Mechanical advice required... (got a wheel out of true, and also can't get front brake caliper off)

by adrianoconnor   May 25, 2014  

I'm looking for a bit of friendly advice. I've got a 9 month old Trek 1 series (virtually bottom of the range, it's a £700 bike with Sora parts), that I use for commuting every day, but I keep wearing stuff out. 5 months after I got the bike, the wear groove on the original Bontrager-stickered rims had disappeared, so I replaced the wheels with a set of Fulcrum Racing 7s.

Anyway, with the bike up in the stand today, I noticed that one of my wheels (the rear) wobbles ever so slightly side-to-side as it rotates -- maybe about 1mm out of true. These wheels are now about 4 months old, so I'm not sure how much more life I'll get out of them anyway, given what happened to the original rims. I don't think I've hit anything major (there are plenty of of pot-holes on my daily commute, but I'm pretty good at missing them). I do brake quite heavily, but I'm not sure that could cause it, could it? Anyway, my question is, do I need to have them seen to? Or will they be OK for a few months until the braking surface goes and I need yet another set of wheels... Does this (going out of true) sometimes just happen to new wheels, without any real reason, after a few months on a bike? Is it something that I could attempt to have a go at tweaking myself (I've had a quick skim of the appropriate article on Sheldon Brown's site, but it kind of put me off...) Also, are there wheels out there that don't wear out so fast? I use Clarkes multi-compound brake pads, and need to replace them every 5 or 6 weeks on the back, so it's not just the wheels I'm killing.

My other problem is that the unbranded brake callipers that came on the bike are pretty poor (very poor), and the bare metal on those (the screws etc) are all tarnished and rusted. I also noticed the paint is bubbling on some parts of the calliper arm too. So I think I'm going to replace them. Except, I have a problem -- I can't get the front calliper off. The bolt that goes through the fork is kind of furry and soft (to be fair, that part of the bike took a hammering before I got mud-guards, and then again after I broke the front mud-guard before the replacement arrived, and then again when I broke the replacement...). I tried to take the calliper off today, to give it a clean and measure the reach, but the bolt was completely stuck and I think it may now be slightly rounded off. It's a hex bolt, of course. I was using a pretty decent set of Allen keys that usually work fine with even the very cheapest bolts around (like Ikea bolts, for instance), but the metal on these (even cheaper) Trek callipers must be something else. Anyway, my question here is this: if I dismantle the front brake calliper by removing the pivoting arm, will I be able to loosen the nut that the retaining bolt threads in to from the front-side instead? Anybody got any other idea how I might get the calliper off if the bolt is rounded?

Oh, I just thought of one other question too -- the reason I had the bike in the stand (apart from to clean it) was to sort the gears out. Since new, the Sora gears have been janky (I bought it from the LBS, and it went back a few times, but they never got it working that great - they just said that's how Sora is). For a while, my 11-tooth cog has been completely un-selectable (not that I often push the 50/11, but other gear changes were getting really quite sloppy). I read a few guides on tuning gears, and today I set the cable tension up properly. It's much, much better now, but it's still a bit hit and miss between certain gears in the middle of the cassette. Do I maybe need to replace either the gear cable or the mech? The mech's looking really kind of sorry for itself after winter (metal parts are all kind of tarnished a dirty brown colour), though I did my best to keep it clean.

Ah, pants, I didn't mean to write nearly so much. Sincere thanks to anybody read this far down... Any advice would be very gladly received and great appreciated. If I don't get anywhere with this myself, maybe booking it back in to the LBS where I bought it (for a service) is the answer, but I'm quite keen to learn this stuff and have a go myself where I can...

Cheers Smile

15 user comments

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STOP....

You are wearing brake blocks out in a month or so and you are going through rims twice a year? That to me is like riding with brakes locked on full all the time.

Are you sure it is the wheel that is wobbling or is it not quite straight in the drop outs. That's what I see most often.

As for your brake. Take the front wheel off and try to rotate the brake itself, not the bolt at the back, just hold onto the calliper and move it either way to loose it off.

