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All DOWN Cycles MTB NewsMain MTB NewsLocal NewsTech Tips & Reviews
Tech Tips & Reviews
10/29/10
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Bring a flat repair kit while cycling! I can’t stress this statement enough. It’s not if you get a flat, it’s when you get a flat! Riding a bike for ten miles is not too difficult. Walking the bike home ten miles is no fun at all.

What‘s in a “flat repair kit”? The basics are a patch kit and a pump. These two essentials will get you out of most jams. They weigh hardly anything and take up little room. It’s a good idea to bring one or two tire levers to help remove the tire from the rim, but it is possible to remove a tire without them. It’s also smart to carry a spare tube since a torn or busted off valve can’t be patched.

Experienced cyclists may tell you to bring a Co2 kit. These devises are helpful especially when racing and work well during mosquito season, but a good pump works perfectly. Inflating with a Co2 can also blow a patch off the tube if done in a hurry. It’s also difficult to control the tires bead “seat” using a Co2. You could potentially blow the tire off the rim when inflating with a quick burst of air.

Another smart idea is to bring a thick piece of rubber and electrical tape. The rubber will work well to repair a ripped/torn tire and the tape can be used for holding the rubber in place inside the tire. Tape can be used for replacing an out of place or broken rim strip. Every rim (except tubeless) has a strip of cloth, plastic or rubber wrapped around the rim outer diameter and over the spoke nipples. The rim strip acts as a barrier between the rim and tube. Tubes can easily flat from contact with a spoke nipple or from contact with the hole in a double wall rim (a rim with two layers, the outer layer is drilled to insert the spoke nipple, usually speced on higher end bikes).

Anyway, be prepared for a flat tire because you are going to get them. Use your head when making a repair and remove the object that cause the flat before filling up the repaired, or new tube. Visually check the outside of the tire for a foreign object while carefully feeling around (for something sharp like glass) inside the tire with your hand.

Pump the leaky tube to locate the hole. The location of the hole determines the cause of the flat. A single puncture on the outer part of the tube indicates debris such as glass, a nail, tack, thorn, a staple, etc…

A hole on the tubes inner part, the part that faces towards the rim indicates a problem with the rim strip or spoke head. Visually inspect the rim strip. Most likely it shifted slightly revealing the sharp edges of a hole(s) in the double wall rim. Use you electrical tape and tape down the rim strip after shifting it back into place. File down sharp spoke heads. A sharp spoke nipple can poke through the rim strip and puncture the tube.

A hole with two gashes next to one another is called a “snake bit flat”. This type of flat can usually be repaired using two patches. A snake bite flat is the result of a large impact. Riding straight into a pot hole or riding fast through rocks causes this type of very common flat. Go ahead and make the repair to the obvious double puncture, but also check the tire for thorns. A thorn stuck in the tire will cause a very slow leak. The lower than normal pressure was most likely the cause your snake bite flat.

Always check your tire pressure before a ride. Tubes leak down all on their own. Road bikes will need airing up every ride. Mountain bikes may need air every other ride. Low tire pressure is not only annoying to ride and dangerous, but can cause you to get a dreaded snake bit flat.

Remember to buy a new patch get every few months. The glue in the patch kit dries out in a hurry. I’ve never had good luck with glue less patches, but I guess they could get you out of a jam and are better than nothing. I’d consider glue less patch only temporary. A properly patched tube is perfectly sound for pressures up to around 50 psi. Roadies should install a new tube after a patch repair. Road racing tires typically inflated to 120 psi. Patches do not work well at these intense pressures. Pump your road tire up to around 80 psi after patching and limp home.

If your tube explodes while riding, you have a serious tear in the tire or on the tires bead. If the tube has herniated outside the tire, get ready for a Ka Boom! Usually a rim brake pad is out of adjustment (or the rim itself is not installed correctly) and has worn through the tires side wall. A weak side wall eventually will give out, when it does; the tube protrudes into the rim brake and then explodes. The tube will deflate rapidly and could cause a rider to crash. This type of trailside repair is technical. The bead is under lots of pressure when inflated. You can try taping that thick piece of rubber against the tear. It may hold long enough to get you home. A patch will not repair the gaping hole in the tube. You will need a new tube for this repair. Do not apply the brake on the ride home, unless you have a tool to fix the out of position pad that caused the flat. Watch for clearance on the bulged repaired tire. You may have to disconnect the rim brake altogether just to get home.

In desperation, a dollar bill is pretty tough and works OK for side wall repairs. Energy bar of Gu wrappers will suffice as a quick fix. If your tube blows to smithereens and you have no spare, stuff the tire with vegetation then muscle the bead back onto the rim to get home. Believe me when I tell you that this actually works!

