Archive for the ‘Repair’ Category

Cleaning and adjusting a Chris King headset

November 11, 2022

Around 2004, I purchased and installed a fancy Chris King GripNut headset. My intent was to support U.S. made products and machinists. Not to save money.

It has been on the Saso the entire time and has a good many miles. I never thought to do maintenance on it because it’s a sealed-bearing headset.

It’s not far from the truth to say sealed-bearing headsets never need maintenance.

I decided to have a look anyway.

After unthreading the lock nut/adjusting ring, I pried off the metal ring covering the bearings and took out the rubber gasket to reveal the bearings (see YouTube video).

Sure enough they had plenty of grease, although after so many years it was starting to show its age.

I followed the YouTube recommendation for cleaning and lubricating.

Assembling the headset is a bit tricky because it uses a steel collet. A collet is a neat way of ensuring a solid clamp onto the steer tube.

The collet needs to be threaded onto the adjusting ring before installation onto the steer tube. There’s a notch in the collet that matches up with an indent on the adjusting ring.

Next you thread on the lock ring over the adjusting ring and THEN thread this single unit onto the steer tube.

Don’t tighten the lock ring too much, just enough so the threads catch.

This process is key for a successful installation.

Be sure the steer tube is greased and spotless, with no grit. While the collet has a steel thread, the rest of the threads on the King headset are aluminum. They can be stripped without much force.

Tighten down the assembly and adjust/tighten the lockring/adjusting rings with spanners for a smooth fit (see Brompton YouTube video).

Collet (above)

Garmin Edge 500 new battery – worth it?

September 21, 2022

Garmin Edge 500 introduced in 2011

After eight years of use, my Garmin Edge 500 needed a new battery. Was it worth the effort? Let’s find out.

This was a gift in 2014. Eight years is good for a lithium ion battery. Batteries die eventually.

I decided to replace the battery. The device still works, and I’m inclined to fix stuff.

The first problem was finding a battery. They’re out there for about $14 on Amazon, but I don’t trust batteries made in China. The original battery was made in Japan, finished in Taiwan.

There are other options, but I chose iFixit. The company goes out of its way to satisfy users. Their website is top-notch with hundreds of “how two” articles.

They had four in stock. This bike computer will disappear once the batteries are gone. This will be the last one I buy.

There are some excellent YouTube videos that describe the procedure.

I unscrewed the computer’s four screws using a T5-50 screwdriver. That’s a barrier for most people right there.

The case top pries off easily. No glue, just a press fit.

Then there’s the screen, which has a ribbon cable. I left it attached and removed the screen/printed circuit board (PCB) by unscrewing three small screws with a Philips head screwdriver.

The battery is attached with double-sided tape. Nasty stuff. Try isopropyl alcohol, if you’re having difficulty.

The battery is attached to the PCB with four wires that come together in a tiny pin socket. Two wires, red and black, attach to the speaker, which is beneath the battery.

This connector is fragile and prone to break.

This socket is fragile. Mine broke on one edge. It also only fits one way. Look for four slots that mesh with the PCB socket holder.

I chose to unsolder the old wires attached to the speaker (red in center, black on edge), and then solder on the new ones. You can leave them soldered and tie together, then tape.

I tried to reuse the tape, but it wasn’t working well. I used some Scotch tape. Good enough.

The broken socket was a problem. It needs to be a secure fit or the battery won’t work. I used some caulk cord weatherstrip. Big thumbs up.

This sticky stuff does a good job of holding stuff in place and filling gaps.

I was pleased to see the computer power up after reassembly.

Everything is working normally, but I don’t know how long the battery will last. My experience with batteries has been negative when they’re made outside of Japan or Taiwan.

Final cost $27. Fix or don’t bother? Don’t bother. Put your money toward another bike computer.

Tire levers for tight fittings

July 8, 2022

Avocet tire with Kool Stop tire lever

Today’s super-sized tire levers take advantage of leverage for installing stubborn tires. I bought the Kool Stop Tire Bead Jack, and it works well. Made in the USA.

