Fresno Cycling Club

Promoting safe and lawful bicycle riding for recreation and transportation


Shop Talk w Devin...

 Pull up a barstool and hang out. We are going to be covering a lot of cool and interesting topics here on the Fresno Cycling Club website. My name is Devin and I lead a great team of folks at Steven’s Bicycles on Willow/Nees in Clovis.  We'll start with basic topics, but we can and will go as deep into a subject as you would like in the future.   I want this column to be interactive, so please email me with any ideas for topics or questions you may have: Devin@stevensbicycles.com.

  • 2018-02-14 7:09 PM | Anonymous

    “Hello bar tape, my old friend. I’ve come to ride with you again.”

        When it looks good, it looks good! New bar tape and a good bike wash are effortless ways to improve your bike’s looks and ride quality, but what else can it tell us?  What lies beneath the torn, gap-ridden strip of bar tape that’s been with you for 5 years might shock you.

       Depending on how much you ride and how many different hand positions you use, after a riding season your bar tape will become severely depressed.  No, no that type of depressed.  I am talking about losing the cushioning and elasticity that it once had.  All those pesky little vibrations from the road can creep up from your handlebars into your hands, working up through your arms, and into your neck and shoulders.  Changing your bike’s bar tape will not only help to keep your bike looking fresh, but it will also keep you more comfortable for longer days in the saddle.

       When we ride, we sweat easily because we ride in a very hot climate.  We lose salt from our bodies and it must go somewhere.  We all see the gritty white residue on our gloves, helmet straps, and cycling shorts.  One place most people never think of it going is under your bar tape. Well, it does, and let me tell you, it can cause some serious safety concerns.  Sweat that travels through your bar tape can start to corrode your handlebars, shifter mounting straps, cables and housing. Handlebars, cables and shifters can potentially fail, causing significant injury.  The salt can actually wear holes in your handlebars!  Imagine riding down a hill at 35mph+ and your handlebars falling apart because you haven’t changed your tape in a few years.  This is possible and real, so let’s change it.  

       When we clean and replace, we learn about our bikes.  We learn what should be there, and what shouldn’t be.  As a mechanic, I have spotted countless broken parts and frames, and it’s the worst phone call I ever have to make to a customer.  If you have a shop do all your maintenance, that’s great: they probably recommend changing it when you bring it in.  It’s $20-$40 for a good bar tape, which is pennies for the comfort and safety that come with it.

    Now, let’s wrap!

       First, remove the old bar tape and any remnants of old tape or adhesive.  If you are having trouble getting it all off, a good degreaser like Finish Line Speed Degreaser will make short work of it.

       Once the tape is removed, inspect the bars, shifter mount straps, cables and housing. This is the best time to change any of those since they live under the bar tape.  Peel back the shifter hoods, and let them hang back for a minute: we want these out of the way.  Look for any signs of corrosion or rust, and replace parts if found.  

       When all is clean, grab some isopropyl alcohol and spray it onto the side of the handlebar you will be wrapping first, then wipe off with a clean rag.  If you’re enjoying the other type of alcohol, cheers!

      There are multiple ways to wrap bars (and we can cover different methods later), but today I want to cover the most commonly-used method.

         Pull out your new roll of bar tape, bar-end plug and little filler piece from the box. If your tape didn’t come with a filler piece, cut three inches off from the bottom of your bar tape roll and use that. If your bar plug has a bolt in the center, make sure you have the tool handy: typically, it’s a 3mm Allen wrench. You will also need a pair of scissors, some electrical tape and a little bit of patience. Pro tip: Make sure the scissors and electrical tape are within arm’s reach.

       Starting at the very bottom of the bars we are going to let the tape hang off about ½ to ¾ inch. From there we are going work our way up the handlebar overlapping half of the tape as we go. Make sure to apply pressure to the tape as you wrap: you don’t need to stretch it, but it should be pulled taught. We wrap the right side clockwise and the left counter-clockwise. Every pass should be even and consistent.

