In memory of
May you ride free in Heaven
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHEELS AND TIRES
TABLE OF CONTENTS (suite)
DERAILLEUR, CHAIN MAINTENANCE AND PEDALS
SEATS, HANDLEBARS AND BASIC BIKE FIT
There are many things that made the existence of this book possible. My passion for bikes is of course at the source of it but if it wasn’t for the support of my wife and kids, I would have never took the time to sit down to write.
Of course the source of all this knowledge sharing is my blog that was inspired by Sheldon Brown. How better to leave your mark on the world than by sharing what you know freely with the world. Information is power and the power is yours to give.
My cousin Sebastien was the one who introduced me to blogging and made me ask this now famous question inside this family unit: “What is a blog?”
Finally, to all the readers out there who read me, share with me and participate in the making of the blog, your contribution also made this book possible.
So again, a thousand thanks to all of you.
DISCLAIMER AND LEGAL STUFF
This book is intended to provide information and it does not claim in any way to be the last word about bicycle maintenance or repair. If, during any stage of doing maintenance on your bicycle, you are unsure about anything or feel that you may put yourself or others in jeopardy by doing work on your bicycle, be smart and consult a professional bicycle mechanic at your local bike shop. I will not be held liable by any mistake done by you, the reader.
I am a certified bicycle mechanic and I have learned much of my craft by actually repairing thousands of bicycles. I have made mistakes before and I will make mistakes in the future. Keep this in mind, always double check your work and remember that you are ultimately responsible for your own safety.
Last words of caution, bikes are addictive and there is no known cure. Just ask my beloved wife. ☺
I am the sole owner of this book and all its content. This book may be copied for individual purposes only and cannot be resold. Although this book can be downloaded for free, you are invited to make a donation of the
you something of value. If you wish to use any part of the book’s content, just ask me and I will gladly hear you out. You can contact me at
This book is written for you, the average bicycle owner, who suddenly wants to do more than just ride around unconsciously on your store bought bike and wants to empower him or herself with some knowledge on how to keep the thing running without spending an arm and a leg, or at least for less than you actually spent on the bike.
Store bought bicycles are for the most part, steel-framed bikes that were built with low-end components. They are meant to be sold en masse and are oftentimes considered as disposable. With a few basic tools and knowledge, these bikes can last a lifetime. This will give you a better return on your investment and might even propel you further into bicycle ownership. Who knows, you could start upgrading the components or even go as far as rebuilding the entire bike!
When attempted for the first time, bicycle repair is not easy, but it’s not complicated either. Give yourself some time to learn and you will be comfortable with it soon enough. You already had the courage to pick up this book and look into it, so you have gone over the very first hurdle.
Before you start on a particular process, take the time to go over the entire book first so that you can cross reference easily from one task to another.
The steps listed in this book are not limited to store-bought bikes, they apply to any bicycle. There are a lot of inexpensive bikes out there and often times they are tossed away when just a little maintenance could have prevented their untimely demise. So get your tools and prepare to get your hands dirty.
Before we even get started, we need some tools. Here’s a list of the basic stuff you’ll need to get you going.
1. Floor pump with pressure gauge
3. Wire Cutters (Those are not great. If you have the money, spend the $30 for a bike specific one)
4. A set of hex keys
5. Tire spoons (Careful, metals ones have a tendency to pinch tubes.) 6. Chain breaker tool
7. Spoke wrench (This one is not the best but it has all possible sizes on it.) 8. Phillips head screwdriver
9. Flat head screwdriver
10. Open ended adjustable wrench
11. Open ended wrenches in 10mm and 15mm 12. Ratchet wrench and sockets in 9mm, 10mm, 13mm, 14mm, 15mm sizes With this basic set, you’ll be able to tackle almost any task on your ride. Of course there are mazes of other tools that you can get, but these are the basic ones to get you started.
In order for you to understand the terms that will be used in this book, please refer to the images below that list the main components of a bicycle.
For any future reference in this book, the right side of a bicycle refers to the side with the chain and drive train and the left, the one without.
13- Seat post
3- Head tube
14- Chain ring
5- Handle bar
6- Top tube
7- Down tube
18- Gear cogs
8- Seat tube
19- Rear derailleur
9- Seat stays
20- Front derailleur
10- Chain stays
21- Brake Caliper
11- Drop outs
WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheels and tires are the things that allow you to maintain contact with you and the road. Anything goes wrong here and you’ll know right away. First things first, let’s start by figuring out how to remove the wheels.
