Category Archives: maintenance/repair
Sooner or later if we ride any kind of a cycle with pneumatic tires we are likely to get a flat tire. Many of us have been fixing flats since childhood so we can handle flats when they happen. However, some riders have never done so and don’t know how and are intimidated by such a challenge. In today’s world there is help as close as our computers/smartphones/tablets. There are quite a lot of tutorials available in the way of videos where things are not only explained, but they are shown making it even easier to understand. Here is one such video which is pretty comprehensive:
And here is another:
One cardinal rule is never use a sharp object such as a screwdriver as a tire lever. This young person in THIS VIDEO uses two of them.
If you find you have a damaged tire that you are concerned about continuing on riding on there may be hope for it. HERE is an article I wrote on dealing with such tires.
HERE is an article I wrote on rear wheel removal and reinstallation.
Here is another video on changing a tube:
One tip I would share here which makes a whole lot of sense, but is seldom mentioned in instructional videos is to use the punctured inner tube to discover the location in the tire where the puncture occured. Simply carefully remove the inner tube from the tire paying careful attention to its exact positioning in the tire so that you can later place it upon the outside of the tire the same as it came out. Pump the punctured inner tube back up with air to discover the location of the leak. Once you know where the leak in the tube is at you can determine where to look in the tire for the cause of the leak. The cause may or may not be there, but if it is still there it is most important to remove it before installing the new inner tube. Otherwise it will just cause the new inner tube to fail also. Be very careful running your fingers around inside of the tire attempting to locate the cause of the flat as you could get cut or otherwise injured.
When I watch most instructional videos I usually find at least one thing they cover which I take issue with and don’t agree on. That’s okay, I guess. They can do whatever they want and I will do the task the way I want. That is just the way things are in this ol’ world we live in. I guess the most important thing is that we “git ‘er dun” so that we can …
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Steve Greene recently posted an article on his Trike Asylum blog about tire sealants where various brands were tested and compared. I have never been a fan of Slime and the article isn’t very flattering for Slime as it states and shows exactly what I have observed and experienced with it. In short, it is very messy and only works on very small punctures. As you can see the top performers are: Orange Seal, Stan’s NoTubes and Schwalbe’s Doc Blue product (which is made by Stan’s). Interestingly the Schwalbe product scored better than Stan’s NoTubes. None of the sealants could stop a leak of the largest size hole in the test. The Orange Seal did the best however and might have allowed the tire to be pumped up as necessary to make it home. If someone insists on running tires that easily get flats a sealant may be practical to use. As for me I think I will stick with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires as they have never failed me. I have never had an externally caused flat tire nor a glass cut in the tread … and I used to get both all the time when I ran other tires.
Since Orange Seal scored the highest I offer this video demonstrating how well it works.
I reckon it comes down to personal preferences and the environment one rides in. I know I much prefer to ride my trike than work on it … especially alongside the road or trail. Yep, I like to …
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ENJOY THE RIDE!
Most recumbent tires are high pressure tires … up around 100 psi. If you don’t have an air compressor at home or in your motor vehicle I strongly recommend purchasing a floor type bicycle air pump … one designed to pump high pressure … preferably 140 or 160 psi. That way when you pump up a 100 psi tire you aren’t maxxing out the pump to accomplish it … or maxxing yourself out using it. 🙂
In fact, I suggest getting one of these pumps even if you do have an air compressor available to use as they are quite handy and practical.
Most good quality pumps nowadays have a built in guage making it very handy. I suggest checking the accuracy of the guage initially and from time to time to be sure you are getting the right pressure in the tires.
Here are a couple of examples of pumps available.
Blackburn air tower 3 bike floor pump
Park Tools PFP-4 Professional Mechanic Floor Pump
They can be purchased at your local bike shop. I want to emphasize that it is best to buy a good quality pump and not settle for some inferior pump at a lower cost. I don’t think you would regret paying more for a quality pump. I would also suggest that you talk to a local bike shop mechanic to get their recommedation as to what pump to buy. You could also research them online to get customer feedback.
I am not making any recommendations as to what pump to buy. I am only showing these two as examples of what is available. There are lots of different ones out there. The first pump I have pictured above is a Blackburn Air Tower 3 Bike Floor Pump rated at 160 psi. To the best of my knowledge it is a good quality pump.
The second pump I have pictured above is a ParkTool brand which normally they make pretty good quality stuff. However, the customer reviews of this pump are not all that impressive. That is surprising.
Most pumps nowadays have a dual head on them so that either Presta or Schrader valves are accommodated.
The pump I have is a Pedros Domestique air pump. It is a good pump, but I know that there are better ones available.
In case you didn’t know it an innertube loses air on a continual basis so it is necessary to inflate them from time to time. That’s right … air leaks right thru the rubber so they are constantly losing pressure. The higher the pressure the more they leak down. It is important to keep your tires inflated to the correct pressure. You will get better wear, mileage, handling, and performance out of your tires as well as make it easier to pedal along since low air pressure equates to more rolling resistance.
It is also important that you never over inflate your tires beyond what they are designed for. Doing so can result in destroying the tire and causing a major tire failure which could be disaterous at worst and leave you stranded at best.
I once put about 10 psi more in a knobby tire I used for winter riding. About 10 miles from home I noticed something which wasn’t right in the ride … a pronounced thump of sorts. I stopped and got off to look. My rear tire was literally coming apart … separating from too much pressure in it. Fortunately I was only about a half of a mile or so from a local bike shop so I made it over there and got a new tire. The tire that had just gone bad would have lasted me for several years more if I had not over inflated it.
