THE CHAINBREAKER
BIKE BOOK
A ROUGH GUIDE TO
BICYCLE MAINTENANCE
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THE CHAINBREAKER
BIKE BOOK
A ROUGH GUIDE TO
BICYCLE MAINTENANCE
by Ethan Clark and Shelley Lynn Jackson.
illustrations by Ethan, Shelley, and Happy
Microcosm Publishing
dedicated to Billy Moss
Owner of French Quarter Bicycles
in New Orleans
I would like to dedicate this book to Billy, not just for
teaching me everything I know about bike repair, but also
for taking a chance on hiring me, and for being the constant
source of humor & frustration that kept me loving the job for
as long as I had it. Billy was a great mechanic and generous
shop owner. He was a run over on a beautiful spring day, by
a too-big-truck while walking down the street in front of the
famous Vaughns Bar, just a block from his home. He was given
a jazz funeral fit for a king, attended by every mechanic he
ever hired who mattered.
We all love and miss you, Billy Moss.
ISBN 978-0-9770557-3-9
This is Microcosm #76033
First Edition - 4,000 copies - 2/1/2008
Second Edition - 5,000 copies - 9/1/2010
Graphic design & typography: Ian Lynam | ianlynam.com
Microcosm Publishing 222 S. Rogers St.
Bloomington, IN 47404
(812)323-7395
Microcosm hQ Store
636 11th Ave.
Portland, OR 97214
(503)232-3666
www.microcosmpublishing.com
TABLE OF CONTENTS
introductions................................................................................................... 6
shelley.................................................................................................... 6
ethan...................................................................................................... 6
what kind of repair manual this is.............................................7
who this manual is for....................................................................9
a special note for women............................................................. 9
diy..........................................................................................................10
getting started.............................................................................................10
dealing with a shop.......................................................................10
a note on ladies in a shop............................................................11
description of bike types..............................................................11
purchasing a bike........................................................................... 13
fit........................................................................................................... 13
materials (steel vs. aluminum).................................................14
where to buy....................................................................................14
tools you will need....................................................................................16
essential tools..................................................................................16
good tools to have.........................................................................18
caring for your tools.....................................................................18
a word on bike stands..................................................................18
tune up instructions................................................................................19
tune up order...................................................................................19
inspection..........................................................................................19
wheels.................................................................................................19
inspect wheels................................................................................ 20
axels.................................................................................................... 20
adjustment........................................................................................21
overhaul..............................................................................................23
True wheels...................................................................................................... 31
tubes and tires................................................................................. 31
how to fix a flat..............................................................................33
brakes.....................................................................................................................35
types of brakes................................................................................35
adjusting brakes..............................................................................37
how to stop a track bike.............................................................41
shifters.................................................................................................................41
how the shifter functions...........................................................41
types of shifters..............................................................................41
friction vs. indexing.......................................................................41
a word on gear ratio.....................................................................41
servicing your shifters................................................................ 42
derailleurs....................................................................................................... 44
come on baby, don’t fear derailleurs..................................... 44
the rear derailleur......................................................................... 45
the front derailleur........................................................................47
converting to a single speed.................................................... 50
troubleshooting...............................................................................51
special cable replacing section.....................................................51
types of wire and housing..........................................................52
cutting cables..................................................................................52
dressing brake housing................................................................53
ferules and end caps.....................................................................53
cable length......................................................................................53
bearing systems........................................................................................... 54
headsets.............................................................................................55
threaded headsets.........................................................................55
threadless headsets............................................... 58
troubleshooting headsets................................... 58
bottom brackets.......................................................................................... 59
different types of bottom brackets................ 59
bottom bracket and spindle widths............... 59
chainline...................................................................... 60
adjusting and overhauling...................................61
removing cranks.......................................................61
bottom bracket odds and ends..........................63
drivetrains....................................................................................................... 69
chain.................................................................................................... 69
getting the right chain......................................... 69
when to replace your chain................................ 69
removal and installation...................................... 69
freewheels and cassettes........................................................... 71
removal and installation.......................................72
chainrings..........................................................................................74
drivetrain troubleshooting.........................................................75
check all nuts and bolts.......................................................................76
safety check......................................................................................76
seats.....................................................................................................76
seatposts............................................................................................76
pedals..................................................................................................78
testride...............................................................................................79
the random and (hopefully) helpful
information section..................................................................................79
wrenching tips.................................................................................79
general troubleshooting..............................................................81
care and maintenance................................................................. 82
locking your bicycle...................................................................... 82
safety tips for riding...............................................................................83
stuff....................................................................................................................... 86
getting parts................................................................................... 86
accessories....................................................................................... 86
need vs. want.................................................................................. 86
fancy stuff.........................................................................................87
bike aesthetics and fashion...................................................... 88
closing statements................................................................................... 89
appendices......................................................................................................... 90
directory of community bicycle projects.............................91
glossary...............................................................................................................97
reprints of old chainbreakers..............................................99-215
index.......................................................................................................................217
about the authors................................................................................... 221
introductions:
shelley
I haven’t been a “professional” mechanic for a couple years
now. The shop I worked at in the French Quarter in New
Orleans for about 6 years closed a few months before
Hurricane Katrina hit. Now, I have lost my wrenchturning calluses and a bit of memory for what it feels like to
work on all different bikes in a shop, day after day. My bike
fixing experiences were at a shop that worked on virtually
no fancy bikes, and at Plan B, a volunteer-run space for
bike recycling. At the shop it seemed like the tools we used
most were hammers and drills, and at Plan B we struggled
to keep functioning components stocked as we pieced
together bikes with mismatched, used parts. But, at both
places, we worked so hard to make things work well and
to provide people with a solid form of transportation. We
learned a lot more about bikes doing things the way we did.
It was way more than just take off and replace, like most
things in the modern world. We worked really hard to
make even the jankiest of bikes run pretty well. Because
of this, I will never forget how to be a mechanic. It is like
learning to ride a bike, I suppose. Once you got it, you got
it for life. This is my attempt at sharing the little useful
bits of bike repair that I learned over those years.
This repair manual is slightly limited and maybe even a
little old school for the type of bikes that are on the road
these days. At the very least, what this manual covers is
the basics of mechanics and repair, a starting point for
a person who wants to learn to work on their bicycle. At
best, it is inspiration for learning to look at your surroundings in a whole new way, because what I want to express
here is not simply how to make a broken bicycle work
again, but how to make anything broken work again.
So that you feel like you can look at a problem and not
just not feel daunted by it, but to actually feel inspired
by it, to see every problem as an opportunity to learn
something new and useful. I mean, we live in a world full
of impermanence. It is the law of nature that the things
around us, tangible and intangible, change and sometimes
fall apart. Embrace it! Learn to look at problem solving in a
whole new way.
