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Fit Recovery’s Noobs Guide to Cycling: How to Size and Install Your Own Chain as Demonstrated by My Wife
Fitting your own chain on your bike, as daunting as it may seem, is very simple – with the right tools.
First things first, take your old chain off. If you don’t know how to do that, fear not. I’ve got your back. Click here.
Second, clean the drivetrain; chain rings, cassette and the jockey wheels on the rear derailleur.
Do not skimp on that step! Why get a bunch of old crap stuck in your brand new chain?!
Next, on five or six attached sheets of paper towel, lay the old and new chain next to each other.
Now it gets a little tricky. See, I know how much a chain stretches over time, so laying the two next to each other, I know which link I want. My wife, being my wife, didn’t trust that so she counted the links…
Now you know my wife was right. She took all that time! So was I. Right on the money.
For the next step, I took over. Take a chain breaker and break the chain at the proper link. The following is how the chain goes into the breaker:
Then you just crank it down till the pin falls on the ground (I use a small crescent wrench for leverage 😉).
From there, all you have to do is put the new chain on. Bob is officially your uncle.
As a side note, because my wife made this mistake, be sure to thread the chain through the jockey wheels properly: Don’t loop over the metal tabs, the chain goes “under” them. Give the pedals a good spin. If you’ve looped over a tab, you’ll know by how hard it is to turn the pedals. Incidentally, this is what it should look like:
See that little tab, darn near exactly in the center of the photo? Originally my wife threaded the chain over that tab. That’s bad. Just so you know.
UPDATE: MJ Ray makes a couple of good points in the comments section below. First, what I wrote above makes sense only if you know your chain is the right length to begin with. I know mine are right so I glossed over that little nugget. There are virtually dozens of videos out there that will show you how to properly size your chain to your drivetrain. Google “youtube size bicycle chain” and you should be in business. Second, he recommended a better chain break than the one I used, one that is adjustable to any size chain out there. The one I use is a part of my emergency tool kit that I carry in my back pocket. A real, adjustable Park Tool break is absolutely a good idea.
Last year a fellow cyclist left a comment on one of my bike maintenance posts about chain cleaning. For the last (going on) three years I’ve stuck with the tried and true chain cleaning tool and I felt that it did a nice enough job even if it wasn’t perfect… His suggestion was to completely remove the chain and submerge it for an hour or two in degreaser before wiping it clean and reinstalling it for the re-lube. This seemed like a lot of extra work so I just filed it away in case I ever needed to cart it out.
Lo and behold, Mrs. Bgddy, in a spring cleaning frenzy, has placed my chain cleaning tool God knows where – I surely couldn’t find it. Yesterday was to be our first day in the sixties since October and with the sun is shining, there was no way I was missing out on an afternoon ride before taking my daughter to swimming practice. We’re also riding this evening as the temps should be favorable yet again… and after Sunday’s ride, my chain needed a cleaning. What to do?
I have a chain tool in my tool kit but I also use a SRAM Powerlink so with a pair of pliers I don’t even need the chain tool. It was time to see if there was anything to that suggestion… I started off with an instructional video on how to remove a chain:
I removed the chain as instructed (oh my, it was easier anticipated), and dunked it in a small bowl of degreaser. While I was waiting, I took to the drive train to clean it and was quite pleased at how easy it is to clean everything with the chain off. You be the judge (and keep in mind, I’ve got more than 1,500 miles on this chain):
Once everything was clean (<ten minutes), I just let the chain sit in the degreaser for another hour, wiped it off and re-dunked it for another half an hour. I wiped it down and dried it off and it absolutely sparkled – I’ve never had a chain that clean before. I reinstalled the chain (30 seconds) and after giving it an hour to air dry on the bike, I applied some new lube, Boeshield T-9 (the best, clean chain lube on the market IMHO).
I will never use a chain cleaning tool again.
