Q&A picture

Frequently asked questions from our viewers

 

Department Store Bikes

What is the difference between a bicycle shop bike and a department store bike?


If you want a bicycle, go to a bike shop. That says it all. Department store bikes have one advantage over bike shop quality bikes... price. You can get a bike for less than $150. That's where the advantage ends. If your objective is to save money, then a bicycle shop bike is still cheaper in the long run.

Once you roll your new, poorly adjusted, non-warranted bike home, then the real expense begins. The first stop will come when you have to take the bike to the local bike shop to have it adjusted properly. The local shop will not do this for free as they do with the bicycle you buy from them.

The next expense will come steadily as you bend and break the various components on the bike. This is not a prediction, it is a guarantee. Bicycle shops repair department store bikes 10-1 over quality bikes. The parts are made cheaply and of sub-par materials so they can attract the first time buyer with a low price.

Please note; Some department stores are now offering slightly better quality bicycles but it's still 'buyer beware'.


Helmets

Helmet Age

Safe Helmets


My friends say I should replace my trusty 10 year old helmet. Why?

Old, yes. Trusty, NO! You should replace your helmet every 5 years or so because the shock absorbtion materials can degrade over time. By now your helmet probably has the absorbtion factor of 3 slices of lunch meat. Besides, the new ones are lighter, cooler and fit much better.

Which helmets are the safest?

Helmets made for U.S. sale after March 10, 1999 must meet the US Consumer Product Safety Commission standard, so look inside the helmet for a CPSC sticker and for the Snell's B-95 and/or N-94 sticker. Proper fit is also an important safety issue. Also consider replacing your helmet every 5 years or so because the shock absorbtion materials can degrade over time.

And remember, the safest helmet is the one you wear EVERY TIME YOU RIDE. Murphy's Law wise, the one time you don't wear it, could be the one time you need it the most.


Lights

Why do I need lights in Chicago? I can see just fine using the street lights.


First of all, it's the law. You are required to have a headlight and a rear reflector (we recommend a flashing rear light). Secondly, although you can see where you're going on most streets, not all the drivers can see you.

Flashing lights demand attention. so you'll be seen. And since most cycling lights now use LED's, you won't have to spend part of your life savings replacing batteries all the time. In fact, a lot of lights can now be recharged using a USB port on your computer.



Gears

I have like a gazillion speeds on my bike. Why do I need so many?


The more speeds your bike has, the easier it is to ride over different kinds of terrain. More speeds also mean easier transitions between speeds when you shift gears allowing you to maintain a comfortable pedaling rate and pressure without having to 'catch up' as much after each shift.    More Info


Quick Release Wheels

I'm not sure I'm using the quick release on my wheels properly. Can you help?


That's a pretty common question and one that needs to be fully answered and demonstrated for safety reasons. We recommend that you bring your bike in so we can show you exactly how to work your quick release wheels and/or seatpost properly.

WD40

Can I use WD40 to lubricate my bike?


No, nein, nyet, nope, no way Jose. Get my drift? WD40 is NOT a lubricant, it's a solvent, and it can loosen frozen nuts and bolts. It can also stop squeaks, but then so can butter. For external surfaces such as chains, pivot points on gears and brakes, and for cables, etc. use a good machine oil, a lightweight motor oil or one of the synthetic lubricants.


Tire Pressure

How often should I check the air pressure in my tires?


If you ride your bike regularly, you should check your air pressure once a week. If you only ride once in a while, you should check it before each ride because tires can lose air just sitting around.



Oiling Your Chain

How much oil should I put on my chain?


As little as possible. Too much oil causes a buildup of oil and dirt on your chain which can cause excessive wear on the chain and other parts of the drivetrain. You should be able to see the chain links clearly and they should leave just a little bit of oil on your fingers when you touch them. If your fingers come away all blackened and/or with a thick greasy 'paste' on them, it's time to clean your chain.     More Info


Chain Lubrication

What kind of lubrication is best for my chain?


Talk to 10 people and you'll get 5 or more different answers. As a rule, a good quality 'machine' oil is the best. It provides a durable surface coating and it's natural capillary action allows it to penetrate deep inside the chain to the pivot points where it's needed the most.

A lightweight motor oil will also work quite well and has good penetrating qualities. Some of the synthetic spray lubricants on the market today are a bit easier to use and also work quite well but make sure they contain some kind of penetrant so they will soak in like natural oil does.

