Tag Archives: Bike repair

Bike noises that can ruin a great ride may be easy to fix with these tips

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Bikes are fun to ride and any distraction from that fun can be annoying. One distraction that is easy to eliminate is noises your bike normally doesn’t make. The reason they are easy to eliminate is because each noise is telling you what’s wrong. Here are some of the most common noises and their causes.

Annoying Noises from Corrosion

Before we get into the annoying noises themselves, we should talk about what causes them. Most annoying noises are caused from corrosion between two surfaces, or excess wear. Noises from corrosion can be remedied easily, whereas parts that are worn out need to be replaced. In most cases, corrosion is not visible to the naked eye but can be removed with solvent and guarded against in the future with a little grease.

Annoying Noises or Creaks

“Creaks” are the most common and annoying noises on your bike. It usually sounds like you are opening a rusty door when you pedal and will subside when you stop pedaling. Creaks are attributed to either the pedals or the bottom bracket (fancy name for the bearings on which your cranks turn).

If there is side to side movement in either pedal or the entire crank, you should take your bike into a bike shop to have it serviced. If there isn’t any play, the creak is probably associated to corrosion. Removing the pedals and greasing the threads, taking off the chainrings (large gears attached to the crank), or removing the crank and greasing the bottom bracket spindle will usually silence the bike. If the creak persists, take your bike into the shop for a more thorough examination.

Annoying Noises or Clicks

Unlike creaks, clicks rarely follow any sort of rhythm and usually come from the handlebar, seat, or seat post. An easy way to test where the click is coming from is to do it off the bike. With your feet on the ground, flex the bars from side to side. If you hear a click, loosen the stem, clean the bar, and apply a thin layer of grease before reinstalling.

The seat and seatpost can be treated just like the bars. While off the bike, flex the saddle forward and backward. If you hear a creak, remove the saddle, clean the saddle rails, apply grease and reinstall. The next step is to remove the seat post from the bike and grease the seat tube before reinstalling. It is important to note that carbon fiber posts and frames should not be greased. instead, use a carbon fiber friction paste like Park Tool’s SAC-2.

Squeak

Squeaks sound like you have a mouse or small bird trapped somewhere in your bike. Like creaks, they are usually rhythmic, but can continue even while not pedaling. Squeaks are usually caused by a lack of lubrication. Typically, a bearing’s rubber seal is rubbing against a metal surface and the vibration causes a squeak.

The easy remedy for a squeak is to first locate it by spinning each wheel independently. Next, spin each pedal independently. Finally, try back pedaling. Listen for where the noise is coming from then apply a wet lubricant like Park Tool’s CL-1 to where the rubber seal meets metal. Spin the offending part until the noise goes away then wipe off any excess lube. Additionally, chains can squeak sometimes as well. To correct that just clean and lubricate your chain.

Brake Squeal

If you squeeze you brakes and hear a noise somewhere between a small squeal or a fog horn, then you are suffering from brake squeal. Brake squeal is caused when the brake pads touch the braking surface and, rather than building friction, vibrate. The noise you are hearing is that vibration. Before you get to concerned, brakes will oftentimes squeal when they are wet and be silent again when dry. However, if the noise persists when dry, the two major causes are adjustment or contamination. With an adjustment issue, the brake pads are hitting the brake surface at an angle that causes them to vibrate and readjusting the pads should solve the problem.

For contamination, the solution is somewhat more involved. First thing to do is determine what type of brake you have, rim or disc. If your bike has rim brakes, your brakes use rubber pads to press against the rim near the tire. For disc brakes, semi-metallic pads press against a steel rotor mounted to the center of the wheel. To clean a rim brake, use soap and water (dawn dish detergent works well) to wash the rim and brake pads. Also, scour the rim and brake pads surface with sand paper or Scotchbrite. For a disc brake, start with soap and water as well and scour the rotor surface. If the noise doesn’t subside, take it into your local shop for pad replacement.

Clunks

Clunks are the sound of one object hitting another and are usually heard when you run over a gap in the road or over a curb. Most clunks are serious and should be resolved as quickly as possible. They’re serious because something on your bike is loose or worn out. The most common things to come loose are your wheel’s hubs or the bicycle’s headset. To test and see if the hubs are loose, grab the rim and gently push side to side. For the headset, (the bearings on which your fork and handlebars turn) simply turn your bars 90 degrees, squeeze the front brake and rock the bike forward and back. If you feel any play or rattling, take the bike in for service.

Clunks are also often found in suspension forks and seatposts. If you feel a clunk only when dropping off an object and have checked your hubs and headset, chances are your suspension needs attention. Suspension service is best left to your local bike shop. They can assess if the suspension needs either service or adjustment.

