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Category Archives: Bicycle Repair

Bicycle tools, repairs and bike maintenance

A Visit From The Puncture Fairy

My inner tube with a vertical split along the seam

My inner tube with a vertical split along the seam

Last week a friend of mine told me that he had two flats on his bike within the past few weeks—and like a total idiot I told him that I hadn’t had a flat in over nearly 6,000 miles. Experienced cyclists already know what happened next—my careless words summoned the Puncture Fairy and I got a flat on my next ride! For the uninformed, the Puncture Fairy is an evil little creature that shows up when you least expect it and wreaks havoc in your life (I know, she has the same job description as a mother-in-law). The quickest way to summon the Puncture Fairy is to mention that you’ve not had a flat in a while.

This past Saturday I went out for a 70-mile ride and about halfway through I heard a small explosion and then the front tire popped off the rim of my bike. Fortunately, I was climbing a step hill and was not going very fast at the time. If the problem had occurred just a few minutes before it could have been fatal since I had been riding on a busy highway at just under 40 MPH (yes, I was going downhill and had a strong tailwind). While the Puncture Fairy decided to pay me a visit, at least she showed me a bit of mercy concerning the timing. I’ve repaired a lot of flat tires over the years and can easily swap out an inner tube and be on my way in under five minutes. However, this was the very first time I’ve had a flat as a result of inner tube failure instead of a puncture. This time my inner tube split vertically along the seam (about 1.5″ long), and when the seam burst it knocked my tire off of the rim (which made it even faster to change the tire since I didn’t have to use a lever to get it off the rim).

The reason I told you this story is because it is finally spring and many folks are just getting their bikes out of the garage for the first time since last fall (which also means they missed a lot of good winter biking weather). Before you take your bike out for a ride you really need to make sure that you have a patch kit, spare inner tube, and a tire lever or two with you. If you don’t know how to change a tire I strongly suggest that you practice in your garage using the same tire levers that you carry with you when you ride.

Road debris sliced right through this tire

Road debris sliced right through this tire

You also need to have a back-up plan for when the Puncture Fairy really decides to ruin your day by slicing your tire in addition to puncturing your inner tube. Last summer I went out for a long ride with a young woman and on our way home she hit a piece of road debris and it sliced through her front tire like a hot knife going through warm butter. I took her tire off the rim, but it was a lost cause—not even a Park Tool Emergency Tire Boot could cover the damage.

Here is the piece of road debris that the young woman hit

Here is the piece of road debris that the young woman hit

The woman told me to just ride back to my house and she’d walk back (her car was at my house). However, this was not going to work for two reasons. First, I am a gentleman and the thought of leaving a lady by the side of the ride with a flat tire just wasn’t an option. Second, my wife would have shot me when I got home if she found out I left a woman by the side of the road home with a broken bike. So, I called my dear wife and she picked up the woman and her bike and then I rode home (and as slow as my wife drives I nearly beat them there).

When was the last time the Puncture Fairy paid you a visit?

 

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Repainting A Well Used Bike

New Powder Coating On My Surly Necromancer Pugsley

New Powder Coating On My Surly Necromancer Pugsley

If you think this past winter was hard on you, just think about what it did to your bike! I rode all winter long, mainly on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike, and all the road salt I rode through took its toll. Compared to my other bikes the Necromancer is barely used—it has less than 3,000 miles on it! However, out of 3,000 miles it probably only has 200 miles of use in good weather. I’ve ridden this bike on sandy beaches and in Lake Michigan (in water up past my hubs). It also has a lot of miles through the mud and the swampy water of the Des Plaines River, but the majority of miles were in freezing weather as I traveled through snow and ice (that was my main purpose for buying this bike in the first place).

While I dearly love the Surly Necromancer, I was never happy with the original paint job. Straight out of the box you could see it had an inferior paint job (as compared to most other bikes). The original paint scratched easily and even with a good coat of paste wax it never did shine! I enjoy getting my bikes filthy in the mud, sand and snow, but when they are sitting in my garage I want them to look like brand new (I know that psychological counseling could probably cure this affliction, but cleaning supplies are cheaper than therapy). Even though this bike is only three years old I decided to have it stripped down and repainted.

