Category Archives: Bicycle Parts


Lacey’s Panasonic DX-5000 is such a wicked bicycle, but the 42 tooth small chainring isn’t terribly forgiving on the hills.  She is plenty fast, and faster of late even, but why pretend to be a 1990s racer as a recreational rider in 2012?  I ordered new Sugino rings for the Shimano 600 cranks (130 bolt circle diameter) in 38 teeth and 48 teeth (to replace the 42 and 52 biopace jobbies that were on there).  I figured if they made a 38 tooth ring, it would fit.  I was wrong.  The 38 is so small that the crank spider arms rose above the valleys between the teeth.  Here is a look at the problem.  The arm is between the two rings in the picture below.  See it ooching above the valleys?

The chain wouldn’t fully seat when it came into contact with the arms.  See the space between the chain and the ring (just above and to the left of the open bolt hole)?  

Might work, but it made slight clicking noises with each contact and the chain and rings could wear unevenly.  I couldn’t find advice on the web and didn’t want to order a larger ring, so I clamped the crank arm in the bench vise and filed away the ends of the crank arms.  I didn’t have to remove much material to get the result I wanted, but I did remove a little more than in the picture below in a second round of filing (just enough so that the crank arm spider was below the machined lip on the ring).  

Still plenty of material on the crank arm and now the chain doesn’t contact the spider arm.  See?  The gap is gone.  Again, I later removed a bit more material than in the pictures above, but you can see below that even before the second round of filing that the end of the spider arm is now below the valley between the teeth on the chainring.  Compare it to the first picture in this post to see the difference.  Success!  Kinda odd that the 38 tooth ring didn’t fit without filing.  Don’t you think Shimano would have seen that coming and redesigned the spider ends?

Now Lacey is all set to burn it up (with a little less stress on her precious knees).  Maybe this weekend?

Take care.


Oh Yes I Did!

And, no, I am not proud of myself.  But it was so pretty, just my size, and priced so reasonably!  

Compare the 1993 Bridgestone RB-2 to the RB-1 and you will find they used a different tube set and parts for the RB-2.  The changes added one pound to the weight of the complete bicycle but dropped the price from approximately $1,200 for the RB-1 to $650 for the RB-2.  Such smart choices.  So smart that you think you’d see a million of these things rolling around, but I don’t think I have seen even one in the wild.  The catalog helps explain their rarity–only 1,000 were produced.  Head back to the entry for the RB-1 and you’ll find that in 1993 Bridgestone made two versions–a /7 and a /8.  The /7 used bar end shifters and a 7-speed cassette.  The /8 used brifters and an 8-speed cassette.  Bridgestone made 1,000 of each of the /7 and the /8, for a total of 2,000.

I also just learned the RB-2 is fully vegan.  The Avocet Racing saddle is covered in vinyl.  The RB-1 came with an Avocet Racing-1 saddle covered in leather.  Today I added MKS vegan toe straps, MKS Deep toeclips and Cinelli cork ribbon (twined to nearly match the frame paint).  I will probably order Rivendell Ruffy-Tuffy tires for it, too.  A little fatter and appropriately tan sidewalls.

That’s enough of that.  Too much, really.  I have to start selling bikes.  If you know I have something you want, please be in touch.  Letting go of any bicycle is difficult for me, but I need to learn how to do it.

Take care!

Metal Pedals Are Dangerous, Too

Public Bikes with Wellgo pedals have been recalled.  Kudos to Public for announcing the recall on their homepage (but they need to correct the reference to models years 2010 to 2011 to read 2010 to 2012, and “safety update” is a little soft–“recall” would be the more responsible characterization).  Summary?  Twenty-four reports of the pedals cracking (presumably at the spindle), no injuries.  I wonder how injury is defined in government recall land?  Hard to imagine a pedal cracking without something tender getting bonked.  Wellgo is a big outfit making (to my knowledge) mostly pedals.  I am surprised they produce any pedal that runs into problems.  Granted, they probably face significant pressure to cut costs as their pedals most often show up on lower priced bicycles.  Here, though, we see Wellgo pedals on a $1,250 bicycle.  If you’ve purchased a mass-produced bicycle, pedals are too often cheap afterthoughts.  Don’t wait for the injury or the recall.  Consider upgrading yours today!  I trust any pedal from MKS.

