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?uestion man One of the things I like most is receiving email from around the world and answering bicycle questions. I’ve replied to thousands while I’ve had this site and since I became a cycling technical writer in 1983. If you have a question, email me and I’ll reply as soon as possible.

Or, if you prefer, browse my bicycle FAQ here, where there’s a good chance you’ll find an answer. This page is divided into sections shown below and each section includes an index of included questions to make jumping to topics easy. You may also search this document for any word using your browser’s Find function (click Edit and select Find).

For more of my bicycle technical questions and answers, news and fun bike stuff, be sure to follow my Bicycle Beat blog, and my Tech Talk column on too.

Good reading!
Jim Langley

Accessories  •  Bicycles  •  Components  •  Collectibles

Repairs  Riding  •  Other

?s about accessories (back to top)
Road cycling shoes
Chain holder
Rollers or trainer
Kid trailers
Keeping your feet warm

Road cycling shoes
Question What do I need to know to get a good pair of road cycling shoes?

Answer The most important thing is to get shoes that fit right and are comfortable, and the best way to figure this out is to try on lots of different shoes and compare how they feel. How a road shoe should fit depends a lot on how you use it.

If you’re a serious road cyclist who spends most of your biking time, biking (versus walking a fair amount here and there), you’ll want rigid-soled road shoes that fit glove-like on your feet allowing just enough room for toe wiggling. The shoes should be about ½ size snugger than a running shoe. The reason is, your feet do not move in a cycling shoe when you’re pedaling and you don’t want them to because it would be inefficient and could lead to chafing and blisters and pain.

If, on the other hand (or should I say “foot?”), you’re going to be touring or riding centuries and you plan to walk a good bit on your rides at food stops or for sight seeing, you should get walkable shoes that take a recessed cleat (the cleat is the part that joins the shoes to the pedals). These shoes have a more flexible and sticky sole that’s much better for walking. And you should get these shoes slightly larger than the serious road shoes because you’ll need some toe room for comfort when walking.

The best place to learn about shoes and find out what works for you and your feet is at a bike shop. I suggest trying on inexpensive shoes and more pricey models to see if you can feel a difference. Be sure to ask the salesperson to check the fit and talk to them about which shoes are best for your intended use. Don’t be afraid to spend some money if you really like the fit and feel of a shoe.

Remember that a good cycling shoe will last a long, long time. I ride literally every day and I can easily get 5 years or more of use out of a good cycling shoe (I do take care of them by walking in them carefully and drying them carefully after riding in the rain by stuffing them with newspaper).

So, though the initial price may seem high for a top-notch shoe like a Sidi or Carnac, if you average out the cost over a number of years, the shoes are actually more affordable than your average pair of cross trainers (which last a year at the most). There are definitely a lot of choices and it can seem bewildering but there are significant differences in how the shoes fit and feel and that’s the easiest way to narrow down your choices.

If it helps, I’ve been cycling for a long time, and my experience has been that Italian shoes are the best. They’re also among the most costly ($100 to $300). (But remember what I said about how long they last.)

(Back to Accessories index)

Chain holder
Question There was an accessory that when one removed their rear wheel, you could take this device and mount it into the rear dropout. This would enable your chain to freewheel without the rear cluster. Then one could clean the chain with one of those chain-cleaner tools. This device was made of aluminum with a plastic knob that turned to secure this tool in the dropout. Pedro’s makes one that self-destructs after two cleanings because it is made of cheap plastic. Can you offer any suggestions on other tools or ways to do this?

Answer I have one of these tools in my toolbox, but mine’s plastic, too. It’s not cheap plastic, though. I’ve had it for a long time and it’s held up fine. To try to find one, I looked in Quality Bicycle Products, the Third Hand, Park Bicycle Tools and searched online and couldn’t turn one up, which is disappointing to say the least.

So, since I can’t tell you where to buy one, I’m going to suggest that in the grand tradition of bicyclists everywhere, you make your own! In fact, with just a little expense, you ought to be able to make one that’ll last a lifetime.

All you need is a bent rear wheel that a bike shop has discarded or that you find at a flea market or that you take off an abandoned bike. Ideally the wheel will have a quick-release hub. If you can find a wheel like this, you can remove the freewheel/cassette, then cut the spokes out and remove the rim and spokes. This will leave you with just the rear hub.

Reinstall the freewheel/cassette and quick release skewer and you have a handy chain holder for cleaning the chain. It’ll be bigger than the plastic ones, but it should work better because it won’t ever loosen while you work and it might even help clean the chain with the teeth on the cassette poking through the links on each revolution.

By the way, I have heard from some Pedro’s Chain Keeper (click on Bike Care Kits) users who say the tool works great so I think it’s possible that you got a defective one. You might consider giving it a second try.

(Back to Accessories index)

Rollers or trainer
Question I want to ride this winter but I’m not sure what type of indoor trainer to buy. Can you give me the pros and cons of rollers and trainers?

Answer Sure:
Rollers are comprised of a frame that rests on the floor and holds 3 (usually) cylinders (also called rollers or drums) that spin. You place your bike on top of the rollers and start pedaling and you can ride, the same way you ride outdoors. You must keep pedaling and steer to remain balanced and stay on top of the rollers. If you steer too far to the right or left, you’ll ride off the front roller and fall over. Often, there is a resistance device built into the roller to provide different workout levels.

Pros of rollers
1) They teach excellent balance because you have to steer to stay on.
2) They take skill to ride so time passes more quickly.
3) They’re fun to ride.
4) You’ll dazzle non-biker friends who think it’s some kind of magic trick when you ride in place.

Cons of rollers
1) You have to steer so it’s hard to focus on TV or videos.
2) You don’t get comfortable on them right away so it takes a bit of practice before you can work out hard, sprinting and climbing out of the saddle; some people never get good enough to do it.

Other Trainers

The alternative to rollers are indoor trainers (often called Wind Trainers). These are comprised of triangular folding steel frames that support the rear wheel of the bike. Usually, there is a resistance device incorporated into the trainer and that’s where the designation, wind, mag (for magnetic) or fluid comes in.

Pros of trainers
1) Easy to use: just install your bike (a 2-minute job) and ride; no practice needed.
2) No bike control required so you may fully concentrate on TV or whatever.
3) You can sprint or climb standing right away.
4) Almost no risk of falling over.
5) They fold up and can be stored and taken along easily.