Yes, proper tire inflation is quite important … especially if we all want to …
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This is a subject like many others where you can find varying opinions and instructions on how to go about setting up and adjusting mechanical disc brakes. I only have and use Avid BB7 brakes. I started off with Avid BB5 brakes which I would not wish on my worst enemy as the saying goes. They are junk in my opinion. They required almost constant daily adjustment which got old quick. The BB7 is a far superior brake and well worth the additional expense over the BB5 brakes. The main difference between the two besides the brake pads is that the BB5 brake only has one adjustment knob for the brake pad … that is, only one side can be adjusted. The other side is stationary. The BB7 has adjustment knobs on both sides making it much easier to get proper adjustment initially. And once adjusted the BB7 seems to remain in proper adjustment for quite some time. If you have the BB5 brakes you are on your own as I won’t waste my time trying to instruct how to adjust them as they aren’t worth the time and effort involved. My advice is to upgrade to the BB7s. Anyway, I am not going to link to the instructions of others here, but rather I am simply going to share how I go about setting up and adjusting the brakes.
To start out it is important that the rotors run true. If they are bent or damaged they need to be repaired or replaced. There is a special tool to use to straighten a bent rotor, but if one lacks this tool an adjustable wrench can be used if the bend is only near the outer part of the disc. If it is further inward toward the center of the disc an adjustable wrench won’t do. I have a Park Tool straightener, but there are other brands available.
If the rotor is straight and true you can move onto the setup of the brake. Basically by setup I mean positioning the brake caliper and brake pads properly on the rotor. Again, not everybody goes about this the same way, but I am only sharing how I do it and it has worked great for me. Ideally it would be best to do all this with the rider of the trike seated on the trike so that the effect of the rider’s weight is taken into consideration as I am sure things would change a little just like the toe in measurement sometimes changes when the rider is seated on the trike. This is especially true if the rider is heavy. I have never done that myself as it would be difficult if one is by themself to sit in the seat and perform this procedure.
It is most important that the caliper be positioned correctly so that the rotor is centered and parallel to the brake pads. Otherwise it is likely that the brake will rub and make noise, especially when cornering. Also the brakes won’t work as well as they could and the brake pads will wear uneven.
The mounting bolts have special washers which are dished and cupped so that they fit together and “adjust” to the positioning of the caliper over the rotor.
The procedure I use to align the caliper and brake pads on the rotor is simply to leave the mounting bolts loose so that the caliper can move freely.
I then sort of wiggle the caliper around while I turn the brake pad adjustments (red plastic knobs) in so that they tighten against the rotor and center the caliper over the rotor. I initially wiggle the caliper around a bit just to ensure it is freely moving while the brake pads are being adjusted in. Turning these adjustment knobs can tighten the brake pads sufficiently to hold against the rotor aligning it properly. I then carefully tighten the mounting bolts being careful not to move the caliper in the process. An alternative way of doing this is to tighten the brake pad adjustment knobs only partially so that squeezing the brake lever will tighten the brake pads on down against the rotor. Holding the brake lever on (or using some means of holding it on) I then tighten the mounting bolts carefully. Now with the caliper and brake pads aligned the brake pads can be adjusted properly.
Here is a video about centering hydraulic disc brakes which is pretty much the same process as mechanical disc brakes with the exception of having to push the pistons back out..
When adjusting the brake pads I simply back them off just enough initially so that they don’t rub when the wheel is spun. I then pull the brake lever to see how it feels. If it is too tight I loosen one of both of the brake pads a bit more. I also look down at the brake pads to see what the gap is looking like as I want to be sure both pads are evenly spaced out from the rotor. One should try to keep the gap between the brake pad and rotor the same on both sides so that when the brake is applied both brake pads make contact at the same time and not be forcing the rotor over to one side. It should remain straight and not flex (be forced) sideways.
Keep in mind that when cornering hard there is some flex in the wheel and often times some rubbing will occur between the brake pads and the rotor. If this is bothersome the brake pads can be further adjusted out if needed.
Keep in mind that if a wheel is removed or realigned (adjusting the spokes) or a rotor is removed and then reinstalled or a new rotor is installed the caliper and brake pads may need to be realigned. That is what happened to my trike recently. I adjusted the spokes realigning the wheels which resulted in the need to reposition the caliper and brake pads. Once I did that my brakes worked much better. Obviously having properly working brakes is most important. They will help us …
ENJOY THE RIDE!
HERE is a link to all of Park Tool’s videos.
It can happen all too easily and quickly … slam, bam … and I ain’t talking about heading off for the moon. I am talking about damage occurring to our wheels by hitting a bad bump or hole. It happened to me this Spring riding along on city/county streets and roads. Pot holes are everywhere and hard to avoid, especially when riding a trike with three wheels all tracking their own separate path. With traffic alongside and sometimes parked cars on the other one doesn’t have the luxury of steering out and over to the side to avoid hitting such bad pavement. I have two front wheels with pronounced flat spots on them. What’s a guy to do? New wheels are not cheap and it is something that can happen more than once. To continually replace damaged wheels would be a rich man’s game. There is hope as long as the damage isn’t too severe.
Like so many things we can do an online search for help and information. First if we have the money we can have a LBS (Local Bike Shop) make the repair for us if they offer that servoce. There are special tools to use to make such repairs. I try to do as much of my own repair and maintenance work on my trike as I can. I rarely need to take my trike to a shop as I can do most everything myself.
How do you fix a flat spot on a wheel you ask? It is not as difficult as one might think. Probably the most helpful information I have come across is the website of the late Sheldon Brown. He is well known and respected as a gold mine of information about bicycle repair and maintenance. HERE is his article on this subject. Most of the way down the page you will find his instruction on how to remove flat spots on wheels.