Service

In most cases, noises coming from your bike signal that it is a good time to bring it in for service. A trained mechanic can assess and remedy noises far faster than you. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do any of these repairs at home. In fact, most of these problems are easily fixed with a little attention. The only consideration before entering into the project of noise tracking is how much time you want to devote to it. Hopefully these tips will give you the confidence to try.

Giving back to your cycling community you can enjoy some great ways to stockpile some good karma and it’s fun!

How to fix a flat tire on a bike is a skill every rider should have

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

One inevitability of riding a bicycle is that you will get a flat tire. With a little practice and planning, you will be able to fix a flat tire and finish your ride, without a problem. To be prepared, you will need a few tools and to practice how to fix a flat on your bicycle a few times to get it down. Read below for a step by step on how to change your first flat.

Learning how to fix a flat tire is a part of bicycling.  With a little practice and planning, you too can fix a tire and finish your ride.

Needed items to fix a flat tire

To easily fix a flat tire be sure to carry the following items:

Pump

fix a flat pump

Pumps come in many shapes and sizes. Most are portable in a jersey pocket or on the bike. Be sure to look for a pump that is capable of meeting your tires pressure.

Tube

Fix a Flat tire tire size

Tubes are sized specifically to tires. Find the right size tube for your bike by looking on the sidewall of your tire. Common sizes are 700×23 and 26×2.1″. Tire sizes above are underlined in red. Tires size may also be molded into the sidewall of the tire.

Patch kit

Fixing a flat patch kit

Patches seal small holes in innertubes. There are glueless versions and versions that require glue.

Tire lever

fix a flat tire levers

Tire levers come in many shapes and colors, but almost all of them include the same features – A shovel shaped end to scoop the tire bead off the rim, and a hooked end to secure the lever onto the wheel.

FIX A FLAT: Getting Started

The first step to fix a flat is to remove the wheel from your bike. Consult your bicycles owner’s manual for the proper way to remove the wheels.

Begin by removing all the remaining air from the tire. Depress the valve while squeezing the tire until all remaining air is out. Also try to push the bead of the tire into the rim well, doing this will make it easier to remove the tire from the rim.

Taking the Punctured Tube Out

Fixing a flat terminology

Tire, Rim, and Tire Lever Terminology

With the wheel in one hand and the tire lever in the other, try to position the shovel end of the tire lever under the bead of the tire. (see picture below)

fix a flat tire lever in action

Once the lever is positioned beneath the tires bead, push the hook side of the lever down (using the rim as the fulcrum) and lift the tires bead. Once you have lifted the bead with the tire lever, you should be able to push the lever around the perimeter of the rim, freeing one bead from within the rim. (See Video)

 

Some tire and rim combinations are too tight to allow this method. If you can’t make headway pushing the tire lever around the rim, use the hook side of the tire lever to capture a spoke. Use a second tire lever a few inches away from the first to remove the bead, the bead should be loose enough to remove easily at this time (see pictures below).

Remove the innertube and either patch it or take out a new one. Before installing a new innertube, run your fingers along the inside of the tire while inspecting an area a few inches in front of your fingers.(See Video)

You are looking for the object that caused the flat. You won’t always find something in the tire, either it fell out, or stayed in the road.

Installing a New Tube

When putting the innertube back in the tire, inflating it a little helps. Add enough air to give the tube shape, but not so much that it doesn’t fit into the tire

 

Start by putting the valve through the valve hole in the rim, then feed the rest of the tube into the tire.

Once the tube is in the tire, begin moving the tube into the rim well.

Begin at the valve, and feed the tire bead back into the rim well. It will be easy to get the bead moved over the edge of the rim initially, but will get progressively more difficult as you get farther away from the valve. It is normal for the last few inches of bead to be the most difficult to seat, don’t get discouraged and don’t attempt to use a tire lever to put the bead back. Tire levers can pinch and puncture innertubes. Instead of a tire lever, use your thumbs and the heel of your palm to force the bead back onto the rim. (See Video)

 

Once the tire and new innertub are reinstalled begin airing the tire up. Once there is a small amount of pressure in the tire, check to see if it is seated properly. A quick spin usually tells you visually if everything is even. (See Video)

If you are sure the tire is seated evenly, bring the tire up to pressure completely. Tire pressures are usually marked on the sidewall of the tire if you aren’t sure of how much to put in. Put the wheel back into the bike, reengage the brake, and you are off.

Discovering how things work here is a group of neighborhood kids learning about bicycle maintenance. 