If the bike is equipped with front brakes, disconnect them first so that the tire will clear the pads once you remove the wheel.
Simply unscrew the two (2) nuts on each side, pull the washers and remove the wheel.
When reinstalling the wheel, make sure that the axle is properly seated in the slots on both sides of the fork.
Once you are done, you can confirm this by eyeballing the middle of the tire thread and the top of the fork to see if everything is lined up straight.
Reinstalling a front wheel is always best done with the bike on the ground, so that the weight of it sits on the axle in the fork, allowing for a straight fit every time.
With a derailleur-equipped bicycle, first you must shift the chain to the last gear, the one closest to the frame, that’s the smallest one. This will make the job of removing it easier by getting tension off the chain and will simplify the reinstallation of the wheel later.
Disconnect the brake so that the pads will clear the tire.
Unbolt the wheel, grab it with one hand, push on the derailleur cage toward the front of the bike with the other hand and it should come right off the frame.
To reinstall the wheel, sit the top of the chain on the smallest gear.
Push the derailleur cage forward to clear the gear cluster and pull it in place in the frame.
You will tighten the right nut first while the axle is sitting at the very end of its slot in the drop out.
Once that nut is secured, pull the wheel sideways at the front, near the bottom bracket, until it is centered.
You can now tighten the left nut, reinstall your brakes and you are done.
One gear rear wheels are removed in the same way, with the exception of the coaster brake arm on the left side that has to be disconnected first and, of course, reconnected once the wheel is put back on the frame.
Flat tires are the most common occurrences in bike maintenance. It is a pretty straightforward thing to do, but some knowledge is necessary to avoid having to start over.
You’ll need to remove the wheel from the bike and then remove the tire from the rim.
Some tires are easily removed with your hands once all the air is let out.
However, some will require the use of tire spoons.
Simply put the scoop end of one spoon between the tire and the rim.
Pry that section of the tire off the rim.
Now use the end with the hook and have it grab a spoke.
The tire should now be popped out at that spot and this leaves your hands free to use another spoon to go in again between the tire and the rim a bit ahead of that one to start prying the rest of the tire off.
You might have to do this as well on the other side of the tire.
Now that the tire is off, place the wheel against a wall, remove the tube from the tire, place the tire in front of the wheel the same way it was inside it and now place the tube in front of the tire the same way it was in it. You can use the valve stem as a guide.
Now you’re probably wondering why we are doing all this, right? Well before we go replace or patch up the inner tube, we need to determine what caused the puncture and where. Sometimes you have a big ugly nail sticking out of your tire and it’s pretty darn obvious to figure out where the puncture occurred. Sometimes it’s not. There are many reasons for a puncture, we can figure this out by the type of hole you have in the inner tube:
Small hole on the outside diameter of the tube: Foreign object in the tire.
Small hole on the inside diameter of the tube: Protruding spoke.
Line slash on the side or top of the inner tube: Tube was pinched because of low tire pressure followed by a hard hit.
Star shaped puncture: Caused by too much air pressure. (You probably heard a loud BANG!)
In the last two examples, simply replace the tube and make sure you follow the indications on the sidewall of the tire to inflate at the proper air pressure.
In the other cases, that’s where our set up becomes obvious. For the protruding spoke diagnosis, you can now locate exactly which spoke is coming through and you can replace it. In the case of the outer puncture, and without the obvious presence of a 6-inch nail sticking out of your tire, you can now find what the cause of the blow out was and remove it. Take and old nylon sock and run it inside the tire, this will help you locate small nails, staples or pieces of glass that you would otherwise miss with your naked eye. Remove the object and replace the tube. You can also patch the tube with a patch kit (simply follow the instructions), but don’t forget to scrape the tube with the provided grater to give adherence to the patch.
To reinstall the tire on the wheel:
Insert the tube in the tire.
Start by inserting the valve stem in the wheel and go from there by gradually inserting the tire moving outward from the valve. You may need the help of the tire spoons at the very end.
Make sure you don’t pinch the tire between the spoon and the rim.
Now with the wheel flat on the ground put between 5 and 10 psi of pressure.
Stop and look on both sides of the wheel to make sure that the tire is seated evenly and everywhere on the rim.
Make corrections if need be and then you can set the wheel upright and go for full pressure as indicated on the sidewall of the tire.
The previous step will prevent any air bubbles from coming out, between the tire and rim, and exploding with the equivalent blast of a shotgun going off. Your ears would ring for half an hour, trust me on that one!