Two weeks ago I took the Necromancer down to the local bike shop, Zion Cyclery, and they took everything off the bike and handed me the frame and front fork—which I then took to J & J Powder Coating in Zion, Illinois. The guys at J & J Powder Coating ran my bike frame through a chemical bath to remove the old paint and surface grime (and some rust). They then closed up the openings on the bike (mainly the braze-ons) and applied a thick coat of black powder to the frame and baked it at over 300 degrees. Powder coating is much thicker, and far more durable, than liquid based paints. After the initial powder coating they applied a thick layer of clear coat which not only makes the paint sparkle, but also adds another durable layer of protection to the frame. The guys at J & J Powder Coating only charged $120 for their work, and I think that is a very fair price! Unfortunately, you can only powder coat steel or aluminum bike frames. If you have a carbon fiber bike you’ll have to take it to an auto body shop (or motorcycle shop) to have it painted. By the way, painting your bike could possibly void the warranty on your bike’s frame (but not always), so check with your local bike shop first.

The Shiny Front Fork Now Has Beautiful New Decals

The Shiny Front Fork Now Has Beautiful New Decals

Once I picked up my repainted frame and fork I took it back to Zion Cyclery where Kurt, mechanic extraordinaire, rebuilt the bike. Because of the rust on the original parts, he replaced nearly every bolt and piece of hardware on the bike (with stainless steel parts when possible). He also had to replace the bottom bracket (even a sealed bottom bracket can only take so much time under water). I debated whether to replace the decals on the bike. The decals on the top tube had rubbed off because I frequently use a top tube bag in the winter to carry some of my gear and the straps on the bag cut through the decals. I finally decided to just replace the decals on the front fork of the bike (and Kurt did an excellent job of aligning them perfectly). The total cost at the bike shop was a little over $300 (more than half of that was for new parts).

The bottom line is that for under $450 I once again have a beautiful Fat Bike with a lot of shiny new parts! The bike has now been in my garage for over 24 hours, so I guess it is time to look for some muddy trails so I can start the process all over again!

 

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Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

Eleven years ago I bought a Park Tool PCS-9 Home Mechanic Bicycle Repair Stand so I could work on my bike in my garage. The PCS-9 is an “entry-level” repair stand that is sturdy and very reliable, but a lot of things have changed in the past eleven years—I now own five bikes and though I am not a trained mechanic I do a lot more work on my bikes than I used to (last year I even rebuilt on old mountain bike and with all new parts). I kept waiting for the PCS-9 to either break or wear out so I would have an excuse to get a better stand, but I finally gave up on that every happening and just gave it to a young female cyclist I often ride with and then bought a new Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand.

Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

You probably already know that your bicycle chain needs oiled after every 100 miles of use—and more often if you ride in inclement weather. You are far more likely to keep your bike clean and your chain lubed if you own a good bicycle repair stand. After every bike ride I put whatever bike I was using in the repair stand and use an air compressor to blow the dust off the chain and from around the brake pads. Then I take a piece of cotton cloth (from an old T-shirt) and wipe off the tires (I am actually looking from pieces of broken glass in the tire). About 100 miles or so I oil the chain, cables and pivot points. This process only takes a couple of minutes—but it sure keeps the bikes in great shape!

Cam-type Clamp On The Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

Cam-type Clamp On The Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

The PCS-10 has all of features of the older PCS-9, but has been improved to set-up and take-down a lot faster—and it has a far better clamping system than the older model. The PCS-10 has a cam-type clamp that allows you to quickly clamp your bike with the proper pressure—even if it is something as awkward as a recumbent or a bike with odd-shaped tubing.

Park Tool Work Tray For Repair Stands

Park Tool Work Tray For The PCS-10 Repair Stand

If you purchase the PCS-10 I would strongly suggest you also buys a Park Tool Work Tray—an accessory rack that fit on the repair stand (the tray retails for around $34). This work tray has a storage bin on one side that will hold several cans of lube and a towel rack on the other side. Since the tray mounts right on the repair stand you will have quick access to your tools and small parts.

Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

The height of the Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand can be adjusted from 39″ to 57″ (99cm to 145cm) and the screw clamp will adjust to fit tubes from 7/8″ to 3″ (24mm to 76mm). Park Tool claims that this model can hold up to 100 pounds (45 kg), providing the weight is centered over the legs. I’ve used this repair stand on everything from my featherweight Trek Doman Carbon Fiber Endurance Bike to my behemoth Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike without any trouble. The PCS-10 can be folded down for easy storage, but once I set mine up in the garage I have only moved it a couple of times just to clean the area under it.

Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

The Decals On The PCS-10 Are In A Bad Spot!

The only thing I don’t like about this stand is the decals on the legs of the stand—when you are working on your bike all the oil and solvent you use will drip directly onto the decals. Not only does it make the decals look pretty ugly, but if you use any solvent on your bike it is going to drip on the decals and make them peel and eventually fall off. I realize this is a really minor complaint, but I am one of those guys who likes my shop to sparkle when I am finished cleaning things up!

The Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand retails for around $200. This is a quality piece of merchandise that should last for many years to come—so when your kids finally ship you off to the nursing home you can give this repair stand to your grandchildren!

 
 

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Serfas CK-1 Combo Kit 1 (Product Review and Giveaway)

Even if you don’t have a clue about how to repair a flat tire or make minor adjustments to your bike, you really need to carry a tire repair kit, tire pump and mini-tool with you on every ride. You might not know what to do with the tools, but usually someone with offer to help you—but without the right tools you might have a long walk home. The folks at Serfas recently sent me one of their basic repair kits, the Serfas CK-1 Combo Kit 1, to review. This kit includes the items needed to repair about 90% of the problems you are likely to have on a normal bike ride. If you would like a chance to win this kit just keep reading!

Serfas CK-1 Combo Kit 1

Serfas CK-1 Combo Kit 1

The tire pump in this kit is the Serfas BS-1D Big Stick Pump and it normally retails for $18. This pump is 11″ long (17″ with the handle extended) and works with both Presta and Schrader valves. The pump should be able to inflate your tires up to 110 psi, but, like most air pumps, anything over 100 psi requires a bit of work. This pump weights just a little over 7 ounces (205 grams) and will easily attach to your seat tube with the included mounting bracket. The handle on this pump folds out and makes it very easy to grip.

Serfas BS-1D Big Stick Pump

Serfas BS-1D Big Stick Pump

This kit includes a small mini-tool that includes seven Allen keys (2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 8mm), a Phillips screwdriver and a Torx wrench (mainly used for disc brakes). If you are in need of mini-tool with a with a wider selection of tools I would strongly suggest the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool (the best all-round mini-tool I’ve ever seen).

Bicycle Mini-Tool

Bicycle Mini-Tool

The tire repair kit is rather generic—a lot of companies sell nearly identical kits. This one includes two tire levers, four patches and a small tube of patch glue. There is also a small piece of sandpaper that is used to scruff up the area around the puncture before you apply the glue. The only thing missing here is a small piece of chalk (I don’t know of company that includes it with their tire repair kits, but they should). When you are trying to find the puncture in a deflated tire you first need to partially inflate the tube and then feel your way around the tube until you find the leak—and once you find it a piece of chalk makes it real easy to mark the location (if you don’t mark it well when the tube is inflated it will be very difficult to find once you let the air out).

Bicycle Tie Repair Kit

Bicycle Tie Repair Kit

Also included in this kit is a medium-sized saddle bag (6″ long x 4″ wide x 4.5″ tall). This bag is also expandable—just unzip the bottom zipper and the bag becomes a whopping 6″ tall! Even with the expandable bottom closed there is enough room for the tire repair kit, mini-tool, one MTB tire (or two road tires), your ID and a bit of cash with room to spare. This bag also has a key ring holder inside so won’t risk loosing your car keys every time you open the bag. The bag attaches to your bike with two Velcro straps—one strap goes around the seat post and the other around the rails of your saddle. One more thing: there is a piece of 3M Scotchbrite Reflective Trim all the way around the saddle (something I wish all saddles had).

