Archive for the ‘bike maintenance’ Category

Disc Brakes in Pro Cycling? Pro and Con   Leave a comment



Disc Brakes in Pro Cycling? Why not?!?

Much debate has been happening around the use of disc brakes in professional road cycling. They were provisionally approved for several spring classics races this year, but they were re-banned after reports of the discs injuring riders in crashes, allegedly causing severe lacerations. Rumors persist that they’ll try them again later this year.
Meanwhile, discs have proven to be safe, effective, and preferred in mountain bike races and cyclocross races for quite a while. So why shouldn’t this technology be allowed into the pro peloton? I see no reason why it shouldn’t.
First, let’s look at some of the cases against discs that we’ve heard:
Argument #1: They’re dangerous and can cut people in crashes.
Response: Isn’t falling off your bike at high speed wearing nothing but lycra and a styrofoam hat already pretty dangerous? Does the off chance that you’ll get wound up in a spinning brake disc increase the danger significantly? I don’t think so.

Argument #2: They’re heavier than rim brakes.
Response: So what? Most pro bikes already fall well below the UCI-mandated 15 pound minimum weight and have to have weight added back onto them. I’m sure that a disc-equipped bike can land right on the minimum weight standard.

Argument #3: It will make wheel changes during the race difficult, due to various different specifications of the braking and axle systems.
Response: Again, so what? If you want to avoid these hassles, you can choose not to use them. If, however, the team decides that the improved braking is worth the trouble, then they should be allowed to use them.

In the end, the UCI should only be concerned about maintaining a level field between competitors. Disc brakes provide no competitive advantage, except perhaps in wet conditions, and in technical descents. Nevertheless, if a team or rider wants to use them (or if a team’s sponsor wants to financially entice the team to use them) then it’s up to the teams and riders to decide whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
Even if a sponsor is simply trying to sell more disc-equipped bikes by featuring them on their pro teams, it’s irrelevant. If cooperating with a sponsor’s marketing ploy helps keep a team on the road, where’s the harm?
Let disc brakes into the pro peloton, and they’ll either succeed or die on their own merits. In the meantime, having pros test the newest and latest technologies will help move technology forward at a faster speed.
In the meantime, for us “non-pros” ride what you want, and if you like disc brakes, by all means use them.

Disc Brakes in Pro Cycling? Why?!?

While it is certain that disc brake technology has become a mainstay in the worlds of mountain biking and cyclocross, does it belong in the rarified air of elite road cycling? While it’s true that disc brakes offer improved stopping power over their caliper counterparts, are they REALLY desirable in a professional road race? I say the negatives FAR outweigh the positives.
1) Disc brakes require significant modifications, not only to the wheels but also to the forks and frames of the bikes themselves. They exert their force over a much smaller circumference (the area near the hub) than caliper brakes (the rim of the wheel). This requires heavier and bulkier reinforced spokes and forks along with elaborate attachment points for the braking mechanisms. All this translates into more weight and (probably) a loss of aerodynamic advantage. Is the improved stopping power worth this?? I doubt it…pro riders want to GO faster, not STOP faster!

2) As an addendum to item (1)…the modifications necessary for disc brakes eliminate the possibility for “neutral support” during road races. (you know, those guys at the side of the road offering spare wheels when needed) Every neutral support provider would have to have 2 different types of wheels…one with and one without discs. And even with this, would the disc–equipped wheel fit every bike?? I doubt it! Neutral support would become a thing of the past and might lead to sacrifices in time and speed.

3) Disc brakes are notoriously temperamental…just ask a mountain bike rider who has a minor tumble and dings his disc brake. Even a minor perturbation to the disc’s braking surface will lead to rubbing and increased friction…a death blow to a pro road rider’s average speed! Forget getting a little grease on the brake when changing a flat…oh the whining!! Not worth the extra headaches in a road ride where speed is critical.

4) Safety!! The UCI had agreed to allow disc brake usage in certain road rides this season. They went back on their commitment after some incidents at Paris-Roubaix earlier this year. Just ask Francisco Ventoso who allegedly suffered a deep gash in his leg from a disc brake in a crash during P-R. In addition, having disc brakes AND caliper brakes in the same peleton could have unforeseen consequences. Say a dude using discs is riding at the front of the pack when he brakes hard to avoid an obstacle. The guy behind him riding a caliper-equipped rig won’t be able to stop as fast…result? Consistency must rule in the peleton…for safety’s sake!