Working around the cassette was too easy without the chain on and cleaning the chain rings took seconds without having to shift the chain to get at the other ring. Also, because I didn’t degrease the chain on the bike, I didn’t have degreaser dripping all over things that I didn’t want degreased. Now, I won’t lie, using this method doesn’t take any time off of the entire process, it just makes the tasks much easier and the end result is spectacular. Previously I was never able to get my drivetrain totally clean because the chain would attract old, black lube while I was moving it around to get at all of the different sprockets clean. It was close, but taking the chain off is much less labor intensive with much better results.
Now, I realize for some, the thought of removing and reinstalling the chain to clean it might seem daunting – I can make this leap because it was for me, but trust me, once you get the hang of it the process is too easy.
Saddle height and sore hamstrings… This post covered a minor saddle height issue that turned out to be a double issue (see “The Cleats” post below).
Saddle Sore No More Parts One, Two and Three: These three posts cover upgrading the saddle that came with my road bike to a new Specialized Romin. The saddle that came with the bike seemed to be quite nice, it was padded, and felt great but as I ramped up my miles I developed a hot spot on my right sit bone. Well, I got a lesson in saddle technology and fitting – that’s right, my new saddle is sized to my butt and the position that I ride in. The first post covers the diagnosis of the pain and the fitting process – I go into great depth. The next two were simple updates.
It’s the bike maintenance time of year… Topics covered: Carbon bike/aluminum seat post, cleaning the chain, cassette and chain rings (very briefly), cleaning the melon cover (helmet), proper tire inflation and a few other fun topics.
What a difference a millimeter makes… The cleats This post examines how a millimeter or two off in the cleats can effect the ankle angle which, for me, translated into an exceptionally sore and tight hamstring. Also explored is the reason behind why I waited so long to correct the issue.
A Noob’s Guide to Cycling Shorts… Are $150 Shorts Worth It? You bet your butt they are.
Crazy, Odd, Obscure Maintenance Tip: Do you have an odd “whish, whish, whish” sound emanating from the back of your bike? This could be the tip for you
Road Bike Maintenance Day – Lube and tire direction, avoid my mistake…
A New Way to Clean A Chain and the Drivetrain: Remove the chain completely…
‘Tis The Season To Clean Your Chain, Derailleurs, Cassette, Chain Rings… A simple post on cleaning the drivetrain: How clean is clean?
A Noob’s Guide to Cleaning the Tough Stuff on a Road Bike… Quill Stem, Seat Post, Brake Cables, Brake Pads, Cassette and the Frame.
Tinkering on the Road Bike Pays Off: Just a short run-down on some of the things I tinkered with on my 5200…
Does your bike make a clunking sound when you pedal? Read this… It might help.
What Pains Me About Cycling: Saddle Height This is the first post in a series and covers saddle height.
What Pains Me About Cycling: Saddle Position, Fore/Aft Location This post discusses the proper location of the saddle.
I. Saddle Position-Fore/Aft, an Experiment: I moved my saddle back and nosed it up (men only, women nose down) to see what happens.
II. Saddle Location Experiment Pt. 2: A little more tinkering and the results
III. Saddle Location Experiment Pt. 3: SUCESS!
What Pains Me About Cycling: The Saddle This post details problems related to the saddle
What Pains Me About Cycling: The Cleats This post looks at cleat position and differences in shoes.
What Pains Me About Cycling: Bars, Hoods and Stem: This post examines possible cockpit issues.
What Pains Me About Cycling: The Shoes Differences in shoes is examined
An Amazingly Simple Bike Fix… This is a link from a blog-friend of mine whose bike developed a shifting problem. It details my shop owner’s main philosophy on owning a bike: Tinker with it and see if you can fix it. You can’t mess it up so bad that we can’t. Also, in a nutshell, this post is why I write in the first place.
It’s dark out, quarter past seven, and raining. It’s been raining all day. A sure sign the season is coming to a close – and a perfectly good day to write this post.