Honestly, I believe it was moving to New Orleans and
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getting myself on a bicycle that really made a huge positive
change in my life. Riding around this beautiful city helped
me slow down a little. Having a bike in a place that I loved
led to being alone and independent for the first time in
my life. That was a small act that completely reshaped
my future. I escaped the car bubble culture I had grown
up with in Southern California. I was suddenly able to
experience and interact with the outside world in ways I
hadn’t. I smelled the plants around me and began to notice
the houses and architecture that made up my surroundings.
Life became more engaging as I interacted more. Slowly
this inspired the way I prioritized my life, and I began
questioning my needs versus my wants and simplified
so that I could spend more time doing things that felt
fulfilling. The seed for all of this was a simple, little bicycle.
Being a bicycle mechanic and actually learning about how
they work and how to fix them, took all of this a step
further. Getting to work on my own bike gave me a chance
to learn things, to become more capable.
Think about it, just a simple machine like a bicycle can help
you find simplicity, capability, and the genuine desire to live
life to the fullest. Hopefully that inspires others to live their
lives this way as well.
ethan
In all honesty, I’m not as into bikes as I used to be.
Once was a time when my world revolved around my
bike, (a pink Tommassini that I found in a dumpster in
Boulder,Colorado), my courier bag, my little pouch of tools,
my leatherman, my pump, my Nalgene bottle. That was
about all that I owned, and I thought of myself as a little
rolling autonomous zone—ready for anything. This was in
New Orleans, where the ground is flat and the roads are
bad and biking just makes more sense. There, it seemed
that after food, a bike was the most important thing you
could have. I hurled myself into cycling; working with
Shelley at French Quarter Bikes, and volunteering at Plan
B, the New Orleans Community Bike Project, where we
helped people fix up bikes out of recycled parts. Eventually,
I decided to take it a bit further. I went to frame building
school in Ashland, Oregon, then moved to Asheville, North
Carolina, with the intent of working at a fancy bike shop
where I would learn about more high end gear. I made a
resume in comic strip form, got a list of the bike shops in
town from the yellow pages, and set out, in the snow, to
get a job. The first place I walked into was a bike/ski shop,
an REI-type outdoorsy outfitter place, the kind with happy
families of mannequins in khaki shorts rappelling down the
walls. “This place is not going to hire me.” I thought as I
handed my resume over to the mustachioed golden-boy
manager. But they did. I finally got to work with superfancy, high-end parts. And you know what? It sucked! I
hated it. All day long I dealt with cyclists, mostly either
mountain bikers or racers. I adjusted shocks and disc
brakes; I upgraded forks and put together titanium road
bikes. It felt like I was on a different planet than when I
was helping people with bikes they needed for getting to
work. I didn’t care about some accountant’s three thousand
dollar mountain bike! I wanted to be straightening bent
forks on forty year old Schwinns! I’d gotten into bikes
because I thought that they were empowering. Bikes give
people self-reliance, but the high end bike shop tries to take
that away. Funny thing about capitalism; how that works.
Like I said, I’m not as into cycling as I used to, but I still
have the utmost of respect for the bicycle. It is the most
efficient machine on earth, and in a world that’s so full of
crappy things, finding something like a bicycle, which is
about as close to purity as you can get, is a life-changing
thing. So when Shelley asked me to help with this book,
I jumped at the chance. I may not be who I used to be,
the guy that actually planned, once upon a time, to have
“Bike Ride” tattooed on my knuckles, but I still wanted to
share what I know about bikes and maintenance before it
leaves my increasingly sieve-like memory for good.
Ok, on to mechanics!
what kind of repair manual this is:
This manual can serve many people, from the very beginner
to a decent mechanic who just likes to geek out and hear
people talk a lot about bikes and turning wrenches. If you
know everything in here already, or this seems too simple
for you—that’s great! Find a more advanced manual!
You can take bikes as far as you want to, and with some
attention and logic, the bikes this manual will help you fix
should take you as far as you want to go.
Also, this manual is not written in high tech or “cool
dude” language. It is written in the language we would be
speaking in if we were standing in front of you. It is meant
to help you identify what you are looking at and make it
easy to think logically about what each part does and how
they work together. It will help you locate a part on your
bike even if it looks a little different than the ones in our
illustrations. For me, I can look at most car engines (old
ones) and find a carburetor, distributor, alternator, etc., and
though they sometimes look radically different from car to
car, by understanding each part’s form and function I can
troubleshoot the reason it may be malfunctioning. Doing
this with a bike is way easier than with a car, and you
shouldn’t have a problem if you open your mind to it.
For some, certain descriptions may be difficult to grasp. If
mechanics are new to you, then, start with simple things
to get you familiar with tools, the way they work, and with
the way your own hands work. Start with fixing a flat, or
adjusting your seat height. Or do something with a friend
who can show you a little first. Or wing it! That’s how I
learned. Eventually, after some time and a lot of mistakes,
I think I got it. So please, be patient with yourself. Sadly,
no repair is problem free and there always seems to be a
catch. From rusted-on nuts, banged up threads, to wrong
tools, and wrong parts, or maybe we just don’t cover
how to fix the exact kind of part on your bike. Things will
happen. Difficulties will arise. Just be patient and logical,
and with your own ingenuity and a little guidance from this
book, I think you can work it out.
There are a few basic things that bikes should be—
functional, practical, simple, and if you’re so inclined—
pretty. For some people, these things are prioritized
differently. That is fine. But with this book, we’ll start at
the top. You’ll learn first how to make your bike functional.
Making it pretty is up to you, but we’ll give you a few tips
on that too. The book is based around a full maintenance
tune–up. It is set up to help you keep everything on your
bike functioning well to help prevent larger problems that
could come up from basic neglect. Lack of maintenance
and attention leads to problems whose solutions are too
difficult to handle in a simple repair manual like this one,
leaving you dependent on some stranger to fix things
for you. That ain’t cheap. The preventative maintenance
required to avoid this is actually quite easy.
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who this manual is for:
We want this book to be accessible to everyone! For women
and men, the wealthy and to those who live life by simpler
means; all races, ages, abilities and strengths. It may seem
obvious that bikes would be accessible to all types of people,
but sadly, this is not always true.
