Bike Repair, 1-29-17

Bicycle Maintenance with Laurence, Third Class, 1-28-17

January 28, 2017  —  the agenda consisted of vocab review, new vocab – The Wheel – and the four steps of a bike tuneup.  Again, I left at 6:30 because of a dinner commitment so if anyone else present (Laurence, Annie S or Annie A) has material to add or wants to modify this, please chime in!


The wheel and other parts are below:


Other useful sites:


What parts of the bike have ball bearings?  Pedals, hubs (front and rear), headset (fork tube), bottom bracket and free wheel.

You can help to true the wheel by adjusting the spoke nipples  which will move the wheel one way or another.

Tune ups

There are four basic steps, and Laurence likes to do a bump test where you pick up the bike up a few inches and allow it to bounce down and see what rattles, moves and what doesn’t feel tight.  It may be that your bike tuneup requires more than the basic four steps.  For instance, during my bounce test Laurence looked askance at the fork tube (the bike is old, 15 or maybe 20 years?) and it maybe that the ball bearings in the fork tubes are bad.  Consider that if water got down into the fork tube (looking at my bike, this looked very possible) then the bearing may have started to rust.  In any case, a perusal of the fork tube indicated evidence of stress and likely failure in the near future.


The Four Steps:

  1. Pump tires
  2. Oil the chain
  3. Adjust shifting
  4. Adjust brakes


1  . If you’re going to bike a lot, invest some money in a good pump with a gauge ; if the tire is new, go ahead, pump up to the recommend PSI, if it’s old, a bit below the recommended PSI

2  Oil the chain

  • Winter, use a winter lube made for bikes with a nozzle that allows you to put one drip on every link – hold a cloth beneath to catch oil that falls, move the chain along until you have lubed every link
  • Summer – use a summer type lube
  • Be careful not to get oil on the bike rims (Pat!!) that can impact on the brake’s effectiveness
  • Wipe the chain with a cloth to remove excess oil– chain should be glistening, no more
  • Frequency – about every 4-6 weeks (Laurence bikes 200-300 miles/month)


  1. Adjust the shifting/gear adjustment
  • Use a Phillips head screwdriver, find the High and Low limit screws

  • Turn clockwise to tighten


Background explanation from

  1. Gears: Most bikes have two or threechainringsin the front and anywhere from 7 to 11 gears, or cogs, in the back. Moving the chain from the smallest rear cog to the largest eases your pedaling effort incrementally. Moving it between the chainrings in the front results in a more noticeable change—pedaling feels easier in a smaller chainring and harder in a bigger one.
  2. Shifter Savvy The left-hand shifter changes the front gears; the one on the right controls gears in back. If you get flustered on the fly, remember: RIGHT = REAR
  3. Avoid Cross-Chaining That means thechain is at an extreme slant, either in the big ring up front and the biggest cog in back, or the small ring up front and the small cog in back. This not only stresses the hardware, but it also limits your options if you need to shift again. (related to this is :  the chain is on biggest chainring in front and the biggest cog in back – this is a gear that bikes were not meant to shift into – so don’t put your chain in this position )
  4. Cheat Sheet: For: Uphills and headwinds
    Use: Small or middle front chainring + bigger rear cogs (uphill, low gear, less force on the pedal but you must peal faster)

For: Downhills
Use: Large front chainring + a range of rear cogs

For: Flat terrain
Use: Small or middle front chainring + ­smaller rear cogs


So when your chain is on the smallest cog in back, you are in high gear, and your bike is hard to pedal; this is the gear to be in on flat land; low gear are for the hills here in Ithaca.

You want to stand behind the bike and make sure the derailleur and cogs are s lined up , adjust  the High limit screw, if you tighten the screw too much, the chain wont be able to slide down to the smallest cog and that’s when you’ll need to loosen the High limit screw (counter-clockwise with the Phillips head.)

If you tighten the cable by loosening the screw, you go up to the next gear .  You want to make sure the chain does not hit any part of the derailleur.

Releasing the tension makes the cable housing longer and loosens the ????

Point: if you have just gotten a new cable, it will stretch in the first month, and you will need to adjust it.

Something about spoke protectors?

4  .Brakes    We did a front adjustment during the first class using a lock nut, but we did not adjust the tension of the back wire.  We did talk about the proper alignment of brake pads and if the pads indendations are worn off, the pad needs replacment.  Same with old  hard-rubber or cracked pads:  replace them.

Bike Repair, 1-22-17


January 22, 2017  —  a  day to go down in history!  There were marches all over the country and all over the world, and here in  Ithaca, 10,000 people marched.  As Laurence and I waited for those who did not go to DC, we talked about the march and The Music Man.  “The barbershop quartet was spectacular,” I said.  “Well worth the price of a ticket.”

Two more attendees arrived, and we got down to business.  Laurence said we’d fix a flat – who hasn’t had a flat in their life? And  Laurence reminded us, as we worked on our bikes, to be aware of

  • Mechanical perception
  • Wrench feel
  • Failure awareness

Then he pointed out the fork, and the steerer tube, see below.



Next, the drive train, that part of the bike (chain rings, chain, gears and cogs) that transmit power to the rear wheel.  Just so were all on the same page, cogs are technically the teeth on a gear or sprocket.  Gears become sprockets when you add a chain. The cogs mesh together and fall  into the links of a chain, this so the chain does not slip


Then we have the front and rear derailleurs.  From Wikipedia, Derailleur Gears, 1-24-17: The front derailleur moves the chain side to side between the front chainrings, and it does this with the top, taut portion of the chain. It also needs to accommodate large differences in chainring size: from as many as 53 teeth to as few as 20 teeth.

