Archive for the ‘Repair’ Category

Squeal like a brake pad – redux

August 15, 2019

Kool Stop pads on the Open Pro rim, above, and Mavic MA2 rim below.


(Follow up: I used the Kool Stop pads on some long descents. They squealed descending Pescadero Road and later on Page Mill Road, although it cleared up completely going down Moody Road. I have zero tolerance for brake squeal. I will use them on the rear brake only.)

Back in 2009 I complained about squeaky Kool Stop brake pads. Fast forward ten years and I’m back to using the Continental style pads (still being sold), but no more squeal.

Jobst Brandt was a huge fan of Kool Stop pads. At one point back in the 80s I think every rider in his cadre switched to Kool Stop.

My guess is that the newer Mavic Open Pro rims I’m riding are less prone to grunge buildup compared to the Mavic MA2. I have photographic evidence. I could get the Kool Stop pads to stop squealing if I ran them through wet sand and applied the brakes, but the fix didn’t last.

The Shimano Ultegra brake pads I replaced had lost braking power. I noticed it on steep descents and even not-so-steep inclines.

Worn Shimano pad removed from its casing. Easy to remove them once you back out the screw with a 2 mm Allen key.


I think it’s mostly due to age. They were nine years old and had many miles. Rubber hardens with age and I think that contributed to the reduced braking power.

These Continental pads are old. They’ve been sitting in the garage for 15 years, but they work well. These pads last forever. They might just outlive me.

I don’t have any objections to Shimano’s pads. I wanted to use what was on hand and save a buck.

The Kool Stop pads I’m using have some cons. They’re ugly for one. They require a 10 mm wrench. I prefer an Allen key.

While my braking power is much better now, I should be using disc brakes for even better braking.

I’ve always preferred the simpler caliper brake, but nowadays my aging hands need all the help they can get.

Shimano Ultegra hubs give me the shimmies

May 14, 2019

Shimano Ultegra hubs, not so easy to adjust.


If Campagnolo made one product well, it had to be their Nuovo Record hubs. Mine are still going strong after 40 years of hard use.

What I like most about the hubs is their ability to be adjusted precisely with relative ease using hub wrenches.

I’m old-fashioned when it comes to hubs. I prefer unsealed bearings, although if I had it to do over again, I’d probably cave and go with sealed hubs, just for their convenience.

During maintenance, after installing new bearings and adding grease, there’s the final step of adjusting the bearing race. It’s an acquired skill, but once you’ve got it down, it’s easy.

The key is to tighten it such that the bearings don’t have too much play inside the hub, but not so tight that the bearings are binding.

Test for looseness: After installing the wheel and locking the quick release, try to wiggle the rim side to side. If there’s any play, it’s too loose.

Test for tightness: Spin the wheel and see if the hub turns freely for a fairly long time before coming to a stop. It should turn for quite a few revolutions before stopping.

Ideally, the wheel will rock back and forth at the valve stem before stopping, but that’s difficult to achieve. Consider yourself the bike repair whisperer.

The problem I have with my Ultegra hubs is that they’re hard to adjust. They don’t give me the same tactile feedback I got from the Campagnolo hubs during adjustment.

I recently serviced the Ultegra hubs (for about the fifth time), but during descents I noticed squirrely steering. The bike seemed to wander.

Sure enough, the hubs were a bit loose. I could rock the rim back and forth. It’s not much, but it doesn’t take much to notice wheel wobble. I needed lots of trial and error to get a good adjustment.

Miles to go before I flat

April 16, 2019

Sidewall gives out. The tube bulges here and rubs against the brake.


To take a line from Robert Frost, I had miles to go before I flatted, literally.

I’m eating my words about that tire with 7,080 miles. I knew it was about to go, but I pushed it just a bit too far.

I heard a pop, then a hiss and immediately sensed I had a front flat. Fortunately I wasn’t going too fast down Redwood Lodge Road.

I stopped and took off the tire. I found the flat after a short search — a half-inch tube split. Odd. I looked at the tire and didn’t see anything wrong. So I replaced the tube and inflated the tire. All looked normal.

Doh! That was my mistake. All was not normal. Don’t change a tube until you know with certainty what caused the flat.