I am not going to try and advise you on everything, because I think you have two choices, Take it in for a service or go on a servicing course and learn how to do things yourself. It sounds like you are harsh on the bike, so I'd recommend learning how to take care of it, how to strip everything down monthly, clean, lube and put back together.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8855 posts]
25th May 2014 - 23:23

6 Likes

You're doing well, I've never worn a rim out in that short a period, never heard before of anyone who has

I also use Clarks elite pads, they are well worn after 2500 miles, but I only ride hilly routes and hit them hard.

Wheels in my experience, unless damaged rarely need truing if you have them trued 500 miles after first use.

If you've rounded the hex, hammer in a slightly oversized torx key before resorting to drilling it out.

I don't use shimano on road bikes myself, but look after a few with sora and tiagra, they work OK, if you can't grab the wee cog, it's usually just the stop limit screw, as it springs down there itself, cable tension pulls it up the way.

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [538 posts]
25th May 2014 - 23:42

6 Likes

Most people don't commute everyday - its a different kind of riding to general road bike racing. And it knackers bikes. Riding to work and leaving your wet bike covered in crud for 10 hours and then riding back again means stuff falls apart. I have gone through a 3 pair's of wheels, 2 sets of Swiss Greens, 4 chains, 2 cassettes, a deralia etc in about 3000 miles.

My brother has done the same mileage on his race bike and it looks like new.

Best advice I can give is take your wheel hubs apart and grease the bearings loads. Grease the headset bearings loads. Clean the brake blocks and reposition the brakes once in a while so rim wear is even. Clean the rims as much as you can. I always use wet lube on the chain (after using dry lube and the chain seized). Make sure the seatpost is well greased and turn the bike upside down once in a while to drain water out of it.

posted by dunnoh [175 posts]
26th May 2014 - 0:15

4 Likes

I did close to 10,000 miles commuting on a trek 1.5 over 2 years and apart from two chains and one cassette plus one set of brake pads being changed the bike still runs. It's been retired now as it needs new wheels and the hanger is a bit bent and probably also needs a new BB. Oh and the cables changed once.

The key to running a bike every day rain or shine is to wash the crud off it regularly, clean the drive train and lube it and either learn to true up your wheels or get someone to do it for you. My LBS will do it for a fiver per wheel. My old trek looks a bit sorry for the hard work but will become my winter bike this year.

posted by BigAl68 [43 posts]
26th May 2014 - 7:28

6 Likes

dunnoh wrote:
Most people don't commute everyday - its a different kind of riding to general road bike racing. And it knackers bikes. Riding to work and leaving your wet bike covered in crud for 10 hours and then riding back again means stuff falls apart. I have gone through a 3 pair's of wheels, 2 sets of Swiss Greens, 4 chains, 2 cassettes, a deralia etc in about 3000 miles.

My brother has done the same mileage on his race bike and it looks like new.

Best advice I can give is take your wheel hubs apart and grease the bearings loads. Grease the headset bearings loads. Clean the brake blocks and reposition the brakes once in a while so rim wear is even. Clean the rims as much as you can. I always use wet lube on the chain (after using dry lube and the chain seized). Make sure the seatpost is well greased and turn the bike upside down once in a while to drain water out of it.

Just put the winter commuting bike (old steel single speed / fixed wheel) to bed for the summer - 6000 miles this winter on it in Scottish Highlands, just changed the brake blocks, regreased headset bearings; no other issues. Keeping it clean, the chain clean and lubed and the brakes properly adjusted are critical. OK, it helps to have a 1/8" chain, no derailleurs, and a fixed wheel to reduce the wear on brake blocks and rims, but even so chewing up major components in 3k miles seems extreme.

posted by oldstrath [146 posts]
26th May 2014 - 8:47

7 Likes

Thanks for the replies, it's much appreciated.

I'll speak to the LBS about truing the wheel - Flying Scot, you mention about having them trued after 500 miles on the bike, but I haven't done that (and in the 4 months since I've had them I've done over 1600 miles). 4 months in and the braking surface on these Fulcrums definitely feels better than the bontragers before them did, so I'm hoping I can get a bit more useful life out of the higher quality wheels...