Serfas Medium Saddle Bag

Serfas Medium Saddle Bag (Note The Key Ring Holder)

Serfas CK-1 Combo Kit 1 retails for $40 and is available from the Serfas website or from an authorized Serfas retailer (most bike shops and REI stores).

Regular readers know that I seldom keep the products that are sent to me for review. If you would like a chance  to win this Serfas CK-1 Combo Kit 1 then leave a comment below telling me why you need it. The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, July 5, 2013. After the contest closes I will read through the comments and choose a winner based solely on my subjective mood at the time. I won’t respond to the comments left below, but I promise to read and consider every one of them. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. I will send this product to the winner via U.S. Mail at my expense. Good luck!

 

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Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

Regular readers of this blog know that I only review products that I’ve actually used myself in “real world” conditions. Unfortunately, most of the time when I review tire pumps or CO2 cartridges I have to test them out in my garage since it is hard to know when you are going to get a flat tire. However, the first ride I took with the Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump I got a puncture just six miles away from my house! This pump is easy to use and far exceeded my expectations.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

I bought the medium-sized Lezyne Alloy Drive pump for my Surly Necromancer Pugsley—a Fat Bike with massive 4″ wide tires. Fat Bike tires usually run at very low pressure (10 to 15 psi on off-road trails; 5 to 7 psi on sand or snow), but they do require a high volume of air. Most bicycle hand pumps are designed to work the other way around (high pressure, low volume) and they would take forever to fill up a Fat Bike tire. A high volume pump like this one will fill your tires is 30% less time than most other pumps.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

High Quality Aluminum Construction

The Lezyne Alloy Drive pump is made with CNC-machined aluminum construction, which makes it very durable and extremely lightweight—just 4.5 ounces (128 g) without the frame mount. This pump has a flex hose with a threaded Presta connection on one end and a threaded Schrader connection on the other. The flex hose is stored inside the pump when not in use and the entire unit attaches easily to your bike frame with the included pump mount.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

Flex Hose With Presta and Schrader Connectors

This pump is 9.2 inches long and about as big around as a quarter. The pump is rated for a maximum pressure of 90 psi, but if you ride a Fat Bike, or even most mountain bikes, you are never going to need pressures near that high.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

The Flex Hose Easily Connects To The Pump

The Lezyne Alloy Drive pump retails for $45 and is available in four colors (Black, Blue, Red and Yellow). You can purchase this pump directly from the Lezyne website or from your local bike shop. If all else fails you can also find it on Amazon.com.

 

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My Two Favorite Bicycle Chain Lubricants

White Lightning Clean Ride Self-Cleaning Wax Lube

White Lightning Clean Ride

At this time of year many folks will be getting back on their bikes for the first time in months. First, welcome back—we’ve missed you out on the road all winter. Second, you probably need to lube your bike chain before you hit the road again. There are a lot of great chain lubricants on the market and today I’d like to tell you about the two I use.

Several years ago a local bike shop recommended White Lightning Clean Ride Self-Cleaning Bicycle Lubricant to me and this amazing product keeps my chains looking brand new even after 2,000 miles of use. White Lightning Clean Ride is a liquid wax that goes on wet and dries rather quickly. This lube is “self-cleaning” which means that once the chain dries the wax lube “sheds” off your chain as it gets dirty.

Before applying Clean Ride for the first time you need to start with a very clean chain since the wax will not mix well with the oil that might already be on your chain. I have found that White Lightning Clean Streak Degreaser works extremely well for this purpose. Once your chain is clean, just pour Clean Ride on the chain as you turn it, let it sit for a few minutes and then wipe off the excess. I use a small air compressor to blow the dirt off of my chain after every ride and I re-apply the Clean Ride about every 100 miles. If you don’t have an air compressor just use a small cotton cloth (an old T-shirt) to wipe off the dirt after each ride. You will find that dirt, sand and road grime does not stick to your chain once you start using Clean Ride. This means you are not going to have globs of oil flying off of your chain if you get caught out in the rain. Clean Ride retails for around $10.00 for a 4 ounce bottle. I think I have seen White Lightning Clean Ride at every bike shop I’ve ever been in, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.