The tools needed are simple enough … a spoke wrench, a strong fence post (or something such), and some sort of a strong strap. After removing the flat spot as much as you can the wheel will need to be trued. HERE is Sheldon’t article on truing wheels.
There are other ways to go about this. Another of them is to simply stand on the flat spot and physically pull the rim back out removing the flat spot. One needs to be careful however as other damage can happen to the wheel. Above a person is using a hydraulic bottle jack to push the flat spot out. Notice he has in place a block of wood on the base of the jack and a curved piece of metal on the top … both to help prevent damage to the wheel components.
Here is a helpful video covering this subject and more …
Like many subjects there are a “blue million” videos available about wheel truing.
Here are some articles I have written:
Of course, the best advise is to try to avoid riding places where this damage can occur. It is no fun riding on rims with flat spots and it is no fun trying to fix them either. But hey, like something else we all know about … IT happens! And when it does we have to deal with it if we want to ENJOY THE RIDE and …
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For those who have quick release wheel axles there is a matter which should be taken into consideration if you never have before. When tightened down the lever should not be pointed forward as many people often do. When they are pointed forward they can easily and readily do catch sticks, weeds, etc. A lot of people just tighten them up in whatever position that they happen to be in. I have seen the result of having these levers positioned facing forward. They are very good at snagging twigs, etc. as we ride along. So I highly suggest positioning them to face backwards if possible or “tucked away” somehow to avoid this problem. Here is one pointing up which is okay.
And here is one sort of tucked in where it would be hard for a stick to get snagged by it.
This applies to both the front and back axles.
This one on a front axle is positioned ideally.
This may sound like nit picking and silly, but from personal experience it can help avoid problems as we ride along. Just be sure that in changing the position of the lever the entire axle skewer assembly is sufficiently tight. You sure don’t want a wheel falling out of it’s proper position like in this picture of a mountain biker. Actually I photo edited this as I couldn’t find a picture online to demonstrate it. Hopefully we won’t be flying thru the air like some bikes do.
Snagging sticks is not a game to be played while out riding. It is much better to just …
ENJOY THE RIDE & KEEP ON TRIKIN’
TerraCycle, not to be confused with TerraTrike, is a gold mine for recumbent folks. They have much to offer and if you have never heard of them you really need to get acquainted. Here are their own words:
“TerraCycle has a simple mission: to make parts for recumbent cycles that considerably improve the riding experience. Every day, the TerraCycle Team shows up and uses their hands, hearts and minds to create those parts. We know were doing well when Tom Caldwell writes us and says: “Great work, great product, great companyI love doing business with professionals!” When a customer comes back to the shop just to see what new add-ons we’ve created for our accessory mounts, when a team of college kids asks for our idlers on their human powered vehicle, or when a couple comes by to show off the new ways they’ve figured out to use their cockpit mounts, then we know we’re doing it right.
With our website, we hope to create a library of information on recumbent cycling and the technologies that empower those who ride. Over the years, we’ve demonstrated our dedication to making the perfect part, which requires knowing just about all there is to know about recumbent cycling. If you haven’t had the chance to try us out, we recommend it. Otherwise, let this site be a place for you to come to learn about that wheeled craft you’ve been riding around. Who knows, you might realize you need something after all.”
Here is a list of their offerings:
Cargo Monster Load Carrier
Chain in Bulk
Easy Reacher Underseat Racks
FastBack Hydration & Packs
Handlebars, Stems & Steering
Idlers & Chain Management
Purple Sky Flags
SeatSide Mount System
Stainless Bolt Kits
Tires & Tubes
Velogenesis Seat Clamps
Xtras, Blems & Discounts”
They also have a FAQ page which you may find very helpful. Here is a sampling:
Here at TerraCycle, we strive to be the world leader in recumbent cycling knowledge. Below are some topics that have caused more head scratching than brand new helmets, and our best attempts to alleviate the discomfort!
Diagnosing Drivetrain Noises
They even speak (or at least write) Latin. You’ll have to look thru their website to know what I am referring to here as I am not going to tell you.
TerraCycle also has some videos available on YouTube.
Please note that there is another company called TerraCycle which deals with recycling waste so don’t get confused with them. Because of the shared name our TerraCycle has to use a different name in their website …” t-cycle”.
For those who have followed my personal triking life you know that I recently had my trike motorized with a pedal assist setup. A TerraCycle mini-cockpit T bar was used to mount the display console on. Here is a picture of it. It is the bar furthest forward with the green area and the white 0 (zero) displayed on the screen of the dispaly console. The TerraCycle part is only the section shown where their company icon is seen. It is where the display console is mounted. The bottom part is made by a different company (it is the Catrike mirror and accessory mount). The two parts look like they are made as one unit.
Well, that’s all I have to say about that. I have ordered a couple of items from them in years past and they always provided excellent and quick service. Their parts seem to be very well made … top quality. With their help we can …
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Gee I love that kind of talk. 🙂 I hope you do too cause here is a whole lot of it …
Here is a good instructional video produced by Park Tools. I will add some personal comments and suggestions further below.