It is a bit insane how fast stuff is wearing out, I never expected that at all when I got a road bike, because my old mountain bike wore out at a far more reasonable rate (brake blocks once or twice per year). It must be a combination of the grit and grime that covers the bike after a really wet ride (with no way to clean it before riding home, as Dunnoh says) and the extra speed of a road bike versus a mountain bike (I can imagine those extra mph cause a disproportionate amount a damage) . Winter is really harsh on the bike too, because you can only really clean the bike at weekends (it's pitch black when you set off, and pitch black when you get home, and the roads a literally covered in salt).

It makes me sad to see the bike looking so tired and worn after just 9 months, but it is a commuter bike. Now I know how much I love riding road bikes, I know that I need to keep this as a wet weather bike (and learn to service it well), and save up for a nice bike that I can keep for best Smile And maybe my next commuter bike should be built around a CX frame... (with the added bonus I could give CX a go!)

Thanks again everyone for the tips!

P.S. I'm one of those people who is quite looking forward to disc brakes becoming more common on road bikes... It'll not only stop this silly wearing-the-rims-out nonsense, but in stop-start traffic it'll be a godsend. Just got to watch out if you're riding in groups, I guess.

posted by adrianoconnor [46 posts]
26th May 2014 - 9:03

4 Likes

adrianoconnor wrote:
Thanks for the replies, it's much appreciated.

I'll speak to the LBS about truing the wheel - Flying Scot, you mention about having them trued after 500 miles on the bike, but I haven't done that (and in the 4 months since I've had them I've done over 1600 miles). 4 months in and the braking surface on these Fulcrums definitely feels better than the bontragers before them did, so I'm hoping I can get a bit more useful life out of the higher quality wheels...

It is a bit insane how fast stuff is wearing out, I never expected that at all when I got a road bike, because my old mountain bike wore out at a far more reasonable rate (brake blocks once or twice per year). It must be a combination of the grit and grime that covers the bike after a really wet ride (with no way to clean it before riding home, as Dunnoh says) and the extra speed of a road bike versus a mountain bike (I can imagine those extra mph cause a disproportionate amount a damage) . Winter is really harsh on the bike too, because you can only really clean the bike at weekends (it's pitch black when you set off, and pitch black when you get home, and the roads a literally covered in salt).

It makes me sad to see the bike looking so tired and worn after just 9 months, but it is a commuter bike. Now I know how much I love riding road bikes, I know that I need to keep this as a wet weather bike (and learn to service it well), and save up for a nice bike that I can keep for best Smile And maybe my next commuter bike should be built around a CX frame... (with the added bonus I could give CX a go!)

Thanks again everyone for the tips!

P.S. I'm one of those people who is quite looking forward to disc brakes becoming more common on road bikes... It'll not only stop this silly wearing-the-rims-out nonsense, but in stop-start traffic it'll be a godsend. Just got to watch out if you're riding in groups, I guess.

Not sure discs are the answer - two of my colleagues went back to rim brakes for winter after discovering that their disc brakes seized with all the salt and gunk on the roads.

For winter, riding fixed wheel (or even just singlespeed) has a lot to commend it, as does going through the pain of a brief washdown every night.

posted by oldstrath [146 posts]
26th May 2014 - 9:23

8 Likes

You have not said how heavy you are, or how far your commute is. You may be doing 1000's of kms, or you may be doing 100's. Iy your just ride your bike without servicing it, esp in winter on gritty roads, parts will wear. But do you check your brake pads for bits of metal stuck in them? I find some rims flake off and then the metal gets stuck in the pad and grinds into it. Then you have to brake even harder and the grinding gets worse. Pick out any nasties from your pads if you hear a grinding noise on braking. Also some rims are harder than others. I have some Mavic MA2s from about 25 years ago which have done a lot of miles but look nearly new. As for trueing, 1mm is not bad, but it is probably just 1 or 2 spokes which have settled in. Keep an eye on it and get it checked if it gets worse. As for the brakes, I take it you have given them a good spray of wd40 or similar to make sure the bolt is lubricated before you tried to take them off? If not try this, then try the tip about the Torx bolt. If nothing works, a last ditch technique is to turn the bike upside down and see if you can see the bolt through a hole under the forks - then you can use a hacksaw blade to cut it in 2. Bit drastic, but it may be the only way (or drill it out).