Cons of trainers

About Wind, Magnetic and Fluid
Basically, all are designations for the ways that the resistance device creates the drag on the rear wheel to make you work hard. The first type to come along was wind, which was a fan that caught air to create drag. Then came magnetic, which used magnets to cause the drag. And the latest is fluid, which traps the fan in a liquid bath to create the drag. All three work but fluid is quietest (most expensive) though mags are close (a little less expensive than fluid). Wind is the noisiest but usually the cheapest. All designs work, so I’d recommend trying the one you’re thinking of getting before buying to see how easy it is to mount your bike and to discover how smoothly and quietly it operates.

(Back to Accessories index)

Kid trailers
Question I’m thinking of getting a trailer to bring my young kids along on rides. Any advice on what I should look for?

Answer Child trailers make a lot of sense because they allow towing two kids (even kids too young to ride in baby seats) in a fairly well-protected rolling environment. You can put books, toys, food, a radio, etc. in with your kids to keep them comfortable and happy. Most trailers provide shelter from wind, rain, sun and the cold; and some level of shock absorption against rough roads .

Trailers are stable and not prone to tipping. They also carry cargo so you can combine rides with grabbing some groceries. And they’re pretty easy to pull with the exception of climbing steep hills and fighting strong headwinds. You can still ride, but you’ll want low gears and should probably choose routes that minimize these difficulties.

You can find trailers or information about trailers in any good bike shop. The company that has a long-standing reputation in trailers is Burley. But, you’ll find shops offering trailers by other makers as well.

When shopping, try the trailer out to see how easy it is to attach and detach from the bicycle you’ll use it with. Ideally, it’ll be a 2-minute task. Otherwise, you may be less inclined to use the trailer. Nice features to look for include manageable total weight so you’re not pulling too hefty a load; and quick and easy folding or collapsing, which makes it much easier to fit the trailer in a car should you want to take it on vacation or simply drive to a nice place to bike with your family.

When using a trailer, pick paths and roads that are compatible with your wide load. If you choose busy bike paths frequented by inline skaters, joggers and dog walkers, ride very carefully because the extra width of the trailer can surprise other path users who are not always paying attention. Usually, you get used to the width of the trailer quickly and don’t have problems running into things. But, it’s definitely important to always keep in mind that the trailer is back there and that snagging things with the trailer (such as parking meters) could lead to injury to you and the kids.

One of best things about these trailers is excellent resale value because the demand is so high for used child trailers. When your kids are grown and you no longer need the trailer, just run an ad in the classifieds and the trailer will sell before you know it for at least half what you paid for it.

(Back to Accessories index)

Keeping your feet warm
Question My feet freeze when it’s less than 40 degrees out. What do you recommend??

Answer I like booties that you wear over your cycling shoes. The ones that have worked best for me are made of neoprene, the same stuff wetsuits are made of. A lot depends on your feet and how good your circulation is. But these work for me around here in northern California. Of course it doesn’t get much below 35 degrees here in the winter but sometimes we get ice on the roads and I usually average around 17mph on rides, which makes it colder with wind chill.

These booties work for me in those conditions. Some people recommend putting plastic bags inside your shoes (over your socks) to keep the wind out too. You’ll have to try this yourself to see if it makes you too hot or works.

Some riders, who apparently have good circulation in their feet, just cut up a large pair of wool socks and pull them over their shoes as booties. So that’s another way to go or something you can try if you don’t want to buy booties right away. By the way, what I’ve found with booties is that they definitely keep your feet warmer longer. But, if you stay out long enough (several hours) your feet will end up getting cold eventually anyway.

Another trick is to use your mountain-biking shoes for road riding. These usually fit more loosely than the road shoes allowing a thicker sock (wool socks insulate great, wick moisture and provide warmth when dry and wet). Plus, off-road shoes are made of thicker material for more insulation.

Finally, don’t tie or strap your shoes too tightly when it’s cold because that will cut off the circulation to your feet letting them freeze more quickly.

(Back to Accessories index)

?uestions about bicycles (back to top)
Selling used bicycles
LandRider (aka the Autobike)
Finding a highwheel bike

Selling used bicycles
Question My parents have a couple of old bikes they no longer use. How would you recommend selling them?

Answer It’s pretty easy to sell used bicycles. Just place an ad in the local newspaper and you’ll probably find a buyer. Or, you could lock them on the lawn out in front of your house with a For Sale sign on them and drivers passing by might stop and buy them. Holding a yard sale or taking them to a flea market for sale is another option. Many people also sell bicycles on eBay, the popular auction website. I’ve sold many things on there and it works well. Another way to sell bikes is to simply tell everyone you know that you have some bikes for sale. When you’re buying groceries, getting a haircut, at the post office, etc. — everyone and anyone you run into who you know, you can strike up a conversation and ask if they know of anyone looking for bikes.

You can also print up 3 x 5 cards with descriptions of the bikes on them and your phone number and put them up on bulletin boards around town. Bike shops often have these BBs for ads like this. But, you often also find them at supermarkets and at bus stops and at colleges and High School campuses.

(Back to Bicycles index)

LandRider (formerly known as the Autobike)
Question I’ve seen those infomercials on late-night TV about the LandRider (formerly called the Autobike), a bicycle that shifts automatically. Have you tried it? Do you think it’s any good? It sure looks good on TV.

Answer Yes, I tested an Autobike a few years ago and found it interesting. Since that time, Autobike went out of business, but the invention is still available and now sold as the LandRider. These bikes have better frames and components than what was used on the Autobike, however, they’re also more expensive.

The unique shifting system on these bikes operates off centrifugal force. The derailleur has a third jockey wheel attached to a floating disk on the wheel. And there are 3 sliding wheel weights connected via telescoping plungers to this disk.

As the wheel accelerates or slows, the weights spread or contract, the plungers extend or return, and the derailleur shifts the chain down or up the freewheel. Though the drivetrain adds heft (total bike weight of the model I rode was 35.25 pounds; LandRider models are around 30 to 32 pounds) it’s reasonably simple in design and works okay. Shifting is driven by wheel movement and speed so you don’t even have to pedal for shifts to occur. Which means you always start out in a nice low gear.

Whether or not you’ll appreciate the LandRider depends on what you’re looking for in a ride. In my opinion, experienced riders won’t like the weight; and the somewhat clunky and noisy shifts. They also won’t like not being able to select the gear they want to use (the LandRider determines what gear you’re in).

Beginners and casual pedalers, however, might appreciate the LandRider’s user friendliness. However, there are alternatives that shift much more smoothly that I’d recommend trying before buying a LandRider.

These bicycles are equipped with Shimano’s Auto-D drivetrain, which is a computer-operated 4-speed system. Many bicycle manufacturers offer bikes with this system. I’ve ridden a few and the shifting is as smooth as the shifting in my automatic Toyota, not clunky at all. Also, these bicycles are built with high-quality components whereas the Autobike/LandRider is made of entry-level-quality components.