The UCI is now debating whether to again allow disc brakes to be trialed in pro road racing. I am certain that, in their infinite desire to market “enhanced” technology to the masses, bicycle manufacturers and sponsors will get their way and we shall see disc brakes back in the elite pro ranks soon. While this technology might indeed be beneficial to us mere mortals out on our weekend road ride, I am dubious about their use in the major tours yet to come. I only hope there is not a major crash or incident that proves me right.

(Disclaimer…the author recently rode a mountain bike rig equipped with disc brakes and found them VERY cool!)


Winter Maintenance   Leave a comment

Winter finally hit, and in most cases, that means a lot less time riding.  It’s also a great time to use this downtime to go over your bike and make sure it’s ready to go when the weather warms up.  Taking care of maintenance issues, making upgrades, and otherwise getting your bike in shape is a great way to stay connected to the sport at times when you’re unable to ride.  With this in mind, Bicycle World held free maintenance and repair classes on January 26th and February 23rd. Approximately 20 cyclists attended each event and learned the basics of bike maintenance and repair, including fixing a flat, making emergency gear and brake repairs, basic wheel truing, and other handy maintenance tips and tricks.

The fact of the matter is that while bikes are relatively simple machines, all machines do eventually suffer breakdowns.  Factoring in Murphy’s Law you can almost guarantee that at some point you’ll have a mechanical problem at an inconvenient time, far from home.  Being able to overcome a minor mechanical problem and get back on the road can be the difference between finishing a ride or waiting on the side of the road for a few hours until help arrives.

The goal of this month’s blog isn’t to give you in-depth maintenance and repair instructions.  There are other resources that I’ll list where that information can be found.  Instead, the focus will be on some basics, and some good advice from the Bicycle World Staff to get you thinking about how you take care of your bike.

Let’s start with the most common mechanical issue facing cyclists:  flats.  If you ride a bike, you will get a flat at some point.  There’s really no avoiding it.  So rather than depend on your riding buddies to help you out, or calling for a ride home, it’s important to know how to deal with them.  With a little bit of practice, you can get back on the road in just a few minutes, so there’s really no reason that a flat should ruin your ride.

Practice?  Did he just say practice?  Yes, as a matter of fact, I did.  Winter is the absolute BEST time to practice fixing a flat if you’re not comfortable doing it.  It’s a whole lot more enjoyable learning how to change a tube, work a CO2 inflator, or figure out how to use your tire levers sitting in your living room in front of the fireplace (possibly with a refreshing beverage within arm’s reach) than it will be on the side of the road in a cold rainstorm (Mr. Murphy and his laws again!).  So next time you’re relaxing at home watching the snow pile up outside, grab one of your wheels, a pump, and a couple of tire levers, and run through your flat fixing procedure a couple times.  Before long, you’ll be very comfortable fixing flats, and you’ll enjoy riding without being intimidated by this very minor issue.


Duct tape on a tire lever-my secret weapon. Looks like I’m down to about 2 feet, need to refresh the supply.

While we’re on the subject of flat fixing, here’s some other advice:

  • Always line up the logo on your tire with the valve stem on your tube.  More than just looking good, lining up your valve stem with your tire’s logo will help you find the cause of your flats.  If you don’t know why you got a flat, you’re likely to have the same flat reoccur.  When you pull out a punctured tube, and find the hole in it, you can use the valve stem as a reference point to line up where something might be lodged in the tire.  So if the hole in the tube is at 3 o’clock to the valve, start looking for something lodged in the tire at the 3 o’clock position relative to the logo, and you’ll likely find what caused your flat.
  • Look at your tires!  It seems obvious, but tiny things imbedded in the tire will often work their way into the tire and eventually puncture the tube.  In a well-lit area, periodically go over your tires looking for tiny slivers of glass or wire that might be caught in your treads.  These can usually be removed pretty easily with a needle or tweezers.  Some tires have wear indicators that can tell you when you need to replace them.  Short of that, if you start to see the threads beneath the tread, it’s a sure sign that your tire is ready for replacement.
  • Don’t ride through debris.  Ok, it seems obvious, but it’s amazing how often I see cyclists riding through debris on the side of the road.  As cars go down the road, debris gets kicked to the side of the road.  Depending on the width of the road or shoulder, if you’re able to move slightly left toward traffic and away from the “debris zone”, you can avoid lots of this flat-causing grit.
  • Inflate your tires!   High pressure bike tires lose air all the time.  Inflate your tires to the proper pressure before each ride.  If you’ve recently used CO2 to inflate a tire, you’ll need to inflate more frequently since CO2 leaks out of tubes faster than regular air.  Underinflated tires are the primary cause of pinch flats.
  • Fix a tire for a buck:  if you suffer a small gash in a tire, re-inflating a tube in that tire can cause the tube to push through the hole in the tire, giving you another flat.  To get home, you can “boot” a tire by putting something between the tube and the inside of the tire.  One common fix is to fold a dollar bill and use it as a buffer between the hole and the tube.

