Fast Fixes: Tightening a Loose Headset

Have you ever experienced something a little bit off with the front-end handling of your bike? More specifically, is there shuddering/vibrations under front braking?

A good place to investigate first is your headset, an often times forgotten but critical component for tip-top performance on any bike. A headset that’s too loose equates to poor front braking performance and diminished handling. Furthermore, an ill-adjusted headset diminishes the headset’s lifespan in addition to the immediate performance issues.

These days the home mechanic is very much in luck as threadless headset systems are easy to adjust. The adjustment process has multiple applications, too, as this process can be used to remedy an existing issue as well as make sure your headset is perfectly adjusted after routine maintenance such as swapping out a stem or simply shifting some spacers around to raise or lower your current stem.

Step 1: What tools do I need?

A hex wrench and a torque wrench are the tools necessary to tighten a headset

A hex wrench and a torque wrench are the tools necessary to tighten a headset

Tool-wise, there’s not much to making headset adjustments. The top cap bolt, used to apply compression on the stem and headset, will utilize a hex wrench while the stem bolts, used to cinch the stem against the steerer tube, will also utilize a hex wrench. Depending on the manufacturer, the bolts may range from 3mm to 6mm while some recent stems are also featuring Torx bolts, in which case a Torx-specific wrench is necessary.

It’s important to note that while it’s perfectly fine to loosen the stem bolts with a hex/Torx wrench, when it comes time to tighten the stem bolts it’s imperative that a torque wrench be utilized. Tightening to a specific torque value is paramount for functionality and safety. This is of the utmost importance when carbon fiber is involved, either in the stem or steerer tube, as there’s no place for guesswork or estimation.

Step 2: Assess headset

Check for a loose headset by squeezing the front brake and then rocking the bike forwards and backwards

Check for a loose headset by squeezing the front brake and then rocking the bike forwards and backwards. If there’s play your headset is loose.

Excessive vibrations/shuddering in the front end are a tip-off that a headset may be loose. To confirm the diagnosis, while stationary simply apply the front brake and then try to rock the bike frontwards and backwards. If there’s play then you’ve got a loose headset.

Step 3: Loosen stem bolts

Loosen the stem bolts

Loosen the stem bolts

With the hex/Torx wrench, loosen the bolts that attach the stem to the steerer tube. You don’t have to back them out too far, just enough to release the tension.

Step 4. Tighten top cap bolt

Tighten the top cap bolt to eliminate headset play

Tighten the top cap bolt to eliminate headset play

While the bolts that fasten the stem to the steerer tube and the stem to the handlebars have specific torque values to exactly dial in the amount of tightening required, the top cap bolt simply needs to be snug. It’s typically an iterative process as you tighten the bolt and then check via the process in Step 2 to see if there’s any play remaining. Repeat as necessary until the play is gone.

Keep in mind that it’s possible to tighten the headset too much. You’re seeking just enough tension to eliminate any play.

Step 5. Tighten stem bolts

Tighten your stem bolts the proper amount with a torque wrench

Tighten your stem bolts the proper amount with a torque wrench

Make sure your handlebar/stem are centered and then tighten the stem bolts to the correct torque setting.

Congratulations on picking up another maintenance skill! Now get out there and enjoy a ride with your newly adjusted headset.

 

Posted in Bike Nashbar, Cycling Tips Tagged with: , , , ,

Fast Fixes: Pedal Installation Made Easy

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to become a more proficient bicycle mechanic? Being self-sufficient as a home bicycle mechanic is an admirable, practical goal to strive for and one of the many facets of knowledge to master is the installation of pedals.

It’s a rather simple endeavor to undertake involving a minimum of tools (you may already own everything necessary) plus adherence to a pretty straightforward rule about how which direction to thread the respective right (drive side) and left (non-drive side) pedals into the crankarms.

Step 1. What tools do I need?

Tool-wise, there’s really not that much to installing a set of pedals. Option one is a dedicated pedal wrench – a 15mm open ended wrench that interfaces externally on the pedal axle and is narrow enough to fit in the gap between the crankarm and pedal. Option two involves a hex wrench (typically 6mm or 8mm) that’s applied directly into the end of the pedal’s axle. With the hex option, you’ll have to apply the wrench through the backside of the crankarm.