       When we reach the bend, things are going to change. Our overlapping will become tighter on the inside of the bar, but we will continue to keep the overlap consistent on the outside.

       Now we should be near the shifters. Grab your filler piece and wrap it under the bar covering the shifter mounting strap and touching the sides of the shifter body. Bring the tape up to it and wrap one rotation over it, so it becomes locked in place.

       This is a tricky part: once you have passed over the filler piece one full rotation, you are going to wrap upwards from the outside of the shifter and overlap the top of the shifter where it meets the handlebar. Continuing onto the top portion of the handlebars. That filler piece should have covered any gaps on the sides when completed so it has a uniform look.

      Whew, fantastic job! Now, we need to keep going to towards the stem, keeping our outside gaps consistent around the bend, across the tops and ending in your desired location. Typically, if your bar diameter tapers up towards your stem you’ll want to finish it where the taper disappears and its consistent across the top of your handlebar. If you don’t have a taper, finish just outside the logo or anywhere you feel that fits you best.  Wrap the tape all the way to the finish point and unwrap two revolutions.

       Holding the tape at the same angle that it would be wrapped, create a perpendicular line to the finish point on the handlebar: this is visual line and you can only cut once so take a couple extra seconds here to make sure its lined up. Cut the bar tape along the visual line which should be at a 90-degree angle to the handlebars. 

    Wrap the bars to the finish point creating a nice, clean finish line with the bar tape. Hold the tip of the bar tape with your finger and apply the electrical tape just behind your finger. Wrap the electrical tape in the same direction as the bar tape bringing the electrical tape to the outside edge of the bar tape for a clean finish. Wrap the electrical tape two to three revolutions and cut, making sure the end is on the bottom side of the handlebar. If your bar tape came with a finishing tape you can apply that to the top or leave the black electrical tape: it’s all preference.

       Remember the initial overhang at the bottom of the bar?  Let’s take care of that. If your bar end has a bolt in the center take your wrench and loosen it up just a little bit allowing the wedge to move towards the back of the plug. Take your finger and stuff the overhanging bar tape into the end of your handlebar, and insert the bar end plug.  Make sure all the tape is inserted and apply pressure to the plug.  If yours just pushes in, make sure its inserted all the way: a good tap with a rubber mallet usually confirms that.  If yours has the bolt, tighten it to the correct torque specifications or until its snug.

       That’s all there is to it!  Stand back and admire your work!!

    Devin Bovee

    Devin@stevensbicycles.com

    559.797.0148

  • 2018-02-08 7:25 AM | Anonymous

       I remember being in my early 20’s, walking into an old bike shop in the Bay Area and being blown away by how much it was going to cost to fix my bike. Keep in mind I am using the term “bike” loosely here:  it was an early 1990’s Gary Fischer that I had recently bought from a less-than-reputable used bike shop. I was new rider at that time, plus I was looking for a deal.  I rode this bike for a while and thought nothing was wrong with it. I figured that it was normal to double click the shifter to make the gears change and had no idea how a bike was supposed to properly work. My riding experience was very limited and so was my knowledge of bikes. After doing a little bit of reading I started to notice things wrong with my bike and quickly realized I had bought a turd on two wheels.  Pissed off and knowing that confronting the owner of the used bike shop would get me nowhere, I ventured into a long-standing bike shop in Berkeley, “The Missing Link.” This was a real bike shop and I was intimidated! They had racing jerseys and dust on the walls older than me. These folks lived and breathed cycling.

       My goal here was to look around a little bit and possibly get my bike fixed. One of the first things a woman working there helped me with was rolling up my right pant leg, or using a strap, to keep it away from the greasy drive train. Since my bike was my main mode of transportation around the bay, she had just saved me a ton of money in new pants. We got to talking and she asked me about my bike and I had told her about the issues I’ve been having. She told me to go across the street to the mechanics’ shop and talk with those guys. Yes, the mechanics’ shop for the store was on the other side of Shattuck Ave., in downtown Berkeley. 

