Jim Langley|Bicycle Aficionado Web



Every day I receive emails from cyclists seeking bicycle help, for repairs and lots of other interesting bicycling questions. I post the ones I think are useful and interesting here with my replies. Have a question? Email Jim Langley.

Could you please explain what are the reach and drop measurements quoted in the road handlebar specs (from which to which point is each of the measurements taken). Are there ways to make adjustments with other parts once one of these parameters are not the correct ones one would need?

Here's a little graphic that should explain. Note that you can rotate the handlebars in the stem and you can raise the stem usually, or lower it, however, the actual width, reach and drop of the handlebar doesn't change. So, you should try to find bars that fit and feel the way you like them to.

Which reach and drop you prefer depends on your hand size, arm length and riding style. If you like what you're riding now, simply match it as closely as possible. In general, deeper drops and longer reaches are appropriate for riders with long arms and large hands, while narrow drops and short reaches fit smaller riders. Handlebar width is related to shoulder width. Riders usually prefer a handlebar width equal to the measurement between their shoulder blades, or slightly wider if they climb a lot or ride fast and hard.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I have a slow leak in my front bicycle tire. I read your comments about slow leaks and it appears that mine is a leak at the valve. It is a Schrader valve and to tighten the valve core, as you suggested, I need a valve tool. My question is if an automobile valve tool will do this job? I can buy an automobile valve tool from eBay for about $5 but am not sure if for bicycles I would need a different valve tool or not. If a different one is needed, where from will I be able to purchase one?

Yes, an automobile tool will work on bicycle Schrader valves because they are identical to car valves. But, if you preferred you might be able to get one for nearly free from your local bicycle shop (or even a car repair place). If they've been in business a while and save things they might have a nice little bin of valve caps and in there they might have an old valve cap with a built-in valve core tightener on top. These used to be common and an established shop would probably have some of these kicking around and be happy to give you one for a dollar, or maybe even free.

If the valve still leaks after you snug it with this tool, remove the valve core completely, put a few drops of oil on it and put it back in. That will usually fix slow leaks at the valve once and for all.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

Can you recommend a good tool kit to carry along on rides and maybe a small book that explains how to use it for repairs that would fit in the seat bag, too? What are the essential things I should carry?

A book you might like is The Bike Bag Book by my late friend Tom Cuthbertson. It's a little old now, but it should still contain most of the basic info you're looking for. I checked Amazon and found there are used copies available.

Of course, you could also read or print out and read later the many basic repair how-tos I have in my repair section of my website, too. Be sure to watch my videos on installing and removing tires because that's the most common repair.

For tools, you should put together the following items and carry them in your pack. With these and a little ingenuity and practice, you can fix just about anything:
-a take along pump (be sure that it's set to fit your valves; read the directions because each is different)
-tire levers (for removing the tire if you can't do it by hand)
-spare tube (make sure you have the right valve type and that if it's a Presta valve it's as long as your old one)
-patch kit (just in case you get another flat)
-tire boot (a 1 x 1-inch piece of canvas or denim, etc. used inside the tire if you get a bad glass cut)
-a mini-tool that includes a chain tool, 3, 4, 5, 6mm Allens and a screwdriver as a minimum (there are mini tools that have a lot more tools and you might like to have a knife, an 8mm allen, etc. depending on the exact parts on you bike)
-I like to carry a repair link to fix a chain if it breaks; it's pretty rare but sure makes things easy if it happens. A repair link is a master link for chains. A bike shop should be able to set you up with one. They'll need to know whether you have a 7, 8, 9 or 10sp chain on your bike and then they can sell you a link for your repair kit. If you break a chain, you'll just remove the bad part(s) with your chain tool and then insert the repair link and snap it together and be ready to ride again. If the shop doesn't know what you're talking about, tell them you want a Wipperman Connex link; that's just one example.
-a spoke wrench that fits your spoke nipples
-you might also want to carry a small rag and some waterless hand cleaner in a 35mm film container (wrap a little duct tape around the film canister; it might come in handy)

This should get you started and you can customize your kit to your heart's delight to get it small, light and efficient. What I like best is helping other people when they're broken down next to the road. I find that I use my kit more for them than I ever do for me, and they're sure happy when some stranger comes along, stops, and gets them out of trouble.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I have been checking your website when I make adjustments. However, I do want a good repair manual to refer to also. Can you recommend one?