Let’s jump right in – How to spot a noob cyclist’s bike:
Your rear wheel spoke protector. You need it because you don’t know how to keep your rear derailleur perfectly tuned. I don’t need one because I do. The single easiest way to spot a noob is that they’ve still got the spoke protector on their bike…. The bear is that you can’t remove it unless you know what you’re doing when it comes to tuning a rear derailleur – and I’m not giving that up for obvious reasons; You’re liable for your own butt, in other words. You also need a couple of special tools to remove the cassette so you can get the thing off in one piece in the first place…
Reflectors. I know, they’re required by law. Call me a rebel. No self-respecting badass has reflectors on their race bike – even if the law requires the bike come with them. My bikes did come with four each – they were taken off the bike before my first ride. Seriously. Also, you don’t need reflectors if you don’t ride near dusk or sunrise anyway.
Your bar tape says more about your ability to ride than you would like – and don’t worry, we all suck at the skill of wrapping at first. Keep trying.
Notice how the wrap goes the opposite way to the center of the bar on each side? You’ll also notice the tight wrap, no gaps, no loose coils. If at first you do not succeed, try and try again (that photo was taken shortly after I installed the leather bar tape – once it had a few weeks to set up, I straightened out the bar end plugs).
A dirty drivetrain; there’s a difference between dirty/grimy and well lubed. The latter is okay, the former, not.
Your hoods aren’t lined up and square. This one will lead to neck and shoulder pain, not just a raised eyebrow from a friend:
A dirty bike will betray a noob cyclist every time. When you get back from riding in gnarly weather:
Clean it up before you ride again. It should look like this before your next ride (UK cyclists are excluded here. If you had to ride in that much rain, you’d let your bike go from time to time too):
Simple as that. I clean my bikes once a week, whether they need it or not.
Shifting! This one doesn’t need a photo. If you push your shifter lever to change the gear and the chain clicks several times before it shifts, others will notice. It normally takes between two and 30 seconds to fix this… If you know what you’re doing. It takes two minutes to three hours if you don’t. How do I know it can take three freaking hours? That’s what it took me the first time I tried. Now, if you shift weakly, this can also cause the same skip. You have to know the difference between a weak shift and a need to index your rear derailleur.
A wobble in your wheel. I am a seasoned, well-versed, fashion conscious, mechanically inclined cyclist. I suck at truing a wheel. Most noobs think you tighten spokes to pull the rim back into true. This is not the way to go, as you’ll pull the wheel out of round. You have to tighten some and loosen others. So, to get around this, I take my wheels in to get them trued if I see a wobble. I check them regularly. Whether you have the wherewithal or not, wobbly wheels are a noob’s dead giveaway. Things happen, of course, but you don’t want wobbly wheels. Again, I’d provide a photo, but I don’t have wobbly wheels. Sorry.
A dry bike. A dry bike is a squeaky bike. A squeaky bike should be annoying as hell to you. If it isn’t, make it so. A dry bike, one that hasn’t seen a lube bottle since some time last season, makes very distinctive noises that are very easy to pick up in a group. They’re squeaky. Bikes that are lubed regularly, are whisper quiet. Lube regularly the following (not including the chain which should be every 250-400 miles): Rear derailleur, front derailleur (at the pivot points), the brake caliper pivot points. Once or twice a year, take the crank apart and lube it (clean it first, obviously), and do the headset once a year (more if you ride in a lot of rain). Lube the wheels once a season, including the cassette body (or as needed).
Now, this can be a lot of work, especially when you’ve got a lot of bikes to maintain (I have, including my wife and kids, more than eleven to take care of). This is what the off-season is for. Change the cables, take apart the headset and cranks to clean them and lube them… Do a couple of bikes a weekend while the snow is flying (if you live in a climate that gets snow, or use a rain day). After a while, you’ll become efficient at the tasks and they’ll go a lot faster. Of course, every once in a while, you’re going to run into that front derailleur cable that takes a half-hour to change and index. It happens.
Take care of your bikes and they absolutely will take care of you. The easiest way to spot a noob is to look at their bike. This has been a public service announcement from Fit Recovery.
I simply can’t do any better with my limited equipment (a Galaxy S6 and patience):
The wheels are right, the cables are right, the crank is right, chain on the big dog, proper setting on the camera. Handlebar angle, hoods in perfect perspective alignment, impeccable bar tape, clean tires, tire logos centered on the valve stems… Everything is just right, even decent lighting (though the sun had more to do with that than I did).