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10/25/10
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

I have narrowed “skipping gears” down to a few culprits. I’ll list the possible causes in order from common to bizarre.

1. Have you installed a new chain recently? If so, your new chain is not conforming to the bikes worn out sprockets. Solution: Reinstall the old chain or buy new sprockets (front chain rings and rear cassette). Remove the new chain right away! Ride the new chain more than a few times on the old rings and it will wear premature or break under the added stress.

2. Inspect the chain for a stiff link. Locate the bad link by freewheeling the crank backwards and eyeing for a jump in the derailleur jockey wheel, apply lube to the stiff link (Tri flow works well). Pry/twist/bend the chain in all directions to free up the link. Most likely, the bearing between the plates is bulged and deformed and the link can’t be freed up. Solution: New chain (if it is not too old and worn out) or new link.

3. Bent rear derailleur or derailleur hanger. Solution: straighten the hanger. Buy a new rear derailleur.

4. Ring(s) are bent or missing teeth (some teeth seem like they're missing, but are purposely formed with ramps to aide shifting. Do not mistake the shift ramps as bad teeth. Both rear cassette and front rings bend, especially on 9sp cassettes with 4 bolt front chain rings. Solution: buy new rings or bend them back with a metal punch and a hammer. I know it sounds crude, but it works. A stick and a rock will do on the trail (also works for bent disc rotors). Check that the cassette is tight to the free hub.

5. The inner cable slipped on the derailleur pinch bolt. This is a common problem with the new Shimano “shadow” rear derailleur. Solution: shift into 1st and 9th, turn barrel adjusters in, and pull inner cables tight. You will need to add barrel adjustment to add cable tension to fine tune the shifts. Watch for outer cables that are cut too short near suspension links. Short cables in this location will cause huge shift headaches.

6. The PAWL mechanism (the clicking sound you hear when you’re not pedaling the bike) inside the rear hub (or inside the rear freewheel on cheap bikes) needs to be cleaned or replaced. The ring gear that is pressed into the rear hub is cracked or has spun loose. The PAWLS engage into the ring gear which then propels the wheel forward.

7. The rear axle is bent, cracked or axle bearings are toast.

8. The chain is bent.

9. The rear wheel is not installed properly or the rear quick release is not tight.

10. You have a 9 or 10 speed chain installed on an 8 speed (or 7/6 speed) bike.

11. You have an 8 speed chain installed on a 9 or 10 speed bike.

12. You have a 10 speed chain installed on a 6,7,8,9 speed bike.

13. You are using a 10 speed derailleur on a 6,7,8,9 speed bike.

14. You are using a 6,7,8,9 speed derailleur on a 10 speed bike.

15. You have a Sram 1:1 ratio shifter installed on a Shimano 2:1 ratio derailleur.

16. You have a Shimano 2:1 ratio shifter installed on a Sram 1:1 rear derailleur.

17. You have a 9 speed shifter installed on a 6,7,8,10 speed bike.

18. You have a 10 speed shifter installed on a 6,7,8,9 speed bike.

19. You have installed the wrong master link on the chain (example: an 8 speed master link (quick link is not compatible with 9 speed chains or vice versa. (Also worth noting: A Sram 8 sp quick link will bind and causes a stiff link when installed on Shimano 8 speed chains).

20. Your drive side crank is loose and is soon to fall off the bottom bracket spindle or the bottom bracket is worn out/loose.

21. Your bike is filthy. Gunk, leaves, or sticks are jammed into the gears or your bash guard has damage from impacts. Clean by picking at the buildup of junk with a small screwdriver and file the burrs on the bash.

22. Check if chain ring bolts are tight.

23. Check the rear derailleur fixing bolt. The plastic jockey wheel bolts may be loose or the derailleur limit screws backed out from vibration. The limit screws may have been set up poorly when the bike was new.

24. You have too many links in the chain.

25. The tension spring in the derailleur is busted.

26. Do you have a DRS (Dual Ring Security) or some kind of chain guide? You may have hit the lower roller on the trail and bent the guides boomerang. The guide may have moved causing the roller to butt up against the frames chainstay. Tweak the guide straight and reposition lower roller (the roller must roll smooth, check for damage and check/lube the rollers bearings. If you do not have a ISCG mount (3 bolts that hold the guide to the frame), you may have to loosen the bottom bracket to reset the position of the boomerang.

27. Have you been riding your bike with the same chain for a few seasons? It’s time for all new drive components. It’s too late to replace only the chain. All the parts associated with the forward drive are worn out. A new chain will not mesh properly with old cogs. The bike’s new chain will skip pedaling up hill and during a sprint when installed on old, worn gears.

