Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

How To Fix A Flat

March 31, 2013

One of the most annoying things in the cycling world is the fact that people have no clue on how to fix a flat.

This is especially bad etiquette on a group ride.

Fixing a flat tire is an essential skill in being self sufficient. Many people do not know anyone who is good at fixing flats so they think it’s a useless skill. Others tried to fix a flat, did a bad job, and then assumed that patches “don’t work for a long term solution”. These people are wrong. Patching makes a tire stronger than before. Patching can extend the life of a tire significantly.

Still, we have our Patch Nay Sayers.

Often naysayers get around the whole notion of fixing a flat by bringing extra tubes. The problem is that extra tubes are expensive and they are wasteful. You can fix dozens of flats with the equivalent space and size of a patch kit to that of a single inner tube.

So carry a patch kit, tire levers, tweezers, a pen, soap, water, a towel, talcum powder, and a pump. Make sure that the pump matches your tire which is presta vs. shraeder.

Next, learn how to use the kit. If you follow all my instructions below you should be fine.

Finally, let those who know do. Often those who know is a girl. If you’re a boy then please GET OUT OF THE WAY and let the girl do her job. Don’t be sexist. Your dick won’t get smaller for admitting that a woman can fix tires better than you. Also, BACK OFF. If someone is fixing a tire at a group ride give them ten or more feet and start a conversation, text, or read a book. Don’t stare at the the fixer.

Also, you could have a slow leak. If you have time, try to blow the tire up and ride on that. If you can get a few miles this way, then this might get you home.

If not, here’s how to fix.

First, feel the outside of the tire. Sometimes you can find metal or glass this way, best.

If you find something mark the spot with a pen. Then deflate the tire.

If you can’t find it deflate the tire anyway.

Next take the tire off with the levers. At this point, you DON’T NEED TO TAKE THE WHEEL OFF.

If you are opening the back tire make sure you do this on the side which DOES NOT HAVE THE CASSETTE. As the cassette can puncture your tire.

Pull out the inner tube and make sure there’s nothing poking it. Now inflate the tire. Use a normal pump and not the stupid CO2 pump. As you blow it up, feel around for the hole and also listen. If you still can’t find the hole, you need to feel around on the inside of the tire for glass or metal. If you find it, match the inner tube’s stem to the stem hole and you might be able to match where the glass came into the tire. If not, you might need to wet the small piece of soap and rub it around your inner tube. You’ll see lots of bubbles when you find the leak. Don’t be fooled by a few bubbles.

Finally, you have found the hole! Next wash the area around the hole. Then dry well with a towel.

Now buff really well with the sander. You need to do a big area around the hole. A really big area.

Now deflate the tire. Find an appropriate size patch and use the tin foil backing as a model for how much rubber cement to add. You only need a thin layer but it has to cover 100% of the inside of the rectangle. Mine is usually slightly bigger than the actual tin foil, and I do a little on each side of the tire as well just to make sure.

Set a timer for ten minutes. YOU MUST WAIT A FULL TEN MINUTES. If you rush this part, you’ll waste more time in the future.

After ten minutes take the backing off the patch. CAREFUL! If the patch folds in on itself, toss it. Now gently apply the patch WITHOUT FOLDING IT. IF YOU FOLD THE PATCH THEN PULL IT OFF AND START OVER WITH THE BUFFING PHASE, NEW GLUE, ETC.

Push really hard on the patch and especially smooth out the edges. Do not take off the clear plastic.

Blow up the tire, slowly while pressing on the edges of the patch. IF PART OF THE PATCH DOES NOT STICK, PULL IT OFF AND START OVER.

Once the tire is partially inflated and it looks good, rub the patched area with talcum powder. Some people dump a little powder into their tire, too. This is a sound idea. If you skip this step your inner tube could stick to the tire and you’ll get another flat and you’ll be one of those fools who can’t patch his tires because he doesn’t think it works. Loser.