I would also recommend trying out bicycles equipped with Shimano Nexus 7-speed components, which provide more gears than the Auto-D. These bikes do not shift automatically, yet they’re so easy to shift you won’t have any trouble at all riding the bikes. In fact, you’ll love how easy they are to operate.

Plus, there are a wide variety of Nexus-equipped bikes available so you can choose from many models versus the limited selection of LandRiders. And, unlike the LandRider, they’re sold in bicycle shops where you’ll receive expert advice and set-up with your new bike.

(Back to Bicycles index)

Finding a highwheel bike
Question I’m wondering if you can help me find a new highwheel bicycle, you know, the ones based on antique bicycles with huge front wheels?

Answer You can purchase a great reproduction of a highwheeler from Mesicek. This is a very nice modern highwheel. They faithfully copy the details that made highwheelers so popular at the turn of the century and they have a very nice price, which I believe is less than $3,000.

If you would like to find an original highwheel, I would recommend joining the antique bicycle club called The Wheelmen. Once you join this club, you’ll start receiving the club newsletter and in it you’ll find ads for highwheels, which you can buy. Keep in mind that antique bicycles are quite valuable. You can expect to pay 3,000 to 7,000 dollars depending on what you find. However, most of these bikes are true antiques, which is why they cost so much.

You can also search for "highwheel" and sometimes you’ll find bikes for sale on there. However, there are people on there selling junk and asking way too much, so you have to be very careful. If you spot something and would like some advice, feel free to email me.
(Back to Bicycles index)

?uestions about components (back to top)
Integrated headsets
Tire sizes
Sling seat

Integrated headsets
Question What do you think of the new-style integrated headsets?

Answer I don’t have a lot of experience with modern integrated headsets, the new minimal design that build the cups into the headtube of the frame. But, the design has been around for a long time. I’m familiar with Bianchis and other European bicycles that used internal headsets in the sixties. The bottom line is, if the frame is made carefully and the headset is high quality, it can work as well as any headset. And, it does clean up the looks of the front of the frame. So, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the design as long as the company did its homework.
(Back to Components index)

Tire sizes
Question I am need of new tires. The rims are Mavic, but I’m confused about sizing. The tire is a tubular. I think the size is 27 inch. How to I make sure I get the right size?

Answer If you have a tubular tire (also called a sew-up), and you know that you have full-size wheels (either 700c or 27 inch), you need a 700c tubular. Tubular tires only come in a few sizes and the most common is the 700c. A tubular tire is a unique type of tire that usually has a tube sewn inside. This gives the tubular a round cross section and means that it must be glued onto the rim.

700c and 27 inch are actually different sizes (27 inch is slightly larger diameter than 700c), but they’re often confused because they’re so close and they’re both found on road bikes — or have been over the years. These days, the common road-bike wheel and tire size is 700c. But, people still sometimes mistakenly refer to it as 27 inch, which was popular 25 to 30 years ago.

So, the bottom line is, if you get a tubular called a “27 inch" or "700c,” it will be the same size and it will fit your wheel just fine. The size that you don’t want is “650c.” That size will be too small for your wheels. If you have something besides a tubular tire (if your tires aren’t glued onto the rims, you don’t have tubulars), to determine the size simply look carefully at the sidewalls. You’ll find the tire size marked there if you look closely.

(Back to Components index)

Sling seat
Question I’ve seen pictures of an odd bicycle seat that looks like a sling, sort of like a lawn chair. Do you know about these seats and whether they’re available?

Answer Here’s a picture of the original sling saddle as built and ridden by the inventor and noted Dan Henry sling seatcyclist, Dan Henry. For a while this seat was sold as The Bummer, but, as far as I can tell, it’s no longer available.

So my recommendation is to make your own. The construction is pretty straightforward and shouldn’t cost much. All you need is a stem and drop handlebars that fit together. You could use whatever’s available, maybe stuff purchased at a flea market or swap meet or even at the dump.

Assemble the stem and the bar as shown in the photo and cut and sew some dungaree material or canvas or nylon webbing or what have you, to form the sling that slips over the flat portions of the handlebar. The tricky part will be making the stem fit inside the seat tube on the frame. You’ll probably have to shim it. There are many ways to do this.

The cleanest is to get a piece of tubing and turn the outside and inside diameters down, the former to fit the frame and the latter to fit the stem, which is now the seatpost. Then slot the tubing shim you’ve created so when you tighten the seatpost binder it’ll grip and hold. I imagine a machinist could make such a shim for an hour’s worth of labor. Or you could just fashion a shim out of anything you might have around the house. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find something that works.

(Back to Components index)

?uestions about collectibles (back to top)
Tank for a 1952 Hawthorne
Collecting nameplates (head badges)
Sears chrome 3-speed
Speedwell Titanium

Tank for a 1952 Hawthorne
Question Would you know where I could find the right-side or complete tank for a 1952-3 Hawthorne bike?

Answer Try the various classic bike sources such at the big swap meets, clubs and the shops that sell old bike stuff. Here are a few good sources. Best of luck in your search: National Bicycle History Archive. Classic Antique Bicycle Exchange. Memory Lane Classics Bike Shop. Ann Arbor/Saline Swap Meet.

Also, be sure to regularly check eBay, the online auction site where you’ll find just about everything if you keep looking.

(Back to Collectibles index)

Collecting nameplates (head badges)
Question How do I determine the value of a nameplate or its authenticity. Any pointers or suggestions will be appreciated because I’m starting a collection.

Answer Value is pretty much in the eye of beholder. In other words, a nameplate is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it at the time. Over the years, I’ve seen them sell for between $1 to $100. I try to pay no more than $25 per nameplate, but sometimes I have to to get what I want. It all depends on what it is and who’s buying it. If someone needs it for a restoration, it will go for more than if someone wants it for a collection. It’s best to figure out what type of nameplates you like and how much they’re worth to you and then resist the urge to overpay for them because if you can be patient you’ll almost always get another chance to buy the same nameplate and you can usually get it at the price you want to pay.

As far as I can tell, there aren’t more than a handful of real nameplate collectors out there. Still, if you search for nameplates on, (also search on “head badge”) you’ll see that there are quite a few for sale and that there are quite a few of us bidding on them, too. That’s a good place to see what’s available and get a feel for prices, too.

