The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cannondale Lefty/Headshok damper upgrades

At Shockspital we see a lot of Lefty and Headshok forks of various ages and in various states of disrepair. Among other things, we go through a lot of replacement dampers in the process of keeping these forks on the road (trail). But on the bright side, these repairs are an opportunity for a damper upgrade!

Lefty PBR damper upgrade
As long as your fork is 2005 or newer, upgrading the damper can be as easy as a 10-minute swap. Though it's usually a good idea to have us service the telescope bearings as long we we're at it. Worst-case scenario, if the inner leg is damaged (which prevents the air spring from working properly), we can change that out, too.

Lefty XLR remote lockout damper
So you could revitalize your older Lefty Max with a modern PBR or XLR damper, complete with the lastest updates! Cannondale occasionally makes minor improvements to their damper systems, and the only way to keep on top of that is to install the latest version of the dampers.

Get the latest updates!
The frosting is that a new damper comes with a new 1-year warranty from Cannondale. And, if you're upgrading the same damper type (old PBR to a newer PBR), Cannondale offers great trade-in pricing on your old damper.

Same goes for Fatty/Ultra Headshok forks--if it's 2005 or newer we can in most cases install a modern DLR80 cartridge, for external lockout and rebound adjustability.

Give us a shout to find out which upgrades your fork is eligible for. Get the most out of your Lefty!

Friday, July 26, 2013

I Sniff Your Chain: The Olfactory Man's Guide to Chain Lube

Are you an olfactory sort of person? Take this brief quiz to find out:

1. I open the milk jug for an illicit swig when Mom is not looking. My first move is to give it the old sniff-test to make sure it's not too far down the road towards cottage cheese. (true/false)

2. "Oh see and look: a pair of socks. I think that I will wear them with my tennies. Wait--are they clean?" *sniff* Oh yes, this is what I do. (true/false)

3. Is it raining? Is it going to rain? Has it rained recently? I know this by smell. (true/false)

4. Something is wrong with my car. I know this because it is emitting: a) bad sounds; b) bad vibes; c) bad persons; d) "Bad Bad Leroy Brown;" e) bad odors.


6. I've got a nose. Having a nose is one of those things I'm good at. (true/false)

If you answered any of the above questions at all, you might be an olfactory person, and consequently, this post is for you.

Have you ever wondered how to tell what a chain has been lubed with? Here's a fail-safe way to distinguish among several of the top brands of chain lube using nothing but your olfactory bulb.

Here is Thad. Thad has literally got a picture of sprocket teeth coming out of his head. Thad is modeling a lovely yellow bottle of Dumonde Tech Lite. Fitting, because Thad is a culinary-trained grillmeister, and Dumonde Tech Lite smells kind of like blue cheese. More precisely, it smells like Roquefort cheese, which comes from moldy old caves in France, and features the same Brevibacterium linens that makes your feet stink and attracts mosquitoes. Are you a foodie? Here is your chain lube!

Here is Pete. Pete is wearing a shirt with his name on it. He's been working out, as you can see. In his right (or left, whatever) hand, he holds a bottle of Finish Line Dry. Finish Line Dry was the original dry chain lube developed in the War of 1812 when the battleship "Old Ironsides" battled Mothra on the banks of Lake Gogebic. The hulking steamer was simply making too much racket as she lurched sturdily toward the ever-alert mothlike creature, so they came up with Finish Line Dry... anyways, it smells subtly of patriotism mixed with a hint of nail polish remover. It is extremely low-odor for those with sensitive beaks.

Here is Mario. Mario is standing near the Greenway, and fittingly, holds a bottle of Finish Line Wet lube, the official lube of the Greenway from November through March. It is pretty much the only lube that can hold up to a Minnesota winter's salt and slop. It smells like virtue and strength; Minnesota resolve to ride our bicycles even when the rest of the world laughs us to scorn. Actually, it kind of smells like a lawn freshly mowed where you accidentally got into the herb garden with the weed eater, especially if you grow peppermint. Mixed with Band-Aids.

