

Andy

Hey,

I have a problem. I just bought a Magna Excitor and the brakes are loose. The manual it came with isn't the right one so I have no clue how to fix it. It uses cantilever brakes in both back and front. 

Thank you for your help,
Reese 

Reese,

I can give you some tips about canti brakes, but they are slightly different among brands and models. I like to position the carrier about 1 to 1-1/2" above the tyre. With the pads pushed as far out on the posts as possible, adjust the straddle cable so that it forms a 90 degree angle to the arches. Unscrew the adjusting barrel on the brake lever about four turns. Position the pads about 1 to 2 mm from the top of the rim, so that they hit flat when viewed from the front, and toed in so that the front of the pad hits about 1 to 2 mm before the rear. I put a rubber shim between the back of the pad and the rim to achieve toe in. Unscrew the adjusting barrel. If the pads are too close, loosen the straddle cable a bit. If you'd like them closer, unscrew the adjusting barrel. 

Decent brakes have a centering screw or adjustable springs so that you can get the pads the same distance from the rim. If you have a screw, turning it clockwise will bring the pad away from the rim, and counterclockwise will move it toward the rim. Springs are adjusted by loosening the brake fixing bolt, and turning the spring housing in the direction you wish to move the pad. If you have no centering device, you must will the brakes to be centered. I'd throw away brakes without centering devices, but you could slide the brake shoe post in or out to get them "centered."

Andy

Andy,

I put together a bike recently (a Mongoose Hoop D) and all the parts are different brands. I put the gyro on myself and I know how to hook it up at the handlebars but I'm not sure how to do it at the rear end. Right now it runs from the trigger and splits into two cables then goes through the gyro. From there it stays as two separate cables (I don't think it should but...) and each side hooks up to a separate brake arm. They are the type brakes where the arms cross over and right now the two cables are crossed. Also, should there be a spring on the brake arms?

Thanks,
Justin Frakes

Justin,

I think that this is one of those department store bikes with non-standard parts. I worked on one last summer, and since cables for this aren't available, it was easier just to replace the brake lever, and use standard gyro cables. It sounds like possibly someone rigged the lower, using standard brake cables instead of an official gyro cable. If that's the case, you just need to get a new lower cable, for about $7-8. This will have two cables running into a junction and going into a stop on the frame as one cable. You'll also need a straddle cable and cable carrier on the brake. 

Andy

Hi Andy,

I have a 2002 Giant Cypress DX hybrid. The chainring guard is cheap plastic and I keep breaking it. The dealer also says it is no longer available. I am looking for something a little more durable if possible. The crank is made by Giant and has a 28/38/48t crankset. The guard is attached to the 48t chain ring with four screws and is cutout for the crank. The front derailleur is a Shimano C102. Any ideas?

Thanks,
Dan

Dan,

Chainguards, kickstands, and baby seats are my favorite bicycle accessories. If you must have one, try the Dutch imported Kool Stop model. It may or may not fit (like all others), and it may or may not interfere with the front derailleur (like all the others), but it won't break. If you want a real chainguard on your bike, buy a Nexus 7-speed with no front derailleur and a full length metal guard. It's the best possible solution. 

Andy

Hello

Are there any general aids to determine compatibility of different drive train components? Industrial standards? Functional descriptions? Comparison tables? Dimensioning blueprints?

Regards,
Kjell "Confused beginner" Holmstroem

Kjell,

I'm not aware of any published information, but you might look at the Park Tool website. Basically, you have four existing formats: Campy 9, Campy 10, Shimano 7, Shimano 8, and Shimano 9. For optimal performance, you should only use components from each format with each other. Through trial and error, mostly, we've determined that some things mix and match and others do not, for example, Shimano 8-speed shifters will work on a Shimano 7-speed cassette, with an inconvenient extra click, and Shimano 9-speed cassettes fit on Shimano 8 speed bodies. Nothing is very compatible between Shimano and campy, and Campy 9 and Campy 10 are very different, although you can have some 9-speed shifters modified to shift 10 cogs, I think. Shimano 9-speed rear derailleurs usually shift 9 cogs ok, but old 8-speed shifters do not shift very well with 8-speed cranks. An old 8-speed crank works fairly well with a mostly 9-speed drivetrain if you use a 9-speed big gear. 

Shimano does publish compatibility "flow charts" for new products, but these do not allow for mixing old stuff with new stuff. 

Andy 

Hello!

My name is Erik and I have a fork that I don't know how to maintain (SID XC Long Travel). Could you explain what it is and how to maintain it?

Thank you!
Erik

Erik,

It seems that over the last four years, nobody maintains forks. I only work on my own, or Headshocks. If you buy the tools for bushing removal/installation, seal pullers, etc., you'll pay almost as much as your fork is worth at price point. The same goes for bringing it to a shop. Nobody in his right mind is going to work for two or three hours and only charge you 50 bucks. You can find service intervals, and pretty good instructions at www.rockshox.com.  If the fork is in working order, about all you have to worry about is a periodic oil change, and make sure that the air pressure loss is not excessive.

Andy

Hello there,

I have a cheap full suspension mountain bike. The back tire wobbles real bad. The nuts are all tight. It seems to be wobbling from the bearings or something like that. Any ideas?

Thanx,
Scott 

Scott,

This is a trademark symptom of the fine products marketed by the Pacific Corporation. The bearing races in the rear hub aren't supported adequately, and work their way toward the center of the hub. The phenomenon is so prevalent around here that it has been dubbed "mongoosed hub". Your solution: a new wheel, from a bike shop, not from Wal-Mart.