Tip: Inner tubes are porous
at a certain level, even
though they are made of
rubber. Don’t be surprised
to find your tires low on
pressure after long periods
of storage. It is also for this
reason that you should
check your tire pressure
once a month at the very
least. Properly inflated
tires will make your bike
more efficient and a lot
easier to pedal.
Wheel alignment and wheel building are subjects that could fill an entire book by themselves. We will stick here to the very basics. If you find that your wheel is going a bit from side to side and touching the brake pads on occasion while turning, you can align it with a spoke wrench, to a point. If your wheel resembles a taco, we are way beyond small adjustments. I strongly suggest you bring it to a bike shop where an expert can take care of it if it requires too much work. You would need a truing stand and some 14
additional information not provided in this book. (Mind you that information is available online and elsewhere if you want to take the time to find it.) However, with a spoke wrench and with the brake pads as guides, it’s still possible to do some minor adjustments with the wheel on the bike. Before you start though, make sure the brake pads are centered (Refer to Chapter Two for brake adjustments).
Bicycle wheels are composed of a hub in the center and a rim at the outer edge that are held together by spokes on both sides of the wheel. The spokes are tensioned by brass nipples screwed into them at the rim and this is what gives the wheel its strength. When new, the spokes on a wheel are more or less tensioned equally. With time this changes and the tension has to be adjusted to keep the wheel aligned or, as we mechanically inclined bike people (that includes you as well now☺) call it, true.
When you tighten a spoke nipple,
this will pull the rim towards the
center and, when loosened, it will
push the rim outward. It basically
pulls and pushes the rim to the
right or left depending on which
spoke and on what side of the rim
it is. To make things easier, I will
list some situations with their
solutions. You will use the brake
pads as your guides. That means
if the rim rubs at a certain point on the pad, the spoke that is facing
the pad is your problem.
1 – Right spoke 2 – Left spoke
Rim rubs on the left side near left side spoke: Loosen the spoke.
Rim rubs on the left side near right side spoke: Tighten the spoke.
Rim rubs on the right side near left side spoke: Tighten the spoke.
Rim rubs on the left side near right side spoke: Loosen the spoke.
If you need to do more than a quarter turn with the spoke wrench to align the wheel properly or you have a jammed spoke nipple, you need professional help. Consult your local bike shop.
Bicycles are great machines that can get you anywhere, but the need to stop is imperative above all else. There are many types of braking systems out there, but I will concentrate on the 3 main ones that are most common.
Also known as back pedal brake, this system consists of a pedal-actuated internal hub mechanism. There is no way of adjusting this. Usually when the inner brass pads are used up, the entire hub unit must be replaced.
However, it is essential that the arm coming out of the hub on the left side of the bike be solidly attached to the frame. If that arm is not secured, the brakes will just not work. I have seen this often on children’s bikes. Make sure that this bracket is on tight.
The following types use a brake handle on the handlebar to transmit the energy from your hand to the caliper via a steel cable. There is an adjustment barrel where the cable stops on the handle that should be screwed all the way in before you do any kind of adjustment on your brakes. This barrel is used for minute adjustment on-the-fly during the season to compensate brake pad wear. Unscrew the adjustment barrel to bring the brake pads closer to the rim. It must also be noted that if you turn the barrel and the locking ring in a way that the openings on them line up, you can remove the brake cable for replacement.
4- Cable stop
5- Cable housing
6- Cable housing
Brake cables and cable housing
Brake cables are made of steel and you should consider stainless steel cables if you replace them. Stainless steel cables don’t rust and last longer.
If you find any sign of rust in the cable housing, replace it as well. No amount of lubrication will prevent rust from returning and it will jam everything solid. The following brake systems are all operated by cable-pulled handles.
Side pull caliper brakes
These types of brakes are found on many department store bikes. Their braking power is not the best, but if adjusted properly, they can do a decent job of stopping your ride. These calipers are made like a spring-loaded wise that squeezes the pads on the rim. The caliper is mounted on the bike frame by one single nut and bolt at its top center.
First, you must make sure that the pads are sitting square on the rim when the calliper is squeezed shut. It should under no consideration rub on the tire.
Adjust the position of the pad with a 10 mm socket or open-ended wrench.
Once you’ve accomplished this, unscrew the nut that holds the cable on the caliper. The caliper should open immediately without the cable tension; if not, it is seized.
Grab both brake pads and squeeze them on the rim of the wheel. While doing this with one hand, pull on the brake cable and screw the locking nut.
With some practice, this can be done with the two hands that you already have. If you aren’t able to pull it off, there is a tool available called the “third hand” or brake cable puller.
