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Ask the Mechanic
Winter 1997 Autumn 96 Ask the Mechanic
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 email@example.com, subject "ask the mechanic," or mail your question directly to Ask the Mechanic, c/o Wheelcraft Bicycles, 2185 National Road, Wheeling, WV, USA 26003. Andy will e-mail your advice and we may post it afterward. Take a look at our back issues to find answers to all kinds of bike fix-it questions.
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Winter 1997 Questions...
When greasing my rear hub, how tight should I tighten the wheel? I found that if I tighten it too much the wheel won't spin well and if it's too loose it falls apart. I can't seem to find a happy medium. Also--any tips to improve my shifting on my SRT-400s? It works great with a new cable but rapidly deteriorates.
When adjusting rear hubs, it is important to
have the drive side locknut tight against the spacer or cone
before trying to adjust it. Assuming that your internal hub parts
are in good shape, once the drive side is locked down, snug the
cone down on the left side, then run the locknut on finger tight.
Check for excessive play or binding and correct this before
finally locking the locknut to the cone. I usually prefer to have
a very small amount of play, as the quick release skewer will
compress the bearings slightly when closed. If the wheel does not
spin well with only a slight amount of play in the axle, either
the cone, bearings, hub races, axle, or all of the above need to
Sometimes, the dust cap in the freehub gets out of alignment or deformed (if you removed it, it is probably deformed) and causes drag, and sometimes the rubber dust cones bind and cause problems. There are many things one can do to make grip shift work well. Eliminate any friction and dirt, properly lube the system, and it should perform very well. Always use a "slick" or die drawn cable. Make sure you are using sis type cable housing, and a lubricant that does not bloat the nylon liner (Finish Line Professional or Gripshift Johnnysnot). Stretch the cable several times by holding the shifter in 1st gear while pulling on the exposed cable. Stretch and reset the cable tension using the adjusting barrels and after about 5 stretches, reset the tension with the barrels screwed almost all the way in.
There are many fine aftermarket products which improve grip shift. The most effective and easiest to install is a grip shift Bassworm. Teflon coated cables such as Slickwhips or Gore are well worth the investment and, if you are patient, mechanically-inclined, and don't mind a little bloodshed, the high tension derailleur springs (power spring, crumpet spring) really help out. I have also seen good results with the cable pulleys like the Avid Rollamajig.
Would you have any advice for someone having rusty chain problems every day? Being in the wet, cold and salt makes it rust up nightly. Should I worry or just keep oiling everyday with Phil's Tenacious Oil? Thanks for the help.
Phil's tenacious oil is probably ok for chain lubrication; however, if you are riding in a lot of slime, mud, crud, salt, etc., a heavier brew might work better. Try Finish Line's Cross Country Lube, or a similar heavy synthetic. This type of oil lasts longer, especially in sloppy, wet conditions. If you've tried thick oil and still get regular rust (possibly due to coastal conditions), you can use grease. I don't recommend it, but some folks use grease on their chains in the winter and early spring (mud season) because it doesn't come off every time you ride across the lakes that form in the middle of what used to be the trail. It makes a gooey mess, but it keeps the rust away.
I recently had my bike seat and post stolen in Philadelphia (not unusual) and I'm trying to find out what size seat post I'll need to replace the stolen one. The bike is a 1993 Fuji Thrill. Is there any place I can find out this info short of bringing my bike to a shop? Thanks.
Mike Malone in Philadelphia
Most likely, your 1993 Fuji Thrill uses a 26.6 seatpost, although I can't be totally sure. The best thing to do is to take the bike to a shop where the seat tube can be measured and get your post there, or buy a 26.6 and, if it's too big, exchange it for a 26.4. I'm sure it's one or the other. You know, bike shops aren't such bad places to visit. I mean, going to a bike shop is nothing like going to a dentist or a funeral, so why not just take the bike to a shop and do it right. You should be able to purchase a better than stock post for under $25.
I own a Specialized air/oil Future Shock and have had the stanchion tube and the adjuster knob recently replaced on one side. My problem is that the adjuster knob no longer has any effect on the ride of the fork. The other side still works fine. What could be the problem and could I fix it myself?
I suspect that whoever worked on your fork did something wrong--my experience has been that very few bicycle mechanics can adequately deal with air/oil shocks, beyond minor things like changing oil. Considering the level of service and the relatively low cost, it just makes sense to have this type of fork serviced by Rock Shox or BTI, rather than pay about the same to have someone of questionable ability hack away at it. I do a lot of suspension service, and usually I will send a problem like this to Rock Shox for fast, reliable service. You would probably pay well under $50 for this repair including shipping. It's possible that you don't have the same amount of air or the same oil height in both legs, and this is something pretty easy to check for yourself. Just check the air pressure in both legs with your suspension pump. If the air pressure is the same, you want to check the oil level. You'll have to let out all your air and remove the aircaps. Measure the oil level in each leg with a thin ruler. If the oil height varies by even a small amount, this may account for your problem. If you check the air and oil levels and still have a problem, take it back to where the work was done and demand that they either fix it or refund your money. Next time, call Rock Shox.