This is Medium Tyson. He is ecstatically holding a bottle of T-9. He is ecstatic because the bottle is tightly sealed: T-9 smells kind of like a freshly loaded diaper if the child has eaten sushi, plus a little hint of paraffin. Boeing developed T-9 to build airplanes out of, but building airplanes out of waxy liquid proved impractical. So they implemented Plan B: stink up bike shops with it!

This is Karl. Karl's mechanical savvy is legendary, and so is the lube he is holding. Tri-Flow has been around for decades and is a great lube for rainy days and Mondays. And speaking of rainy days and Mondays, Tri-Flow probably has the cheeriest and most identifiable scent of any lube we've tried: it smells like bananas. Seriously, monkeys will drop everything and chase you bodily out of the woods if you lube your chain with Tri-Flow. But don't go writing to the Tri-Flow people for recipes: it is evidently not very tasty despite its amazing smell.

This is Brian. Brian is a registered Iowegian, and true corn-fed Iowegians know that regular WD-40 doesn't belong on a bike any more than a toaster belongs in the bathtub. But they (WD-40, not Iowegians) have recently put forth some products that are intended for bicycle use. "Hot diggety" we all said in unison when we heard the joyous news. The bottles showed up and we crowded around them like gypsies at a yard sale, and then we looked for a chain to lube with... WD-40! I know, it's crazy talk! But then we got whiff of the stuff. "Axe Body Spray," said Brian, crinkling his nose disdainfully. "Frat boys." said Dave, evidently drawing from a deep well of life experiences. "The shoe department at K-Mart," I quipped, trying to look on the bright side. This stuff is strong, and the scent lingers tenaciously. If you use it, we will know. We put it on the bikes of "special" customers for a while until our responsible service manager hid it somewhere, lest we get into trouble.

So there you have it, folks. This will get you started for when you go around sniffing people's chains!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

50 Years of Park Tool

Recently a few of us mechanical type Freewheel Golden Wrench bike fixer people attended Park Tool's 50th Anniversary event. For half a century Park Tool has been doing nothing but making bicycle support goodies: no brief stints in NAPCAR; no contracts with NASA; no farm equipment; no joining the circus; no martial weapons (although, if I were attacked by a moose, I should like to have a PW-3 handy). You will be relieved to discover that they still make their iconic pizza cutters, one of which graced my own kitchen table when I was a lad.

What makes Park Tool so rad? 

From our perspective as bike fixer types, they feel like family. They are bike shop people through and through. They started making tools back in 1963 because the current tools on the market just weren't good enough for the fancy new bikes that were coming out back then. Have you ever tried to fix a space station with tools you bought at the grocery store? That's what Howard and Art felt like when they were trying to adjust Campagnolo hubs. All you could get at the time were wrenches that had been precision engineered for delicate operations such as scratching your back or whacking the carburetor on your tractor. 

So they made their own tools. And at some point in the 1980's they quit the bike shops and started making tools full time. It's been full on since then with hardly a glitch. Consistency? If you own a Park repair stand from any time in the history of the company, it was welded by the same guy who is still welding them today.

Here's a point of trivia: At some point they took time out of their busy schedules and invented the color blue. Thanks, Park Tool!

At any rate, they tell their story best, and it's a dandy.

There's a Discovery Trek (with the chain falling off) and some choice Paramounts on that rack.

They had some Stingrays in the lobby, let me tell you what!

Much of our evening was spent in the presence of Calvin Jones, the indefatigable mascot of Park Tool, and a bike shop guy if you've ever met one. He gave us a tour of their new facility in Oakdale on the condition that we didn't take pictures of secret stuff. We inadvertently took some pictures of secret stuff, but we can't put them on the blog. Sorry, Calvin, if you read this. It was Pete.

When you stared at these, you saw a hexagon of pink spots floating around for about an hour.

At any rate, Calvin's tour took us through their production area, their new warehouse, and their demo shop area, where we saw some familiar and some unfamiliar tools, including ones that haven't quite been released yet. After some hearty jibber-jabber, it was time for some foooooood. If you ever acquire a time machine and you are wondering what to do with it, I highly recommend crashing this party and sampling the mashed potato bar. It was one of those magical moments in my culinary experience.

Oh yes, it was very nice.

