The Golden Wrench

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Protect your derailleur hanger

From time to time we see a bike with catastrophic damage to the rear derailleur and rear wheel caused when the derailleur got caught in the spokes of the wheel while it was moving. Most commonly this is caused by prior damage to the derailleur and is COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE! Frequently we see telltale scuff marks on the outside of the derailleur itself, suggesting that it has been through some earlier trauma.

Here's how it usually goes:

1) The rear derailleur gets bumped, bending the derailleur hanger slightly in towards the rear wheel.

2) At some point the rider shifts towards the larger cogs (easier gears), at which point the derailleur cage gets caught in the spokes of the spinning wheel.

3) Terrible things happen.

The derailleur hanger is the small tab which connects the derailleur to the bike frame. On most modern bikes these are replaceable, meant to be a sacrificial part. Because they're meant to be the weakest part of that system (to avoid damage to the more expensive derailleur or frame), it takes surprisingly little force to bend them. Something as minor as tipping the bike over onto the right side can do it. Or maybe you didn't quite make it through that closing door on your way out of the bike shop, and the door bumped your derailleur. Or perhaps you were a little ungentle while loading the bike into your car. Needless to say, actually crashing the bike on that side can bend the hanger.

But the major damage often comes later, when you continue to ride a bike with a bent hanger. So be forewarned: it's much cheaper to replace a bent hanger than your derailleur and rear wheel.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Double Barrel comes to the Midwest

Ever heard of the Cane Creek Double Barrel? It's only the most adjustable, best-performing rear shock on the market. and it's coming to the Midwest! Shockspital is now a certified Double Barrel service and warranty center, joining just a handful of shops around the U.S. that are thus qualified.

And though the CCDB only comes in sizes 7.5" and bigger, any of you with a bike that can handle a long-travel shock should be excited about this product. Keep in mind that you'll need to devote some time to dialing it in to your preferences. While most rear shocks offer two or three types of damper adjustment, the CCDB offers four: high- and low-speed compression AND high- and low-speed rebound. And if you want the new Double Barrel CS, you also get a climb switch similar to the pedal platform option found on other companies' shocks.

For the more weigh-conscious rider, there is the Double Barrel Air, boasting all the same adjustability of the CCDB but using a lightweight air spring in place of the coil.

Of course this level of performance comes at a price--the Double Barrel is a bit of an investment. But fortunately for you prospective buyers out there, Shockspital is also an authorized Demo Center. This means you can try before you buy! Check out the Double Barrel website to see if your bike can handle this shock. If it can, give us a shout to line up a demo shock. We're still in the process of putting together our demo fleet, so contact us before it gets warm out to ensure we have the right size for your bike come spring.

Minnesotans/Wisconsinites in the audience should consider this the hands-down best choice of equipment for your Spirit Mountain bike. Hell yeah!

Double Barrel small part? Yes, we have that in stock.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Confessions of a Recent Fatbike Convert

When I joined the Freewheel team last summer, I knew that it would be especially hard for me to resist the allure of fat bike season once winter came. Now that I was working at one of the nation’s top fat bike retailers, I was surrounded by them, in more varieties than ever—our shop carries Trek’s new Farley, Salsa’s aluminum and titanium Mukluks, the super-wide Surly Moonlander, and the breathtakingly light Borealis Yampa and Salsa Beargrease carbon models. (“A carbon fat bike?” marvels every single person who enters our store.) And, of course, the stalwart Surly Pugsley, which kicked things off back in 2005 as the first retail fat bike.

Less than a decade later, the skyrocketing popularity of fat bikes is well-documented and nowhere more visible than the Twin Cities, where fat bike manufacturers are headquartered and hundreds of them roll out of our three Freewheel locations every season. Plenty of people even bought them during the summer, heading for the MTB trails. We are reaching Peak Fatbike, not just among trail enthusiasts, but with everyday commuters, as more brands make them and they become more affordable. (You know a trend has moved from the fringe to the mainstream when the local news covers it and Wal-Mart gets in on the act.)

I’ve been a winter bike commuter for years, and I still believe that nothing will get you through a Minnesota winter like a dependable old frame with studded tires, fenders, and platform pedals. But if you want more stability and relish the thought of an off-road adventure on your way home from work, you should consider a fat bike.

I was still on the fence about fat bikes when I winterized my single-speed Surly Steamroller in November. Then Freewheel held its Winter Bike Expo, and I spent two days watching Pugsleys, Moonlanders, Beargreases, and Mukluks roll out of our Midtown location and onto the course we’d set up on the Greenway. Maybe I lingered a little too long next to the Dillinger tires and W√∂lvhammer boots, or just saw too many ecstatic, rosy-cheeked customers return from their demo rides, but I eventually drank the metaphorical Kool-Aid by demoing a Pugsley on the course. I knew it was going to be fun, but nothing compares to the sensation of actually clearing a four-foot ramp or bombing down a big hill—using a bike to do something previously reserved for snowboarders. I was instantly hooked, and the Expo gave hundreds of others that conversion experience along with me. I purchased a Pugsley in “Real Blew” later that week.