In America at least, we are brought up in a competitive world,
with surroundings steeped in capitalism and consumerism. It
makes it difficult to know what our needs are. From a young
age most of us looked forward to getting our first car, our
driver’s license. Most of us are taught to look forward to
success in our lives: getting married, acquiring things, buying
things. Our whole world is shaped by the idea of supply and
demand, to think that if we can get anything we want, that
it is not wrong to get everything we can. But, we will assume
that for many of you interested in bicycles may be longing
for a simpler life. Hopefully we can create one by learning
from the faults of the macrocosm and not making the same
mistakes in our microcosms. There is no need to impose the
competition, greed and caste systems of the rest of the world
into our lives and communities.
I know it is natural for humans to break themselves down
into groups, recognizable by dress, mode of transport, musical
tastes, hairstyles. We like to be around people who look like
us because we assume they have similar belief systems. This
is not always true. Try not to create barriers between you and
the people around you. Maybe this seems a silly topic for a
bike repair manual, but we have seen plenty of sexism, racism,
and competitiveness between people over who has the coolest
shit in the biking scene. This is just silliness. Maybe you have
cooler stuff, but why? Cause you worked harder and spent
more money? Because you don’t work and have hours upon
hours each day to go dumpstering and scavenging all over
town? Never seen a woman totally kick ass as a mechanic?
Well, just so you know, there are a lot of ladies out there who
could teach some boys a thing or two. The bottom line is: it’s
not a competition. Everyone and every bike is allowed in, ok?
So while this book was made by a couple punks, one under
thirty and one who likes to say she’s pushing 40, it was made
with the intention that anyone should have access to it! Help
us do all we can, with our limited abilities, to make sure lots of
people from all over the place get a look at this so they may
learn something that can help them make a repair or want to
get and ride a bike. Spread the word with us about how great
and simple bikes are and all the great things they do for our
lives, and we can help make our little bike scene a big, colorful,
eclectic bike scene. Thanks.
a special note for women:
Ok ladies, this is a little pep talk for you. I know it can be
difficult at first to pick up a new skill, especially one that is
often thought to be a man’s thing. My (Shelley’s) first job ever
was selling tools in a hardware store, and it was the first time
I experienced the kind of blatant sexism that would just bring
me to tears, the kind that would follow me through many jobs
ever since. It was worse at the bike shop, where I was often
spoken down to, called sweetie, and asked if I need help lifting
something. Sometimes it was out of kindness, cause in the
south, everyone called everyone sweetie, even when they’re
calling the cops on you. But there were times when I was
assumed to be the wife of the owner, or spoken about to
the owner as if I wasn’t in the room. Things like, “She can
fix stuff?” spoken to my boss as I was working a bike on
the stand.
The same kind of shit comes up whether we are working in
a shop, in a free bike project, or working with a guy friend in
the garage. It is easy to get a little nervous, shy, or frustrated
when the person trying to teach us to fix something, or
the person whose bike we are trying to fix, keeps taking
the tools from our hands and doing the work for us (I am
guilty of doing this myself). It is your job to stand up and be
heard. Know what you want to learn, get to know the tools,
the language, and by all means, do the wrenching yourself,
even if it means making mistakes. Ask questions and look
for guidance, but look to your own sense of logic as well. I
often find women to be more attentive and careful of their
work, unlike a lot of bolt-breaking dudes I have worked with.
Trust yourself and your work. If things get out of hand and
you are feeling left out or condescended to, speak up, and
let the person know you are totally capable of doing what
you are meant to be doing. Keep up the hard work, and don’t
back down. You’ll be happy about it in the end. I know I am.
Empower yourself, and by all means, don’t stop there, learn
to be patient to help empower others as well! Let’s hear it for
the girls!!!
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diy:
The Do-It-Yourself culture started way before the punks.
People have always loved learning how to be better in
touch with their surroundings by problem solving life’s
inevitable breakdowns and becoming proactive in keeping
their world functioning. It is great to learn how to fix a
leak in your plumbing or not have to pay some stranger
to do a simple oil change on a vehicle. Learning to do it
yourself aids in a lifestyle where one does not have (or
want) a forty-hour work week. You can learn to get by on
less by having to pay fewer people to do things you can
easily do yourself. It is a great thing. When we learn how
to fix things, our relationship between time and money
shifts and our appreciation for the great, well functioning
things in our lives grows.
I remember when I was working on fixing a friend’s house
for seven dollars an hour. When my truck broke down,
I couldn’t go pick up sheetrock for the walls. I had two
choices: take the afternoon off and lose twenty one dollars
in pay and go to the auto parts store, pick up the part and
change it out on the truck in fifteen minutes or, take the
afternoon off, drive down to the auto shop and pay some
stranger sixty dollars an hour (minimum one hour!) to do it
for me. Then wasting more time the next morning picking
the darn thing up (if it was finished by then!). Duh! My
time is money, but in this world, another person’s time
usually costs a whole lot more. The reasons we work on
our bikes extend far beyond saving a buck, just as they
are for most folks who like to do things themselves. Yes,
we do it because it makes good economic sense, but
mostly we do it out of love and because we wouldn’t
have it any other way!
On the other hand, there are also times when we just
don’t want to do the work. Maybe you are busy or just
don’t like mechanical stuff. Like when I changed the
clutch in that same truck. Three days of struggling to
get my transmission in and by the end of it, I wish I had
shelled out the two hundred bucks to have someone else
do it—though, secretly I was proud and happy that I did.
While bike repair is almost never THAT difficult, not doing
it yourself is ok too! It comes down to knowing your limits.
Knowing how far you are willing to go and or how much
time you can or are willing to invest. Not everyone needs
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to know how to fix a bike, or hang sheetrock, or fix a toilet!
Do what feels right to you, and never make fun of someone
who just wants to take her or his bike to a shop. Instead,
offer your time to do a repair for them, send them to a
good shop or steer them away from a crappy one. Best
yet, offer to teach them how to fix their bike. But let the
person go to a shop if they want, and allow yourself to do
it too sometimes. Just understand the trade-offs. When
you decide to pay someone else, do it with joy, pick a nice
shop and treat your mechanic well. Good shops need our
support too.
getting started.
dealing with a shop:
Even an experienced mechanic will sometimes have to rely
on a shop for advice, parts or accessories, especially if you
live in town without a bike co-op or other type of free bike,
or recycled bike space. So the best thing you can do for
yourself is find a shop close to you that you can trust. The
best way to do this is first to choose a shop that fits your
needs. Every bike shop is different, from the employees, to
the main sales of the shop, to the goals of the shop, etc. It
is good to look at all of these things and find one that is
good for you. Find a shop where you can communicate with
the people working there. If you love fancy bikes and riding
long rides on the weekends, find a shop that caters to that
type of bike and maintenance and see if they have group
rides you can go on, or a team or something. If you are into
single speeds, or beaters, find a smaller shop where the
people might be more attentive to your bike type, and who
can give you good advice that will save you money. Either
way, try to find one shop you like and stick with it. Buy
your tubes there, tools, accessories, everything.
