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Category Archives: Bicycle Repair

Bicycle tools, repairs and bike maintenance

Park Tool VP-1 Vulcanizing Patch Kit

Unless your bicycle tires are made of solid rubber you are going to get a flat tire—maybe not this month, nor even this year, but you will get a flat. When I get a flat while out on a ride I use a self-adhesive tube patch so I can get back on the bike as soon as possible. These self adhesive patches are easy to apply: just roughen the tube a bit with sandpaper, wipe off the dust, then apply the patch. I’ve used these patches several times while on the road and they have always gotten me home safely. However, these patches do not hold nearly as well as those that use a vulcanizing solvent. Therefore, once I get home I always replace a self-adhesive patch with a Park Tool Vulcanizing Patch.

Park Tool VP-1 Vulcanizing Patch Kit

Park Tool VP-1 Vulcanizing Patch Kit

The Park Tool VP-1 Vulcanizing Patch Kit has four 25mm round patches, two 25mmx35mm oval patches, self-vulcanizing fluid, and sandpaper—all stored in a plastic box that measures 2.75″x1.5″x.75″. The instructions for use are printed on the inside of the box. To use these patches you need to roughen up tube with the included sandpaper and wipe off the dust. Then spread a thin layer of the self-vulcanizing fluid around the area you want to repair and allow it to dry before you apply the patch. Once the patch comes in contact with the self-vulcanizing fluid it will bond to the tube at the molecular level—this patch is permanent and good for the life of the tube.

The Park Tool VP-1 Vulcanizing Patch Kit retails for under $3 and is available at just about every bike shop in the United States. If you visit the sporting goods section at Walmart or Target you will see products similar to this one—and some of them actually work. However, the only patches I use are the ones from Park Tool.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Bicycle Repair, Product Reviews

 

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Park Tool AWS-10 Fold-up Hex Wrench Set

I carry several different brands of multi-tools in the saddle bags of my bikes, but when I am working on a bike in my garage I prefer to use products made by Park Tool Company. In fact, if you scroll to the bottom of the “My Bikes” page you will see that my garage almost looks like a Park Tool showroom. On the wall in my work area I have a set of Park Tool P-Handle Hex Wrenches and they are the wrenches I use when I need to apply a lot of torque, but most of the time when I need a hex wrench I use the Park Tool AWS-10 Fold-up Hex Wrench Set.

Park Tool AWS-10 Fold-up Hex Wrench Set

Park Tool AWS-10 Fold-up Hex Wrench Set

The Park Tool AWS-10 Fold-up Hex Wrench Set has seven hex wrenches (1.5mm, 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm) and they are made from Bondhus Protanium, a high quality industrial steel that should give a many years of use. These wrenches have chamfered tips which makes them a pleasure to work with, and the wrenches all fold up into a slip-resistant composite handle. This handle feels very comfortable in your hand and that is probably the reason I like this product so well.

This tool weighs 3.7 ounces (104 grams) and measures 3.75″ long by .75″ tall and 1″ wide. While you could easily carry this with you as you ride I prefer more compact and lighter weight wrench sets for my saddle bags. However, at home when I care more about ease of use that I do weight I prefer this wrench set. In fact, I think you could walk into just about any bike shop in America as see that this is the tool most bike shop mechanics carry in their apron pockets.

The Park Tool AWS-10 Fold-up Hex Wrench Set retails for under $9 and is available at most bike shops. If your local shop does not carry this product they can easily order it for you—or you can visit Amazon.com and order it yourself.

 
 

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Fix It Sticks Lightweight Bicycle Multi-tool

A few years ago when I started writing reviews for cycling products I determined that I would never talk about a product that was not already commercially available. However, today I am going to break that rule for the first time so I can tell you about one of the coolest new cycling products I’ve seen in a long time—Fix It Sticks. A few weeks ago Brian Davis, the inventor of Fix It Sticks, sent me a fully functional “stage two” prototype of his patent pending creation. Davis just had his project accepted by Kickstarter, a Web-based program for funding creative projects (more about this at the end of the article).