As far as authenticity, it’s not that big a problem. Most of the plates that are out there are the real deal. It’s very rare that I run across anything fake. They’re not worth enough for it to be worthwhile for people to make duplicates. You will see reproductions of some obsolete brands, though, but in my opinion, those aren’t fakes, they’re just reproductions of original plates. That keeps the nameplate "alive" and in my opinion is a good thing. Though, I’d value the genuine plate more than the reproduction model.
(Back to Collectibles index)

Sears chrome 3-speed
Question I have a Sears chrome bike, 3-speed. This was given to me back in 1966. It is missing the headlight and rack and is in need of a good cleaning and no doubt there will be some pitting in the chrome. My question is if this bike is worth anything?

Answer Well, it all depends on what your idea of value is. It’s certainly worth something to someone, but you never know how much it’ll bring until you find that someone who’s interested in your bike.

Without seeing the bike, it’s hard to estimate what it might sell for. But, used 3-speeds typically go for from $50 to $250, depending on model, condition and equipment. The best place to list bikes for sale is on

This site is watched by collectors everywhere and bikes tend to sell for fair value on there since so many people are bidding. So, you could take a photo of your bike and put it on ebay and test the market. If you don’t want to let it go for less than a certain price, you can put a reserve on it. That way, you won’t sell it unless you get what you want for it.

You can also search on eBay to see if similar bikes are for sale to get an idea what yours might bring. Just visit the site and type “Sears bicycle” or "3-speed bicycle" in the search box and see what bikes are for sale. You should do this about once a week because every week the bikes for sale change. I think you’ll probably turn some bikes up and might even get lucky and find the same bike as yours for sale. Then you can watch the auction to see what it sells for. Good luck!

(Back to Collectibles index)

Speedwell Titanium
Question I am seeking information regarding the availability and value of a Speedwell titanium bicycle. During my racing years, I had the pleasure of riding one in many USCF time trials and love the bike. I believe very few of these frames were built in the 1970’s and were famous for their workmanship and light weight. Are you aware if any of these are available and what the asking price would be? I am getting nowhere with any of the links that I have been provided with. Do you have any information?

Answer I have only seen a few Speedwells, but always thought they were beautiful. I’m fairly certain that it’s a very rare frame. If I was looking for one, I’d check regularly. I just checked and didn’t find anything. But, I’ve been amazed what turns up on there. The trick is checking about once a week and not giving up.

You might also reach out to some of the vintage lightweight collectors out there. One who’s knowledgeable and nice is Chuck Schmidt. I don’t know how much he knows about Speedwell, but he’s a good guy who is connected in the hobby and he might have some ideas for you on where to find one.

You might also try Jim and Susan Cunningham at Cyclart. They paint bicycles and have been in the vintage lightweight hobby for a long time. They see lots of bikes and go to swap meets, etc. They might be able to give you some leads, too.

I also found this page that has some info and pics of Speedwell:

(Back to Collectibles index)

?uestions about repairs (back to top)

Tight Dura-Ace bottom bracket Chain keepers? Routing the chain
Seat fit Campy shift cable Upgrading to QR axles
Loose stem Getting the noodle back Basic headset adjustment
Derailleur trouble Can’t coast  
Drivetrain glitch    
Chain falls off    
Changing frame spacing    

Tight Dura-Ace bottom bracket
Question I just bought a beautiful Italian aluminum time trial frame from a well-known shop. I put in a new Dura-Ace bottom bracket. The cups went in very tight. After assembly, the spindle would barely turn. Even with just the fixed cup installed, the spindle was so tight it couldn’t be pulled away from the fixed cup.

The BB worked fine until it was installed. It appeared to me that the threads in the shell were too shallow, compressing the cups slightly. (I used to run a pro shop in a prior lifetime and installed a lot of older style bottom brackets. I never considered BB cups as being compressible but Dura-Ace cups are so thin and light I’m assuming they are somewhat deformable. Simultaneously, I also put a new Dura-Ace BB on my road bike.... it went in perfectly; the only noticeable resistance is from the bearing grease.)

I took the frame back to the shop, they put a new Dura-Ace bottom bracket unit in and told me that they cleaned up the threads. I got the feeling they were not being totally forthcoming with me about the problem. The bottom bracket is still so tight that the spindle barely will turn and it’s impossible to adjust it to have any bearing float... it’s tight even if the adjustable cup is backed out half-way. The cups still thread in very tight. In addition to a lot of unnecessary friction from the bottom bracket, I’m afraid the bearings will fail fairly quickly.

My guess is that the bottom bracket needs to be completely retapped to allow the cups to go in easily. It’s not a question of non-parallel cups as the problem exists only if one cup is installed. Any advice?

Answer Your situation sounds to me like a frame bottom-bracket problem. It’s very unlikely that the problem is originating with the Dura-Ace bottom bracket. I think it’s the frame because those BB cups should go in easily or with a little resistance, but nothing that requires a lot of force to overcome. And, in my experience, it’s fairly common for manufacturers to do a poor job of machining threads in bottom bracket shells. Depending on how the frame was constructed, it’s possible that a lot of heat affected this area, too (because it’s the junction of so many tubes). And aluminum tubes are usually heat treated after welding, which is another process that can warp and distort things. These treatments can make a bad threading job become nearly unusable.

I would suggest chasing the threads and then checking to see if the cups go in easily. If not, the problem may be that the taps on the chasing tools are old and dull and not doing a good job (they’re expensive so shops don’t replace them all that often, usually). Another possibility is that the mechanic did not run the taps in far enough because they were so hard to turn and he gave up too soon. You have to complete the job, tapping the entire thread path. And, of course, it’s very important to use lots of cutting oil, to work slowly, and to back the taps out every couple of turns to brush off the metal filings that can jam things up and prevent the taps from cutting a nice thread.

It takes some muscle to do this right if the frame is as badly "under-threaded" as many I’ve seen. I would usually have another mechanic hold the frame while I turned the taps and slowly but surely, we’d cut nice new threads. When the threads are right and deep enough, the cups will thread in nicely and the bottom bracket should turn beautifully.

You’re right in thinking that if the spindle is too tight to turn by hand that it will wear prematurely. It definitely will. Plus, you’ll be working much harder than you should to pedal the bike, of course. So, I’d have the shop try again. If you think they don’t have the expertise to do the job, you might simply bring the frame to a better shop and have them tap the BB for you. It shouldn’t cost too much.

(Back to Repairs index)

Seat won't fit
Question I recently upgraded my old Vitus 979, and I thought it deserved a nifty new saddle. My last saddle was a Terry Liberator, and I got a Terry Damselfly to replace it. The problem is that the rails on the Damselfly are narrower than the clamp on the seatpost. I thought that rail width was a standard thing. Is it? Do they make replacement clamps or do I need a new seatpost too? I just never saw any mention of rail width or clamp width, in any catalogs, magazines, or books, just seatpost width.