Having stuffed our boilers with choice dainties, we were in excellent spirits to listen to the program. It consisted of a fascinating video of the founders of the company telling their story, followed by several well-wishers from the greater bike industry wishing them well. Eric Hawkins, son of founder Howard Hawkins, wrapped up with a toast to the future.

Art Engstrom, co-founder

Industry luminary, whose name escapes me

Luscious piece of birthday cake
No, it is not frosted with Poly-Lube 1000.

Congratulations, Park Tool, for 50 years of making our job better!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring is at Space Camp

If you're like me (and you are, at least if A. you have gums, and B. you are bilaterally symmetrical), you're experiencing some serious anticipation anxieties about whether Spring is actually going to Spring, or if we're going to have to implement plan "B." You may be wondering what plan "B" could possibly be: let's just say that it involves a great deal of whining and finger-pointing. Frankly, as early as Spring showed up last year, I can't blame a fella for sleeping in this year, but I'm starting to wonder if Spring is maybe going to skip the Midwest this year and go to Space Camp instead.

So here we are: the Ides of March is at hand, and there's so much snow in my yard that the Leprechauns are not even going to be able to make it out of their burrows, let alone see their shadows. I doubt if they will even come out in time to hide hard-boiled eggs behind my furniture.

The freeze-thaw cycle makes treacherous man-traps out of shady spots on the bike paths. Those big, brown puddles that collect on the side of the road are perfect hiding places for landlocked sea-serpents that want to gnaw your shins.

I see you there, mister sea serpent...

Yes, yes. We're Midwesterners. We know all this. That's why we have special bikes for such seasons: featuring full-wrap fenders; studded tires; a good, thick patina of crusty grime; and "high-performance orange" decorations on exposed ferrous surfaces. And we have a highly effective game plan if we encounter sea serpents in the big brown puddles. It is so effective that I've never met a single person who was at any time eaten by a sea serpent, which proves everything.

When do we get to ride our nice bikes? Not for a couple of weeks yet, I'm afraid. We have to wait for the snow to melt down and expose the mounds of trash that got there all on its own. Then we have to wait till a good rain washes the sand off of the corners. Then wait for the big brown puddles to make their way down to the Gulf of Mexico, where they will be enslaved and sold to tourists for many pesos.Then we have to sit and wait till the road salt has had a chance to wake up the Leprechauns, who will emerge groggily from their dens, predict that Spring is at Space Camp, and then fly south for the winter in their infamous vee-formations.

While you're waiting, we're waiting too.  Late Spring means light Spring rush at the bike shop. While our workload is still light, you can bring in your elite fleet of summer bikes for super-quick Spring service. How quick is super-quick? As quick as a 1986 Camaro with a louvered rear window (pictured above), parked outside of Space Camp (not pictured above), that's how quick!

Make your road bike feel showroom fresh with new tires, new cables, bar tape, and a chain. Get your mountain bike ready to go with new grips, fresh tires, and clean suspension oil. Estimates are always free, as are smiles, advice, and bike parking while you shop. When it finally gets warm, you will be glad you're not sitting in line at the bike shop, dratting Leprechauns and waiting a week or more to get your bike ready to roll.

As soon as Spring gets back from Space Camp, all bets are off.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shockspital movement

Just a heads-up that Shockspital World HQ is now based out of the Freewheel Bike West Bank location. We still have a lab at the beloved Midtown location (and out at Freewheel-Eden Prairie), but local walk-in customers are now encouraged to stop by the West Bank, where there is actually parking (for your car)!

Improved access is but one of the reasons we decided to shift things around. Easier shipping/receiving for the benefit of our mail-in customers is another. Stop by our new Lab to see the rest!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Headshok upgrade double-header!

Shockspital-West Bank got a pair of Headshok Fatty Ultra forks in the other day, so Troy (from WB) and Tyson (from Shockspital's Midtown HQ) teamed up to get 'em running like new.