Teaching your child the ancient art of bicycle maintenance

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

As a parent and tinkerer, one of the most fun activities I share with my boys is teaching them how things work. Now that my older son is riding more and helping me reviewing a bike for HaveFunBiking, the time has come to teach him how a bike works. Almost everybody gets the basics, but after 20 years working in shops, I want to give as much of my experience to him as possible. Take a look at my plan for teaching my son bicycle maintenance.

This father, son team assemble a bike for a school program.

Here this father, son team assemble a new bike for a school program.

Safety first in bicycle maintenance

Like wearing a helmet when riding a bike, working on a bike has safety gear as well. Eye protection is a must. With safety glasses on the next step is to show your child the danger zones on a bike. Spinning wheels, spinning brake rotors, along with the crank, chain and cogs are all dangerous to little fingers. Teach your children to stay away from those areas when the bike is moving. On that subject, it is also important for kids to wear clothing that is snug fitting. Loose clothing can get caught in moving parts.

bicycle maintenance

Caution areas are highlighted in red. These are the places fingers can get pinched.

Tools of the trade in bicycle maintenance

The next step is to teach your kid what the tools are and how to use them. Bikes only use a few different tools like, metric hex wrenches, screwdrivers, and metric box wrenches. First show you child how to hold each tool for best leverage, and what part of the tool engages with the bike. Then, show them where each tool fits on the bike before beginning the fix.

bicycle maintenance

Hex wrenches, box wrenches, and screwdrivers used by professional bike mechanics across the country.

Having fun with bicycle maintenance

Now that the safety and instruction portions are over, make the process fun! Your kid is more than likely dying to get their hands (and wrenches) on the bike as quickly as possible, so let them have at it. Considering you gave them the safety and function basics already, their exploration of the bike will be safe and enlightening. Once they play a little, ask your kid to teach you how the bike works! Have them exercise their brain and logic by explaining how the bike functions.

Teaching a little at a time

It’s easy for parents to get overzealous when teaching. If you are mechanically inclined, sharing that gift with your kids can be exciting, but try not to overwhelm them. Feel comfortable stopping the lesson when they loose interest. I like to start teaching with the rear brake (assuming it is a rim brake). The rear brake usually needs adjustment, and is a rather simple example of how the rest of the bike functions. Once the rear brake is dialed, and your kid is comfortable with the process, have them adjust the front brake.

Next, I start teaching about how to adjust the shifting system. Hopefully you and your child had a good conversation when they “taught” you how the shifting worked, because that conversation is a great baseline for teaching how to adjust the shifting. Because of the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur, start with the rear shifting first. Once they get the hang of that move to the front derailleur.

After the bike is functioning properly, teach your kids how to adjust the seat, bars and controls. You may ask why I would recommend the simple adjustments last? Simple answer, these adjustments require the most leverage and are best saved for once your child is practiced at using the tools.

Test ride

Once you child completes the adjustments, it’s time to take a test ride. Have your kid test ride in a supervised area away from traffic (like a driveway). Once the test ride is complete, make any additional adjustments needed, and be sure all the hardware is tight.

bicycle maintenance

Test rides are fun!

Learn through mistakes

Most of the fun of learning to work on bikes (or anything for that matter) is the process. Nobody gets it right on the first try, and all of us learn from the mistakes along the way. In fact, the mistakes are more valuable than the successes. So the most important part of teaching your kids to work on bikes is to let them make mistakes and be a resource for the solutions if needed.

Ready for his tenth annual used bike sale, Rick Anderson has over 400 bikes primed to ride for your #nextbikeadventure

Bicycle maintenance and cleaning will keep your bike in optimal condition

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Like any other mechanical device, routine bicycle maintenance and cleaning will keep your bike in optimal condition. Additionally, routine bicycle maintenance will make your bike safer to ride when you need it. Where do you start? What do you use? Well, here are a few tips to put you on the right track!

Tip 1: For optimal bicycle maintenance stay away from the hose

Bike running smooth hose and bucket

Angry hose and happy bucket

Every moving part on your bicycle needs lubrication to stay in optimal condition. The pressure of water coming from a hose will forces water into areas that need to be lubricated. The water will displace grease and leave your bicycle susceptible to corrosion and excess wear. Instead of a hose, fill a bucket with warm, soapy water (Dawn dish detergent works well) and use a large sponge to clean all the parts of your bicycle. Rinse all the soap and gunk off with fresh water, and let the bicycle air dry.