Once you have tightened the locking nut on the cable you should have a proper adjustment. All the slack inherently present in the system should leave enough space for the rim to clear the pads.
If you have too much clearance, you can always unscrew the adjustment barrel on the brake handle, this will effectively pull the brake cable on the 18
caliper and close the gap. Don’t forget to screw in the locking ring on the barrel.
3- Brake cable
4- Locking nut
6- Brake pad
These brakes are commonly found on most modern bikes. If you still have the old cantilever style brakes with a center pull cable, I urge you to replace them with these. V-Type brakes are made of two separate spring-loaded arms that are attached to the frame via welded bosses. The simple, yet powerful, braking action is provided by the cable pulling the two arms together at the top. The same things apply as in the previous example for the brake handle and the pads.
Hold the pad flush on the rim by pushing the arm of the caliper and adjust the pad so it sits flush on the rim. Do the same thing on the other side.
Brakes that squeal or make awful noises are caused by brake pads that don’t hit the rim square.
Unscrew the cable locking bolt to take the slack off, but make sure you leave enough room between the pads to clear the wheel while it turns.
V-Type brake set-ups don’t have much slack in them, so you’ll need to be a bit more precise.
1. Cable guide
3. Locking nut
5. Brake pad
7. Brake screw
Pad and cable replacement
Replacing brake pads is very straightforward: you remove and replace.
Some pads may have a multitude of washers that come with them and it’s important to install them in the proper order. Lay out the old pads on a clean surface with the washers in the order you removed them so you can backtrack, or simply take a picture before removal. Some pads are directional and this is indicated by an arrow on the outside of the pad itself.
Make sure you install them with the arrow facing forward. Brake pads have a very smooth surface when new. Score them a little with a piece of 20
sandpaper prior to installation on the contact surface. This will provide better grip on the rim and better stopping power.
Frayed or rusted cables should be replaced immediately even if they still look operational. You just never know when they’re going to snap. You wouldn’t want to find out while trying to avoid a semi, now would you? Just a few things of note for replacing them: don’t trim them until you’ve finished installation and cover up the open end with a cap or some solder to avoid fraying.
Tip: The front brake will always work better than the rear one. This is a simple question of physics where the cable is a lot shorter, thus has less friction. When braking, it is important to start by applying the rear brake first and then applying the front brake. Locking the front brake and wheel will send you flying over the handlebars and most likely to the hospital.
DERAILLEUR, CHAIN MAINTENANCE AND PEDALS
Many of you are intimidated by gear shifting adjustments. It looks complicated and whenever you try your hand at fixing this, it all goes wrong and generally stays that way. Let’s start demystifying the entire gear changing system by looking at how it works and what is the principle behind it.
A derailleur equipped bike has multiple gears on the rear wheel and at the pedals. In order for the chain to be able to move on these multiple gears, it needs something to push it along. This is where the derailleur comes into play. This simple spring loaded device pushes, or in effect “derails”, the chain from on gear cog to another. This is done by a cable that pulls the derailleur via the shifter. In a rear derailleur you have two springs. One is preloaded to hold the derailleur at the last and smallest cog on the gear cluster. The shifter cable pulls on it and keeps it in position either by friction or by a ratchet system. The second spring is in the cage of the derailleur where you find those two small wheels. This one is used to put tension in the chain while it is being moved from gear to gear. You will also find two adjustment screws on the rear of the derailleur with the letters “H” and “L”.
H, meaning High, is for adjusting the position of the derailleur on the smallest cog and L, meaning Low, is for the biggest cog, more on that later.
You will also find an adjustment barrel at the derailleur where the cable housing ends, this adjustment barrel will be useful for precise adjustments later on.
The front derailleur at the pedals is even simpler. It is preloaded with one spring to hold it closest to the frame on the smallest gear. This one is also activated by a cable being pulled by the shifter to hold it in place on the selected gear. You will also find two “H” and “L” marked screws on this derailleur. In this case, it is reversed where the H is for the biggest cog and L for the smallest one. It is also important to mention that sometimes shifters are equipped with a barrel adjustment for the cable on both derailleurs.
1- Adjustment screw
2- Adjustment screw
3- Locking nut
5- Cable stopper
6- Cable housing
7- Derailleur cage
8- Spring arm
1- Derailleur cage
2- Pulley wheel
3- Derailleur body
4- Adjustment screw
5- Adjustment screw
6- Adjustment barrel
8- Locking nut
Rusted or frayed cables should be replaced to avoid any kind of surprise down the road.
