Monday, April 20, 2015

Time to Get Your Bearings

Most of us want our bikes to go as fast as possible.  We check to make sure our wheels are spinning freely, our brakes are not rubbing, our chain is lubed, our pedals are good, and our shifters work properly.

However, even those cyclists who are pretty diligent about bike maintenance often overlook one key item: the bottom bracket.

Some of you are wondering, "Do I even have a bottom bracket?  And if I do, where is it?  (See previous blog post at

The bottom bracket is the set of bearings for your crankset.  If your bottom bracket bearings are worn out or need service, you likely have a source of friction that is robbing you of power.  So, how do you tell if the bottom bracket needs service?

First, start by removing your chain from the crankset.  The easiest way to do this is to shift to the
smallest ring on your crankset and then reach down and move the chain off of the teeth and let the chain rest on the bottom bracket shell on your frame.  Then, with very light pressure, gently turn the crank.  If you feel a slight hesitation like a bearing is sticking every few degrees of rotation, then you need to replace the bottom bracket.

The sticking is caused by "indexing" of the bearings.  This is where the ball bearing makes a slight
indentation in the bearing race.

The good news is this is a cheap fix.  A new bottom bracket is about $25 and installation is about $20 at the shop.  If your bike is over three years old, there's a good chance that this needs to replaced.  The great thing about the modern bottom brackets is that they are all based on sealed cartridge bearing and need no further adjustment or lubrication.  Ride it until it wears out and then replace it.

Ride fast, ride far, and be careful out there.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What Do I Have in My (Tool) Bag

Here are some of the essentials and some recommended items to keep on your bike.


Tool Bag – Big or small, it’s up to you.  Pick one that can carry your tools and possibly your car keys, phone, or wallet.

Spare Tube – Do you want to walk home?  Pack a spare tube.

Tire Levers – Some guys take care of this with their muscular fingers.  These make it easier.

CO2 Inflator and Cartridge – A pump is nice, but when you have a flat 80 miles into a 100 mile ride, this is much better.

Allen Wrenches – Almost everything on your bike can be tightened up using an Allen wrench (or hex key).  At a minimum, you need a 4, 5, and 6 mm, but a 3 mm and an 8 mm are handy at times.

Small Screwdrivers – What cannot be tightened or adjusted with an Allen wrench can probably be tightened with a screwdriver.  Note that some multi-tools will have hex keys, screwdrivers, and possibly other tools in the same bundle.

Optional, but really good to have:

Tire Patch Kit – When you ride through broken glass, is it possible to get a flat on both the front and rear?

2nd Spare Tube – See tire patch kit above.

Pump - After all of those flat tires, you might be out of CO2 cartridges.

Dollar Bills – Lots of uses for these.  Emergency Gatorade and roadside strip clubs notwithstanding, you can use a dollar bill to line the inside of your tire if you cut a gash in it.  This will prevent the tube from protruding through the tire and allow you to make it home.

Chain Tool – Sometimes your chain breaks.  Not often, but it can happen.  This is a small tool that will allow you to put your chain back together again and finish a ride.  When you’re 20 miles into a 112 mile Ironman leg, you don’t want to DNF because of a broken chain.

Chain Links – Use with chain tool for an even faster chain repair.

Spoke Wrench – If a spoke loosens and causes your wheel to wobble, you can fix it enough to get you home.

Spare Spokes or Fiber Spoke – Replace a spoke while you’re on the road?  It can be done if you have the tools and knowledge.

Cell Phone – And the number of a good friend who will drag themselves out and haul your sorry butt home when all else fails.