Now put inner tube back into the wheel. You probably didn’t even have to take off the wheel! Once the deflated wheel is on and and the wheel is between the brakes where it should be, inflate. Done.

Now you are a step closer to self-sufficient and a step away from being a loser who forces his wife to sit by the phone to pick up up from his long ride. Forget all that. A cyclist can be _more_ reliable than a motorist if she knows how to fix a few things.


Effective Motoring Class

March 25, 2012

OK, I wrote this before DWF wrote the excellent comment regarding the esteemed John Allen’s taking of a motoring “safety” class by a race car driver.

My class idea was much different, however. I was not going to teach one to push one’s car to the limit nor keep oneself on one’s toes. Rather, I was after a class which was analogous to the savvy cycling classes which have the tone that most cycling accidents are the cyclist’s fault, only.

I figured if a motoring class existed, we’d be able to push the blame back on to the one who had the machine most capable of killing: “with great power comes great responsibility”, a cliche that is not repeated enough in the cycling “safety” realm.

Since I never saw anyone else step up to the plate, I thought that I”d posit a new form of class called “Competent Motoring.” (CM)

Basically, it would go beyond the basics of a driver’s ed class and teach a more in depth understanding of the laws and rules of the road for effective motoring.

The premise is that if cycling is so complicated that we need to teach a 24 hour class, since an automobile has about 10x the parts of a bicycle and there are 10x more laws governing motoring, perhaps the class should be 240 hours? 🙂

I think we can do it all in two hours including the on street motoring.

Some of the ideas I have are:

1. Teaching the finer points of the traffic laws that are actually enforced. Also talking about laws that can be enforced, but are usually ignored. This is to create a more realistic view of motoring which is in contrast to driver’s ed classes which teach unrealistic goals which students realize are BS and thus they ignore EVERYTHING that they have learned.

2. Opening a car door with one’s right hand which forces one to look for cyclists.

3. NEVER ride in the gutter. Take the outer part of a curve at all times.

4. NEVER enter a bicycle lane except when one is turning, then look back and carefully enter the lane where the dotted lines are.

5. Look both ways even on a one way street for cycling salmon.

6. Give at least 5 feet of space while passing a cyclist and slow down. Also, never trail a cyclist by less than 12 feet in case the cyclist falls.

7. Overall, treat a cyclist like a slow car NOT a handicapped person. Being overly cautious is just as annoying as not paying any attention at all.

8. If a motorist breaks a traffic law such as running a stop sign or speeding, chase him down and give him a stern lecture.

9. Never tell a cyclist not to ride a bike. How about if every time you drove your car someone ordered you about telling you to ride a bike. You’d be super-annoyed.

10. Never get started immediately after a light turns green. Not all cyclists can make the light. Look first then go.

11. When coming out of a driveway, stop short of the sidewalk. ALWAYS. And look. There could be child running in front of you because he feels safe on the sidewalk.

There’s much more, but you get the idea.

I envision this class signed off by government lawyers, engineers, and so on and the instructors licensed by the government.

Biking Bell Curve

January 23, 2012

Imagine if there was a group of people who had superior skills regarding to cycling so that they could do so in such a way as to make it much safer.

Should we listen to this group?

The vast majority of cyclists says “NO!” In fact, they flat out ignore this group.


Because they are women of course.

How do I really know that these cyclists are the most “competent” of them all?

Let’s look at the facts. After all, just going on our own “superstitions”, we’d never learn anything!

Women account for only 40% of cyclists nationally, but they make up only 10% of the fatalities. Men on the other hand, are 60% of the total, but are 90% of the fatalities. Thus, women are less likely, even when their smaller total numbers are factored out, to die when cycling.

But who are the chest thumping bike xperts? (sic) 🙂


So here’s the thing. Why the hell would I listen to someone who is more likely to die?

I shouldn’t.

We really don’t know _why_ women are less likely to die, and we probably never will because, like I said, nobody listens to women.

We’d rather continue to die in larger numbers while mocking the safer sex.

I do have a theory on why women are in less accidents, and that is because they ride more intelligently.