Andy

Andy,

I just recently purchased a mountain bike and have only ridden it on the street. I have probably ridden the bike around 15 times and now the bike when in the lowest gear, I think it's called lowest, (hardest to pedal) it will skip once maybe every 10 revolutions. It feels like it wants to maybe shift gears but it doesn't. I have never made one adjustment to the bike. Is this caused by dirt or does something need to be adjusted? Please help. Thanks.

Sincerely,
Brian Bailey

Brian,

Either your high (marked "H") limit screw is not allowing the der to fully rest on the smallest cog, or it is allowing it to go over the cog and into the frame, or your cable is too tight, or your small cog is not properly machined.

Andy

Hello,

I have a Giant Yukon mountain bike with Shimano STX gears and brakes. Gears #6 and #7 are skipping. I have not had a wreck with it and am wondering what could be a fix for this?

Thanks,
M. Diaz

M,

There are many possibilities, but usually skipping on smaller gears indicates chain and cassette wear. The symptom would be a violent skip that only happens under pressure. It is also possible that your derailleur or its hanger is bent.

Andy

Andy,

I'm having a problem with my chain rubbing against the cage of my front derailleur. If you know how I could fix this, please answer back. My derailleur system is a Shimano brand.

Dylan

Dylan,

These problems are usually due to improper cable tension and/or improper derailleur alignment. If the chain drags when you are in lower gears in the rear, it indicates that your shift cable is not tight enough. Refer to previous columns about front derailleur adjustment.

Andy

Andy,

I can't locate a serial number. I was told to look at left rear drop out, and right side of head tube, and under the crank. Where are these parts? 

Laddst,

I wish I had a diagram of frame members, but I don't, so here's the best verbal description I can give. Bike frames are made of four larger diameter tubes: the top tube (the one on top, duh) the seat tube, (the one that the seat post slides into), the head tube, (the short tube with the fork/steerer assembly running through it, usually has a headtube badge or manufacturers decal), and the down tube, which runs between the headtube and the bottom bracket (bb) shell. The bottom bracket shell is the lowest part, containing the crank bearings, and serves as a junction for the seattube, downtube, and chain stays, which run from the bb shell to the rear dropouts, which are the pieces that hold the rear axle in place, to which the wheel bolts. The last little tubes are the seat stays, which run from the top of the seat tube to the rear dropouts.

Andy

Hi,

Have you ever heard of a bike called a Vetus 979? If so is it a good bike?

Brent Boden
Halifax, Canada

Brent,

I think you mean Vitus, a venerable French name plate. I think in French, vitus means "whippy piece of crap," but I failed French in college. Is it a good bike? No. Never. They stink. 

Andy 

Hi,

I have a 2001 Kona CinderCone mountain bike with an Aheadset threadless headset and I am trying to remove my forks so I can do some maintenance. I have successfully removed the stem and all of the spacers but I can't seem to get the tension ring off. I have read a few manuals and they all say to tap the steering tube to move it down so you can push it back up to remove the tension ring but the forks will not budge. What else can I do to try and remove the forks?

Thanks,
Mike

Mike,

Sometimes, you can pry the ring apart where it is split, using a very small screwdriver. Try to avoid tapping too hard on the steerer tube, as you might damage the bearings or other parts. You might use some penetrating lubricant as well.

Andy

Andy,

Yesterday I was riding my mountain bike down a trail and my derailleur got caught in the spokes of my back tire that had broken out of the frame. Now my frame is bent and needs to be repaired. 

Unfortunately, it's an aluminum frame and I can't seem to find any frame repair shops that will work on aluminum frames. Do you know of any bicycle frame repair shops that will work on aluminum? I live in Florida so the closer the shop is to where I live will reduce the cost of shipping.

I priced out new bike that are comparable to the bike I own and they start out at around $500. Will it be cheaper to get my bike repaired or should I start looking for a new bike?

Your words of wisdom are much appreciated.

John Stypa

John,

Until recently, I didn't know that anyone would repair aluminum, but there's a place in Canada that does, but for at least $300. Now, if your only problem is a bent der hanger, you can fix that. I like to use CODA (the best thing that Cannondale makes) hangers. You can easily cut off your bent hanger and bolt one of these to most any frame. If it goes beyond the hanger, and your bike is only worth $500, sending it to Canada for a $300 fix doesn't make sense, so look for a new bike. Sometimes, you can find new aluminum frames for less than $200, so you can sort of get a new bike if you transfer your parts. 

Andy

Andy,

I bought a brand 2003 Colnago Dream Bstay a month ago and am getting some slight shuddering through to the pedals when pedaling in the 12 or 13 sprocket on the small chainring. It feels pretty weird and have checked most things, especially the rear mech. I get the feeling it's coming from the chain or rear mechanical. It seems to happen on the large chainring, too (53x12 or 13), but it's not as obvious. 

I am really concerned that there is something wrong with the frame but it doesn't seem to happen in the 21 or 23 sprockets, so that seems to be ruled out. 

The bike has Shimano Dura-ace throughout, all brand new (including chain). 

Can you help? 

Yours desperately, 
Steve Harris

Steve,

To me "shuddering" means something I'd be mighty concerned about, you know, like a mild earthquake, and it wouldn't have anything to do with a drive train, but would have to happen due to something warped, out of line, rubbing, etc. Things happen to carbon glued to aluminum which could cause shuddering, and you need to have a Colnago dealer (preferably the one who sold you the bike) look at it, and quickly, as if a fork leg or "b stay" is loose, the result could be fatal.

If, on the other hand, your shuddering is actually chattering, you may have a bad chain, a loose cassette, a bent hanger, defective 12 and 13 cogs, misaligned rear derailleur, bad chain line (not likely), defective jockey wheels, or any combination of the above.