Well, I'm still partial to the one I helped write. It was recently updated, too. It's called Bicycling Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair, and it's a comprehensive manual for road, mountain and most other bikes, too, which is why I like it. (By the way, I don't make any money off the sale of the book.) I also like Lennard Zinn's books, Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance and Mountain Bike Maintenance. You can probably find used copies of all these books in book stores and online.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I recently purchased a new bicycle over the internet. When inspecting the bike, I noticed that the non-drive crankarm runs about 1/8" closer to the seat tube and chainstays than the drive side crankarm. The vendor involved doesn't feel this is an issue, but I am looking for a second opinion. It is a carbon fiber framed bike with a Shimano Ultegra crankset. Not cheap. What do you think?

There's no way to be 100% certain without checking the actual frame alignment, however, it's not unusual to find one crankarm a little closer to a chainstay on one side than on the other. You set up the crankset according to the width of the bottom bracket and spacing can vary depending on the frame design, size of chainstays, exact shape, etc. The most important thing is to get the chainline correct (an imaginary line should bisect the chainrings and middle of the cassette) so that the shifting is perfect. You don't worry where the crankarms are in relation to the frame other than to make sure they don't hit (super rare but not unheard of).

As far as alignment goes, if you wanted to be completely satisfied that it's spot on, you would remove the bottom bracket and place a straightedge so that its edge touches both sides of the face of the BB. Then, you'd rotate it and measure two points, one right near the BB and the other near the seat lug. Then, you'd do the same but near the BB and near the head tube... so you're measuring how the BB is aligned with the two main frame tubes the seat tube and the down tube. If it's right on, the numbers for each tube should match top and bottom.

Having said this, these measurements assume that the frame tubes are parallel and not all carbon frames will be. Some will have varying tube shapes making the measurement taking more difficult. Summing up, unless the chainline is off or your bike rides funny, I suspect it's fine and nothing to worry about.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I am trying to repair a hole in my tube. I could buy some patches and rubber cement to fix this. I thought I could cut a piece from an old tube and make my own patch. I am not cheap as to paying for a patch. I have so many old tubes. This did not work for me. Why? Tube patches are just pieces of inner tubes, aren't they? Is there a difference?

You're working on a black tube, right? That's a butyl tube. Bicycle patches have chemicals on them that cause the patch to react with the rubber cement and cause the patch to actually melt into the tube, a process called vulcanization. In the old days we did this with hot patches, which you actually burned into the tube to attach the patch.

You could try roughing up the piece of tube you're using as a patch really good. Then dust off all the dust from the sanding. Then coat the patch with the rubber cement. Then rough up the tube at the hole in it. Now coat the tube with rubber cement using an amount a little larger than the size of your patch. Next wait at least 15 minutes. Make sure the glue is completely dry on the patch and on the tube. Next, put the patch over the hole and then take a little roller and roll over the patch with the tube on your workbench so you really press it down. It's VERY important to wait for the glue to dry on both pieces BEFORE you put the patch on. If you're really lucky, maybe that'll work, but a proper patch will work best because of the chemicals they put on it that melt it onto the tube.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I would like to know bicycles have the chain on the right side.

Here is author Frank Berto's answer. Frank wrote The Dancing Chain, a wonderful book about bicycle drivetrains so he's an expert on this subject: "The drive train is on the right side because cyclists mount from the left side and they don't want to get their legs dirty from the oily chain. Riders mount from the left side because that's how they mounted high bicycles and the mounting step was on the left side. They mounted high bicycles from the left side because that is how they mounted horses. They mounted horses from the left side because cavalrymen carried their swords on the left side because they were right-handed."
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

When trying to remove the right crankarm and chainrings from my Specialized Allez (Shimano RSX group) the crank puller tool came straight out with a bunch of aluminum hanging off (what's left of the threads inside the crank arm). I decided immediately that I didn't really need to lube the bottom bracket. But sooner or later I'll want to take it off. Any suggestions?

