Archive for the ‘Repair’ Category

It’s all about leverage

November 4, 2020

Square-tapered BBs that became popular in the early 2000s can be a challenge to overhaul.

Nothing is more frustrating during bike maintenance than a stuck bolt.

Recently I came up against a frozen bolt in my square-tapered bottom bracket (BB), vintage 2000. It’s a sealed cartridge on a Trek mountain bike.

The square-tapered bottom bracket on my mountain bike is not what we all knew and loved in the 1960-80s. It has a sealed cartridge and internal cups. It doesn’t have a lock ring on the left side.

I’ve looked on YouTube quite a bit and this BB has more than its share of issues, especially when it comes to removing stuck bolts.

Before launching into ways to loosen stuck bolts, I recommend you transition to the Shimano Hollowtech II BB. It’s a technical marvel — stronger than other BB designs, larger ball bearings, and way easier to maintain.

I struggled to remove the anchor bolts located on the ends of the BB axle. They hadn’t been removed for 15 years, so they were on there good. I’m sure bolts are torqued down tight at the factory.

It’s not just BB bolts. A while ago I tried removing the chainwheel bolts on my Shimano Ultegra crankset and stripped out two before finally removing them using a hammer drill.

My recommendations for removing stuck bolts, from mild to severe methods:

1. Oil/lubricant. Penetrating oils, even WD40, can help loosen a bolt. My experience is that it doesn’t work, but it’s worth a try.

2. Heat gun. I’ve had occasional success applying heat.

3. Brute force impact. Banging on bolts seems to work best. There are several approaches. First is to use a hammer and chisel and bang away. More sophisticated — use an impact driver, manual or drill. A manually operated reversible impact driver costs about $15. It works like a screwdriver, but instead of twisting with your hand, you bang on the end with a hammer.

An impact driver drill works the same way, but it’s automated. The drill does all the work. It can generate a lot of torque, but it’s not always enough. I had success with one bolt on my Trek BB, but needed to do something different for the other one.

4. Leverage. You may have heard of a “cheater bar.” It’s just a metal pipe that slips over a ratchet. When using this method, it’s imperative to have a well-seated hex head, screwdriver, etc. Add some grinding paste to the end of the screw head to assure a good grip.

I have a really long cheater bar. It came in handy when I removed the crank arms. A long bar offers so much leverage that it’s guaranteed to work — or shear off the bolt.

Once I got the bolts off, I had a Sugino bottom bracket puller (ancient) that worked for extracting the arms. Be sure that it’s seated tightly against the crank arm. I used a large crescent wrench and cheater bar to remove the crank arms. You could also use two crescent wrenches in tandem — one inserted into the face of the puller and one on the threaded bolt that is turned against the axle.

The final step for removing this BB requires a special tool. I purchased the Park BBT-32 20-spline. It’s fine for occasional use. There’s a better one for shop use (BBT-22C), but costs more.

BBT-32 tool from Park is needed to remove the BB cups.

I had no issues removing the threaded cups. Note that the left side cup may be plastic. Use extreme caution removing and replacing to avoid cross-threading. Another plastic component is small dust caps that cover the bolt bolt threads on each side. Pry them off with a screwdriver. They’re flimsy, so don’t be surprised if they break. Metal threaded caps are sold.

Both sides have to be removed. The right, drive side, is steel and in my case with a sealed cartridge is part of the BB.

The left side of the BB may have a white plastic cap that helps keep out debris. It comes right out. There’s another thin threaded bolt on the axle, but it’s not meant to be removed unless you’re trying to maintain the bearings. Don’t bother.

If you want to learn more, check out the First Components website. They have an excellent tutorial with photos.

RockShox fork maintenance — could have been worse

August 7, 2020

Ancient RockShox Judy XC foam o-ring. Good luck finding a replacement.


I had my introduction to maintaining a front fork with suspension and it reminded why I like simple.

There’s nothing simple about fork suspension maintenance. I felt like I was working on a motorcycle, not a bike.

Fortunately, it went relatively well, but I had an unexpected advantage — working on the simple RockShox Judy XC, vintage year 2000 (on a Trek 6500).

I’m not going to tell you how it’s done here. RJ The Bike Guy took me through the process.

The only real issue I had was the foam o-rings located near the top of the shock. They were shot after 20 years of use.

One had broken in half and they both looked like limp pieces of old spaghetti.

I looked around and couldn’t find anything matching my Judy XC. That’s the way of the bikes these days. There must be hundreds of different bike shocks and they all have different components. Good luck finding parts.

