Bike Build / Bike Tech / Bike Selection / Tools + HACKS

How-To Bike Repairs


Derailleur Skipping??

Tuning Fork

Regular Maintenance

Component Selection

FINDING Lost Performance


Comfort Control

Special Tools

Tire Tech / TUBELESS REPAIR / Tire Selection


Road Tires

CX Road

CX Trail

MTB Cross Country

MTB Singletracks


BUILD your own BIKE


Build your own bike, the way you like it.

Bike Selection

Fork Selection

Wheel Building

CX Carbon Bike Building

MTB Carbon Bike Building

Electric Bike Building

Most Important Bicycle Tip / CHECK Your CHAIN!

Your Best Friend is a Chain Gauge


This chain has worn 50% of it's acceptable limit. This chain is on my MTB. I ride this MTB at Lynn Woods. In only 200 miles, this chain is 50% worn. MAX Usage for this chain is 500 miles. I will put (2) chains on this bike each year. On most chains you may get an extra 100 miles past the 100% wear limit.

I ride my CX Bike on sand /gravel/dirt trails, I can get about 800 miles on a CX Bike before changing the chain. A Road Bike can get 2000 miles on a chain.

Point is: A chain always wears equally. You do not want the chain to break on a long ride, especially if it is one of my group rides. Once a single link breaks, you can expect the rest of the chain to start breaking links.  Sometimes a link will break because of a twig, or a funny twist. Most of the time, a link will break because it is past it's life. 

Check your Chain...or enjoy your 2 hour walk with your bike, instead of riding... 

About New Chains


 Brand new chains need to be cleaned before use.
Chains are assembled by machines and there is machine oils all over the new chain.  The oils help keep the chain from rusting while in the package waiting for you to install it.

A new chain will need a solvent cleaning, and re-oiling when installed.  The original machine oil is sticky and not meant for long term lubrication. It will also prevent the good chain oil from getting where it needs to be. Open a new chain and just touch it. It is sticky which is bad. 

Make sure you match the length of the new chain to the length of the old chain. Most MTB's you will take 1 or 2 whole links out.

If you carry a spare chain on a long ride, make sure you pre-prep the chain. Solvent clean it, pre-oil it, adjust it to the proper size, and store it back in the original container.

Chain Maintenance


 Oil is not enough for your chain. Every 3 - 4 rides, you should remove your chain at the Quick-Link and solvent clean your chain. Clean more often for Sandy Trails, and less often for Road Riding.  

Solvent cleaning means you strip away everything, oil, lube, and dirt. I use GUNK Original. Put the chain in a small container, spray it, scrub it with your brush, then wash it off.  Must oil it as soon as you install it, or it will start to rust right away.

Also use Gunk to clean the rest of your bike. Especially the rims. I dip the corner of a rag into a small amount and it gets everything off.


I buy $25.00 mid-range chains. I mostly ride in conditions where even the best chain in the world would not make it to end of life. 

Many times my chains are the victim of a funny twist, getting jammed between gears, or a large stick that does its trick. 

Point is, Cheap Chains are best for my style of riding. The $60.00 chain is on my road bike.

ON-TRAIL / Single Speed Fix

Broke your Derailleur on the Trail?


This is the very Famous SINGLE SPEED CONVERSION FIX for an emergency repair on your ride. 

For what ever reason your derailleur failed, this fix will get you out of the woods every time.  I have broken a derailleur at least one time a year for the last 20 years. If you set up the gearing correctly, you may also be able to enjoy more riding as a fixed single-speed MTB.  Recently after such a repair in Lynn Woods, I was able to hit 3 more miles of rugged Single Tracks before leaving the park. 

After removing the derailleur assembly, you must remove the correct amount of chain links.

 The Final resting position of the Chain MUST BE in a Straight Line from the front Chain-ring to the rear cog. If the chain is askew, it will skip around and this will not work. It is much easier taking links out, then putting them back in if you make the chain too short.  

Plan this carefully, do it once, and you are riding again in 10 minutes. 

 PS: This is why we carry a good Chain Tool in our kits.


If you have never done this before, I strongly recommend you try at home before you are stuck.  You do  not need to remove or disconnect your derailleur. Just remove your current chain from your bike. Un-thread it from your rear derailleur.  Now affix the chain to the rear sprocket and front chain-ring you want to use, and hold the two chain ends together.   Then estimate an extra few links and remove the link you want to make the new connection to.  It should be hanging down loose, and when it jumps up to the correct sprocket it should be tight, and a little loose is OK.  If the chain-ring seems to be binding, you took out too many links, and you will need to add one back in.   Then go for a ride on your single speed.  It is fun, try it out for a few miles.   When you get home, install a new chain, or add a quick link to where you broke the chain you currently have.