In the video it was pointed out that the threads should have either an anti-seize product or grease applied. This is a very good idea as if you have ever encountered pedals that are extremely difficult to loosen and remove this the reason why as none was used when they were installed. If you find rgat you can’t loosen the pedals there some things you can try. My first recommendation is to try impact on rhe wrench. You can smack it with palm of your hand if you are tough enough to do so. You can use a soft hammer so as not to damage the wrench. You can also use a piece of wood to either place on the wrench handle to help protect it and use a regular steel hammer to smack the wood. You can use a board (such as a 2×4) as a hammer to smack the wrench handle. If you find the pedal threads don’t want to cooperate and turn to loosen you can try tightening it a bit more and then try loosening it. If you can’t budge the wrench to tighten it you can use impact. Just don’t try to turn it very far in tightening it. If you experience the threads being very tight and uncooperative as you try to unscrew it you may have to try using special penetrating oil such as WD-40. Even after trying that it may be a good idea and necessary to turn the threads both directions back and forth to carefully remove the pedal without doing damage to the threads. I would advise you to continue to use the penetrating oil frequently as you turn the threads back and forth as this will aid the penetrating oil to “penetrate” and do it’s job. There is always the possibility that a threading tap should be used to clean up the threads before a new pedal is installed in a crankarm that you had a difficult time removing the pedal. Hopefully you won’t encounter this problem, but if you do I think this advise will be helpful. Let’s all try to …
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Toe in is as pictured above in this drawing of a car. Toe in is when the front wheels point inward at the front. Toe out is when the wheels point outward at the front. Just like cars, trucks, buses, etc. must have the proper toe in setting our tadpole trikes need this as well. Determining the toe in is simply a matter of measuring the distance in width between the front of the wheels and the back of the wheels. The measurement in the front should be less than the measurement in the rear in order for there to be toe in. The amount of toe in is quite critical as it will determine how the trike handles and how safe it is to ride as well as how much effort is needed to propel it forward. Lastly it determines tire wear and economy.
I said revisited because I have written about this very important subject before. The very first time I wrote about it I entitled the article “What’s Up With Your Toe?”. Unfortunately it no longer exists in the archives. HERE is another of my articles on toe in. I myself am all to guilty of not following the advice I give out on checking the toe in periodically to ensure that it hasn’t changed. I admit that I rarely check mine. Shame on me! It really doesn’t take all that long, especially if you use what I recommend to check it which is a telescoping antenna.
Using one of these I have found to be far handier, easier and more practical than a tape measure or the cumbersome tool Catrike sells.
Don’t get me wrong. Their tool works. It is just that it is so large in comparison to the telescoping antenna that it is harder to use in my opinion. It is also quite expensive while the telescoping antenna costs a fraction. You could probably buy one at a thrift store selling donated items. An old radio/cassette player/recorder usually has such an antenna on it. I already had a couple of the antennas sitting around I had taken off of radios I discarded. Anyway, because the antenna is so small in diameter it is much easier to get it in places to take the measurements.
And the measurements … well, it is critical. Ideally a zero degree measurement is best so long as the trike handles okay at that setting. Otherwise you can have up to 1/16 inch of toe in and no more. You should never have toe out. One thing to remember is when the rider sits down on the trike the measurement is likely to change. And the heavier the rider is the more likely the measurement is to change to a greater amount. So it is best to have someone sitting in the seat of the trike who weighs the same as the person who normally rides it and set the toe in adjustment with them seated. If that is not possible then you should recheck the toe in measurement again after you are seated. That can, of course, be difficult. I know when I sit on my trike my toe in measurement changes by about 1/16 of an inch so when I set the toe in I set it at 1/16″ knowing that it will change to zero when I am seated on it.
Having and maintaining the proper toe in setting will ensure that your trike will handle properly and safely as well as give you maximum wear out of your tires. The farther off the toe in setting is the more all will suffer. When I first bought my Catrike Trail trike the dealer who set it up had the toe in setting 1 inch off … yes, you read that right … one inch off. The brand new set of Schwalbe Marathon Racer tires that came on it were worn out (the blue liner was showing thru) in only 30 miles of riding as there was so much tire scrubbing going on with the toe in off that much.
This toe in setting can change by itself. Don’t ask me how as it seems to be a mystery. Obviously the “jam nuts” can come loose so it occurs, but I have seen the toe in change when the jam nuts remained tight. It is a good idea to check the jam nuts periodically to ensure that they have remained tight. And, as I stated previously it is a good idea to occasionally recheck the toe in measurement to ensure it hasn’t changed. I really need to follow my own advice. 🙂
Keeping the toe in setting set properly will help us to …
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If you have never experienced a bicycle wheel being out of true you are most fortunate. Actually it is fairly common for wheels to get out of true. Here is a video showing a brand new wheel which is badly out of true.
I will state upfront if you are not mechanically inclined and savvy don’t attempt to true a wheel yourself as you can make it much worse than it already is. That being said it really is not complicated if you understand the basics involved. A wheel can run out of true in roundness and/or in side to side movement. Although ideally it is best to use a truing stand and remove a wheel from a bike/trike and remove the tire and inner tube so that all you have is the wheel itself the procedure can be done with everything intact on the bike/trike.
This video below does a pretty good job explaining and illustrating it.
I don’t own a truing stand although I have always thought it would be nice to have one. I have made temporary ones in times past which worked sufficiently. However, I almost always true wheels on the bike/trike. One can either find something on the bike/trike to use to “gauge” the trueness or make something to use to gauge the trueness. I oftentimes have simply used my finger or thumb alongside the rim. One must be careful not to overtighten spokes attempting to pull the rim over to one side as you might end up pulling it out of round. If the rim needs to move very far one should always be sure to loosen the spokes on the opposite side and not just tighten the spokes pulling the rim over. That will help eliminate pulling the rim out of round.
In order to tighten (or loosen) a spoke you will need a spoke wrench. There are lots of different types. Most are just one size, but some have multiple sizes in one wrench. Unless you work on wheels that have different size spokes I would suggest using a spoke wrench which is just one size. Be sure to get the size that fits your spokes. I use one like this and really like it.