       Walking into the mechanic’s shop, I remember smelling the old greasy bike parts, and I loved it. The mechanic was an older man in his 60’s I would say. He asked me what issues I have been having, and  I explained to him what I thought was wrong, and finished with “it probably just needs a quick once over.” After a few minutes or so, he came back with a pile of parts in his hands. He started writing up the estimate. As I am freaking out by the size of the pile he says, “It’s going to be around $250 to get your bike working the way it should.” I was thinking this guy is trying to screw me over. $250 bucks for a bike that cost me $50, are you crazy? Keep in mind I am in my early 20’s working and living away from my parents: I am broke!

       Luckily, I had just gotten paid the day before, and had the little bit of cash I was making at the time. I agreed to have the work done, and I told the mechanic “I’ve got a few errands to run in the neighborhood and I’ll pick my bike up in a couple of hours.”  He must have liked that comment, because he chuckled and said he would have it done two days later. I paid the man and walked home. After two days of taking the B.A.R.T. train and walking, I went back to pick up my bike.

       The mechanic wheeled my bike from around the counter. My new shifters looked good, the new brakes and matching tires he had installed looked great. He took a minute and explained what he had done, and pointed out a few things to check every now and then.  I listened, told him “thank you” and left. Walking out, I was ready to go for a ride and excited about not having to walk anymore. I jumped on my bike and it rolled soooo good! The tires he had recommended were just what I needed. I was off the knobby mountain bike tires and on a set of smooth center hybrid tires that felt like they could roll forever. When I clicked the shifter, it would change gears so smoothly and the brakes, let me tell you, the brakes worked and didn’t squeal. I was ecstatic!

       This man had taken my bike and turned it into an extension of me.  I was proud to ride this bike now and loved it. When I got home, I started to read all about the parts he had installed, and how to do the basic upkeep on my bikes from there on out.  If it wasn’t for this man taking my turd and turning it into a masterpiece, I would never had found my true passion for bikes and cycling, and am grateful for having that experience.

       There have been some other influencers in my cycling life since then, but The Missing Link bike shop was the start. That experience changed me. It taught me about paying for what you get, and trusting your local bike shop. I continued to use the same bike shop when I lived up there, and still pop in to buy something when I am in the area. The mechanics’ shop is no longer across the street, but the dust is still old.

       Be sure to find a good local shop and trust them.  They might not always have what you need at that very moment, but they can most always get it. They are a “hub” for growing our community of cyclists and share the same passion for cycling that you do. They live and breathe everything bike and have the experience, training and knowledge to back it up. They will never be able to compete with Amazon on price, but any good bike shop will provide you with so much more than any online anything can ever provide: the human connection and the memories that go with that.

       See you on the next ride!

    -Devin Bovee

    Devin@stevensbicycles.com

    559.797.0148

  • 2018-01-30 7:29 PM | Anonymous

      Should I Go Tubeless??

      The short answer is, yes! Making the move to tubeless is a terrific way to cut back on pesky flats and an excellent way to increase your bike's ride quality and efficiency. Ditching your comfort zone and going tubeless is nothing new for riders who regularly venture off-road. However, this has recently become popular within the road cycling arena.  For 2018 bike companies like Giant/Liv and Cannondale Bicycles now ship multiple road, cross and mountain models tubeless ready with sealant included in the box.