Once you have found a good shop, try to get to know the
mechanics and build a good rapport with them. When
you take your bike in for a repair, ask what they did, what
parts they used. If they seem really receptive, ask if they
could show you what they did and see if they will give you
any pointers on doing the repair yourself. Some shops are
simply too busy for this, or don’t like to do it out of fear
of losing a customer. But some will, and a mechanic just
might help out a fellow biker now and then. These kinds of
mechanics are priceless, and should be given tons of love
and respect. They usually like a little interaction with a
dedicated and self-reliant biker and will give you time when
they can. If they love questions, ask them, but be respectful
of their time and be sure not to step on their boss’s toes
if they happen to be around, in which case, laying a little
low might be the best thing to do. I know where I worked
we had real regular customers. I got to know their bikes,
the type and quality work they expected. If they were
really sweet, a struggling musician, or tipped me regularly,
I would do little things on the side to make them happy,
like tightening up a janky basket or doing a quick brake
tightening for free if I was fixing a flat; little things to
make them happy and keep them coming back. Being
bitchy to your mechanic, condescending, or low-balling
them on prices will not make you a popular customer. You
don’t want to piss off the person fixing your bike any more
than you want to piss of a waiter alone in the kitchen with
your food. You know what I mean? The mechanic might
just do something crazy, like fill your seat tube full of
bb’s (just kidding)! I have never been so extreme as to be
negligent of a bike, but I have sure been known to leave the
pain in the ass for last if I had a list of stuff to get done.
But treat your mechanic right they will hook you up!
If you do find a great mechanic who understands your
needs, do NOT for any reason ask for hook-ups or special
favors in front of their boss. You can’t assume every
worker is on the same page as the boss. Don’t get anyone
in trouble or cast any doubt on them in the eyes of their
employer. That happened to me quite a bit and it did
nothing but make my boss paranoid that I was trying to rip
him off; which I never did. So take care of those who take
care of you, keep it on the down-low.
a note for ladies in shops:
It is really difficult being a woman in a bike shop
sometimes! Seriously! Sadly they are often very male
spaces, and no matter how tough you look, walking into
a shop can make a woman feel 15 again. So ladies, be
forward, be assertive. You don’t have to spout off a bunch
of stuff about components or high end shit to get the
respect you deserve. If you ride a crappy little three speed
and you want to know why the brakes aren’t working, ask
the mechanic to show you why and where they are broken.
That’s actually how I got my job at the bike shop! Don’t be
afraid. If the male mechanic calls you sweetie, or honey,
counter him with a straight-forward ”sir”, which draws a
nice boundary and can diffuse annoying flirtation. Let him
be sure the interaction is about bikes and nothing more.
You can do it! Find a shop where the mechanic treats you
like a customer, not a female customer. Better yet, seek
out a shop with a lady mechanic. By the same token, don’t
think you are getting ahead by using your femininity to
get extra attention. It might make you feel like you are in
control, but in reality, you are just selling yourself short by
playing into stereotypes.
description of bike types:
Of course the type of bikes one sees in their own city varies
from place to place because of the terrain and economics
of the town. Here in New Orleans, we mostly used to see
big clunky single speed cruisers with coaster (kick back).
Recently, I think due to an influx of folks from single-speed
towns like Minneapolis and Portland, we see many more
racing bikes converted to single speeds; a perfect bike for
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our city. How do you choose? Think about what you want to
do with your bike and get something appropriate. Don’t
just get the hippest thing for fashion’s sake. Ask yourself:
What kind of riding do you do? Are there a lot of hills where
you live? Do you bike a long distance every day? Do you
carry a lot of stuff, or move heavy things frequently? Is your
bike for recreation or transportation? These questions will
help you choose an appropriate bike for your town and your
lifestyle. This list will help you figure out what kind of bike is
best for the riding you do.
C R U IS E R : this is the single-speed, heavy-duty sit-upstraight style bike. In California we called them beach
cruisers; in New Orleans we call them truck bikes. Cruisers
have wide tires, wide seats and are often weighted down by
fenders, chain guards and wide or tall handle bars. Schwinn
made great ones, Murray made decent ones, and Huffy made
some pretty crappy ones. New retro cruisers are making a
comeback and even come with “distressed” paint to get that
old school look that folks love these days. These are great
bikes for big baskets and lots of hauling. Not so good for
uphill riding. I ride my dog around on mine!
T H R E E S P E E D : these were most popular in the ‘70s and
‘80s and were made popular by department stores. They are
lighter than cruisers, usually have internally geared hubs and
dove bars. These are great bikes and it isn’t hard to find a
good old one in nearly mint condition. Tunes up well and are
surprisingly fast, and when the hub goes, it’s easily converted
to a nice light single speed with a coaster wheel. These are
strong and generally faster than cruisers. They’ll hold a fair
amount of weight too.…
R OA D BIK E : light bikes with multiple gears (10-27), drop
bars and made, in most cases, with either steel or aluminum.
Built for racing, but used by commuters and weekend
distance riders. Road bikes can be the fastest, but with the
thinner tires and drop bars, they’re not for everyone. These
are the bikes that are often very easily converted to single
speeds for flatter terrain. You can mount a good rack on the
back of them for transporting light stuff.
TRACK BIKE: These were built for riding on a, um, track.
They are light, road style bikes with one gear cog in the
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front and one in the rear. Unlike single-speeds, which have
a freewheel in the back, track bikes have a fixed cog which
prevents the bike from coasting, so if the wheels are turning,
so are the cranks—pedaling all the time. These are popular
with bike messengers, and are most easily recognized by the
lack of brake levers. They are meant to be light and simple
with no derailleurs, no brakes, cables, or shifters and almost
never having anything extra like racks or baskets—though it
has been done.
M O U N TA IN BIK E : mostly straight-framed bikes with
larger knobby tires and multiple gears (usually 18-27). They
usually have straight handlebars with low stems for a more
aggressive ride, often with front and/or rear suspension
shocks. The knobby tires slow you down a bit in the city, but
can be switched out for slicks, unless you ride in dirt or grass
or off-road a lot. Suspension complicates baskets and racks.
C R O S S BIK E / H Y B R ID : similar looking to mountain
bikes, only suited more for commuters. Often with cushier
seats, slicker street tires (on narrower 700c wheels), higher
handlebars and stems for a more upright position. Some have
shocks, or seat post shocks. Hybrids were almost the perfect
city commuter bike until most companies switched to only
comfort bikes.
