Loosening Bike Bolts

Pedals and bottom bracket (BB) cups aren’t all threaded normally. For most American and British bikes (Italian and French bikes are different (of course)), the pedals can be loosened by turning the wrench toward the BACK of the bike. Bottom bracket cups can be loosened by turning the wrench to the FRONT of the bike.

Pedals loosen toward the back of the bike, BB cups loosen toward the front.


Print this out on acetate, so you can look through it from the back when you go around to the other side of the bike.



Military Surplus bag for Wald baskets

My kid and I stopped into a military surplus place in Cotati, and I picked up a little medical kit. It’s a green nylon pouch with a green plastic box inside. The box closes, and the pouch has nice snap-through hardware. On the back of the pouch are two metal clips that lock.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.

It turns out these two clips are EXACTLY the height of two Wald basket wires, top to bottom on the medium.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.

The clips snap down and lock, and there are two grommets at the bottom of the pouch that you can zip tie to the bottom wires of the basket.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.

I put some first aid stuff in the pouch (since it’s a medical kit), and big gauze pad fits behind the box.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.

My wallet fits in front.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.

Inside is a tube, tire levers, some allen keys taped together, and an inhaler.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.

The box is easily removed for use.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.

And overall it complements a green Quickbeam quite well.
Wald Basket bike bag pouch.

Repairing a ripped Brooks leather saddle

I bought a bargain-priced titanium-railed Brooks Swift from one of my internet friends. The Swift is a ‘racier,’ ‘sportier,’ ‘spendier’ leather saddle than my B17, and a whole different category of throne altogether than Angelina’s B72. I needed a new saddle for either the Singular Gryphon (more on that later), or the Ross (as it gets the Singular’s gears), and I liked the idea of narrower (for the Gryphon), and lighter (for the Ross).

Brooks Swift Repair

The price was right, but with one drawback. The leather was ripped at the nose, cutting underneath one of the rivets. The seller said it was “ride-able as is,” but at 240 lbs, I figured it would last me about a week. Simply squeezing the ‘roof’ of the saddle towards the rails made the stretched leather pull away from the nose rivets. My first thought was to glue Tyvek to the back of the leather as a reinforcement. Tough, and free in the form of Fed Ex envelopes, I figured it would at least buy me time. Guess who doesn’t have free Tyvek Fed Ex envelopes anymore?

I raided my wife’s sewing supplies, and got a square of mattress ticking material. Tough, cool-looking, and free. Those are like my favorite qualities in a material! I cut it to go around the post of the rivet, removed the cantle from the nose of the saddle, and glued the fabric to the back of the leather.

Patching a ripped saddle with a fabric backing. Followed by extra rivets.

The backing definitely helped keep the leather rip from spreading under pressure, but it didn’t seem strong enough to do the job on its own. I added some Crazy Glue to the torn edges of the leather and squeezed them together while I moved on to Plan C.

Plan A was actually to buy a new leather top and some rivets and just replace the leather entirely, but apparently I just dreamed that possibility. When I went looking in the usual places, no new Brooks leather tops were to be found! The titanium undercarriage alone costs about as much as a whole new saddle, though.

Patching a ripped saddle with a fabric backing. Followed by extra rivets.

So my brainwave here was to add some rivets to reinforce the leather at the nose, and spread the stresses. I had some rivets from my last project, in a couple types and sizes. I would have liked to use some real Brooks rivets from Wallbike, but I was seeing a funky server notice on their domain, and was afraid to order from the site.

I went to Orchard Supply Hardware in my town, and asked the lady by the gazebos and chaises longueses where the rivets were. “We have some kits. Like rivet guns? Pop rivets?” “No, I just need some rivets to hammer in by hand. Do you have a section with fasteners and things? Little drawers with different sizes of nuts and bolts?” “No, we don’t have anything like that.” (dumbfounded) “Would you like to see the kits?” (I thought you were a hardware store!) “Uh, no thanks.”

So I pawed through my own little drawers of fasteners, and came up with a handful of different rivets I’d bought as spares. The best bet seemed to be a pair of split steel ones. They were longer than the others, and it seemed like it would be easier to peen them over (Angelina – “‘Peen?’ Is that a word?”) in the awkward space inside the nose of the saddle.

So I needed to drill two holes through the leather and titanium. There’s plenty of extra material behind the existing rivets, and I had a Dremel with an 1/8″ bit. I marked each spot, and drilled neat holes in the leather… and made tiny dents in the titanium. Lots of nasty dentist-drill whining, lots of holding the Dremel exactly perpendicular, and very little progress. After about 10 minutes and a noise complaint from the child, I put the project aside and emailed a cycling work friend who is a mechanical engineer.