Prototype Of The Fix It Sticks Bicycle Multi-tool

Prototype Of Fix It Sticks Bicycle Multi-tool

The basic idea behind Fix It Sticks is that most cyclists don’t want (or need) to carry a lot of repair tools with them, so Fix It Sticks just offer the bare essential tools for roadside repair (a flathead screwdriver and three Allen wrenches). The unique design of Fix It Sticks provides for a very lightweight tool (less than 50 grams) and it doesn’t take up much more room than a pack of gum (they are only 4″ long)! However, the real advantage of Fix It Sticks is that when you put the two pieces together it gives you a handle that provides an incredible amount of leverage—you can apply more torque with this tool than you can with just about any other cycling multi-tool on the market. This compact tool is constructed of high-quality aluminum and has steel bits for durability.

Fix It Sticks Offer Incredible Leverage

Fix It Sticks Offer Incredible Leverage

I don’t know how Davis is going to advertise this product in the future, but it ought to appeal to two main groups of cyclists. First, female cyclists will love the leverage this product offers—there are times when I don’t think even a muscle-bound weightlifter could get an old Allen bolt to budge, but Fix It Sticks will make the job a lot easier—even if you don’t have bulging biceps. The second group that is going to love this product will be those Roadies who are overly concerned about the weight of anything they put on their bike (the Weight Weenies among us).

Fix It Sticks do not come with tire levers at the moment, so you will have to supply your own (but they do have plans to add them in the future). Also, this product does not come with a chain break tool—this is not the end of the world since most cyclists don’t know how to use them anyway. Just to be clear: I own many cycling multi-tools and the further I go away from home the more tools I want to take with me, especially if I am riding off-road on treacherous terrain. Most cyclists will find Fix It Sticks adequate to meet their needs, but if you need a pedal wrench, Torx wrench and a bottle opener then this product is not for you.

Fix It Sticks As They Appear On Kickstarter

Fix It Sticks As They Appear On Kickstarter

Brian Davis is trying to raise money to start the production of Fix It Sticks. On January 15 his product was accepted by Kickstarter and if enough people pledge to help fund this project then production will start rather quickly. Davis needs $18,000 and about half of that amount was pledged within the first two days. You can donate any amount over $1 to help fund this project, and people who give $25 or more will receive a set of Fit It Sticks when they are manufactured (there are also several other levels of donation and they offer added benefits). Fix It Sticks are machined made in the USA (Appleton, Wisconsin to be exact). And in case you were wondering, I did give to this project—I hate to admit it, but when I’m on my Trek Madone I turn into a Weight Weenie myself. If you would like to donate to this project, or just read more about it, then please see the Fix It Sticks page on Kickstarter.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Bicycle Repair

 

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Quick Stik Bicycle Tire Changer Tool

I won’t say that I enjoy changing bicycle tires, but it is something that I seem to do a lot of. Not only do I go through a couple sets of tires every year due to normal use, but I also have to swap-out the tires on three of my bikes due to the changing of the seasons (winter tires). Sometimes tires are easy to install or take off by hand, but most of them need a tire lever to help you get the edge of the tire over the rim. This past summer I was talking with the guys at the local bike shop and noticed that all the mechanics used the Quick Stick to change tires, so I bought a pair to try out.

Quick Stik Bicycle Tire Lever

Quick Stik Bicycle Tire Changer Tool

Quick Stiks are made of molded nylon so they won’t scratch your rims or pinch your inner tubes. While no tire lever is going to be perfect for every tire, I believe this is the best all-around tire lever I’ve ever seen. Most people are only going to need a single lever to change a tire (though it wouldn’t hurt to carry a second one just in case).

