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Equal Spoke Tension is King

I always like reading Mike's stuff about wheels, he's very knowledgeable,.so it was with this article about equal spoke tension.  

This is not a rebuttal against Mike's article, it's more of a comment about how much it would cost the do it yourselfer at home to buy the equipment needed to do spoke adjustments.  The tensionmeter suggested in this article is $295, add to that a low costing truing stand and dishing tool combo for another $104, a spoke wrench for $7, and lastly a bladed spoke tool holder for $9 for a total of $415.  I've adjusted my own wheels with just using the brake calipers on my bike as a guide, then about once every 8 to 10 years on my main bike I take it down to a shop and have them make sure it's good that ends up costing $10 per wheel or $20 both wheels, this means I would have to do 20 LBS spoke adjustments to pay for the tools, in over 40 years of riding and owning 10 bikes I think I've had about 10 maybe 15 tops professional wheel adjustments and never had a wheel break from spoke tension issues.  

I think an investment like this is more for the hobbiest who wants to build their own wheels or build wheels for a living like Mike does.  I run into the cost to buy certain tools to do certain repairs be it bikes or cars, and it's sometimes cheaper to just let the mechanic do it depending on frequency of repair and thus how often the tool will be needed and whether or not the tool will pay for itself.

Hi Froze.  Just a couple of

Hi Froze.  Just a couple of comments.  If I build wheels to my dying day, I'll have built far more wheels just by using a spoke wrench as the only "special" tool.  Only in the last 3 years did I even have a wheelstand - after almost 50 years without one.  The purpose of my website is to get people building wheels with as few obstacles (ie - special tools and their cost) as possible.
Some of us (especially me) have the goal of never letting enyone else ever work on our bikes - no matter what.
I've never built wheels for a living or have ever been paid anything from friends or family.  It's just a hobby and a passion.

Bar tape

One choice should have been - I always do my own but hate doing it.

I can build up a bike including cables etc. quickly enough. Then I procrastinate wrapping the bars for a least a week.

I finally get my mind set on doing it but always have to redo it after the first ride.

Must be a mental thing.

Sleep & recovery . . .

So, why is it that the longer or harder a ride I do, the WORSE I sleep that night?  The worst is on a week-long tour . . . probably manage to average about 5 hours/night then.  (Average a little over 6 at home.)  I know that's not enough for proper recovery, but what are you supposed to do when you just can't sleep?

Handlebar Tape

Like Jim Langley, I also like to wrap the tape so that "when I look down at the tape, the diagonal lines are symmetrical on both sides". A follow-up question is: in which direction should the symmetrical lines converge? It seems to me that among the pros and factory assembly procedures there is a convention for the lines to converge forward at the top section of the bar, like an arrowhead pointing in the direction of travel. To get this result, I apply the right-hand-rule on the right and the left-hand-rule on the left: starting at the open ends of the handlebar, when the thumb belonging to each side is pointed forward, the other fingers indicate the direction of the wrap.

The Wheel Builder

My takeaway on plucking vs tensionometer is, "The tensionomenter is the great equalizer" Not many can "pluck" with confidence (as attested by the author's snarky comment), but just about everyone can read a tensionometer.

Spoke Tension

I bought a Park Tools tensiometer when I built my first full-sized wheel, a rear for my road bike. I'm a "numbers guy", and it was gratifying to measure the tensions of all the spokes, calculate the mean tension and find that all my spokes were within 10% of the mean.

The "audio" method has worked well for me, but sometimes I feel the frequency of the tone is affected by contact with other spokes or the presence of reflectors or computer magnets.


EDIT: I found the Park Tools tensiometer on sale for less than $60.

Frank, can you point me to

Frank, can you point me to the sentence containing "snark".  I can't find it - assuming you used the Oxford dictionary definition: "Snide and sharply critical."  Thanks Frank.

bar wrapping

I like to use old-fashioned cloth handle bar tape to finish the taping off. It looks better than electrical tape  (to my eye), and works better than the included finishing tape I've encountered. It also works well for hiding the lever clamps without creating too much bulge (I use thick cork tape).

The major problem though, is that it's getting harder to find.

Bar tape

I had always had problems hiding the lever clamp when wrapping bars.  The short pieces of tape were always way to long and needed to be trimmed to keep the hood rubber from bulging.  Also, the tape was nearly always in a position where some metal would still show.

Another column, several months back, solved this for me.  Cut the short piece into two shorter pieces!  No more bulge, and plenty of coverage for the clamp.