Other?  This is disturbing, but not surprising.  I should be more clear.  The disturbing but not surprising part is that the NYPD was historically not required to file accident reports for accidents involving bicycles.  I’ve experienced the second class citizen treatment when I was hit (and no ticket issued), which is why I am not surprised.  Glad that the disparity has been resolved (but still no guaranty of a ticket being issued–that’s an officer’s discretion it seems).  However, it sounds like a disparity remains in that accident investigators are not required to be dispatched in bicycle-versus-car accidents unless someone is killed or is considered “likely to die.”  Yikes.  City Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) proposed a  bill to correct this, commenting that  “there have been several cases not properly investigated by police because the victim wasn’t likely to die, including one in which a woman broke her back.”  Double Yikes.  What does it mean to propose a bill versus introduce it.  Proposing a bill sounds like something less.  Like maybe it is just a sound bite.  We should know.  NYSBC–are you out there?

Let’s try to be more careful.  Let’s equip and maintain our bicycles responsibly and ride in a way that there is no need for accident reports or investigators.  As is so often the case, we can’t count on others to look out for us.

Enjoy your weekend!

Epic Errands

Enough city pedaling for one day.  Time to rest.  I started out thinking I was pedaling only to the fancy strip mall for a strainer.  I wanted to replace my sister-in-law’s strainer which I had pushed apart while massaging tamarind pulp through it.  I wanted to get a Halco, same as I have.  I felt like I used to see them everywhere for about $10, and was sure I’d find one at the independent kitchen supply store to which I was headed.  No dice.  They had only four versions of the same kind I gently pushed apart.  So.

No problem.  I’d pedal to the mall.  Not a fun ride on the super highway surface street, but there is an extra wide outside lane and even marked bicycle lanes for some of it.  I was sure that Williams Sonoma would have a Halco.  Nope.  Just a bunch of versions like the one I pushed apart.  Walked to the second kitchen store at the mall.  Same thing, different brand.  Macy’s–ditto.  JC Penny–ditto.  I didn’t want to come home empty-handed, so I went back to Williams Sonoma to buy the All-Clad branded one.  Same as all the others, surely, but it looks fancy.  Whatever!

The ride to the mall was against the wind and uphill.  The single speed coaster brake set up is geared just a little too tall for that effort.  Coming home, though, downhill and with the wind was a delight.  So happy to coast most of the way.  Hooray for coasting.

Dropped off the strainer at home to make room in my bag before pedaling the other way to the grocery for Matzos.  Both might have fit, but I didn’t want to crush the strainer.  Just before the grocery, I stopped at a local coffee joint about which my friend spoke highly.  I said I had a bad experience there a year ago, but he said it was a new game.  New owner.  New local roaster.  New real baristas.  Exciting!  Not really.  The beans had been roasted to dust.  The barista couldn’t have done a thing with them.  The espresso was thin and tasted of anger and despair.  Like the natural gas fire that burned away the sunshine, fresh air and water which had nourished the beans to some kind of interesting on the tree.  Sad.

My spider senses starting tingling well before I had my first taste, though.  I asked for a double and the barista reached for a mug.  Not your grandma’s fancy service five-ounce coffee cup (second vessel in the picture above).  Not your more modern eight-ounce cup (third vessel in the picture above).  No sir, he picked up a contemporary trophy home-size sixteen-ounce personal hot beverage trough (fourth vessel in the picture above).  I asked whether the double would fit in his demitasse (also bigger than I am used to seeing, like the first vessel in the picture above).   He said no, but that I shouldn’t worry because the double wouldn’t fill the whole “mug.”