I noticed that China has stepped in and they make just about every bike part on the planet. They’re small shops and their work is not always topnotch, but it’s your only choice.

I found something that looked like it would work, but I was wrong. My o-rings must be 28 mm, but it’s hard to tell because they were so degraded. I bought 32 mm and they were way too big.

I wound up cutting them to shorten and down the middle to slim them.

But not to worry. I found out that the forks will work fine without them. Real World Cycling has an excellent article about the purpose of foam o-rings. They’re non-essential.

I had to purchase two bottles of oil for $16 and the o-rings cost another $15. At least I didn’t have to buy a special hand pump to pressurize them.

The Judy XC is a basic shock. It may not be the best, but it’s easy to maintain.

I laugh at the notion of servicing these shocks every 50 hours of use as recommended. Absurd, unless you’re a professional. I’d say even the average mountain biker would get away with 2-5 years between servicing.

I don’t ride many miles on this mountain bike, so 20 years is not meaningful. I’d say they have 5 years of average use.

Now I have a serviced suspension. Given my situation, it will no doubt be the last time I ever service a RockShox suspension fork.

With waxed chains I’m Mr. Clean

May 28, 2020

Cassette running a waxed chain.


After a couple of months running waxed chain, I can say it’s worth the extra effort.

I got 350 miles on a single waxing with a 7-speed chain. Your mileage will vary, but no doubt the larger chain, which can hold more wax, accounts for some of the longevity. I’m not seeing the same results for a 10-speed chain. I’ve gone 230 miles and could have gone longer, but the chain was making a little more noise than normal.

The payoff is a clean drivetrain. I’m impressed with how clean the cassette and freewheel are running. The chains are not as clean as I’d like, but they have 80-90 percent less black gunk, a huge improvement.

It’s hard to say how much more life I’ll get from components, but from what I’ve read, it’s significant.

Now that I have a routine, I can clean a chain in about 35-40 minutes.

Dirty waxed chain with 240 miles before cleaning.

Note: I recommend checking Molten Speed Wax for more details. They mention 300 miles between cleanings of “training” chains, which I think is about right. They also recommend changing the wax after 8 to 16 cleanings. I agree. The wax gets dirty.

New handlebars give my neck a “break”

March 9, 2020

Old-style handlebars give my neck the relief I have been searching for.

After a couple months seeking a cure for my sore neck, I’m making progress. It will never be that same as it was before my 1981 accident, but I’m finding ways to cope.

The x-rays showed nothing all that bad for a senior citizen. In a word, it’s osteoarthritis. That’s a catch phrase, which includes misaligned vertebrae and bone spurs.

I already had eight weeks of massage therapy, which helped loosen tight muscles, but it could not undo the pain of arthritis, most notably when I turn my neck to the right.

More consultation with a physical therapist has given me some excellent stretching exercises that will loosen tight muscles, and that will improve neck mobility.

But I needed something more before I could ride comfortably.

It came in the form of an upright position in the saddle, and I mean upright.

I purchased Sunlite Northroad alloy handlebars. They have the shape found on 3-speeds of days gone by.

I couldn’t think of a handlebar that would help me sit more straight. These have a sweep back of 7.5 inches from the stem.

Now my neck doesn’t bother me. I switched to a saddle with more padding for my upright position.

The handlebars have a fair amount of give in them, which helps absorb road shock.

Now I’m the only rider on the planet with these handlebars and Campagnolo Super Record cranks.

I added some Shimano EF41 3/7-speed brake/shift levers.

In addition to all these helpful changes, I installed my waxed chain. What a difference.

I pedaled over to Dale Saso’s to show him my Frankenbike. More on that later.

I’ll still ride my Ritchey with the drop bars in the hills.

 

 

I’ve got OCCCDC

February 25, 2020

Ingredients for chain waxing. The coffee filter enables limited reuse of solvents.

Besides physical ailments, there’s something else weighing me down of late — Obsessive Compulsive Clean Chain Disorder Complex (OCCCDC).

I’m not the only one. Have a look on YouTube. I’ve reviewed dozens of videos about the process so I could find the best formula.

A prerequisite for becoming OCCCDC is to have lots of time on your hands and a place where you can heat smelly wax and clean your chains. I qualify on both counts.

The degree to which the affliction affects people runs the gamut — from GCN, which almost makes light of chain waxing, to Oz Cycle, a likable Aussie whose obsessive compulsive personality regarding cycling knows no bounds.

