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We hope you enjoyed this month’s Bike Shop theme and Skill Builder series. As with all of our Skill Builder sets, we’ll continue to add content going forward, and we always have great ongoing bike coverage under our Bicycles content category.

Thanks to Chris Nodder and to RadBrad and KoolKat of Atomic Zombie for helping us out. To end the month, we thought it would be fun to give out a couple of copies of Chris’ Little Book of Bike Boo Boos. It’s a great guide to stow in your bike bag or backpack when you hit the trail.

Chris gave us two copies to give away. To be eligible for the drawing, all you have to do is leave a question about biking, bike repair and maintenance in the comments below. And, as always, readers can answer question posed by other readers and be eligible for the giveaway, too. When we’re done, we’ll put together a little crowdsourced bike FAQ with the content we gather. Maybe we can even get Chris in here to answer some questions.

The eligible comment period will run until Monday midnight PDT. Winners will be announced on Tuesday. Good luck!

More:

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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Comments

  1. Q: With an aluminum frame with a euro (threaded) bottom bracket, what’s the best way to repair threads that have been damaged (a shallow gouge running perpendicularly, across the threads)? I fear few if any of my local shops have a clean-up tap for that.

    1. Aluminum can be fragile, so instead of having someone try to retap the threads, you might try the Velo Orange threadless bottom bracket (it’s square taper only). Otherwise, you’d want to find a framebuilder in your area that has the proper tool and knows how to work with aluminum. If it’s the non-drive side, then you might find a machine shop that can tap it since it’s standard thread, but the drive side is reversed, so you’d definitely want someone with bike experience to do it.

      1. Most of the threads are good. There are just three or four at the edge that have a small area where they’ve been crushed. I was considering just buying a good, used old steel race, coating it with anti-seize, and trying to use it as a tap to clean up those threads enough to accept a new race. I’m planning to install cranks with a splined 19mm shaft, so The Velo Orange unit isn’t an option.

        1. That might work for you, but be careful because you’ll probably have to force it a bit, and you might not know when you’ve stopped fixing threads and started mangling other threads.

      2. Lee says:

        Depends what you mean by “euro”, there is more than one size, ISO and British are the same, but you have French/Swiss and Italian along with others like old Raleigh threads. Not all of them have a reversed thread on the drive side. Assuming it is not already Italian, worse case, you could still save the frame by getting it machined out and tapped to 36mm.

        1. That is true too, but most of those threadings were on steel bikes, not aluminum.

        2. english thread. thanks.

  2. How often should tires be rotated on a bike? I’ve basically been doing it whenever the tread looks rough on my back tire…

    1. James says:

      I wouldn’t rotate them. Just get a new back tire, since that one wears a lot faster than the front. And, if you’re going to get a flat, it’s going to be the back tire.

      1. James says:

        FYI, I rode a few thousand miles last year on slicks. My front tire still looks good. My back tire looked like it went over a cheese grater.

    2. If you ride on pavement on sunny dry days, then you can rotate a worn rear tire to the front to save money. If you ride in wet or snow, or mud and dirt, then your front tire will not handle well if it’s worn.

  3. Erik Jenkins says:

    I have a mountain bike. Why is my chain skipping when I’m riding up hill?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Could be a number of things, a worn chain ring or maybe the index needs to be adjusted. Maybe your chainline is skewed because of the gearing combo you are using.

    2. Sounds like your chainring is worn. If it only happens on one of the front rings, check for wear on that ring.

  4. What is the typical tune up schedule for a bike used gently (asphalt bike paths at the park) on weekends? Does it have to be yearly or can it be stretched out a bit to save money?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Personally, for a bike ridden like that I wouldn’t take it in for a yearly tune up, as long as you are taking these steps.
      1. Checking the tire pressure and making sure your brakes work before each ride.
      2. Keeping the bike and chain clean, and oiling the chain after each cleaning.
      3. Tightening up things if they work themselves loose. You can often discover this by picking the bike up off the ground a few inches, then dropping it (on the tires of course!) and listening for rattles and whatnot.

      You can often tell if a bike needs a tune up just by the way it looks or rides. If it looks and feels good, there’s a good chance that its just fine.

    2. If you’re cheap and lazy like me, then you only do maintenance when you hear something grinding or clicking. :) I have a 38 year old Schwinn Varsity that has never had the bottom bracket bearings repacked, and it spins just fine. Every year I do a test ride to see if I need to do some maintenance on it, and if not, go ride! If you never ride in rain or dirt or sand or wet, or don’t live near an ocean, and don’t ride long distances, then stretch them out.

  5. Anonymous says:

    My road bike tires list ‘Max inflation’ at 120 PSI. I’ve always wondered, is there any reason I wouldn’t want to inflate them to 120? I’ve heard that mountain bike tires are sometimes intentionally under-inflated to gain traction on loose surfaces, but I can’t envision a scenario where that would be a good thing on a road bike.

    1. If you anticipate going into temperature extremes (say from a high elevation to a low elevation in a mountain range) you might be cautious about inflating them fully. You might feel more comfortable with those skinny little racing tires at 110 psi instead.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Thanks, Eric. That’s actually really relevant information for me: I live & usually ride at about five thousand feet, but I do get up into the mountains a few times a year. It will be interesting to pay attention to my tire pressure next time I’m biking doing a long ride in the Rockies!

  6. Jan J says:

    Can or should I use WD40 to lubricate my bike chain?

    1. Anonymous says:

      No.

    2. Never. WD40 will turn into a varnish over time, so while it can be good to remove stuck parts, it’s not a lube and will gum up over time. It’s also not a very good cleaner either, though it can help prevent rust if sprayed inside of a steel bike frame. Not as good as something like Boeshield, but cheaper.

  7. If you slam the coaster break on a two-speed kick back hub, can you break the mechanism?

    1. It is extremely unlikely.

    2. Those things are solid steel inside. Good luck trying to break it.

  8. What tips do you have for a new cityslicker biker babe venturing into the wild?

    1. Dan says:

      Life is a highway.. Ride it all night long(But if you do night riding please wear reflective clothing and a blinking LED)

    2. Wear bright colors, carry a cell phone, wear a helmet. Don’t assume every driver can see you. In fact, assume that they’re actively out to kill you.