I changed my order to a single.  It wasn’t that I was expecting a restricted pull at this place, but I was hoping for something other than the watered-down ladleful I was given.  Again.  Surely not the baristas fault.  Just bad training.  A normal three-ounce double would have filled the demitasse he had about two-thirds of the way.  It was an effort to get through the roughly three point five-ounce “single.”  I try not to be angry, but this has long bugged me.  If you open a coffee place and then can’t produce a mediocre espresso shot, well, you get what you deserve (which, here, is quite possibly a whole bunch of loyal customers who couldn’t care less what espresso tastes like because it is just a bit player in the broadway-produced jumbo fair-trade organic jamocha shake).  Please forgive me for this rant!  

At least the grocery had matzos.  Not Streit’s, but I wasn’t pedaling to another store.  We’ll survive (I think–I don’t remember the last time I had Manis).  And, yes, I have my own nearly complete sharrow.  Most of one anyway.  Courtesy of my City that laid it and then plowed it up, and the many homeowners who couldn’t be bothered to clean their front yards.  My gain!  No, I don’t have a Frida shaped bell mounted near my right grip (but I would love one).


Yes Folks

It is easy to forget your imaginary problems when the temps flirt with sixty for the first time in a spell.  

I worked as much as there was work to do and then pedaled my black ANT downtown, with trailer, to get coffee beans and gifts for friends.  Stopped on the way to return that terrible book which I will not name.  Glad to be shed of it.  I started off with a hoodie, jean jacket, thin hat and gloves, but as I left downtown I stowed the hat and gloves in the trailer.  Pedaling without hat or gloves for the first time in a new year is a special kind of good.  From downtown, I pedaled to the co-op to pick up supplemental groceries and a bag of potting soil (which I paid for on Saturday but forgot to pick up on my way out).  Then home.  All in one hour and fifteen minutes.  Steady pedaling without too much pressure on the pedals.  No heavy breathing.  I’d normally expect that when pulling a bag of dirt in the spring.  The time on the rollers is paying dividends.

Loving the Velosteel hub.  Coasting and braking make urban pedaling so much more pleasant.  I had a close pass and did nothing.  The fellow even stopped at a light and I waited patiently behind him.  No words.  No gestures.  Just caught my breath and counted my blessings.  Progress?  I sure hope so.  Gotta get something in exchange for getting old.  

Set up the seed starting station in the basement and picked out seeds to start indoors, seeds to start in the ground at the community garden and seeds to start in the ground at home.  This year I am steering clear of ground vining stuff.  So no pumpkins.  No watermelon.  No squash.  Just not enough room.  Except cucumbers.  Gotta have cucumbers for dill pickles.  I think I will go heavy on pole beans and snap peas.  Greens, too, except I will add to the dino kale some flat leaf stuff and sone mustard greens.  Some tomatoes.  Maybe some tomatillos.  Herbs, to be sure.  Cabbage and beets.  Some lettuce and more herbs at home.  I planted garlic last fall.  That’s always nice.  I am still eating garlic I pulled up last year.  So much to anticipate!  Let the growing begin!

I hope you are having an especially nice day in your town, too.

Secrets of MKS Chain Tensioners Revealed

I’ve enjoyed a set of MKS chain tensioners for three years.  When I first installed the tensioners, I didn’t fret about the lack of instructions.  It didn’t seem possible that they could be installed improperly–there isn’t much to them.  I’ve since discovered there is a bit more to think about.

Yesterday I removed my rear wheel to fiddle with my tire.  The tire didn’t seem properly seated (there was a low spot that I could feel through the saddle at low speeds but the rim was true and round).  The tire was loose on the rim, but with some wiggling here and there during inflation the tire  seated properly all the way around and the low spot is gone.  Easy installation comes with a minor cost.  Back to the chain tensioners.

While returning the rear wheel to the frame, I considered again whether the chain tensioners were properly installed.  First, I originally had the washers on the outside of the dropouts (more properly called fork ends when the opening is horizontal and to the back, but I don’t want you to think I am talking  about the front of the bike so I will use the term dropout throughout).  That I haven’t changed (and more on that later).  Second, I originally had the yoke installed with the MKS logos facing out, as shown below.  That’s changed now.  Here is the yoke as I had it installed originally. 