In order to promote bicycle safety, I’m going to advocate riding more like women.

Other idiots can continue to ride their own made up ways, but I’m going to peddle down the path of wisdom.

Here are some of my preliminary findings in the wonderful, innovation I call “listening to women”.

Notice that these are all tendencies and the opinions of the women cyclists that I have spoken with and read about. Thus, there are going to be women who ride the exact same as the prototypical male. If this offends you, please close your browser window now. I’m not here to offend, but merely to collect data to keep myself alive.

Women tend to ride only when they feel comfortable. Other morons call this “superstitious” or whatever, but guess what, the proof’s in the pudding.

Women don’t tend to look at made up “crash diagrams” nor do they obsess over door zones or the dangers of sidewalk riding.

They go out of their way to ride longer routes which are quieter and avoid heavy, loud traffic.

They wear what they want.

If riding is too hard or scary, they just won’t ride at all which probably accounts, in part, for their lower numbers of cyclists. This also happens to be one of the cornerstones of Cross’ conclusions. Be very careful on what roads you ride on. Don’t be bold. Don’t ride too fast.

And overall, if you aren’t part of the safer sex who rides like the safer sex, shut up about safety. The numbers are against you, and whatever you say is bound to be wrong and just get people hurt.

Repair Notes: Crank Arm Extractor

December 20, 2011
Front Cassette Extracted

Front Cassette Extracted

Longtime readers know that I had previously had been fixing my bicycle.

I am happy to announce that it’s almost (that’s right almost) done!

I have only to tune the gears which is something that I have a lot of (painful) practice with.

Last night, it was the icing on the cake.

I finally got my crank arm extractor tool. I got the good one, but it still only cost $17 which is well worth having a tool I’ll use over and over again.

Using it was easy. Just take off the outer nut with a hextool. Note that I needed to use a hammer on this. Thankfully, this and the rest of the job followed the usual counter-clockwise pattern.

One I banged this open, I screwed in the crank arm extractor. Again, I needed to use a hammer. The directions try to scare you because they say that if you don’t get it 100% screwed in, you will damage threads. This was not true for me. I could not bang it in all the way so I just gave up and moved on.

The next step has us screw in the smaller inner nut on crank arm extractor. This needed a hammer as well. I failed before because I failed to realize that more force is OK.

Finally, the crank arm just came off. What a blessed relief.

Getting the other one on was easy. However, my front derailler was improperly installed. Intead of fixing it like I should have, I got princess to held jimmy it into place.

Finally, I took changed my pedal which was easy.

The next day when I went to ride, I realized a few things.

First was that pedals are supposed to be 180 degrees apart by mine were more like 30 degrees. The crank arm will go on all wrong if you are dumb enough, like me, to do so.

It was funny almost falling off my bike because I could not pedal.

So I had a rushed mess the next morning. Fortunately, I knew how to do all this so it was easy.

When I got things hooked up, I realized that my derailler was getting damaged because it was too long. I should not have jimmied things last night. So I raised this which was easy, too, just a hex nut.

Finally, I had it all together.

With no time to tune derailler, I still have second gear only, but it’s much, much faster with the new, strong teeth of the front (and back) cassettes!

I’m so happy.

The Chain of Destruction

November 23, 2011

This is the next installment of my mission to fix my bicycle.

Yesterday, my sweet Princess suggested that we meet at Adams Bicycle Shop so we did.

There, I met a brilliantly named mechanic called Freddie who worked with me to figure out what went wrong with my bicycle and how to fix it. He had that rare combination of intelliegence and kindness rarely seen in bicycle mechanics.

Looking at my cassettes, he agreed that they were stripped which is one of the reasons why things skipped. He admitted to trying to fix up older bicycles, and it just made things worse.

What most likely happened is that once I changed chains, I created a situation where the new strong chain quickly stripped the cassette teeth much quicker than the older chain which had aged along with the casettes.