The rear derailleur serves double duty and moves the chain between rear sprockets and taking up chain slack caused by moving to a smaller sprocket at the rear or a smaller chainring by the front derailleur.

Derailleurs require the chain to be in movement in order to shift from one ring or sprocket to another. This usually requires the rider to be pedaling.,

Chain-drive systems such as the derailleur systems work best if the chain is aligned with the sprocket plane, especially avoiding the biggest drive sprocket running with the biggest driven sprocket (or the smallest with the smallest). The diagonal chain run produced by these practices is less efficient and shortens the life of all components, with no advantage from the middle of the range ratio obtained.

Derailleur gears generally have an efficiency around 95%. (Wikipedia).


The last part of the class was spent on fixing a flat.  We use two tire levers (about $5 eachd and a patch kit called Tip Top Patch Kit ( $3-$6) . Note: Laurence declared that you are wasting your money with glueless patches.


First of all remove the tire by inserting the lever (spoon side – other side hooks onto the spoke) beneath the bead, which is the steel cable on the outside of the tire.  The valve should be at the bottom and you can hold the tire with your feet.  It’s very important to figure out what caused the flat so when we remove the tube, add air and put the tube to your ear, face, etc and identify the leak.  Spit is great—it’s accessible, free and it will bubble up in the leak’s vicinity.  Then using the chalk from your kit, or a marker, draw a circle around the leak.

Typical  Flats Types–

  1. Snakebite or pinch flat manifested as two small parallel lines—tires are underinflated (check pressure at least every 6 weeks, maybe more frequently) and the tubes sneaks over the rim and when you go over a bump, you produce these two tears
  2. Friction flat – the tire is old, the bead stretched, the tires move on the rim and this causes rubbing on the inner tube.
  3. Slow leak – running over glass, or a spike from a plant
  4. Blow out – beware, do not pressurize your tires about the recommended PSI, also be ware that on warm days, air molecules heat up, they move faster and therefore increase your tire pressure.


Snakebite flat,– from, What You Can Learn From Your Flat Tires.

Should you change your inner tubes now and then?  Probably not, said Laurence, the inner tube is not exposed to the elements and is in a fairly stable environment.  You should note that if you leave your bike in the garage where there are motors and production of ozone, the ozone will degrade the tire rubber.

Onto the patching that leak.  First roughen the rubber with your quarter-sized piece of sandpaper then add about one sneeze (snotty) of glue.  Let it sit for a minute or two until its finish goes from glazed to matt; put on the round patch and leave the back transparent plastic on.  Wait another minute or two then pressurize the tube, but not completely.  Some inflation is desirable so the tube doesn’t slip out while you are installing it.  Put the tube over the rim and in, inserting the nozzle first.  Make sure the nozzle is straight.  Then put the tube inside the tire – one side with the bead, then the other.  Use your palms to get the tire in.  Here, I should have taken a photo of Annie S.  Make sure that both sides of the tire beads are in.

Next, inflate your tire.  Done!

Bike Repair for Women, First Class

Bike Repair, First Class, 1-14-17

This past Saturday, January 14, I participated (not just attended) a bike repair class for girls and women offered for a small fee by Laurence of Boxy Bikes, Press Bay Alley, in downtown Ithaca.

I am ashamed to admit that I know almost nothing about my bike despite the fact that it is my main (not only) vehicle of transportation.  At one time I could fix a flat, but I have found with my last two bikes, a Fugi and a Diamond Back, that I can’t even get the tires off.   Maybe that will change!

There were six of us at the first class: Laurence, Judy, Josephine, Jessica, Annie and myself, and we introduced ourselves, and talked a bit about our biking experience and what we hoped to achieve.

Laurence told us: “I’ve actually never been to a bike store – if I had problems with my bike, I fixed it.  I learned by doing.”  Yeah, he was one of those kids who took things apart.  Bravo!  This is the kind of bike teacher we all want.

Laurence began with bike nomenclature, specifically mentioning that a bike frame is really made up of 9 tubes, and these include the seat tube, head tube, down tube, top tube, 2 seat stays and 2 chain stays.  You can see those in the diagram below.  Even if I did not learn another fact today, I would remember that a bike has these parts.  For me, this de-mystifies a bike, although, I will admit that while I am biking, I do feel as if I am in a mystical realm.


Bicycle parts identified


Next Laurence brought out a bike and showed us how to adjust the brake lines at the handlebars.  He mentioned that you could also adjust the brake line at the actual brakes.  He demonstrated how a bike stand works, showed us how to set a bike on the stand using the seat tube—the seat tube of course! — because this is the strongest tube.


We brought in our bikes, adjusted our brakes at the handlebars.  Why hadn’t I done this earlier?  Lots of reasons why a person puts things off, in fact, 5 months ago, Laurence had shown me this very same technique but being in a hurry (a mistake, I am learning to slow down), I filed away that small but valuable skill.  We talked about brake shoes – how to know when they need replacement: the grooves or teeth in the brake pads disappear, or you hear the sound of grating metal.  Then it was determined that either Josephine or Jessica needed a deeper slot for her brake shoe … . a round file was produced (we were at the Generator – tools available here) and the metal slot made a bit deeper so that the brake shoe fit, just a bit better.  At that moment it felt amazing for me to be in such a class.


Before class started, as I was helping Laurence prepare for the class, he said:  “Why do people always assume that biking out in the cold, you must be cold?  Why do they always ask if I am cold?  Why can’t people think past their assumptions?”  A good question to think about during the day when you’re waiting in line at the store, or waiting for a light to change.  Why don’t we examine our assumptions?

Next class I am taking notes – I don’t want to miss anything.