Occasionally people write to me and ask me questions about bikes. While I’m flattered they think I’d know the answer, I must confess that the only subject I’m truly an expert on is stuff that annoys me. Nonetheless, even though I can’t offer the sagacity of “Ask Zach,” I do think I have some knowledge worth sharing. Here are a few random questions and answers in no particular order. So if you don’t mind misinformation feel free to email me, but just check here first since your question might already have been answered:
What is a freerider?
Freeriders are people who sit bolt-upright on their bikes, wear baggy clothes, and look for high things to ride off of. If you think of your favorite mountain bike trail as a human body, freeriders are the people who focus on one tiny part of it. They are the ear, nose, and throat doctors, bikini waxers, and foot fetishists of the mountain biking world.
Why are the woods squeaking?
No, you’re not about to be attacked by spider monkeys. If you’ve noticed recently that your local sylvan refuge sounds like the boxspring of your overly amorous neighbor, this is probably due to the fact that it is full of mountain bikers on dual suspension bikes who don’t maintain them properly. While these contraptions are admittedly complex, it would be nice if these riders would occasionally lubricate their pivots. Or failing that, they should take a cue from your overly amorous neighbor and discover the joys of riding rigid.
How can I overhaul my Shimano STI lever?
Well, the official answer is that you can’t, since they’re not meant to be rebuildable. However, some people claim to have done so successfully. If the lever’s dead anyway, you might as well try. Here’s an exploded diagram.
How can I overhaul my Campagnolo Ergo lever?
Unlike Shimano, Campy levers are designed to be rebuildable. This is why Campy owners exude that infuriating aura of smug self-satisfaction. If your Campy-equipped bike starts missing shifts like a cashier with a short register, here’s a simple diagram for you to follow. You’ll be clicking and gloating in no time.
I think I need a new bottom bracket. How do I know which type I need?
If you’re not sure what kind of bottom bracket your bike has, use the Samuel L. Jackson method of BB identification. If at the time you bought your bike Sam Jackson was an extremely talented character actor who appeared in films like “Goodfellas,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Patriot Games,” then you have a square taper bottom bracket. If Jackson had already done “Pulp Fiction” and was now getting top billing in films like “Jackie Brown,” “Unbreakable,” and the new “Star Wars” movies, then you probably have Octalink. If your crank is neither Shimano or Campy, Jackson was starting to do movies like “Changing Lanes,” and you were starting to ask yourself, “Is Sam even reading scripts anymore?,” then you’ve probably got ISIS. Finally, if Jackson had completed his transformation to camp-mongering schlockster specializing in B movies with serpentine references like “Black Snake Moan” and “Snakes on a Plane” then you’ve most likely got an outboard bottom bracket system.
If you’ve got a Campy crank, it’s a square taper. Unless your crank is ugly. Then it’s one of those Hirth joint things.
I just bought a new high-end road bike. How do I keep it in good working order?
You paid top dollar for a bicycle, and part of what you paid for is durability. Don’t compromise that durability by riding your bicycle in the rain, during the winter, or in any situation where it might get wet, dirty, or subject to damage of any kind. If you don’t already own a “rain bike,” make sure you get one immediately. You should also get a “crit bike,” a “training bike,” and a bike for long recreational rides. It should stand to reason that the more you paid for your bicycle the less you should ride it, and that you should spend most of your riding time on crappier bikes instead. Remember—your new road bike is less about riding then it is about your idea of what a road bike should be. It should be preserved in amber so that you can sell it on eBay when it’s time for an upgrade next year.
I want to sell my bike. How much is it worth?
If your bike is a vintage mountain bike, a track bike, or has horizontal dropouts, ask whatever you want and you’ll probably get it. And do it now, before the bubble pops. If it’s anything else, put it up on Craigslist for $20 less than you paid for it. Be sure to mention the many upgrades you’ve made to the bike, like the new American flag bar tape, suspension seatpost (bonus points if the suspension post is on a road bike), and bizarre handlebar attachments. Be sure to mention also that the bike has sentimental value to you, that CannondaleSpecializedBianchiTrek doesn’t make this color anymore, that it has completed the Five Boro Bike Tour, and that it deserves to be ridden and that you want it to go to a good home. Also throw in something extra, like a used pair of shorts. After four weeks and seventeen posts give up and put it in the basement. With any luck in ten years some new trend will come along, aluminum bikes with vertical dropouts and integrated headsets will be all the rage for some reason, and you’ll make a killing.