Is your Cassette skipping?? Maybe your illegal

I Got a 42T Cassette on my rig. That is the Problem...!


Wow, a 42 tooth cassette.  Wow, a 52 tooth cassette. 

I will just buy one and put it on my old bike.

Except your old bike is not designed to work with it. Older frames were designed around the concept of a 36 tooth size rear cassette being the maximum size you could go. This design often contained a short derailleur hanger. A short hanger is less prone to bending/breaking on impact. 


The new 1x designs are now incorporating longer derailleur hangers into the frame design.  A longer derailleur hanger is necessary for the derailleur to properly track the cassette through the entire gear range. Yes, you can get a 42 to work on an older frame design. To do this you must make large adjustments to the tension screw. This adjustment allows the chain cage to clear the largest cog on your cassette. This screw changes the entire angle of chain tracking. As you adjust the angle you start losing the top end cogs. (the smaller ones) . Works fine for a little while, but you will find after the cogs wear in a little bit you start slipping the chain on the smaller cogs. The chain angle has changed so much, less that 180 degrees of the chain has engagement with the cassette. The chain must be in >180 degrees contact with the cassette at all times for high torque application. 

Photo Above: the Cassette is 60% (~215 degrees) in contact with the Largest Cog.

Other rear Cassette Stuff... 

On most Bikes you can run a 36 Tooth Rear Cassette (Shown) and you will not need to modify your derailleur. If your Front Chain Ring is 46 Teeth or Smaller, you are ready to go.  If you want a bigger front chainring, you will now need to reduce the size of your rear cassette.  If your Spread Number is larger than 80, you will have chain fit, and shifting issues. Each chain has about 116 links.  The 80 Teeth spread number means 40 chain links are 50% engaged with the front and rear cogs.  

This means there is less than 76 links left to span the chain-stay.

32t cassette + 50t chain ring  - Spread = 80 Teeth

34t cassette + 46t chain ring - Spread = 80 Teeth

42t cassette + 38t chain ring  - Spread = 80 Teeth

52t cassette + 28t chain ring - Spread = 80 Teeth 

Going to a Larger Cassette ( IE: 40 - 42t ), now you start to impact the Max size of your front chain-ring. Most folks run a single chain-ring up front, so it is an easy adjustment to make.

All of my bikes have Triple Chain-rings. Why...?  Because I need the gear range.  I can take any of my bikes from the roughest hill climb on a rugged trail, or hit 20 MPH cruising speed on the roads between the parks.   Even in the parks, I am often in my large chain ring on downhills and flat lands.  Having a big chain-ring allows more control of the bike on the fast downhills.


Finding Lost Power... In Your CHAIN

3 Chain-Rings are Old-School, and Old-School are the best methods for speed and control.

Lets chat about Friction Loss in the Chain. 

The newest mountain bikes have the very popular 1x 10 and 1x 11 gear-sets.  Yes, they look cool, and you are saving the space on your handle-bar from having a chain-ring shifter. Bike MFG's save money on production costs, while charging you more for the newest trend.

What do you gain in a 1x system? Maybe the feeling simpler is better? As far as performance goes, things maybe  worse because what you are losing.  

The Many Ways You Lose:

1) Power Loss: If you are using a 1x system on your MTB, you can be losing 5 - 15% of your power while climbing.  When the chain alignment is askew, you are creating friction instead of power.  (see Video)  Proper Chain alignment is critical for minimal power loss.  A Triple Ring allows the chain to have proper alignment for most of the gear range.  A mountain bike rider in great shape can produce over 400 watts of power on a climb. A 15% loss on that is 60 watts of power LOST. You are wearing out your chain and making heat, instead of helping you climb.

2) Down-Hill Control is sacrificed on a 1x system.  Most 1x systems use a 28t to a 36t front rings. Anything bigger and you lose climbing ability.  On Down-Hills you can easily hit 20, 25, to 30 MPH on the trails.  Problem is the max-speed your 1x gear-set can handle is about 16 MPH.  Any speeds faster than that, the gear-set makes the pedals useless.   So you are on a down-hill bomb with only Brakes for your control.  With a 48t on the front, you have much more control on your descent. All my bikes have Triple Rings and I can tell you it is great to have a lot of gear choices with a 24t-34t-48t ring-set on the front.