Answer You’re correct about saddle rails usually fitting all seatposts. The exception are rails that are larger diameter, but these are pretty rare. So, I think what you have is a seat where the rails got pushed together a little bit at some point, maybe when the seat was shipped or handled. If this is the case, they’ll only be a little narrower (1/2 to 3/4 inch) than the old seat. Hopefully they didn’t actually get bent, which is another possibility. You can look for bends by checking for abrupt bends on the rails. They should have consistent symmetrical bends just like what’s on your old seat.

Assuming that the rails are only pushed out of position, you should be able to put the seat in the clamp and then pull or pry the rails into position. If you can just get them close, as you tighten the seatpost, the rails will fit into the grooves on the clamp and it will hold them in place. If the rails are actually bent, you should return the seat and get a good one.

(Back to Repairs index)

Loose stem
Question I recently bought a new Wildwood and after a few rides the handlebars and neck that affixes them to the tube that the fork is mounted into is loose? How do you tighten this assembly?

Answer I went to Diamondback’s website for a look at the stem on the Wildwood and it shows a quill-style adjustable stem. This type of stem could loosen several ways and from your description I can’t be sure which part loosened, but perhaps the following advice will allow you to troubleshoot and tighten the correct part.

The stem is held tightly inside the fork of the bike by a wedge at the base of the stem. There is a recessed Allen bolt accessed through the top of the straight part of the stem that goes into the fork. It usually takes a 6mm Allen wrench. When you turn this bolt clockwise, it pulls the wedge up that’s inside the fork and this wedge jams against the bottom of the stem and the inside of the fork and holds the stem in place. This keeps the stem tight and prevents it from moving left and right in relationship to the bike when you turn the handlebars to steer the bike.

On your stem, however, there’s another bolt that I believe might be what has loosened and that’s near the middle of the stem on its side. This bolt is loosened to allow changing the angle, height and reach of the stem. If this loosens, the stem won’t swivel side to side, but rather up and down, which will allow the bars to change positions, which is dangerous. There are different types of adjustable stems and I’m not positive which type you have. I think it will require a 6mm Allen wrench, though, to tighten it. You’ll have to check to see which side of the stem to tighten. If you can’t see the bolt, there may be a plastic cap covering it, which you can pry off with your fingernail or a small screwdriver to get at the bolt.

If this part is what’s loose and you can’t figure it out, call the shop where you bought the bike and ask them how to tighten it, or bring the bike in and they’ll do it right away for free. It shouldn’t have loosened so quickly and they’ll want to make it right ASAP.

The other part that can loosen is the handlebar clamp, which is on the very top of the stem, but I expect this isn’t your problem. If it is, to tighten the bars, just snug the bolts holding the handlebars in place with a 5mm Allen wrench.

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Derailleur trouble
Question My Raleigh mountain bike won't go onto the smallest gear and the chain jams up when I backpedal. Is this something I can fix?

Answer It sounds to me like your rear derailleur is bent because that’s the most common reason a bike stops shifting onto the smallest cog. Another likely symptom of this condition is the chain not staying on a cog when you backpedal, which happens because the derailleur is no longer correctly aligned beneath the cassette (the cluster of gears). What usually causes the problem is the bike falling over. The rear derailleur, being one of the most protruding parts on the bike, usually takes the hit and gets bent inward.

Then it won’t shift onto the small cog and will sometimes jump over the top cog into the spokes (if it’s bent badly enough) when you go to shift into your largest cog. You can check to see if it’s bent by standing behind your bike and sighting the derailleur to see if it’s parallel to the cogs. It should not be at an angle. An imaginary straight line through whatever cog the derailleur is under should bisect the derailleur pulley wheels. You can see right away probably whether the derailleur is bent or not.

If it’s bent as it sounds, you’ll have to pull it back out. If it’s badly bent, you’ll want to leave this to a shop. Also, leave it to a shop if you have an aluminum frame because these can have delicate derailleur hangers (the part the derailleur is attached to).

However, if it’s only bent a little, you can pull it out by wrapping a rag around the derailleur (so you don’t cut your hand) and grabbing it with your hand (get your fingers behind the derailleur). Pull out gently to see what it takes to pull the derailleur back into place.

Usually, the part of the derailleur that is bent is the tab that attaches it to the frame and it doesn’t take a lot of muscle to pull this back out. Also, the frame has a memory and it will want to go back to where it was. So just pull gently and sight again to check progress. If it doesn’t move, pull with a tiny bit more force. You’ll get a feel for this quickly and with luck you’ll pull the derailleur back into alignment and solve your shifting problems

If you’re worried about damaging your frame further, just bring it to a shop and have them fix it. They have special alignment tools so they can get it perfect, and they’ll double-check that the derailleur is still in good shape; so it’s worth the expense.

(Back to Repairs index)

Drivetrain glitch
Question My bike has started acting strange. When I pedal, there’s a kind of skipping sensation and clicking, clunking sound. It feels like something catches and lets go or like something is about the break. This seems to happen no matter what gear I’m in and it’s driving me nuts! What’s up?

Answer Skipping that happens on all the gears is usually caused by a stiff link in the chain. If you have a stiff link, it’ll really mess up pedaling unless you happen to get lucky and it goes away on its own, as sometimes happens if you apply a little lube and ride a bit.

You can check to see if you have a stiff link by standing next to the bike and crouching down and pedaling backwards slowly with your hand. Now watch the chain carefully as it travels through that S-shaped part of the rear derailleur (back by the cluster of gears on the rear wheel). As you pedal backwards, the chain should pass through there smoothly with no hiccups.

If the chain seems to jam or jump or bind at some point as you’re pedaling it by hand, it’s the stiff link getting jammed up as it goes through. If you discover a stiff link, get it fixed and your shifting problems will go away. You can often loosen a stiff link by grasping the chain on either side of the bad link and flexing the link sideways. But if it’s a stiff link due to rust/corrosion, you may have to replace it, which takes a new pair of links and a chain tool, so you may want to leave this to the shop.

(Back to Repairs index)

Question Should I worry about rust on my bicycle?

Answer How concerned you should be about rust depends on what type of bike you have and where you live and how you use your bike. The worst-case scenario would be an all-steel bike, ridden regularly in the rain, stored outdoors in a town next to the ocean. That bike would last about 3 months before turning to rust dust.

On the other hand, if that same bike were cleaned, waxed, and lubed after every ride and stored inside, it might last a lifetime. If you have a steel frame, any steel frame, it’s protected by paint on the outside. As long as you keep this protective paint intact, rust cannot attack the frame.