The Quick Stik is six inches long which makes them longer than the levers you will find in your typical bicycle multi-tool, but smaller that the steel levers some of us have hanging on the wall in the garage. This tire lever has a wonderful grip which makes it so much easier to use than most of the other levers on the market. Weighing in at only 14.2 grams this lever can make even the most ardent Weight Weenie happy. One of the biggest benefits of the Quick Stik is that they will not nick your rims—some metal tire levers will shave off a bit of the rim as you are using them.

I wish I could tell you this lever will work with every tire/rim combo on the market, but that is not the case. Last week I was trying to remove a road bike tire and I couldn’t get it to budge with this lever—but then again, two other brands of tire levers didn’t work either. I think the problem was that the Mavic rim was very narrow and when combined with the Kevlar bead of the tire it seemed like nothing was going to work! Another part of the problem might have been that I had been riding in 19 degree weather and cold tires are always harder to remove—after I let the tires warm up in the garage I was finally able to remove the tire and patch the tube.

The Quick Stik retails for under $6 each and are available at just about any bike shop in North America—you can also find them at places like REI and on Amazon.com. The product is made in the U.S.A. by California Bike Gear. If you use this tool long enough (like daily use in a bike shop) you are going to wear a small grove in the plastic and will have to replace the lever—but at this price that really is not a problem.

 
 

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Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool (Product Review and Giveaway)

I’ve never kept count, but I imagine that in the past 10 years I’ve purchased at least 20 different compact multi-tools for my bikes. Like the Cynic philosopher Diogenes who spent his time looking for an honest man, I spend my time looking for great bicycle products. A few weeks ago the folks at Serfas sent me one of their new products for review, the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool, and it has a few features that ought to be of interest to any cyclist. As an added bonus, I’ve not seen this product reviewed anywhere else yet—and I am always delighted when I can share new products with my readers.

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Here is a breakdown of the seventeen tools in the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool: Eight Allen keys (8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, and 1.5mm), one 10m open wrench, four spoke wrenches (3.23, 3.3, 3.45, 3.96mm), a chain break tool with two chain retainers, two Torx drivers (T25, T30), CO² Inflator head, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This tool has a full metal body and is 2.75″ long, 1.5″ wide, and .75″ tall. This products weighs an even 4.0 ounces (114g).

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Spoke Wrench and Chain Break Handle

The Torx drivers are mainly needed to tighten the bolts on disc brakes (usually found on mountain bikes). In case you are wondering—Torx bolt heads resist slipping better than Philips head bolts, and there is less chance of stripping a Torx head bolt.

Chain Break Tool on the Serfas ST-17

Chain Break Tool on the Serfas ST-17

The chain tool on the Serfas ST-17i is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a cycling multi-tool. I never throw my old bicycle chains away—I keep them so I can test chain break tools! When I put a short length of chain on the Serfas ST-17i I was surprised to find out it had a self-centering head since it’s not mentioned on the package. The self-centering head means that your chain will not slip as you are working on it. Even if you keep your bicycle chain clean and well lubricated it is going to wear out. While it is always best to replace your chain before it wears out, some cyclists (maybe most) just don’t check very often to see how much their chain has stretched. If your chain should snap when you are out on a ride you will need this tool to remove the damaged link and put the chain back together. If you are not sure how to use a chain tool there are several good videos on YouTube.com that can show you how they work (most of these tools work the same way).

CO² inflator Head on the Serfas ST-17i

CO² inflator Head on the Serfas ST-17i

The biggest selling point for the Serfas ST-17i is the CO² inflator head (Presta valve only) that is built into the mini-tool. It seems like nearly every time I get a flat tire it is during a rain storm (this past Saturday it was during a snow, sleet and slush storm). The small CO² inflator heads that most cyclists carry are easy to drop (especially when wet), but since the CO² inflator head is built into the body of the Serfas ST-17i it is very easy to handle and even easier to use.