Turns out the yokes are not symmetrical–their orientation can matter.  The tensioning screw is offset toward the non-logo side.  In the picture below, the bulgy non-logo side is on the left and the flat logo side is on the right.   

Careful inspection helped me discover I should turn the yokes around to have the non-logo side on the outside when the washers are outside the dropouts so that the tensioning screws run in a straight line to the washer.  That’s what I have done now. 

Even more careful examination suggests I can orient the yoke either way on this frame.  Again, as a general rule you should have the non-logo side of the yoke on the same side as the washer, but orienting the yoke the wrong way (washer and yoke logo on the same side) worked on my frame because the dropout isn’t as thick as the cavity on the yoke.  When I had the yoke the wrong way around, the yoke was able to scoot itself toward the outside of the dropout to allow a nearly proper line for the threaded rod.  Still, no reason to settle for nearly perfect.  Learn from my mistake and do it right!

Was that hard to follow?  If so, maybe some more pictures will clear things up.  Below is a picture of the yoke oriented the wrong way (logo side of yoke and washer on the same side of the dropout).  In both pictures the washer is facing up and is just under my finger–the top digit with no nail showing).  I’m holding a piece of metal along the inside of the washer (under the washer) to take the place of a dropout (should have used something of another color–next time).  You can see that a dropout would not sit flush with the edge of the yoke.  It would line up in the middle of the cavity and continue down from there if it was thicker than the metal I show in the example.  Close to OK if your dropout is really thin, but not OK if the dropout is as thick as the cavity in the yoke.  If your dropout is thick, the yoke would be forced down in the picture below and the threaded rod would be misaligned.  It might seem OK as you are putting it all together, but as everything is tightened up problems would arise.  Looks like my washer bent a bit from my original install, as the threaded rod seems to come out of the washer at an angle.  Nothing serious, but I would be interested in seeing a new set side by side with mine.  If the angle was even steeper, I would expect the threaded rod to bend or break.

Below is a picture of the yoke oriented properly (the non-logo side of the yoke on the same side as the washer).  Again I am holding a piece of metal to take the place of the dropout.  

Oriented properly, you can see that the yoke would not be pulled out of line even if your dropout is as thick as the cavity in the yoke.  Since I am still running my washers on the outside of the drop outs (and there is the other mystery which I will get to in a second), I should have yokes oriented so that the non-logo side is out (as shown below).

More than enough of that.  Yoke orientation is only one of two riddles.  The second is where to put the washers–inside or outside the dropouts.  Since my frame is spaced at 120mm and my hub is spaced at 120mm, I placed the washers for the chain tensioner on the outside of the dropouts (as shown above) and never thought about it again.  Seemed like there would be no other to do it, but I was wrong. Today I found a forum thread on locating the washers.  In the thread, one voice (“onetwentyeight”) stood out as informed and confident and people generally fell in line.  Onetwentyeight said keirin racers run the chain tensioners on the inside of the dropouts (and that their frames are perfectly spaced to make room for the washers).  The frame spacing information was for me pretty persuasive (only a couple of millimeters difference to accommodate the washers, but I am sure keirin racers want things just so).  It is also telling for me that, as I demonstrated above, if the washers are on the inside of the dropout, the logo side of the yoke should face out.  Seems like MKS would want their logos to be seen from the outside of the dropouts.  With that, I am considering it settled that the manufacturer meant for the washers to go inside the dropouts.  Let me know if you disagree.

Should I do what keirin racers do?  It would be easy enough to spread my frame as I installed the wheel to clear the chain tensioner washers on the inside of my dropouts.  Even so, why bother?  Seems like the washers do their work just as well on the outside of the dropouts.  Also, installing the wheel is easier with the washers on the outside (I don’t have to pull the dropouts apart as I install the wheel).  Finally, I am only a little embarrassed to admit that I like that the painted outside faces of my dropouts are protected from damage when the axle nuts are tightened.  Onetwentyeight conceded that running the washers outside the dropouts is fine but he considers it sketchy to tighten the axle nut on anything but the frame.  He lost me there.  Why I should be worried about tightening axle nuts onto the chain tensioner washers as opposed to the frame itself?