As I said, there are lots of different types. Here are just a few of the ones available:
As to truing stands one can buy one for less than $50
Or pay more than $500 for one:
Or anywhere in between. You can even get very precision using dial indicators:
Some folks seem to get quite confused with the direction threaded parts need to turn to tighten or loosen. Spokes are always standard … righty tighty and lefty loosey. You just have to remember which way to view the spoke and spoke nut (called nipples). That is not difficult. The nipple simply screws down onto the spoke so you view it accordingly. To tighten the nipple it turns clockwise down onto the spoke. To loosen it turns counterclockwise. Although it is certainly nice to have a wheel turn perfectly true most of us don’t really need such precision.
Lastly this video although a bit lengthy brings out some good helpful information and tips:
Keeping your wheels properly aligned will help you to …
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Workstands are a subject matter which has been discussed previously on this blog. One can buy them or make their own. Some of the most popular ones are made of PVC piping and fittings. Some of them are made of metal. Wood is also popular. Here is a video showing how one person made his workstand out of wood.
I recently came across this video while looking for videos about tire liners as I have an article I have written on tire liners which will be published as the next article after this one. This video mentions tire liners, but it covers a whole lot of things. As for me I am going to continue using the best tire money can buy and not concern myself with flats.
What kind of mileage should we get out of our tires? What should we expect? What is typical? What factors affect the mileage we get out of our tires? When should we replace our tires? Is it safe to ride on a worn out tire? I will attempt to address these questions and more in this article.
The short definitive answer is … “IT ALL DEPENDS”. I just knew you were not going to like that answer, but in all truthfulness it is the only answer one can give. Let’s look at some of the different things that it depends upon. I won’t go into great detail here, but I do want to touch on the majority of factors that come to mind. Here are factors that can and do affect tire wear:
* the tire itself and how it is constructed and the material (rubber compound) used. In short, not all tires are created equal.
* inflation pressure (especially too high or too low. It is important to maintain proper pressure in tires. Too low of pressure is most likely to occur and does the most damage in premature wear and failure.)
* type of surface being ridden on (smooth vs. rough, sharp stones, etc.)
* weight being carried on the tires (rider’s weight as well as any kind of cargo)
* whether or not the rider is aggressive (hard fast cornering for instance)
* wheel alignment (most especially toe in)(really severe tire scrubbing can occur and destroy a tire very quickly)
* temperature (especially surface temperature where the tire is running on)
* debris ran over which damages tire (glass cuts can greatly shorten the life of a tire)
* hitting harsh bumps or holes
* running into damaging things (especially with the sidewall of the tire)
I am sure there are other factors I have not thought of. I myself have gotten as little as 200 or so miles out of a brand new tire and as much as over 14,000 miles out of a tire. Obviously only getting a couple of hundred miles out of a tire is a bummer. And just as obvious, getting over 14,000 miles out of a tire is fabulous. The 200 or so miles was the result of sidewall damage when I hit something. The tire was a Schwalbe Tryker tire which has very weak sidewalls which damage very easily. If I were to have done the very same thing with the tires I use now I don’t think they would have been phased as they are amazingly tough. Like I said, not all tires are created equal.
Trikes, unlike bikes, don’t lean when turning. (Not unless you have a lean steering trike … which few of us do.) Because of this rubber is “scrubbed off” of the tires, especially the front tires, when riding. And this can be rather significant if the rider is a “hotdogger” (aggressive rider in fast cornering). Front tires on a tadpole trike will wear out faster than the rear tire.
Other damage can happen to a tire which shortens its life. Hitting a hard bump or hole can destroy the tire and cause a bulge or deformity to occur. Depending upon how badly the tire is damaged you might be able to ride on it for awhile longer, but I would definitely suggest keeping a close eye on it. Sometimes a tire can be “booted” to extend its life some. However, it is always best to replace a tire which had such damage. BTW, if you hit a bad hole or bump you should also check the rim and spokes for any sign of damage or loosening.
Cracking in the sidewalls of tires can occur either from riding with underinflation or aging or both. Cracking can also be caused by overinflation. With Schwalbe tires cracking of the sidewalls doesn’t seem to be nearly as common as tires of yesteryear most of us grew up with. I can’t speak for other brands as I don’t use any other brands and therefore have no experience or first hand knowledge concerning them.
As to answering the questions about when a tire should be replaced and if it is safe to ride on a worn out tire to some degree I would have to respond once again by saying “it all depends”. I do not advocate riding on a worn out tire. If you use tires that don’t have a protective liner built in I definitely would advise against riding on such a tire when it is worn out and the “insides” are starting to show thru. It could even be the inner tube starting to show thru and even if it is not yet it could quickly do so if a person continues to ride on such a tire. It is very dangerous as the tire could suddenly and catastrophically fail. That could result in a very serious accident at worse. At the least it could leave you stranded unless you happen to carry a spare tire and inner tube with you. Most of us don’t carry spare tires along when we ride (although many of us do carry one around our middle of our bodies).
In the picture at the start of this article you can see a worn out tire with the blue protective liner showing thru. Some tires have green liners. Some have reddish liners. Some have no protective liners at all.
If you use tires which have protective liners built into them then you are not in nearly as much danger when the tire shows wear and the liner is showing thru. Truthfully you could probably ride quite a few more miles on such a tire and be perfectly safe. Most definitely my advice is to replace the tire as soon as possible and by all means keep your eye on it if you continue to ride on it in such a condition. I myself have ridden a couple of hundred more miles or so on a tire which has started showing the protective liner … more than once. There was no problem at all in doing so, but I don’t advise doing so. If, however, the black rubber of the outside of the tire continues to quickly disappear and more and more of the protective liner shows thru it can eventually reach the point that it would be more and more of a concern to continue riding on it. The protective liner is not intended to be what contacts the riding surface.