What are the usual steps a mechanic takes to "winterize" a bike?
Ross in Scranton
I'm not sure if you want to winterize your bike for storage or for riding, so I'll address both options. If you plan to store your bike during the cold months, there are only a few crucial concerns. The bike should be nicely cleaned and well lubricated (cables, chain, etc.) I prefer hanging the bike by the rear wheel. It's okay to hang it by the front wheel, although I suspect that this is not recommended if you have a front suspension.
Don't store the bike near any solvents or sources of ozone or air pollution (near cars, gasoline lawnmowers, dryers, etc.) as this destroys rubber and harms plastic parts. If the bike is hung, then you don't have to worry about tire inflation. If you cannot hang the bike, you must keep the tires inflated or they will probably be damaged. If you must store your bike near a clothes dryer, it should be covered with plastic or canvas to prevent lint, humidity or ozone from attacking. If you really love your bike, clean it up and make it part of your decor, like the Seinfeld Klein.
If you want to ride your bike all winter, cleanliness and lubrication are the keys. A thicker than usual chain lube--although it collects dirt--will hold up to the slop and mud better than the "dry" light lubes. Road chemicals should be cleaned off immediately, followed up with thorough lubrication. You are more likely to get flats in the winter due to cinders on the road, so a tire liner is a very good investment--try fixing a flat with gloves on or with nearly frostbitten fingers. Some extremists go for studding their tires or tire chains or cleats. This works well on snow and ice, but it's horrible on pavement. A larger, more aggressive tire, such as the Continental Top Touring, is a good idea for road bikes. If you have a steel frame, you may consider a frame saver treatment. This will help prevent internal rust in all conditions.
Do you know of a company that makes 4-wheel bikes that carry two to four people?
Ken in Zachary, LA
Quadracycle (6715 E. 500 South St., Hamilton, IN 46742) is the only company that I have ever heard of that makes 4-wheel bikes. I've never seen them in a store, probably because of space limitations.
I'm looking for information on "Azonic" frames. Could you please help me locate information on them?
Brooke in Baraboo
What do you think is the best lightweight tool kit available? Is it better to assemble your own for less?
Patti in Cincinnati
When it comes to small multi-tool kits, I tend to take a retro approach. Like many products aimed at cyclists, they tend to be the perfect solution to a problem that does not exist. I don't mean to say that they are all useless--I've used a Ritchey CPR 14 with some success, and I like the features on some of the Topeak kits. However, how much roadside/trailside maintenance are you going to really do? Due to the small size of these kits, they can be difficult to use, and it is impossible to correctly torque certain bolts using these tools. Some of them have a crank bolt wrench. Cranks need to be torqued to about 300 inch pounds. Most humans need a bit of a lever to produce that much torque.
If you want something purple or blue that has a high coolness factor (but limited use) buy the CPR 14. I have ridden tens of thousands of miles on the road and in the woods with only a cheap chain tool, two tire levers, a patch kit, small screw driver, and a 3-way Allen wrench. That will usually cover it. I recommend finding our exactly what size nuts and bolts are on your bike, finding out just how hard said nuts and bolts are to tighten, and deciding if the purple anodized tools are going to work. You will carry more weight and possibly have some rattling in your tool bag, but the full-size, old fashioned tools work well and cost less. One of these days, I'd like to replace my Rivoli chain tool with one of those SRP Titanium jobs, but you know, losing a $6.00 tool because you forgot to zip the bag is frustrating; losing a $60.00 tool...
I have a 5200 Trek OCLV. I have had problems with the bottom bracket coming loose so that the crankset wobbles slightly. It is alright to use a liquid thread lock compound on the bottom thread?
If you are using a stock bottom bracket (probably a Shimano Un 71 sealed unit), the problem could be the bottom bracket and not loose cups. Even good Shimano bbs have a relatively high failure rate, as in they wobble. They say that Park tools has a magic voodoo stick for adjusting these bottom brackets, but Shimano calls these units non-adjustable sealed cartridges, so I treat them as such. Ride 'em for 200 or maybe 2000 miles and replace 'em--they're disposable, not serviceable.
I would hesitate to recommend a thread locker in this case, especially if your bb cups are aluminum. "Cold welding," or galvanic corrosion can occur when certain metals are in constant contact for long periods of time. When this happens, whatever metal was screwed into whatever other metal can never be unscrewed. This is especially common with titanium and aluminum (your OCLV frame has an aluminum insert in the bb shell). It is generally advised to use grease rather than thread lockers in most cases.
If you've ruled out the often faulty Shimano bb, or are using a cup and cone or adjustable bb, and the cups are properly torqued (400-500 in lbs.), and the thing continues to loosen, try some plumbers' Teflon tape on the threads. This will help keep things tight, and it also prevents creaks and galvanic corrosion.