Unfortunately, both dampers were damaged to the point that they would no longer hold oil, even with fresh seals. Lucky for us (and the customer!), Cannondale offers a damper exchange program (with certain restrictions) that makes replacing the entire damper a financially viable option. Here's the guts of the old DLR80 damper:

As is typical with this type of failure, damper oil had run down through the bearings and completely flushed out all the grease. In these cases we like to do a full service on the telescope to get everything clean before applying fresh grease. Here's the telescope all taken apart:

When the protective boot covering the telescope gets saturated with damper oil it tends to harden up and crack, so we replace that, as well:

Here you can see the needle bearing retainers covered in grease and ready for reassembly:

Here's Troy coaxing the race retaining clip back into place:

...and in goes the brand-new damper....

....and the knobs go back on and we're done!

Both forks now have an up-to-date DLR damper (with new one-year warranty) and smooth bearings. Like new. Nice!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New Goodies from Park Tool (INF-1, CRP-2)

So what's the biggest difference between our shop here at Freewheel and the shop that you have set-up in your basement?  Most likely the following:

1) Less beer.
2) A collection of expert, professional mechanics.
3) Shop quality tools.

As mechanics tools are our lifeblood, having the proper well-made tools can make all the difference so whenever possible we avail ourselves of the best there is.  It is with this in mind that you can understand our - kid on Christmas morning - excitement when our friends across the river at Park Tool release their new catalog of goodies every year.  This year we managed to get our hands on a couple of new items that we are smitten with so we figured that we would share them with you.

Swivel Head: Silver-Presta, Black-Schrader
Park Tool Shop Inflator (INF-1) During the busy parts of spring and summer we fill tires with air constantly, which means there isn't a tool in the shop that gets used more often.  While it isn't the most glamorous tool having a good inflator in the shop can make or break your day so we are constantly in search of the best inflation tool on the planet.  While we have tried many, very few meet our needs or last long enough to be considered "Shop Quality", the INF-1 is here to change all that.  The usual failing point of inflators is when it takes a nose-dive from it's perch on the work stand and lands squarely on the pressure gauge.  While the inflator usually continues to fill tires after that, without knowing the pressure it is next to useless.  Another gripe with the majority of inflators out there is that you either have to make a choice between the presta and schrader head or you have to use an adapter both of which are a major drag.

Replaceable Parts.
The INF-1 is here to change all that.  With a solid body this thing truly feels like a tool that is going to last for a decade of shop abuse (and can double as a self-defense weapon).  It has a presta/schrader swivel head, so you only need one tool in your hand no matter the valve on the tire.  When you do manage to drop this thing on the face and shatter the gauge it is fully (and easily rebuild-able) and if you wreck the head, you can replace that too!  The only gripe that we have is that it takes it sweet time to fill-up a tire, but based on the (so far) decreased number of blow-outs, maybe this is saving us from ourselves.  If you have an air compressor at home and are looking for a major upgrade, look no further.  This is available today and runs $140.99.       

Park Tool Adjustable Crown Race Puller (CRP-2); As you can probably figure out from the name (CRP-2) this is Park Tool's second crack at a crown race puller.  While it is often overlooked the crown race puller is a very important tool in the shop.  In the days when many of us first started wrenching fork crowns were made of steel and crown races were robust so a razor blade, screwdriver flat blade and hammer was all that was needed to get an old crown race off.  But in the era of lightweight headsets and carbon fiber forks and steerer tubes, its has become a delicate process.  The CRP-2 is a great re-boot of the original CRP-1 and adds some much needed updates.  The first advantage of the CRP-2 is that they have moved from two adjustable pieces to three individual planks for the delicate task of getting between the crown race and the crown of the fork.  This allows for even distribution of pressure once the removal process begins.  The same tool works for 1”, 1-1/8”, 1-1/4” and 1.5 forks (suspension or rigid) and crown races with outside diameters up to 64mm and can handle steering columns up to 430mm.  Apparently the small tabs will wear out with time and will need replacement, but to be honest so did the tabs on the CRP-1 so it won't be too big of an adjustment.   
CRP-2 and Well Loved CRP-1 Side by Side.
These aren't available yet for purchase but are on track for mid-month availability so if you want one let us know and we can get it on order for you.  In the mean-time here are some pictures of it in use;

Fitting over the crown race.

CRP-2 and CRP-1

Fitting under the Crown Race


That's all for now! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Surly Rabbit Hole, Where Will It Fit?