Tires are constructed in various layers and are integrated together giving them their strength. With high psi air pressure inside of them trying to force its way out once a tire is worn like this it could conceivably fail. So don’t take advantage of the fact that the tires are well constructed. Replace them in a timely manner when you spot this sort of wear. There isn’t much left which is holding the tire together when it gets like this. It is dangerous to continue to ride on a tire that is worn this badly like pictured below.
Depending upon the tire the mileage obtainable out of it even in the best of circumstances will vary some as tires are made different from one another. Some have a soft rubber compound that just doesn’t wear as good as a tire with a harder compound. Of course, a softer compound will provide a smoother softer ride. There are trade offs in all of this. I could be wrong about this, but I think that a low pressure tire is not likely to provide as many miles as a high pressure tire all things being equal otherwise.
Schwalbe Tire Co. has a webpage with information of tire wear. In general Schwalbe states that their non Marathon tires should get 1242 to 3106 miles (2000 to 5000 km) while their Marathon family tires should get 3728 to 7456 (6000 to 12000 km). They state that the Marathon Plus tire should get “much more” than 6213 miles (10000 km).
The lowest I have ever got with Marathon Plus tires is around 7500 miles and as I have already been saying the best is 14,144 miles. That was on the rear. On the front the best I have got is 12,278 miles. I think I would have to attribute the phenomenal mileage to the fact that I have slowed up considerably the last 2 or 3 years due to my knee joints getting worse. In slowing up I am not experiencing as much tire scrubbing in hard fast cornering.
I have written several other articles about tires previously. Click HERE to read them.
I want to insert here that the prices for tires seem to be constantly changing. It pays to research and check prices as you can save a bundle of money. I always buy from the same source as I have never found any other source which offers anywhere near as good of prices. I recently bought 4 new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires from my German source and paid only $29.45 each which included the shipping charge. I think that is the best price I have bought them for yet. Of course, I buy 3 or 4 at a time in order for the price to be that good as I am paying the same shipping charge whether I buy one tire or 4 tires. So the more I can buy without going over the weight limit the lower the per tire cost is. (They list for about $53 each without shipping.) Again, I only use the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires so I have never ordered any other tires for this German source. I can’t say anything about what else they sell and how much they cost. I have always received excellent service from this German company. They usually have the order here in the U.S. within 2 to 3 days. Once it arrives here it is another story as it can get held up in customs and then once released the US Post office takes over the remainder of the delivery. That is far longer than it took the German company to get the shipment to the U.S. (They use DHL to get it here to the U.S.)
When one stops to think about it tires have come a long ways from those many of us grew up with. They are better engineered and made nowadays. Going from 2000 miles of maximum mileage to over 14,000 is quite a testimony. All those miles and flat free riding … can’t beat that. Thanks Schwalbe for manufacturing the very best tire money can buy and helping me to …
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Selecting a chain lubricant is not as bad as selecting a over the counter pain reliever or cold/cough medication, but there sure are a whole lot more choices out there than there used to be which greatly complicates things. I am not here to recommend one over the other as I certainly am no expert on the subject. If you are looking for recommendations you might try checking out reports such as this one.
There are products classified as wet lubes, dry lubes, wax lubes, ceramic lubes, Teflon lubes and probably others I know not of. I purposely selected WD-40 for the picture above just to see if I could get a response out of anyone. WD-40 is a great product, but it certainly is not recommended for chain lubrication (nor is 3 in 1 oil pictured among the lubes in another picture further below). That being said I want to make sure I communicate that I am talking about the original WD-40 product most of us are familiar with. In recent years the makers of WD-40 have come out with a whole line of products made specifically for bicycles.
I myself have been using one of their chain lubes and I really like it. They offer both a wet and a dry product. The two most common chain lubricants are the dry type and the wet type. Depending upon what kind of riding we do (where we ride) one might be preferable over the other. HERE is a short article on this subject. If we ride in rain, mud, and/or snow we should use a wet lube. Switching from wet to dry (or dry to wet) lubes is permissible, but the chain should be thoroughly cleaned first.
We do need to be careful what we use as we can gum up the drive train if we use the wrong thing. Of course, a part of all of this is also very much tied into keeping the chain clean as well as properly lubricated. I have written about chain cleaning previously.
Wet lubes pick up dirt and grit from the road and other surfaces we ride on so the chain will be messier if they are used. Dry lubes can wash off in a heavy rain. They are a little more difficult and time consuming to apply and have to cure up after application before the cycle can be ridden. It is recommended waiting 3 to 4 hours before riding. Properly applied and by wiping the chain down periodically dry lube will last a long time providing you stay away from rain or mud. Teflon and wax lubes also need to harden before they are ready to work in lubricating the chain.
Most of us probably use too much of the lube products when we apply them. I am sure I do. I am bad at not following the directions. I put a lot on and don’t wipe any off. I just take off riding with the chain loaded up with the lubricant. I usually use a wet type lubricant which means the chain can be messy. Any excess oil doesn’t seem to last long however so it is not a problem as far as I am concerned. I usually apply the lubricant while I am out riding as that is when it usually comes to mind in my case. Another thing about the WD-40 wet chain lube I use is that it smells good. After using it I can smell it for awhile as I ride. Of course, if one happens to be riding past a hog farm it really doesn’t make that much difference. 🙂
Don’t be like the owner of this bike and neglect cleaning and lubrication of the drive train.