Andy

Andy,

Can you explain how to "true" a warped rim using a spoke tool?

Thanks,
Will

Will,

I'm frequently asked this question, and I frequently answer that most people lack the necessary skill, patience, whatever to do it. In principle, you tighten a spoke to move the rim in the direction of that spoke, and you loosen a spoke to move the rim in the opposite direction of that spoke, you must make small moves--1/4 to 1/2 turn at a time, and take into account that constantly tightening the same spoke will make the rim egg shaped, and that once you reach a certain point, it's not going to happen because the rim is too far gone. You can do this with a wheel on the bike, but it's much easier and more precise if you have a wheel truing jig.

Andy

Hi

Great site and great source of info. Thanks. I would like to upgrade/downgrade my road bike from a Shimano 105 double setup to a triple (both with 9-speed cassette). I know I will need to replace front derailleur, rear derailleur, bottom bracket, crankset. Somewhere in my research (can't find it again though), I read that the front shifter does not need to be replaced--in other words, it can be used for double or triple cranksets.

I need to know if this is really true. If so, are any special adjustments needed on the shifter?

Also, how do I determine if a new chain is also required?

Thanks,
Les

Les,

A 9-speed 105 uses the same left shifter for double or triple. There are no unusual adjustments to make. You can probably get away with the same chain. If your rear der doesn't max out in second gear rear and second gear front, you're okay. If it does, and you can remember to avoid this gear, you're still okay. If the chain has more than 2,000 miles on it, it may be time to replace it anyway. 

Andy

Andy,

I purchased a Look HSC-3 carbon fork with a 300mm steerer tube. I believe I would benefit by having a carbon spacer stack height of 40-50 mm, but I have heard that the maximum stack height should be 30mm and some have said 1.5 inches (~38mm). I'm riding a 110mm, 10 degree rise, 35mm steerer clamp stem along with a frame with a head tube length of 171mm and a Chris King 1.25-inch headset. I'm 6'3", 172 pounds. What can I truly get away with and still be safe? My riding style is strictly road riding, the local hammerfest, etc. Thanks for the help.

Fred 

Fred,

Don't exceed 40mm in any case. I prefer less than 35, and some fork manufacturers only recommend 30. Is your bike too small? Your options are: 1) Use a steel or aluminum steerer. It's heavier, but you want to leave on 6 oz of carbon steerer with three pounds of spacers on anyway. 2) Get a highrise stem. This looks goofy, but so does a pile of headset washers. 

Andy

Andy,

Lately, I've noticed that after a few miles, my "chain" starts squeaking quite loudly. The lube job that I've done (with that liquid wax stuff) keeps it really quiet for the first few miles but then seems to wear off. This never used to happen before I bought a new chain that seems to fit the bike okay (and is the one that a reputable bike shop said was the right size). Also, it may not have begun right after I got the new chain - I can't remember. I have a Pinarello with Campy Athena components and a Chorus front derailleur (eight rings on the back, two up front). 

I have several thoughts as to where the squeak might be coming from. The first is that the chain is slightly too big for the bike and therefore squeaking against the chainrings once the lube wears off a little bit? The chain is one of those types with a "quick release" link in it. I've tried using my highly tuned ears (yeah right) to locate the source, and it seems to come from both the front chain ring and the rear, so my second thought is that these chainrings somehow need some lubing. Lastly, I'm wondering if something in the bottom bracket could be squeaking (i.e., not properly lubed bearings)?

I clean my bike with degreaser and a toothbrush, meticulously taking off the chain and cogs, soaking the chain in the degreaser, scrubbing all with the toothbrush, wiping down with a rag and letting dry, putting back on the bike and lubing the chain with the liquid wax. I am about to give up and take it in to have someone else work on it, but I would like to figure this out "on my own" with your help of course!

Thank you,
Mike T. - Oakton, VA

Mike,

Usually, a squeaky chain just needs lube. Wax type lubes tend to wear off sooner and wash off quicker in wet weather than petroleum types. I did have one issue with Shimano I glide components. No matter what type of lube or how much, the chain squeaked when shifting gears on the rear. It was silent during pedaling, but made a loud shriek every time you changed gears. I changed to a SRAM chain, and it stopped. If this is a squeak that occurs during pedaling, I would try a petroleum based lube, like Triflow. When used properly, Triflow is not all that dirty, and it works a lot better on noisy drivetrains and in rust prevention. 

Andy

Hello Andy!

I have an old bike whose front wheel is kind of out of alignment. I know that by tightening the wires (spokes), the wheel can be aligned. I'm not sure how. Could you please guide me?

Thanks,
Javed

Javed,

Wheel truing is not for the amateur. You need a spoke wrench and should have a truing jig. Lacking a jig, you can use caliper brakes to get a wheel laterally true. Basically, if the rim rubs a brake shoe, you either tighten the spoke opposite this spot, or loosen the spoke on the same side as the rub. Don't turn more than 1/4 turn at a time, and watch that the wheel doesn't get pulled out of round, which happens when you constantly tighten the same few spokes. There is much more to it than this, but you may at least make an improvement this way.

Andy

Andy, Hi,

Need a little advice. Out cycling on a cycle track (slightly rough), when the handlebars just stuck. It feels as if something is stuck in the tube, I cannot turn the handle at all. Before I start on stripping down do you have any ideas what he problem might be, and the best way to go about it?