He said that with titanium, you want low speed, lots of torque, and probably a drill press. So… the opposite of a Dremel. He probably just Googled it, but it was helpful. I got out the de Walt 12v drill, set it to “1,” and used a different 1/8″ bit to drill the holes, never pushing the trigger more than halfway, keeping it slow. It was work, but at least it made progress. For the second hole, I put a cork inside the nose to protect the bit when it finally popped through.

Brooks Swift Repair

I used a small hammer with a smooth striking face to drive the rivets into the holes, then popped them out to wallow the hole out a little wider), then tapped them back through. I wanted the rivets snug in the holes but they didn’t go as flush as I would have liked.

I separated the ‘legs’ of each rivet with a sharp steak knife (the least used knife in a vegetarian household), and used a nail set and the hammer to beat them flat against the inside of the nose. I have a large antique monkey wrench I used as a makeshift anvil.

Brooks Swift Repair

Brooks Swift Repair

Brooks Swift Repair

Brooks Swift Repair

Brooks Swift Repair

It actually worked! I put the head of the wrench inside the nose, and did the final beating-down of the rivet with the hammer, and then went around and touched up the original rivets that were coming away from the leather a bit.

Brooks Swift Repair

Brooks Swift Repair

“Bam bam bam!” Much nicer. “Oh, that was easy.” Next time, I’ll definitely get the official Brooks copper rivets.

Brooks Swift Repair

I put a little Sharpie on each rivet head (lasted 30 seconds of riding), and also on the ragged edge of the fabric I used as the backing reinforcement (lasted much longer).

Brooks Swift Repair

Brooks Swift Repair

So this makes two Brooks saddles I’ve rehabilitated with rivets and the Internet! After three rides, I can say that it’s a very comfortable saddle, maybe more so than my B17.


Reverso levers and bar-end shifters!


humblecyclist on flickr set his Long Haul Trucker’s Albatross bars up with both reverse brake levers and bar-end shifting… at the same time.

New brake levers and shifters for my LHT

Paul Thumbies holding Shimano shifters, coupled with Soma reverso levers on Albatross bars. Super-cool. Humblecyclist says after 4+ years of this setup, the only weird part is the reverse shift direction (down for larger on the rear).

“It only takes a few minutes of riding to become comfortable with this “backwards” shifting – after that it just seems normal. It is all worth the setup and configuration necessary to get the full access of the Albatross bars.”

My version would be a single front brake on the left, and a single “normal” bar-end shifter on the right. Dangerous, bad, and wrong.


This March, my friend’s bike was stolen out of my back yard. That sucked. I had fixed it up from its moving-beating (the movers bent some stuff that shouldn’t oughta get bent), and I put on some new bars, and replaced the shifters, and before I’d even cut the (brand new, full pop retail)* cables to length, someone stole the fucking thing out of my yard! My yard. Solid black dog, giant Swiss dog, three mean-ass cats, and they still walked away with it. I guess the advantage of stealing transportation is that it aids its own theft.

Anyway, shame and irritation long gone, Swiss dog replaced with a newer model (Requiescat in Pace, Nadia; welcome, Rosie), seasons have changed, and the other night we took a nighttime trip to the CVS to get some drugs for a possible UTI**, not a fun outing. Walking into the store, I check out the bike that’s abandoned*** out front. “That’s a well-sorted hobo bike… THAT I TOTALLY RECOGNIZE. No WAY.” I took it by the horns and rolled it over to the car. Women were exiting the store, chatting about Michelangelo, and to them I must have looked like someone putting my own bicycle into my own car, because that was how I felt. Snip, snap, into the boot, slam the trunk, and I went shopping.

I kind of cruised the store, with an eye out for someone who might have been a bicycle thief (or a duped grandmother with no other transportation), but didn’t spot any candidates. It wasn’t until we got home that I was like, “Hey, remember when Lisa’s bike was stolen out of our yard?” and Angelina’s like, “Oh my god, yeah, that was horrible,” and I got to say, “well, it was parked*** in front of the CVS, and now it’s TOTALLY IN OUR TRUNK!”


The bike now needs another bout of attention, and the brand new Rivendell proto-Dove bars I got at their garage sale are scratched to hell, because the new owner adjusted the shifters three inches down the bar without using a screwdriver to loosen the clamps. Yeah, they weren’t the classiest shifters, but they worked, which was the whole point. I think I’m going to revert to the flat bars it used to have, and donate the cast aluminum 1985 Suntour (Shimano?) shifters from my first mountain bike. I’ve passed along nicer bits from that bike (WTB Greaseguard hub?), and its Salsa stem still lives on the Quickbeam.

The nice fat slicks are gone, replaced with knobbies, which is what makes me want to set this up with the original flat bars, so Lisa can ride Annadel, 1990 style. Since, actually, there is no higher purpose to a bike than to ride in Annadel. Maybe she needs a basket for Belle, so she can bark at everyone they meet.