Now, if there are chrome panels or the dropouts are chrome plated, the rust may attack these areas. The best preventative is to keep the frame and chrome waxed with a car-type or bike-type wax (check shops). This is a twice-a-year job if you don’t ride in the wet too much.

The trickier thing is to prevent rusting on the inside of the frame, which happens to have no paint on it. Ideally, you’ll get some free-flowing lubricant in there such as LPS or even motor oil. Some folks love to use linseed oil. J.P. Weigle a frame builder in CT offers a frame protector called Frame Saver that works very well.

The only thing with these products is you need access to the holes in your frame to get the stuff in and this requires removing parts. It’s also necessary to suspend the frame and rotate it after installation so the lube will run all the way down the tubes. Anyway, you get the idea. You can protect the insides with a little work, too.

If you have a carbon, aluminum or titanium frame with high-quality parts, you needn’t worry about rust much at all. About the only thing that’s susceptible is the chain and anchor bolts on the brakes and derailleurs which are steel. But these are thick steel that won’t be affected much by surface rust and you can easily scrub it off with steel wool. Of, if it bothers you, you can keep these parts lubed so no rust can attack them.

(Back to Repairs index)

Chain falls off
Question I’m having trouble with my son’s bike. It’s an 18 speed and when he tries to change gears the chain keeps popping off! We have no bicycle repair shop where we live, so I’m in a jam. Can you help me out?

Answer You didn’t mention if the chain is falling off on the front or rear. It’s more common for it to be falling off the front (chainrings). If that’s the case, one thing to check is whether or not the chainrings are bent. When you turn the crankset (what the pedals are attached to), the chainrings should be nice and round with no side-to-side wobbles. If the chainrings are bent, they’ll act like a bent railroad track and the chain will get derailed as the bent section comes around. The chain will just fall right off.

Another possibility is that the bearings in the crankset might have loosened. This would let the entire crankset wobble left and right in the frame. If this happens, it’s just like if you had a bent chainring. Because the crank wobbles left and right when you pedal letting the chain fall off. If you have this problem you need to adjust your bearings to eliminate any side-to-side play.

If you’re lucky, your chainrings will be nice and straight and there won’t be any wobble in your crankset bearings (also called bottom-bracket bearings). If that’s the case and the chain falls off on the front, it’s probably a front-derailleur adjustment problem. Front-derailleur adjustment is a little tricky so I’d recommend you follow the steps in my article. Just read the article and compare your adjustments to what I describe in the article. You’ll probably be able to stop the chain from falling off with a minor adjustment. It will need either a slight turn of the limit screw or a slight adjustment to make the front derailleur cage align correctly with the chain so it can’t push it off.

I haven’t said much about the rear cogs because it would be unusual for this to be the problem unless someone has messed around with the adjusting screws on the derailleur or if the bike has been in a crash or someone beat on it. Here are instructions for adjusting rear derailleurs.

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Changing frame spacing
Question I have a Reynolds 653 road frame built for me in 1989 by Condor in the UK. I was living outside London at the time. Even the forks are 653. I’m in a quandary around the new gearing technology. Can I get the rear triangle stretched to accommodate a new hub and cassette, or should I just bite the bullet and buy a new frame?

Answer You needn’t worry about your frame becoming obsolete. It probably is set for 7-speed spacing, which means that it measures about 127mm between the inside faces of the rear dropouts. Modern spacing (Shimano & Campy 9 & 10 speed) rely on 130mm spacing. This means that there’s only a 1.5mm spacing difference per side between your classic frame and modern frames.

Most people don’t even worry about this and just pull the new wheel in. Depending on the design of your dropouts and the components you choose, you might not even experience additional effort to pull the wheel in. So, that’s the easiest approach.

If, however, you were to try a modern wheel in your frame (you could simply visit a bike shop and ask to insert a new wheel into your bike to see how easily it fits) and find that it resists, the solution is to have your frame reset to 130mm. This is a relatively simple alignment procedure that any decent shop can handle and should charge about 30 minutes labor for.

It’s usually done by removing the wheel, standing behind the bike, grabbing a dropout in each hand and pulling. Then the alignment is checked to ensure that the dropouts moved equal amounts and if not, the mechanic fine-tunes the right or left side until the spacing measures exactly 130mm and the dropouts are equidistant from the centerline of the frame.

An easy way to check is with a length of strong thread or fishing line. Tie this to one dropout, pass it around the head tube and back to the other dropout. Pull to remove any slack and tie the thread to the same spot you attached it to on the other dropout. Now you can measure from the thread to the seat tube on one side and then the other. You know the dropouts are correctly positioned when the measurements are identical.

Keep in mind that this alignment technique works best on steel frames.

(Back to Repairs index)

Chain keeper
Question I have been reading that it is apparently a fairly common problem for the Shimano triple front derailleur set-up to cause derailment of the chain onto the bottom bracket when shifting to the small ring under load. I see that there are two devices which bolt onto the downtube to keep the chain on the small chainring. Do you have any experience with this?

Answer I’ve heard the talk about dropping the chain and seen the recommendations for the chain keepers, but I believe that if you make a good derailleur adjustment and your frame is aligned correctly and your chainline is correct, you don’t need to add these devices. I don’t think you’ll see them on racers’ bikes, either.

In my opinion and experience, most dropped chains come from incorrect derailleur adjustment and bad shifting procedures (shifting under load is bad practice on any bike). If you shift with finesse and carefully adjust your derailleur and all the things I mentioned above are spot on (chainline & frame alignment), I think you won’t need to add anything to keep the chain on. So, I would recommend trying it without anything and not adding a keeper unless it was absolutely necessary.

Keep in mind that front derailleur adjustment is quite tricky and tiny adjustments can make significant improvements in shifting.

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Campy shift cable
Question My rear shifter inner cable is shot. A strand came through the hood and poked me in the finger. The shifters are Campy Ergopower and about 2.5 years old. I don’t have too many miles on the bike, but it has all been climbs and descents including two Death Rides. Can you tell me where to order cables from? And should the housings be replaced also? And, should I replace the brake cables and housing?

Answer Usually you can replace just the damaged cable and you’ll be good to go. That cable gets a ton of use, but I’m still surprised it wore out so soon.

So, when replacing the cable, look closely at the ends of the housing to ensure that there aren’t any burs that are rubbing the cable and causing it to wear prematurely. The ends of the housings should be completely open and if you slide the cable in and move it in and out there should be no friction. If you find a bur, you can remove it with diagonal cutters or file it off. You shouldn’t need a new piece of housing unless yours got crimped or cracked, which would be unusual unless the bike was crashed or abused in some way.