Tools for pedal installation: a pedal wrench and a hex wrench

Tools for pedal installation: a pedal wrench and a hex wrench

What tool(s) to use depends on your specific pedal manufacturer. Some pedals only install via pedal wrench, some only install via hex wrench, and some are equipped with both options so you can choose what works best for you.

The flat portion of the axle means you can use a pedal wrench

The flat portion of the axle means you can use a pedal wrench

This pedal can be installed/removed via a hex wrench in the axle

This pedal can be installed/removed via a hex wrench in the axle

You’ll also need a small amount of grease (or anti-seize if the pedal axle is titanium) to apply to the pedal threads.

Step 2. Knowing your left from right pedals

Left and right pedals are threaded differently so it’s paramount you identify which pedal is which. For this very reason, every manufacturer stamps some form of identifier on the pedals in order for you to tell them apart. Typically it’s a simple as looking for a “L” and “R” , while some brands, such as Crank Brothers, are more understated (for Crank Brothers the left pedal is identified via a groove in the spindle flange while the right pedal’s spindle flange is smooth).

Look for markings to identify left and right pedals, in this case a "R" and "L" on the axles

Look for markings to identify left and right pedals, in this case a “R” and “L” on the axles

Step 3. Prep pedals

Once you identify your left and right pedals, there’s a minor piece of prep work prior to installing into the cranks – application of some grease (or anti-seize for titanium pedal axles) to the pedal threads. It will make removal a whole lot easier as well as keep the pedals from creaking while you ride.

A dab of grease on the pedal threads is a must

A dab of grease on the pedal threads is a must

Step 4. Installation

It’s absolutely imperative that you rotate the pedal axle the proper direction as the left and right pedals are threaded differently. The right (or drive side) pedal is threaded conventionally – the standard “righty tighty, lefty loosey” applies. The left (or non-drive side) is reverse threaded so tightening the pedal is a counter-clockwise motion while loosening is a clockwise motion.

 

Drive side pedal installation = clockwise rotation

Drive side pedal installation = clockwise rotation

Non-drive side installation = counter-clockwise rotation

Non-drive side installation = counter-clockwise rotation

Some prefer to think of it in terms of rotating the wrench towards either the front or rear of the bike. No matter which pedal you install, the wrench will be rotating towards the front. Removal of the pedals, conversely, involves rotating the wrench towards the rear.

Perhaps this is an easier way to remember rotational direction - to remove pedals rotate the wrench towards the rear of the bike

Perhaps this is an easier way to remember rotational direction – to remove pedals rotate the wrench towards the rear of the bike

Presto! Simple as that!

Pro tips:

1. Beware of cross-threading the pedal and crankarm. If possible, it’s a good idea to start threading the pedal into the crankarm by hand and then apply the wrench to complete the process.

Start the installation by hand to ensure threads are engaging correctly

Start the installation by hand to ensure threads are engaging correctly

2. Shift the chain into the big ring when installing/removing pedals on the drive side to protect yourself from chainring teeth.

Posted in Bike Nashbar, Cycling Tips Tagged with: , , , ,

Quick Guide To Bike Trainers

Ok, we’ll admit it. There’s times when it’s just too horrific to go outside. Then we looked at the weather app, saw a number with a minus sign in front of it, and put it all away again.

Instead we pulled out the old bike trainer, and enjoyed a hard, pulse-pounding, and warm workout in the basement. Sure, it was a lot less exciting than we would have hoped, but at least we still have all our digits…so that’s got to count for something, right?

Bicycle trainers are a great way to keep fit and get in a ride when the weather just won’t cooperate, or even when time is short. Sometimes if we have a lot of general life commitments, we’ll just keep the bike set up in the trainer, making it easy to sneak in a quick 15 or 20 minutes of indoor training when we can.

When it comes to picking a bike trainer, you have plenty of choices, and sometimes figuring out the differences between then can be tricky. So we went through our assortment and broke it down for you.

Bike Trainers

Bicycle trainers are kind of like a treadmill for your bike—except that you’re the one doing all the work (there’s no motor moving anything except your legs). They consist of a frame and a resistance unit. Bike trainers either have a frame that clamps on to the wheel skewer (a specially one is usually provided) and places your rear tire on the resistance unit, or a frame that requires you to remove the rear wheel and clamp the frame direction on to the trainer.