Tip 2: Focusing on the drivetrain

If you have a particularly dirty drivetrain* and want to get it clean you will need the following:Bike running smooth supplies

• Degreaser
• A stiff bristled brush
• Rubber gloves
• Protective eyewear

 

*(the gears, chain, and the little pulley wheels on your derailleur)

  • First: Start by applying a liberal amount of degreaser to the chain, gears, and derailleur pulleys. Also, pay close attention not to direct degreaser toward the center of either gear set. Doing so will drive degreaser into bearings that need to remain lubricated.
  • Second: Once well saturated, begin freeing up dirt and debris by scrubbing back and forth with the stiff bristled brush.
  • Third: After you have broken up all the contaminants, rinse the drivetrain with a warm soap/water solution.

Tip 3: reapply lubricant

Most areas of a bicycle are protected from the elements with rubber seals. Those rubber seals do a good job of keeping lubricants where they are supposed to be. Furthermore, it also means that the only areas of a bicycle that can be lubricated without disassembly are the chain and cables.

 Lubricating the chain

bicycle maintenance

Proper lubrication is essential to keep your bike in optimal condition

  • First: To lube the chain, prop your bicycle up so you can freely backpedal. While backpedaling, coat the chain evenly with lubricant like in the image above.
  • Second: Fold a rag around the chain between the lowest pully and the chainrings. Next, backpedal with your right hand, while holding the rag in place with your left. You want to try and remove all the excess lubricant you can. When complete, the chain will feel almost dry to the touch, and thats OK. Even though the outside of the chain seems underlubricated, there is still ample amounts of lubricant between the chains links and within the rollers.

Lubricating the cables

If shifting of braking feels rough at the lever, you may need to lube the cables. Here’s how to do that:

  • First: Apply lubricant in small doses where the cable enters the housing (see below).
  • Second: Cycle the gears, or squeeze the brakes until capillary action draws the lube into the cable housing.

bicycle maintenance

Making sure your bicycle is clean and properly lubricated is essential to make sure your bike is in optimal condition.

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The second most common mechanical problem to a flat tire, is a broken chain. Read on to learn the causes of and quick remedies to fix your chain.

Causes of a broken chain and the quick and easy ways to fix it

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

The second most common trail side mechanical problem to a flat tire is a broken chain. While it could be the end of an otherwise great ride, with a little preparation you can easily fix the chain and get your bike back on the road. Read on to learn the causes of and remedies to a broken chain.

Why is a broken chain common?

Wear

Chains break for a host of reasons, but most common is wear. For example, if a chain has been ridden for 2500 miles, it will actually stretch out. Correspondingly, a ridden chain will be longer from link to link than a new chain. Because the chain is stretched, the metal fatigues is more susceptible to failure. Additionally, as the chain wears the chainrings and cassette (gears in the rear) will wear out as well. Combine all those factors, mix in one bad shift and you have a recipe for a broken chain. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have your chain checked by your local bike shop at least once a year.

Impact

Chains, like anything else on your bike, can be damaged if it gets hit hard enough. While not as common, chains can break if they are involved in a rock strike or other impact. Impact damage to chains can be more difficult to repair than if the chain breaks due to wear. The reason being, wear will typically only break one chain link, while impact can damage many.

The parts of your bike chain

Your chain is made of only four pieces; the outer plate (A), inner plate (B), roller (C), and rivet (D) and every link contains two of each.

How to fix a broken chain

To start, you need find and remove the broken link. How much of the broken chain you remove depends on how you are fixing it. Usually, you need to remove a complete link (one set of outer plates, inner plates, rollers and rivets like in the picture above).

To repair, replace or adjust the length of you chain you need to purchase a chain tool. A chain tool is a device that pushes the rivets into and out of a chain. Generally speaking, most bicycle multi-tools will have chain tools, but you can also buy them individually.

broken chain

Pedros multi tool on the left and Park Tools CT5 on the right.

To use the chain tool, position the chain into the lower tines (see image below). Once the chain is positioned, begin threading in the rivet tool (see image) until it forces the chain rivet almost all the way out. As you can see, the chain will easily come apart. Repeat this process until all portions of the broken chain are removed.

Removing a broken chain link and shortening chain

For older chains you can remove the broken link and mend the chain back together one link short. Keep in mind, the chain length is very specific for the function of the drivetrain. If you shorten the chain, you will lose the ability to shift into the largest cogs safely. Therefore, have the chain properly sized and repaired at your local shop once you get home. With the broken link removed you will need to put the chain back together. Start by pushing the two links ends together and placing them in the chain tool. Force the rivet back into place with the chain tool. Done!

Install a quick link

Quick links come in many different sizes depending on the amount of speeds your bike has. From 8-12 speed, chains will all use a different quick links that are not cross compatible. If only the outer plates are broken, you can cut them out, install the quick link, and ride off as if nothing happened. If an inner plates break, you must cut 1-1/2 links out of the chain before installing the quick link.