There are two items lacking from this tool: a tire lever and a carrying case. You always need to have a pair of tire levers with you when riding, so make sure you pick up a set before you head out. The lack of a carrying case is no big deal since most of the ones that come with cycling multi-tools just take up space in your saddlebag anyway. However, loose items in a saddlebag will make enough noise to drive you crazy on a long ride. A great way to prevent the noise is to put loose items in a short length of on old inner tube and seal up one end with the glue from your tire patch kit. By the way, I also keep my spare CO² cartridges in shorts lengths of inner tubes as well.

The Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool retails for $45 and can be ordered from the Serfas Website or from almost any bike shop in America. If you like this tool but have no need of the chain break or Torx wrenches you should check out the Serfas ST-13i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool (it retails for $36). One step above the Serfas ST-13i is the Serfas ST-15i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool. The Serfas ST-15i comes with two tire levers and glueless patches (it retails for $40).

As some of my regular readers know, I seldom keep the products that are sent to me for review—most of the time I give the products to random visitors who comment on this blog. However, I’ve decided to hold a contest for this beautiful Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool. To enter the contest all you have to do is pick a number between 200 and 500 and enter it in the comment section below (you don’t actually have to make a comment). The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, January 11, 2013. After the contest closes I will use a random number generator to pick the winning number. If no one has the exact number the person with the number closest to, but not over, the winning number will get the Serfas ST-17i I reviewed today. In case two or more people chose the same number the first person to pick the number will be the winner. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. When the contest is over I will publish the results in the comments section of this article. I will mail this product to the winner via Priority Mail at my expense.

 
 

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Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool

In the past ten years I’ve probably bought over 20 different cycling-specific multi-tools. I have five bikes and carry a multi-tool in the seat bag of each one. It seems like every time I find a multi-tool with a new feature I have to buy it (I am an impulse buyer). There is one feature on the Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool that made me want it instantly, i.e., the pad spreader for disc brakes. If you have a mountain bike (or even a road bike) with hydraulic disc brakes you probably already know that if you accidentally squeeze the brake lever while changing a tire the brake pads will close and are nearly impossible to open again without a special tool. One time I made this mistake and had to use a knife to trim down a credit card to pry the pads open (then I had to order a replacement card once I got home).

Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool

Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool

Here is a breakdown of the hardened steel tools in the Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool: Allen Wrenches (2, 2-L, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10mm), two spoke wrenches (15 and 14g), chain tool, T25 Torx bit, chain pin breaker, bottle opener, pad spreader for disc brakes, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This multi-tool also has an anodized aluminum tire lever—please note that this particular lever is designed for emergency use only. And, like most of the other Topeak multi-tools, it comes with a Neoprene storage bag. This product weights 6.5 ounces (185 g).

A couple of notes about two of the tools: The chain tool in the Mini 18+ works well, but I would rather use a full size chain tool when possible—but certainly would never carry the big one with me due to the weight. The T25 Torx bit will easily adjust mechanical disc brakes—if you have disc brakes on your bike you really need to carry a T25 Torx bit with you.

The Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool retails for around $33 and is available at any well-stocked bike shop. This product comes with a 2-year warranty (see Topeak’s Website for complete details). You can find this tool at a lower price on Amazon.com, but do yourself a favor and support your local bike shop.

If the Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool does not suit your needs, Topeak has many other tools to choose from. Here are a few links to some of their other multi-tools I’ve reviewed: The Topeak Mini 9 Pro Multi-tool has all the Allen wrenches you will need for most modern road bikes (2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 mm), along with two tire levers. The Topeak Hexus II Multi-tool has 16 well designed hardened steel tools and it fits into an easy-to-hold composite body. The Topeak Alien II is the “mother of all multi-tools” and includes 26 tools, including eight Allen wrenches (2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8/10mm), box wrenches (two each of 8/9/10mm), a T25 Torx wrench, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, two spoke wrenches, two tire levers, mini pedal wrench, stainless steel knife, bottle opener, a cast Cromoly steel chain tool and a steel wire chain hook.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Bicycle Repair, Product Reviews

 

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Park Tool Tire and Tube Repair Kit (TR-1)

As anyone who has ever visited my garage will tell you that it looks like a Park Tool Co. display room. Nearly every bike tool I own is made by Park Tool and I believe they make the finest bike tools money can buy. However, even a great company can sometimes produce a product that just doesn’t perform as intended, and in my opinion the Park Tool Tire and Tube Repair Kit is one such under-performing product.