I would back up what some of the other poasts have said - the British winter kills bikes if they are not kept clean. Wash it once a week or so and be liberal with oil. Something heavyish for the chain, and wd40 the brake pivots, mechs etc (but not the rims or pads obviously)

posted by domofarmfrites [19 posts]
26th May 2014 - 9:48

5 Likes

I'm not overly heavy, just under 80KGs generally (a bit less right now, because I ran a marathon a few weeks ago). My basic commute is 9 miles each way, along flat roads (but it's very stop/start -- lots of traffic lights and busy junctions). I'll often take longer scenic routes to avoid the worst of the traffic, and add diversions to get some hills in too. I'm doing somewhere over 150 kms per week. Which doesn't sound that much, but I guess it's the nature of the riding, and maybe my slightly heavy-handed bike handling (I try my best to brake gently, but I like to know I'm going to stop).

I do ride fairly fast, as much as you can in traffic. I'll try not to drop below 32kph, and I'll accelerate to try and get to lights before they change if there's more than a 50/50 chance of getting through (the obvious problem with that being you need to stop suddenly from 40kph+ if you don't make it, the upside being it adds a decent training element to the ride and you save a few minutes if you make it).

I do clean the bike at least once a week, including degreasing the drive-chain, cleaning it down thoroughly and re-lubing it with wet oil (currently muc-off wet, which is my favourite oil so far). I have never stripped the headset, bb or hubs because I'm worried I'll do more damage than good. I also think my headset has cartridge bearings -- should I still be greasing those? Is my BB likely to be sealed too, being square taper type?

Brake pads do pick up nasty looking splinters of metal, so I clean them regularly. I've never seen that on a MTB, so I really wasn't expecting it the first time I cleaned them up (though those first pads that came with the bike were truly terrible things, and were barely able to stop me in the wet). I keep a close eye on it now, but the Clarke pads are so much better in that regard.

Thanks again for the advice. I didn't try WD40 on the brake calliper bolt, because the thread is completely encased, but you're right, I should've done. I'll give that a go. I do WD40 the brake levers, mech internals and whatnot after a wash.

posted by adrianoconnor [46 posts]
26th May 2014 - 11:07

4 Likes

oldstrath wrote:
Not sure discs are the answer - two of my colleagues went back to rim brakes for winter after discovering that their disc brakes seized with all the salt and gunk on the roads.

For winter, riding fixed wheel (or even just singlespeed) has a lot to commend it, as does going through the pain of a brief washdown every night.

That'd be a shame, if discs ended up being just as much trouble. I guess anything is going to take a battering with the mixture of water, oil and salt that we have on winter roads. Maybe a CX with cantilever brakes would be a good option for me -- the bigger pads and simpler (but more effective) cantilever mechanism would certainly be welcome, and I bet there are some solid old CX bikes out there to be had for a reasonable price.

I did actually think about fixed gear/single speed too. I'd really like to try it, maybe next winter, and I suspect I will go that route one day. I started looking around for old frames with horizontal drop outs (Raleigh Equipe era, maybe, or even older Colnago Super frames from the 80s), but I reckon I could be opening a whole can of worms there. Also not as cheap as I'd imagined, at least not in the crazy world of Ebay. Would you recommend building up an old frame as a fixed gear, or buying a purpose built modern 'fixie'. Also, is there a flip-flop wheel that you'd particularly recommend as being good value for money?

posted by adrianoconnor [46 posts]
26th May 2014 - 11:32

4 Likes

1) you could try truing your own wheels. See wheelpro.co.uk, his book is great and includes plans to build your own truing stand. I built one and much prefer it to Park et al.

2) you could try hub gears. Loads of info here.
www.hubgear.net

posted by horizontal dropout [148 posts]
26th May 2014 - 14:49

6 Likes

When I did the Tour of Flanders my rear mech and chain broke. A shop replaced it with a

http://road.cc/content/review/31246-wipperman-connex-10sg-10-speed-chain

Its seems loads more solid than the KMC and works really well in the wet - loads better for commuting

posted by dunnoh [175 posts]
27th May 2014 - 23:43

5 Likes

adrianoconnor wrote:
oldstrath wrote:
Not sure discs are the answer - two of my colleagues went back to rim brakes for winter after discovering that their disc brakes seized with all the salt and gunk on the roads.