A quarter mile down the road….hsss! bang! Schiesse!

No cell connection out here, I knew I had to get it right this time. Once again I tried to find the source, carefully inspecting the tire. There it was — a blown sidewall at the bead. Those are hard to see unless you carefully inspect the tire after inflation. Look for a small bulge.

Fortunately I always carry a boot. I wrote about the importance of carrying a boot in a previous post.

It’s tricky to get it positioned just right over a sidewall failure. Be sure you don’t see a bulge during inflation, which means that the boot is properly seated.

I prefer an old piece of tire (minus the wire bead) versus an inner tube, although I also carry a piece of inner tube, which works well for holes on the top of the tire.

I’ve had a sidewall failure before, but I don’t recall the details. It almost always happens on old tires with too many miles.

In addition to a boot, bring money. In a bind I could have gone door to door and begged for a tire off someone’s bike. I’ve also seen dollar bills used as a boot. Bills are stronger than regular paper.

Serves me right. I kept the tire pressure around 50 psi and took it easy riding home.

I added two new Continentals, an UltraSport II ($17) economy tire made in China and a Gatorskin. I’ll rotate the tires and give the wear results in a couple of years. I’m not concerned about performance these days, just tire life/wear.

Refurbished Avocet GelFlex ready to roll

April 6, 2017

My ancient Avocet GelFlex saddle has been reconditioned, ready to go another 36,000 miles.

UPDATE (April 23, 2017): The saddle started creaking again. I decided to thoroughly clean the rail clamps and seatpost base, then grease. After doing that the saddle is completely silent after 30 miles. All that time fussing over the saddle!!!! I’ll see if it holds up. After 6 years of use, the gunk in the placement grooves might be the culprit. I never had this issue with my Campagnolo Super Record seatpost. I guess every post is different.
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Today I saw an Avocet GelFlex saddle NOS for sale on eBay for $140. Fortunately, I have one left, newly reconditioned.

My second attempt at replacing the saddle cover with marine vinyl (those nylon covers didn’t last long) using a process described on the Instructables website, went easier than last time, but it still lacks polish.

I guess I lack the patience to make it look perfect. I’m happy with good enough.

This time the staples went in better, now that I have an electric staple gun and used shorter 1/4-inch (6 mm) staples.

I wasn’t as happy with the Loctite spray glue compared to 3M. I recommend the 3M brand described in Instructables. The Loctite glue sprayed out like that stuff used to make fake spider webs during Halloween.

This is my second successful attempt at adding epoxy to quiet that annoying front saddle creak. It’s like I’m riding a new saddle.

Last word on creaking saddles

April 3, 2017

Add epoxy here to stop saddle creak.

I’ve been battling the creaking saddle demons for several years and after lots of experimentation and research I found the cause and the solution.

I’m riding saddles made in the 1980s-90s so right there I’m already in trouble. All bike parts wear out, including saddles and I’ll explain why.

Saddle rails are springs, constantly moving up and down in their support structures within the saddle. Over time, which varies with the saddle model and manufacturing variables, the saddle will start to creak. Most cyclists don’t ride their saddles into the ground like me, so few riders experience saddle creak woes.

Of course, before trying to fix your saddle creak, you need to be sure it’s the saddle that’s at fault. Be sure the seatpost is well greased because it can cause creaks in the saddle area. Some people say to oil or grease the rails at the clamps, but those locations are not meant to move, so lubrication is not recommended, beyond a very light dab of oil to prevent rust.

When I first experienced saddle creak, I did what most experts recommend and added oil, all kinds of oil, but nothing worked. In fact, it sometimes made things worse. The bottom line is, if it’s not supposed to move, don’t add oil. Those seat rails are not meant to move.

[Seatposts are not meant to move and they absolutely need grease. So I imagine giving the rails a thorough cleaning and oiling would keep them from squeaking. Lack of access makes this impossible. Everything I’ve tried in terms of lubrication hasn’t worked.]

My next line of attack was to drill a hole and drizzle in Super Glue. That worked, for a while.

Then I tried a screw that rested up against the bend in the rail at the nose of the saddle. That worked, for a while.