3) Climbing Ability = More Weight:  To me it just does not make sense.  In a 1x system if you want more climbing ability, you must add bigger gears and more weight. Large skips in tooth steps between gears with 50 tooth gear sets...  With a Triple Ring set-up The biggest rear gear you will ever need is a 36t if you have a 24t up front.  Look at all the weight I saved, and a much better intra-gear selection. 50 Tooth cassettes are very $$expensive$$ too.

4) Thick-Thin Chain-Ring skip:  When I was riding 1x systems I found the thick-thin single-speed chain-rings can sometimes skip when there is a lot of dirt on the chain.  

PRO: The every-other thick-teeth lock the chain onto the ring to help prevent bounce-out. Where the chain jumps off the chain ring.  These are chainrings that have a thick tooth followed by a thin tooth. 

Con: A few trips through the mud, dirt, you get gunk on the chain.  The  chain struggles to keep seated on the chainrings thick teeth.  Also tracking gets worse with skewed chain angles. The dirt in the links vs the thicker teeth is not a good combination.  

Triple Ring systems have narrow teeth that will allow better  chain-angle  guidance.

5) Chain Tension Issues: In a 1x system the rear derailleur's cage position is at both extremes through-out it's gear range.  When selected for the highest gear, there is also very little chain tension which means the chain will slap around. This can sometimes pop the chain off the front chain ring.  This will happen when your bike is going it's fastest, like on a down-hill.  Great time to pop your chain off the ring. You can put a chain tensioner on it, but that is extra weight for no performance gain. A Triple Ring, or even a Double Ring lets you have many gear choices and the front derailleur also acts to keep your chain on the gear.

6) Chain Life:  You have a spare tube, tool kits and everything you need in case you get stuck.  Do you ride with an extra chain too?  If you are using a 1x system, you should be.  Chain wear on a 1x system is much faster than a Triple Ring system.  With many bikes and many thousands of miles I ride each year, I have to change chains at least 2 times on some of my bikes each season.  Getting as many miles as possible is important at $25+ a chain. On my bikes I get 130% chain wear before the chain brakes.  On the 1x system I was getting about 80% max usage from each chain.  Being deep in the woods when a chain reaches it's end-of-life can be a bummer. 

I have had a chain brake on me 3 times before getting out of the woods in one outing. 

7) Wrecking your Whole Drive-Train: Just to be clear, there is a lot of stress on the other components in your 1x system. Your Derailleur is stretched, the guide-wheels are grinding, and there is a lot of noise when you are in the big gears... 

More than in the other gears.  That noise is your drive-train wearing down, and the energy you are losing.

WANT PROOF?? Go to your biggest gear, and pedal backwards... see if you drop your chain. If you do, you need to read this entire page again.

Chain and Drive train Off-Angle Strain Demo

Every bike I have built all started as fixed gear. Eventually each bike matured up to a multi-ring gear set. This video show the reasons why multiple chainrings are a serious consideration on your steel horse.



There is only ONE Lube that works... (Hint: It is not WAX)

Most of 2016, my chains were getting to about 60% of normal life, and they break on the trails. After 20 years of riding, I knew very well how many miles a chain should get. I had (4) chains break with only 60%- 80% life.  Much shorter life than normal. Easy to figure out. It was chain stretch. After I broke a chain I would measure it for wear.

Chains that only had a few hundred miles on them showed wear that was equivalent to a well worn chain. My first suspect was the chain brand. Sprung for a $40 chain. Then on one of my longer rides with the new super chain, I heard my chain squeaking. Squeaking like an un-lubed chain. 

Did not take long to figure out after that it was the Chain Lube.  Seems the limit with spray-can wax lube is about 4 hours of riding, or near 25 miles on a MTB.   Earlier that year, I started using WAX like most of the folks I ride with.

Yes, Chain Wax and Silicone Lube are great and keep your chain cleaner. But they do not do the job of lubing the chain for long term use.  

After looking into this, and many videos on you-Tube, the Pro's apply Wax much differently than we do.   From a spray can like Pedro's.   

The Pro's: First they use an Acetone bath to clean the chain, pressure clean it in a bath, while they melt a wax candle in a pot. Next step is put the clean chain in it, take out and let dry. Take a rag and clear off the extra wax.  Yes, that works for them and I am happy for them.

Short of having your own bike mechanic it is lot of work to remove your chain + clean it, then boil it in hot wax  after every ride.  Or you can use Spray Chain-Oil and go.

As far as the Spray Can variety of Wax I give spray wax 2 thumbs down. My chain is squeaking after the first 25 miles of any MTB dirt ride with wax lube... Straight chain oil does not squeak and the chain stays lubed for the duration of the ride.   The most popular argument against chain oil is rust.  I spray before and after a ride. I have >8 bikes. I can not possible ride them all. None of the bikes have rusted chains.