Keep your chain properly maintained and it will help you …
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A scene from the 1957 movie, “The Incredible Shrinking Man”
During a recent doctor appointment I was asked by the nurse what my height is. My answer was “Well, I used to be 5’6″, but the last time I was checked I was down to about 5’4 3/4″ I think.”. She told me to step up to the place where they measure patients and low and behold she told me I now measured 5’4″. In all fairness, I don’t think she measured me carefully and accurately. I just measured myself and I got 5’4 1/2″. I noticed a few weeks ago that I seemed to have too much leg extension while pedaling even though the boom had been adjusted correctly and was fine for a long time. Today I shortened the boom just a bit. I seem to be the victim of a cruel hoax … another ‘incredible shrinking man’, if you will. I sure don’t seem to be having any problem in my vertical measurement lessening, but the horizontal measurement is another story. At the rate I am going it won’t be long before my horizontal measurement is more than my vertical measurement.
I only am sharing this because this same scenario could be happening to others and they too may need to readjust their boom. In doing so remember that it may also me necessary to shorten the chain if your derailleur can’t handle the adjustment to the boom. Typically a rear derailleur can handle about two inches of “extra” chain length (which is about one inch of boom movement), but that is only when talking about from the one extreme to the other extreme … when both the chain and rear derailleur were set up correctly initially. If you are already near the one extreme when you move the boom the chain may need to be shortened. Having too much chain for the derailleur to handle will result in the derailleur not being able to move back far enough to take all the slack out of the chain and having the chain rub against itself while pedaling like in the picture below.
So if you find yourself experiencing what seems to be too much leg extension even though you had the correct boom setting in the past you too could be another incredible shrinking man or woman. No matter how short we get hopefully we can …
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I noticed that in the first video below the first part and the last part of the movie are missing.
If you ride a tadpole trike (or any other type of human powered vehicle using a chain) sooner or later you are likely to encounter at least one incident of chain failure. If you are one of the few who manage to elude such a fate then you should indeed count your blessings. For the rest of us all I have to say is … “you better be prepared!”. Having a chain failure while out riding can leave you stranded. You won’t be going anywhere without the chain functioning intact. Even if you can call for help to have someone come get you and your trike you may have to deal with getting your trike on down a trail some distance before you get somewhere that someone can get to by car or truck to meet you. If you have never had the experience of pushing or pulling your trike along let me tell you that it is not a fun task. It will wear you out. They are far more awkward and difficult to deal with than a standard diamond frame bicycle when it comes to “walking” them.
So a discussion on chain repair is in order. If you have a chain failure you should immediately stop pedaling and come to a stop as soon as possible to help prevent further damage and hopefully keep the chain from coming off. Having to restring a chain around sprockets, derailleurs and thru chain tubes is a lot of work and can be challenging, especially for someone with knowledge or experience with it. Repairing a broken chain may sound intimidating to some, especially if they have never tried it. I want to state upfront that in my opinion the very best thing anyone can do is to get an old chain to use to practice with … learning how to take it apart and put it back together using a chain tool and also using repair/connecting links. It is the old adage … practice, practice, practice … practice makes perfect. Nowadays nearly everybody uses quick links (most often referred to as “missing links”) which are easy to use and faster than conventional repair links of yesteryear like many of us grew up with. Never the less, a pin or two may have to be removed in order to prepare the chain so the missing link can be used. Be careful not to shorten the chain removing a link(s) as then the derailleur may encounter a problem and get damaged. Here is what a missing link looks like and how it is used.
Missing Links are made by KMC for KMC chain. If you have a different brand of chain then you should get the connecting links designed for the brand you have. SRAM makes the Power Link.
Another important note … be sure to buy and use only the connecting links made for your chain as far as the width. By that I mean what speed the trike’s chain is … 9, 10 or 11 speed for example. You can see in the picture of the SRAM PowerLink above it shows 9 speed on it.
As to chain tools one can buy an inexpensive one and they work sufficiently. I have had several of them. However, a few years ago I finally bought a more professional higher dollar chain tool and will readily recommend doing so as they work so much better than the common inexpensive type. My only regret is I didn’t do it 55 years or so earlier. That being said, I only keep my pro tool home in my toolbox. On my trike I still carry one of the common inexpensive type.
Here is the pro tool I bought. It is a Pedro chain tool.
Here is a different brand of pro tool being used to push a pin thru a chain link.
Below is one of the common inexpensive chain tools sold in many bike stores and is the type I carry on my trike.
I need to insert here something I just recently learned myself. It is inadvisable to reuse a chain link by pushing the pin out and then back in. It is not something which is supposed to be done. A connecting link should always be used instead. The following paragraph explains how to reuse a chain link, but since they should not be reused the pin should be pushed out sufficiently to get the needed link(s) apart so that a connecting link can be used.
Pushing the pins (some people refer to them as rivets) thru the links using a chain tool is something one needs to learn as it is all too easy to push the pin too far and completely thru the far outside plate of the chain link. Once that happens you really have problems as they are extremely difficult to get back into the hole in the side plate. This is where it pays to learn this thru lots of practice using an old chain. They do make special pins which are for the purpose of more easily getting the pin started back into the hole. As you can see in the picture below it is tapered on the one end so that it can more easily be started back into the hole. Actually the longer end of it is slightly smaller diameter so that it can be pushed thru the link side plates easily and then the chain tool is used to push it the rest of the way thru. Once it is pushed all the way into position the long part sticking out is “snapped off” as the short part is the actual pin used in the link.