Install a chain pin

Installing a chain pin is necessary for all Shimano brand chains. Like quick links they are speed specific (ie. 8,9,10 speed etc.), and not cross compatible. To install a chain pin, remove the offending link and the rivet completely (see image below). Then, put the two chain ends together (held in place by the chain pin) and use the chain tool to press the pin into place. Once the chain is installed break off the portion of the pin protruding from the back of the chain.

Ongoing maintenance

Breaking a chain is rarely an isolated incident and more frequently, it is the sign of a larger issue. If you do break a chain on the trail, be sure to get your bike to a professional for inspection. Additionally, if you need to replace the chain be prepared to replace the cassette, and possibly chainrings as well. Considering all the parts of your drivetrain wear together, attempting to to introduce a new part into that group might not function well.

We hope this information is helpful, both for situations when out riding and when you need to bring your bike in for servicing. Have Fun!

 

Common cycling mistakes are something we as humans can't escape, but nobody is perfect. That said, consider taking a look below at some of the most common and damaging cycling mistakes

Common cycling mistakes and the ways you can solve them today

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Mistakes are something we as humans can’t escape, but nobody is perfect. That said,  what we can do is try to eliminate some of the simple errors we may might make without ever realizing we are proceeding down the wrong path. Consider taking a look below at some of the most common and damaging cycling mistakes made by both occasional and seasoned cyclists.

Cycling Mistakes #1 – Only wear a helmet when you think it’s needed

Many riders make the mistake of thinking “I don’t need to wear a helmet, I’m only going around the block with the kids”. This mentality is often responsible for catastrophe. The truth is you never know when an accident can happen, so you should always be prepared. As an example, the worst crash I have ever had was when riding from a campsite, down a straight gravel path to the wash room. Before I knew it, I was smack dab on the ground faster than I could get my hands up to catch myself. Moral of the story Is to wear your helmet any time you ride your bike.

mistakes

Helmets are always in style

#2 – Believing you have plenty of air in the tires without checking

Frequently, I see riders headed down the trail with tires so low you can hear the rim bouncing off the ground with each pedal stroke. Low tire pressure can lead to pinch flats, and more importantly, loss of control. The innertube that holds the air in your tire is naturally porous and loose air naturally over time. In fact, a tube can lose between 3-5 PSI a day. At its extreme, your tire could go from full pressure to less than half pressure in the span of one week. Be sure to protect your ride by checking tire pressure before each ride.

#3 – Lube the Chain After Every Ride

Believe it or not, an over lubed chain is more damaging than an under lubed chain. While I am not recommending that you ride around with a dry chain, knowing when to lube is important. Having a ton of lube on your chain will not protect it any better. In fact, too much lube will attract dirt and debris, creating a harsh slurry that covers and wears your drivetrain. The best way to lubricate your chain is to apply lube to the chain, allowing it to soak in for a minute and then use a rag to wipe off as much excess as possible. When done, the chain should feel almost dry to the touch.

The right amount of lube is a great thing

#4 – Use the water hose to clean your bike

After a dusty or wet ride, many riders reach for the hose to spray dirt off the bike. Sadly, while the bike may look clean, the bike will be in worse shape than if it hadn’t been cleaned at all. Pressured water that comes from a hose, can displace grease and leave nothing behind. Now, with no grease, the bike wears out at an accelerated rate. Instead of using a hose, try instead a warm bucket of soapy water and a big sponge.

#5 – Bring water along only on some rides

Many times, riders will assume that because the weather is cool, or a ride is short, they don’t need to bring water with them on a ride. Truth be told, the biggest drain to your energy while riding can be related to dehydration. Stay hydrated by bringing water or a sports drink along on all rides.

mistakes

Yay Water!

#6 – Assume cycling shoes are only good for clipless pedals

If you don’t want to ride clipless pedals, I get that. There are tons of reasons clipless pedals are great, but at least as many reasons why they aren’t right for everybody. What you can do is use a cycling specific shoe with your flat pedals. A cycling shoe has a stiff sole and additional arch support to disperse pedaling forces over the entire length of your foot. Therefore, you have more efficiency and less discomfort.

Mistakes in general

Overall, it is a good idea to think about what you are doing before you ride your bike. Make sure your bike is ready for the ride, be equipped to take care of yourself during the ride and be sure you are prepared to reach out for help if needed. Once you go through that mental exercise you will see the common cycling mistakes melt away. Have Fun!

Round, straight and fast, wheel truing makes riding easier

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Wheel truing is a great way to take care of your bike while making it easier to ride. However, when you start adjusting your wheels, it’s important to know where to start. Please read on below for details on what makes your wheels work, and how to make them work better.