Park Tool Tire and Tube Repair Kit (TR-1)

Park Tool Tire and Tube Repair Kit

The Park Tool Tire and Tube Repair Kit (Item #TR-1) consists of three tire levers, six glueless patches and a small piece of sandpaper. The blue tire levers (Item #TL-1) are made of nylon and do not very comfortable in my hands, but the biggest problem is that when you try to take a tire off the rim with these levers it feels like they are made of sandpaper. Unlike many other tire levers, these levers do not glide over tire rims very well.

The tire patches in this kit are also marketed as the Park Tool Super Patch Kit (Item #GP-2). These self adhesive tube patches are easy to apply: just roughen the tube a bit with the included sandpaper, wipe off the dust, then apply the patch. I’ve used these patches several times while on the road and they have always gotten me home safely. However, these patches do not hold nearly as well as those that use a vulcanizing solvent. I need to make it clear: I carry (and use) these patches on all of my bikes, but every time I use one on the road I always replace it with a vulcanized patch as soon as I get home. For this use I prefer the Park Tool Vulcanizing Patch Kit (Item #VP-1).

The Park Tool Tire and Tube Repair Kit retails for under $6 and can be found at just about any bike shop in America. In case you are wondering, my favorite compact tire levers are the ones found in the Genuine Innovations Tire Repair Wallet (reviewed here last June).

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Bicycle Repair, Product Reviews

 

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Kool Stop High Performance Bicycle Brake Pads

Many years ago I drove by an automobile brake shop and noticed the slogan on their sign, “If you can’t stop, don’t start.” Well, the same thing is true for cyclists—it doesn’t matter how fast you can go on your bike, if your brakes are sluggish it could cost you your life. Earlier this year I rebuilt an old Trek 1200 road bike and customized it to handle foul weather (mainly rain). The finishing touch on this rebuild was the brake pads—and after a bit of research I chose Kool Stop Bicycle Brake Pads due to their superior stopping power in wet weather.

Kool Stop Bicycle Brake Pads

Kool Stop High Performance Bicycle Brake Pads

Kool Stop International, Inc., a company based in Oregon, has been making bicycle brake pads for over 30 years. They make a variety of brake pads, but my Trek 1200 uses their Dura Road Pad set (Dura-Ace/Ultegra), so that is what I have used. The Dura Road Pad (like their Campi Pad) is a dual compound insert that fits inside an aluminum holder. This holder has a “dual pivot adjustment” (a conical washer) and is very easy to adjust.

Kool Stop Wet Weather Bicycle Brake Pads

Kool Stop Brake Pads

Kool Stop manufactures several different compounds for use in their brakes—some compounds are best for dry weather cycling and others are very aggressive for use in wet weather. As the name implies, the “dual compound” brake pads are a combination of two compounds—it uses a black compound usually found in their dry weather pads along with their aggressive salmon colored pad that offer superior stopping power in wet weather. Kool Stop ships these brakes with the dual compound pads preinstalled, but they also include an extra pair of salmon colored pads (for really nasty weather).

Even though the Chicago area has had a drought this summer, I have been able to ride a few hundred miles in the rain (mainly in the spring) with these brake pads and they work as advertised. While the brake pads I took off the old Trek 1200 were pretty worn, the Kool Stop brake pads allow me to stop in about half the distance as before.

If you have never replaced a pair of brake pads on your bike before you might wonder how difficult a job it is. There is no reason to have the local bike shop put these pads on for you—a total amateur can put on a set of these brake pads in under 15 minutes, and the second set will probably go on in 10 minutes.