After reviewing the variety of formulas and toxic chemicals employed, I came up with my own. It’s tailored for California, where petroleum-based solvents are disappearing from store shelves faster than N95 face masks.

Our state is literally banning solvents.

So, the chemicals I recommend may or may not be available down the road.

Before launching into my alchemist’s elixir that turns candle wax into the world’s best chain lubricant, here’s why I decided to give it a try.

Studies have shown that wax is the best chain lubricant, hands down. No other commercial product compares, and the ones closest to wax are mostly made of wax.

It’s also the cleanest. It doesn’t attract road grime. Chains and other drivetain parts last WAY LONGER.

So why do only a tiny number of cyclists run wax on their chains?

It’s a hassle. There’s no getting around it. It only lasts about 180 miles (300 km). Once wax evaporates, the chain begins making noise, metal on metal.

The up-front cost is modest,  but, as I mentioned, a location outdoors is highly recommended for chain cleaning and waxing.

Melted wax has an odor, although not terrible, and it’s messy. The process of chain cleaning calls for using nasty chemicals, all of them hazardous to humans. But what isn’t? They’re not as bad as asbestos, but much worse than dish soap.

Here’s the two-step process:

A. Clean the chain of lubricants, even if it’s new.

  1. Soak the chain in Mineral Spirits overnight. (Gas, Diesel, Kerosene can be used, but it’s not sold in stores)
  2. Rinse the chain in water and dry.
  3. Soak the chain in a Degreaser for 10-30 minutes. There are many brands. Clear liquid is preferred.
  4. Rinse the chain in water and dry.
  5. Soak the chain in Isopropyl Alcohol or Acetone for 10-30 minutes. You may have to repeat Step 5, until the solution is mostly clear.
  6. Rinse the chain in water and dry.

B. Heat the chain in melted wax

  1. Use a clear paraffin wax, food grade or equivalent, which can include clear/white candles.
  2. Heat the wax on a hot plate outdoors in a pan, or in a crock pot. I prefer a hot plate because it’s faster than a crock pot, which takes 90 minutes to melt wax.
  3. Heat the wax to about 90-93 degrees C, about 200 degrees F.
  4. Let the chain soak for 15-30 minutes.
  5. Remove chain and give it a quick wipe, or let it drip dry. Some recommend letting the chain cool until there’s a thin film of cooled wax in the pot for better adhesion. Not sure this matters.
  6. Flex the chain on a doorknob or equivalent — even flexing in the hand works — before installing.

Part A is only necessary the first time you wax your chain. After that just brush off the chain before rewaxing.

Assuming the chain lasts about 150-200 miles before needing waxing (body weight/torque, weather, and road surface has a lot to do with variations), if you have 3-4 chains ready to go, you can go for more than a month without chain waxing, assuming you ride a lot of miles. It could be two months for riders who don’t do so many miles.

The chain melting process isn’t all that bad. It’s the cleaning that’s a hassle.

Additives that may or may not be useful are PTFE (Teflon by Dupont), which comes in a powder or spray, and Paraffin Oil, also called lamp oil. PTFE is not something you’ll find in the local store, although Paraffin Oil is more readily available.

These additives improve wax lubricity. Whether or not they increase mileage between waxing is unknown, to me anyway. I’ll let you know.

Next up, my experience riding a waxed chain.

Note: I recommend checking Molten Speed Wax for more details. They mention 300 miles between cleanings of “training” chains, which I think is about right. They also recommend changing the wax after 8 to 16 cleanings. I agree. The wax gets dirty.

Lessons learned after Break Away refurbish

February 16, 2020

Shimano Ultegra components bound for the bike parts boneyard. Replacement cost $700.

Every time I work on my bike I’m reminded why I would never cut it as a mechanic. Good mechanics are good to know.

What would take a mechanic a couple of minutes to do, like replace a shift cable on Ultegra, took me hours, and I’m not exaggerating.

Threading the cable through the right way proved daunting, and I couldn’t find anything on YouTube that made the task easier. It’s not intuitive and the cable bend inside the shifter caused no end of frustration.

However, I’m in no hurry these days.

The first lesson is to photograph your bike before beginning, and I mean every angle. Second, mark and measure all the old cable housing, noting their orientation. You’ve got four cables going at weird angles, overlapping each other.

When threading the shift cables, which are the biggest headache, be sure to use the proper housing. Brake housing is thicker than shift housing. That I knew.