Cyclists often describe the appeal of winter biking by invoking the intrepid spirit of arctic explorers and astronauts, striking out into inhospitable environments decked head-to-toe in funny-looking clothing, wearing big boots and facemasks. People who make fun of us or call us crazy for riding through winter probably haven’t felt the ways that riding in these conditions amplifies the usual mental and physical benefits of cycling: your heart beats faster, your body gets warmer, and you get out of the house, undaunted by the snow and cold. Fat bikes take these sensations to the next level by giving you added confidence on various terrain and the knowledge that you can hop that pile of snow at the next intersection if have (or want) to. You’re getting a great workout, combating Seasonal Affective Disorder, raising your body temperature far higher than you would driving or taking the bus, and having a blast in a climate most people flee by staying indoors or leaving the state altogether. You’re a superhuman James Cook/Neil Armstrong badass.

Of course, riding a fat bike doesn’t make you invincible, and there are some peculiarities to the machine that take some getting used to. For one, you’re not going to go as fast on pavement as you would on any other bike, especially if you keep your tires inflated at the extremely low (5-10 psi) recommend pressure. You’ll also probably be in the low gears for most of your ride, but that’s great news for your cardio workout! Fat tires sometimes have less traction than you’d expect, and can wash out on the mashed-potato slush that fills the streets after the plows have come through. Studded Dillinger tires can help with this and bestow upon your bike something approaching invincibility.

So, do you absolutely need a fat bike? Probably not. Do you want one? Definitely probably. My winterized Steamroller will get me from point A to B, but on the days when I have time to kill before or after work, or on weekends when I want to hit the trails, I’m glad I’ve got my Pugsley. A few weeks ago, grappling with cabin fever, I left for work a couple hours early and rode down to the East River Flats. I followed a trail that cross-country skiers had packed relatively firm, occasionally venturing out onto the ice, stopping every now and then to take in the scenery and be grateful that I had such ready access to the country’s mightiest river and the quiet that I relish so much during a winter ride. I was a couple miles downtown and just down the hill from the U of M campus, but it felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. My cabin fever was gone; I felt physically and mentally restored. That’s a feeling you can’t put a price on, but it’s got to be worth at least as much as my Puglsey.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Getting Squishy with Giant Mendez

In 2013 I added a little bit of spring to my step and squish to my bike stable. I'm here to spread the good word about full suspension and how it's changed my riding.

I've always loved an opportunity to play in the mud, and a few years ago after getting my first Surly Troll I reveled in its versatility (more on that in another post). I could bike it around town, do groceries, or take it to some of my favorite off road spots like Theo Wirth or the Minnesota River Bottoms

A few years went by and although I was completely satisfied with the ride qualities of my fully rigid steel bike, I wanted to be able to do more! I wanted to be able to take on some serious features or play on a pump track! 

At the end of 2013 I had been doing my research and was considering purchasing a Trek Lush SL and was going to wait a bit to pull the trigger. I soon found out that in 2014 Trek was going to phase out their 26" wheeled model of that bike, and because of my stature (5'0") I was concerned about not being able to flick my bike around as I prefer to. I had to make a decision quick and I've gotta say, I'm not sad about what I had to do...

Betty looking fierce
With a light aluminum frame, Shimano SLX/XT mixed group, respectable SLX hydros, 120mm of travel front and rear thanks to Fox Evolution Series paired suspensions dialed for a lighter weight rider, this bike was a far cry from my steel single speed. The super hot matte and gloss black paint job didn't hurt either; this bike was perfection to me.

Before I got a chance to properly ride the bike I've named Betty I had to take a very relevant business trip to Trek where I got an opportunity to test ride the big sister, or 29er version of the Lush SL. After spending a few days on some of the most amazing trails I've ever had the benefit of riding I really feel like I'd gotten a handle on the Lush SL 29er.

Big wheels, no big dealzzzz
I can understand the appeal of a 29er after spending extended time on one. They are super fast, they roll over just about anything, and the wheelbase feels longer and stable. These are all nice things, but I couldn't get over the "monster truck" feel of the front end. My second day riding the bike I dropped the stem a spacer and it felt better, and I felt if I had more time with it I would have been better off dropping it another 10mm and it would have been perfect. A concern of mine that got blown to bits was that this bike's handling would be cumbersome as I am accustomed to much smaller wheels but with the tapered head tube and proper G2 geometry all I had to do was tell the front end where to go and it would GO!  ALSO, bonus, in 2014 this bicycle comes with a dropper post! Hitting some of the crazier features with a remote hydraulic dropper post made all of the difference in confidence for me. I see the appeal of a newer rider enjoying the stability this bike has to offer, and it is awesome crushing over everything in the woods.

This bike also features ABP, Trek's solution to suspension lockup when you pull your brake so I could retain control and not feel like I was being bucked off my bike. The Lush SL also features Fox's Climb/Trail/Descend switch to adjust the stiffness of front and rear suspension while riding different kinds of trails. I stayed in climb and trail most of the time, hopefully come spring I'll be able to take my bike to some places where I can use the descend feature. 

On the more technical side, Trek makes suspension setup easy. Adjusting from going rigid to full suspension was simple and nowhere near as scary as I imagined with their suspension setup calculator. All of the knobs and dials can be kind of daunting at first but fortunately with that tool and my lovely men in Shockspital I got it dialed perfectly. 

When all is said and done I would 100% recommend the Lush SL (and the Superfly 100 AL, the gender-neutral companion) to anyone coming in looking to get set up with a full-suspension mountain bike. If you choose the extra suspension to get more rad or even just to not feel like someone completely beat you up the next day, they are fabulous machines to take your off-roading to the next level. Whether you're coming from rigid or hardtail, you can't go wrong with a little bit of extra squish.