Of all of the photo I’ve taken of my bike’s, that one is the first that perfectly follows all of the rules of proper bike photography.
I printed it, framed it and hung it on the wall of my office the other day (I also digitally removed the 1° of drop in the garage door in the photo that went on the wall – I left it in for this post so something could be wrong with the photo. I strive for perfection but I handle it horribly when achieved. Chuckle).
I can die a happy man. Just not for another 53 years or so.
The Sweet Sound of Silence: The Art of Keeping (or making) Your Bicycle Quiet. A Comprehensive List of Common Problems I’ve come Across…
If you have an older bike, mine at 25 years old, 18, 9, 4, 4, and 3, you pretty much accept that there are small creaks and clicks that develop over time. Still, nothing beats a quiet bike, and a creaky bike sucks! Following are some of the things that make a good bike annoying…
- Dirt in bottom bracket: This causes a distinctive, random clicking sound in certain bottom brackets – simply take the crank out, clean the dirt out, lube it, and reinstall it. My FSA crankset with a wavy washer was notorious for this problem (same crank, same problem on my wife’s bike). The S-Works crank I have now is sealed up tighter than a frog’s butt so I don’t have problems anymore.
- Loose headset: Stem bolts and lock nuts will loosen up from time to time. Tighten everything up and you’ll be good to go.
- Loose chain ring bolts: This is commonly the problem for that random clicking that I mentioned pertaining to the dirty bottom bracket/crank. These do loosen up over time and the clicking can drive you mad trying to locate it… This should be culprit number one when you have a click or creak that sounds like it’s coming from the bottom bracket. Either tighten the bolts, or take them out, one at a time, and clean the threads, lube and reinstall them.
- Spokes grooved: Where the spokes cross over on the rear wheel (usually on the cassette side), over time the spokes can become grooved. Take a small file or piece of sandpaper and get rid of the groove. Lube at the intersection, between the spokes helps too..
- Loose quick release skewer: They should be tight, but not ridiculously tight where it becomes exceedingly difficult to operate the skewer lever. You shouldn’t have to use the fork or chain stay for leverage to open the quick release, but you should have to put some muscle into it.
- Loose brake bolt (torque wrench): Loose brake bolts will make noise… Always tighten with a torque wrench per the frame manufacturer’s specs!
- Loose threadless stem: Threadless stem bolts should be tightened once a week with a torque wrench. They can loosen over time if the Loctite on the threads wears out.
- Cable housings: These can knock together and cause a noise but most people aren’t picky enough to require correcting this. I did say most. I am not most when it comes to the Venge. If you happen to be that picky, you can pick these up at the local shop for cheap:
- Loose/dead shifter springs. Your shifters will rattle a bit every time you hit a bump. Install new shifters or live with the noise…. Unless you’re running Campagnolo components. I’ve heard they can be rebuilt. I reserve the right to be wrong on that.
- Loose cassette: This is a rarity, but worth remembering when you get a rattle you can’t track down.
- Loose cone race/bearings: You’ll feel this in the wheel if you give it a vigorous shake side to side. Just remember, a certain amount of play isn’t bad – “loose is fast”.
- Rubber grommets at certain wheel hubs: These will make a weird “whooshing” sound…. A little light lube (Boeshield T-9 is what I use) will quiet that down.
- Plastic spoke protector*: This little piece of uselessness can be the cause of noise, rarely. See below, and the photo above, of my cassette.
- Reflector mounts*: Loose reflector mounts. See below, but tighten them up or replace them if necessary.
- Loose derailleur mount: This is a tricky one but not uncommon. I’ve had a few friends derailed by the derailleur mount. It’ll make some funky noises and it’s not easy to nail down.