     There are multiple benefits to ridding yourself of the "tubed life": the biggest being its resistance to going flat on the next group ride or solo adventure. Tubeless tires are developed with a thicker sidewall and a tighter construction to help support your weight and to keep the sealant locked in. In fact, there are multiple tubeless sealant options these days. My favorite happens to be Orange Seal Endurance, but there are other brands like Stan's NO Tubes who also make a great tubeless tire sealant. If you are still not quite sure about ditching the tubes all together you can put some sealant into your tubes for a little added protection without the heavy weight of Slime. On multiple occasions I have pulled thorns and other random objects from my tubeless tires to be amazed that it sealed the hole. I am fully convinced that a tubed tire would have had me go through the road side flat changing procedure, you know what I'm talking about!  Another great benefit to riding tubeless is the benefit of running a lower air pressure and smoothing out the road along with reducing your rolling resistance and increasing handling. If you ride off-road, you are fully aware of how important a couple of psi points can throw off the handling of a bike or too low can make you burp a tire. This is relatively new to the road world seeing as how the ranges have been mostly 90psi for lightweight riders and up to 120psi for the heavier riders. Now we can bring the psi down for both ends of the spectrum while smoothing out the pavement and keeping the momentum.

     There are a few requirements for going tubeless however and the process is relatively simple for an experienced home mechanic or any of us in-shop mechanics. The necessities are having the proper rim or having a rim that can be sealed using tubeless specific rim tape, plus a tubeless valve while using the proper tubeless tire and sealant. One thing that you will need for most but not all setups is an air compressor or a floor pump with a separate high-pressure canister. There are some tire and rim combinations that are a bit trickier to set the bead on, for these you will need to use a high-volume air flow chuck forcing air through the removed valve core to set the bead; don't let a couple popping sounds scare you too much as the bead sets!  As recent as two years ago, it was extremely hard to find a decent tubeless road tire. Now you can walk in and select a pair based on flat resistance, whether you want a lightweight race day tire or a combination of both lightweight and light puncture resistance. Keeping up with the sealant levels is important, in the hotter months you will need to pay closer attention to the amount of liquid sealant you have left in your tires. A good rule of thumb for the summer months is just to check once a month using a small zip tie through the removed valve core like a dip stick. In the colder or winter months checking every couple of months will suffice just fine. Keep in mind that you will lose a small amount of sealant every time you pump up your tires and every time you knowingly and unknowingly get a puncture.

     Making the switch to tubeless may not be for everyone but in my opinion, it is a far better system than the standard tube and tire combination.  If you have any questions or concerns, you can always call or come into the shop and we can discuss all aspects of making the switch and whether your setup is the best to do it with.  I still carry a tube and a saddle bag but it's mostly for my riding buddies, not me.

    Devin Bovee  

    Devin@stevensbicycles.com

    559.797.0148

  • 2018-01-14 7:19 PM | Anonymous

    Gravel Cycling

       More and more people are getting into riding bikes both on-road and off-road. Some people have been doing this forever and a lot of people are new to it.  One of the great benefits to riding both on and off road is the fact that you can ride your bike in places not normally reserved for riding. Typically, the only bike lanes that you’ll see are the ones painted on the road you take to your local trail, fire road, canal bank or dirt road.  

       People often ask what type of bike they should ride if they plan on covering both paved and unpaved roads, and if they could ride their current road or mountain bike. The answer is more complicated than a yes or no.  It really depends on the type of terrain you are going to ride:

    If you are going to be riding very mellow gravel roads, then a road bike with 28c tires might be okay. It would depend on your skill and comfort level, but it’s generally not preferred… just in case you come across something rougher.   

    If you are riding more technical terrain such as trails and sandy areas, you will want a bike that can accommodate a bigger tire (at least a 700x33), to give you greater stability.

    Cyclocross bikes seem to be the best suited for handling most situations that you come across. These are light enough to attack the climbs and tough enough to take a beating.

    Lately, gravel specific bikes are becoming popular in todays market. These bikes typically have a taller headtube, bigger tire clearance and can usually handle a 650b or 700c wheel. People who typically use a 650b tire opt for a size around 47c. This size will allow the bottom bracket to still have some clearance and put more rubber to the dirt, while also smoothing out the rough terrain and allowing for more grip in technical sections.

    A few of the best technological advances within recent years is disc brakes on cross/gravel bikes, 12mm thru axles along with the 1x drivetrain with a wide range of gearing options.