All you have to do is loosen the bolt a lot (don't remove it) and then ride around the neighborhood (don't go any further than you can walk home) until the arm comes loose. It'll only take a little while. Just be careful. You don't want to pedal with any force once the arm is loose or you can damage the soft aluminum of the arm against the hard steel of the bottom bracket axle. You could just keep using the crankarm if you don't mind this method of removal when it's time to service the bottom bracket again.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I just read your interesting tip about pedaling technique, and I want to be sure I understand the way it is done. It says that when the pedals reach 3 o'clock to pull back with a swiping motion as if you are wiping mud off. Does this mean that your foot does not actually follow the pedal around the entire circumference but, instead leaves it at the 3 o'clock position and swipes backwards to meet it coming back up on the 9 o'clock position? This is very interesting and I want to try it but I want to make sure I understand its proper execution.

From what you wrote I think you might be riding a bike with flat pedals without toe clips. If that's right, you can't use that pedaling tip on your particular bike. It's for riding with toe clips and straps or clipless pedals on which your feet are essentially attached to the pedals. On these, it helps a lot to learn how to pedal complete circles by pulling back the way I describe in that tip. This is an important technique for when you start riding farther and faster and ride with toe clips or clipless pedals. But, it's totally unnecessary if you're riding on flat/platform pedals and it would be difficult to do because your feet may slip off the pedals if you pull back and push forward, which is dangerous.

Of course, you can add toe clips to any bicycle if you want to increase your pedal power. Depending on what type of pedals you use, however, you might need to put on new ones designed to accept toe clips and straps if that's what you decide to do. You should also practice a lot before actually riding with toe clips and straps so that you can get in and out easily and don't have an accident. A lot of people crash because they start using them without practicing and then find that they forget how to get out when they do to stop. But, if you practice getting in and out while standing on your lawn, you can train your feet and brain to do the right thing and you'll be okay using them.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

A couple of weeks ago I was riding along on my rollers and it seemed that my crank seized. Upon taking my 2004 Cannondale R600 to the bike shop it appeared that my bottom bracket had started to back out which they supposedly fixed by retightening. However, last night again riding along on my rollers, it appears that the bottom bracket is again backing out. What could be the problem? Do I need to take my bike to another bike shop for a more thorough check-up? My fear is the original assembler did something to damage the threads, which is causing the problem. Or worse yet a crack on the frame.

Since your bike is only a couple of years old, it probably has a sealed cartridge type bottom bracket. These are typically installed at the factory and then hold up fine without much follow-up service. Since yours loosened up and the shop tightened it and it loosened up again, it wouldn't hurt to remove the crankarms to check the cups and threads out to see if anything's wrong. This is an easy job that should only take 15 minutes or so if you have the right tools. I doubt anything is wrong with the threads as that's pretty rare, but it won't hurt to check. And then, you, or the shop can reinstall everything carefully. However, since it has loosened twice, I would go for a little insurance and apply some #242 (blue) locktite to the threads. Car parts shops and hardware stores usually have this. That will secure the cups in place and they should not move again until you need them to when it's time to replace the bottom bracket.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I've got a problem that's got me baffled. I have a Bianchi Eros with Campy Mirage shifters. I needed to raise the handlebars. So, then I needed to replace the front brake cable to accommodate the new height. Well, none of my spare cables would fit in the lever. The barrel head is too big, (this is my first Campy, after 40 years of Shimano, Huret, and Simplex). I went to my local bike shop and showed him the Campy cable and he sold me one that he said would work. Well, it's the same problem, the head is too big. I've surfed the web looking to see if anyone else had this problem or if Campy had Campy-only parts (kinda like the old Schwinn 26 tires would fit only fit Schwinn). But no luck. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Are you sure you're inserting it the right way, or that the female end hasn't moved out of alignment making it seem impossible to insert the cable when it's more an alignment problem? Have you compared the original with the replacement? Obviously, if the one you took out matches the one you're putting in, the new one should fit. Is there any way the cable holder could have gotten bent or compressed? You could compare it to the other lever to see. If it's crunched, slipping a screwdriver in there and gently twisting should make it stretch back to its original condition. Have you looked carefully with a flashlight/bright light to make sure nothing else has gotten in there that might be blocking the cable from seating?