Thanks,
Tex Marshall
Penryn, UK

Tex,

You probably have a seized bearing in the headset. It's possible that something, like a steerer  tube, is bent. You have to remove the fork to find out, in either case. If you have a clamp on stem, remove the preload adjusting cap, and loosen the stem. The fork should slide out, but may need a little persuasion. If you have a quill stem, loosen the large locknut on the top of the steerer tube. Loosen the stem bolt and give it a tap with a mallet. Pull the stem out, and remove the locknut and headset top bearing cap. Your fork will then drop right out. Check to see what condition the bearings are in, and if the steerer tube is bent.

Andy

Andy,

I have a standard stem and I stripped out the Allen key bolt holding the stem on my forks. How do I get the bolt out? Do I have to drill it? I really don't want to bring it to a bike shop. 

BMX

BMX,

You need a device called an easy out. Most of these require drilling, but there is a square-ish type that I have used with some success in removing bolts without drilling. If you don't know what you're doing, you may want to consult either a bike mechanic or machinist. Expect to pay about $12+ for this service, not bad when you consider that it'll cost you about $6 for an easy out that big. 

Andy

Dear Ask the Mechanic,

I own a 1996 Olympic Edition Cannondale with a Headshok. The shock has since blown and I was liking to upgrade to another Fox brand. I have seen some Cannondales equipped with a metal shim that allowed a 1-1/8" Fox to be used with a huge Cannondale head tube. Was I mistaken in what I saw or can I buy one of these shims somewhere?

Thanks bro',
Josh

Josh,

The best solution to this problem is to get a new Cane Creek headshock headset. This will allow you to use any 1-1/8" fork, and will not raise the front end of the bike. In the past, I've used an adapter, which allows you to use any 1-1/8" headset in the Cannondale frame, but raises the front and adds about 1/2 inch to the stack height.

Andy

Hi

I just finished building a sweet XC bike. Test drove it last week and took it out today on some more challenging terrain. Unfortunately, I crashed into a tree with my left handle bar. After some time, I noticed that my front brake was not working and brake fluid was running down the line. After checking, the line had cracked (probably when I nailed the tree) where it attaches to the
brake lever (right at the bolt). What is the best way to repair? Can I cut the line, re-attach and then bleed? How do you bleed these things? I found nothing on the Hayes site. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Mike Esparza 

Mike,

If it is only a broken line, and not anything in the master cylinder or housing, you can just replace the line. If you have enough line, you could cut off the broken section, and reattach it to the master cylinder. You need to buy a new compression bushing to do this. These bushings are included with the new brake line. You should have gotten a bleed kit and instruction manual with your brakes. If not, you'll have to buy the bleed kit, and it should have instructions. If not, go to the Hayes web site. Bleeding essentially involves forcing fluid in through the caliper, and air out through the master cylinder. You should have a stand, so that you can elevate the front of the bike. Also, if you biffed on your handlebar, get a new one. 

Andy

Andy,

I have a Mongoose Crossway. I love the bike, but I would like to find a replacement for the freewheel or perhaps the entire rear hub. A stronger one would be preferred. The stock freewheel is the Shimano MF-HG40 14-34t Mega Range.

Any information about this would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much,
Bob 

Bob,

The only way to really improve on this is to get a cassette hub, as Shimano freewheels are all essentially the same. Cassette hubs are inherently stronger, and axles almost never bend or brake due to the outboard bearing placement. You can use better stuff, like Deore, LX or XT, if you use a 4.5mm spacer under the first cog.

Andy

Good day,

I would like to know about hub maintenance. I have a Shimano Deore LX (VIA-M) hub in the rear and a Ritchey (model unknown) on my Kona Pahoehoe. The bike is approximately four years old now, and the hubs have never been opened. Is it normal to hear the bearings role inside the hubs? I'm not talking about a loud grinding. I mean off the bike, quick-release pin out, turning the hub slowly with my fingers, I can hear the bearings rolling with what sounds like a small bit of friction (or they may just be rolling). The rear hub has just started to make same sounds just a little bit. Is this normal? Or are the bearings beginning to go (or possibly the cones need replacing)? Can I make the repair myself (I'm somewhat capable, although I'm not that familiar with hub innards)? Last note: Shimano hub is sealed by rubber cap--do I need to pack the hubs with grease sometimes? 

Thanks, I'd appreciate any advice you give.

Bryan 

Bryan,

When I used to ride off road, I repacked my hubs and bottom bracket 2-3 times per year. I'd say that you're due for an overhaul, if you're lucky. The rubber cap is a decoration, underneath is a standard cup and cone hub, just like the ones Tulio Campagnolo used to make in the '20s. Any bearing of this type should be cleaned and re-greased at least every two years, because grease wears out and dries out over time. On mountain bikes, this interval should be much closer, as riding in mud, creeks, and dust cause contamination, in spite of the spiffy rubber dust cap. 
The minimum required materials for this procedure include: 13, 14, and 15mm cone wrench, 17mm or adjustable wrench, bicycle grease (not automotive), and cassette removal tools. Highly recommended are the Morningstar dust caps, freehub soup, and freehub injector tool. Remove the cassette. Disassemble the hub from the non-drive side. Remove the rubber dust cap. Loosen and remove the 17mm locknut, while holding the cone (you'll either use a 14 or 15mm cone wrench on most rears, and 13mm for the front). Remove the cone, and pull the axle out through the drive side. I use a magnet to get the bearings out, and leave the dust caps alone. If you are very careful, you can remove and reinstall the dust caps, but they are very easy to mangle. If you are going to service the freehub, you'll need to remove the drive side cap, but you should have a Morningstar alloy replacement. 