Take home lesson for me is that if the chain skips, I will have a new front and a new back cassette ready to change before I bother changing the chain. I could have saved myself from such pain if I had done this.

I also ordered a new seat because I had destroyed the old one, probably by riding too hard. It’s tough being a strong, bad-ass cyclist. 🙂

I also ordered a new back tire. Freddie pointed out that the front tire had ridges on the sides which allowed it to perfectly line up with my light from Sweden.

Usually bike repair and especially going on about bicycle parts bores me to tears, but in this case, I was somewhat interested as this was a path out of the pain I face now where I have to climb a hill in second gear, and I’m even slower starting up from a stopped position.

Thank-you Freddie for cheering me up and giving me hope. Also, thanks as always to Princess.

The Case of the Skipping Chain

November 22, 2011

Since a bicycle has so few parts, you’d think that this would result in things being easier to diagnose. This is true some of the time, however, sometimes, it’s still a mystery at least to me.

Take my latest woe, the skipping chain. This really, really sucks especially going up a hill. It sucks the energy from each turn of the pedal when you need it the most.

At first, I thought that this was due to a dirty chain. Cleaning my chain had worked wonders in the past. I was especially heartened when I saw that there was a big build up of grease on my bottom cassette which was pushing the chain off the teeth.

After I spent two lunches cleaning my chain, cassette, and derailleur, things got worse!

I knew what I had to do, I had to change my chain.

So I pedaled the dangerous trip that it was to my “local” bicycle shop, and I bought a new chain.

Of course, I put it on wrong–I always put it on wrong. There’s always some piece of metal or another that it needs to be over or under and I mess it up. Plus each time, there’s a different way to put it on. In the past, there was the difficult, but reversible chain breaker. Then they went to the five dollar bolts that you had to buy each time you used. Plus you needed to snap them off. What a strange thing. Next, they moved onto the master link which seemed great, but once you get it on, you can’t get it off!

Since I all ready sealed the deal with my master link, I was stuck using the chain breaker which is not recommended for my chain (9 speed) because it “weakens the chain”

I had no choice other than to use another chain (which I made sure to buy). I was doing all this work outside the bike shop in case I messed something up. Haha!

Being frugal, I wanted to try to save the expensive chain so I did use the chain breaker. However, it wasn’t breaking right, it was warping the chain!

Ug, can nothing go right? Finally, I managed to get the chain on in a ghetto fashion. The fact that things worked at all amazed me.

Of course, once the chain was on, did this cure the mysteriousness chain skip.

Hell no!

In fact, it was worse than ever. Much worse.

So bad that I had to use the middle speed, only, which makes going up hills, really, really tough.

More tomorrow as the plot thickens.

Touching Taboos

September 26, 2011

Like everywhere else, there are topics that are taboo in the bicycle world.

Luckily, many of them are actually more harmless than they sound.

One of them is sidewalk riding.

In the past, I have freely and gleefully admitted that I had broken this (ever so minor) taboo of riding styles.

While I think that in many cases there are better riding styles, people usually ride in the way that makes them feel the most comfortable and safe. I fully support people’s rights to think for themselves and to make their own decisions.

Sadly, this is often not the case in the cycling world. Much of the cycling literature is littered with stern “thou shall nots”. Where’s the fun in that?

Thus, I think that riding instructions should be like condoms. Instead of telling people not to sidewalk ride, and have them do it anyway and get hurt, why not give them advice that will protect them?

I feel sidewalk riding and salmoning are phases that most of us went through on our way to riding proficiency.

Thus, I have started a book which will fill in the gaps that other “safety” courses leave out: how to ride more safely on the sidewalk, how to use cycle trakcks, and most of all how to have fun!

Since the book is to help people, I’m going to make it available as I write it here:

Transcendent Bone Shaking

Do It Yourself?

June 6, 2011

I have always had a problem with the phrase “do it yourselfer”, and today I finally figured out why.

I guess that’s because I really, really like doing things myself, probably because I have a lot of pride.

