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  1. #1
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    Two hardware questions from new-ish cyclist

    I'm a new casual cyclist with an '09 Fuji road bike. I've spent enough time on it to feel comfortable with the basics of biking safety and to get past saddle soreness.

    I'm developing an interest in the hardware and mechanics of my bike - starting to learn about the workings of the gear and brake systems. This is partly just academic curiosity, and partly practical: my rear gear has been missing a lot during shifting (sometimes taking as many as two revolutions to fully engage) and clicking a fair amount during ordinary riding in some gears.

    So I have a few questions for everyone:

    (1) Any advice for looking into the rear gear? I've ordered a repair stand, and intend to prop up my bike to scrutinize the shifting mechanism in practice (with a textbook in hand) to learn how it works and what may be going wrong. Any advice for going about this process?

    Any thoughts about the prognosis of the gear? Is this the type of problem that can be fixed through amateur maintenance or needs professional repair? And is this typically solved by adjusting the derailleur, or should I be expecting the need to replace significant parts of the gear?

    Finally - where do I draw the line between minor home maintenance and taking the bike to a cycling shop? I'm not about to start unbolting anything critical to the stability of the bike, but I'd also like to improve my understanding of the mechanism and start developing hands-on experience.

    (2) Any recommendations for hardware upgrades that might improve the casual cycling experience?

    I'm definitely not looking to bling out my bike and don't care about status; I am a self-admitted casual cycling amateur. But I recently swapped out the pedals with some SPDs and a pair of cycling shoes, and I'm really happy with the experience. So this has started me thinking about other upgrades that might be appropriate for my situation.

    So - any recommendations? Saddle or tires, maybe? (I will gratefully accept "no, your bike is fine for your needs" as an answer.)

    Thanks in advance, everyone.

  2. #2
    Senior Member ChrisM2097's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sfsdfd View Post
    I'm a new casual cyclist with an '09 Fuji road bike. I've spent enough time on it to feel comfortable with the basics of biking safety and to get past saddle soreness.

    I'm developing an interest in the hardware and mechanics of my bike - starting to learn about the workings of the gear and brake systems. This is partly just academic curiosity, and partly practical: my rear gear has been missing a lot during shifting (sometimes taking as many as two revolutions to fully engage) and clicking a fair amount during ordinary riding in some gears.

    So I have a few questions for everyone:

    (1) Any advice for looking into the rear gear? I've ordered a repair stand, and intend to prop up my bike to scrutinize the shifting mechanism in practice (with a textbook in hand) to learn how it works and what may be going wrong. Any advice for going about this process?

    Any thoughts about the prognosis of the gear? Is this the type of problem that can be fixed through amateur maintenance or needs professional repair? And is this typically solved by adjusting the derailleur, or should I be expecting the need to replace significant parts of the gear?
    The derailleur (shifter) cable may have stretched, and/or the derailleur needs to be adjusted. Look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkGBajG4TPc

    Quote Originally Posted by sfsdfd View Post
    Finally - where do I draw the line between minor home maintenance and taking the bike to a cycling shop? I'm not about to start unbolting anything critical to the stability of the bike, but I'd also like to improve my understanding of the mechanism and start developing hands-on experience.
    Personally, I've only really been into cycling for about a year now, and have been collecting a pretty extensive toolset. I've been able to do all repairs and upgrades to my bikes. The only thing I had to have a shop do for me was install a very stubborn tire. I've since learned a few techniques.

    Definitely learn how to replace derailleur and brake cables & housing, and adjust brakes and derailleurs. Learn how to replace & size a chain. Once you know these few things, you'll be able to replace the shifters, derailleurs, brake levers, brake pads, etc.

    Also, learn how to change tires and tubes. Pick up a set of tire levers, and practice before you're forced to do it road-side. Click here for some nice tips: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XUFVrl0UT4

    I'd also recommend you learn to true your wheels, too. In order to do this properly, it'll require a wheel truing stand, and a spoke wrench. I've got a cheap truing stand, and have no problems truing and even building wheels at home. I don't need the professional Park stand - but it sure it nice.

    Watch this guys videos on wheel building, and you'll learn how to true your wheels.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRvftW0VUd0
    Last edited by ChrisM2097; 07-09-12 at 02:15 PM.
    Chris
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  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Unless you are trying to squeeze a second or two out of a race track, the only upgrades that really mean much are stuff like your saddle (better comfort), tires, and accessories, and possibly decent brake pads like some Kool Stops.

    The rest is just basic maintenance stuff.

  4. #4
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    Odds are your derailleur needs a simple adjustment to correct the trim (centering under each sprocket). This is done by ahdusting the cable length (others call it the tension) using the threaded adjuster where the housing ends on the top of the derailleur. There are a number of decent tutorials that cover this and other derailleur adjustments. Do a search for something like "how to adjust rear derailleur".

    I'm not a big believer in upgrades to bikes until/unless you have a specific need, such as a worn or broken part, or a specific want for a change, ie tires more suited to your riding conditions, or a more comfortable saddle.

    I may be extreme in this, but in 45+ years and over 100k miles on various bikes, I've never found the need to upgrade working parts. But with my mileage things do wear out,and I use that opportunity to make a change.

    If there's something specific that irks you, go ahead and replace it, otherwise save your dough to replace and upgrade as circumstances dictate.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by sfsdfd View Post
    ...my rear gear has been missing a lot during shifting (sometimes taking as many as two revolutions to fully engage) and clicking a fair amount during ordinary riding in some gears.

    (1) Any advice for looking into the rear gear? I've ordered a repair stand, and intend to prop up my bike to scrutinize the shifting mechanism in practice (with a textbook in hand) to learn how it works and what may be going wrong. Any advice for going about this process?