  9. Brunoip says:

    hoe can I improve my breaks ?

    1. This is assuming you have some sort of rim brake (road caliper, V-brake, cantilever, etc.) and not disc or coaster.

      If you have chrome wheels, switch to aluminum if you can afford it. If you can’t switch out the brake pads to something made for wet weather like Kool Stop Salmon.

      If you have aluminum wheels, clean the brake surface with some scrubbies and a little cleaner like Simple Green or dish soap. Make sure to let dry fully before running again.

      If your brake pads are dried and hard, you might be able to get a little bit more life out of them by removing them and rubbing some sandpaper or other abrasive on the pad. However, brake pads are cheap, so I recommend replacing them with something better. I prefer Kool Stops but many of the newer brake pads will work fine. Rubber tends to get old and dry out.

      A trued wheel will stop better because the calipers will be in contact with the surfaces consistently. Have a bike shop (LBS) take a look at them.

  10. Azdle says:

    How can I stop my front forks from vibrating? Whenever I apply the brakes enough to, uh, stop, my front forks vibrate quite alarmingly. Some searching says this is mostly because the forks are carbon fiber. Do I need to be worried about this or is it just something that happens?

    1. I have no experience with carbon fiber, but you might want to try different brake pads to see if that helps.

    2. It sounds like your brake pads are installed improperly. Properly installed pads rest at a slight angle to the rim of the wheel. Pads not at an angle will vibrate.

  11. Sean Kennedy says:

    How many spokes do you actually need? (at least to get home)

    1. The more spokes a wheel has, the less out of true it will be when a spoke breaks. If you have disc brakes, then breaking a spoke probably won’t affect you much, but on rim brakes it can cause the rim to rub up against the pads and slow you down. If you have a coaster brake, you might not even notice a broke spoke unless you heard it break.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have an old Schwinn Le Tour, from around 1984; it’s been hanging in a garage for 20 years. It’s dirty, but there’s no rust or obvious damage; if I wanted to get this bike back on the road, where should I start? Would it be hard to find replacement parts? I used to do a lot of work on my bikes – fixing, cleaning, replacing parts, etc. – I haven’t touched a bike in 20 years, but I’d like to get back into it. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. I love old Schwinn bikes from the 1980s, and I have a late 1980s LeTour made in Mississippi. In the early 1980s the LeTours had a 21.1 mm stem, which can be hard to find decent stems if you wanted to change it. Later on they switched to the standard 22.2 mm stem. Brake pads, cables, grease, ball bearings, chain, all of those are standard and available at any bike shop, or even a Walmart/Target/Kmart etc., at least for grease, brake pads, cables, and chains. The tubes are probably fine, if the tires are dry rotted, almost everyone has the 27″ tire size. I like the Michelin World Tour in that size, but there are some a little cheaper from Kenda, Cheng Shin, etc. that work okay.

      1. I love old bikes. I’m an English Raleigh fan.

        OP… my advice? Just do it. Lube, replace, and tighten as needed. Ride like you mean it.
        Make sure you check on safety laws (lighting, helmet) in your area. I recommend both. :D

        1. English Raleighs are awesome. I have a 1979 Raleigh Competition GS and a 1960s Raleigh Twenty.

          1. Lee says:

            It’s a shame what happened to Raleigh, I dreamt of owning a burner in the eighties.

            Lee – UK

          2. They’re still out there. Lots of people collect old bikes.

      2. Anonymous says:

        thanks for your input : )

        I used to love this bike – couldn’t ride a road bike for awhile because of a neck/back injury – and I thought it’d be fun to get it back on the road. I’ll give it a shot this summer. Thanks again.

        1. You’re welcome. You can love it again. Steel is real, and at worst, you’d have to go to eBay to find parts. I highly doubt it though. Performance Bike, Nashbar, REI, Velo Orange, even your local Trek store will have parts to fit it if they need to be replaced. Certainly any bike shop you like will have the parts and hopefully the knowledge to fix it. Just look for a grouchy mechanic over age 40. :)

          1. I’m a big proponent of community volunteer run not for profit bike shops, so I’d be remiss if I did not mention to visit one if there any are in your area. Often they have old parts for low cost or free.

          2. That is true, there is the Hub of Detroit that has thousands of donor bikes and lots of parts, also they have classes and whatnot. I go to them when I want something weird or rare. For standard maintenance items, I generally go someplace closer.

    2. Max Wheeler says:

      I have 2 old Schwinn Continentals, I did a century on one and the other is in pieces being worked on at the moment. If you want to take it all the way down to the frame it really isn’t that hard and can be done with just about any tool. Putting it back together is a little bit harder, but a good project! Getting started by taking it to a bike shop would be a good bet, just to make sure there isn’t anything terribly wrong with it.

      1. Continentals are heavy old bikes, but damn are they bomb proof. My Varsity has the same frame, and it’ll outlast the cockroaches.

  13. My bike has started to rust every where could it break when riding overtime???

    1. If it’s a heavy old steel bike, then probably not. Steel will let you know when it starts failing, you’ll get plenty of warning. If it’s a lightweight high end steel like Reynolds 531, 853, 953, etc.with superthin frame tubes (you’d know, they’re expensive), then you might want to get it taken care of.

    2. Eric has some good advice.

      I’ve found some orphaned bikes that look dead broke and used up, until attacked with a little soap, water, and TLC.

      Steel wool is a great rust remover. Don’t be afraid to clean off that rust! Clean the frame and wheels with soap & water and let dry. A good stop gap for more rust build up, after you’ve scrubbed, washed and dried, I spray a light coating of clear coat on the frame. Prevent rust by keeping your bicycle out of the elements, keep all moving parts clean and lubricated, and barring accidents, your bike might last as long as you.

  14. Brandi says:

    My bike’s doing all right now, but I was curious to know: do you have any experience working on recumbent bikes and have you found any repair quirks/difficulties compared to regular upright bikes?