Lastly, how much oversize is it? If it's only slightly oversize, you could sand or file it smaller to fit. I've done this many times in the past when certain cables didn't fit certain levers. You only need to remove a small amount usually around the end and it's made of lead or pot metal so it sands easily. This will not damage the cable in any way as long as you remove material only from the end (and not damage the cable).
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I have encountered a little problem, and I thought that you might lend some of your insight to it's solution.

I recently replaced the freewheel and chain on a 20+ year-old Panasonic road bike (12 speed.) I also replaced the bearings in the rear hub (Shimano). The problem is, that when I install the freewheel on the hub, it tightens the bearing adjustment.

I replaced the old Shimano freewheel with one made by SunRace that has the same number of sprockets. I thought that the depth of the tread on the new freewheel might be the problem, but it is only slightly different (and the same problem occurs if I reinstall the old freewheel). The adjustment gets very tight if I hand tighten the freewheel, and freezes up if I put a wrench on it. Can I run it safely without tightening the freewheel?

Something's not right. The freewheel shouldn't be able to affect the hub bearing adjustment in any way. It's a separate part and the hub threads are separate from the bearings.

Did you replace any parts when you replaced the bearing in the hub? For example, if you put in a new axle set, that might be the problem. I ask because I can understand how a new freewheel might contact the old axle, however, the old freewheel should not have any clearance problems because it's what came on the bike.

Without looking at it my best guess is that there's something wrong with either the axle or the order of parts on the axle or hub. They must not contact the freewheel or else as you screw it on it can put pressure on the axle and also the bearings. You can check for this visually and also by turning the axle in your fingers as you install the freewheel to feel if anything's rubbing. Nothing should be. If it is, you'll want to replace the problem part or file it down so there's clearance.

Or, it might be that you have a part in the wrong place, for example, a locknut that should be the final piece, inside where it shouldn't be, and where it can bump into the freewheel. Or a dustcap that's out of position.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

My bike gears will not change up. The highest they will go is gear three, which is a problem. Someone suggested cleaning and oiling the cables. I have done that but the gears still won't work. Do you have any suggestions on what I could do?

Usually, if the bike shifted fine and then you ride it one day and it won't shift, it means that the bike fell over or someone knocked it over and the rear derailleur got bent.

When this happens the derailleur gets bent in toward the spokes and this means that when you shift into the harder-to-pedal cogs (smaller cogs on the rear wheel), the derailleur can only shift part way. It can't shift onto the smallest or maybe the 2 smallest cogs because it's bent and it can't move as far as it used to to the outside.

You can tell if this is the problem by standing behind your bike and looking at the rear derailleur from behind to see if an imaginary line that passed through the cog could also pass through both derailleur pulleys. If the derailleur is bent in, that imaginary line won't do that because the pulleys will be at an angle.

Now, if you meant that the derailleur won't shift onto the easier-to-pedal gears, the problem is usually slack in the derailleur cable. To check for this, shift onto the smallest rear cog. Then try moving the shift lever and watch the rear derailleur. The derailleur should move the instant you move the lever. If there's hesitation, that means there's slack in the cable that could be preventing the lever from moving the derailleur far enough to shift all the way up the cogs. To fix this, there's usually a barrel adjuster, a little knurled barrel on the back of the derailleur. Just follow the cable and you'll see where this is. If you turn this counterclockwise until all slack is removed when the chain is on the smallest cog and the lever is in its starting position, it should shift correctly again.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

How do you measure the spacing on a hub?
I want to convert my single speed to a fixie. It's a Maruishi RX-5 road bike with 700 wheels. I couldn't tell you what year. There are so many hubs to choose from. I thought a hub is a hub is a hub. 120, 130, 136mm? I am a soldier stationed in Iraq so I can't just go to a local bike shop and ask for advice.