Over the past two weeks our friends at Surly and QBP have begun shipping us all of the components required to build up a Surly Krampus (on a side note what do you call multiple Krampus bikes, Krampii, Krampusses?).  Once we managed to build up Krampus wheel using the Surly Rabbit Hole rim one of our first questions was - what else can we cram this awesome wheel into?

Here are some answers:

1) Surly Pugsley - Yes and hell yes.  This thing looks awesome in there and I imagine for those folks looking for summer wheels (and 29er) this would be a really good option (and we'd love to build them up for you this summer).

2) Salsa Mukluk - In the front, yes, in the rear, it depends.  If you have an older Mukluk (before this year) then it is a little bit tighter than we would like with clearance to the bottom bracket.  With the brand new Mukluk's sporting the alternator dropouts you can make it work if you set the alternators all the way to the back.  Also if you aren't running a 1 speed front - forget about using that granny ring.   

3) Surly Moonlander - Much to our disappointment, no.  While you can physically fit these into the wheel, the 28mm offset required for for Moonlander front and rear wheels, makes this a no-go.  Due to the width of the rim, building it with a 28mm offset would make it a little bit too flimsy with some horrible spoke angles to get it to work.  While I'm certain that someone will try this and get it to work, I will let them spend the money to test it our and end up with a ruined rim (and missing teeth).

4) Suspension forks (other then the Lefty) - Yes, there are 7,000 different  forks and we have seen them all, but I can't imagine one with a crown wide enough for this monster to fit into.

5) Lefty Fork - Yes, I know some people who would love to get that done for you.

Here are some pictures from the experimenting. 
Perfectly fit in a Pugsley

Rubbing on the Moonlander rear triangle.

Bad-ass Pug.
Rubs on the Moonlander fork.

Any Questions?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lefty Max upgrades

This comes up a lot here at Shockspital: a Lefty Max comes in for service that still has the old Manitou damper in it. These are cool forks because they use the same chassis as other Leftys, but the damper is where the air spring would otherwise be and there's a big coil spring in the top half of the fork. The damper is also a lot simpler than a DLR/PBR/XLR Lefty, relying on a single shaft seal to keep the oil where it's supposed to be.

But, you guessed it--Cannondale doesn't make parts for these anymore. So if the damper shaft gets damaged, the fork becomes a very good candidate for a damper upgrade, including the new air spring system that modern Leftys use. This upgrade has a ton of benefits, not the least of which is the weight savings!

At top in the above photo is the stock coil spring from a 2004-2005 Lefty Max SPV/TPC. At bottom is the RockShox-produced Solo Air spring assembly which replaces it as part of a PBR/XLR damper upgrade on this fork. The coil weighs in at 256g. The air spring assembly is 39g (including the packaging!).

Weight weenies, rejoice!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The March of Progress

I remember when mountain bike manufacturers wisely started to put straight-bladed rigid forks on their mountain bikes. It was an adorable little trend started by some well-meaning folks with names that rhymed with Richard Cunningham. Yep, feel all that steering precision! Lighter weight? Sign me up! Then you ride the front wheel over anything taller than a nickel with the obligatory 50 PSI in the tires, and next thing you know you're being fitted for dentures. Straight-bladed forks were awesome!

Then this hoser named Paul Turner came along and tried to single-handedly sissify the sport of mountain biking forever by hanging an air-sprung, oil-damped, slurping monstrosity off the front. Suspension: 48mm of sticky, slurpy suspension. That 48mm number was theoretical: the only way you would see that is if you hit a railroad track stiff-armed at about 20 mph. Sure, the RS1 was flexy, leaky, and primitive, and it didn't last too long; but it changed the landscape forever. It made you faster over rough terrain because it kept you in control. "Control" was more-or-less responsible for the mountain bike boom of the mid-90's.

"Yeah, the front tire sticks to the ground in corners. Pfffft. But you dress funny, mister booger britches," hissed the purist opposition through their dentures.

The suspension thing more or less took off. Then, one day, Rock Shox turned into a big ole company and Paul Turner went and did it all over again.