- Seat Post/Saddle Collar: No matter how well you maintain your bike, you can develop a creak in the seat post or saddle collar at any time. I maintain my Venge impeccably and mine started creaking wildly. The problem here is that the more you care for your bike, the easier it is to overlook the seat post. The creak will have no rhythm to it, it can creak whether in the saddle or out and no matter where you are in the pedal stroke…. Simply loosen your seat post clamp, work the seat post up and down a few times and tighten the clamp up again. This one drove me nuts for more than a week.
* If you didn’t know this already, fast, racer type people who only ride during daylight hours remove their reflectors. Most cycling-specific clothing and shoes have enough reflective surfaces you don’t need more reflectors… besides, they add weight. And they’re ugly. Chuckle. I don’t have one reflector on any of my… one, two, three… Five bikes. Riding without reflectors may be “illegal” where you live – and I would NEVER suggest flouting the law! Me without my muff! That said, do what you wish – I choose lights over reflectors when I ride near dusk (once a year). If you feel reflectors will make you safe and more visible, definitely leave them on. Now, the plastic spoke protector is a lawyer-required item. They’re installed to protect shop owners and manufacturers from cyclists being stupid. The sure mark of a noob is a plastic spoke protector still on the bike, behind the cassette. I don’t have a spoke protector on any of my bikes because I know enough to not let my shifting get so far out of whack that the derailleur could shift the chain into the rear spokes. If what I wrote just now makes your eyes glaze over because you have no idea what those words mean, leave your protector on. You need it and we need to be able to identify you when you ride with us. Call it a win/win.
There are several models of Giant bicycles under recall in Australia, for the sole mistake of not conforming to an utterly ridiculous set of regulations that cover bicycles. Interestingly – no, this one’s funny, humorously, one of those limits is a pet peeve of mine.
I hate wide handlebars on mountain bikes. I had 1-1/2″ hacked off each end of my 3700 handlebar and I hacked 2″ off each end of the Rockhopper’s myself.
Manufacturers went to wider mountain bike handlebars several years ago for balance and handling. Let me phrase that another way. Several years ago, manufacturers went to handlebars wider than 27″ because they’re safer and better for handling than narrower bars. Just fine with me, you can take length off easy enough but it’s awful tough to put it on.
Now let me connect a few dots. First, I am an exceptional cyclist, well advanced of your average cyclist, so what I find safe and comfortable will differ from that of an average bike rider. Second, the regulation began in 20… just kidding, 1978. Folks, bikes were steel back then. With the advent of aluminum and carbon fiber, technology has made that part of the regulation obsolete. Steel bars may lose integrity when they’re wider than 27″ but aluminum and carbon fiber don’t, so why not change the regulation to reflect this?
The second reason for the recall is, get this, certain Giant models don’t come with a chain guard. A chain guard!
Now, if you thought to yourself, “Self, only those beach combers have chain guards anymore!” Well, self would be right… Except the powers that be in Australia count a front derailleur as a chain guard. I kid you not.
Stupid. Maybe silly would be a better word, but that leaves a little out…
It would be amazing to me if the Australian people didn’t view the bureaucrats as contemptible, pampas ignoramuses for having, let alone enforcing, that regulation. The fact that one would count a front derailleur as a chain guard shows that bureaucrats don’t take that regulation seriously in the first place – and if it’s known to be a silly regulation by regulators, why keep it?
Perhaps I just got ahead of myself… This, from Peter Bourke, the General Manager of Bicycle Industries Australia:
“The other aspect of the recall relates [to the] proliferation of 1x drivetrains,” he continued. “Previously the front derailleur was technically considered ‘chain protection’ and with 1x it’s no longer there.”
Now, forgive me for knowing a little something about bicycles, but a saying a front derailleur offers protection to the chain, in any way, shape, or form is plain silly. The little pin they use on the right crank arm that keeps the chain from wedging between the crank arm and chain ring does more to protect the chain than a front derailleur does. [For those not in the know, the pin doesn’t protect the chain. It protects the chain ring and crank arm, but I digress]
Now, without dragging this out too far, it’s laziness. This regulation is a perfect example of the greater problem with a regulatory bureaucracy. The fact that a chain guard is still required on a bike in Australia is absolutely laughable. The fact they can’t simply cross that part of the regulation out, concerning a chain guard, is telling.