That measurement is the distance from locknut to locknut on the axle. The locknuts are the last nuts on the axle on either end. This measurement should match the frame spacing on the bike, which is the distance between the inside faces of the rear dropouts. If the hub spacing is wider than the frame spacing it makes it difficult to put the wheel in and take it out. You can change the spacing on the hub by adding and removing spacers. To change the frame requires bending the frame, so it's easier to match the wheel to the frame than to try to match the frame to the wheel (though this can be done, too, as long as you have a frame that can be bent; carbon doesn't bend).

FYI: 120mm spacing was used on bikes with 5-speed freewheels. Then we went to 6-sp and 7-sp and the spacing went to 127mm. Then we went to 8-sp and the spacing went to 130mm and stayed there when we went to 9-sp and 10-sp. Mountain bikes have been at 135mm for a long time. The wider spacing helps strengthen the wheel, which is helpful for mountain bike use and abuse.

For a fixie, you should be able to go with whatever spacing works to get the cog in the right place and the chainline aligned correctly. I would go with whatever the frame is and just change the spacing on the hub to match your frame.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I have a 9 speed Shimano XTR RD-M953 rear derailleur that the 11-tooth upper jockey wheel is missing a tooth. I also have a 9 speed Shimano 105 RD-5500 that I no longer use, which has an 11-tooth upper jockey wheel. Can I use the upper jockey wheel from the 105 derailleur to fix the XTR derailleur? The XTR derailleur is shifting fine with the missing tooth, but I would like to have it complete if possible. Please let me know if I can do this or if I should worry about this. Thanks in advance.

I haven't tried this, but I bet the 105 pulley will fit on the XTR derailleur, though you may need to use the XTR bolt or some combination of parts from the 2 different pulleys.

The XTR pulley is a different model number than the 105 pulley so they're not the same. The XTR has sealed bearings, too, so it's designed to last longer and turn more smoothly. Since it's only missing one tooth and still working fine, if it were mine, I'd just keep using it and only replace it if it started causing problems, but one missing tooth should not cause any significant problems.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I put a new 9-speed freewheel on my bike and am about to put on a new chain. A friend told me how to determine the length of the chain but I think there was a language problem there. Can you tell me how long the chain should be? He said something about 2 links longer than the length around the two largest rings but I didn't catch it all.

There are different ways to size a chain. The easy way is to count the number of links on the chain that was on the bike before (assuming it worked right) and make sure that the new chain has exactly the same number of links as the old one. That's a surefire way to get the length right.

Or, if you don't have the chain, you can use the approach your friend recommended, which is to make the chain long enough that it fits around the largest chainring (front) and around the largest cassette cog (rear) plus a little extra, which is the 2 links he was talking about. In other words, it shouldn't be too tight when it's on the large/large combination. It needs to be able to shift onto this combination, even though you wouldn't ride in this gear due to the extreme chain angle.

Another way to get the length right is the "Shimano" method, which is to shift onto the largest chainring and onto the smallest cog. The chain length is correct when an imaginary line bisecting the two rear derailleur pulleys forms a 90-degree angle with the ground when the chain is in this gear combination.

You know the chain is too long if you end up with slack in it when you're on the small chainring/small cog combination. And you know it's too tight if you can't shift onto the big/big combo.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I have been riding a road bike for the last 5 months and bought a new bike 4 months ago. I'm averaging from 50 to 120 km per week depending on the time I have available. My chain broke last weekend and I survived the fall and had no major injuries. I noticed it was skipping occasionally while I was riding that morning and as I started a steeper climb, it went on me.

I took the chain & bike to the bike shop and unfortunately the person who served me originally is away on a 4 week holiday and the bike technician who assisted me gave various reasons for the break which I wasn't entirely convinced about. The bike was sold with full Ultegra 10-speed components and it was supposed to have an Ultegra chain. I would have thought that the chain would have lasted much longer than expected.

Indeed the chain length was checked and it had stretched a little as would be expected. Furthermore the bike technician tried to put detachable chain link onto the chain but it never fitted smoothly. He tried 2 but both didn't fit smoothly. In the end he decided to remove 2 links of the chain and connected the chain with a pin. Since then the skipping has resolved but the shifting has been much rougher especially in the front derailleur.

What do you think I should do? Get a new chain and bear the cost, check if the existing chain is genuine Ultegra, demand a new chain from the bike store, some other options you may have?

