THE OPTIONS: With the availability of products like Big Meat Power Wedges from Bicycle Fitting Systems, the introduction of Look’s CX7 road pedal and Specialized’s Body Geometry shoes, manufacturers are opening a new dimension in bike-fitting possibilities–foot tilt. When you clip into traditional clipless pedals using traditional shoes and cleats, your foot is held in a flat position, parallel to the pedal axle, which makes a 90-degree angle relative to the crankarm. The three aforementioned products allow you to ride with something other than that 90-degree angle. Specialized’s shoe adds 1.5 degrees, making for a 91.5-degree interface (the inside of your foot is held higher than the outside).

Specialized Shoe

The Big Meat cleat shims (which work with existing Look or SFD shoes and cleats) allow you to adjust your foot position in one-degree increments-positive or negative. The Look pedal uses special inserts, which allow your foot to be positioned anywhere between 87 and 93 degrees in 1.5-degree increments.

THE CONCEPT: The idea is that you can make an adjustment so your knee and ankle are held in a desirable, neutral position at the same time, resulting in a smoother pedal stroke and less lateral knee movement during the pedal stroke, This translates to a reduced risk of repetitive-stress knee injuries, and improved efficiency on the bike.

WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU? Look, Specialized and the guys at Bicycle Fitting Systems agree that comfort should be your ultimate guide in setting cleat position.

Paul Swift, the man behind the Big Meat shims, and Andy Pruitt, designer of the Specialized shoe, reference a study by The Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, which indicates that only 4% of humans have a naturally level foot position. According to the study, 87% of humans have forefoot varus, which means that when their ankle is in a neutral position, the inside of the ball of their foot is held slightly higher than the outside, a condition best accommodated by a greater-than-90-degree angle at the pedal. The same study indicates that 9% of us have forefoot valgus, meaning that the inside of the ball of the foot naturally rests lower than the outside, and is best accommodated by a less-than-90-degree angle.

BEFORE YOU BUY: We’re talking about your knees and your money–both of which should be relatively important to you. This is a classic example of a time when it’s critical to try before you buy. It may not seem like much, but 1.5 degrees on the bike is an enormous change. You can feel it at the shoe, and see a change in the distance between your knees.

With the Specialized shoe, if you buy it and don’t like it, kiss your cash goodbye. To some extent, the same is tine of the Look system. (Yes, the CX7 pedals allow some level of adjustment, but why pay for adjustment and invite the extra complexity that comes with it if it turns out you’re best served by a flat pedal?) The Big Meat shims really represent the most-economical, lowest-risk way to go; for $25 you get eight shims that can be used to create positive or negative angle changes of up to four degrees. The downside is that they position your foot higher off the pedal, which decreases stability and can require a change in saddle position.

GEEK ADVICE: Regardless of which system you’re interested in, buy a set of Big Meats first, and try them to see what feels best. If you like the Big Meats, great. Keep them, use them, be happy. If you find you want something between one and two degrees of positive tilt, you can be assured that the Specialized or Look products will work well for you. If you find you need a negative angle, you can go with either the Big Meat shims or Look road pedals, but not the Specialized shoe. If, after trying the Big Meats, you realize you’re most comfortable with a flat pedal, you can happily go back to your old setup, and you’re only out $25.

A FINAL NOTE: It’s probable that this technology will continue to be refined. It shouldn’t be long until we see pedals with an infinite range of adjustment from +3 to -3 degrees, or shoes with a modular sole system to allow more than one setting. If you aren’t having knee problems and have a relatively smooth pedal stroke, you’d be well served to wait for the next generation of this type of product. For more info, check out, or

6 Surefire Ways You Can Get More Speed.


TRUE: An out-of-true rim creates an indirect and inefficient path for the wheels–not enough to cause swerves, but enough to steal speed. For most riding, a wheel trued within 1mm is good enough. But for racing, the standard is half a millimeter.

Identify the wobble by noticing where the rim comes close to a brake pad. Find the four spokes closest to the wobble. Then, loosen the two spokes on the same side as the wobble, and tighten the two spokes on the other side to straighten the rim.