  15. Rob Colby says:

    Does anyone have experience with the “slime” filled tires? Have you found them worth the extra cost and has the slime ever failed to fix the hole or even dried up in the tube on you?

    I’m in the process of building a trike recumbent with a friend and thinking about picking up the slime tubes for it.

    1. Max Wheeler says:

      In my experience slime has not been worth it at all. Even when I get past the initial stage of filling up the inner tube I’m still worried about the mess it’s going to make when it does its job. It would be better to get puncture resistant tires or knobby tires. Also, if you’re on the road with a flat, a small patch kit works wonders, and makes you feel like you’ve completed something.

    2. James says:

      A friend of mine got his back covered with slime. The tire was sealed, though, but we had a good laugh.

  16. What is the best way to keep a brooks leather seat in good condition?

    1. Invest in Proofide and ignore the smell. Get the cover if you ride or leave it outside in the rain. Or better yet, remove it when you’re not riding.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I am SO digging this conversation, folks. Thanks to those who are doing such a great job answering other reader’s questions. You rock!

  18. daniel rich says:

    I have been so excited by the biking articles. I am thinking about building myself a recumbent bike from atomic zombie

  19. daniel rich says:

    I have an old bike with gears that are starting to get old the the teeth are all short and stubby so if I crank really hard the chain will skip. Is there a way to safely grind those teeth back or should I just take the hit and replace them?

    1. Anonymous says:

      The chain rings really aren’t repairable, your best bet is to simply replace it.

    2. Grind them back? How would grinding add metal back to the chainrings? If it’s the front chainrings, those are cheap and plentiful, even if it’s an old one piece crank. If it’s the rear, change the freewheel or cassette. Less time and hassle.

  20. Fightcube says:

    I dream about the day I can go downhill mountain biking, it looks exhilarating! In short form, what would be a logical approach to reaching this goal for someone who hasn’t been biking for a long time?

    1. Invest in very good protective gear, find a local downhill group that doesn’t mind beginners and would loan or rent you one of their bikes to start out with to see what you like.

      1. Fightcube says:

        Thanks Eric. What if I live in the Midwest where everything is flat? I just figured all of the good downhill spots are out in the coastal states?

  21. For someone just getting into biking and wanting something that I can take on a light trail if I wanted but would mainly be used for a riding to work or to the store or maybe for riding around in a park for fitness … I’ve been told that a performance hybrid is what I should be looking for. Is this true or should I find a hybrid or a comfort?

    1. You can do all that with almost any bike. If you want to carry groceries in panniers, make sure that it has eyelets for racks. If you can carry your groceries in a large backpack or messenger bag, then racks may not be necessary. A performance hybrid is just fine. What makes it performance is that it typically has skinnier tires for speed and a higher gear ratio.

      If you do carry stuff in a backpack, watch out for SBS (sweaty back syndrome). Another option is a nice front rack like CETMA racks, you can tie any large backpack or messenger bag to it.

      Riding to work, make sure that you can keep it in a safe location, preferably out of the rain. If you commute via bike and bus, make sure the bike is light enough to lift onto the bus rack on a regular basis.

  22. Anonymous says:

    What gear should be brought along on an Iron Man competition? Any tips?

  23. Will I ever recover the bike that was stolen from me last month?

    1. *magic 8 ball* Signs point to Craigslist.

    2. Chris Nodder says:

      +1 to Craigslist. Also, if you haven’t already, file a police report. The police do end up with a whole bunch of orphan bikes that they can’t return to their owners because they have no owner info. Also check local bike shops. Often, idiot thieves will try to sell the bike to a local store, or the person who buys it from the thief will take it in for a tune-up.

  24. Is there an easier way to adjust or straighten spokes?

    1. Take it to a bike shop, let them do it. If you must do it yourself, make sure you have the proper spoke wrenches.

    2. Chris Nodder says:

      If you’ve bent the spokes, they’ll need to be replaced. Go to your local bike shop, because it’s important to order exactly the right length spokes and also the right diameter.

      If you are asking how to make a wheel straight, try http://bikebooboos.com/Wheel_Truing.aspx

  25. ANDREW says:

    What bike maintenance tools would you recommend carrying on a long trip?

    1. Find a folding bike multi tool that you would use normally. I bought one from Harbor Freight (also seen on Nashbar’s site and some others) that seemed okay, but when I actually went to use it, the bigger Allen wrenches were all too short to provide much leverage. If you can’t use it properly in a non-emergency situation, it’ll be useless when you’re pissed off in the middle of nowhere. I also like the Park MT-1 multi tool as it’s light and handy. If your frame is not steel, consider carrying a spare derailleur hanger. A Fiberfix Kevlar emergency spoke is always a good idea. And of course a cell phone and cash if you’re really stuck.

    2. Chris Nodder says:

      The most important thing to check is that you have a way to tighten and loosen all the fixings on your bike. Allen wrenches in all the correct sizes (including the crank arm – that can be a 10mm), regular wrenches, maybe a T-25 Torx if you have disk brakes. Also useful on longer trips (multi-day) would be a cassette tool and a spoke wrench, a chain breaking tool, tire levers, etc.

      You can get multi-tools with a lot of these items on them, but if you’re doing a longer trip, you’ll want tools that you can use for maintenance rather than just for emergencies, so consider getting full-size versions of some tools.

      More on this at http://bikebooboos.com/tools.aspx

    3. James says:

      I have a Crank Brothers multi tool, a small crescent wrench, and tire levers that I use for 95% of my fixes, even when I have my full toolbox. Yeah, they may be a bit difficult to work with,but I always know where it is. I’d also take a spoke wrench too.

  26. Will Price says:

    I left my bike for a few months after going out riding in the rain when there was salt on the road, The spokes have oxidised very badly, it’s not exactly rust, more a white deposit on which is incredibly hard to get off. Any ideas how to remove it?

    1. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, though if it really bugs you, you could try Barkeeper’s Friend scrubbing powder.

      1. Will Price says:

        OK, cheers, all the other components have oxidised but I’ve managed to get most of it off, just the spokes which are looking pretty horrid!