Shifting issues can be avoided by keeping your bike clean,maintained and properly lubed. Inspect your bike for damage after a crash and before each ride. Change you chain and cables at least two times per season (that is, if you ride a couple times per week).

Installing a new chain will prolong wear to the chain rings. It’s a good idea to buy a chain checking tool that measures chain stretch. Avid riders should be installing a new chain every 2 ½-3 months when the season is hot and heavy.

I purposely left out information on front derailleur tweaks (although the slipped cable on the pinch bolt fix works for the front derailleur as well). Front derailleur issues are even more complicated to figure out than rear shift issues. I recommend bringing your bike to a shop regardless. As you can read, shifting issues can be caused by a number of problems. I didn’t even mention cable stretch! Yes, cables will stretch only when they are new. Add tension on the barrel adjuster either at the shifter or rear derailleur to tune for cable stretch. Turning the adjuster counter clockwise will add cable tension.

Always carry a spare derailleur hanger with you on rides. A replaceable derailleur hanger is designed to break in a crash to help protect the derailleur itself from damage. It’s common to bend and break off the hanger when attempting to pry it straight by hand. It takes only a few minutes with simple tools to install a new hanger on the trail.

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01/28/09
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

A brutal winter is upon us. Do yourself and your bike shop a favor and prepare now for the warmer temperatures. The following Tech Tip is a simple way that you can check the condition of your bikes rear suspension:

Temporarily remove your rear shock and rear wheel. Cycle your swing arm through full travel. It helps to have a bike stand, but you can perform this tip without one. Watch out for bikes with front derailleurs. Shift into 2nd gear before lifting up your bikes swingarm! Some swing arms will hit the front derailleur when it is in 1st gear and cause headaches.

You should be able to move the rear triangle/swingarm though full travel with very little effort. If you feel or hear noise/friction, you have problems. Usually FS bikes need pivot work after a hard season of riding. Many bikes are blamed for bad performance only because they have not been maintained properly.

While you’re at it, check your cables running to your rear brake and shifter. Make sure they’re not rubbing on the frame or being pinched. Also keep in mind that your shock will bottom out long before your rear tire touches the seat/seat post.

Another smart thing to check is your frame/rear shock alignment. Eyeball your suspension links, where your shock mounts and where the front of the shock bolts to your frame. These locations should be parallel to one another. In other words, you’re checking to see if your rear shock is under unnecessary side load. Your shock will dramatically affect your quality of travel if it is under side load pressures. Your shock will also suffer premature failure operating under these extreme forces. You can usually see issue’s with frame alignment when cycling the suspension into full bottom out. I’ve seen bikes that were more than a 1/8” out. This issue is usually not rectified by your bike shop. You will need to warranty your frame if it’s out of wack.

I remember a customer who complained that his BMW race link suspension worked horribly and he wanted to sell the bike because of this. Now I know that the BMW bikes are amazing from first hand experience! I did this exact test to his bike and couldn't believe how contaminated his links were. It was amazing that the suspension worked at all. I could hardly move the suspension with no shock installed!!! Needless to say, many dollars latter, his bike was repaired and he was blown away by how well it now performed! So get on it people, pull that shock off and inspect your bike. Now's the time to drop it off for service as DOWN Cycles is open in the winters (winter hours, so call first). I'm pretty sure everyone out there is pumped for spring; don't let mechanicals hold you back from riding at your best on that first warm sunny day!
Suspension Cycled at Full Bottom Out

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09/13/06
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Avalanche Downhill Racing is bound to have a rear shock that will fit your bike frame and style of riding. This year they offer “generic valved” shocks that are less expensive. The generic shocks work well for riders of average weight and typical 3:1 leverage ratios. One new rear damper of particular interest is the Montie Monotube.

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1 Update

09/06/06
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

The downhill chainguide is the most important and most abused component on a DH bike. For years, engineers have been floundering with designs that try and prevent chain derailments. Most were overly complicated or simply to flimsy to hold up under the rigors of DH. Lucky for us, we have: Bob (“Mr. Dirt”). He has been coming up with ingenious designs since the beginning of time. He invented the “Gizmo” back in 2000 and has reintroduced a new improved version this classic guide.

Dirt Gizmo

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03/08/06
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

You have hit the Jackpot of all Tech Tips. Hopefully the following 36 Mechanical Tech Tips will make up for 36 months of neglect. 8|

1. Do not ride slow rebound rubber tires in the winter! These soft compound tires are temperature sensitive and become as hard as skateboard wheels when riding below freezing or in snow/ice conditions.

2. Do not over tighten your brake lever and shifter clamp bolts. A lever/shifter is less likely to bend/brake off if they can move during a crash and will be easy to align after a crash. Properly tightened lever will require a punch/slap to move them back in place.