Lots of folks will still swear by the Wax...

For me, I am Not sure it is worth it.  Don't really care to break my chain on a ride where I am 50 miles from home. Went back to regular Chain-Oil and now I get 120% chain life on each it was before I switched.


Chain Cleaning / Factory Recommended Procedure

Ya, short of an Extreme Chain Cleaning, spray oil and go... This is the only time being lazy is OK!

Tuning Fork / Front Fork suspension Settings

Quick Video about the basics of tuning your Front Fork.

Full Suspension Bike Set-Up

Setting-up your Full Suspension bike

Slow-Motion / Fast-Frame Video of Huck to Flat

It is amazing to see all the limits of the bike hit in these Huck to Flat.

Bike Upgrades / Hacks / Tips

180mm Rotor Upgrade: If you ride in New England and want to Stop...


Upgrade your 160mm Rotor to a 180mm Rotor. All you need is a 180mm Rotor, and a caliper extender  kit.  For under $50, the best braking improvement you can make. Not needed on CX or light duty bicycles. A 180 mm Rotor is only needed on the Front, unless you have a DH Bike you will want one in the back too.

BB7 Adjustment Quirk / Did your Brakes ever get Tighter in the middle of a Ride?


I have found on the really rough trails, the out-side pad adjuster will sometimes get a little tighter. This O-Ring adds a little resistance to that movement and keeps the pad position you set.

Shocking Pressure


Do you know (without looking) what your Shock Pressure should be?   What if you are on the trails, and think your pressure is low? 

 Write your Shock Pressure on your bike. 

You will always know what the best fork pressure should be.

SRAM Rear Derailleur Hack

Ever have your Rear Derailluer Skip Around?


The Tension Screw (not shown) helps the Chain track the Cassette properly by putting a constant tension on it. Sometimes the tension screw  just needs an adjustment to make the chain tracking better. If this screw is busted or bent, it will be impossible for the chain to track properly through the cassette.

The Tension Screw Fix


Shown: New (Mongo) 10-32 Tension Screw 


Original (puny) 6-32 Tension Screw 

This FIX works on most Derailleurs.

Sram Rear Derailluer Hack

After my friend wrecked (3) expensive SRAM Short Cage Derailleurs, we took a closer look at the issue.  On all 3, the Tension Screw bent + stripped past the spring boss which provides the tension.

SRAM in pure marketing genius mode used a weak 6-32 aluminum screw  to do the job.  Designed to fail, they sell you a new derailleur.


Unless you try this Hack:

The above photo shows a 10-32 Tap doing it's job and cutting new threads. The photo to the Left shows a new 10-32 Stainless Steel screw installed. Above the 10-32 screw is the original 6-32 screw with it's stripped threads and warped screw body.

Carmen Saved $89.00 with this repair instead of buying a new derailleur. Now lets find the other 2 + fix-um up.

The Rider Cockpit

SRAM Twist-Grip Shifter / Ergonomic Hand-Grips / Climbing Bars


SRAM Twist- Shifters:  Have you ever got your fingers caught in between the lever shifters on a mountain bike during a crash?  After breaking fingers a few times I have converted all my bikes over to Twist-Shifters. They also clean up the cockpit area a bit.  No little levers poking out at ya, and see how clean the handlebars look.

Ergo-Grips: When you are doing regular rides of 4 - 6 hours, every little comfort helps. These let you take the pressure off of your wrists. On Down-Hill Bombs, you will also have my better control of the steering. These properly position your wrist for better steering and braking.

Bar Ends/ Climbing Bars:   When you stand on your pedals to get up that hill, you need to change your hand position to the climbing bars so you can stand.  Also important on those long rides where you can get a few different hand positions, and rest your wrists. 

Bonus: Nothing like a Bar End between Your Hand on a handlebar and that Tree you just steered into.

Garmin Bar-Fly GPS Mount


This Mount is on the Tire Side of the handlebars. Not on the inside of the bars. In a crash, you will most likely break the Garmin Mount with your knee. 

The Bar-Fly brand mounts (and others) are designed to Break-Away on impact to protect the Garmin's foot-mount from breaking....

Forgotten Performance found in the Rim Width

TCS Tubeless / Tubeless Compatible System WTB i23 29" Rim

Rim Width?

Rim width affects how much tire is in contact with the road or trail surface.  All bicycles benefit from having a proper size rim width. Tubeless is also a great benefit to performance,  it reduces the rotational weight of the wheel assembly.

Why is Rim Width Important? 