DISH: Once the wheel is true, inspect for dish–the rim should be the same distance from either fork leg, or from either chainstay. The most accurate way to check dish is with a dishing tool, such as Park Tool’s Portable Wheel Dishing Gauge ($20, If you don’t have a dishing tool, remove the tire, put the rim back in the drops and measure the distance from the frame or fork on one side. Then take the wheel out and put it in the frame or fork backward. Measure from the same side of the fork or frame. A properly dished wheel will measure the same whether it’s in forward or backward.

An off-center rim pulls to the side, stealing speed. Center the rim by tightening all the spokes on the side that was farther away, and loosening all the spokes on the too-loose side an equal amount. Work a quarter-turn at a time.

TENSION: Once the wheel is dished and true, make sure the wheel is properly tensioned. Loose spokes cause the bike to feel mushy when you accelerate quickly–they’re not efficiently transferring your power to speed. Spoke tension should be even throughout a wheel. On the rear wheel, drive-side spokes will be tighter than non-drive-train spokes. If you don’t have a tensiometer, such as the Wheelsmith Tensiometer ($125,, pluck spoke pairs. They should sound the same. A low, twangy sound means the spoke isn’t tensioned enough.

Bicycle racing


If your hubs feel gritty, or it’s been more than a year since you overhauled your hubs, it’s time to clean and regrease ’em. Using cone wrenches, remove one lockout and cone. lake out the bearings and use a degreaser to de-gunk the inside of the hub. Repack the bearings using plenty of grease.

After that, adjust the hubs. A too-tight hub will cause friction and accelerated wear. A too-loose hub will tear up bearings and races. Smoother spinning will increase your speed up to 2-3 mph.

Cartridge bearing hubs can’t be adjusted, but most have cones that let you manipulate the preload on the bearings. Ideally, there will be a little lateral play in the bearings when the wheel is off the bike. Tightening the quick release when you put your wheel on will remove the last of the play. If you have the time and attention span, you can get that ideal adjustment. At the very least, settle for adjusting the bearings as loose as you can without any play in the hub.


  1. ADD AIR

If your tires aren’t up to proper pressure, the contact patch will be increased, causing speed-robbing friction. Too much air pressure means the tires may bounce you around, giving you a rough ride and decreased traction. For road tires, stay between 100-120 psi; for mountain, 35-50 psi. But mountain bike tires and conditions vary, so check your tire specifications, usually written on the sidewall of the tire.



Improperly adjusted brakes cause drag and rob you of full braking power. Align rim brake pads with the rim, ensuring they don’t slip below the rim or rub the tire. Spin the wheel when you check pad alignment, because there maybe high or low spots in the rim. Once the pads are properly set up, make sure the rim is centered between the pads. If one pad is closer to the rim than the other, make a quick adjustment. For mountain bikes with linear-pull brakes, there are small screws at the base of the arms that adjust spring tension. Turning a screw clockwise increases tension and moves the pad away from the rim and vice versa. Align road calipers by loosening the mounting bolt and twisting the caliper to center it. Some road brakes are centered with a small bolt on the brake arm.

For disc brakes, align the brake caliper. Get the pads centered and parallel to the rotor by using washers between the caliper and mount, if the calipers don’t have a bolt-and-slot centering arrangement.



A gunked-up or dry drivetrain is a slow one. Power transfer is best on a clean, well-lubed drivetrain. Remember to lube the derailleur pulleys. Put a few drops of lube around the pulley bolt and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to work in. The truly anal believe the pulleys aren’t properly cleaned unless you pull them apart, then clean and lube ’em.



If your bike has an adjustable bottom bracket, test tightness by grabbing each crankarm and wiggling. You have an adjustable bottom bracket if it has a lockring on the non-drivetrain side. There should be no side-to-side play. To tighten, loosen me lockring on the left side or the bottom bracket and tighten the adjustable cup clockwise to snug it against the bearings. Then back off a quarter-turn. The cranks should spin smoothly without play. Retighten the lockring.

Cartridge bottom brackets can come loose in the bottom bracket shell, decreasing the power transfer from the cranks and sometimes creaking. Use a Sealed Bottom Bracket Tool ($11, to tighten to the proper torque–about 500 lb.-in. for Shimano, for example. You can find your specific torque in the owner’s manual.


Bicycle improving
You have to balance weight savings against cost. Switching from straight-gauge spokes and brass nipples to butted spokes and aluminum alloy nipples can cost you S60 or more a wheel, including parts and labor–but you could save up to a quarter pound per wheel Replacing everything else– hubs, derailleurs. cranks and brakes–does little to shed weight. But if you have money to burn and a compulsive need for the lightest bike in the peloton, go for it.