They’re excellent, but there’s more to installing a tire than leverage. Technique matters.

I was trained to install a tire on the rim starting at the valve stem. That’s not always the best way.

Sometimes it’s best to start opposite the valve stem and work your way around to the stem. The tube seats much better this way in some situations.

Recently I had difficulty installing a 26-inch tire. I tried starting with the valve stem, but was nowhere near pulling the bead over the rim, even using a Kool Stop lever.

I started pulling the bead from opposite the valve; it worked so well that I didn’t even need a tire lever. It took some force, but I could manage by hand.

Another tire I installed required the use of the Kool Stop lever. Pull over the bead in increments rather than going for a single pull. Lots of YouTube videos show the best technique.

Here’s the rub though. You really don’t want to ride a tire that’s hard to install. If you need a powerful tire lever like the Kool Stop, you’re going to have to lug it around on rides.

My advice is to find a tire/rim combination that you can fit by hand. Unfortunately, I know of no way to find that combination other than asking around. Wider rims seem to be more compliant.

My best rim/tire combination is Mavic Open Pro and Continental folding tires.

Kool Stop tire bead jack in use

Topeak’s JoeBlow pump has flaws

July 7, 2021

Stripped threads in aluminum base caused JoeBlow pump to fail. Poor design.

(Update, Nov. 28, 2022: I moved my 20-year-old Joe Blow pump hose to the new pump and that fixed the bent valve tips issue. The old hose has what I think is a better pump head design. The old hose is a perfect match to the new one as well, except it’s a foot longer — even better!)

(Update, Sept. 9, 2022: Ever since I purchased this pump I’ve had problems with presta valve tips bending, and even breaking. I think the pump head is to blame. Try unthreading the piece at the tip just a small amount to reduce the risk of bending. I bought some schrader adapters and screwed them over the presta.)

(Update, July 20, 2021: I didn’t say how my operation turned out because I wanted to give the pump time to recover fully. Like people, pumps need time to settle in after an overhaul/disassembly. The operation was a success. The pump works as well as can be expected for its age. It’s suitable as a back-up pump.)

I’ve been using the JoeBlow Sport pump since around 2000, and it has been a workhorse. The only other floor pump I owned was a Silca.

The Silca got old and died, which happens to all pumps. It served me well for about 20 years.

I bought the JoeBlow Sport III and now I wish I hadn’t. I should have bought a Park or Levitan. They support their product with replacement parts and show how to maintain them on YouTube. Topeak, not so much.

But on to the flaw. My floor pump failed for a simple reason. The base plate is held by three socket-cap screws. They’re too small for the job.

My new JoeBlow has the same problem, puny bolts, and it looks like the design has not changed in 20 years. I tightened them down, and they needed it, even though the pump was new.

Before I go any farther, to get the most life out of those screws tighten them every few months or so with an allen key. They need to be tight. Had I known when I bought the pump, I probably wouldn’t be writing this column.

The screws keep the floor plate attached to the tube. Standing on the floor plate and jerking on the pump when inflating strains the screws,

Now for a deep dive that explains how to fix the problem. Only do this if your pump’s screws are stripped out and you have nothing to lose.

I know about tapping stripped threads, but I’ve never tried it. Adam Savage of MythBusters fame has a fun and educational guide on how to tap threads on YouTube.

The part that needs tapping is the round plug that sits inside the base of the pump tube. It’s machined aluminum. Aluminum is much softer than steel bolts, so it’s easy to see why the hole threads stripped.

JoeBlow sport pump disassembled, minus the base plate.

After checking the bolt diameter, it turned out that a 1/4 inch 20 (thread count) one inch socket cap screw would work, barely. I say barely because the aluminum plug and its holes are perilously close to the outside edge.

I pressed on because I had nothing to lose. My tapping experience went as well as could be expected for a newbie. I didn’t break the tap and the threads were as vertical as I could make them. That’s crucial. They need to be vertical.