Wheel Truing and The Wheel Parts

Wheels are made up of four parts, the rim, the spokes, nipples, and the hub. The rim is the outside portion of a wheel that the tire mounts to. Nipples fit into the rim and thread onto the spokes and are the part of a wheel where you can adjust tension. Spokes are wire supports that stretch from the rim to the hub. Finally, the hub is where the wheel attaches to the bike, it houses bearings, supports the gears and in some cases a brake.

A wheel truing works by means of spoke tension. The tension on spokes is the force that suspends the hub (and by extension the bike and rider) inside the rim and tire. Spokes are attached to a centerline on the rim and one of two hub flanges that sit a few inches apart. Splitting the spokes between the left and right hub flanges triangulates the wheel’s tension and gives the wheel rotational and lateral stiffness. Splitting spokes between left and right flanges also allows rims to be “pulled” left or right by spoke tension to straighten a wheel.

Tools for Wheel Truing

Truing a wheel requires one special tool – a spoke wrench. Spoke wrenches are sized differently depending on the size of spoke nipple you have. When buying a spoke wrench, measure the nipple (standard square nipple sizes include 3.23mm/3.3mmm/3.45mm/3.96mm) or buy a multi-sized spoke wrench. Additionally, a truing stand is helpful (It’s a jig that holds the wheel in place and offers a gauge to help straighten the wheel) but not required.

Rim Material

Rims can be made from Wood, Steel, Aluminum, and Carbon fiber. Each material works differently and has its own pros and cons. Most likely, your rim is aluminum, which is a good thing. Aluminum is the easiest and most forgiving material to true.

Rim Condition

Truing a wheel is possible if the rim is in repairable shape. Things like large dents, cracks, excessive wear, and large bends make it impossible to straighten the wheel properly. By contrast, Small dings or warps of the wheel can easily be sorted out.

The Rim on the left has a small dent that could be repaired, while the rim on the right is beyond repair

Spoke Condition

Spokes are almost always made of stainless or high tensile steel. Because spokes are made of steel, they are incredibly durable and small bends or scratches aren’t a huge concern. In contrast, if you see large gouges or drastic bends, it’s best to replace that spoke (something I recommend you have a local bike shop do). Additionally, if there is excessive corrosion, the spokes may be too weak to support the rider. Also, be cognizant about uneven spoke tension. For example, if one side of the wheel has a high tension while the other side is loose, the wheel will be very difficult to true.

Nipple condition

Spoke nipples are made of either chrome plated brass or aluminum. Corrosion is one of the main concerns with spoke nipples. If a nipple is highly corroded, it might be difficult to turn, and eliminate the option of adjusting spoke tension. Before wheel truing bike, drop a small amount of oil where the spoke meets the nipple. Letting that oil soak into the threads will make truing your wheel easier.

How to True a Wheel

-True

Start by finding where the wheel is out of true. This can be done in a truing stand, or more easily between the brakes on your bike. Spin the wheel slowly to see where it gets closer the brake pads. To move the rim away from a brake pad you need to tighten an opposite side spoke, or loosen a near side spoke (see image). Also, when looking down on the rim, you will be turning the nipple to the left to tighten a spoke and the right loosen it (opposite of lefty loosy). Start by working in ¼ turn increments, meaning, don’t turn any nipple more than ¼ turn at a time. Work around the wheel, starting at the valve, and go around repeatedly until the wheel is straight.

Truing your wheels

To move the rim to the left, tighten the right side spokes and loosen the left side spokes

-Round

While you are working to make a wheel straight, be aware of how round it is as well. For the hops and dips that appear on a rim you should work in pairs of spokes (1 right, 1 left). Tightening spokes to eliminate hops, and loosen them to relieve dips.

by tightening a pair of spokes you can “pull” a hop out of a rim (left) and by loosening them you can correct for some dents (right)

Good Enough is Good Enough

Once a wheel becomes knocked out of true it is no longer perfect. Therefore, it may not be possible to bring it all the way back to being perfectly again. Once spokes become very tight or very loose, that’s an indication you have reached the end of a wheel’s adjustment range. Until you are very comfortable truing a wheel, work slowly and deliberately. By making small changes, you are more likely to catch any small errors before they become large problems. Take your time and have fun with it.

Quick and easy tips for adjusting your bicycle’s v-brakes

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

For those who don’t have disc brakes, the V-brakes on your bike are your greatest single source of control. Take a look below for some tips and tricks on how to adjust your V-brakes.

What Condition is Your V-Brakes In?