Cutting the cables should be the last step. You never know if you might have to re-thread something, but once cable is cut it can fray. It only takes a tiny amount of fraying to cause headaches. I tried soldering the ends after cutting and it worked out well, although you may need to do some sanding to make them the same width.

Use end caps on all the cable housing, except for the front brake, which doesn’t really need one inside the barrel adjustment housing. In fact, I don’t think a cap will fit inside if used.

When adding new components, check for compatibility. Shimano is known for changing specs across each generation. Gone are the days when components rarely changed. I also noticed NOS for Shimano products is almost non-existent. Ultegra 6700 stuff is hard to find.

I’m using Shimano 105 ST-5700 shifters designed for a 10-speed freewheel. I need to ride some miles to be sure it’s dialed in.

The BBR60 Ultegra bottom bracket replaced my old Shimano Ultegra R6700 BB. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t go on as easily as the old one. The BBR60 was redesigned with a smaller face, but I was provided an adapter for the old crank tightening tool I already owned.

I didn’t find a Shimano 105 BB anywhere online initially, although there are a few out there. Not sure if they’re compatible, but the BBR60 works.

Be sure to shift the levers into the proper setting before threading the cable. This is not essential, but when it comes time to adjust the cables, you’ll discover that you have to downshift to the proper setting before any adjustments can be made.

I had to review the process for cable-adjusting the front derailleur. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the procedure. Park Tools has some excellent tutorials.

If you want to remove the chainrings on a Shimano Ultegra or 105, the five bolts require a Torx 30 driver. These bolts are installed at the factory and are extremely tight.

I used a battery-powered drill with a fresh battery and put it on “hammer” mode. Give the bolts a dose of penetrating oil and let the crank sit for a day or so. Use a heat gun on the bolts before removing them.

Press down with all your strength to keep the crank from moving. Use short bursts of power to back out the bolts.

But it may be better to buy a new Ultegra crankset for about $225, or a 105 for $160. The large Ultegra ring goes for $150. The 34T ring costs $18.

Looking at all the hassles with today’s bikes, there’s something to be said for the old days when index shifting didn’t exist, and a six-speed freewheel was a big deal. Bike repair was much simpler and parts plentiful.

One thing I do like today is the quality of bike tires. I went from 3,000 miles on a tire to more than 6,000. That’s progress.

Squeal like a brake pad – redux

August 15, 2019

Kool Stop pads on the Open Pro rim, above, and Mavic MA2 rim below.


(Follow up: I used the Kool Stop pads on some long descents. They squealed descending Pescadero Road and later on Page Mill Road, although it cleared up completely going down Moody Road. I have zero tolerance for brake squeal. I will use them on the rear brake only.)

Back in 2009 I complained about squeaky Kool Stop brake pads. Fast forward ten years and I’m back to using the Continental style pads (still being sold), but no more squeal.

Jobst Brandt was a huge fan of Kool Stop pads. At one point back in the 80s I think every rider in his cadre switched to Kool Stop.

My guess is that the newer Mavic Open Pro rims I’m riding are less prone to grunge buildup compared to the Mavic MA2. I have photographic evidence. I could get the Kool Stop pads to stop squealing if I ran them through wet sand and applied the brakes, but the fix didn’t last.

The Shimano Ultegra brake pads I replaced had lost braking power. I noticed it on steep descents and even not-so-steep inclines.

Worn Shimano pad removed from its casing. Easy to remove them once you back out the screw with a 2 mm Allen key.


I think it’s mostly due to age. They were nine years old and had many miles. Rubber hardens with age and I think that contributed to the reduced braking power.

These Continental pads are old. They’ve been sitting in the garage for 15 years, but they work well. These pads last forever. They might just outlive me.

I don’t have any objections to Shimano’s pads. I wanted to use what was on hand and save a buck.

The Kool Stop pads I’m using have some cons. They’re ugly for one. They require a 10 mm wrench. I prefer an Allen key.

While my braking power is much better now, I should be using disc brakes for even better braking.

I’ve always preferred the simpler caliper brake, but nowadays my aging hands need all the help they can get.

Shimano Ultegra hubs give me the shimmies

May 14, 2019

Shimano Ultegra hubs, not so easy to adjust.


If Campagnolo made one product well, it had to be their Nuovo Record hubs. Mine are still going strong after 40 years of hard use.

What I like most about the hubs is their ability to be adjusted precisely with relative ease using hub wrenches.

I’m old-fashioned when it comes to hubs. I prefer unsealed bearings, although if I had it to do over again, I’d probably cave and go with sealed hubs, just for their convenience.