The handlebar width is a little more interesting. It’s a regulation that you can’t just scrap it because for steel bars it still might make a little bit of sense (I’m assuming, of course – I don’t know the engineering). It doesn’t make sense for carbon fiber and aluminum though – both materials, in handlebars, exploit the material’s strengths. In this case, why can’t they amend the regulation?
Steel bars 27″, aluminum bars ××”, carbon fiber bars ××”.
Unfortunately, that would take some real work. How thick do you require the aluminum tube to be? How about the diameter of the tubing and the taper? How many layers of carbon fiber?
The funny thing is, as technology changes, those requirements would change over time too!
In the end what happens is everyone throws their hands in the air and says, Meh, we can just keep the 27″ rule.
Of course, I’ll simply ignore the fact that there’s a job open at Giant Bikes of Australia – because whoever is in charge of making sure Giant bicycles sold in Australia meet regulations seriously screwed the pooch. You make a simple, clamp-on, cheap steel part that looks like a front derailleur for 1x bikes to meet the regulation but that is easily removable by the owner of the bike. The handlebar problem is even easier.
Americans aren’t immune, of course… we require reflectors come on the pedals, on each wheel, seat post and handlebar of every bike sold. I removed mine before my first ride. Same with the stupid rear wheel plastic spoke protector. Each bike sold in America must have one but I wouldn’t be caught dead leaving one on my bike because my bikes are properly cared for which negates the need entirely.
My main point is, it’s unnerving that people are actually paid to run regulatory bodies but don’t actually do the work of making sure those regulations change with technology. In the case of the Australian handlebars, they’re wider than 27″ to make the bike safer but they have to be cut down… in the name of safety. It harkens back to the UCI and bike weight, where they insist a 14.9 pound (6.8 kg) carbon fiber bike with some lead shot in the frame is safer than a 13.5 pound bike without the lead shot. At least the UCI is “thinking” about relaxing that.
Don’t think too hard, boys and girls. We wouldn’t want you to strain something.
‘Tis the season for mountain biking. Dirt roads, minimal traffic, and sadly, lots of mud…
Sadly, its lighter, faster sibling is hung up till springtime…
I brought my 29’er to the office on Tuesday morning so I could get it cleaned up for next weekend after a particularly muddy ride on Sunday. Just for fun I lowered the stem the rest of the way, just to give me a little more drop. I also rotated the handlebar back just a smidge for the same reason. ‘Tis also the season to tinker with your bicycles, because nobody ever got good at wrenching on a bike by paying someone else to do it.
As an interesting side note, that’s a Rockhopper 29’er right there. That’s my “good weather” mountain bike. It’s faster than my 26″ Trek 3700 on dirt roads by a little more than a mile an hour. On the other hand, the 26″ Trek is vastly more nimble when it comes to handling and probably a little more fun to ride because of that fact. The Rockhopper is a decent mid-range mountain bike. While many of the components come from the entry-level Rockhopper, there are upgrades in the suspension fork and the brakes. Mine has premium discs (the cheaper ones warp when they’re used till they’re hot and then get splashed with water), hydraulic brakes and a beefier fork. The Trek, on the other hand, is entry-level for the high-end mountain bikes. While it doesn’t have much in the way of features, it’s mechanically perfect. Working (if cheap) wheels, brand new shifters/cables/brake levers, a new bottom bracket….
[Fast forward to Wednesday morning]
Speaking of the 3700, I decided to bring that one in the next day to get it cleaned up for the winter trashing as well, and to remove some useless extra weight (chuckle). Take a look at this photo and tell me what’s wrong (other than the dirt):
The correct answer is: “That bike has reflectors on it and the noob detection device hasn’t been removed from behind the cassette”.
The removal of the reflectors is quite simple:
The Noob Detection Device (NDD) is a different story. Normally, I’d just show a couple of photos of me removing the cassette and taking that worthless piece of plastic off of my bike… It takes about three minutes. Unfortunately I didn’t have the right cassette nut so I had to cut the NDD off with a knife and pull it off with a pair of pliers. It took a bit more than a few minutes.