Boeshield T-9 Waterproof Lubricant

Boeshield T-9

While White Lightning Clean Ride is fantastic for most purposes, I prefer to use Boeshield T-9 on my winter bikes and the ones I use for riding in the rain. The first time I saw a can of Boeshield T-9 in a bike shop I was a bit surprised because I already had several cans of it in my garage but had never even thought of using it on my bikes. I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and all of my woodworking tools are stored in an unheated garage, so to keep them from rusting I spray them with Boeshield T-9. I also use it on my snow-blower. My favorite use for it had always been on my table saw—not only did it keep the table from rusting, but it provided an extremely slick surface for the wood to slide over.

Boeshield T-9 was developed by The Boeing Company (the folks who make those pretty planes). This product has a solvent and paraffin wax base and uses neither Silicone or Teflon. The solvent penetrates deep through other lubricants, but I would recommend you clean the surface first before you use Boeshield T-9 if for no other reason than it looks better that way. Boeshield T-9 dries quickly, but it is best to let it dry for a couple of hours before wiping off the excess. This will leave you with an incredible barrier against rain, mud, snow, ice, salt and road grime. The bike I reserve for riding in the rain is coated with this stuff! My winter bike is fed a steady diet of ice and road salt, but it still looks great because of the protection Boeshield T-9 provides. Boeshield T-9 is suitable for use on derailleurs, brake cables, pivot points and the chain.

Boeshield T-9 is available in different sizes, from one ounce bottles up to gallon containers, and in aerosol cans. Regardless of what form you buy it in, Boeshield T-9 has exactly the same formula. The 12-ounce aerosol can retails for $18.

 

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Cat’s Tongue Heavy Duty Cleaning Towels

If you have read any of my articles about washing and waxing your bicycle you already know two things about me: first, I am almost obsessive about starting each ride with a clean bike, and second, that I am always on the lookout for new cleaning products that will make the job easier. A few weeks ago I was sent a package of Cat’s Tongue Heavy Duty Cleaning Towels and they really make the job of cleaning up a bike a lot easier!

Cat's Tongue Heavy Duty Cleaning Towels

Cat’s Tongue Heavy Duty Cleaning Towels

Cat’s Tongue Towels are pre-moistened cleaning towels that are smooth on one side and have a heavy-duty texture on the other side. Even though the textured side feels gritty, it is a non-scratch cloth that does an amazing job of scrubbing away dirt, grease, and road grime. I live north of Chicago and at this time of the year our streets are covered with road salt—and when you get back from a bike ride the tire rims are thoroughly coated with a thick layer of salt dust that is very hard to get off. The textured side of the Cat’s Tongue Towels took this layer of salt off with just one quick wipe!

Cat’s Tongue Towels measure 8” x 12.25” and one towel usually cleans my entire bike (even if it is covered with road salt). These towels are coated with a citrus scented degreaser that will remove sealants, adhesives, and oil-based stains. These wipes work without the need for water or rinsing, and are aloe fortified to make them easy on your hands.

Cat’s Tongue Heavy Duty Cleaning Towels are available in either a 30-count canister or individual pouches. The Cat’s Tongue online store has a package deal that has one canister and ten individual pouches for under $20. They also have several bundle packages available (the more you buy the better deal you get). I would suggest you buy a canister for your garage (or bike storage area) and carry an individual package in your saddle bag to clean up after you fix your next flat tire.

Two more important notes: 25% of the profits from the sale of Cat’s Tongue products are donated to the Pan Massachusetts Challenge, an annual bike-a-thon that raises money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, this product is made in the U.S.A. (something I really appreciate).

 

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