Before you tap, be sure you tap in the right direction. The aluminum disk has a raised lip that faces down. An O ring rests in the lip notch inside the base of the tube. Drill up, the screw’s orientation.

Topeak uses screws with only a small amount of thread. The rest of the screw is smooth. I didn’t find anything like it, so I had to tap the pressure gauge plastic and the base plate, both trivial but be sure they’re as vertical as possible because the thread goes through three parts. Using fully threaded screws makes for a much stronger base.

I purchased the Azuno 17-piece tap and die set in US standard thread measurement. English is less expensive and parts are more readily available than metric.

Note that not all taps are alike. Ideally, you would use a tap that begins its threads at the tip. The Azuno has a void area at the tip. That meant I had to drill clean through the aluminum disk. I don’t think it matters. I can’t imagine air escaping through the threaded screw. If you’re concerned, plug the holes with something.

Disassembly and assembly of the pump is a pain. Removing the pump shaft requires using a screwdriver to press in a plastic tab in two holes at the top of the pump shaft, hidden by a piece of plastic. It’s a terrible design. (That was 20 years ago. The new pump doesn’t use that design today.)

Getting out the aluminum disk requires a long stick or pole. Another O ring sits loose on top of the aluminum disk. Weird.

While you’re at it, clean and lubricate the parts, using heavy oil, but not car grease.

A one-inch screw will work better than the 6/8″ screw length the pump comes with. That’s another reason the Topeak base screws failed. They had only five or six threads in the aluminum. Terrible engineering.

After going through this nonsense, I realize that Topeak’s product offering is inferior to other pumps on the market. I’m not saying they’re terrible, just mediocre. Lesson learned.

I’m a conservative…when it comes to bike parts

March 1, 2021

Here’s a sampling of my broken bike parts.

UPDATE (March 15): Today’s cranks continue to fail. Check out Oz Cycle for an informative in-depth look at what’s causing them to fail. Shimano 105 has the best chance for a long life.

I’m conservative when it comes to buying and using bike components. I don’t buy the lightest and most expensive. You’re asking for trouble, as in a catastrophic component failure.

I’ve written about this topic on numerous occasions, but it’s always worth reminding everyone that bike parts fail! And when they do the result can be injury.

There was a guy named Prado that had a website dedicated to failed bike parts. He had plenty of photos showing all kinds of parts, many of them well known brands.

The industry doesn’t like to talk about it, for good reason. There is inherent risk in everything we do and bike riding is no exception.

As long as you buy a name brand and stay away from the exotic lightweight parts, you reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

The other important thing to consider is age. The older a bike part is — in miles ridden — the greater chance it will fail. It’s a good idea to replace old parts, even if they look good.

I have a laundry list of failed parts. Ones I can remember:

Frame. Frames will fail with continued use, especially if they’re subject to some kind of trauma, like a crash. It doesn’t matter what material it is. Steel is the strongest material and most likely to give some hint of impending failure: My opinion. I’ve broken my frames multiple times: fork, top tube, down tube. One incident was not accident-related, but two failures were.

Cranks. They’re under a lot of stress and over time they could fail. I’ve seen and heard of failures along the crank arm and at the pedal eye. When a crank fails, it can cause a nasty fall. I’ve broken two cranks, both times hitting my head, one time without a helmet.

Handlebar. I have a friend who used a lightweight handlebar that failed while riding on Page Mill Road. He was badly hurt. I’ve never had a failure, but if you have a 20-year-old alloy handlebar with lots of miles, replace it now.

Stem. I’ve heard of stem failures, but I’ve never had an issue.

Seatpost. There’s a recent comment (Super Record seatpost) regarding seatpost failures. It happens and it can lead to a serious injury. I had one seatpost failure, an Avocet with a two-bolt design. The seatpost had a fatal flaw — toothpicks for bolts. Fortunately it wasn’t a catastrophic failure, so I could ride home in discomfort.