It's hard for me to know exactly how it broke without examining it carefully, but on a bike that's only 4-months old, it's unlikely it broke from use. The thing that usually causes chains to break on relatively new bikes is a defective pin installation at the factory. They press the final pin in to join the chain when they assemble the bike but they don't seat it carefully enough. As you ride, the pin starts to shift and that's what will cause some skipping because it's protruding slightly and the sideplate is starting to come loose. Then, one day, the pin moves just far enough and the link breaks at that point.

When I worked in shops, I always looked for this and treated it as a defective chain and I would replace the chain and send the broken chain back to the factory and they would give me my money back. After all, the bike is only 4 months old and most new bikes carry a 1-year guarantee on part failures due to defects in materials and workmanship, which I think your failure is.

Now, I'm in the USA and I don't know how they handle things with bikes in Australia, but I would expect it to be somewhat similar. Actually, my friend Lawry Cranley used to own a shop in Brisbane, Australia, but I was never lucky enough to visit.

Maybe if you can talk to the person who sold you the bike, you can arrive at a better resolution. Your bike should shift and pedal as smoothly as the day you bought it if they fixed it carefully and correctly. And, you don't want to risk having the chain break again because it can cause an accident and injury quite easily. The fact that you said that they couldn't get the detachable repair link to work correctly worries me. You shouldn't be riding on anything that the mechanic isn't confident in.

If you feel uncomfortable dealing with the shop an alternative approach is to replace the chain with a new one and install it very carefully and properly by following the instructions. If you make sure the cassette and chainrings are nice and clean, and you're sure the derailleurs are adjusted properly, the new chain should run nice and smoothly.

There's always the possibility that the broken chain might have slightly bent the derailleur(s) when it broke, too. If so, they should be checked for alignment and adjustment to ensure that they aren't causing any roughness in the drivetrain.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I'm taking up cycling again having been a great cyclist in my teenage years (61 now) and your website is incredible and has given me even greater stimulation to get pedaling. I live in a small village in England - Great Missenden - and being in the middle of the countryside, needed a helping hand to get my bike in order, and by the wonders of technology I've got you - thanks so much.

I'm still with an old'ish bike - Emmelle mountain bike - and it has not got quick release hubs - my only (silly) struggle is to make sure I don't tighten the cones when tightening the wheel , my hands are a little clumsier as I am getting older so are there any tricks to ensure you have the cone adjustments just right and not too slack nor tight? Best wishes from England,

Yes, there is a trick to tightening the wheels that will prevent disturbing the cone adjustment (wheel bearings).
First, be sure that the cones and locknuts are securely tightened against each other. If they were only snug and not tight, they can easily loosen from installing and removing the wheel. To do this, hold the cone with the cone wrench and tighten the locknut with any wrench that fits. Push the wrenches toward each other and make sure the parts are really locked against each other so the adjustment can't change.

The correct bearing adjustment will allow the axle to turn smoothly in your fingers and there will be no play in the bearing when you push and pull on the axle.

Next, when you install the wheel be very careful how you tighten it. Front wheels will find center from the weight of the bike (assuming you're working with the bike standing on the floor). On rear wheels, you'll want to use your hands to hold the wheel centered. Then just snug one axle nut. Then snug the other. Check the wheel to make sure it's centered in the frame/fork. If it is, go back and tighten the right night a little bit, then the left and repeat until both nuts are good and tight. That will prevent any loosening of the cones.

However, what a lot of people don't realize is that you need to do the same thing when removing the wheel, too. Start on one side and just slightly loosen the nut. Then try to loosen the other nut. If the other nut resists, don't force it! You'll loosen the cone if you do. Instead, go back and snug the first nut again and then return to the resisting nut and try again to loosen it. Keep at it like this until you have them both slightly looser and when they're like that, you can unscrew them completely and remove the wheel.

I hope these tips help you out and help you enjoy riding again. I've ridden in England a little bit and loved it there
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado


Today I just got a nice used Bianchi road bike. It all looks good except one thing... the danged seatpost is dug in deeper than an Alabama tick. I can't turn or twist it up for anything. I would be grateful if you can offer any non-invasive suggestions. Because if I can't do anything about it, it's a moot point.