Another tool I highly recommend is called a third or helping hand tool. It is used to hold the two ends of the chain together while the connecting link is placed in the chain. It makes the job so much easier. You can buy these or make them. I have a couple of them I bought as well as a couple I have made.
Even though the missing links are supposed to be fairly easy to get apart (once they have been put together in a chain) just using one’s hands many find them extremely difficult to get apart. I think they are very difficult to get back apart just using one’s hands so I bought a special tool for this and highly recommend this to others. It makes the job so much easier and faster. I am sure there will be some who would argue this and say that they can get the missing links back apart quickly and easily just using their hands. More power to them. I have had very little success in doing it with my hands and found it to be time consuming, hard on my hands, frustrating and aggravating. The special pliers work so easy.
Here is a short video which does a pretty good job showing and explaining how to use a chain tool to push the pin, take the chain apart and put it back together. It explains how to deal with a tight link which often happens when working on a link like this.
Others can do what they want, but I always carry tools, missing links and several inches of spare chain to use in case I need links to replace bad ones on a chain. More than once I have had to use all of these items to make a repair which would have left me stranded if I was not prepared. If your chain has a side plate which has got bent to the side it is highly advisable to replace that link rather than trying to straighten and salvage it. Making a proper repair initially is a whole lot better than making a repair that doesn’t last and has to be redone.
Here is another video which shows how to connect chain links together using a missing link as well as a replacement pin. It also shows how to use the special pliers to take a missing link back apart. It also shows how to route the chain thru a rear derailleur. I had a hard time understanding him (I think he was speaking English), but I could follow the video okay.
Here is one man’s temporary emergency repair …
Obviously this is quite uncommon and for a good reason … well, more than one reason applies.
One thing to watch out for if you have to feed the chain back thru around sprockets and the derailleur is that you don’t twist the chain 180 degrees and connect the two ends back together with it like that. It is fairly easy for this to happen, especially if you have chain tubes you feed the chain into. It can turn over upside down while going thru the chain tube.
Being able to deal with a broken chain will help you to …
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I wasn’t going to include this last video, but decided to go ahead placing it here:
Most of us have probably heard the saying “all that glitters is not gold”. Unfortunately all too often I see something glittering ahead of me in my pathway as I ride my trike along. And most of the time what I am seeing is broken glass. Yes, it seems we live in a time when there seem to be a bunch of people who get their kicks out of purposely breaking glass … often right where they know those of us on bicycles (our human powered vehicles whatever they may be) will be coming along and have to deal with it. I clean up broken glass usually a few times a week. It really gets old. Certainly it is thoroughly disgusting. And it is extremely risky and fool hardy to ride over it. Obviously, sometimes we can’t help it. We may not see it in time to be able to avoid it. There may be some reason why we can’t maneuver around it.
I used to get a lot of flat tires and most of them were caused by glass shards. Also I have had tires destroyed by cuts which was really disgusting since I didn’t get the mileage they would have been capable of yielding otherwise. I am pleased to be able to report that all of this is past history for me personally. I still deal with broken glass, but I no longer deal with the concern and problems the broken glass causes. Since I started using Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires I have had no more flat tires nor have I had cuts in my tires. I always try to avoid riding over glass if it is possible, but if I do it is no big thing like it used to be.
Yes, when I see something glittering in the pathway ahead of me I am always hopeful it is gold … the real McCoy … but alas it is still just broken glass. (I would have even settled for silver.) Some times it is more like “fools gold” … as it looks like broken glass glistening, but when I take a closer look I see it is actually in the pavement and not laying on top of it. That glitter certainly catches my eye so I reckon it is good that this is a characteristic of broken glass. At least it helps us see it and hopefully avoid it. I’m sure most of us would much rather just …
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than have to deal with fixing flats.
I think people like this ought to be given about 500 hours of community service. I find nothing redeeming in this video below … only total disgust …
LOOK OUT, IT’S A SNAKE! Some refer to these as Gaadi snake inner tubes. I am sure some would say … “It’s about time!” … that somebody came out with this product. It surely simplifies changing an inner tube. With this it is not necessary to remove the wheel. As long as you have access to the side of the tire you can accomplish the task with the wheel still mounted on the trike.
They aren’t cheap … $15.75 plus shipping on Amazon (free shipping if your order is a minimum of $49). Also they are only available for larger diameter wheels (26/1.5-2, 26/2=2.25, 29 x 1.75-2.1, 700/28-35, and 700/37-42) … at least at this point in time. Perhaps they will eventually be available in other sizes. These double ended tubes would sure be nice to have available in 20 inch for those of us who currently have to remove the front wheels.
They are available in both Presta and Schrader valve types.
Here is a video showing how to install this inner tube. You can clearly and readily see how practical this is compared to a conventional inner tube.
HERE is an article about them. Some tadpole trikes are easy enough to change the inner tubes on the front wheels without removing them as they have nothing in the way. Just tip the trike over on its side and have at it. However, some trikes have things such as fender braces in the way preventing this. Even so, the picture below shows the tube be inserted on a wheel that has fender braces. So maybe it would be possible to accomplish.
I think you can see that this could revolutionize fixing a flat … especially alongside the road/trail or if you have a trike that is very difficult and involved to remove the rear wheel. It most definitely will help us to …
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By the way, a temporary emergency fix for a flat tire is to take the conventional inner tube out and cut it in two where it is leaking. Then tie a knot in both ends so it can be re-inflated. Try not to shorten the tube any more than necessary as it won’t be long enough to go all the way around inside the tire and this would be problematic. Of course, this emergency repair is only if you have no other means of making the repair.