And remember, don't over lubricate. A thin coating of lubricant on the outside of the chain is enough to protect the surface and usually indicates that there is enough lubricant inside.


New Chain

A friend said I might need a new chain. How do I find out?


Just bring your bike in and we'll check out your chain for you. It's important to replace your chain when it gets worn. If you don't, you can cause excessive wear on the crank chainrings and the teeth on your freewheel (the cluster of gears on your rear wheel). Replacing a chain averages $25 - $40, a new frewheel or cassette, $40 to $60, and chainrings, ouch ... you don't want to know. As you can see, it's more economical to replace a worn chain than the other items plus the chain.


Seat Cables

I have a quick release seat and am afraid it will get stolen. What can I do?


You can take the seat with you. That's the safest way, but it's a pain. You can also replace the quick release mechanism with a binder bolt (a nut and bolt) or you can buy a seat cable. Seat cables are permanently fastened to the seat and to the frame to secure your seat and still allow you to raise and lower your seat if you chose.




Fixing a Flat

Can you tell me a good way to fix a flat?


We get this question a lot, so we made a special section for it.
Select Tech Center in the Service link on the top of this page for expanded information.    More Info


Brake Squeal

When I apply my brakes, they make a loud squealing sound. Help, it's embarassing.


Brake squeal is caused by the brake shoe(s) 'chattering' against the rim as it passes between them. It can be caused by a buildup of foreign material on your rim, a problem which can sometimes be solved by cleaning your rims with rubbing alcohol. It can also be caused by brake shoes which have become solid and shiny on the braking surface which can be treated by sanding down the surface of the shoes to reveal the original rubber surface. If these methods don't solve the problem, bring it to a bike shop. Whatever you do, don't put oil on the rim (yes, people have actually done that).


Wheel Alignment

My wheels wobble from side to side and hit the brake shoes. What can I do?


If your wheels are out of alignment (true) or in other words move from side to side between the brake shoes and maybe rub against them, take them to your local bike shop. That wobble can be the result of one of several problems but can usually be repaired by adjusting the spokes, but that isn't something you should tackle yourself since it's a relatively complicated procedure.


My Chain Slaps the Chainstay

Annoying, but reparable


Your freewheel is probably sticking. When you coast, it continues to turn, which causes the chain to sag until there's enough tension to stop it. The large sprocket uses more links, so the chain doesn't sag as far before snapping back. Flush your freewheel with a solvent such as WD40, allow it to dry, then lubricate it with a light oil. Make sure to flush the oil through the freewheel until it comes out the other side to assure that the oil fills the freewheel completely. It becomes more complicated if you have a cassette system and you should take your bike to a bike shop.


Cleaning Your Bike

I clean my bike at a car wash. Is there anything I should be careful of?


Don't point the spray hose directly at the hubs, bottom bracket (crank), or headset because you can displace the grease in the bearings. Also, since some seatposts are open on the top, be careful not to spray water up under the seat since it could seep down inside the frame and cause rust.




Handlebar Stem

I loosened the bolt on my handlebar stem but I can't move it. What am I doing wrong?

They are tricky little buggers, however the solution is usually quite simple.    More Info



Cleaning Chrome

My chrome fenders and steel handlebars look like shrines to rust. What can I do?

Don't point the spray hose directly at the hubs, bottom bracket (crank), or headset because you can displace the grease in the bearings. Also, since some seatposts are open on the top, be careful not to spray water up under the seat since it could seep down inside the frame and cause rust.    More Info

A few quick service tips


Fix a torn tire while out on the road
If you slash the sidewall on your tire or there is a pretty good sized hole on the tread, do not despair. Remove the tire then insert a dollar bill or a wrapper from a power bar between the tire and your tube. Put in a new tube or patch your tube if necessary. Then, re-inflate. The strength of the bill or wrapper should be more than needed to get you home safe and sound. You can also use part of the damaged tube if you have a new tube with you.

New alloy crank arms
When putting new alloy crank arms on, make sure to put a little light grease on the tapered ends of the crank axle. Alloy compresses a little so you might have to tighten the arms one or more times until this compression is complete. The grease will limit the number of times you should need to do this by lowering the friction between the alloy arms and the steel axle thus allowing for a tighter fit. Always make sure to tighten the arms at least twice after a few rides or until you no longer need to tighten them. This grease will also help prevent the dreaded alloy/steel corrosion that can build up where the two surfaces meet making it hard to remove the arms at a later date. And don't forget to put some grease on the threads of the pedals before installing them.