For winter, riding fixed wheel (or even just singlespeed) has a lot to commend it, as does going through the pain of a brief washdown every night.

That'd be a shame, if discs ended up being just as much trouble. I guess anything is going to take a battering with the mixture of water, oil and salt that we have on winter roads. Maybe a CX with cantilever brakes would be a good option for me -- the bigger pads and simpler (but more effective) cantilever mechanism would certainly be welcome, and I bet there are some solid old CX bikes out there to be had for a reasonable price.

I did actually think about fixed gear/single speed too. I'd really like to try it, maybe next winter, and I suspect I will go that route one day. I started looking around for old frames with horizontal drop outs (Raleigh Equipe era, maybe, or even older Colnago Super frames from the 80s), but I reckon I could be opening a whole can of worms there. Also not as cheap as I'd imagined, at least not in the crazy world of Ebay. Would you recommend building up an old frame as a fixed gear, or buying a purpose built modern 'fixie'. Also, is there a flip-flop wheel that you'd particularly recommend as being good value for money?

My frame is an old 531 frame from 1988 (I think), horizontal dropouts, nothing special. Single Speed Components do perfectly good wheels for not silly prices - one I bought from them needed a bit of truing on arrival, but worked fine thereafter, and lives now on , my wife's bike. V-sprint wheels seem popular, but never tried them. My current ones I built from zenith hubs and open pro rims. LFGSS is a good source of info.

On the ready-built side, a colleague uses a Revolution Belter from Edinburgh bike Co-op, and is happy with it. (Not fixed, but the belt drive seems pretty robust, and it has a lot of the simplicity advantage.)

posted by oldstrath [146 posts]
28th May 2014 - 7:11

5 Likes

I used to suffer the same issues you have when I used a Specialized Allez as my winter bike.
It couldn't take full guards so I used crud road racers which are okay for use now and then but not ideal for many 1000s of k's.
I too used racing 7's which lasted okay & are easy to service with cartridge bearings but they did go out pretty easy, the key is to keep a regular eye on them & straighten as soon as they go out.
I tried many brands of brake blocks, some are more effective in the wet but none of them tend to last very long.
I eventually bought a Genesis Croix de fer (which has disc brakes) with full length guards & 28mm tyres & haven't looked back. It's a heavy beast but is ideal for the dark & wet British winter, disc brakes are awesome, especially in the wet, no surprises.
I wash the bike & lube after every ride now, just brush some morgan blue chain cleaner on the drive train, sponge of frame & wheels while it's doing it's business then rinse all, I never use a hose.
Also worth polishing frame regularly to allow easy cleaning later, I use autoglym car polish.

posted by bike_food [93 posts]
28th May 2014 - 13:28

5 Likes

Thank you everyone for some really great info and pointers. I'll definitely buy the wheelpro.co.uk book now I know about it, and I'd never heard of Single Speed Components either -- what a great little site. Also Wipperman chains look great. Annoyingly, I literally just bought an SRAM chain a few days ago to replace yet another worn KMC (got the SRAM because it's a bit cheaper -- hopefully won't regret that, though SRAM chains always did great on my MTB, so I'm not too worried). I'll get a Wipperman when this SRAM starts to stretch, probably around the start of autumn.

Not sure what I'll do long term. I'd like to build a single speed winter bike before next winter, and that's probably what I'll do, money and storage space permitting. I just need to find a reasonably priced donor bike with decent enough parts that it won't need everything replacing. Specialized Langster's also look like they might do the job if I don't end up building my own -- fairly cheap new, and even cheaper on ebay -- though not sure they have mudguard fittings, which'd be a shame (though understandable, looks like it's halfway to being a track bike really).

My new front calliper arrived today, so I'll WD40 the old one up and try twisting it off from the front. Fingers crossed it'll be a straight forward job and I don't end up needing to hacksaw a single thing Confused

posted by adrianoconnor [46 posts]
28th May 2014 - 21:14

5 Likes