Thoroughly clean out the hub, clean the bearings, cones and axle. Some folks say you should keep your left and right bearings separate, and this makes sense, but I don't think that it makes a lot of difference. Look closely at your cones, especially the one on the drive side. It is common for them to get chewed up, especially if your hub hasn't been open for 4 years. If either cone is worn, even slightly, you must replace it, or you'll never be able to get the bearing adjustment quite right. If you are doing the freehub, you need to do it while the axle is out. Proceed with the instructions provided with the injector. Install the clean bearings in a bed of plenty of grease. Make sure that the drive side locknut is tight against the cone, and install the axle through the drive side. Install the left side components, and adjust the hub so that there is a tiny bit of play (This usually "draws out" when you install the wheel on the bike. If not, tighten it a bit more) Install the cassette, and go to work on the front one. 

Andy

Hi,

Question: Dura-Ace or Ultegra 9-speed rear hubs? Other than the polish, is there really any benefit to spending the extra dough for Dura-Ace?

Thanks,
Mark

Mark,

The two hubs are mechanically almost identical. Other than cosmetics and about 55g in total weight savings, there's literally no difference. The wholesale cost of Dura-Ace is about double the cost of Ultegra. Since this is weight at the center, not the outside of the wheel, it is not at all significant. However, if you are looking at grams, the only hubs lighter than Dura-Ace are double its price. In perspective, I think Dura-Ace hubs are a good value in that, while expensive, they are not in the ludicrous range. While I like Chris King for several reasons, not just weight, $375 is a lot to explain to your wife, but a couple of hundred for Dura-Ace is not so bad. In a nutshell, Ultegra is cheap high performance stuff, and Dura-Ace (at least the hubs) is affordable snob appeal. 

Andy

Hi there,

Thank you for providing such a nice service to the cycling community.

I have Gripshift 9.0. After my SRAM rear derailleur snapped in two, I bought a new Shimano DeOre LX, and new cables and housing. Put it all together and, well, things are not so great. We start out with both on gear nine, but when the chain gets to gear one, the shifter is still on three. This is true on all three rings. Cable tension is good, the derailleur hangs straight; there are no obvious problems here. It is simply shifting 2-for-1 in the middle of the gears. I am wondering if there is some basic incompatibility here and if I need to go back to a SRAM derailleur? Also, I am now running a Shimano 9-speed cluster after I folded the top three gears on the SRAM last summer. I still love Gripshift but am getting a little disillusioned with SRAM products.

Sincerely,
Robert Horowitz
Sacramento Area Mountain Bike Association
www.sustainableenterprises.com/SAMBA/

Robert,

You have to use the 9.0 shifter with a SRAM compatible derailleur. SRAM makes Shimano compatible shifters, like the Attack and Centera, but all the ESP components must be used with other ESP components. 

Andy

Andy,

I see all these different numbers--50cm, 53cm, etc.----how do I measure a bike?

Jim

Maurice,

Frame size is the measure of the seat tube. It can be either center to center, or center to top. Generally, the seat tube size should be about 65% of your inseam. 

Andy

Andy,

Do you know where I can find a "value guide" for used bikes?

Thanx,
MA

MA,

Offhand, I don't know of a "blue book" for bikes. Someone sent me one once, and the prices were very inflated, at least 30% higher than I would estimate. Sounds like a question for Bicycling Magazine.

Andy

Andy,

I have an R600 Cannondale. I enjoy the bike very much but I'm not too sure about the components. On my left brake/shift lever, the cap came off. This says "Shimano 105 Flight Deck" on it. Is this important? Where can I buy one? Should I just upgrade my components to the Ultegra or Dura?

Glen,
New Jersey

Glen,

If your only problem is a missing cap, you can get one for about $5. Upgrading components will cost you about 100 times that, or more for Dura-Ace. I might upgrade a piece or two to Ultegra, but I think the Dura-Ace on an R600 is a bit of overkill. You'll have to go to a Shimano dealer to get a replacement cap.

Andy

Andy,

Thinking about riding long trips on my Klien Pro 2001 race bike--will that be fine to ride on a long trip? I paid $4,000 and it was the best road bike they had 2001.

Thanks,
Guy 

Guy,

I don't know where you're going or how far, but you've got the wrong tool for the job. You have an excellent racing bike, especially for crits, but it will never be a touring bike. That's not to say you can't use it: I know people who have done tours from one week to cross country on all sorts of bikes, from Bike Fridays to time trial bikes. The disadvantages to the Klein are: 1) it is very stiff, making long term comfort an issue. You could soften it up with either a low pressure tyre or suspension seatpost. 2) It is geared to go fast, which could cause problems in hilly areas. You can easily make small changes here. 3) It is not designed to load. I don't think you can put a rack on it. If you're out for very long, you're going to need some gear, more than you can carry in your seat bag. This isn't a problem in a supported tour. It may have cost $4,000, but a sub $1,000 touring bike would work a lot better. 

Andy 

Hello,

I wanted to ask your advice concerning my bicycle's wheels. I have a 1999 GT Transit Express (4-speed internal hub/disc brakes on back wheel) bicycle. It has 700c size wheels (tires say 700 x 38c) made of alloy. I love the bike, but always have problems with the back wheel. The back wheel always loses spokes (after a couple of months use) and the wheel loses its trueness along with more spokes. I have taken the bike to be repaired several times to several different bike stores and the same thing always happens. It seems to be that the alloy rims are just not strong enough.