Granted, the teeth on the integrated washer on my axle nuts (shown above) will be biting into the chain tensioner washer rather than the dropout, but, as pointed out by “trevsi” in the same thread, no matter where you put the chain tensioner washers, you are going to loose the benefit of the gripping teeth on either the cone locknuts (inside the dropout) or the axle nut washer (outside the dropout).  Further, I don’t think it matters if you lose grippy teeth action on one side or even both sides of each drop out.   With the chain tensioner in place, the work of keeping the axle in place is divided between the chain tensioner and the axle nut/dropout/cone locknut pressure interface.  I am not hercules, but with these two mechanisms working together nothing budges for me (and I don’t tighten the axle nuts all that tightly).  Any of you strong folks found otherwise?

What else?  Got a great little grease gun from  Isn’t it a gem?  Made in Houston, Texas by Dualco.  I hope to find some very light grease to use in it, and then this grease gun will be my dedicated freewheel greaser.  I have been hoarding Sachs freewheels over the last couple of weeks.  Some are used and among those some are smoother than others.  I even had a couple that wouldn’t turn at all.  I held those in a freewheel vise and used a freewheel removal tool to gently torque them until the freewheel mechanism moved.  Then I dripped Phil Wood tenacious oil in the seal and in the hole on the body and they are now working really well.  I do think some of my rougher examples would benefit from being pumped full of very light grease, though.  The NOS ones will get Phil Wood tenacious oil only.  I have a pretty good supply of Sachs freewheels now, so I should step away from eBay before things get (more) out of hand.

That’s that.  Take care!

Sweet Silent Coasting

I’ve reconfigured the ANT Light Roadster into a single speed coaster brake bicycle.  That’s overly dramatic.  I built and installed a new rear wheel.  A simple project, but I enjoyed the process and am happy with the result.  While it was fun to have a fixed gear bicycle in the rotation, I wanted to enjoy coasting and a second brake on this beautiful bicycle.  Coasting and two brakes make bicycling more relaxing, and I enjoy relaxing.

I am new to wheel building.  I built four in 2008 and this coaster brake wheel is my fifth.  Each time a wheel comes together, I feel like I am watching a good magic trick.  I know it is not magic.  I owe it all to great instruction from Jobst Brandt and Sheldon Brown and I am using quality parts and tools.  Simple as that.

As I wrote before, I bought from Guy Doss a Velosteel coaster brake hub and Phil Wood cog, then endured an excruciating wait for delivery of a Velocity Synergy rim and Wheelsmith spokes (only six days–Niagara Cycle always ships fast–but it felt like an eternity with a lonely hub waiting for a job).  When the rim and spokes showed up last night, I didn’t hesitate.  With packing materials all over the living room and obligations to work, dog and dinner neglected, I hustled downstairs to build a wheel.

I did two things before lacing the wheel.  First, as recommended by Jobst Brandt, I bent the spoke heads about 45 degrees (straightening them some at the standard 90 degree bend).  According to Brandt, thin flanges (like those found on Velosteel hub) won’t support the spoke head as well as thick flanges.   Spokes are made to work with as many hubs as possible, so the bends at the head are made to fit thick flanges.  Brandt’s modification provides better support.  Without the modification, there is a greater chance of spoke breaking.  [Update:  What about spoke washers?  I wonder why Brandt doesn’t mention them on the page describing the spoke bends?  Next time.]