Anyway, after that I cleaned the chain, lubed it and the derailleurs and cleaned the rest of the bike and dropped the stem one more spacer:
Notice the noob detection device is not on the rear wheel anymore? If you’re offended, likely because you still have yours on your bike, the spoke protector is useless (they’re there for the attorneys). The reason they aren’t necessary is that you know how to properly adjust a rear derailleur, including the fact that once you’ve set your set screws, the likelihood they’ll need to be moved or adjusted later on down the line is nil. If the set screws are set correctly, your chain can’t over shift into the spokes. If your chain can’t over shift into the spokes, a guard to protect from the chain shifting into the spokes is? Anyone?
Useless. This is why they are noob detection devices. Now, this isn’t to say that an overly concerned cyclist can’t leave theirs on the bike – you can. Just know that all of the good cyclists are chuckling at you (whether out loud or in the privacy of their gray matter). That’s okay though, better safe than sorry, I always say. Chuckle.
Now, when it comes to the reflectors I always remove mine. I don’t ride in the dark without a headlight, a blinkie (taillight), and a reflective jacket that lights up better than any silly bicycle reflector on the market. In other words, my reflectors are useless… Even if the State Bureaucracy requires they’re sold on the bike. The Trek, my first decent bicycle, was the only bike that still had them:
However, upon further consideration, I should caution you before you remove a safety device or safety sticker from your own bike… because someone could do something stupid, get hit by a car and sue me because they read this post. So definitely don’t remove any of that bullshit if you’re stupid enough to need it. By stupid I mean:
- Not attentive to your bicycle’s maintenance
- You don’t think it’s necessary to wear reflective clothing at night
- You don’t think it’s necessary to have a headlight as bright as a star when riding at night
- Not intelligent enough to ride with a blinkie
- You actually have read all or part of one of those safety stickers they apply to the fork or chain stays and wheels (!) of a new bicycle before ripping it/them off and throwing it/them in the garbage – and you actually learned something you didn’t know.
Look, please allow me to apologize if you took offense at some of the sarcasm in this post. I was simply being funny by poking fun at the absurdity of a few things that I find silly – especially when it comes to those stupid yellow safety warning stickers!
This is my Venge the day I bought it and brought it home:
And after the new wheels (and lowering the bar/stem 15 mm and setting the saddle back about 5 mm):
Please let me get a few simple things out of the way quickly:
1. If you heard the Venge is too stiff, you heard wrong. The Comp/Elite is not too stiff. It’s indeed a stiff bike, it’s supposed to be, but the 10R carbon composite frames are nowhere near too stiff. I can’t comment on the S-Works 11R frames because I don’t have eight grand to blow on a bike. I do have 7,000 miles on my Comp (the Elite for the last two years) and I am nothing but happy with the ride. It’s got the right amount of go where you need it and the right amount of compliance where it counts.
2. The original wheels on the Comp sucked, I replaced them almost immediately (see photo above). The wheels on the Elites are a step in the right direction though, however the newer Fulcrum S-Series wheels are one step lower than the Fulcrum race wheels. The S-5 is comparable to the Race 7. The S-3 is comparable to the Race 5 (at least that is how it was explained to me by someone who spoke to Specialized).
3. A major upgrade in the Elites (2015) over the Comps (2013), the newer models come with the S-Works Aerofly handlebar. I had to upgrade mine to that bar (and oh, was it worth it). The stem was a bit of an afterthought. I didn’t need to upgrade it, it just looked cool.
For starters, my Venge is a 56 cm frame. I’m 6′ tall and would typically take a 58 but I wanted a bigger drop from the saddle to the handlebar so I could ride lower.
After somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 miles on my Venge and having to send the right side of the crankshaft back because of a fit/play issue, a new chain and two sets of tires, other than the one side problem FSA Gossamer crank I haven’t got a complaint. In fact, I figured I may as well go crazy:
No more worries about the crank, and I dropped three-quarters of a pound. The S-Works crank, again, was worth every penny. In fact, of all of the upgrades on my bike, I’m happiest with the crank.