Shift the derailleur on the highest number for the rear and the lowest one for the front to remove any tension in the cable and disconnect the cable at the derailleur.
The location varies from shifter to shifter, but there should a small hole where you can push the cable in or out of it.
Push on the cable to help you locate that hole and pull the cable out.
Insert the new cable in the same hole.
Insert the cable inside the cable housing (if it’s still good, if not you have to replace it as well.).
While making sure the cable is inserted fully inside the shifter, pull it and connect it to the derailleur by tightening the lock nut.
When the cable is disconnected from the derailleur, verify that it is moving freely by pushing the derailleur cage with your fingers. If it is jammed you can spray it with a releasing agent and try to pry it back into service. If it refuses to come back to life, simply remove and replace the unit. You will need to remove the chain in order to do this.
No amount of adjusting, even by the most clever of mechanics, will ever do any good if the derailleur isn’t installed straight or if the cage is crooked.
Before you even consider playing with the derailleur adjustments, there are a few steps you must take to reset the system so you can start fresh and avoid all the usual headaches.
First off, shift to the smallest gear at the rear derailleur and into the smallest at the front derailleur, in effect removing all tension in those cables.
Second, disconnect the cable from the derailleur cage.
Third, screw the adjustable cable stop on the derailleur all the way in.
Fourth, if so equipped, screw the adjustment barrel on the shifter all the way in. Do this on both front and rear derailleurs.
Now turn the pedals until the chain stops moving from gear to gear.
Now the chain should be sitting on the smallest gear on the rear wheel and on the smallest gear on the front cluster attached to the pedals. If that is not the case, don’t worry, this is where those “H” and “L” screws come into play.
Rear derailleur adjustment
Let’s start with the rear derailleur. The “H” screw is simply a stop that presets the last position when the derailleur is at rest with no shifter cable tension.
While turning the pedals, take a small flat head or Phillips screwdriver, turn the H screw until the derailleur puts the chain on the last gear cog.
Turning clockwise will push the derailleur inward and counter clockwise will bring it outward.
If you turn counter clockwise too much, this will dump the chain between the gears and the frame. If you turn clockwise too much, it will make the chain jump to the next gear. You have to find just the right spot, go slowly.
Now, with the shifter still at the highest numbered position, insert the cable back behind the locking nut on the cage and pull slightly to remove any slack in it all along its routing. Tighten the nut and lock the cable in place.
Start turning the pedals and downshift into the next gear.
If the chain immediately goes onto the next gear, you’re done.
If not, unscrew the adjustable cable stop on the derailleur slowly until the chain moves onto the next gear.
Up shift and downshift on those two gears a couple of times to make sure that your adjustment is good.
Next, carefully downshift to the biggest gear on the rear wheel cluster. This is where the “L” screw on the derailleur comes into play.
This screw is a stop that prevents the chain from jamming itself between the gear and the spokes of the wheel.
While the chain is on that gear, slowly turn the “L” screw clockwise until you feel some resistance.
The opposite is true if the chain refuses to go on the biggest gear, turn the screw counter clockwise until you are able to do so.
Now you should be able to shift into any gear without any problems.
Front derailleur adjustment
This one is a bit easier since it only involves two to three gears and two adjustments. With the cable disconnected, the cage of the derailleur should now sit closest to the frame on the smallest gear.
Before we do anything, you must make sure that the chain is on the biggest gear on the rear wheel, that’s the one closest to the spokes.
Turn the pedals and see if the chain rubs on the inside of the derailleur cage while moving. If that is the case, turn the “L” screw counter clockwise until it stops rubbing.
If the chain is not rubbing but you see a gap bigger than 2mm between the cage and the chain, this will cause the chain to rub on the outside part of the cage once you shift the rear derailleur onto the smallest gear. It’s all relative. Turn the crew clockwise to bring the cage closer.
Reconnect the cable in position pulling slightly to remove any slack in the cable.
Turn the pedals and with the rear derailleur on the smallest gear and shift up to the biggest gear up front.
If the chain doesn’t want to go on that last gear or it rubs on the outer piece of the cage, unscrew the “H” screw slowly while turning the pedals until it gets on the gear and stops rubbing.
If the cage goes too far and dumps the chain off the gear, you then need to screw the “H” screw clockwise.
That’s it, you’re done. When the lower and higher gears are adjusted, the middle one is automatically adjusted.
Bicycles are powered by your legs transferring energy from the pedals to the rear wheel. This energy transfer is accomplished via a chain. This device is still the way of choice after more than 100 years because it is simple, cheap and 98% efficient in doing the job. Chains require lubrication since they are basically naked steel sitting out there in the elements.