  27. joel yu says:

    how do i remedy a potato-chipped wheel?

    1. Also known as tacoed. :) If it’s a high end wheel you may be able to find a shop to bend it back and re-align it, but it’s easier to just find a replacement. If it’s got a hub that you really like, have it rebuilt with a new rim.

    2. Chris Nodder says:

      The remedy is normally a new rim. After a big bend, it’ll never be the same again!

      Having said that, you could try http://bikebooboos.com/Taco_Wheel.aspx

  28. Anonymous says:

    Without the proper tool(s) to do so does anyone have a DIY way to check for derailleur hanger alignment after straightening one that was bent trailside? There is an experiential story behind this question. Good answer may prompt the story to come out.

    1. I was pondering your question, and to me the simplest way could be to take a carpenter’s square or protractor and make sure the hanger is at a 90 degree angle to the QR skewer. Any time I’ve had to deal with a bent hanger, it was on a steel bike with friction shifting, so I’d bend it back and it’d be good enough.

    2. Chris Nodder says:

      If it’s a removable hanger, remove it and place it on a known flat surface (kitchen countertop if you have nothing else). If it’s not removable, you may be able to bolt a long flat bar on instead of the derailleur and measure “straight” from that in comparison to the axle.

      If the bike is shifting fine, don’t worry about it being completely straight. The more you try to bend it, the more likely you are to break it.

      Of course, if you’ve bent a removable hanger out of shape and then bent it back, it’s going to be fatigued and is much more likely to break. Get a new one.

      What’s the story? Please share!

  29. P.P says:

    I have a way too short Handlebar and bike seats tube to be able to adjust them. How can i change those tubes ?

    1. Are you talking the stem and seat post, or the actual tubes on the frame? Stems and seatposts are easily replaced, but if they’re way too short, you may want to consider a new bike instead since super long stems and seat posts might flex too much. There are mountain bike seat posts that come in super long lengths, like 450mm, but I’d say make sure the bike is supposed to fit you first.

  30. Earl Martin says:

    Not a repair question, but a question about kid’s bikes. My son’s steel bike is just so heavy it makes biking not terribly enjoyable for him — are there any reasonably-priced aluminum youth bikes anyone can recommend?

    1. Anonymous says:

      There aren’t many because the cost is high and the market is pretty small. It’s hard to pay a lot for a light Al frame kids bike because kids outgrow them so quickly. My advice is to buy used, brand name bikes. I bought practically brand new Trek bikes for my kids off of craigslist from parents who’s kids outgrew them and never really rode them in the first place. When I drove up to their house (in a well to do neighborhood) and saw their garage was packed to the ceiling with unused toys, I knew I was in for a killer deal. :)

  31. Anonymous says:

    My bike’s tires loses air a lot, so I’m wondering if it’s normal and if not is there an easy way to prevent this?

    1. Take the tubes out, inflate them, and hold them in a container of water until you find the leak.

    2. Anonymous says:

      Could be a leaky stem valve. Put a drop of soapy water in the valve and check for bubbles. Most tires loose pressure over time anyway, and the loss accelerates as you increase the pressure in the tires.

    3. Anonymous says:

      Slime is a wonderful thing! It tends to, when used as per the directions and you get the bike version and not the automotive(!!!), seal up those little annoying pinholes. Slime also makes tubes themselves that are self sealing and more balanced than having the bright green juice slushing around in your tube just in case.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I have 1991 Bianchi “I forgot which model it’s so old” steel road bike. It’s equipped with, what I found out through some effort, a Suntour Quattro group. I was wondering if it would be possible to convert the components to a modern group, such as the Shimano 105 or am I going to be stuck with the downtube shifters and single pivot brakes foever? I couldn’t find any info on the threading (Italian vs. Japanese), though I’m pretty sure that Suntour was/is a Japanese manufacturer, which would be the main info I need to know. I really want to put the bike on the road again, but the derailluers and chainrings didn’t fair well through Army storage and transportation. Help… anyone?

    1. 1991 is old? I think my newest bikes were made around then. :)

      If it has a Suntour group, most likely it’s standard British/Japanese threading and you should have no problems adding a modern drivetrain and shifters. If it has 7 speed or less on the rear wheel, you may have to spread the spacing from 126mm to 130mm, but that’s no problem for most steels. I’ve heard that Reynolds 731 steel is too brittle to spread apart, but if it’s standard chro-moly then you should be okay. The brakes are most likely recessed nut threading which is still in use today.

      If you do have a 7 speed in the rear and want to upgrade to 8, 9, 10, or even 11 speed Campagnolo, you’ll need to replace the wheel. If you have a 7 speed and want to keep it, you can still find 7 speed brifters (brake/shifter combos) on eBay. If you don’t like downtube shifters, there are also index bar end shifters, normally used for touring or time-trial/triathlon bikes.

      Even if it’s Italian threaded, you shouldn’t have any problems except with bottom bracket cups. Velo Orange and a few other places online sell Italian threaded bottom brackets, and occasionally I’ve seen Shimano bottom brackets with Italian threading.

      1. Anonymous says:

        It’s a Columbus Cr-mo frame… the one sticker I left on! I don’t mind the 7 spd so much, but from what I’ve found, it seems like it will be cheaper, beyond spreading the rear trianlge, to convert to a 9 or 10 spd. I’m assuming that it wouldn’t be that dificult to switch to the STI style brakes/shifters, assuming I had the shifter to match the derailluer gearing. The biggest problem I have with the current set up is the in ability to find chainrings for the cranks. Fisrt off it’s a triple and from what I gathere is an odd setup for this group, but the outer and middle chianrings get bent in transport. I straightened them out prety good with a little heat and force, but the outer ring still isn’t true and causes intermittent operation of the front derailluer while in the lower gears. I stopped short of applying too much heat for fear of over tempering the metal and making it brittle… hand torch… not a lot of heat control. I asked around the 2… that’s right, TWO, local shops and all they seem to be willing to do is sell me a new bike. I like the sizing and the feel of the bike and I really don’t have the funding to fish around for the correct parts. Thanks for the input, hopefully someone can point me to a thread chart, so I can order the right parts the first time or I reckon I could just disassemble and pitch them myself (trying to avoid that!). Plus I like the fact that the 105 comes in black as when I finally get my parts assemble for install, I’m going to cover the Celeste with a more attuned to me, flat black.