Are there any other types of wheels that I can use, which are very sturdy and strong. I don't care if the new wheels are heavy, as long as they last. I have an old Raleigh Sports 3-speed (30 years old) which I ride often and it still has the original rims, which are still as good as they originally were. Never had problems with these wheels. Maybe they sell similar type rims for 700c wheels? I don't know. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Dennis

Dennis,

No offense intended, but your bike (like most others) probably has the cheapest, crappiest rims the company could source. If you are breaking spokes, either you have brittle spokes, or they have not been properly tightened. Steel rims are not an option. I would have a good rim laced onto your hub with DT or Wheelsmith spokes, and make sure to have it done by someone who knows what he or she is doing. Ask him to show you his tensiometer, as a lot of hacks build wheels and pluck the spokes to see what they sound like. This is akin to looking for water with a forked stick. You can get a heavy duty rim like a Sun Rhyno Lite, but I think that you would probably be okay with a good basic rim, such as a Velocity Dyad. Just make sure to get a name brand rim--Sun, Mavic, Velocity, Bontrager--not KinLin or brandX.

Andy

Hi Andy,

I just put a Shimano Nexus Inter 7 hub on my bike and like it a lot, except for one thing--there seems to be an excessive amount of slack, especially in fourth gear. If I'm cruising along and then I coast for a few seconds, it takes a good 1/3-turn of the crank before the hub will engage again. This is my first experience with an internally geared hub, so I'm not sure if this is normal or not. (It is properly adjusted with both red lines lined up when in fourth.)

Thanks,
Kevan

Kevan,

I have one of these hubs on my commuter. After spending two summers trying to adjust it, I have come to the conclusion that it is quirky, and there's just not a hell of a lot you can do about it. By and large, I like it, but on Tuesday it shifts great, but on full moon Fridays, forget it.  Also, when Jupiter aligns with Mars, the internal planetary configuration goes haywire. Don't even consider riding it on Friday the 13th, or while wearing pinstripes. I think mind over matter is the key. You must will it into gear, which may require great concentration. Why is this so? I really don't know; otherwise, I'd fix mine. I know that SRAM and Rohloff hubs don't act like this. I like to think that the fault lies with the stoopid Shimano gripe shift rip off. This doesn't work well on derailleur bikes, because it has a cable that pulls a cable that pulls still another cable, giving you not one but three opportunities for friction and maladjustment. They used to make a tap fire type shifter, which I would assume would work better. 

Andy

Andy,

I have a 2002 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR XC that's creaking really bad and driving me nuts. I've determined that it's not the seat or seat post. I've taken out the bottom bracket, greased the cones and tightened them back down. I've checked the pedals. I've checked the chain ring bolts. It's still creaking and driving me crazy. Any suggestions? 

Thanks,
Craig

Craig,

In order of frequency, here's my list of the most common creaks:

10.    Headset loose in frame. 
9.      Crack in frame or fork. 
8.      Shoes/pedals.
7.      Handlebar to stem. Sometimes a little grease on the bar helps. 
6.      Seat rails in clamp. Grease rails, tighten clamp. Check for loose rail or crack in saddle. 
5.      Suspension parts--good luck here! 
4.      Crank spider lock nuts, or chainring bolts.
3.      Wheels/skewers. Grease the skewer--all areas that contact the frame, inside and out. 
2.      Bottom bracket cup loose, or needs Teflon tape, esp. in non ferrous frames.
1.      Crank arm too loose on tapered spindle.

Andy

Andy,

I have a 2002 Giant Rainier with an aluminum frame. After months of hearing a creaking on every revolution under load and thinking it was my XT splined bottom bracket, a LBS told me it was the "cables flexing against their stops." I had tried everything, disassembling then greasing everything, steel spider bolts instead of aluminum, Teflon wrapping, etc. I was almost ready to buy a Profile cromoly crankset or XTR but I heard they have some creaking problems, too. 

Anyway, how do I keep the cables from creaking? I heard only one mention of a possible fix-- plastic ferrules instead of metal. Help! Will simply replacing the cables help? Its so annoying, I don't want to ride it.

Roy

Roy,

It is unlikely that this is the source of your problem. Cables can make noise, but it's easy to replicate this sound by turning the bars back and forth. Normally, when someone has a creaking problem, it only creaks under certain conditions, never in the presence of a bike mechanic, and never ever when the bike is on the repair stand. If you've tried everything else, including handlebar/stem interface and torque, look at your wheels. Grease both sides of the skewer and the parts of the bike that it contacts, and make sure that they are tight enough.

Andy

PS: Plastic ferrules are quieter than metal, but you'll need 4mm cable housing to use them. 

Hello Andy,

How do I make a freewheel more silent?

I have a "leftie" freewheel on the LHS of the hub for a power assist drive, but most of the time the assist is turned off and the freewheel buzzes or clicks. It is just a normal freewheel sound, but I would like it to be as quiet as possible.

Thanks,
Grant

Grant,

The only way to silence the freewheel is to cut it's life expectancy by injecting grease. It's possible that it does not have adequate lubrication, in which case lubing it with a fairly thick oil may help, but it's still going to make some noise. If you grease it, it will be quiet, but make sure that you have a spare around in case the greased one goes bad.

Andy

Dear Andy,

I took apart a 20- inch bike rear axle and can not get it back together. Can you please help me get it back together with directions? I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks a lot. This bike is for my grand daughter.

Paul 

Paul,

Assuming that you have an Asian made coaster brake wheel, here is my best shot.
Thread the brake cone (this has a raised square on the outer side) onto the axle about 3". Fit the brake arm, with the dust cover, both with square holes, onto the raised square of the brake cone. Thread the thicker of the two locknuts and possibly a washer onto the axle, holding the brake arm on. Place this assembly, brake arm down, into a vice. Look carefully at the hub shell. You'll see that the inside of one side is slightly bigger than the other, that the driver cone will pass through the big side, but won't fit through the other side. The big side will go onto the axle parts that are assembled in the vice. Slide one of the larger bearing retainers onto the brake cone, balls facing up. (Sometimes, you need to put the bearings onto the cone before installing the brake arm). 