Two things you must AVOID putting on your chain at all cost is regular motor oil and WD40. The first will attract dust particles like a magnet and the second will actually strip your chain of any lubricant. There are numerous chain lubricants out there, even biodegradable stuff that will do a proper job. I myself use automatic transmission oil. Go see your local bike shop for chain specific lube or try the tranny oil if you have any lying around. I apply lube to my chain one link at a time using a baby feed syringe. You can also use an old tooth brush to do the application. Once you have lubed each link, run it through all the gears and then wipe off the excess with a rag. Make sure none of it ends up on the rim of your rear wheel; this will affect braking in a very bad way. Chain lubrication should be done regularly and the intervals will depend in what condition and how often you ride your bike. A well lubricated chain will last longer and work a lot better.
If you need to replace or fix your chain, you’ll need to use a chain breaker tool. This tool works by pushing the pivot pin out of the link. If your chain is broken, you can get away with losing one link to reconnect the chain, most of the time. If you need to replace the chain, you must verify that if you have the proper length first.
On a one gear bike just measure the new chain with the old one. If you don’t have the old one, simply wrap the chain on the chain ring and the rear wheel gear with the wheel in place. On derailleur equipped bikes, you must first make sure that both derailleurs are set at the smallest gear at the front and back. This is where there is no tension in the chain. Now put the new chain on the smallest gear at the front and back. Make sure that you have a slight pull on the derailleur cage or that the upper derailleur wheel doesn’t rub on the chain. Remove the unneeded links making sure that you have a female section at one end and a male section at the other. Arrange it so that the pushed out pin is facing you, it will make the job a lot easier.
Using the tool is not too complicated; to open or “break” the chain. Put a link in the tool so that the pin in the chain lines up the pin in the tool. Screw in the pin of the tool so that it pushes out the pin in the chain.
Make sure you don’t push the pin all the way out, there’s no way of putting it back on if you do. Once you have done that, remove the chain from the tool and snap the links off.
To reconnect a chain, snap two links together and place them in the tool with the pin facing you. Screw in the tool’s pin and this will push the chain’s pin back into the link. Turn until the pin is equal on both sides of the link.
Remove the chain from the tool, grab the chain with both hands on each side of the link you’ve just connected and move the chain from side to side a few times.
This will in effect loosen up the link you’ve just put together. Make sure that it pivots by grabbing each side of that link and make an up and down movement to see if it pivots freely.
Pedals come mostly in two axle sizes: 9/16 inch for 3 piece bottom brackets and 1/2 inch for one piece cranks found on BMX bikes and most cruisers.
The most important thing to remember about them is that they are side specific. They are marked with an “R” for the right side and “L” for the left side somewhere on the axle of the pedal. This is relevant to the fact that the left side pedal has reversed thread. To remove a left side pedal, you must turn its axle clockwise with the help of a 15mm open ended wrench. To install, turn the axle counter clockwise. The reverse is true for the right side pedal. Another easy way to figure out pedal removal or installation, on either side, is to remember that to remove them you must turn your wrench towards the back and to install them you must turn it towards the front.
SEATS, HANDLEBARS AND BASIC BIKE FIT
Bicycle fit is the most basic of things you can do on your bicycle and, regrettably, the most ignored. You cannot be efficient or enjoy your bike if the fit is not right for you. If you are not comfortable on your bicycle, you won’t ride as often and vice versa. We’ll see what can be done with a few simple adjustments to make this happen. Here I will list the different elements related to a proper bike fit.
Improperly adjusted seats can lead to a very uncomfortable ride. There are two very basic types of seats, women and men’s. Women’s seats are wide and men’s are narrow. This is important because what actually make contact on a bicycle seat are your sitting bones. Women having wider hips, for the purpose of bearing children, have their sitting bones wider then men’s. This is why it is preferable for women not to use a narrow seat, the riding position would be very uncomfortable.
Seat design hasn’t evolved until recent years, this is due to the fact that they are in relation with a subject that was taboo. Seats are now available with a channel in the middle to facilitate circulation and avoid numbness of the genitals. This is applicable to both men and women. Gel and spring equipped seats can also make for a comfier ride, but this is up to you. A bicycle seat is a very personal thing and every rider has different needs.
There isn’t a perfect seat for everybody out there that I am aware of.