As far as a replacement cable goes, the easiest thing might be simply to call your local bike shop and ask if they have a Campy Ergopower inner shift cable in stock. I bet you’ll be fine replacing that one cable because it would be pretty strange to need to replace cables after only 2.5 years of riding... unless you were logging monster miles. Campy cables are excellent, so I’d recommend sticking with original equipment even if it costs you $10 to $12 for the cable.

I don’t know if you’ll find individual cables online. The mail order places might have them, but they sometimes stock only the more expensive complete sets, which you don’t need.

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Getting the noodle back
Question I just bought a new mountain bike and I followed your easy instructions on how to fix a flat. As it turned out, everything was going smoothly until I tried to reattach my brakes, i.e., putting the noodle back in its holder. I can’t see that I have made any mistakes that should cause this but for some reason I can’t get the brakes close enough together to slip the noodle back in. Please help if you get the chance.

Answer What probably happened is that the cable housing came out of one of the stops on the frame. When you release the cable at the noodle, it creates slack and sometimes the housing will come out of a stop and sit on top of the edge of the stop. This will in essence make the cable too long for you to get the noodle back into its holder.

Look along the length of the cable and at each point where the housing enters a stop (or even where it fits into the noodle), and check to see that the housing is seated fully and then try again. Sometimes the housing will come out of the lever, too, so check that also. When the housing is seated completely, the noodle should slip into its slot without too much difficulty.

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Cannot coast
Question When I ride my bike I can’t coast because when I stop pedaling, the chain gets pushed forward and develops slack. So, I have to start pedaling right away to take up the slack and keep up with the speed of the rear wheel. Also, when I walk alongside the bike pushing it, the pedals turn around. What’s going on?

Answer It sounds like the mechanism inside your cassette (also called a freewheel) on your rear wheel has corroded. The cassette is that thing that has all the sprockets on it. When it gets rusted or corroded inside, it doesn’t freewheel when you stop pedaling, which pushes the chain forward causing the problems you’re having.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to get it working again by spraying some WD-40 or similar lightGet some lube inside to free the freewheel lubricant into the bearings. This is tricky because the bearings aren’t visible. They’re inside the body of the cassette. You’ll have to lean the bike on its left side and look closely and see if there’s a crack between the part that you can move backwards and the part that remains still on the hub as the other part moves. All you need is a tiny gap. When you find it, spray the WD-40 in the gap enough to work some lube around the perimeter. Let the bike rest on its side a bit. Once gravity has drawn the lube into the cassette body, give it a try and if you’re lucky, it won’t bind anymore.

If you can’t find the gap on that side of the cassette, lay the bike on its right side (carefully.. so you don’t bend the derailleur) and look for the gap on that side of the cassette (its back side). You should see a gap on one side or the other that you can spray lube into. The lube should go into the cassette, not the hub bearings (that’s closer to the axle). Don’t get the lube in the hub bearings because it’ll wash the grease out of them and you don’t want that.

Sometimes cassettes are defective, but corrosion is a more common cause of the problem you have; particularly if a bike is stored outside or ridden in the rain and then stored.

(Back to Repairs index)

Routing the chain
Question I repainted my bike, and therefore had to take all the parts off and then put them back on. It all went pretty well until I got to the rear derailleur. I’m not sure what’s wrong with it, nor if it functioned before I started repairs, but it just doesn’t stretch out to hold the chain. When I compare to other bikes... the spring seems to be pulling the chain up on my Peugeot, while it stretches the chain down on the other ones. I really don’t know what to make of this.

Answer The problem with the derailleur is the way you have the chain routed through the pulleys. The chain needs to form a backwards S. Here’s a link to a page with a picture of how it should look. Check step 2:

To get your chain into the right position, loosen and remove the lower pulley bolt and remove the pulley. That will let you move the chain into the correct position. Then reinstall the pulley. To keep the spring tension from making it hard to put the pulley back in, lift the chain off the chainring and rest it on the frame. Then, when the pulley is back on and the chain is correctly routed through the derailleur, just lift the chain onto the chainring again.

(Back to Repairs index)

Upgrading to QR axles
Question I’ve got an old bike, a Nishiki with a chromoly steel frame, that I’m attempting to switch wheels on. I want to upgrade to wheels with quick releases. However, the replacement QR axle measures 9mm and won’t go into the front dropouts! The old axle measures about 8.5mm or so (solid axle, steel rims, etc.) The slot measures just about 9mm, but it just won’t go in. What would your recommendation be: 1) file flats on the axle threads to allow it to just drop in place? OR 2) file the dropout openings gently to allow the axle to drop in?

Answer You can file either, however, it’ll make life easier if you file the dropouts because if you file the axle, you’ll always have to line it up to install the wheel, which can become a pain when you’re in a hurry, at night when you can’t see, etc.

So, I’d file the dropouts. But, do this carefully. You want to remove material only on the leading or trailing edge; but carefully avoid the top of the slot because filing here will mess up wheel centering and could cause serious problems.

I’d look at the dropouts and see if one side or the other has more material and file on the side that has more to spare. If the dropout looks weak or too thin to remove material, just file the axle as that will be safer than risking weakening your dropouts. Quality dropouts can handle some filing, though.

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Basic headset adjustment
Question What is the process of tightening a headset. Top nut, bottom nut, top nut or vice versa? I don’t remember.

Answer Assuming you have a threaded headset rather than the new-style threadless headset, you first make sure the top nut (locknut) and any locking nuts beneath it, are loose. Then you thread the cone (bottom nut) clockwise until it stops using only your hand or light pressure if you’re using a wrench.

Then, you tighten the top nut against the cone. Next, you turn the fork slowly to feel how smoothly it turns and you push and pull on the fork to feel for play (there should be no play). If it feels right, you put a wrench on the cone and another wrench on the top nut and you turn the cone counterclockwise while turning the top nut clockwise to tighten your adjustment securely. The parts shouldn’t move much if at all. You’re just locking the adjustment so it won’t change when you’re riding.

Sometimes you have to try a few times to end up with the right adjustment because securely tightening the nuts against each other will effect the bearing adjustment. But, within a few tries you should be able to make a nice adjustment.

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?uestions about bicycling (back to top)
Shifting tips
Heart-rate training

Shifting tips
Question I just got a new bicycle and I’m bewildered by the shifting. Can you give me some simple pointers?

Answer There are a couple basic things to keep in mind shifting bikes: One major thing is that while it’s true that you have to pedal in order to shift, it’s important that you not pedal with a lot of force. When you start to make a shift, you should always ease off on the pedal pressure, let the chain finish shifting and then you can start pedaling as hard as you want again.