A tire will achieve more surface contact and the tire surface becomes more square to the ground as Rim Width increases. Good for Trails, Bad for Roads.  

Road tires want as little contact with the road as possible.  A narrow rim helps reduce weight and it keeps the tire round to have just the center of the tire in contact with the ground.

MTB's like as much width as possible. A 27mm wide rim can increase the amount of tire contact with the trail. Want more traction, go wider. Want a faster trail tire, keep a rounder tire with a narrower 23mm rim. 

Your ride can be greatly affected by Rim Width.  A wide MTB tire (2.3 inches) on a narrow 19mm rim is an unstable tire combination. It will have bad cornering, over steering, and a loss of traction. Some MTB's have 21mm to 23mm rim width, which is still too narrow.  A 2.3 inch tire should have between 25mm and 30mm inside Rim Width for best tire performance.

Important Note: You can go too wide on a rim size. What will happen is the tire bead will not seat correctly, and the tire will pop off the rim, which is a very bad situation. 

Look for Max Rim Width information on some tires.

Road Bike Rim Width

Road Bikes have tires that range from 23mm to 32mm wide. Max Rim Width for a road bike is 19mm. A rounded tire profile is preferred. Road bikes want as little tire/road contact as possible to reduce road resistance.

CX Bike Rim Width

CX Bikes have tire sizes from 30mm to 42mm. Most CX bikes have braking + traction issues on dirt trails, so you want the tire to sit as square as possible on the trail.  MAX Rim Width is 23mm for CX tires 30mm to 35mm. If you are running 35mm to 42mm tires you can go up to 27mm inside width.

Mountain Bike Rim Width

Mountain Bike tire sizes run from 1.9" to 2.5".  Mountain bikes have greatly improved steering, braking, and handling performance with wider rims.  Proper rim width for these tires is 25mm to 29mm.

Plus-Bike Rim Width

At the moment, 27.5 / Plus Bikes seem to have just (2) Tire sizes. 2.8" and 3.0" wide.  I have both 45mm and 50mm wide rims with 3.0 tires.  Honestly 3.0 tires are so good for traction and handling, I can not tell the difference between the 45mm and 50mm rims.  So, I would say, save some weight and go with the 45mm rims.

Fat Bike Rim Width

Rims on Fat Bikes range from 63mm to 83mm . Tire sizes range from 4.0 inches to 5.0 inches. Once again, with the huge width of the tires on Fat Bikes, Fat Bikes will never have traction problems.  The Tires will always have Weight Problems. The Tires will always have surface contact resistance problems. But some folks Love-Them... so that is what really matters.

Why a GPS? What does it do for My Ride?

Garmin GPS + Smartphone GPS Apps

Question:  What does a GPS do for me?

Is it an expensive gadget without any real purpose? 

Answer: NO 

My best example is a few years ago when I spent 35 days total (several trips) in Denver for work. Took one of my extra MTB’s on Southwest (Bike flew for free) and there I was at the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains. 

I have never been there before. I had no guide, and no clue where to ride. One thing for sure… the Rockies are HUGE and would not want to get lost. I did have 5 free hours each day before work and an itch to see as much as I can.  

Got on and mapped out a new ride for each day I was out there.  I went to the Foot Hills, the Mesa’s, the Canyon’s, the Gulch’s, the Creeks, the Deserts, and the Mountains.  

In all, I rode 300+ miles on my trips out there.  (see the TRIPS Page on this website) I was able to see every trail I plotted out, never got lost, yet I had no clue where I was going. In the woods, in the Mountains… everything was where it was supposed to be.  

All because I was able to load my Routes with a Full TOPO MAP onto my Garmin 810 GPS and it was as easy as following a green line on the screen. GPS works everywhere. Smart-Phone GPS will have black-out areas, and low location resolution. 

A GPS will locate you to within 20 feet. A smart Phone depending on where you are could be as much as 200-300 foot location resolution.  But in some places it works much better. 

The Garmin 810 runs for up to 8 hours. High resolution Maps, every stream pond and dry creek is displayed as you ride.  My other choice was a folded paper map in my pocket.

I plotted this Trail Route on the RidewithGPS website. Plot your route, then load it on your device.

I plotted this Trail Route on the RidewithGPS website. Plot your route, then load it on your device.

RidewithGPS Interactive Maps Page

The Ambassador Routes are put together by fellow cyclist with a desire to share their rides.

Over 500 Rides in the USA


Click on a ride, and get the whole story from the folks that put the ride together. 

Make Maps with (Auto) Cue Sheets


Just draw your desired Route, and the Cue Sheet makes itself.