Bike trainers are usually defined by the type of resistance unit it offers.

Fluid Resistance

Fluid resistance bike trainers are some of the most popular and “realistic” trainers out there. They feature “progressive resistance”, so as you crank up the cadence on the pedals, the resistance on the trainer increases, giving you a pretty “road feel” as you ride. Is it exactly like riding outside? Not quite, but the feel is pretty good.

Fluid resistance bike trainers also have the advantage of being very quiet, so they’re good if you have thin walls or live in an apartment building.

The Nashbar Fluid Pro trainer offers smooth progressive resistance and comes with everything you'll need to get started

The Nashbar Fluid Pro trainer offers smooth progressive resistance and comes with everything you’ll need to get started

Magnetic Resistance

Magnetic Resistance bike trainers use powerful magnets to increase the resistance. Unlike  fluid resistance bike trainers, which increases resistance in response to your cadence, these trainers usually require you to preset the level of resistance you want. Some units also come with a remote that can attach to your handlebars to let you control resistance while riding.

Magnetic bike trainers are usually less expensive than fluid trainers, making them a good choice if you’re trying to get in some time on the bike trainer, and are on a budget.

The Elite Crono Mag Elastogel trainer provides an excellent workout at a great price

The Elite Crono Mag Elastogel trainer provides an excellent workout at a great price

Wind Resistance

The resistance on these bike trainers comes from a built in fan—kind of like an old rowing machine. These also have progressive resistance like a fluid trainer, so as you increase your cadence, the resistance increases. Wind resistance trainers usually have a smoother progression in resistance than fluid bike trainers, and with fewer moving parts. The down side though is that wind resistance trainers are incredibly loud. Like, unbelievably loud. But, if you want a smooth, progressive, lightweight bike trainer, these are the way to go.

Wind bike trainers are usually the most advanced out there, with interactive features, built in power meters, and other high tech features.

The Elite Real Axiom Interactive trainer provides one of the most comprehensive workouts available

The Elite Real Axiom Interactive trainer provides one of the most comprehensive workouts available

Rollers

Ah yes, that old school favorite. Rollers are a bit different from bike trainers. With a bike trainer, the rear wheel is either clamped into the trainer, or removed all together and the frame clamped directly to the trainer. With rollers, you’re on your own. Rollers have three drums that spin as you pedal, creating an inertia effect that keeps the bike upright.

Rollers can take some getting used to (the first time you ride one, we recommend setting it up next to a wall to help you get started. And make sure a close friend is filming…), but once you’ve got the hang of it, they produce an excellent workout. Some rollers come with resistance, and some do not. Some also have a parabolic roller shape, which helps you stay centered while riding without drifting to the sides (and risking falling off).

The main benefit of rollers is that they are excellent for helping you work on your cadence and form. Since rollers reward a smooth, steady, high style of pedaling, they help you hone your technique—which can pay huge benefits out on the road.

The Nashbar Elite Parabolic rollers help you stay centered while riding, and provide an excellent work out

The Nashbar Elite Parabolic rollers help you stay centered while riding, and provide an excellent work out

Accessories

Here are a few things might want to consider purchasing to go along with your bike trainer

Riser block: raises your front wheel to be on level with the rear

Mat: Helps keep the trainer from moving around and catches any sweat drips

Nashbar Reader Rack: This holds a tablet, book, or eBook on your handlebars…you know, in case you get bored

Posted in Bike Nashbar, Product Reviews Tagged with: , , ,

Happy Holidays from Bike Nashbar

2014NB_Holidays

Thanks so much for making it a great year you guys, and we look forward to more thrills, chills and spills with you in 2015.

2014NB_Holidays

Posted in Bike Nashbar

Video Recap – Road Bike Party 3

road_bike_party_3_flip

The guys over at Global Cycling Network are at it again, with another installment of their Road Bike Party video series. With a new star in Sam Pilgrim and a new location in San Diego, they’ve proven that carbon road bikes can do some pretty amazing things in the right hands! Take a look at the action below, but, as they say, don’t try this at home (or anywhere, really).

Posted in Culture Tagged with: , , , , ,

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