C O M FO R T BIK E : These are pretty new school as far as I
can tell. I think I was working at French Quarter bikes when
the big switch happened and most companies left out the
hybrid and got these. They are similar also to mountain bikes,
usually have wider but slicker tires. They often come with
shocks on the front forks and seat posts, and wide seats.
They usually have very high adjusting handlebars and stems
and are actually very comfortable. However, they are slower
than hybrids, as well as more complicated for basketing
(due to the shocks), which I think is pretty important for a
commuter.
B M X : short dirt/street/jump/trick bikes, usually with 20
inch wheels and tiny frames. Fun for tricks, but a little
difficult for transportation riding, though Ethan used to know
a maniac who couriered on one.
purchasing a bike:
fit:
Mistakes in fitting can make even the best bike feel crappy to
ride. So often I see people riding around on bikes that don’t
fit them, or are just not adjusted properly to their size. It is
important, when buying a bike, to get one that fits you! This
means buying a bike that can be adjusted to fit you as well as
possible. You don’t want to hit your knees on the handlebars
when you ride, or struggle to reach the pedals. At a good bike
shop, the salesperson should help you find the best size for
you. At a department store they won’t, and when buying a
used bike it will really be up to you. Test riding a bike helps.
Be realistic when you do this. A few years back, I was given
a great used road bike converted to a single speed that I
absolutely loved. It wasn’t until I switched to another bike
that I realized I had been riding a bike way too big for me. I
could reach the pedals while riding, but couldn’t stand over
the thing at a stop, which can be pretty dangerous in the
wrong situation. The next thing you know you’re goin’ around
showing everyone your bruised privates.
Bikes are built for different heights and also different lengths.
Height can be adjusted within limits, by raising or lowering
your seatpost. Length can be adjusted, within limits, by
adjusting your seats rails on the seat post and by the length
of the stem you use. Check that your seat post clamp is on
correctly with the clamp behind the post, otherwise your seat
could be in front of the bottom bracket, which is weird. There
is lots of geometry and math involved, but for now we’ll start
out with this:
fact that there are in fact, different lengths to choose from.
One shouldn’t feel cramped for space, or like you are really
stretching and reaching for the bars. Try rides on different
bikes to experience the differences and to see what your
preferences are. Mountain bikes and especially road bikes
can feel really different when comparingdifferent lengths.
And again, you can change stem length and seat position to
make up minor problems. There are instructions on raising or
lowering seat and stem height later in this book.
Height: (ground to seat) You should be able to fully straighten
your leg while pedaling, and also stand flat footed (with
none of your parts touching, y’heard?) over the bike’s top bar
when stopped. This can be complicated when trying on ladies
frame bikes, or these new, slopey “unisex” frames and frames
with compact geometry. Some difference can be made up by
adjusting your seat height. By loosening one bolt, you should
be able to slide the seat post up or down. It shouldn’t bottom
out or be raised past the little dashy lines on the post, which
denotes the safe height level.
Length: (seat to handlebars) This one is a little trickier. I think
it is up to how you feel on the bike with the awareness of the
13
materials (steel vs. aluminum):
Bike frames are made of all kinds of materials. Aluminum,
steel (chromoly that is, a low alloy steel which is lighter
than steel, but not as light as aluminum), carbon fiber,
wood, bamboo, you name it. This is a good thing to think
about when you are choosing a new bike, or building one
up from a bike recycling shop. Lots of people ask about the
differences between steel (chromoly) and aluminum and it
is really pretty basic. Aluminum is light but stiff. It is more
brittle and less forgiving. It is great if you have to carry
a bike up 4 floors of steps, but it can be a little tough on
the booty, meaning—it rides a lot bumpier. I love old steel
frames. They ride softer and smoother and are welded
strong, and if you build them right, you can keep them
light. Using aluminum (often referred to as “alloy”when
talking components and wheels) components (rims, cranks,
pedals, seatposts, handlebars, seats with aluminum parts)
will keep them light and you’ll be happy. With steel, just be
sure to take care of your frame. Try not to nick up the paint
a lot with posts or locks, and keep surface rust down by
an occasional cleaning with soapy water and one of those
little green scrubby pads or soapy steel wool. Be gentle
with the steel wool; go light on the paint. As far as other
materials go, you could spend big bucks on a light carbon
fiber frame, but if you‘ve got that kind of dough, you might
be better off spending it on a good, custom built steel
frame from an independent frame builder. There are lots of
great ones out there who would love the business, and this
way you’ll be spending the same amount of money, only
you’ll be putting it in the hands of a craftsperson instead
of a corporation. And it will fit you perfectly.
where to buy:
There are lots of places a person can buy a bike—small
independent shops, department stores, from the
newspaper or off some internet classified, yard sales, a
friend, a bike recycler (like many of the community bike
shops listed in the back of this book), or even from a thief
off the street. As with any purchase, spend your money
consciously. Think about who you are giving your business
to. Bike projects are great because you can always go
back and learn to maintain the bike yourself. Independent
shops offer warranties and the opportunity to build a good
relationship with the shop. Yard sales and friends are good
because you can get some great deals, especially if you
14
know how to make simple repairs. But, buying a bike that
might be stolen is not good, for you, your karma, or for the
person who got their bike jacked. Don’t do it, no matter
how tempting.…
IF AT ALL POSSIBLE DO NOT BUY WAL-MART OR
DEPARTMENT STORE BIKES! This might sound like some
kind of elitist or classist crap that implies that one bike is
better than another. I don’t mean it that way.… All bikes
are great, no matter what, but let me explain: The vast
majority of large label bikes are made in China and we all
know China doesn’t have the best track record on human
rights or great labor laws. This is true for department
stores and for most independent bicycle shops. Buying a
Chinese bike is difficult to avoid unless you are planning
to spend big bucks on a new, hand-built bike by an
independent builder. The best way to avoid buying a Chinese
bike is to buy a used bike, therefore giving your money to a
person, not to a specific company. But buying a Chinese bike
is not the only issue here.
Once upon a time, during the six year stint at the bike
shop in the French Quarter, our small shop was located far
from any department store, in a time when New Orleans
still tried to keep “big box” department stores out of the
metro area. One actually had to go quite far to get to one.
Our customers were transportation riders (rode less than
5 miles a day and generally did all of their chores by bike
because they didn’t own a car) or food deliverers. They
were loyal to us for repairs, and many of them came to
us regularly for a new bike for fun, or because theirs was
stolen. Our shop did well with sales and really well with
repairs and the work was fun and rewarding—then
Wal-Mart came. It moved less than two miles from
the French Quarter and our business changed radically.