The seat itself is usually held on to the seat post by a clamp connected to the seat rails. You can adjust the angle of the seat by unscrewing the clamp nuts on each side of the clamp. What you are looking for is a position where the seat will be parallel to the ground. When you adjust your seat position on the seat post, just remember to make sure that the clamp is sitting all the way down on the seat post. If not, you run the chance of it coming off at some point. Make sure that those nuts are bolted tight.
1- Seat post
2- Seat clamp
3- Clamp nut
4- Seat rails
Tip: replace or cover
a seat that is
patched up with
tape. The tape can
cause chaffing of
your inner thighs and
the wound could be
difficult to heal if you
keep riding that way.
The distance between the seat and your pedals is crucial for optimal efficiency and also for the sake of your knees. Improper seat height can make pedaling a lot harder and can wreak havoc with the future health of your knees. There is an easy way to make sure that you leg extension is just right.
Start with the position where the seat is now.
Bring one of the pedals down or at the 6 o’clock position.
While sitting on the seat, place your heel on that pedal. (Make sure you are wearing the same shoes when you ride) Your leg should be straight without any flex in your knee.
When you place your foot at the normal position on the pedal, you should have a slight bend in your knee, this is the perfect height adjustment for you.
If not, adjust the seat height accordingly.
To adjust the seat
height, you’ll need to
unscrew the nut and
bolt at the seat tube.
This will make it
possible to move the
seat post up or down.
Make sure that the
seat is straight in line
with the frame.
Tighten the nut and
bolt at the seat tube
when you’re done.
This riding position is
the one needed for
However, kids under
11 years of age
should have their
seat height adjusted
so that their feet are
flat on the ground
when stopped and
seated. This measure
is a precautionary
one since young
children are not as
experienced and they
might need to plant
both feet on the
ground quickly in
case of an
The handlebar can be adjusted for height, but just slightly. You must unscrew the bolt or hex bolt on the top of the stem.
Tap the bolt with a hammer. This will loosen the locking wedge inside the fork steerer tube. You can now raise or
lower the stem to your liking.
Be careful not to move up the stem so far as to show the safety hash marks on the tube. This would be very dangerous.
Retighten the bolt hard, especially on hex bolt equipped stems.
Verify that everything is tight by
grabbing the handlebar and trying to
move it while cradling the front wheel with your legs.
This method applies to threaded forks. Non threaded forks have two bolts in the back of the stem and that’s where they sit permanently. You can’t move those up or down.
It is also possible to adjust the angle of the handlebar. This is possible by unscrewing the nut and bolt at the neck of the stem.
Brake levers and shifters.
Often times I see brake levers and shifters installed parallel to the ground.
This applies unnecessary force on your wrists. Look underneath the shifter and lever, you should find a bolt or hex bolt that you can unscrew partially.
Sit on the bike and adjust them down until you are comfortable. Retighten everything securely afterwards.
If you need to remove or replace your grips on the handlebar, there is an easy method to remove and install them.
Simply use a small and long flat screwdriver or a spoke covered with dishwashing soap. Insert between the grip and the handlebar. Grab the grip and twist on or off. Use a bit of dishwashing soap to install grips on the handlebars, the soap will dry off after a while.
Just be careful if you ride the bike immediately afterwards since the grips might slip right off the handlebars, leaving you without any control over the next few scary seconds.
Bicycles come equipped and sometimes with added accessories. We’ll try to cover most of them here.
Reflectors and lights
By law, in most places, bicycles are required to have one white reflector at the front, a red one at the back, a yellow one in the front wheel and a red one in the back wheel. This is in case you have to ride at night. However, it is not safe in any way to ride in the dark without proper lighting on your bike.
Present technology affords us the luxury of LED’s that operate with very small batteries for a long period of time and they are available in white and red. Gone are the days of the big bulky lights with energy grabbing dynamos rubbing on the front tire. They are very bright and inexpensive.
There is no reason why you shouldn’t equip your bike with a white light in the front and a red blinker light in the back if you want to ride at night.
Installation is straight forward and easy.
Bar end grips
Bar end grips are very
practical where it adds a few
more hand positions you can
use during a long ride. They
were developed for mountain
bike racing for riders so they
could use their more powerful
triceps muscles when pulling
on the handlebars to climb
hills. The one thing to
remember about those is to
make sure their installation
doesn’t block the proper use
of the brake levers. Often times I see people installing those straight up so 36
they can rest their hands higher. The problem with this is that grips end up on your fore arm when trying to brake. Install them at a 45 degree angle or lower. You can find the adjustment nut underneath the grip.