Second, I coated the spoke threads with Wheelsmith SpokePrep.   This was a first for me.  I used oil on the spoke threads and rim eyelets for the first four wheels I built.  Oil worked fine as I built the wheels and I’ve had no issues with durability (but then I don’t really put anything to the test in a macho sense), but I still wanted to give SpokePrep a try.  I hold Wheelsmith in high esteem.  If you are considering using SpokePrep, though, know that there are some pretty spooky warnings in the instructions.  You don’t want it in your eyes, on your skin or in your lungs.  I took care when applying the stuff to the threads and propped open a door as it dried.  No extra limbs thus far.  Had I known about the toxicity before I bought it, I might have passed.  Pricey and toxic is not a great combination.  Also, I didn’t notice that the build was easier.  That said, I did build to a higher tension than I have previously.  Maybe I would have had a tougher time without SpokePrep.  Hard to say.  Anyway, the higher tension should make for a more durable wheel.  I will probably appreciate SpokePrep more over time.

An hour into the job, the prep work was done and the wheel was laced and lightly tensioned (fast for me, but experienced builders surely work more quickly).  I would have kept at it but I smelled roasting eggplant.  I finished my current lap around the spokes and headed upstairs to save the eggplant from an ashy grave.  It was perfect!  Back to the wheel while the eggplant cooled.  

I worked another thirty minutes until Lacey came home.  It wasn’t easy to leave the wheel unfinished, but I was able to hold off until first thing this morning.  With Lacey asleep I suffered from no divided loyalties.  The wheel had me!  Another thirty minutes and I was done.  I wish it had taken longer.  I don’t know when my next wheel project will present itself.  Oh well.

All in all, the build was incredibly easy.  All five wheels I have built have been easy.  Maybe I’m just lucky.  I am using nice rims with high spoke counts (three with 36 holes and two with 40).  Maybe lower quality rims or rims with fewer spokes are harder to get right?  Anyway, at 75% of full tension, this wheel was in very good shape without any real truing.  Just even tensioning.  A few minor adjustments were all that were required after I brought the wheel to full tension and relieved stress on the spokes.    

I had ordered a new tire, but it wasn’t here and the wheel was ready!  No need for patience–I mounted the tire from the existing rear wheel on the Velosteel wheel and installed the wheel on the ANT.  I was  so proud to see the new wheel in place.

In lieu of the steel strap that came with the hub, I secured the hub’s brake arm to the chain stay with a rubber coated steel strap.  Same weight of steel, but a much better shape for my chain stay.  I drilled out the small holes to accept the bolt that came with the hub (the bolt was good quality, beefy and included a nice nylock nut).  I also added one wrap of rim tape to make the fit extra perfect.

I can’t recommend highly enough MKS chain tensioners.  They make mounting a nutted wheel so much easier (it doesn’t move as nuts are tightened) and you can be sure the wheel will stay put.  A nice present to yourself and your bicycle.

I am also happy that I moved up a tooth on the rear cog.  I had 18 teeth on the Phil Wood fixed wheel but went with 19 on the Velosteel coaster wheel.  With fixed gear, if your gear is too easy you may struggle to keep up with your pedals as you go downhill.  Not a concern when you can coast, so I gave myself a one tooth present.  Why not?  I am in no hurry.

Verdict?  The wheel rides great!  Brakes work great!  Coasting is silent!  What’s not to love?  I read that some of the Velosteel hubs come from the factory under lubricated so I opened mine to have a look.  Looks to me like Guy was in there and substituted in Phil Wood grease in all the right places.  That’s quite a service for such an inexpensive hub.  A labor of love, to be sure.  Or maybe the factory uses green Phil Woodish grease?  Tough to say.  Either way, things looked good and greasy in there.  Hooray!

What else?  Dinner was fantastic.  Three Indian dishes (eggplant, kidney beans and butternut squash) and spiced rice.  That sounds like a lot of work (together with wheel building), but the whole of the cooking didn’t all happen in an evening.  I had pulled the cooked kidney beans from the freezer the day before.  I had roasted the squash the day before and the eggplant in the afternoon.  With those three foundational tasks complete, finishing an Indian vegetable dish, even three, is pretty quick and easy.  About 15 minutes for each.  Fun, too, since Lacey was helping.  Great to be able to cook together (20 years of practice makes (nearly) perfect).

Back to work.  Have a wonderful day.