* They’re STILL not cut! Just kind of wrapped back up out of the way. Jeez. I guess if you had any pride, you wouldn’t be a bike thief.
** I think the second conversation I ever had with my wife was about UTIs. Right after the “‘God;’ ‘Who do you want to be when you’re super-old;’ and ‘Do-you-want-kids?’ conversation.” Yes, we got married on our second date. Which is a funny story that I won’t burden you with now.
*** Definitely abandoned. “Parked” makes me sound like the bad guy.

Giant Tire Pressure app update

I don’t think the 400th post is a “thing” in the blog world, but in any case, here it is.

The Bike Snob mocked the Tire Pressure App on Tuesday, right after our big update.

Go get the tire pressure app! It’s pretty cool, now. 

The update is visual and usability. The underlying function is the same; it should just be easier to get at. Here I am putting all my bikes in order.

This overlay shows the list of bikes. The free version lets you make two bikes, the paid version as many as you want (we know you have seven). In the future, this screen may show pressures, as a quick reference.

If you Add a New Bike, it will clone your selected one. Most people have slight variations of the same bike, just like they do jackets, so it’s a convenience.

This is the Quickbeam, showing pressure, with me weighing 245. That’s 40 lbs of pizza and beer. Mostly beer. Say, 32 lbs of Bridgeport and Sierra Nevada strapped to me at all times. Hence the superwide tires I like.

To get the right pressure (15% tire “squish,” for low rolling resistance and comfort), you need to know the width (actual, by measuring) of your tires, the weight of the bike, and the weight of everything ON the bike (you, your bags, etc.). You can’t trust any damn thing the manufacturer puts on the side of the tire. You are allowed to lie about your weight, though, since it’s an inexact science.

The inexactitude doesn’t stop there. Tire casing plays a role – if you have handmade tubulars, or the equivalent, you can add 10% more air. Do the math in your head, it’s good for you. If you have terrible heavy utility tires, you may not care what the pressure is, but you can probably run them lower.

So you measure. I actually have a monkey wrench I use for this operation. The giant wrench fits over the tire, it’s adjusted snug, and then you measure the gap in the wrench’s jaws.

In the app, you input the width, choose the style of bike (different bike geometries have different fore/aft weight distributions), and tell the app how wide your tires are. It does the math for you, with an equation that fits against measured tire drop.

Pump it up and ride away. This app may shock you – if you weigh 220 lbs and are running 23mm tires, you are going to see that you’re over-weighting your tires, and pumping them up to 120 psi front and back is still way under inflating them. They’re rock hard, so you don’t have any of the advantages of riding on a pneumatic cushion, and you’re still deflecting them for more rolling resistance than you want. Lose-lose. You should have 153 lbs in the rear, and 98 in the front. So 120/120 is overinflating the front, underinflating the rear.

I’m unlikely to over-inflate 60mm Big Apples.

In other news, I set my Strava personal best on the Tin Bar Stage Gulch climb this week, riding the Gravel Roadster with 60mm Big Apples. The bike snob tells me there’s now a “Gravel Racer” category of bikes. My 12 year old ate sushi and really liked it (mostly he eats fries), and I’ve been walking my dogs twice a day instead of riding to work. I Strava that, too.

Whoo-hoo, the cog is off!

I rode down to the Bike Peddler on the Bontrager, with the stuck-cog ENO Eccentric hub in my handlebar pack. Truth to tell, I chose the Bontrager because I bought it from NorCal Bikesports back when it was called “Dave’s,” and I thought I might have a better chance with my weird request if they recognized a bike they’d sold. Ten years ago half the employees at both shops had owned one of these closeout Privateers.

When it was my turn at the repair counter, I produced the hub, with the cog and lockring still attached, and said, “What I have is in the nature of a challenge. Is it possible to remove this cog? And… how much would it cost?”

The mechanics laughed, and said, “you’re supposed to remove this before you cut out the spokes!” I told them I bought it, and they said, “I hope you didn’t pay too much.” I said, “It depends on how this goes.”

Untitled, originally uploaded by BikeTinker.

It went well. Two guys, four tools and a vice. As one of the attending mechanics said, “It’s easy if you have the right tools.” He looked at the setup in the vice, “Or in this case, the wrong tools, used appropriately.”

taking a cog off an unlaced hubThe hub goes in the vice, the pin spanner* fits into two spoke-holes, and is held in place with vice-grips or locking pliers, so it can’t jump off the hub. Chainwhip goes on the cog, with a cheater bar for more leverage. The pin tool also has a cheater bar. Two strong men lean into it, and the cog spins off.