I’ve never had an issue with the rails in the rear of the saddle, only the nose. I think that’s where the most stress occurs. Over time and constant movement, the rail loosens up inside the nylon mold. You can’t notice the movement, but it’s there. I disassembled a saddle to check the rail. It’s a single piece of wrapped steel alloy. I thought it might be welded there and the weld failed.

Finally, I decided to try epoxy. I carefully cleaned the saddle nose by dipping it in concentrated Simple Green, rinsed, and then sanded the nylon around the rails for the best possible adhesion.

I used JB Weld quick-setting epoxy. It couldn’t be easier to apply. Just squeeze out the two mixtures, stir together with the enclosed wooden stick and drizzle it into the saddle between the rails. Every saddle is different, but this one for a Bianchi (Viscount saddle) had a wide opening ideal for adding epoxy. Your results may vary with different saddles based on how they are built. Some saddles have small or no openings to speak of, so adding epoxy may not work well. You might have to drill a hole.

Now my saddle is completely quiet. I don’t know how long it will last, but if it’s not at least a year, it’s time for one of those new saddles that looks like it was made by space aliens.

Making a case for an ancient side-pull brake

March 31, 2017

Aging Campagnolo rear brake caliper finds new life on my road bike, solving several problems.


I’ve always been a fan of Campagnolo Nuovo/Super Record brakes because they were built to last and looked nice.

But with age comes weaker hands and I have difficulty squeezing the front brakes hard enough to stop quickly. It’s an issue with those old Campagnolo brakes because they had a 1-1 cable pull ratio.

I can’t begin to explain how brakes work, but suffice it to say they use cables and fulcrums to create mechanical advantage. The bottom line is that the higher the mechanical advantage, the easier it is to exert force. Today’s brakes mostly use a 3:1 mechanical advantage.

But it comes at a cost. As Jobst Brandt so often pointed out in the biketech forum, Campagnolo brakes of yore had the advantage of working even with a wobbly wheel, say after breaking a spoke. As brake pads wore, you didn’t have to adjust your brakes so often. Finally, Campagnolo brakes could accommodate fat tires with ease due to a quick-release that opened the brake calipers plenty wide.

All that said, I decided to try Campagnolo brakes on my modern brake levers. The result was not good. I found the front brake hard to use. I had to pull especially hard to stop. The Campagnolo brake arms work better with their original levers, but they’re still harder to use than Shimano Ultegra or other modern brakes.

After giving it some thought, I tried using the Campagnolo brake caliper in the rear only. That worked well. It’s still not quite as easy to use the rear brake, but 90 percent of your stopping power comes from the front brake. No big deal.

I gained the advantages of using Campagnolo calipers, and that is a big deal on the rear wheel where most flats occur and spokes break much more often. I especially dislike Shimano brakes when it comes to removing a wheel with a 28 mm wide tire. That’s no longer a problem with the Campagnolo rear brake.

Doing the research made me realize that brake ratios are not something taken lightly by the bike industry. Bike companies are constantly fiddling with brakes by changing ratios and designs that try to fix problems. However, like so many well-meaning engineering efforts, the lack of understanding about how things work has delivered us some less-than-satisfactory solutions over the years.

More reading here:
Arts Cyclery; Park Tool; Bike Forums; Cycling UK

Brake hoods stretch with use

March 16, 2017

When the brake hood starts to shift to one side it’s time to replace.

Have you ever found your brake hood loose to one side? While riding?

Time for new ones. My Shimano Ultegra 6700 hoods lasted about 36,000 miles, 6 1/3 years. I’m a heavy user of the hoods since I do a lot of climbing and descending.

My only experience with gum hoods was Campagnolo Nuovo Record from the old days. They cracked with age. Shimano doesn’t crack, but when they’re loose they’re just as worthless as cracked Campagnolo.

It’s an easy fix that will set you back about $12. I just cut off the old ones. You’ll need some muscle to get the new ones on. Use some hand sanitizer for lubrication. Liquid soap, Dawn or the like, also works, but the sanitizer evaporates better.