        1. Since it has downtube shifters, you may have to get the adapters for them. What some people do is buy a bike from http://www.bikesdirect.com that has all the components they want and move the components over to a new frame and sell the old frame. Sometimes their entire bikes are cheaper than the component groups! Then you get a little money back when you sell the frame on eBay, or a spare frame if you like it.

          If you really like that crank and want to find replacement chainrings, find the BCD on this chart and then ask for those specific ring sizes. http://www.m-gineering.nl/steekcirkels.PDF. Many bike shops might not know how to find a replacement Suntour but if you told them you need a 130 BCD 52 tooth chainring then they’ll have much better info to work with.

      2. Anonymous says:

        Oh… and , yeah… ’91 is an old ride! 20 years to be exact! :-p

        1. Pfft. To me that’s “newer”. :-)

  33. CVBruce says:

    The bolt that bolts the crank arm onto the bottom bracket axel, keeps working loose while I ride. Is there a torque specification? I tend to over tighten things and strip out threads, so I’d rather do this by the numbers. What other suggestion do you have to keep this from loosening as I ride. Thanks.

    1. It depends on the manufacturer. Some people have used Loctite with success, but if you try it, make sure you use the stuff that can be removed, otherwise you’d have to take a welding torch to it to get it free when you want to change it later.

  34. Does anybody have innovative suggestions for _affordable_ bike lighting for all-year commuting in the northeast? I tried an old bottle generator on the wheel rim, but it slips when there’s snow & slush on the wheels, hub generators aren’t cheap and batteries are the obvious 3rd option but I always forget to charge them up. So, what’s option number 4?

    1. You might try http://www.dealextreme.com for some cheaper bike lighting options. If you keep forgetting to charge the batteries, try getting a USB charger that plugs right into your computer. Since it’s handier, you may forget less often.

    2. James says:

      Buy a cheap LED set of lights. The batteries last for months on them, so I don’t worry too much about charging them.

  35. My biggest problem with biking is that a certain part of my anatomy becomes very sore. My seat is a wider sort, which I thought would help, but it still hurts. I use a regular mountain bike. Road bike seats scare me. Is there a type of seat that would work for me (other than buying a recumbent)? Do things like the Hobson Easy Seat really work?

    1. I cannot explain it better than the late great Sheldon Brown:
      http://www.sheldonbrown.com/saddles.html

    2. Chris Nodder says:

      Jordan – counterintuitively a thinner (narrower) saddle with less padding may help. Different people have different width “sit bones” (ischial tuberosities!). If yours are closer together, then a wider seat is going to hurt. If you have too much cush in the seat, the padding can push up between your sit bones into your certain anatomical parts.

      Specialized make different width saddles for different anatomies. If you go into a good bike store, they’ll have the measuring tool (it’s ok, you just sit on a piece of foam that leaves dents where your sit bones are) to work out what width saddle you should use.

      Some people swear by weird saddle designs, but you may just find that it’s a question of getting the right fit.

  36. Colin Cheyne says:

    I just found a sweet parts bike and I am taking off a bunch of parts that are much lighter than the ones I have right now. I would like to use the brakes which are more modern side pull style than the old cantilever style that is on their now. but with the pads fully adjusted down they barely hit the rim and ride on the tire. Are brakes different lengths for different sized frames? I have a larger frame. Maybe thats why. Any insight would be awesome.

    1. Check for a quick release on the side of the brake caliper, if it has one, it’s for allowing fat tires to be removed. Brake calipers used to be much longer when more bikes came with fenders and fatter tires, but more modern calipers are for tighter clearances.

    2. Chris Nodder says:

      Colin – most modern cantilever brakes and side pull road bike brakes should be interchangeable. Cantilever brakes and v-brakes (mountain bikes) not so much. What ever the theoretical interchangeability, if you can’t adjust the pads down far enough to not hit the tire, please don’t use those brakes!

      BTW, frame size does not come in to the equation – it’s just the distance that the brake bosses (MTB) or brake bolt (road) are away from the axle that matters.

  37. kelly l says:

    What is a good back light for night cyling for all round rear visibility & without blinding the person behind you? Thanks.

    1. Be as visible as possible. Any light, even the cheap ones from Walmart, will make you visible, but don’t rely on it. Get some reflective stickers, reflective tape, stuff like this:
      http://www.bikewrappers.com/

      If you have Schraeder valves (like cars) get some blinking or steady lights for that as well. I’ve been known to buy LED Christmas lights to put on as well. Wear high visibility yellow clothing. Zip tie an LED glow stick to one spoke on each wheel. Put reflective stickers on your helmet. There were instructions on how to make a reflective pocket on this site or something similar, do stuff like that. Get one of those vests that road workers wear, or a hi viz jersey. Lots of stores have that.

      When riding at night, my goal is to make it so that in a courtroom, when the judge sees what I was wearing and the idiot driver who hit me says “Honestly officer, I couldn’t see him!” the judge will say “WHAT?! He was lit up like a freaking carnival at night! How the hell did you miss that? Talking on your phone?!”

  38. Which is better, quick disconnect chain or pin chain links?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      I use magic links (quick disconnects) from SRAM or KMC because they’re easier to use on the trail. I’ve never had problems with them either coming undone on the trail or breaking apart. Modern chains require special one-time use pins. They can be a real pain to work with. Also, try finding that pin when you are out on the trail in the pouring rain trying to fix your bike.

      One warning: Make sure you get the right magic link for your chain – they come in different sizes for 8, 9 and 10-speed chains. Also, the 10-speed SRAM magic links are one-time use only. KMC links can be re-used.