I asked some of the Bicycle World team for some of their tips too.  Here’s some solid advice from the people deal with bikes every day:

Mechanic Ben Meister:  “Keep your bike clean. “  Is Ben just a neat freak who doesn’t like to get his hands dirty? Not necessarily.  A clean bike keeps dirt and grit from working into moving parts where it can cause damage.  Additionally, if you spend some time cleaning your bike on a regular basis, you’ll be more likely to find problems before they escalate.  In most cases, some soapy water, some sponges and a few rags are enough to keep your bike looking great and free of major problems.

Eric:  “Wipe your chain down after every ride.”  Just like keeping the bike clean, a quick wipe down of your chain will keep any grit or dirt from working its way into the chain, between the plates and rollers where it can prematurely wear out your chain.  It only takes a couple seconds to wipe your chain down, and it can increase its longevity dramatically.

Justin Holmes(Sales):  “Lube your chain.”  Seems obvious, but we’ve all ridden past squeaky, noisy bikes.  Lubes wear out, so a regular re-application to your drivetrain will prolong its life and make shifting smoother.  There are many different lubes available, but almost all are easy to apply using the directions on the bottle.

So how much maintenance and repair should you take on yourself, and how much should you leave to the professionals?  The answer is really based on your comfort level, available time, and budget.  Learning to do your own maintenance and repair can save you money and time.  On the other hand, taking on a complicated repair might require special tools and training.  Basics like fixing flats, keeping your bike clean and properly lubed, and making minor adjustments to your bike are all relatively easy to do with simple tools that you might already own.  A more complicated task,  like replacing your bottom bracket, might be something you want to leave to the professionals.  Nevertheless, there are great resources available to help you decide what you might want to take on yourself, and guide you through the process.  Park Tool’s website has a great repair section that gives step-by-step directions on hundreds of maintenance and repair projects.  You can find it here:   There are also some great bike repair books out there that you can keep on your workbench.  Books like Lennard Zinn’s Zinn and the Art of Mountian Bike Maintenance or Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance are great resources as is Park Tool’s Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair. With these resources readily available, you can see ahead of time what’s involved in a specific repair project, and decide for yourself if it’s something you’d be comfortable doing yourself.

Finally, I wanted to share my own until now, super-secret, bike repair/maintenance tip.  As many people know, duct tape can fix almost anything.  While the origins of this miracle product are shrouded in mystery (some say the Mayans invented it, others say it came from alien visitors) duct tape is universally recognized for its ability solve problems.  Having some of this miracle substance on hand during a ride has come in handy on several occasions.  I’ve used it to secure a broken spoke to other spokes, fix a plastic water bottle cage that cracked after a pot hole hit, and used it to secure torn bar tape.  The list of potential uses is seemingly endless.  My personal tip for this blog edition is to keep 3-4 feet of duct tape wrapped around a tire lever.  It takes up virtually no space in my pocket, weighs next to nothing, doesn’t affect the usefulness of the tire lever, and can come in handy to solve hundreds of problems you might encounter on the road.  I’ve included a picture showing my secret weapon so you can see how it works.

I hope you enjoyed this issue of the Bicycle World Blog.  Learning to work on your own bike can be a very rewarding experience, and can end up saving you time and money.  Finally, if you do get overwhelmed or have questions, the guys at the shop are always available to help.  As always, we welcome your questions and comments.  Be sure you connect with us on Facebook, and subscribe to the blog.

Happy riding.

Posted March 4, 2013 by bicycleworldny in bike maintenance