Over the years, I have suffered a lot with poorly working bicycles and nights I wanted to write my award winning novel–still not written–instead of slaving over my bike.

Also, as I said before, I was impatient and unwilling to spend the money for the proper parts and tools all the time.

Looking back, it’s a recipe for disaster.

But as I said, I am semi-competent in keeping my own two wheels on the road thanks to some special people who helped me.

Still, there’s this stigma against those of us who do _anything_ on our own. I think this is partially created by “professionals” who, of course, want us to pay them every time something goes wrong on our bicycles.

Now, I love my mechanic, but sometimes, on the road, we need to know how to fix things ourselves.

Thus, I don’t think that there’s a big divide between those who want to fix things themselves and those who go to a shop because we do both.

I love get my bike fixed at a shop when I ride it, and it is way smoother than I could ever make it. I love knowing everything is just right.

Still, for me, there’s nothing like that sense of accomplishment such as when I adjusted my front derailler just so.

Also, since San Diego is so spread out, it’s literally miles between public trans options, sometimes, and even more miles to the nearest bike shop. Thus, unless I want to take a hike, I need to carry a few tools, and have some basic proficiency in using them.

In the future, I’ll share the little I know.

Learning Bike Repair 101

May 27, 2011

The other day when I did the excellent Bike The Blvd, I met a new friend who had a problem with his back wheel getting stuck over and over again.

I stopped a few times to help him fix it. It was obviously a bad skewer which wouldn’t ever seat properly again. I told him to gear way down before he peddling and to avoid using too much pressure. I also offered for him to come over to my house to borrow a skewer or bicycle.

He marveled at my bike fixing skills. The funny thing is that I consider myself terrible at it.

For one thing, unlike many people I know, I hate fixing things. I don’t see the fascination; I just want stuff to be fixed. I work way better with things you can’t see or touch like words or computer code. 🙂

Thus, I was happy to hear that somebody thought I was good at bike repair. I have been working on them for over a dozen years.

Each time I work on a bicycle, I get a little better.

The best lesson, however, I have learned was in watching not what people do when they fix a bicycle, but _how_ they approach it.

The best repair people actually enjoy the job. Thus, I try to enjoy myself, also. Second, they are extremely patient which is probably related to #1. If they enjoy themselves, it’s easier to stick with it rather than trying to rush through it. Third, they tend to really pay attention to the situation rather than rushing in and trying things. Fourth, they make small changes and see how that impacts the system.

I’d like to add something that I do which is to read up on the subject before I try _anything_. This is tough, but it’s well worth it. If you know _why_ you are doing things rather than just what to do, you can fix things much easier.

Over the years, I have grown a little more confident in fixing my bicycle, although I still appreciate it when my princess works on it. It’s funny, to me, how many dudes are floored that she fixes my bicycle as if having female anatomy made this impossible or something.

However, as a few of my earliest bicycle repair mentors were women. They were the first people to explain the thought behind the repairs to me, also many of them exhibited the type of patience necessary to become really good mechanics.

The point is that anyone can learn to repair their bicycle if they care to do so.

Bicycle Show

April 12, 2011

Last weekend, I went to a bicycle show.

I had gone last year, and I didn’t really have that much fun because I didn’t know anyone.

However, we were introduced to Nobillette, an amazing builder. We all saw Blinekey from North Philly so that was good times.

In fact, my SO ordered a custom bicycle!

However, this year was better.

I guess it was because I knew more people there, again mostly through my SO.

I wish I had gone to the band which had tons of Stone Beer. Plus there were tons of parties.

On Sunday, in LA, there was the cyclovia.

So overwhelming!

But I didn’t do any of that.

While I was at the bicycle show, I learned a little about what the point was when I looked at some custom parts.

This is because recently, due to poor design, my front derailler broke and I had to get a new one.

At the bicycle show, I saw people who could machine much higher quality parts.

I guess the moral is that even though I didn’t get things at first, by hanging around long enough, I was able to learn something.

I’m still not that interested in the mechanics of bicycles at all.