Adjusting your rear derailleur

IF YOU’VE EVER HEARD your bicycle chain rubbing or felt it slip, you’ve probably also made a silent pact with your ailing derailleur–“Get me home just this once and I promise to fix you.” But such bargains aren’t necessary if you know some simple tips.

Most derailleurs today are indexed (“clicking”) systems that require little tuning. If your derailleur isn’t shifting precisely, it might not be out of adjustment–the derailleur or the hanger holding it might be bent. If the derailleur isn’t parallel to the freewheel sprockets when viewed from behind, go to a shop for help.

To help avoid problems, always keep your drivetrain (chain, derailleurs, freewheel and chainrings) clean and lubricated with a lightweight oil such as Tri Flow.

Adjusting your rear derailleur

Road work

Roadside shifter-problems can usually be fixed in seconds. First make sure your rear wheel is aligned properly in the frame by eyeing it from the rear. Check that the shift levers aren’t loose by shifting the rear derailleur into the lowest gear. If you can see the shifters slipping, use the “D” rings or screws on the shifters to tighten the levers. (New under-bar shifters can’t be tightened.)

If the problem persists, adjust the tension of the gear cable with the knob (the adjustment barrel) located where the cable enters the back of the rear derailleur. Start with the chain in the smallest gear on the chain-ring and freewheel. If you’re having trouble shifting to larger gears, rotate the adjustment barrel a half turn counterclockwise (toward the spokes); go a half turn at a time clockwise to shift more smoothly into small gears. Hop on your bike and test all the gears on the freewheel; if you’re still having trouble, switch to the friction mode (not applicable on under-the-bar systems) to get home. Switch to the “F” or “Friction” setting on the rear-derailleur shifter, using the D-ring or small lever. No more “clicks,” but gears will change smoothly.

Home remedies

When you get home, the gear cable will need further adjustment. (It’s easiest to use a bike stand for these repairs; otherwise you’ll take a lot of test rides.)

Again set the chain in the smallest gears, and with an allen wrench, loosen the bolt anchoring the cable to the rear derailleur. Grease the (loose) gear cable where it runs inside any housing, and rotate the adjustment barrel clockwise one turn short of its limit. With pliers in your right hand, pull the wire taut–but not as tight as it will go–and resnug the anchor bolt with the wrench in your left hand.

Two other screws control range of lateral motion. Usually labeled “H” and “L” (high and low), the screws allow the derailleur to reach the smallest and biggest gears without permitting the chain to “jump” off the freewheel (this adjustment also appears on the front derailleur). Make sure the chain shifts into all gears without derailing. Turning the screws counterclockwise increases the derailleur’s range; a clockwise turn has the opposite effect. If you can’t reach a certain gear with the appropriate screws set at their limits, the cable may need more adjustment. Finally, use the adjustment barrel to fine tune all your gears, starting with the smallest. Shifts should always be quick and crisp.



Defining fork rake, eliminating chainring rub and fixing a rusty cassette

Various technical questions involving¬†bicycles¬†are answered. These include the terms ‘rake and trail’ for defining the stability of a bike, countering chainring flex and how to prevent the cassette from being corroded.

I notice that it’s easier to ride my mountain bike no-handed than my road bike, and I’ve heard that the frame design – especially the fork – affects handling. I’ve heard my riding buddies refer to rake and trail. What are they and how do they affect handling?

Seth Griffin, Saginaw, MI

fork rake

Rake and trail are front-end measurements that have a profound effect on how your bike steers and corners. Rake is how far the front axle is in front of the steering axis (a centerline through the head tube) – generally 1.5-2 inches. Trail is how far the tire contact point is behind the steering axis – generally 2.5-3 inches.

The more trail, the more stable the bike. The less trail, the quicker the handling. Think of how the casters on the front of a grocery cart work their offset tends to add stability by making them swing around to the correct orientation.

As you can see in the diagram, both rake and head angle affect trail: Steepening the head angle or increasing rake will decrease trail, reducing stability and quickening steering.

You can calculate trail by using the following formula:

TRAIL = R/tan H – rake/sin H

R = wheel radius (13 for 26-inch wheels, 13.25 for 27-inch or 700C wheels); and H = head angle.