The primary concern is with the rubber lip in the front. The little bumps inside fit into holes in the handle. There are MANY different styles. Some may overlap for use, but I didn’t want to take a chance so I found the exact match.

Microshift 7-speed shifter fits the bill

December 12, 2016
Microshift 7 speed levers have an unusual shifting method.

Microshift 7 speed levers have an unusual shifting method.

UPDATE (Jan. 4, 2017): I corresponded with Microshift regarding the lever not working properly. After seeing a video I created, a new lever was shipped to me at no cost. Indeed, the lever was defective. It was purchased through Ebay from a seller called “microshift-bicycle” based in China and in no way affiliated with Microshift of Taiwan.

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This story starts six years ago when I finally threw in the towel and switched from down-tube index shifting to brake/shift levers on a new bike.

It didn’t take long to realize I had made the right decision. So much so that my second bike with down-tube shifting called out for a make-over. I still enjoy riding that 1986 frame built by Dale Saso, even though it has been through a lot. Another reason: Dupuytrens contracture is reeking havoc with my hands, making it painful to use the old Campagnolo brake levers — small and narrow.

When I started looking at cost, I discovered that Shimano has abandoned 10-speed cassettes for 11-speeds, and even worse, they’re not compatible. Enough already! Ten speeds in the rear was more than I needed. I would have to widen the rear stay another 4 mm, build new wheels, buy new cassettes.

I decided to try a 7-speed. I could swap my 6-speed screw-on freewheel for a 7-speed without widening the frame, as it turned out, and screw-on 7-speed freewheels are available. Your bike may be different and require a hub spacer or not work at all. The issue is chain clearance in the high gear. Gear stops cost $11 and screw into the down-tube shifter braze-on.

Microshift levers, derailleurs
Looking around I found Shimano still makes 7-speed brake/shift levers. I also found Microshift makes the levers and rear derailleur for a 7-speed. I had good luck with their shifters on my mountain bike, so I decided to give them a try. The price was right, $50 for the levers on eBay and $22 for the derailleur. A Shimano freewheel (13-28) runs about $9 on sale. I would need to buy cable housing ($20) and then a cable cutter ($25).

I bought through the mail, so I was on my own when it came to troubleshooting.

Would my Dura-Ace 7402 rear derailleur work? I wondered, so I held off ordering the Microshift rear derailleur. Dura-Ace 7402 was compatible with 8 speed SIS, so it might just work.

The levers went onto the bike with no issues. Cable routing is straightforward. They didn’t come with directions (they’re online in PDF), but Microshift has instructions on YouTube.

The moment of truth: I began shifting gears. I made barrel adjustments going from high to low speed on the rear derailleur and it worked well. However, I noticed that shifting from low (easy) to high gear (hard) didn’t work. I tried everything — barrel adjustments, checking the cable housing length, different ferrules, lubrication, checking the chain, rear hanger alignment, on and on. No matter what I did, the chain clunked from low gear to high gear without stopping between cogs.

Dura-Ace to blame?
I figured the Dura-Ace derailleur was to blame, so I ordered a Microshift 7 speed derailleur. I installed it without any issues (nothing unusual about how it works) and again the moment of truth: Argh!!! No matter what I did, I got the same result.

By the way, in the meantime I read about cable housing and discovered that Shimano SIS shift housing is different from brake housing. So much so that using shift housing on brakes can lead to sudden brake failure! So I had to go back to my old brake housing, which is a single strand of thick wire wrapped in a coil (helical). The Shimano SIS shift housing is multiple strands of thin, straight wire held together by plastic lining and then nylon sheathing. Brake cable undergoes compression, which puts a lot of pressure on the housing lining.

But I digress. Now I was really mystified by the problematic shifting. I couldn’t find squat about Microshift derailleurs and how they worked. YouTube videos only explain how to adjust derailleurs, not how to use the levers.

I tried opening the brake/shift lever and figure out how it worked. It was like a Sturmey-Archer hub in there.

Shifting works this way
As I was messing with the gears I decided to try something different. The shifter has two paddles. The large paddle is pushed to the left to shift from a high to low gear. Pretty straight forward. There’s a small paddle that you push in to do the opposite, low to high. Makes sense. But as I mentioned, every time I pushed the small paddle the chain shifted all the way into high gear. I wondered: What if I push in on the big paddle, holding it in place, and then push in on the small paddle?