Regular buyers started coming in for regular repairs on
bikes that were:
1) Impractical: mountain bikes with front shocks, making
it impossible to put front baskets on; with knobby tires and
a million gears, all unnecessary for flat city riding
2) Too small!: the sales people at those places don’t know
much about fitting bikes, it seems
15
3) Assembled poorly: They might have scored a new
$89.95 bike, but paid another 40 bucks right off to get
the thing running“properly” (which is never too impressive
on one of those). Worse, because they don’t come with
maintenance plans like our bikes did (one year free tune-up
and warranty!).
4) Annoying: The things fell apart right away due to inferior
components like crappy shifters, and (gasp!) plastic crank
arms!
nice local bike shop who will let you loosen something with
their tool without charging you three dollars like one of our
local shops does. So check these out and build yourself a
tool kit:
Note: A lot of these tools may not be necessary for your
bike type. There may even be sizes of tools listed that you
will not need for your bike. Find out what sizes of things
like wrenches and spoke tools for your bike during your
first tune up and build your tool kit accordingly. That way
you don’t get stuff you don’t need.
5) Somehow these pieces of junk are made of, like, recycled
bowling balls or something and weigh a million-zillion
pounds.
These tools are always nice to have and once you have
them, you will find yourself using them more and more.
While our business went up in annoying and time
If you want to do any minor repairs on your bike or other
consuming repairs, our sales business plummeted cause
people’s bikes, invest in them, you’ll be happy you did…
somehow these folks thought they were getting a deal
buying janky bikes for cheap! So we made less money
• Screwdrivers: At least a small and medium size of each a
and did repairs on “NEXT...” brand bikes all day. Anyhow,
flat and a Phillips
when our rent went up, the boss told me he didn’t have
• Tire levers: Two, the flat black kind are my favorite!
the energy to keep fixing Wal-Mart bikes the rest of his
• Adjustable wrench (crescent wrench): Medium size,
life and we closed. So guess what? Fuck Wal-Mart. I really
though a small one and a large one are helpful too.
dislike that place, and most out-of-town, big corporate
• Allen wrenches: A set, or at least 4, 5, 6 millimeter sizes
conglomerations like them. They killed our business. Just
and any special to your bicycle. Tri-tools are the best! like people say, these places really, really, really do put good • Cone wrenches: (13, 14, 15, 17 millimeters, or special to
businesses out by selling cheap and inferior shit; just like
your bike)
those “Wal-Mart—proud to kill your home” bumper stickers • Chainbreaker! (The tool AND the book! Ha ha)
(modeled on the ubiquitous, “New Orleans—proud to call it • Bicycle pump! (And a Presta valve adapter if you need
home”). I hope you understand why you should find a good one or your pump is not equipped).
local bicycle shop and support them, if at all possible. It’s
• Wrenches: Especially 8, 9, 10 and 13, 15, 17 millimeters.
good for you and it’s good for them, and in the long run, it’s The smaller ones are necessary for derailleurs and brakes.
bad for big dumb corporations like Wal-Mart. Good.
Most bikes use metric wrenches (as opposed to standards).
The exception to this are old Schwinns, so be careful to
As with any bike, treat it as well as you would any other
check. The size of the wrenches will be stamped into the
bike, learn to work on it and be happy with it! Bikes rule!
side of the wrench.
Ok! Here we go!!!
• Sockets (or a tri-socket tool, which we love!): 8, 9, 10, 14,
15 millimeters are good ones, but 14 is the only one really
necessary (if you have three piece cranks).
A good place to start is with the tools you need. We made a • Ratchet for sockets: Make sure you get the right drive
list here of tools that are necessary to do the repairs in this ratchet (3/8”) to match the sockets you have. You can get a
book. Some tools are indispensable, so you should have your cheap socket and ratchet set with all the sizes you need at
a hardware store (anindependent one), or at a yard sale if
own. Others you will use once in a blue moon, and really,
you’re lucky!
you needn’t buy it. Instead, borrow it from a friend, a local
free bike project (listed in the back of this book!), or from a • Needle-nose pliers
essential tools:
tools you will need:
16
17
• Channel locks: Helpful in lots of places and can replace
other tools in a pinch (for example, you can use ‘em in place
of a proper headset wrench).
• Cable Cutters: You can get bicycle cable cutters from bike
tool makers like Pedro’s, Shimano, Jagwire, or Park Tools
from a bike shop. Most regular wire cutters won’t work.
• A little hammer: Having one helps you resist the desire to
use a delicate tool to really whack something with.
good tools to have:
These are great tools to have if you want to make bike
repair a serious part of your life, or if you are dedicated
even to doing all of the work on your personal bike. If
you only plan to do the occasional tune-up, and you know
someone who has these tools, borrow them instead!
• Spoke wrenches: To fit your wheel’s’ spokes.
• Headset wrench: To fit your bike.
• Brake adjusting wrench: This is thin like a cone wrench.
10mm for a caliper brake adjusting nut.
• Crank puller
• Chain whip and freewheel or cassette removing tool: To
fit your size.
• Spanner tool: For your bottom bracket type.
• Vice Grips: For emergency situations only!!!
• Bottom bracket tool: Appropriate size that fits your bike
if you need one (for three-piece style bottom brackets).
• Grease Guns are the best!!!
• Third hand tool: Brake holder thing.
• A Bike Stand: This is not essential, but it makes all your
work (especially on bikes with gears) a whole lot easier.
You can usually find one for about a hundred bucks. We
recommend the arm type that bolts to a stand or a wall
over the collapsible kind, with the wobbly legs. They are
about the same price, but the bolt-on kind has a better
quality clamp.
• Wheel truing stand: These aren’t cheap, but if you want
to work on your wheels or learn to build wheels, they are
indispensable.
caring for your tools:
Try to keep your bike repair tools separate from the rest of
your tools. I have separate boxes for bike repair, auto repair
and wood working stuff. You should be able to fit all your
18
bike tools in one small toolbox or bag.
Keep your tools clean and wipe them down after you use
them. Respect your tools and they will serve you well.
By all means, lend your tools out, but don’t be afraid to
make it clear that you expect them to return to you. It’s
better to be honest about that and always be the one
to have the tools to lend. Also, asking people to respect
your shit reminds them to respect their own. Don’t feel
bad. Putting your name on ‘em feels dorky, but is good,
especially in the punk house where more and more junk is
getting brought home every day. I guess this would work
with lots of things!
Get good tools. Go for Park Tools, Pedro’s, and fancier
stuff. If a shop doesn’t carry tools, they more than likely
will order them for you, and if you’re real nice, they
won’t double the catalog price on you. As for wrenches,
screwdrivers, etc, get good quality stuff. It will last you
longer and often comes with a warranty that will replace
something that breaks.
a word on bike stands!