  39. Walt Scrivens says:

    Recently a bike shop messed up my rear axle when replacing the cassette. I rebuilt the axle myself, but when I disassembled it I found that one side had 7/32 balls and the other had 1/4 balls. I put it back together the same way (with new balls) but I’m wondering if this was just an expedient previous repair, of it it is really supposed to have 2 different size bearings?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      It’s not uncommon for rear hubs to have different sized bearings on the drive and non-drive sides because of the different forces on each side of the hub. It’s also unlikely that you would have been able to fit the wrong size bearings into the bearing races.

      1. I have fit the wrong size bearings into the races. It’s possible.

  40. Roland S says:

    What is the best “cleaning method” for a 10-12 speed chain?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      The best cleaning method is to not get the chain dirty in the first place!

      OK, enough with the cryptic and unhelpful answers, but… if you apply chain oil carefully and then immediately wipe off any that is left on the chain, there won’t be so much sticky stuff to attract dirt. The only useful oil is the stuff that’s seeped in to the innards of the chain, so it’s OK to wipe off any oil that you can see.

      To clean the chain, I like to use a citrus degreaser (any brand, but Pedro’s make a nice bike-specific one). Do NOT use WD-40. It’s marvelous stuff, but it leaves a film of oil behind. As mentioned before, that oil will just act as a dirt magnet.

      If the chain is really out of shape (rusty, doesn’t run smoothly) then you can remove it, soak it in WD-40 overnight and then clean it with citrus degreaser. Before you go to that effort though, make sure it’s still OK to use – measure 12 links, rivet to rivet. The rivets should be 12 inches apart. If they are more than 12-1/8 inches, it’s time for a new chain.

  41. Kirk Eilers says:

    Can anyone recommend a moderately priced road bike wheel with a disc brake hub?

  42. Todd Morris says:

    I’ve got an internal 3 speed hub that needs a replacement cable and shifter. Will any 3 speed shifter do or must I find one that matches the hub manufacturer and model?

    1. You’ll want to match them up, not only will they pull different lengths of cable, they also might have different routes to get to the hub.

  43. Joel Smith says:

    What makes my front cantilever brakes squeal like a banshee and what can I do to prevent it?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      Quick answer = “Toe in.”

      You need to make sure that the front tip of the brake pads touches the rim before the back end of the brake pads. You can make this happen by putting a rubber band around the back of the brake pads before you adjust them against the rim. Now, the gap that was created by the rubber band will mean that the front end touches first.

      Also, ensure that the cantilever bolts are tight. Loose bolts give the arms the opportunity to wobble and that creates a squeal.

      Finally, sometimes you just have to change to a different compound brake pad. The rubber that they are made of differs in hardness – try a different manufacturer’s pads.

      1. Joel Smith says:

        Thanks for the nice manageable tip on toe-in. I’ll try it out.

  44. Ni-ee-ma says:

    I have an old 10 speed mountain bicycle (early 1990s Magna) sitting in my parent’s shed. The brake handles are worn, the tries are flat and it hasn’t been ridden in over 5 years. And the nearest bike shop is at least 3 miles away. How do I begin the process of rehabbing it in order to use to use for my 3 mile ride to work?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      It’s great that you want to ride into work! I’m all for re-using rather than replacing, but Magna were not ever really known for high-end bikes. Before you start fixing things, I suggest that you price out the repairs that you want to make. You may be better off finding a used bike in better working order.

      If you are still feeling enthusiastic, you may be surprised how little work it actually requires. If it’s lived in a dry shed it probably has nothing more than superficial rust, and if you’re lucky the tires will still be in good enough condition. Try pumping them up and leaving them overnight. If they have gone flat again by the morning, you’ll need new tubes. if the tires have cracks in their sidewalls, replace them.

      Try the brakes. If they still work then even if the handles are worn (this is unusual) you’ll be OK. If they don’t stop the bike very well, then you’re going to have to do a bit more fixing. http://bikebooboos.com/Rim_Brake_Alignment.aspx may help a bit.

      After the tires and brakes, check the shifting. The chain will need to be lubricated – maybe left overnight so that the oil can sink in – and then you should try running through the gears to make sure the bike shifts from gear to gear OK. http://bikebooboos.com/Shifting_Adjustment.aspx gives you the details.

      If the tires/wheels, brakes and gears work you should be OK riding the bike. Try it out a couple of times before you trust it on your ride to work, though.

      1. Ni-ee-ma says:

        Thanks!!! When you break down the steps like this doing the repairs myself seems very manageable. So I’ll definitely try them out this weekend.

  45. Ed Sherman says:

    If you’re carrying weight (like groceries or extra clothes for a longer trip) is it better to wear a backpack or put it in panniers?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      Ed, mostly the rule is to keep the weight low so that your center of gravity is lower. Having said that, some people prefer the weight to move with their body rather than being strapped to the bike. It’s harder to hop a bike up a curb with panniers on, for instance.

      Whatever you do, I’d suggest not using front panniers. They can make it harder to steer and some bikes are more prone to a thing called speed induced shimmy (high speed wobbles) when you strap front panniers on. Now the touring riders are going to flame me.

    2. James says:

      I like the backpack myself, although my back gets sweaty in the summertime and, like Chris said, your weight is higher, making you more unstable. However, I like knowing where my stuff is at, and not worrying about it getting caught in the wheels.

    3. McHonza says:

      I have a messenger bag for regular stuff that I carry, it seems to generate less sweat than a backpack. Recently got a rear rack & double-sided pannier bag (like saddlebags) for groceries & bigger loads. Much easier to transport more stuff with the rack & panniers in my opinion.

  46. yazzzooo says:

    HaHa…this brings back the image of my strapping athlete 19 year old neighbor walking home with his bike on his shoulder carrying one of his peddles. Guess he got tired of pushing the bike!

    For the sake of space and weight, I’d like to hear what folks consider ESSENTIAL TO CARRY gear in their bike repair bag and do you modify any of the gear for weight?

    1. A multitool that you use regularly, a spare tube, patch kit, cell phone, cash for a cab. I don’t modify anything for weight. I love old lugged steel bikes, some of which are lightweight, but none come close to carbon fiber bikes, so weight just isn’t a priority. If the tool works well, it weighs what it needs to.