Also, if you’re confused about the gearing, it can seem difficult to use. Basically, the gears are just there to provide you a way to adjust the effort required to pedal the bike. As you’re riding along, you’ll notice that it’s either too easy, too hard or just right to pedal. When it’s just right, you’re happy. When it’s too hard or too easy, you should shift. Now, every time you decide to shift, you decide if you need to make a big difference in how easy or hard it is to pedal or a small difference. For small adjustments in pedaling effort, you should move the right shift lever. For major changes in how hard or easy to pedal it is, you move the left lever.

Good cyclists, shift constantly — maybe 100-plus times on a rolling 15 mile ride. The more you shift, the more often you fine-tune the effort to pedal and by doing this, you can save energy and roll along very efficiently. So, don’t be afraid to shift and shift a lot.

(Back to Riding index)

Heart-rate training
Question I've just purchased a heart-rate monitor. Can you give me some tips on using it?

Answer A heart-rate monitor is a helpful tool because it gives you a way to gauge effort and recovery and track your fitness progress. Depending on your fitness goals you may want to thoroughly read up on using a heart-rate monitor. Most come with manuals, which provide the basics. You can find additional information here.
(Back to Riding index)

Question I’m wondering how fast I should pedal? I know the trend is to keep a higher cadence, but I’m more comfortable pedaling slower. Is this okay?

Answer If you’re comfortable pedaling slightly slower, go ahead and pedal slower. Most people find however, that the more they ride, the more likely it is they just naturally pedal faster.

I’ve been getting faster over the years but I still pedal about 90 to 100 revolutions per minute (RPM) most of the time. That’s just what feels natural to my legs. And that’s what you should do, too. If it feels natural then you’re doing okay. Unless of course, you’re suffering knee pain, or something.

That would indicate that you’re lugging your engine and that’s not good. Ideally, you’ll ride an RPM that allows your legs to feel fresh over any terrain with the gearing that you have on your bike. If that’s the way it is for you now, you’re probably just fine.

If you want to try faster pedaling to see if it’s any better, just shift into the next lower gear whenever you think of it. By getting in this habit you’ll find you have to pedal faster. Then you can see if your legs feel better on or after rides. If so, then you might make an effort to keep riding in lower gears to increase your cadence. You can also train yourself to pedal faster by leaving your bike in lower gears than you’d normally use on downhills. Then, force yourself to keep up with the gear down the hill by pedaling like crazy. You’ll find that you can pedal a lot faster than you might think. You’ll probably even like the snappy feeling it gives you in the legs.

(Back to Riding index)

?uestions about other things (back to top)
Bike-repair/mechanics schools
Pedal Extenders
Bike storage
Which Walkman?

Bike-repair/mechanics schools
Question I am going to retire at the ripe old age of 50 and would like to start another career. Could you recommend a school for bicycle repair?

Answer There are two good bicycle-repair schools: United Bicycle Institute (Oregon) and Barnett's Bicycle Institute (Colorado). I haven’t attended either of these, but I’ve heard great things about them. I learned mechanics by working in shops and, in my opinion, that’s the only real way to learn (of course, it’s important to work under a good mechanic who can show you things). But, these two schools will teach you plenty and if you can quickly put the lessons into practice, and you have an aptitude for bicycles, I think you’ll be well on your way.
(Back to Other index)

Pedal extenders
Question I just recently started biking again after not riding for about 15 years. In the interim, I broke my leg and have a slight rotation outward (a degree or so) in my left foot. It causes the inside of my foot to rub the crank. I was wondering if anyone sold an extension (about an inch) that I could put on my pedal, or would I have to have something custom made?

Answer Here's a link to "Kneesavers" (a better name would be Anklesavers! These are the only such devices I’m aware of, but they’ve been around for a long time and I’ve heard good things about them from many riders. You can even put them together to get more clearance if needed.
(Back to Other index)

Bike storage
Question I currently live in an apartment with an outside closet — I have entertained the idea of using hooks and hanging the bikes from the rims — but won’t this added stress bend the rims out of true? Especially the lightweight aluminum road bike rims?

Answer It’s fine to hang bikes by one wheel on a hook in your closet. The rims are plenty strong enough to handle the weight of a bike. I’ve lived in quite a few apartments and I ALWAYS had bikes hanging by hooks in mine.

Also, it’s really common for bicycle shops to store bikes this way because it takes up the least amount of space. You won’t hurt the rims/wheels. The only thing that might happen, is that if you rest the rim decal on the hook, it can wrinkle it. So, you might be careful to avoid that. But, you won’t damage the wheels.

(Back to Other index)

Which Walkman?
Question I know you ride listening to a Walkman. Which model do you use?

Answer I usually ride early in the morning, which means I ride alone a lot. So, about 10 years ago, I started riding with a small radio to listen to music and news. I found that it was a great enhancement to cycling and have used my Walkman on every solo ride since.

Besides the entertainment value, the radio drowns out traffic noise. That’s one of the best things about it. Also, if you’re ever fighting a strong headwind, the music will cut much of the wind noise... though not all of it if it’s really windy.

Just don’t play it too loud because you want to be able to hear enough of the traffic noise to know if danger is approaching (big truck, etc.).

The Walkman I use is still available here. I don’t recommend using the headphones that come with it for cycling because they don’t fit very well beneath a helmet. Instead, I upgrade to these headphones, which are a necklace-style and drape over your shoulder. They pop in your ears and stay there quite nicely. Also, this type of headphone stores in very little space so it’s real handy for travel: In case these links change, you can find the products by searching on for the Sony SRF-M70 (that’s the radio) and the Sony MDR-ED228LP.

The size of the Walkman is 4.5 inches tall x 2.75 inches wide x 1 inch thick. It’s not tiny but it fits nicely in a cycling jersey rear pocket where it can easily be reaching for changing channels and adjusting the volume.

Perhaps the best feature of this Walkman is that it goes from AM to FM automatically. In other words, there are 10 presets and by hitting one button, it will cycle through the channels even if some are FM and others are AM so you can go from music to talk radio without having to search for a separate mode button to change.

The Walkman comes with a clip on the back, which is handy if you like to run/job or walk/hike because you can slip the radio over your waistband (it goes in pants pockets nicely, too). I take the clip off for cycling because you don’t need it if you’re carrying it in a jersey pocket.

The unit takes 2 AAA batteries and it lasts 6 weeks or so depending on how much you listen. It’s also durable. I’ve dropped mine a few times and it seems to handle it just fine. I’ve also ridden in the pouring rain for hours with no ill effect to the Walkman or headphones.

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