        Half of the fun of riding both paved and unpaved roads is planning out your route.  Or better yet, not planning and just going out to explore.  Whatever bike you choose to be your “graveler,” just make sure (like with any other bike) that it suits your style of riding and that you are not going to outgrow it within the first few months. Skills change and evolve and having a bike that can meet those skills will save you a bunch of money and increase the fun!   

    -Devin Bovee   Devin@stevensbicycles.com   559.797.0148

  • 2018-01-01 9:40 AM | Anonymous

    Cleaning Your Bike

     Let’s dive in and go over the most basic of maintenance topics: How to clean you bicycle, and how to care for it after the wash.

     We'll start with some items that you will need to wash your bike with:

    • A repair stand or some place to set your bike that allows you to easily reach all the areas of your bike without straining your back,
    • A bucket with your favorite bike wash like Finish Line, Giant or any bike specific brand that you like.  PLEASE... no dish soap!!
    • Some water,
    • Bike-specific washing tools like Park BCB-4.2 or Pedro’s brush kit. These kits should be available at any of our local bike shops.
    • You will also need a few rags to dry the components and a separate one for the non-greasy parts of the bike.
    • A bottle of Tri-Flow, chain lube, degreaser and your favorite polish/finisher but we will hit those later.

     The first thing: set your bike in an area that will allow you to spray water and move completely around the bike. Once you get the perfect spot picked out, set up your repair stand and clamp the dirty bike in. If you’re comfortable with it, remove the front and rear wheels (This will allow you to clean the rear triangle and inside the fork easier). Now, grab the hose and put some of your favorite bike wash in a bucket and top it off with water. Since we have the hose out, let’s move over to the bike and with a light mist, spray your bike down. 

     Spray the wheels and all the greasy parts, keep the water at a minimum around the bottom bracket, headset and hubs since those areas contain bearings. Reach into your tool kit and grab the brush with the black bristles (this is for the gunked-up pulleys, rear derailleur, front derailleur, cassette, crankset, chain and any other greasy hard-to-reach areas). The bottle of degreaser will come in handy when cleaning these areas, since it will help to break down the dirty grease and keep the elbow grease to a minimum. 

     Once we have all greasy areas cleaned, spray them down one last time and move onto the other parts of the bike, to bring back that beautiful paint job! Using the soft brush, dip it into your bucket, and scrub under the bottom bracket, stem, handlebars, under the saddle, the entire frame and wheels. Keep going back to your bucket of cleaner until satisfied and then lightly mist the bike wash and gunk away. Take your rag for the greasy components and dry them first,:this is your chance to get the extra mess you may have missed. Now let’s dry the frame and wheels.

     Since everything is now dry, take a step back and admire your work... great job! We aren’t quite done though.  When we washed our bike, we also washed out all of the vital lubricants and frame protectant. Remember the Tri-Flow, chain lube and bike polish I mentioned? Here is when we apply those. Take your bottle of Tri-Flow with the little hose on it, and apply a couple of drips into the pivots on both derailleurs, pedals, rim brake pivots (Non-disc) and any other moving part of your bike (except the chain). Grab your favorite chain lube, and apply this as directed to the chain. Let it sit for a moment then wipe off the excess. The finishing step is to spray some bike polish on a clean rag and wipe down your bike frame and anywhere else you feel necessary. 

     That’s it! Now your bike is clean and ready to ride again.

     Keeping your bike clean will help you learn about your bike.  You will come to know every square inch of it, and possibly spot any issues before they become too serious. Keeping a clean drivetrain will also help extend the life of your drivetrain, improve shifting and keep the squeaks away. When we wash the wheels we also wash away the dirt that can grind down the brake pads and rim surface like sand paper extending the life of those as well. Keep your bike and parts clean, and they will reward you. If all of this seems like too much work bring it down and we can do a professional wash and lube job on it as well! 

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