  47. Tim Goodwin says:

    My front hub sounds like a horse rider shifting weight in an old leather saddle (I used to ride horses so that is the best way I can think of to describe it.). I can’t replicate it when not on the bike. Will I soon take a horrible endo induced beating or is this less serious?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      I feel like I need some kind of legal disclaimer before answering questions like this! Sounds like the bearings in your front hub are on their way to the knacker’s yard (to keep up the horse metaphor). You get the grinding sound when the bike has weight on it, but not when you’re spinning the wheel off the ground. If you’re not too late, you may be able to just replace the bearings. If you’re too late (and it’s not a cartridge bearing hub), then it’s time for a new hub or a new wheel.

      Are you going to endo? Possibly. Dodgy bearings can seize.

  48. I’m trying to bring back an old, discarded bike as a learning project. It needs cables and housings replaced. Any suggestions where to start on that?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      You can order the parts online, but a visit to your local bike shop will also assist in the learning part of your project. Take the bike with you, tell them that you want to work on it, and (if they’re a good shop) they’ll talk you through the process.

      If you insist on doing it all by yourself, remember that brake cables and housings are different than gear cables and housings. All gear cables tend to use the same end moldings (the blob of solder-like material on one end of the cable), but brake cables can differ, and you need to get the correct kind. Use the current cable housing as a template for cutting the new housing, make sure you don’t leave rough ends on the housing, and maybe even take a photo of where the cables and housing run so that you can thread the new housing through the same locations as the old stuff.

  49. Janessa Rowe says:

    What kind of bike lock can I buy that won’t get clipped by bike-stealing thieves in 0.2 seconds? I’m tired of coming back to see my lock laying on the ground, sliced in half…

    1. Try two locks, a thick cable or chain and a u-lock. Most bike thieves are opportunistic, so make it as difficult to ride off as possible. If you can, remove the front wheel and bring it into work or school as a deterrent.

    2. kryptonite locks are the best in my opinion, you can get a U’lock that comes with a cable to hook your wheels too. Philly has a bad bike stealing problem so all the bike stores recommend the kryptonites even though they are a little more expensive (I think mine was about $50)

  50. When bicycling to work and back I sometimes wonder, just how fast can a pit bull run? Perhaps the more specific question is– “How fast can THAT pitbull run?”

  51. Santa Monica Mountains are awesome…what the are best rides on Santa Susana Mountain?

  52. notexactly says:

    A friend who is an avid mountain biker, but who also does a lot of stupid stuff, told me that wheel bearings need to be repacked every year. Is this true? If so, how do I do it?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      Your avid mountain biker friend must ride through a lot of streams. If you ride the bike infrequently, you may go for many years without needing to repack the bearings.

      Wheel bearings on older (cup and cone) wheels do need to be repacked on a regular basis to keep them in tip-top condition, but not necessarily every year. Newer wheels often use sealed cartridge bearings that can’t easily be regreased. They too can last several years without maintenance.

      Repacking bearings is easy, but getting *to* the bearings and then putting everything back together again is less easy and takes some careful adjustment. It’s a job you don’t want to have to do unless it’s necessary. Wheel hubs vary widely in their design, so I’d suggest finding someone to show you how it’s done, or finding a good book/site to help you out.

      To check whether it’s necessary, take your wheel out from the fork/frame, hold it by its axle, and then spin it. While it’s spinning, move the axle from side to side. If you hear/feel anything other than smoothness, you might want to adjust the bearings. If the wheel doesn’t spin well at all, you may need to repack or replace the bearings.

  53. How often should one pump up their tires?

  54. What is the most practical, and easiest to repair/control type of bicycle for someone who lives in the city?

  55. What’s breaks the most often on a bike and why?

    1. curt carter says:

      Tires- they go flat

  56. What should every bike rider have when riding their bicycle?

  57. How do you guys think the drive terrain works on the alpha bike?

  58. I just replaced my chain, but I’m still getting “ghost-shifting” – does that mean I need to replace my gears?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      Most likely if you are still getting ghost shifting and you know that your chain was stretched, then you will need to replace your rear cassette (rear gears).

      Before you do that though, just make sure that the problem isn’t with the shifter cable or shifter adjustment. Check out http://bikebooboos.com/Chain_sucks.aspx for some other tips.

  59. Anonymous says:

    Why do so many weekend riders feel the need to cram into head to toe spandex and reenact the tour?

    1. Wuss912 says:

      Marketing…..

  60. Alex Rapley says:

    What city in North America is the most bike friendly? Does it make a big difference to the number of riders?

  61. What’s the easiest way to replace a worn out Manitou 4 suspension fork 1″ steerer? Get a 1″ rigid fork or convert to Aheadset? Most new suspension forks have too much travel for this OLD framset – a classic ’94 Specialized Stumpjumper Pro.

  62. Zack Jordan says:

    How do I stop squeaky brakes from squeaking, when I am not braking?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      If you have rim brakes, try adjusting them so that they are centered on the rim and slightly away from it (http://bikebooboos.com/Rim_Brake_Alignment.aspx). If that doesn’t work, it’s probable that the brakes or wheel need some attention. See some more tips at http://bikebooboos.com/vbrake.aspx

      If you have disk brakes, it could be a bent rotor (http://bikebooboos.com/diskrotor.aspx) or you might need to check your brake caliper alignment (http://bikebooboos.com/Disk_Brake_Alignment.aspx)

    2. Zack: I’d adjust the tension on your brake cables. They are probably a touch too tight, and even when released they still rub against your rim.

      If it’s not constant, your rim may be bent a little, and you can play around with adjusting spokes and what not, but I haven’t done that before so I dunno really.

      Oh, and field repairs? I was once on a bike path and ran over some glass. Luckily, I had a spare inner-tube and a bike pump with me, so while the repair took a few minutes, it saved me a good hours walk.

  63. Is there good and a bad way to use a bicycle? And if so,what kind of injuries could a bad usage of bicycle lead to?

  64. Well, for me a bad way to use my bicycle was to go grocery shopping and putting all of the weight high up while holding a 6-pack of glass bottles (ginger ale. I never drink and ride!) Dropped a bottle, lost my concentration, wiped out. Sore wrist, but nothing too bad.