– Jim Langley

Fighting flex

What causes chainring flex? I notice it when I’m pedaling hard and the chain rubs against the derailleur cage.

Thomas J. Smith, Trumansburg, NY

Front derailleur rub can come from several sources. One is frame flex – that chuff, chuff noise during hard pedaling is considered by many to be a litmus test for frame flex. (As you pedal hard, the bottom bracket moves laterally, pressing the chain against the derailleur cage.)

A second source might be the chainrings themselves. Snug the chainring bolts with a 5-mm allen wrench to ensure that they are not moving. Then sight from above while turning the crankarms to see if the chainrings are true. If not, gently true them by tapping on the warped sections with a rubber mallet (or have a shop do it).

Third, check the front derailleur to ensure that it travels in and out the correct amount, and that it is mounted straight on the frame.

One final source of rubbing can be your pedal technique. Any rider can cause rub if he or she pushes hard enough on the pedals. Try spinning the pedals rather than stomping on them. Start by checking your cadence (count pedal strokes for 15 seconds and multiply by 4). Ideally, you’ll be turning close to 90 rpm. If you’re at 40 or 50, you’re powering the pedals rather than spinning them, which stresses and flexes the chainrings. By increasing cadence, you’ll find that you’re using the large chainring less and almost never flexing it.

What’s more, if you practice faster cadences you’ll become more efficient and enjoy your riding more. Leg speed is one of the most important skills you can develop.

– J.L.

Corroding cogs

Despite my efforts to keep my cassette lubricated and clean this season, it’s rusty again. How do you keep corrosion at bay? Are some cassettes better than others in this regard?

Debbie Loiselle, Madison, WI

You could purchase a titanium cassette (cog set), which won’t rust, but it’ll set you back more than $100. What you’re really paying for is weight reduction, which is not essential unless you’re building a dream bike or superlight race machine. Full ti cassettes also wear more quickly than steel so they’re not practical for everyday use. (Campagnolo and Shimano use ti cogs in their high-end groups, but only for the larger cog sizes, which are subject to less wear.)

The easiest way to rid rust on cogs is to lube the freewheel and chain and ride the bike. If you apply enough lube it will coat the cogs and arrest the rusting, and shifting will have a cleaning effect. If some rust remains on interior surfaces, try scrubbing with a wire brush. But don’t lose sleep over it. The cogs are thick enough to withstand years of neglect.

As a general guideline, lubricate the chain and cogs before they get dry to ensure optimum efficiency and shifting performance. If you do that, the cogs should never rust.


Innovative Bicycle’s novel products rolling slowly

Somehow it seems fitting that Redmond — a city that claims to be the bicycle capital of the Northwest — should be home to a company that wants to “revolutionize” the bicycle industry.

One by one, Innovative Bicycle Component Co. is rolling out a series of high-tech improvements on conventional bicycle mechanisms: a hydraulic brake, a gearless transmission system and, next year, a “maintenance-free” commuter bicycle.

Its challenge is convincing manufacturers, retailers and the bike-buying public. Industry observers, though quick to praise Innovative Bicycle’s novel concepts, harbor doubts that the pricey products can succeed in the marketplace.

The Mathauser hydraulic brakes currently retail for around $325. The Terry Paradigm transmission, which is slated to hit the market next month, will sell for $400 to $450. And the Metro-Cruiser high-end bicycle, which incorporates both brakes and transmission, will sell for $995 when it starts shipping next spring.

High end Bicycle

“The cost is prohibitive,” said Chris Murphy, director of marketing for Specialized Bicycle Components Inc., a California manufacturer. “They have neat ideas, but it needs to be manufacturable to meet price points.”

Matt Vanenkevort, a buyer for Greenlake Cycle stores in Seattle, said Innovative Bicycle may find a small market niche among riders of tandem bicycles, or enthusiasts who are willing to spend more for the sake of technical innovations. However, he said he isn’t carrying the company’s products in his stores so far because “in my estimation, it was not something I could move enough of.”

Janelle Terry, president of Innovative Bicycle, counters skeptics by pointing to a recent endorsement of the company’s Mathauser hydraulic brakes by Mountain Biking magazine as an indication of what she believes is her company’s bright future.

“We don’t believe there’s a brake currently available that is more powerful,” wrote the reviewer in Mountain Biking’s August issue. “Mathauser could create the standard setup for rear suspension bikes.”