Bike Motors

Once again, the subject of hidden bike motors comes upo after ontador changes bike mide stage prior to hill top finish.  I done a little research on this, but cannot find any information about this subject.  Do they really exist ?  Is this all hokum, thying to psych out competitors?  Thi might be a great ubject for a future column

Not just a Trek issue

I give Trek credit for doing this recall but I don't understand why other manufactures aren't doing the same. The problem is with any quick release, not just Trek products, that can go past 180 degrees when open. I checked my many quick releases and most of them can go past 180 degrees when open and three of them came with non-Trek bikes that have disc brakes.

Other manufactures should step up and join Trek in educating cyclists on how to properly close quick release levers and how to get a replacement if necessary (which I personally don't think is necessary if you are using the product properly). BTW, I do not own a Trek bike but give them kudos for doing the right thing and stepping up.


Carl, almost all pro racers (and amateur racers too) use tubular tires.  There are benefits to them over clincher tires (either with tubes or tubeless) even though speed, weight and performance are closer than they ever have been.  The big one for pro racers is that they are better to ride on when they do flat, until the team car can get to the rider to provide a spare wheel or bike.

Tubeless Road Tires

I am very frustrated :-) - I don't understand?  One year ago i switched to tubeless road tires on my bike and have not had a flat even though i have had punctures.  From at least 1 flat a month to no flats at all.  I am watching the Amgen Race every night and saw a picture of a Pro's tire flatted by a safety pin.  What i don't understand is why any of them have tubes?  A safety pin would not flat a tubless tire. I have had a bolt in my tire without a flat.  Why are any of the Pro's using tubes?


It's professional racing, Carl - in other words - a big part of it is making money. So, riders usually ride what the sponsors pay them to ride, they don't get to choose. Also, there are support vehicles and professional mechanics at the ready to change wheels for the racers, not as good as not flatting - but the pros are all used to it and don't think of a flat as any big deal. Also, even though there are advantage to tubeless wheels/tires, they are still heavier than tubular/sew-up wheels/tires and weight savings will always be super important to racers. Those are a couple of reasons you don't see more tubeless wheels tires in the pro peloton. That might change if they could get the weight down closer to sew-up setups.


Tubless tires

I don't know what 'sew up' tubless tires are.  My tubless tires are not sown up - my tubless tires are not heavier than my tires without tubes - in fact i bought them because Jens Voit (sp?) recommended them. But i do understand the 'sponsor' explanation.  Still think it is dumb to not have tubless tires.  Some of the Pro's use tubless on the 1 day races with cobble stones.  The main reason for no flats is that most flats are pinch flats - impossible on tubeless tires.  Btw the tires i use are Swalbe One's tubless.


Canadian cyclist and expert witness Avery Burdett who operates the Vehicular Cyclist website has been banging on about rotational head injuries CAUSED by helmets for years.  Finally, helmet manufacturers are starting to take notice and design helmets to remove or lessen this effect.  Maybe NOW Avery will consider wearing a helmet!


I considered trying RainX this winter to fight the "warm breath fogging" during cold rides, but when I read the directions it said it was for use on GLASS only.  I didn't want to risk ruining my nice but plastic lenses. Can anybody vouch for it on plastic?  I guess I could try it on a cheap pair, but that might not mean much on good lense material.


Catching up to the group

I can keep up to the group all day long on the flat or downhill.  My problem is keeping up on the uphill.  I'm not the skinniest guy around, and I tend to get dropped--or worse, go into the red--on the uphill.  Once I'm off the back, I'm off the back.  Got any solutions to that other than the obvious "lose weight, get stronger, get faster"?

Short sprints

When trying to catch back onto a group I work in a series of short sprints. Rather than push hard until I catch I push hard for 30-40 seconds, ease up and catch my breath, then repeat. I knock off some of the gap until I catch, If I can't catch back on after 5 or 6 efforts I know I probably won't and continue on at a sustainable pace.  Pushing hard for 4-5 minutes can really blow up my ride.


I think you nailed it with the "lose weight, get stronger, get faster" diagnosis! But all of those things are easier said than done so let's look at these possibliities more closely.

You are obviously strong if you can stay with the group on the flats. So the issue is your power to weight ratio on the climbs. Losing weight is a good start but you don't want to diet so much that you lose your power in the process. All the standard advice about losing weight slowly and predictably applies here. If you lose some pounds you should be able to climb faster.

Gaining strength and power would help too but it's not as simple as just adding watts. Climbing involves a different cadence and rhythm than riding on the flats so you want to improve your ability with climbing intervals rather than intervals on the flats.

Also, most riders do better with a low gear/high cadence climbing style once they get accustomed to it. So do your climbing intervals at 90 rpm or higher. Make sure your bike has low enough gears to make this possible.

Finally, think about strategy. If the group is large enough, try the classic technique of starting the climb at the front and gradually sifting back through the group during the climb. Often you'll still be in contact at the top or can use your greater weight to descend fast and catch back on.