Grease the bearings thoroughly. Stick your brake shoes onto the cone with a gob of grease. Slide the driver cone onto the axle, and let it rest between the brake shoes. Sometimes, this part has a spring attached. The spring faces down. Carefully slide the wheel, with the big opening down, onto this assembly. Try not to disturb the brake shoes. If one of the shoes falls off, the hub will not go into place, and there will be an obvious gap between the bearing and the hub shell. If you do this right, the hub will seat snugly against the bearing with no gaps. Put the other larger bearing retainer, balls down, into the race on the hub, using plenty of grease. Thread the driver (the part with the gear on it) clockwise into the hub. Place the small bearing retainer, balls down, with lots of grease, into the driver. Thread the cone onto the axle, followed by the smaller locknut. 

If you have nearly the same amount of axle sticking out on both sides, tighten the larger locknut against the brake arm, and proceed to adjust the bearing on the opposite side. That's about it.

Andy

Hi Andy,

I've been reading with interest some of your Bike Mechanic responses. I'm in Australia so my $ estimates are merely conversions. Hope you can help me with a couple of questions.

I'm tall (6'4") and heavy (330 pounds, I think), mid-30's, and after a long absence my wife and I are getting back into cycling (I used to ride a 25-inch triathlon bike early in my 20's as well). It's mostly pavement riding and relatively smooth dirt trails (having one near us that follows a creek). But  I do like to "bash it up" occasionally--it makes me feel younger again. Our bikes are 1992-vintage roughly. Mine has a Shimano 100GS group, which will give you a typical idea of bike quality (say US$300 each). Brand is Repco (probably not familiar to you there, anyway), with 18 speeds.

Of immediate concern to me are the following:

1. My wife's front hub is "sticky" in that when holding the wheel by the cones and spinning the wheel it feels like it's "catching" slightly. Not enough to hurt your fingers, just not silky-smooth. I've removed axle/bearings, cleaned and repacked with grease, but unless I leave the cones slightly loose the sticking is still there, but it means there is a tiny fraction of side-play, which I'm not happy about. Hub is alloy, and when I cleaned all the grease out I noticed some black marks inside the cup, but doesn't look like scoring or anything. Should I replace the bearings, the axle (quick-release) or would a new wheel be just as economical? Do bike wheels need a "hi temperature" grease or just multipurpose stuff?

2. Our brakes are of the older "real" V-pull style, not the "direct pull" (or linear pull) stuff. We know someone with a new but cheap Mongoose mountain bike which has direct-pull brakes and they brake so tightly they lock the wheel up (i,e., with rider on it). These older style brakes have never been capable of doing that. Is this the quality of the brakes, poor adjustment, or are the linear-pulls really better? My knowledge of physics suggest the are more efficient at transferring lever pressure into breaking pressure, whereas the "older" V-pull style are less efficient(?) Are these worth getting to improve breaking performance and, most importantly, will they fit the same lugs on the frame?

3. I've already buckled my wheel in the two weeks since we got back into riding, trying to ride up a steep hill when the chain slipped. Is it fair to say my OEM wheels will be quite cheap and therefore weak, compared to buying a new wheel with, for example, a Mavic Rim and custom building?

4. I don't want to contemplate a new bike yet, but if we get into it more money, I'd like to purchase something better. My frame is steel and I know it's probably heavier than aluminum, but my concern is that most bikes seem to have aluminum frames and I'm worried about them cracking/stressing with my weight. Are my concerns reasonable? Should I look to staying with
a steel frame? If so, which brands offer these? I'm probably looking to spend US$1000-$1500+ on the bike. Is it a given that at the price I paid for my bike, the frame is, relatively speaking, quite crap?

5. I like the idea of disc brakes because I'm assuming they're more forgiving in terms of any slight buckle in the wheel rim? But are the mechanical disk brakes worthwhile or is hydraulic the only way to go? And, are they overkill for the type of riding we do (even though we go down
what we'd call "big" hills)?

Thanks,
Kevin.

Kevin,

When you have an old wheel, the most common problem is wear on the cone, not so much on the hub shell. You may be able to find new cones that fit, and I would get new grade 25 bearings. If you can't find cones pretty close to the dimensions of the ones you have, you'll either have to put up with your problem or buy a new wheel. Use bicycle grease, as it is thinner than automotive type grease. A pair of cones and bearings will cost less than $10, compared to about $30 for a new quick release wheel. 

"V", or linear pull brakes will fit standard cantilever studs. Some old bikes have "U" brakes, and the positioning of the studs is different from that needed to use V brakes. Cantilever brakes have a cable carrier that pulls a straddle cable from the center, with two separate brake arches, connected by the straddle cable. U brakes are similar, but the arches cross each other, hence the "U" shape. Even cheap V brakes are vastly superior to anything used on old bikes, and decent- to- good- quality ones are almost as good as discs. If you can use V brakes, figure about $50 + for brakes and levers.

Most OEM wheels on lower end bikes are not very good. However, with an old 6- speed bike, there are some compatibility issues to consider. You may be better off having a new decent rim and spokes laced onto your existing hub. Good rims go for at least $30, stainless spokes at about .50 each, and labor should be about .50 per spoke. 