I think I got really spoiled working on bikes in a shop all of
the time. I mean, I learned to fix bikes in a shop with the
bike clamped onto a stand and never really realized the
difficulties of working without one until I started fixing
bikes at home. It didn’t take me long to go ahead and invest
in a good stand. With one of these, you can clamp your
bike down steady and flip it around into any conceivable
position. Because the wheels are suspended, you can turn
the crank, making brake adjustments and gear adjustments
insanely easier. I mean, it’s so much less frustrating than
trying to keep a bike sitting upside down from falling over
while you stretch to try to shift the gears while the bike is
resting on the shifter mechanism. Argh! It sucks! There are
a lot of different kinds of stands one can purchase or make.
There are the fold-up, portable kind, or big clunky heavy
ones that come with a stand and base, and there are the
kind that clamp onto a table or wall. I went with the wall
clamp one because you can get the higher quality clamp
for much less. Most of the ones I have seen are Park Tools
brand and I think that they are great. The fold-ups are a
little wonky for my taste, and when comparing different
models of different stands, I definitely prefer the all-metal
clamp option. A shop will more than likely let you look at
a catalog to choose one and even order one for you. They
aren’t cheap, but if you have a bike with gears, it won’t take
you long to wish you had one. So, if you are going to make
bike fixing a habit, invest in a good stand, or look around for
some nice directions on making a stand of your own. I’ve
often thought that in a pinch, you could figure out how to
rig up a car-mount bike rack to work, but I’ll leave working
out the details on that one for your creative mind.…
tune-up instructions:
These tune-up instructions are meant to be done in the
order they are written. This will help you avoid unnecessary
steps, like taking the wheels on and off a gazillion times, or
flipping the bike over and over. You might find you can skip
steps, but still try to follow the directions in a linear way, or
come up with a system that works best for you.
We have covered the main types of bikes and parts you will
see. Occasionally you will run across something totally wild
looking, like roller cam brakes or something wack like that.
Don’t panic! Really! Find the part description which most
closely resembles yours and use logic to figure it out. Many
parts function quite similarly even if they look different.
Try your best to figure it out. It will make you a better
mechanic in the long run.
tune-up order:
1. Inspection
2. Wheels:
A. Axles
B. Truing
C. Tires and tubes
3. Brakes
4. Shifters and derailleurs
5. Bearing systems
A. Headset
B. Bottom bracket
6. Drivetrain
A. Chain
B. Cassettes and freewheels
C. Cranks and chainrings
7. Check all nuts and bolts
8. Safety check
inspection:
Before you even start, INSPECT your bicycle! Check the
frame for breaks or cracks. (Do this even if the bike is new
to you. There is nothing worse than doing a whole tune-up
on a bike and then realizing the frame is busted.) Note
items that need replacing, adjustment, repair or overhaul.
Get an overall sense of the bike and how much work is
worth putting into it, and what parts you will need to make
the tune-up really nice.
Your question is to find out, is it worth it? If your bike has
wheels that are totally jacked, bad hubs, broken spokes,
warped like crazy, and has busted derailleurs, it might
not make sense to fix it up. Think about the cost of new
parts before you start. If you have a recycled-bike project
near you, it might still be feasible for your budget. Look at
what your budget is and compare it honestly to the work
you need to do. Remember, while adjustments are free,
overhauls and replacements add up.
DECIDING TO ADJUST OR OVERHAUL
Overhaul vs. adjustment: The distinction is very important.
This is the difference in how far you want to go with a bike repair
and how much time you have to do it. An adjustment usually
entails nothing more than some tightening or loosening of parts
and nuts and bolts to make something run smoothly. This might
also involve your great grease gun, but usually no more extensive
than that. An overhaul is a complete disassembly, assessment,
cleaning or possible replacing of parts, and, finally, reassembly.
This can take time and a lot of patience, and more than likely a
trip to the bike shop. It is almost always worth the effort though,
and is absolutely necessary if you have worn or broken parts
(look for extreme rust or metal falling loose out of open axles,
headsets or bottom brackets especially – this means overhaul
time!) Adjustments and overhauls will be explained for most
repairs in this book.
OK! TIME TO START YER TUNE UP!
19
down. If not, readjust the nut opposite the lever until your
wheel is on well.
wheels:
R E M OV E T H E F R O N T A N D R E A R W H E E L S .
There are two ways your wheels connect to the bike: with
axle nuts or with quick releases skewers.
AXLE NUTS.
Axles nuts screw onto a solid axle to hold the wheel on. If
you have axle nuts, chances are they are 15mm nuts, but
could also be something totally random and unusual. Use
the proper wrench for the nut, or use an adjustable wrench
if you have to and loosen the nuts (clockwise to tighten,
counter clockwise to loosen). Take the wheel off. Put the
wheel back on in reverse order, making sure to get the
wheel even in the forks or chainstays, and with rear wheels,
to get your chain around the rear cogs. Bolt back down
securely.
Q U IC K R E L E A S E .
A quick release skewer is a long thin rod that runs through
a hollow axle with nuts screwed onto the end. One of
these nuts has an arm that when flipped down squeezes
the two nuts together to hold your wheel on. If you have
quick releases, flip the lever on the skewer up to loosen the
wheel. This lever usually has a little curve to it. When the
curve points away from the wheel it is loosened, towards
the wheel is tight. The lever might even say “open” when it
is opened, and “closed” when it is closed. Pull the wheel off
when it is opened. To resecure the wheel to your bike put
the axle in the dropouts, make sure the wheel is centered
evenly between the forks or chainstays, and then turn the
nut on the side of the skewer that has no lever. Turn this
until the wheel is just barely snug, then flip the lever closed.
It should feel slightly tight to get this lever all the way
20
PUTTING A REAR WHEEL WITH GEARS BACK ON.
When putting any rear wheel on, one must be sure to get
the chain around the rear cogs. With single-speeds, this is
fairly easy, but with multi-speeds it can be a little trickier.