Do you have a good bench vise, one firmly mounted to a workbench? And, maybe, if you're lucky, the workbench is mounted to the wall? If not, you can get a decent vise pretty cheap at Costco or any big department store and then mount it to something super sturdy and you'll be off to the races.

Or, maybe you know someone at a car-repair place where you can take your bike? They usually have solid vises.

First, loosen the seatpost binder bolt and apply liquid wrench to the seatpost right where it enters the frame. Tap the post to vibrate the liquid down inside. Do this every day for about 2 weeks. Then head down to the car shop or wherever the vise is.

Carefully hold the bike upside-down and tighten the vise on the flat portion of the seatpost (remove any parts first). I'm assuming here that you have a quality seatpost in the Bianchi as they usually come with good posts.

With the seatpost clamped like this in the vise, gently rock the frame/bike left and right using the weight of the bike to gently twist the bike, sort of like rocking a car to get it to budge when it's stuck in snow. If you're lucky, after a bit of rocking you'll hear a loud pop, which is the galvanic corrosion breaking free, and out the seatpost will come with a bit of twisting and bike lifting. Be careful not to slip and bang the frame against the vise. It's much tougher than the frame.

If the seatpost doesn't break free, repeat the liquid-wrench treatment even longer and try again. You can also try heating the seatpost with a propane torch but be careful not to torch the frame's paint job. You can wrap wet towels around it to keep the paint from getting baked. Also, watch out for the liquid wrench fumes. They may be toxic, I don't know. Probably it's best to work outside and not breathe them.

One of these approaches, the liquid wrench and vise or the heat and vise, always works for me. And resist the urge to simply lock the thing in the vise and reef on it. You'll likely break the post off and then have to saw/file it out piece by piece, which is a royal pain.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado


I just acquired a Peugeot 10 bike, not complete. I found a serial number on the rear dropout of Y002-01022. The bottom bracket has a set of numbers as well 5331055 and UO10m 80. Can you tell me how to identify what this bike is? Was there a model UO10? Mafac rims, Peugeot 103 tubing, Nervar crank. Not a PX 10 but a nice enough lightweight. I have found some information for restoration. Is there someone you recommend for parts?

I'm not sure what that model is, but they produced many different bikes both for the European and the American market so it's hard to keep track. They did have a UO8 and a AO8, but I have never heard of a UO10. Still, that doesn't mean they didn't have one.

For researching further and for finding parts, I recommend joining the Classic Rendezvous email list. It's free and you'll be able to converse with a worldwide group of people who love vintage 10-speeds. If you were to post a question about your bike and, best, post a photo, too, I bet you'd find someone who could tell you what you have and help you find the parts you need.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado


I’m becoming more and more involved in maintaining my own bikes as I have become an avid rider over the last year. Now I am ready to begin building my own collection of tools and I can’t help but notice that bicycle tools are very expensive. Do you have any suggestions in finding tools that are used or at least not quite so expensive? I am really interested in getting a good repair stand that will not break the bank.

You can find bicycle tools on eBay and at bicycle swap meets, such as VeloSwap. Luckily, you only need a few special tools to handle most bicycle jobs. You might also try as another source for tools (parts, too).

I recommend only buying the special tools when you absolutely need them and because you plan to do that job again. If not, it’s often cheaper to pay the shop to do the disassembly you need so you don’t need to buy the tool. Friends might have the tools you can borrow. Or, if you’re good friends with someone who also wants to maintain his/her bike, you might consider going in together to buy the special tools and then sharing them. Then they’ll only cost you half the price.

As far as repair stands go, if you already have one, you can use a bumper-style car bike rack for a stand. And, you can simply attach 2 2 x 4s to studs in a wall so that they protrude arm-like just the right width apart to fit beneath your top tube. You can rest the bike on the arms and it’ll make a nice repair stand. You just have to make sure the arms are long enough for pedal clearance so you can pedal without hitting the wall. Also, make sure it’s the right height for you. I worked on repair stands made like this one summer and they worked really nicely and they cost next to nothing to construct. If you build this type, be sure to nail a flat board on top of the arms as a small tool and lube rest. Also, cut notches in the ends of the arms and line the notches with old inner tubes. Your top tube won’t slide if it’s held in a rubber-lined notches like this.