3. Build your wheels with DT Swiss “Pro Lock” spoke nipples. You will never have loose spokes again, (unless you flat spot). Pro Lock nipps are available in Alloy and Brass (so sorry bling addicts: black color only).

4. Align your tires logo with your valve stem. You will look like a dork if you don’t.

5. Put a drop of Blue Loctite (#242) on your disc brake caliper bolts and rotor bolts every time your remove them.

6. Change your chain 1 to 2 times a year to prevent excessive wear to your bikes expensive sprockets.

=> Read more!

4 Updates

06/03/05
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Push

I’ve been happily testing a Push Industries tuned FOX Vanilla RC on my Orange 223. To prove to you that your shock has been tricked out, Push actually gives you back all the old Vanillas internals. For less than $200.00 Push Industries will trick out your old FOX and bring it up to speed with their “Race system”!

=> Read more!

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02/15/05
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Rear shock technology has improved leaps and bounds over the past few years. So much has evolved that I felt compelled to test a few of the new designs. Three shocks were tested and to my surprise all work very well at propelling us downhillers even faster down mountains. All were tested on my latest and greatest downhill ride, the Orange 223.

Tested are two more recognized brand names: Avalanche DHS, Progressive’s 5th Element and the black sheep, underground company, Push Industries. New on the scene, Push is doing in the US what the Euros been doing for years, tossing out the internals of your FOX RC and replacing them with new technology. Riders now have the option of upgrading rear shock performance without having to buy an entire new rear shock. Push offers an upgrade to install FOX “Pro Pedal” or go for the gusto and install their totally revamped “Race Internals” (tested here).

=> Read more!

5 Updates

01/01/05
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

When I say “drops” I’m talking about a 90 degree ledge you can’t roll down. At some point in the future I will discuss how to roll off steep terrain. A “drop off” requires some air time. Many people are uncomfortable in the air. Do not stress. Flying off a drop is actually easier than hitting a double jump. Sure you need some bike control, but regardless, style or no style, gravity will bring you down. The first step is to learn on small drops before you hit the Pro line. Start off gradually on 2’ drops. It’s unfortunate, but during the learning curve, your front tire will either drop abruptly or become lifted too high. A 2’ drop will hurt a lot less than a 15’. I don’t care what a Buddhist Monk might think. Crushing your boys repeatedly can become an annoyance. You need to gain confidence on smaller terrain and hone in on some skills.

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6 Updates

11/01/04
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

We all know by now that Orange bicycles win races. We see them in magazine photographs and in all the latest DVD's. The stunning hyroform down tube and the huge swing arm are clear signs that what you're looking at is an Orange bicycle. They seem to be everyplace you turn except in a test review. Recently, the 222/223 has caused quite the commotion in the world of downhill racing due to its, thought to be extinct, frame design, the single pivot.

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3 Updates

12/01/03
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

This “tech tip” only refers to inverted “up side down” forks.

Does your 20 mm suspension fork feel lousy? It may be suffering from “sticktion” (a chattering type of friction that sometimes occurs when a fork is compressed). Customers frequently complain of this problem and the solution is usually a simple fix that takes only seconds.

=> Read more!

3 Updates

06/01/03
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

This is an interesting frame. Orange incorporated the one point five head tube into this frame only for 2003. They keep the weight down by using a hydro form style front triangle and rear swing arm. Shock options vary from FOX, Manitou, or Progressive. The flat black powder coat paint job looks mean and the cable routing is well thought out. The rear brake and shifter cables run straight through the swing arm. As the suspension travels, the lines slide freely through guides on the main frame. O rings wrapped around the cables keep dirt out of the swing. 135mm spacing and quick release drop outs keep things simple.

=> Read more!

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05/01/03
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

After a recent DH session, a friend of mine said my bike would be the choice pick for the GODS. This statement got me thinking, what bike would GOD choose to ride for DH? I pondered this interesting question and decided it would make a great tech tip.

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02/01/02
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

The first Question people ask me when they see my DH bike is "are those 24" rims?" The next question they usually ask is "why use 24" rims instead of 26"?" My answer to the second question is "because I can."

24" rims will fit any bike, but most bikes are not designed to work with such a small rim. Problems will arise such as, changes in geometry, cranks become too low to the ground, and wide 24" tires may not fit between your frame's chainstays.

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2 Updates

01/01/02
English (US)  
aj.jpg
Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Why does their Superlight ride totally different than my Superlight? The answers are usually not obvious. I've ridden identical makes and models from the same year that feel totally different. How is this possible? Identical bikes should feel the same.

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12 Updates

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