First, make sure the rear gear is in the highest (smallest)
gear. Pull the bottom part of the rear derailleur towards
the rear of the bike. Then put the smallest gear under
the top half of the loop of chain then pull the axle back
into the dropout. This is especially confusing if the bike is
upside down, in which case you pull the top-most part of
the rear derailleur back toward the rear of the bike. Place
the smallest gear on top of the bottom half of the loop of
the chain and then pull the axle back into the dropout. The
chain should be wrapped around the rear cogs and then
form a backwards S-shape as it passes through the jockey
wheels on the derailleur. When this looks right, bolt the
wheel back on. Turn the cranks to make sure everything
is working correctly. Re-do if necessary. If you are new at
this, play around with it a little and practice so you don’t
get stuck somewhere weird someday.
inspect wheels:
Inspect your wheels and get a quick overview of the
work that you are going to do. Check for straightness by
spinning the wheels and looking to see how straight the
rim looks. While the wheel is spinning also check the axles
for smoothness. You don’t want to hear grinding or other
noisescoming from the hub. Check your tire pressure to
discern if you might have holes in tires or tubes. Check that
axle nuts or quick releases work well and are not stripped.
Take note if you have any broken or really loose spokes.
To completely adjust or overhaul your wheel, follow these steps.
axles:
Though the axles are a bearing system and really could go
in that section, we will adjust or overhaul the axles now
because it makes the most sense to get the wheels taken
care of first. You can’t true your wheel with the axles all
wobbly, and you can’t adjust your brakes without the wheel
trued. For more in-depth understanding of bearings and
bearing systems, you could skip forward to the Bearing
Systems section of this book, and then come back here and
get on with the axles.
Note: There is a special tool used for axle adjustments and
overhauls: the cone wrench. This is very similar to a regular
wrench, except that it is very thin. It fits into slots on the
adjusting cones on your axle. It is nearly impossible to make
a good adjustment without the cone wrenches that fit your
wheel. They are available for sale at most bicycle shops,
often in combo sizes, a different one on each side of the
wrench.
The wheel includes the rims, tires, tubes, spokes, and
hubs. The rims are what the tire and tube rest on, and the
spokes hold the rim to the hub. The hub is where all the
action happens. It is worth taking one apart just to see
and understand this! The hub is basically like two cups that
rest facing away from each other, much like the cups in a
headset or a one-piece bottom bracket. Inside these cups
are bearings, and running through the two hubs is one long
axle where the cups sit. The bearings are squashed between
the cups and the cones, and they’re rolling on this very
smooth, clean track—this is what allows your bike to roll.
The person who invented the wheel might have been smart,
but the bearing took it to another level.
As with all bearing systems, the hubs can either be adjusted or overhauled. An adjustment is simply relieving
excess tightness or (more likely) looseness out of the axle,
allowing it to run smoothly in the hub without being wobbly.
An overhaul is a complete dis-mantling of your axle, cleaning
or replacement of worn parts, and re-assembly.
If your hub is too loose, you will feel the wheel wobbling on
the frame, as if the wheel isn’t bolted on well (make sure it is).
On the other hand, the axle might feel tight, causing the
wheel to spin sluggishly. Test this by lifting your bike and
spinning the wheel forward. If it slows down real fast (and
nothing is rubbing) your hub is too tight and you need to
adjust it.
How do you know if your hub needs an overhaul? You will
more than likely hear some loud and random knocking
coming from the hub area while you are riding. If you hear
grinding or notice an excessive amount of looseness in the
hub, or you see little bearings or chunks of metal falling out,
then it is time for an overhaul.
So decide what you want or need to do, then lets go!
adjustment:
Start first with taking the wheel off of the bike. If it is a
bolt-on wheel, loosen the bolts on both sides of the wheel
and pull the wheel off. If you have a rear coaster wheel, you
will also need to remove the nut from the brake arm and
release that brake arm from the brake arm strap and set
the bolt aside. Don’t lose it! If it is a quick release, loosen
the skewer by lifting the lever and then pull the wheel off.
Now, take a look at your axle, which goes through the hub
of your wheel. The axle is what we want to adjust. All axles
(except sealed bearing axles which we won’t discuss in this
book) are set up relatively the same. On each end of the
axle you’ll have a locknut, some washers or spacers, a cone,
and some bearings. Sometimes there is a bearing cover or
dust cover (which protects the bearings from dirt) attached
to the cone or stuck in the inner part of the hub, holding
your bearings safely in place. They pretty much all work/
look like this*. (Look at the picture.)
Note: The exception that I can think of is on some old
cruisers and three speeds. These sometimes have front
wheels with a smaller diameter axle and cones without
locknuts. These axles are slightly ribbed around the area
where the cones sit and this ribbing holds the cone in
adjustment, in theory at least. If you have these (usually
they take a 13mm cone wrench), simply follow the steps of
21
the adjustment or overhaul minus the locking and unlocking
of the locknut.
Okay. The first thing you want to do is choose a side of
the wheel to work on. Either side is fine, unless you are
working on a rear wheel with cogs on it. If you are, you can
choose to make the adjustment without removing the cogs
(leaving out the step of greasing one side of the axle) or you
can skip to the freewheel or cassette removing section of
the book, remove the part and proceed. If you have a rear
coaster wheel, simply choose the side that does not have
that tricky little brake arm.
Now take out your wrenches (you will more than likely
use a 13, 15 or 17) and your cone wrenches (again 13, 15
or 17). Put the wrench on the outside locknut, and your
thinner cone wrench on the shallower grooves of the inside
cone. These two nuts are “locked together” so that neither
of them can move,therefore keeping the axle properly
adjusted. To unlock them, hold the cone wrench still with
one hand and loosen the locknut with the other, turning
the locknut counter clockwise. Be careful not to open it so
much that your bearings fall out!
Now the nuts are loose. It is good (but not essential) to
shoot a little grease into the hub at this point. Loosen
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the locknut and the cone enough to cram a little grease
in underneath the cone there (this is easy if you have a
pointy grease gun), but not so loose that bearings are able
to fall out. These bearings are pretty small, so open it a
little crack, making sure that the cone on the side of the
hub that you are not working on is still snug against the
bearings. The easiest way to do this is by working on your
wheel while it is sitting on the table, with the axle pushing
into the table, keeping the gap on the topside of the wheel.
Once the grease is in that side, carefully flip the wheel over
and shoot or shove some grease in the other side of the
hub. Carefully flip it over again, back to the side with the
loose nuts, and now you can move on to adjusting the axle.
Working with the unlocked cones and locknut, tighten
the cone downtowards the hub. (Note: Make sure that all the
bearings are in line. Sometimes one will hop up and stack onto
others, making the cone seem either way too high above the
bearing ring or the bearing ring way too high above the hub.
If this is happening you will either feel a lot of play or uneven
tightness in the hub. Loosen it and push the bearings down
with something pointy like a spoke or a flat head screwdriver,
and then start again.) Tighten the cone until you feel it bottom
out against the bearings very, very gently. Now, push the
washers or spacers back down against the cone, and then
tighten the locknut down until it bottoms out against the cone.