Archive for the ‘Repair’ Category

Refurbished Avocet GelFlex ready to roll

April 6, 2017

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


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.

Ultegra Cassette lasts 25,000 miles

May 2, 2016

Cassettes wear out eventually. Small cogs go first.

Cassettes wear out eventually. Small cogs go first.


Inquiring minds want to know: How long will my freewheel cassette last? How about 25,000 miles?

That’s what I got from my Ultegra 6700. Here are some caveats:

1. Cleaned the chain regularly, like every 500 miles.

2. Rode mostly on pavement, only about 2 percent off-road.

3. Replaced the chains between 0.5 and 0.75 on the Park chain-wear measurement tool.

So how do you know when your cassette sprockets are worn? The chain skips or catches sometimes; you feel the occasional slip when starting up. Note that when a chain is worn, front chainwheel shifting degrades.

Track your miles. I can’t imagine a cassette lasting more miles than what I got from mine.

Once again, I got about 6,500 miles from Ultegra 6600/6701 chains. I could not detect any difference between the models in terms of longevity or shifting.

Unless you break a sprocket, I wouldn’t bother trying to save money by swapping out the smaller or worn cogs. I replaced only the sprockets, not the body. It’s running smoothly.

Finally, my Ultegra brake pads lasted about 25,000 miles as well. I moved the back to the front to extend life. I still have the originals on the back, so more than 25,000 miles with careful management. Of course, I ride where there are a lot of hills, so these pads could last longer.

Marine vinyl saddle cover going strong

March 1, 2016

A year later my marine vinyl saddle cover is holding up great.

A year later my marine vinyl saddle cover is holding up great.


That marine vinyl seat cover I installed one year ago on my old Avocet Gelflex saddle is holding up great.

I added a touch of Super glue to the cover edges where it was a bit loose and that seemed to help.

The vinyl conformed to the Gelflex by developing tiny indentations. It looks neat.

The vinyl looks like new.

About this time I also developed a creak where the seat rails go into the saddle. I drilled a small hole into the plastic anchor where the rails insert and added some Super glue to quiet the creak. It stayed silent for almost a year. Now the creak is back. I added some more Super glue, but this time it’s still creaking a bit.

I’ll have to think of other ways to quell the creak so I can continue riding my 30-year-old saddle, the most comfortable saddle I’ve ridden.

Follow up (March 2): As it turns out, the seatpost needed more grease. The issue was with the seatpost, not the saddle. So the saddle remains quiet, thanks to Super glue.

Bearing down on yet another creak!

September 3, 2015

Be sure to remove the clear cellophane cover on the Rema patch, or else.

Be sure to remove the clear cellophane cover on the Rema patch, or else.


What does it take to get a break these days? I’ve been riding a bike for about 10,000 moons and counting and I’ve never had such a run of bizarre creaks. Enough already.

I had an ongoing noise that sounded EXACTLY like ball bearings clattering with each wheel rotation. Or at least that’s how I imagined ball bearings would sound when clattering.

I went so far as to buy a new front hub in pursuit of the phantom noise. I figured that the dimpled race was at fault. It fixed the problem, so I thought, but the sound came back.

I can put up with the occasional noise, but when it happens with every wheel rotation, the annoyance factor goes through the roof.

Finally, today I looked at the rear wheel, figuring it was a bad rear seal that’s bent. I’m always attributing my issues to something complicated.

Well, after removing the wheel I decided to press down on it. As I went around I found the source of the creak. It was one spot. Odd.

So I oiled the spoke nipples and spoke cross overs. Hey, you never know.

Anyway, that didn’t fix it, so I took off the tire and tube. I haven’t had a flat in AGES, thanks to these bullet-proof Continental Grand Sport Race tires.

I noticed I hadn’t bothered to remove the cellophane cover on a Rema patch. It’s an innocuous piece of plastic that can be difficult to remove, so I left it.

That was my undoing! I removed it and put the tire back on. Yes, that was the problem. No more clatter. Lesson learned, the hard way.