    Racing a bike down a hill and jumping over a bump and landing in gravel is a bad way too. Can give you a nice case of road rash.

    Stopping a bike Fred Flintstone style while barefoot can result in cut feet, stubbed toes and just general owies.

  65. curt carter says:

    Are spokes difficult to replace? How many spokes can I break before I need to do something?

  66. Anonymous says:

    What’s the easiest way to maintain your chain?

    1. Steve Mazza says:

      Chains wear and need to be replaced periodically. In between replacements, though, you should strive to keep your chain clean (free of grit), as dry as possibly, and lubricated. Use a chain wax for best results. Wet oils and grease attract dirt and grit that wear the chain. A dry lubricant like Tri-Flo is okay, too, but wax is best. After heavy use, clean your chain with soapy water and a stiff bristle brush. Clean your chain rings and rear cassette, too, while you’re at it.

  67. What is the best way to match and repair paint chips?

  68. If I have frame dings, how much is it going to violate the structural integrity of my frame?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      It depends on the frame material and the ding. Small, smooth-edged dents in heavy steel frames are less likely to be a problem than large, ragged-edged dents in aluminum frames. Carbon frames are toast with pretty much any kind of ding – especially if it’s led to delamination or “furry” bits of carbon fiber showing.

      The shape and size of the dent are important – smaller dings with smooth edges are less likely to create stress points that will turn into cracks later on.

      If you see cracks – especially near the frame junctions – then don’t ride the bike any more.

      So, if you just have a couple of paint chips in a steel frame bike you will probably be OK. Anything larger, or in an Aluminum or Carbon frame, and you’ll want to be really careful riding the bike.

  69. Rajay says:

    Why are the gears adjusted to switch on their number loose their settings in a day or two?

  70. What is the best place to have the motor in an electric bike (Pedelec)? Front wheel? middle? Back?

    1. btw: I am interested in an answer also without having won your book :-)

  71. gaijintendo says:

    I have changed my inner tubes bazillions of times, but I still occasionally get bulging when I inflate again. Can you explain what I am doing wrong, so I can make it only half a bazillion changes henceforth? I am pretty sure it isn’t twisted. And it sometimes makes the rubber wall not fit neatly with the rim.

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      If you get bulging in the tire (not the tube) then it’s time for a new tire. The sidewall has probably worn out so when you inflate the tube it makes the tire bulge. This isn’t the tube’s fault, it’s a weak tire sidewall.

      If the tube bulges (it’s fatter in some places than others) that’s fine – the tire normally holds it all in place. However, if it’s bulging out from the gap between the tire and the rim when you inflate it, then either you haven’t properly seated the tire beads against the rim, or again your tire is too worn and has stretched so that the tire bead won’t seat properly.

      Either way, probably you want to try a new tire rather than a new tube!

  72. craig says:

    How long will my sealed bottom bracket last before needing to be replaced? I cycle everyday to and from work as a minimum 70 miles per week. On top of that i ride pretty much everywhere. How do you tell if it needs replacing?

    1. It’ll start making noises you’ve never heard before, or grind.

  73. Tim Lewallen says:

    What is the best chain lubricant? Most people seem to think that WD40 or some similar product is great and others say that is the worst thing you can use. I have heard of products that repel dirt instead of getting gummed up.

    What’s the scoop oh wise ones?

  74. McHonza says:

    Most of my riding is on a road bike, but I’m doing more commuting on a hybrid. I’m curious about fixed gear bikes. They seem like a whole different ball game. Any advice for getting started in that niche?

    1. Practice in an area where you won’t get into trouble, such as an empty parking lot. Remember that the pedal can and will smack your leg if you forget that you can’t coast.

  75. Anonymous says:

    Eligible comments for the giveaway ended last night at 3pm EDT. We’ll announce the winners later on today. Thanks for all of your great comments here.

    1. Wuss912 says:

      wheres the unlike button :)

  76. Anonymous says:

    My front brakes always squeal like crazy. The rim is a little dirty but the back is worse and they’re silent. Any idea what would cause this? I’ve tried tightening the brake cable and reversing the pads. No luck.

    1. Wuss912 says:

      you can try cleaning the rim with rubbing alcohol

    2. The brake pads need to be toed in. They’ll squeal less if the front of the pad is angled in slightly more towards the rim than the rear of the pad.

  77. Jeremy Tose says:

    I’ve got a mountain bike I really like, trouble is the aggressive tires and the gear ratio.
    I’m pretty sure I can throw on some on road tires from a 10 speed,
    but how hard is it to get a custom gear to add some higher gear ratios?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      You can get slick tires for 26″ (mountain bike) wheels, but they won’t be as thin and fast-rolling as road bike tires (what I think you’re calling a 10 speed). You can’t get a smaller rear gear (MTBs and road bikes both have 11-tooth rear gears) and it would be quite hard to change to a larger chain ring (front gear) because it would also require moving or even changing the front derailleur and also getting a longer chain.

      If you really want the higher gear ratio so that you can go faster, you need a road bike!

  78. Anonymous says:

    why is it that i go up hills alot slower than my frineds, could it a mechanical problem?, or just my age ?

  79. Anonymous says:

    why is it that i go up hills alot slower than my frineds, could it a mechanical problem?, or just my age ?

  80. Anonymous says:

    We have our winners! Cherish Bloom and Eric Phillips, you both won copies of the Boo Book book. Please send me your mailing addresses ASAP and I’ll send out your books. gareth AT makezine DOT com.

  81. I was trying to replace a bike chain, but I accidentally pushed the pin that holds the chain link together too far and it came out. How can I get that back in?

    1. Chris Nodder says:

      It’s really difficult to get the pin back in – possible, but really difficult. If you have a bike with an 8-, 9-, or 10-speed chain, I suggest you buy a “magic link” (SRAM or KMC make them) and use this instead of the link that has its pin missing.

  82. Why do bike seats hurt so much?

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