Spokes. They break, especially on the freewheel/freehub side where there’s more tension. It’s not usually an issue if you have 32 or 36 spokes. I’m not sure what that means for hydraulic brakes, probably not an issue. For rim brakes, open the quick release lever to reduce rim/brake pad contact. I don’t know what happens when a spoke in a 16-spoke wheel fails. I’ve read about carbon fiber spokes exploding and the wheel disintegrating. Crash. I’ve broken at least ten spokes, never a problem.

Hub. Hubs can break at the spoke hole. I once re-spoked a wheel and made the dumb mistake of laying the spokes down in such a way that they did not line up with the previous indentations. The hub tore out two spokes due to my stupidity while riding down Metcalf Road.

Freewheel/Freehub. The inner workings can fail, especially bearings. I’ve had this happen.

Bottom bracket axle. They can fail, although the newer BBs with outboard bearings are much stronger today.

Hub axle. The 6-speed Campagnolo axles were notorious for failing after a few years use. Today’s hubs have outboard bearings and that means less axle overhang. I suppose it can still happen to hub axles ridden too many miles.

Headset. I had a headset disintegrate, the upper cup. Bearings also fail.

Chain. I know lots of people who have broken chains. It has never happened to me.

Brakes. I suppose a brake arm can fail, or a hydraulic brake, but more likely it will be a brake cable. With constant stress cables fail. It has happened to me on several occasions, always the front cable, of course. I crashed my bike as a result of the failure on one occasion, ruining a fork and crimping the downtube and toptube. Replace your front cable every few years, if you ride a lot of miles.

Shifters. Today’s complicated brake shifters are prone to component failure. Many small parts can break with use. It happened to me. Shift cables can fail from repeated use. Replace them once in a while.

Saddle. I imagine saddle rails can break, although it has never happened to me. A lot depends on your weight.

Tires. This is obvious, but these days because I have so few flats, I have to remind myself to check for tire wear. Replace tires when they start to look worn. Casings can tear, and that’s not good.

It’s always a good idea to check your bike from time to time. Look for cracks using a magnifying glass. Replace old parts.

The airlines industry is known for replacing vital parts on a regular schedule, and they retire planes after so many years. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Campagnolo Super Record seatpost has a lifespan

February 24, 2021

An adjustable ratchet gives a good position/fit. for tightening down the Super Record seatpost.

For a while there I thought my Campagnolo Super Record seatpost (vintage 1983-84) would outlive me, but now I’m not so sure.

There’s a crack on the lower left seat clamp, a telltale sign that this seatpost is on its way to the trash heap.

Age and miles have caught up to my seatpost. This crack is a sure sign.

My saddle started slipping backwards on rides. I thought I had tightened the seatpost’s 13mm bolt sufficiently, but apparently not.

After trying a piece of innertube to stop the creep (epic fail), I abandoned that idea and used an adjustable-head ratchet/socket wrench and a quality socket to clamp down even tighter. Now the seat’s not moving during my rides, but the crack tells me it’s not going to last. (I need to find out how much torque I applied.)

I researched the subject and found other cyclists who had the same issue.

My seatpost has about 150,000 miles. It has been all over the world and worked flawlessly until now. The single bolt design makes saddle adjustment a cinch. The bottom saddle clamp/top seatpost touch points are smooth. I’ve noticed that some seatposts have ridges, which may reduce slippage.

Jobst Brandt never thought much of the single-bolt seatpost design. He favored the Nuovo Record two-bolt steel seatpost. He may have known that the Super Record seatpost was cast alloy, including the threads that hold the steel bolt.

I learned that the alloy threads can “wear out,” especially if the bolt isn’t greased. There’s an interesting way to “fix” this by using a helicoil. Search on YouTube to find out more about the process that adds a steel insert into an alloy thread. It’s fascinating.

For my needs it would be overkill to attempt this machining trickery. I’d just as soon buy a new seatpost. After all, 38 years isn’t too shabby for a bike part lifespan.

More about the Super Record seatpost: Cycling Obsession, Le Cycleur

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.