Lastly, special bike tools usually last forever (some of mine are over 30 years old) so over the long haul you always get your money’s worth.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado


I am converting an older road bike to fixed-gear and it has 27" wheels. Is it possible for me to buy a new wheelset in the more popular (and more available) 700c size? Some people say no since the frame was designed for 27", while others say the two are almost indistinguishable. I would be most grateful for your quick thoughts.

The only reason changing from 27s to 700s would present a problem in most cases is if your brake pads didn’t reach the slightly lower rims. So, if you’re using brakes on your fixie, you’ll want to make sure the brakes can be adjusted so the pads strike the rims. Usually, you can find a way to make them reach, such as by filing the brake arm slots to get the pads to move lower.

The other thing to consider is bottom bracket height. Since on a fixed gear you pretty much have to pedal all the time, if the bottom bracket drops too much you increase the chances of hitting the pedals. But, in most cases the small difference isn’t that big a deal. It really depends on the bike.

What I would recommend is borrowing some 700c wheels from a friend so that you can test the brakes and also the BB height. If all works AOK, go for it. If not, stick with the 27s.

Also, it shouldn’t be too hard to get 27-inch tires even though 700s have become the norm. I just did a quick check on Wheel & Sprocket’s website (I think they’re somewhere near you) and you can order them from them from a variety of makers at not too high prices (one of the advantages of sticking with 27s).

The other thing about 27s is that they’re usually sold by dept stores and hardware stores, which means that in a pinch you can get tires because they’re available almost everywhere in stores that keep late hours like K-Mart or even many grocery stores. They’re not always the highest quality but they’re usually relatively cheap, sometimes surprisingly so.

Hope this helps & have fun on your fixie!
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado

I ride a 2004 Specialized Allez Comp that comes equipped with a Shimano Ultegra group set. I wash the bike after every 6 or 7 rides (my rides vary between 12 to 20 miles each), although not as exhaustively as your web site suggests – I don’t have a stand (yet), and I do the best I can with Simple Green and detergent. I have put about 2300 miles on the bike, and for the past month, I have been experiencing some shifting issues with my rear derailleur. When I shift down from the 3rdth largest cog to the 4th, the I get some clicking noise from the rear indicating that the shift has not completed properly.

I end up either having to shift down again and then up (which seems to work fine), or shifting up and shifting down again – sometimes works. Shifting up does not seem to be an issue, only shifting down. I sometimes get the same symptoms shifting from the 4th to the 5th cog as well, but not as often. I also have been hearing some very light noise from the drive train. I have been paying particular attention to ensure that my chain is well lubed, although cleaning it has been tough – I still have some black residue on the chain rings after just a couple of rides. I have been using Prolink to lube my chain. Please let me know if you have any suggestions regarding the shifting problem – are the cogs actually wearing out? – they seem to look fine. Does the lube have anything to do with the issue? Also, is it possible that I haven’t got the chain clean enough? Any guidance will be much appreciated.

I have 2 things to try. The first one is simple. Since you are carefully washing your bike, there's a chance that you've washed any lube off the cables where they pass beneath the bottom bracket (I'm not positive yours pass beneath the BB, but usually shift cables do these days). If they do run under there, you should try turning the bike upside-down and applying some lube to the plastic troughs that the cables pass through beneath the BB. Make sure the oil gets under the cables. When the cables get dry here, that can cause shifting hesitation so this might fix your problem while also making your bike shift more smoothly one every shift.

The other possibility is that your chain is wearing out. This will allow too much sideways play and cause the chain not to shift like it did when it was new. You can check your chain by measuring it. On a good one you can measure exactly 12 inches between 2 pins. If you try to measure 12 inches and get 12 1/8 inches or more, you know the chain is shot and it's time for a new one. If you replace the chain, you'll probably need to replace your cassette, too, because they wear at the same rate.
Jim Langley | Bicycle Aficionado


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