New alloy crank arms
When putting new alloy crank arms on, make sure to put a little light grease on the tapered ends of the crank axle. Alloy compresses a little so you might have to tighten the arms one or more times until this compression is complete. The grease will limit the number of times you should need to do this by lowering the friction between the alloy arms and the steel axle thus allowing for a tighter fit. Always make sure to tighten the arms at least twice after a few rides or until you no longer need to tighten them. This grease will also help prevent the dreaded alloy/steel corrosion that can build up where the two surfaces meet making it hard to remove the arms at a later date. And don't forget to put some grease on the threads of the pedals before installing them.

Presta valve lock nuts
Keep em loose. This nut is necessary on sew-up (sometimes called tubular) tires but if you have a regular tire and tube system, they only create problems. Sew-up tires are called that because the tube is actually sewn up inside the tire. The tire is then glued to the rim. The lock nut keeps the valve from moving around too much and separating from the tube which is in a fixed position.
The opposite is true for standard tubes and tires. Each time you start and stop your bike, the tire moves (flexes) ever so slightly on the rim. If you lock that nut down, the tube won't be able to move along with the tire which can result in the valve stem separating from the tube.

Loose brakes
Do you have to squeeze that brake handle until it almost touches the handlebar before it seems to work right? Time to tighten that sucker up. Most brake handles come with an 'adjusting barrel' which allows you to do just that. Turning that adjusting barrel counterclockwise in effect lengthens the brake sheath (that covering around the brake cable) which also in effect shortens the brake cable.
What actually happens is that the brake cable 'travel' is shortened which allows the brake pads to touch the rim sooner. Most adjusting barrels come with a lock nut. Make sure you loosen that nut before adjusting the barrel and tighten it back up against the brake handle when you're done. Check to make sure you haven't over tightened the cable to a point where the brake shoes are rubbing against the rim. If the adjusting barrel has more than half an inch of thread showing, stop loosening it. If your brake is still not tight enough, bring your bike in to your local bike shop to get a brake adjustment done.
NOTE: On older bikes that adjusting barrel might be located on the brake itself or on a mount at the end of the brake cable sheath close to the brake.

Brake extension levers
If you have an older '10-speed' bike with extension levers (the extra levers that come out of the side of the main brake levers and follow the contour of the handlebar), be careful. Originally billed as safety levers, they were called suicide levers by most if not all bike shops. Due to an inherent design flaw, these levers can fail to provide enough pressure to the brakes to stop you in an emergency situation. If you're riding in traffic or in any situation where an emergency stop may be required, try to use the main brake levers so you're able to stop when you need to. The best way to prevent this problem is to keep the brakes adjusted as tight as possible and check them often.

Spoke noises
Do your spokes 'creak when you ride? Over time and under bad road conditions a slight amount of corrosion can build up on your spokes. This corrosion can cause the spokes to grate against each other where they cross. Put a drop or two of oil at the point where they cross to help eliminate some of this grating. If there is a lot of corrosion, work the spokes back and forth a few times before applying the oil. This will grind some of the corrosion away. If this problem keeps occurring, you might want to get your wheels rebuilt using stainless steel spokes. Those won't corrode. The same thing can happen where the spokes attach to the 'flange' of the hub especially if some of your spokes are a tad loose.

Pedal noises
Do your 'pedals' creak when you ride? That's usually not the pedals themselves. It's usually caused by loose crank arms. If tightening them up doesn't stop the creak, you might need some grease inside the crank arm where it contacts the axle. If you have a crank arm extractor, you can do this yourself.

Paint touchup
Unfortunately, due to hazardus materials shipping restrictions, bicycles no longer come with touchup paint. At a minimum you can use clear nail polish to keep your frame from rusting. We and the bike manufacturers recommend using model paint from a hobby shop. You should be able to find a color close to your bike's current (due to fading) color. If the closest color is a little bit too dark or too light, buy some white or black to mix with it to lighten up or darken the color. If it needs a little more blue, you know what to do. Make sure to clean the spot to be painted with a little diluted dish soap to remove any surface oils then rinse and dry it well (use a paper towel as opposed to a cloth rag since cloth usually has some inherent oil in it).
If you are mixing colors, do it on a piece of cardboard so you can hold it up to the frame to see when the mix is right. Use a very small amount of the 'mixing' color as it will change the main color quickly.



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