The mechanic picks up the cog and wipes down the threads, “Who wants to call it? $10?” Well worth it. Ten minutes, and 100 years of experience, vs two hours and something broken, if I’d done it myself.

b/w picture of a shiny ENO hub, with a lockring and cog

*The pin spanner! This is the key element I didn’t see anyone online recommend. A cog-removing pin-spanner with several pins and a self-gripping feature would be a dynamite tool… Problem Solvers?


cog removal research

spoking a cogged up hub, originally uploaded by BikeTinker.

My unbuilt White ENO hub with the evil 16t cog and the lockring is back on my table. I looked up how to remove a cog from a hub that isn’t built into a wheel, and found a good thread on possible fixes.

Suggestions include:

  • Build half the wheel using the side of the hub where the spoke holes aren’t blocked by the cog.” One guy ripped his Shimano hub in half this way. I think the White Industries hub shell has more torsional strength due to its fatness, but I may save it for a last resort.
  • “String some spokes in the hub, using the cog-side spoke holes. If it’s high flange, it should work, be a man.” On this hub with a 16 tooth cog, this method requires bending the spokes almost into a circle as you thread it in, in order to pass the cog. Each spoke would have to be unbent before lacing the wheel. My one test spoke makes this seem like a crappy plan. I do have 11 free spokes and a couple rims, but I’m not excited to pursue this strategy.
  • “Make a wooden jig to hold the hubshell in a vice.” I have no vice. 
  • “Slit the cog with a Dremel cutoff wheel. Buy lots of wheels.” I have a Dremel I’d love to put to use, but I’m afraid. Plan C or D maybe.
  • “Strap tool. Strap tools are bad ass.” This seems like a good plan. I may need to buy one anyway. Because it’s a tool. This is Plan B.
  • “Go to the bike shop.” This worked for one guy. I love the Bike Peddler, and it’s three blocks from my house. Plan A.

Other things I’m looking at in my workroom (toolboxes stacked on the floor of the shed):

Brake cables… could these be used instead of spokes? Thread them through the holes, wrap them around the hub shell, and affix them to a rim somehow? Run the cable through the spoke holes, and affix them by the pinch bolts to dozens of brakes and derailleurs?

The Bontrager. Put the hub in the dropouts, wrap the chain rotafix-style around the cog, get some leverage on the hub with… another cog on the freewheel side of the hub, and rotafixed with a second chain? My mental picture of this working out has twice as many stuck cogs, and a wheelless hub permanently jammed into frame, tied on with two kinked chains…

Off to the bike shop! Maybe they’ll have a Phil cog-based lockring tool…

Fixing the bar-end shifters

The other day I mentioned that I was having trouble getting the full range of gear engagement out of my Shimano 7 speed bar-end shifters. The helpful folk on the RBW List pointed me to a fix for it, right there in the archives. I had ignored the thread way back in September, since gears aren’t my bag, right?

Since I now have two bikes with bar-end shifters, constituting 50% of my entire stable and all of my geared bikes, it behooves me to pay attention sometimes.

I found this screwdriver on a bike ride.

The basic problem is that if you take the shifter apart and fiddle with it, or buy it in separate pieces, or install it multiple times, you can end up with a shifter that doesn’t have enough “throw” to carry the rear derailleur all the way up and down the cassette. This apparently happens because the wound-up ratcheting springy magical thing inside the shifter gets unwound. To fix it, you need to wind it back up.

In an ideal world, I’d be able to buy (or make!) a special tool to wind up the slack, and reset the shifter. In practice, you can simply use the shifter pod itself to wind the shifter back up.

  • You need to slack up the cable (but not remove it, yay).
  • Remove the shifter from the pod, leaving the pod in the bar-end.
  • Line up the square “chunk” on the shifter with the matching indent of the pod, with the lever pointed straight out.
  • Ratchet the lever straight down.
  • Take the lever off the pod, line up the squares with the lever pointed straight back.
  • Ratchet the lever straight down.
  • Times 4, or until the lever no longer goes down.
  • Take the lever off the pod, and line up the squares with the lever pointed straight down.

You are now ready to rock and roll. “Rock and roll” is biketinker for “adjust the limit screws on the derailleur so you don’t shift into the spokes.”

Every time you ratchet down, you’re taking slack out of the system. Or appeasing the tiny daemons that live in there.

Here I am, practicing my new videography skillzes.

skate deck color check

I had a skate deck color request for “not quite chartreuse, not quite olive-y acid green.” I thought all my decks were black (with a sexy black band around them), but I had a rasta deck hidden away as well.

This seems more “not quite Juaritos limon soda,” but I really like the stickers.


I think I can make matched pedals by using pieces that match diagonally. Usually a pair is directly attached, where the left side of the deck becomes the right pedal deck, and vice versa.  Just have to be a little more careful in the measuring…

Update: Success – the diagonal matching works! This whole deck is getting that treatment. I’m prepping more decks even now. They’ll go on Etsy, with cleats, at a dramatically inflated price.

recycled wooden platforms for clipless pedals skatedecks for clipless pedals