He started a company known as Maverick. Their Mono-Link rear end was kind of weird, and rode like a GT I-drive with less stiction. But it sort of works if you like to just lean back and slam stuff with your back wheel, and some people really like it. Maverick also made a couple of inverted forks: the SC-32 (single crown) and the DUC-32 (double crown). Both were light and plush, but the SC-32 was known for being a tad on the flexy side. Maybe more than a tad: sometimes, if you really honked on the front brake, your front tire would swing back rub your down tube. But it was light and plush, and times were simpler then.

Maverick forks also required a hub with a proprietary 24mm axle to prevent independent leg movement and lateral wheel flop. It works pretty well, but there's that pesky word "proprietary." Now's a good time for a life lesson for all of you tinkerers out there with aspirations for inventing the next big thing: if your product requires a proprietary means to attach to a bicycle and your last name is not Shimano or something like that, plan to be hated. It's the way of things.

The SC-32 fizzled on XC bikes because of the flex and the front axle. It went out of production a few years ago. End of story?

Not even almost the end of the story! A fat bike tire fits through the fork with just enough clearance. The flex really doesn't matter on a fat bike: is mitigated by the weight of the wheel. This is a hot setup when old snow packs down to frozen stutters. Kind of like January in Minnesota, when it's ten miles below zero after a week where half the snow melted. Can you say "frozen hiker tracks?" Mix in some Grip Studs and you're ready to take on the choppiest trail!

Is suspension for everybody? In 1991 I said "no way." Today, I say "probably not." But it turned out that suspension was just the ticket for about 95% of riders on the dirt. Will the snow experience such a revolution? Who can say?

But I have to admit, that looks like a lot of fun.

Monday, January 14, 2013

DIY Grip stud install

Well it's that time again, to think about studding tires for the fatbike.  We here at Freewheel Bike have been using Grip Studs for this need.  They work in most of the fatbike tires that are on the market.  So here we go.
Tool and studs needed for install

The tires I picked for this project were a Surly Larry and a Surly Nate.  Both of these tires offer a great tread block to screw the stud into.

 The first step is picking a pattern for how your studs will look on the tire.  I use a silver Sharpie to mark the location of my studs.  After you have your pattern, you are now ready to screw some studs in the tires.  I like the hand tool over the tool that works in the electric drill.  I have more control installing the stud with the hand tool.  When working on 45nth Escalator tires that have the holes predrilled, that is when I would use the electric drill tool.  So you start by loading a stud into the tool of choice.  With the hand tool, press the stud firmly into the meat of the tread and start to screw the stud in.  The studs are self tapping and will bite into the tread to start themselves.  Screw the stud down to the shoulder of the stud so it is touching the top of the tread.  I will give it another 1/8 of a turn to make sure it's where I want it to be.  Continue in this manner till you have all your studs in place.  Some tires like the Larry that I studded, take a little more time to stud up.  With little area to get the stud started it makes it tougher and more time consuming.  But with some patience, you will end up with a great looking and working tire.

 As you can see, I have a few studs installed and we are on our way to having some studded tires.

 This is a view of the tire with the studs in place.

 It takes about an hour to install 100 studs.  This front Larry ended up having 125 studs installed and the Nate has 76 studs installed.  For the Nate, I installed the studs down the center tread for traction and the Larry has studs in the center and on the sides for cornering traction.  This seems to be a good balance for the types of terrain I'll be riding or racing.

 In this picture we have a fully studded tire going out for a test ride to the local ice rink near my house.  The tire hooked up well on the ice and I felt that the pattern I installed was just what I needed to help stay upright.

I got my chance to try these tires out at a local race that Freewheel Bike puts on and they were the ticket.  The course was very icy since we had rain prior to the event.  I made the call to use these and I'm sure glad I did.  The course looked more like a bobsled run than a bike trail and the tires and studs I had on the bike sure made all the difference in me making it out alive!  I had to get used to the drifting the tire would do on the ice, but once I got this feeling under control and trusted that it would find traction, I was riding like I do on a dry trail.  The drifting was not out of control, it's just the tire searching for it's traction so I can keep putting power to the pedals and moving forward.

So for those thinking that they want to try this at home for upcoming races like the Lake Minnetonka Ice Race or any race that will be on ice or trail that is icy, you should run out and pick up some Grip Studs and get busy with some tires.