I can't tell much about the quality of your frame. I would recommend a good steel frame for a guy like you, but the only way to get one these days is to go to a small (expensive) builder and get an extremely good frame. There are only a few cheap steel bikes around, and they are cheap. A good frame will cost you at least $1,000, and with decent parts, you'll easily be over $2,000. Aluminum tends to fall into two categories: 1) the cheap stuff that everybody thinks is light, and 2) the expensive stuff that's actually lighter than titanium. No aluminum is going to hold up as well as steel. That being said, most manufacturers will give you a lifetime warranty on aluminum frames, and in reality, the failure rate is quite low. Unless you have a pretty big budget, I'd buy a Trek brand (Gary Fisher, Klein, or Trek) aluminum bike, such as the Fisher Tassajara or Big Sur disc, both under $1,500. One problem with most major manufacturers is that they don't make a mountain bike bigger than 22 inches. You may want to check out a custom builder in order to get a bike that fits, and one made of steel. Check out Independent Fabrications or Ted Wocjik. Avid mechanical discs are great, but some cheap ones are not so hot. 

Andy

Hi!

Love your site. After years of cantilever brakes, I have a new XC bike with mechanical disc brakes (Avid 6-inch). They're very nice, with good stopping power. I've noticed that most of the more expensive XC and Feeride bikes come with hydraulic disc brakes. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the two types?

Thanks for your time,
Anthony Mancebo

Anthony,

I used to drive a '62 Ford pickup and occasionally a '72 Pontiac. The Pontiac had those new fangled hydraulic brakes, the truck had fully mechanical brakes. You could stop the truck, if you used both feet on the brake pedal and had about 40 yards. You really had to readjust to the Pontiac, as a toe tap on the brake pedal would usually suffice. The same comparison can be made between bicycle brake systems. There is virtually no friction in the hydraulic system, so it takes a lot less effort to apply more stopping power. Any cable operated system can get dirty and need maintenance, and even with the best new low friction cable sets, you aren't going to get the performance of hydraulics. The only disadvantages to hydraulics are the price, and the fact that you usually can't adjust pad clearance. The adjustment is automatic, and if you have a slightly out of true rotor, you can't back off one pad so that it doesn't drag. Ignorant people say that hydraulic systems are harder to maintain; the truth is that while bleeding the brakes is a pain, you don't do it very often, and it's easier than trying to keep a cable clean and lubricated. Avoid CODA (Cannondale) brakes, or any brand you have not heard of. Hayes are the best, Magura is ok, but not near as good as Hayes, and the new Shimano brakes are yet to be proven, but probably pretty nice.

Andy 

Hi,

I am having difficulty identifying if I have a screw- on cassette or a freewheel cassette, I can't see any signs of a difference; what is the difference?

Thanks,
Sam

Sam,

Cassette cogs are held on to the freehub body by a lockring, which has splines for a lockring tool to fit into. The splines on the lockring are on the surface, actually on the outside of the smallest cog. Freewheels have splines for a tool, but they are set deeper in the freewheel body. If you turn the cluster backwards, the lockring (and the splines) will turn with the gears. If you do the same with a freewheel, the freewheel body (with the splines) will not move with the gears. On older cassette hubs, the center of the hub shell bulges just as it approaches the drive side, to accommodate the freehub bolt. On really old (5-6 speed) cassette hubs, the smallest cog threads onto the body and holds the rest of the cogs on. 

Andy

Hi,

I was wondering if you knew how to install v-brakes on a unicycle.

Thanks,
Paul

Paul,

Assuming that your uni has cantilever brake mounting studs and some place to mount a brake lever, this should be a snap. Make sure to use a linear pull compatible lever. If you don't have brake studs, you can buy them and have someone weld them on, or it's possible that a linear pull brake mounting adapter could be used. There's a place called unicycle.com that sells all sorts of neat stuff, but I don't recall seeing any brakes in there. It is my personal belief that unicycles and pennyfarthings should have no brakes. 

Andy

Dear Andy,

I've been unimpressed with the precision of my Shimano c201 shift group. It shifts precisely on level ground, otherwise it's catch as catch can, requiring up to two shifts and a few seconds after that to shift. This is annoying but not intolerable. I've thought about upgrading the rear derailleur to another rapid rise product like Nexave or XTR. What's the best fix or should I stand pat?

The bike is a Performance x101. I commute about 14 miles a day on it.

Thanks for your time,
Daniel Schechter
Baltimore, Maryland

Daniel,

If you have a clean, well lubricated or teflon shift cable, without excessive cable housing, and a Shimano brand chain and cassette, and have sloppy shifting, I would look at the shifters, not the derailleur. Chances are you have the Shimano twist shifters. These are notoriously sloppy, because they have a cable that pulls a cable that pulls another cable, rather than a direct connection between the shifter and the shift cable. You'll get good results if you replace them with even cheap Rapid Fire- type shifters. Alivio or Acera brake/shift combos can be had for less than $50, or the Nexave Tap Fire shifter for a little more. 

Andy

Andy,

I'm planning on a mountain bike tour this spring through the Southwest, and am looking for a suitable wheelset. I'll be loaded down with panniers and pulling a bob trailer. I won't be jumping
off cliffs or going "off-road," but will be using dirt/gravel roads, and the occasional fire trail or logging road.

I'm satisfied with the Phil Wood/Sun Rhyno Lite setup for my road bike, but don't think my budget will handle another $600 wheelset. What are my options for a durable, reliable hubset? King, Edco, XTR, or Onyx?

Thanks,
Stinky

Stinky,

Some of your brands cost as much or more than the Phil hub. XTR if you're on a budget; Chris King if you're not. Kings cost as much as Phils, so if you like Phils, why buy Kings? The DT Swiss Onyx hub is a decent, inexpensive sealed bearing piece, but I suspect that they are actually made by Joy Tech or somebody like that. Expect to pay around $300-350 for XTR and your favorite rim, up to $550+ for a Chris King wheelset. Don't buy Edco.

Andy

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