The Comp (and now the Elite) comes with Shimano 105 components which, while heavy compared to Ultegra or Dura-Ace, are incredibly easy to dial in and have maintained their tune so well that I haven’t had to tinker with the cable adjusters in at least a year. The front dérailleur was a little touchy at first though never so bad that I couldn’t shift – it just took a bit of tinkering to get perfect.
Then there’s the frame. After more than 7000 miles, it’s still solid as the day I brought it home. I’ve had the bike over 56 mph (90 km/h) without as much as a wiggle, let alone a speed wobble. Meanwhile, the bike is exceptionally decent on imperfect roads. Much more reasonable than my 5200 – really, it’s not even close, especially once the S-Works handlebar was installed.
Now, in all fairness, when we went through the whole crank click problem, the whole bike was pretty much rebuilt from the ground up to make sure it wasn’t an easier to fix problem. All of the bearings were checked to make sure they weren’t lose or defective and then, just to make sure, were seated with Loctite. Beyond that, I take everything, except the internally routed cables, apart to clean and lube the bike. The crank is done twice a year, the steering assembly is done at least twice a season, the chain is lubed every 300 miles (I like a quiet chain), the dérailleurs are cleaned and dry-lubed with the chain and the wheels cleaned every week. In other words, I really go out of my way to care for the bike.
I enjoy it so I want it to last as long as it possibly can.
Here’s the bike as it is today (though I’m looking at new wheels for it):
I’ve removed the decals from the wheels because I busted the rear wheel on a pothole on a four day tour. The company wouldn’t sell me just one hoop so I went with a Velocity rim and laced the hub and spokes onto that hoop. I’d rather have the decals on the wheels, but I wasn’t about to buy two new wheels for a hoop (the only option I was given). Those are Blackburn carbon fiber bottle cages. The stem is an FSA carbon wrapped aluminum (only 110 grams – the carbon wrapped aluminum is lighter than a full carbon stem because it doesn’t have to be overbuilt for the stress). The handlebar is S-Works Aerofly and the computer is a simple $40 Specialized wireless Speedzone Sport. The crank is S-Works carbon fiber and the pedals are red Keo Classics. Everything else is stock, though I’ve had to put a new cassette on it and its on the third chain.
My Specialized Venge, without a doubt or regret, was worth every penny of the $5,000 I have into it. I’ve ridden it everywhere, from the mountains in Georgia and northern Michigan (lower peninsula) to the flats of southeastern Michigan. It climbs fine, it rolls fast and is plenty comfortable for anything from a jaunt around the block to a multi-day, century a day, tour.
If you’re looking at one, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s one blazing fast bike… and if you’re looking at a newer Elite, the Aerofly handlebar comes standard and the bike is $300 cheaper that what I paid for mine (and I had to cough up another $300 for the bar upgrade).
Finally, I’ve had my Venge a little over two years but only have a little more than 7,000 miles on it because it only gets the good weather. I won’t ride it in the rain or until all of the salt from the winter has been washed off the road by rain… If I had my choice, I’d own two. One Venge Pro for the good weather and the Comp for bad… That’s a little more cheddar than I can throw on a couple of bikes.
There are two tricks for installing a cable for your front derailleur.
First is getting the tension right, which isn’t all that tough… If you start out in the right gear. Before you take off the cable the front should be on the smallest chain ring. This is wrong:
This is correct:
The second trick is properly routing the cable over the derailleur bolt. Something as simple as running the cable on the wrong side of the bolt will mean your bike won’t shift. There is a little ledge, call it a finger, the cable runs over:
From there it runs under the washer:
Once you get the routing correct, it’s just a matter of pulling the end tight with a pair of needle-nose pliers and tightening the bolt.
When I did that cable, I didn’t even have to index the derailleur, it worked perfectly.
If you don’t know your derailleurs, take a closeup photo that shows how the cable runs at the bolt before you remove the old cable so you can look at it after you run the new cable.