    Any thoughts about the prognosis of the gear? Is this the type of problem that can be fixed through amateur maintenance or needs professional repair? And is this typically solved by adjusting the derailleur, or should I be expecting the need to replace significant parts of the gear?

    Finally - where do I draw the line between minor home maintenance and taking the bike to a cycling shop? I'm not about to start unbolting anything critical to the stability of the bike, but I'd also like to improve my understanding of the mechanism and start developing hands-on experience.

    (2) Any recommendations for hardware upgrades that might improve the casual cycling experience?

    I'm definitely not looking to bling out my bike and don't care about status...
    (1) You're already going about it the right way. You might try watching several videos about derailleur adjusment as well, or even better attend some consumer repair clinics/classes if offered locally. There's so substitute for hands-on assistance.

    Prognosis - Yes, your cable could be stretched, but don't start your quest to learn more about your bike by just attaching specific symptoms to specific causes. Learn how the derailleur works both by reading, but also through observation, and then diagnose problems by applying what you know in a logical process.

    "Typically" it's just an adjustment, but you gave no time frame or other details - has the problem been developing, is it a new bike, did it start after an accident or equipment change, etc.

    Not easy to draw the line, but if you have done all the "standard" items to solve a problem and things still aren't right go for advice - either here or a shop. Keep in mind that the "standard" approach usually assumes everything is properly installed, lubricated, straight, etc. That goes especially for wheel truing.

    (2) Hardware upgrades? - I'll go the reverse first - what to NOT worry about:

    Lightening parts/wheels/tires - extremely minimal effect on performance, under 1% in general, in return for time, money and possibly less reliability.

    Higher gears - Speed is in the engine, not in the gearing.

    Expensive tools you will use once every two years - just get the basics as you need them.

    Now as to what you CAN do -

    Make sure your bike is fitted well to you and comfortable. Seat height, fore-aft, distance to handlebars (first) handlebar height (second). Try a different seat if yours is still uncomfortable after you have some miles in. Definitely use cycling gloves.

    No bling/status - good for you. Just ride and enjoy.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by sfsdfd View Post
    (1) Any advice for looking into the rear gear?
    Vist the Park Tool rear derailleur adjustment page

    http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-...nts-derailleur

    and optionally visit your local bicycle cooperative where they have tools and helpful mechanics to advise.

    Any thoughts about the prognosis of the gear? Is this the type of problem that can be fixed through amateur maintenance or needs professional repair?
    Bicycles are simple enough that some one with patience and a little mechanical aptitude should be able to do all their own work including building wheels.

    There are a few jobs which require rarely used expensive tools where you'll spend less paying some one although this is not one of them.

    Finally - where do I draw the line between minor home maintenance and taking the bike to a cycling shop?
    Do everything yourself unless a very expensive tool is required which will never pay for itself (Example: a bottom bracket facing set costs $300. When you're putting decades on your frames and they usually come faced you're unlikely to spend more over your lifetime on shops' services to do that job than just buying the tool). That way you guarantee it'll be done right and you'll never have to wait for service.

    (2) Any recommendations for hardware upgrades that might improve the casual cycling experience?
    Fit, saddle (do NOT get a soft saddle - that will put pressure on your soft tissues and be uncomfortable), gearing appropriate to your size, fitness and terrain. I'm pretty fond of Campagnolo brake/shift levers although that wouldn't be an inexpensive upgrade.

    By appropriate gearing I do not mean bigger gears. Eddy Merckx won the classics with a 52x13 big gear, you are not Eddy Merckx, and don't need an 11 or 12 starting cog. Just learn to pedal faster going down-hill.

    As a new or larger cyclist you might like a bigger ending cog. If you weigh 180 pounds now but were only 140 at 18 you need a big cog two sizes larger (ex - 28 or 29 instead of a 23) to keep the same cadence up steep hills you do at racing weight. With no fat and a little training 39x25, 34x23, and 30x21 are enough to get you over anything in the Colorado Rockies mostly while spinning in a seated position and you might accept a smaller largest cog.

    A bigger starting cog and/or smaller ending cog mean you can have more in the middle where most roadies like one-tooth jumps to the 17 cog and some like it to continue to the 19. Some wide-range cassettes actually skip from the 13 to 15!

    A bigger small ring (39 or 36 instead of 34) may mean fewer ring changes that are slower than in back and you'll get a better chain line with less noise on your cruising gears.

    tires,
    Tires don't last long. If you're not getting an unacceptable number of flats (in which case you want something more flat resistant now) you can wait until they wear out. At that point you can get something with lower rolling resistance, better flat resistance, and perhaps in a larger size (if you weigh more than the average < 160 pound bicycle racer 25mm tires are nice).

    You can order Continental tires from the UK and Schwalbes from Europe for half what you'd pay your LBS although it can sometimes take a week to get the airmail delivery.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 07-09-12 at 03:35 PM.

  7. #7
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    Just wanted to respond to everyone with thanks!

    Based on your collective encouragement, I spent some time this weekend getting my hands dirty. Rather than diving right into the most complicated part of my bike, I started back a few steps and focused on wheels and brakes. Learning rapidly, and hoping to put in some more bike-stand time tonight.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    IMO a bike stand isn't the best device for "fine tuning" a RDER.
    RIDE IT. Give the thumbscrew a 1/4 turn and try it again......
    Did that make it better or worse? Adjust accordingly.
    Repeat until it's the way it should be.

    Often a bike can shift perfectly on the stand, but not when you are on it.
    The stand is great for setting up a DER, but the fine tuning is best accomplished in situ.

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