Before diving into adjusting your V-brakes, be sure to inspect the brake itself. First thing to check for is excessive corrosion. Highly rusted bolts or springs can break resulting in a crash. Also look for any bent or broken parts. The cradle on the left brake arm is there to hold the brake noodle. If either the v-brakes noodle or cradle are bent (see picture), your brake might not function properly. Also review the brake pads. The easiest way to do this is to remove the wheel. Most pads have lines on them to indicate when they need to be replaced (see picture). Also inspect the pad surface for bits of metal that can damage the bicycles rim.

Cable condition

There are two parts you need to inspect. The Brake cables, and the brake housing. The cable is the wound steel cable that moves when you squeeze the lever. The brake housing can come in many different colors, but is almost always rubber coated and has the cable run through it. Check the cable for rust, frays or kinks and replace if needed. Check the housing for cracks or splitting. Finally, check that the cable moves through the housing freely without resistance.

Rim condition

Spin the wheel and check to see that your rim is straight and round. A wheel should not touch either brake pad as it rotates. It also needs to remain as round as possible. If the rim moves up or down too much, the brake pads can hit the tire, or run off the rim entirely. If the wheel isn’t straight and round, be sure to take it to your local bike shop to have it trued. The other concern when checking the rim is wear. Most rims now have a wear indicator built into the rim in the form of a recessed dot, or a recessed channel around the rim. Once the rim wears past the dot or channel it is time to replace the rim.

Wear line

Rim Dent

Pad placement

V-Brake pads get adjusted by way of a 5mm fitting on the back side of the brake pad. The pad sits on a pair of conical washers that allow the pad to be pivoted up to 20 degrees. I find the easiest way to adjust the brake pad is to hold the left brake with your right hand (or the right brake with your left hand) and place your pointer finger along the bottom of the pad (see image). Loosen the 5mm fitting with your hex wrench and use the wrench and your pointer finger to align the pad. To properly align the pad, you want to center the pad between the top and bottom edge of the rim. The pad should be positioned so that no part hits the tire or misses the face of the rim.

Centering

Once the pads are placed properly, the next thing to do is center the brakes. Centering the brakes entails adjusting the brake springs to ensure the pads are both an equal distance from the rim. Adjusting the brake springs is as simple as tightening or loosening the set screws at the bottom of each brake arm. I like to start on the brake arm that has the most adjustment. I determine the amount of adjustment by how far in or out the adjustment screws are in the brake (see image). The only real tricky part of centering the brake is remembering that screwing the adjustment in will move the pad away from the rim (the opposite of what you might expect).

Cable tension on v-brakes

Once the pads are adjusted and the brakes are centered, you need to make sure that the brake engages with the right amount of lever pull. I have found the easiest way to do this is to position the end of the cable noodle on the end of the brake cradle (1), loosen the cable pinch bolt, pull the cable tight, tighten the cable pinch bolt, then position the noodle correctly (2) and you are set (see image).

Troubleshooting

Once you get done, and test the brakes you may encounter some common problems like Squealing and grinding noises, or just no power.  A few simple tricks will resolve most of these issues.

  • 1- The brake pads may appear to be in great shape, but due to age, be to hard to operate properly. Switching out the old pads for new ones can help quiet noisy brakes and add power
  • 2- Pads that are exposed to long descents can generate a hard glaze over the pad surface. A few quick brushes with a flat file can knock off the glaze and quiet the brakes.
  • 3- The rim surface can get contaminated over time. Rubbing it down with sandpaper or steel wool can go a long way to increase braking power and reduce noise.
  • 4- Depending on the brake condition, there can be excessive flex in the brake arms. In order to combat noise you can “toe” the brake pads by having the leading edge make contact with the rim first.
  • 5- Finally, you can apply a little grease or oil to the brake cables where they enter the housing.
Give a call to the shops closest to you and verify they have the models you want to test ride.

Winter in a bike shop is a great time to visit and learn!

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

The winter months are the perfect time to visit a bike shop! Other than just enjoying bikes at a time when you may not be riding, there are many benefits to visiting your bike shop during the ‘down’ cooler time of the year. In the slower winter months you can learn more, get better deals and faster service.

See faster turnaround time on repairs at your bike shop

Most shops operate on a “first in / first out” repair schedule. This means during the busy summer months there will be dozens of bicycles ahead of yours in line to be repaired. Those dozens of bikes could equal weeks of waiting before your bike gets fixed. Through the winter months there are fewer bikes in for repair. That means you can expect a really quick turnaround time. Plus, with fewer bikes in the shops to be worked on, each seem to get more attention. That’s not to say your shop won’t do a great job in the summer months. I’m just saying that it is always a good thing when service isn’t rushed and the mechanic has more time.

Bike Shop

Quiet time in the shop is the best time for quality service.

Bike shop discounts and deals!