Kool Stop Bicycle Brake Pads with X Pad (Dura-Ace/Ultegra) retail for $23 a pair and you should be able to find them at your local bike shop. These brake pads are nearly twice the price of other brake pads, but they are worth it (if you value your life).

 

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Microflex Diamond Grip Powder-Free Gloves

I enjoy working on my bikes, but I hate it when my hands look like I repair diesel engines for a living (no offense to anyone who repairs diesel engines). Bicycle repair usually involves grease and even the best of cleaning products won’t get all the grease and oil out from under your fingernails. Therefore, when I have a messy job planned on one of my bikes I always wear Microflex Diamond Grip Powder-Free Gloves (and since I am writing about latex gloves I will pause for a moment to let all the men make some juvenile comment about them before I continue).

Microflex Latex Diamond Grip Powder-Free Gloves

Microflex Diamond Grip Powder-Free Gloves

Microflex Diamond Grip Powder-Free Gloves are both thicker and more durable than standard latex gloves, and they are even thicker in the fingertips to prevent ripping and tearing. Microflex markets these gloves for use in “mid to heavy-duty environments,” and in my experience they are perfect for bicycle repair. They are also recommended for automotive repair, EMS and healthcare services, laboratory and law enforcement use.

One of the nicest things about these gloves is the texture pattern on the fingertips—it provides fantastic grip even when the glove is wet or greasy. You might think the only reason to wear these gloves is to keep your hands clean, but the added grip they offer during use is another great reason to use them.

These gloves are available in six sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL) and the interior is both powder-free and chlorinated. A box of 100 Microflex Diamond Grip Powder-Free Gloves retails for $17, but I doubt if you ever see them for sale at your local bike shop. The best place I’ve found to purchase them is from Amazon.com where they sell for under $12 a box (and they offer free shipping on orders of $25 or more).

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Bicycle Repair, Product Reviews

 

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Lizard Skins Clear Adhesive Frame Patches

If you are one of those cyclists who doesn’t mind if your bike looks like it was just salvaged from the junkyard then this review is not for you. However, if you take pride in your bike and want to protect it then you need to check out the Lizard Skins Clear Adhesive Frame Patches.

Lizard Skins Clear Adhesive Frame Patches

Lizard Skins Clear Adhesive Frame Patches On The Headtube

Lizard Skins Frame Patches are small strips of clear polyurethane with an adhesive backing—they are designed to attach to your bike frame to protect it from having your brake and derailleur cables rub the paint off. These patches are small (1.5×1″) and easily stick to your bike frame (just clean the area with the supplied alcohol wipe before application).

Who needs these patches? First, anyone with a carbon fiber bike. The brake and derailleur cables on my carbon fiber Trek Madone actually scraped the clear coat and paint off the frame and left it exposed—not a good situation. Second, anyone whose bike frame has a powder coating. I love my Surly Necromancer Pugsley, but its powder coated frame picks up scratches on a windy day and the area under the cables had the paint removed in under 500 miles of use! Actually, everyone needs these patches since your cables will eventually damage the paint on any bike (it is just a matter of time).

Lizard Skins Clear Adhesive Frame Patches

Lizard Skins Clear Adhesive Frame Patches On The Toptube

These patches are nearly invisible once they are on your bike frame. However, to show you what they looked like I shot these photos in camera RAW (DNG) and played around with the highlights and shadows to make them show up better. Once these patches are under your cables they are very difficult to see.

Lizard Skins Clear Adhesive Frame Patches retail for under $7.00 for a package of six. Lizard Skins also has a black “Carbon Leather Patch” that blends in well with black carbon fiber. Your local bike shop probably has these patches in stock, but if they don’t they can easily order them for you. The folks at Lizard Skins not only offer great products to protect your bike, but they also have cycling body armor to protect your knees and elbows (I am going to buy a set before winter comes and review them for you—they ought to be great for cycling on the ice).

 
 

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