Lo and behold, that was it. Perfect shifting. Microshift might have a patent on that process. I couldn’t find one though. If only they had instructions. It’s not intuitive.

After riding, I got used to the shifting, but I wouldn’t want to use it in a race. It’s way too complicated to have to think about it during the heat of competition. However, for an old geezer riding around town, it’s fine.

So how about the levers for comfort? They’re far better than Campagnolo and with padded gloves my hands can tolerate them. They’re a bit narrower than Shimano Ultegra 6700 levers, but not enough to be an issue. All in all, they have a nice feel.

By the way, I kept the Dura-Ace front derailleur. It works fine with Microshift. I didn’t notice a long throw as some have reported. It has three clicks, but I think one of them is for trim and not a triple crank. As for the Campagnolo brakes, their 1-1 pull ratio isn’t any different. The 4-1 ratio found in modern brakes is much preferred by me since my hands aren’t all that strong, but I can live with it. In terms of hand size, larger hands are probably better for Microshift levers.

Finally, I still wasn’t sure about the Dura-Ace derailleur. Would it work? I reinstalled it and gave it a try. This is an old derailleur. Maybe that has something to do with it, but the results were not great. It could work in a pinch, but I would go with the Microshift derailleur, which shifts as smooth as glass. It’s light years better than my down-tube index shifting.

Note: The official Microshift instructions for the levers do not say that it’s necessary to push in on the large paddle while shifting the small paddle. I doubt that my levers are defective. The instructions may be wrong. Microshift has not responded to my email, so hard to say.

More reading:

Drive-train history

Dura-Ace 7402 rear derailleur

Microshift rear derailleur. Cable housing should be about 30 cm long.

Microshift rear derailleur. Cable housing should be about 30 cm long.

Screw job

November 9, 2016

Where the screw goes beneath the saddle.

Where the screw goes beneath the saddle.


No, I’m not referring to the presidential election result, but a solution I found to a creaky saddle that has been taunting me for a year.

My Avocet Gelflex saddle is comfortable and I don’t want to part with it over a little creak. I tried Super Glue, which worked for a while, but the creak came back.

I know the problem is where the rails go in at the tip of the saddle.

I decided I had nothing to lose by driving in a wood screw, about a half-inch long. I had already drilled a hole a while ago to drizzle in Super Glue.

The result today after a seven-mile climb in the saddle was more than satisfactory. I’d say it is 95 percent successful. I don’t know if it will hold up though, so I can’t say 100 percent.

Of course, your results may vary.

I came to realize that saddle comfort and which brand you prefer depends a lot on what you “grew up with.” My gluteal muscles developed around the Avocet saddle. That’s all I like these days, and I’ve tried others.

Back to all steel

November 7, 2016

New Saso steel fork, left, and the old carbon fiber put out to pasture.

New Saso steel fork, left, and the old carbon fiber put out to pasture.


For the past six years I’ve been riding a carbon-fiber fork, but that ended today when I installed my new steel fork, built by Dale Saso. I painted it.

I’m not knocking carbon fiber. It’s a reliable material used extensively by the aerospace and aeronautics industry, so you know it’s going to hold up.

Carbon-fiber forks have broken though. I’ve come across a handful of reports in discussion groups and a friend knows a doctor who works in the Stanford hospital emergency room.

Of course, steel forks break too. Usually you get a warning in the form of creaking sounds. I know that’s not always true for carbon-fiber forks. They can fail without warning.

I worried about the possibility on my ride, so I did the only thing I could think of to put that concern to rest.

I got other benefits too — plenty of tire clearance and no more annoying lawyer lips on the dropouts. Those are little irritants that build up over time, like saddle sores.

Bike weight increased by 11 ounces, not a big deal. As for handling, I don’t notice any difference, but I can tell that my smaller Ritchey is a little more front-wheel sensitive riding no-hands compared to my larger Saso frame. That’s all due to frame size.

As you get old, you think about these things, at a time when it doesn’t matter so much anymore. Funny how that works.