Fenders are very useful not only when you are stuck riding in the rain, but they also prevent you from being splashed from residual water left on the pavement. They are usually sold with all the mounting brackets, nuts and bolts. The only thing you have to worry about is to make sure that the rear fender mounting bolt on the lower right side doesn’t interfere with the chain and gears.
Racks are very useful when you want to carry stuff either for long rides or just getting some groceries at the local supermarket. Like the fenders, they should come with all the mounting hardware. The same precaution must be taken for the rear wheel mount. If your rack sees any kind of serious use, make sure to check those nuts and bolts periodically for tightness.
A kickstand is the best prevention you can have for protecting your bike from damage. Instead of leaning it on a wall, where it will be prone to falling or dropping to the ground, the kickstand will leave it securely upright. Just make sure you tighten the bolt that connects it to the frame once and a while. The more you use it, the faster it will get loose. This is especially true for those that are connected on the rear wheel axle.
The bicycle is a very simple machine that can propel you under your own power on the cheap. A little regular maintenance will keep it running for a long time and maybe even for the remainder of your life.
If this book has not provided you with the courage of tackling all the listed repairs, don’t despair. At least now you are knowledgeable enough to know what happens to your bike and you can at least diagnose what’s wrong with it. Greedy bike shops (Unfortunately some do exist) will be less likely to try and pull a fast one on you if you know what you are talking about. Good bike shops will not feel threatened by knowledgeable bike owners and will welcome their input.
Lastly, always double check your work before you get on the saddle for a spin and take the time to look over every nut and bolt of your bike every so often. You’ll be able to see bad things coming and prevent yourself from being stuck by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
I thank you for buying this manual and I invite you to look up my repair blog for more information on bicycle maintenance or to contact me for any relevant questions.
Until next time, ride safe and Godspeed.
This extra little chapter does not relate to bike maintenance, but more on how to use your bike. I’ll post here straight from my blog an article that I wrote on the subject and it was very well appreciated from the readers. So if you have no clue on how the multiple gears work on your bike, read on and find out.
HOW TO USE ALL THOSE GEARS ON YOUR BIKE
I’m always surprised to see that often time people are riding multiple speed bikes and are completely clueless about how to use them. Then I realize that not everybody as the sacred knowledge to decipher these gears, shifters and all possible combinations. I can understand that all this can be a complete mystery to many of you, so let’s go ahead and solve it.
First off, I’ll explain what you have to work with; we’ll use the typical 3 gears in the front and 7 in the back to explain how to use your drive train effectively. On a multiple speed bike you have generally 3 gears in the front, called chain rings, and 6 to 8 in the back on the rear wheel. The front gears are controlled by the shifter on the left of the handle bar. The first one is the smallest and the easiest, it is often called the “granny gear”. That gear is typically used for climbing steep hills or getting people back on bikes like it did for me 16 years ago. The middle gear is the one that is used the most on flat surfaces while at cruising speed. The biggest and hardest gear is used when you are going downhill with the wind at your back.
Some of you more experienced riders, reading this, are probably going
“what is he talking about?” Remember that I am addressing the neophyte here and most people who get back on a bike don’t have the same legs as Lance Armstrong. Strong riders with many miles on their leg muscles can ride a bike from a dead stop using only the biggest gear or chain ring. A newer or more casual cyclist would bust his/her knees doing this. So to recap, smallest gear = easy, middle gear = normal cruising, biggest gear =
Now the front gears are used with the combination of the ones on the rear wheel that are controlled by the shifter on the right side of the handlebars.
In this case, the logic is reversed, the first and biggest gear being the easiest and the last and smallest being the hardest to pedal. I will list some combinations that will make your riding easier and you will see that 39
although you might have a 24 speed bike, in reality you will effectively use about 5 or 6 of them.
Climbing a steep hill
1st or 2nd gear in the rear, first gear in the front.
Riding on a flat surface or slight incline 1st to last gear on the rear, middle or second gear in the front.
Last gear in the rear, 3rd or biggest gear in the front. (If you’re not scared. If so, stay in the middle gear)
If you are a new or recently returning cyclist with dead legs, you can stay on the smallest gear in the front and use all the gears on the rear wheel for all your riding. At some point you will develop more endurance and be able to move on to the middle one. Hardcore cyclists who ride thousands of miles a year will be able to do just about everything with the biggest gear only, but for the mere mortals like you and me, you should stick with the middle one.
One final note, always shift gears ahead of time. If you change gears while applying full power to the pedals, you take a chance of breaking your chain.
Plan your shifts ahead of time and you’ll be ok.