During maintenance, after installing new bearings and adding grease, there’s the final step of adjusting the bearing race. It’s an acquired skill, but once you’ve got it down, it’s easy.

The key is to tighten it such that the bearings don’t have too much play inside the hub, but not so tight that the bearings are binding.

Test for looseness: After installing the wheel and locking the quick release, try to wiggle the rim side to side. If there’s any play, it’s too loose.

Test for tightness: Spin the wheel and see if the hub turns freely for a fairly long time before coming to a stop. It should turn for quite a few revolutions before stopping.

Ideally, the wheel will rock back and forth at the valve stem before stopping, but that’s difficult to achieve. Consider yourself the bike repair whisperer.

The problem I have with my Ultegra hubs is that they’re hard to adjust. They don’t give me the same tactile feedback I got from the Campagnolo hubs during adjustment.

I recently serviced the Ultegra hubs (for about the fifth time), but during descents I noticed squirrely steering. The bike seemed to wander.

Sure enough, the hubs were a bit loose. I could rock the rim back and forth. It’s not much, but it doesn’t take much to notice wheel wobble. I needed lots of trial and error to get a good adjustment.

Miles to go before I flat

April 16, 2019

Sidewall gives out. The tube bulges here and rubs against the brake.


To take a line from Robert Frost, I had miles to go before I flatted, literally.

I’m eating my words about that tire with 7,080 miles. I knew it was about to go, but I pushed it just a bit too far.

I heard a pop, then a hiss and immediately sensed I had a front flat. Fortunately I wasn’t going too fast down Redwood Lodge Road.

I stopped and took off the tire. I found the flat after a short search — a half-inch tube split. Odd. I looked at the tire and didn’t see anything wrong. So I replaced the tube and inflated the tire. All looked normal.

Doh! That was my mistake. All was not normal. Don’t change a tube until you know with certainty what caused the flat.

A quarter mile down the road….hsss! bang! Schiesse!

No cell connection out here, I knew I had to get it right this time. Once again I tried to find the source, carefully inspecting the tire. There it was — a blown sidewall at the bead. Those are hard to see unless you carefully inspect the tire after inflation. Look for a small bulge.

Fortunately I always carry a boot. I wrote about the importance of carrying a boot in a previous post.

It’s tricky to get it positioned just right over a sidewall failure. Be sure you don’t see a bulge during inflation, which means that the boot is properly seated.

I prefer an old piece of tire (minus the wire bead) versus an inner tube, although I also carry a piece of inner tube, which works well for holes on the top of the tire.

I’ve had a sidewall failure before, but I don’t recall the details. It almost always happens on old tires with too many miles.

In addition to a boot, bring money. In a bind I could have gone door to door and begged for a tire off someone’s bike. I’ve also seen dollar bills used as a boot. Bills are stronger than regular paper.

Serves me right. I kept the tire pressure around 50 psi and took it easy riding home.

I added two new Continentals, an UltraSport II ($17) economy tire made in China and a Gatorskin. I’ll rotate the tires and give the wear results in a couple of years. I’m not concerned about performance these days, just tire life/wear.

Refurbished Avocet GelFlex ready to roll

April 6, 2017

My ancient Avocet GelFlex saddle has been reconditioned, ready to go another 36,000 miles.

UPDATE (April 23, 2017): The saddle started creaking again. I decided to thoroughly clean the rail clamps and seatpost base, then grease. After doing that the saddle is completely silent after 30 miles. All that time fussing over the saddle!!!! I’ll see if it holds up. After 6 years of use, the gunk in the placement grooves might be the culprit. I never had this issue with my Campagnolo Super Record seatpost. I guess every post is different.
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Today I saw an Avocet GelFlex saddle NOS for sale on eBay for $140. Fortunately, I have one left, newly reconditioned.

My second attempt at replacing the saddle cover with marine vinyl (those nylon covers didn’t last long) using a process described on the Instructables website, went easier than last time, but it still lacks polish.

I guess I lack the patience to make it look perfect. I’m happy with good enough.

This time the staples went in better, now that I have an electric staple gun and used shorter 1/4-inch (6 mm) staples.

I wasn’t as happy with the Loctite spray glue compared to 3M. I recommend the 3M brand described in Instructables. The Loctite glue sprayed out like that stuff used to make fake spider webs during Halloween.

This is my second successful attempt at adding epoxy to quiet that annoying front saddle creak. It’s like I’m riding a new saddle.