As fall turns into winter, bicycle brands change over from one model year into the next. Because of that change, the transition becomes a sweet spot for buying a bike. In some cases, you can get last year models for a discounted price and if those aren’t available, the new models are readily available. Along with the new model year shift, many shops also run sales through the winter to maximize store traffic.

Worth more than Discounts

It’s no secret that winter in a bike shop is slow. Why not take advantage of that slow time to talk with both the sales person and mechanics? Need to know more about all the different bike types? Where is the best place to ride your fat bike? How do the new shorts differ from the ones you already have? These individuals in the bike shop can help.

If it’s a question about the service or adjustments to your bike, the mechanics are likely to spend more time with you and not be rushed. Even better, at this time of the year some shops will allow customers to watch and learn as they fix their bike in the winter. Due to the time added to teaching, this is not an opportunity that would be considered or offered through the summer.

Learn more at your bike shops clinics and classes

As many bike shops have evolved from normal retail locations into community cycling centers, most have adopted a strategy of education and involvement. Because shops have far more time in the winter, most schedule their programs during this down time. In the most basic cases, you can enjoy trainer rides at most shops. Typically these rides are a “bring your own trainer” affair, where customers come and ride together.

Bike Shop

Park tool School in full effect.

More ambitious stores are running classes on home bike repair as well. Usually those classes focus on one pat of the bike, like wheels, or derailleurs. Finally, the most forward-thinking shops are doing classes and clinics as well as inviting speakers to come and give presentations. Many riders have questions about subjects like bike packing or fat biking and shops will schedule professionals to come talk about those subjects.

Bike Shop

Minnesota’s Angry Catfish runs a bikepack presentation.

Just to show the love

If for no other reason, stop by the shop and say hello. Depending on how quiet the shop is through the winter, things can get pretty boring for the staff and they would love to share their knowledge. Storage can only be cleaned and re-organized so many times after all the boxed bikes get built. After that, the friendly face of a customer is a welcome sight.

Revolutionary products in this review include the Carlito bike lock and the Flat Stopper's amazing new tubeless bike tire sealant.

Revolutionary products the Carlito bike lock and Flat Stoppers tire sealant

By John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

It’s been about two months since the Interbike show and there are a couple of new products I am excited to share. Each year I go to the show to find the most technologically impressive products there. This year was no exception and there were two new products that I have spoken with friends about that were created by inventors who looked at a certain problem in a new way. The first is the Rocky Mounts Carlito bicycle lock and the second is the Flat Stopper Tire Sealant kit. Read on for more details.

Rocky Mounts Carlito Bike Lock is one of two revolutionary products

Rocky Mounts is best known for their car racks, but recently they have moved into bike locks as well. Their line of bike locks covers all the basic options and introduces an all new concept. That Concept, is the Carlito lock. The bike lock looks like a standard mini U-lock but incorporates some really cool features. First, Rocky Mounts chose silicon for the cover material. Therefore, the Carlito lock is softer on paint while being more durable than a vinyl covered lock. More importantly, what makes the Carlito so cool is the material they use for the lock itself. Rather than using hardened steel for the construction, they employ aluminum alloy. While aluminum is not as durable as steel, it’s half the weight. So for anyone looking for the visual security of a U-lock at half the weight, the Carlito is an amazing option.

Carlito Lock

(left) Carlito lock and Key (top right) and U (bottom right) detail.

Flat Stopper tire sealant is also impressive

Tubeless tires are now a standard feature on every category of bike. Almost all tubeless systems use the same type of Latex based sealant to seal punctures and keep the tires airtight. Where The Flat Stopper differs is that it is not Latex based. In fact, rather than latex they use completely inert ingredients that contain no ozone depleting chemicals and aren’t carcinogenic or flammable. Moreover, it’s actually a water based system. While their exact recipe is a secret, I did get some inside info on how their sealant works. Apparently, rather than relying on latex to dry out and seal like most systems, Flat Stopper works through pressure. Therefore, once the sealant gets forced into a puncture (by the tire’s internal air pressure) it immediately seals the hole permanently.

Flat Stopper Sealant

Flat Stopper’s clean packaging (left) is perfect for quickly filling your tires with sealant. On the right is a close up of what Flat Stopper looks like up close.

Connecting Thread

The thing I like most about both these two products, they are a totally new approach to existing solutions and the problems they are suppose to solve. The Carlito bicycle lock offers moderate physical security as well as a high level of visual security all while weighing practically nothing, making this new approach to security exciting to see.

Similarly, some of the biggest issues with sealants today are related to their caustic ingredients, slow response and generally messy setup. Flat stopper has eliminated all those issues with almost no downside. Stay tuned for more in depth reviews of the Carlito and Flat Stopper in the near future.