If that happens, Terry said the payoff for her company could be huge, as rear-suspension bikes are being hailed as a rising trend in mountain bikes.

While Innovative Bicycle doesn’t have any signed contracts from major bicycle manufacturers yet, she said her company is “very close” to landing deals with two large firms interested in the Mathauser brakes. It also is in negotiations with three other firms interested in private-label use of the bike frame Innovative Bicycle developed for the Metro-Cruiser.

The Mathauser brakes apparently appeal to more than bicycle manufacturers. Terry said Gateskate Inc., a Puyallup-based manufacturer of skates, has expressed interest in using the hydraulic system, as has a wheelchair company.

Terry said decisions by major bicycle manufacturers and dealers regarding Innovative Bicycle’s products could hinge on how strong an impression her company makes at next month’s big industry trade show, Interbike, which will be held in Las Vegas.

For the first time, Innovative Bicycle will have a full range of products for sale, including order-taking for a “signature edition” of the Metro-Cruiser which the company plans to ship in time for Christmas.

In addition to being equipped with Mathauser brakes and Terry Paradigm transmission, the Metro-Cruiser features an aerodynamic frame made of composite material and uses an Allsop SoftRide suspension beam.

Designed to appeal to the growing numbers of bicycle commuters in the U.S., which is expected to increase 15 percent this year over 1992’s count of 4.3 million, the bike is being promoted as the “ultimate commuter cruiser” because of its ease of use and “maintenance-free” brakes and transmission, said Suzanne Malach, Innovative Bicycle’s marketing and sales manager.

But the problem with trying to sell a $1,000 commuter bicycle is that “most people who buy bikes for commuting tend not to want to spend a lot of money on it,” said John Platt, a spokesperson for Trek, one of the country’s largest bicycle manufacturers. He said most commuter bicycles sell for between $250 to $400. “I know there’s people who commute on expensive bikes, but it’s got to be pretty limited numbers.”

Terry said that audience may not be big enough to matter to giant manufacturers like Trek. But for a 1-year-old start-up company like Innovative Bicycle, which only employs eight, it’s sufficient to achieve the company’s modest goals for next spring: become a “cash-positive” operation and create a buzz among the bicycling elite that will eventually trickle down to the masses.

Beyond that, however, Terry’s goals become loftier. “We think this company is going to skyrocket next year,” she said.

Innovative Bicycle is looking into the possibilities of outsourcing the manufacturing of parts overseas to lower the cost of its products. Terry said her goal is to have the Metro-Cruiser retail for as low as $350.

Company officials depict the bicycle industry as one that has been slow to accept innovations for several decades. The introduction of the mountain bike and its resultant popularity in the mid-1980s opened the floodgates to new ways of designing and making bicycles.

Look what happened with mountain-The Boulder, Colo.-based company that bike manufacturer Rock Shox, said Terry. The Boulder, Colo.-based company that pioneered front suspension bikes started out with slow sales but eventually became an industry leader.

“If you look at innovative products, you’ve got to base your assumption on the history of others,” she said.

Terry’s belief in being able to “revolutionize the bicycle industry” prompted her to form Innovative Bicycle last summer, resigning in the process as president of CV Posi-Drive. Posi-Drive had backed initial development of the Terry Paradigm system, but its stockholders balked at her urging to acquire the Mathauser brakes from their Anacortes inventor. “I went out and acquired the brake product on my own,” said Terry. “I felt it was a tremendous product with a lot of potential.”

In addition to refining the brake for mass production, Innovative Bicycle also bought the rights to use the Terry Paradigm for “human-driven” applications. CV Posi-Drive, which subleases its facilities to Innovative Bicycle and retains portion of the site as a separate office, continues to develop other products for the biking industry.

Chris Murphy of Specialized Bicycle Components has heard Terry’s bold predictions of changing the face of the industry before. “We tried working with CV Posi-Drive three years ago, but it took forever to get working samples.” He said his company grew tired of waiting and chose to use another firm’s products.

Industry observers say other questions remain regarding Innovative Bicycle’s products in addition to cost, including concerns over weight, durability and — for the brakes in particular — aesthetics. Malach expresses confidence that her company has addressed those concerns and plans to prove it by showing off their refined, finished products at next month’s trade show.

“More power to them (Innovative Bicycle) if they can pull it off,” said Murphy.