Also, you can sometimes lead up the climb, setting a pace you can maintain. If it's fairly fast, maybe the climbers will be content and not come around and start hammering harder than you can sustain. Even if they up the pace midway up the climb you might be able to use the suggestion above to stick on the tail of the group.

I hope this gives you some ideas.

Fred Matheny

rain fogged glasses

Maybe rain x is what I use whichh on the mini tubs I have is called Cat Crap.  It is a blue gell both dirt and water repellant that you wipe on and polish off.  I also use it on our bathroom mirror but a little dab goes a long way so I am about three years into each tub and still have plenty.

Rain X

Which Rain X product do you use?  And, if your glasses have plastic lens and/or an anti-reflective coating does it harm either the lenses or the coating?  I have seen discussion of this product on bike forums and these seem to be major concerns.

mips helmets

I welcome your article on this as I had been planning to buy one of these designs.  I say "had" because after further research, these helmets may not have the touted benefits.  I would strongly strongly advise placing a link to "" in this article.  This technology has been vastly over-hyped, & nothing seriously proves it's benefit. has a wealth of good info on helmet safety, & has specific articles & references to mips.  Their article on "new stuff" dissects the "Bicycling Magazine" article that reported on mips, & is well worth reading.  This is not to say mips doesn't provide "some" (?) benefit.  But there is no evidence that it does.  I'm can't say what your reviews will provide, and think it was helpful for RBR to enter this discussion.  But, I don't see how anyone can review these helmets unless they're in a crash, & then have the same exact crash without a mips helmet, (& I don't mean no helmet, I mean "traditional") & compare the results....  Volunteers...?  I think you'll find makes the counter points quite well.


We Do Reference the article

I think you'll find our group review very fair and mindful of the "jury is still out" nature of the technology.

- John

Should I Ride Solo, or With a Group?

Thanks for the good take on group vs. solo.  I'll be interested to see the final poll results.

I love a fast group ride.  When the group is in sync, cruising easily at a speed you could never sustain by yourself, machinery humming along - there's nothing like it!  That being said, I've almost given up on pack riding due to the safety problems.  Too many people either don't know, or don't care, about the process of being safe in a group - holding a line, not braking suddenly, staying to the right of the center line, and many more.  And there's wide disagreement about how to handle overtaking cars - single or double file, or stay in a group to allow the car the shortest passing distance?  I'm finding that every year the car drivers get more impatient with groups of cyclists - tailgating, blowing horns, shouting, passing on blind curves or hills, and so forth.  To me, it's (almost) not worth the risk.

On a related subject, what's the etiquette for calling out errant cyclists while riding?  Nobody wants to get yelled at, but stupid cycling puts all of us at risk.  Maybe use this as a Question of the Week?

Thanks for all you guys do.  Keep 'em spinning!

Calling Out Errant Cyclists

In my experience, the direct approach seems best. Both personally, and in witnessing other riders "correct" another cyclist, the important thing is to point out what they've done, and instruct them "why" it is dangerous, etc. Finally, tell or show them how it should be done correctly.

Just yelling at someone does nothing but make them defensive. Correcting and teaching might help them learn.

- John

Solo or with Group

I agree with the advice of training during the week and riding with a group on the weekends as that's what I do. 

Another aspect is picking the right group. I'm a member of several clubs, being fortunate to live in an area where I have this choice. Clubs usually have rides that are based on a pace rating: A, B, C, etc. Perhaps another group may fit your criteria better.

One more suggestion: volunteer to lead your group rides. If you can post the ride on, say RideWithGps, or MapMyRide, etc., then others will know the route and you can help to dictate the pace better (or do it yourself on other rides, once you get to know the route). 

When leading, bring a cell phone and suggest others do the same so that, if someone has a mechanical issue or gets lost they can communicate. But, at all turns where the riders in the group can't all see the turn, that's where you can wait until they do. This way, during the straight aways, ride at a pace you want, not to worry about lost riders (mechanicals may be a problem, but you can ask for a co-leader who promises to ride the rear). 

Training Diary

Like Coach Fred, I too have decades of daily training diaries - 41 years in my case, starting in '74.  I do a daily calendar entry too - for a quick review of main details.  I know that today's ride was the 376th ride on my beloved titanium Kish.  I know that it was 65 degrees with a slight wind from the north and I know that I did 10mins hard x 4 reps with 5 minute rests.
I too enter all major (and some minor) family events and I know the first day of the year that I wore shorts on my bike ride.  I know every ride that my son did with me for the ten years we rode and trained together, back in the '90s.  I know what bikes we were on and the gears I used.  How did I get up those hills on a 14-18t 5spd freewheel and 42t ring in the '70s?  My low cog is a 25 now, with a 36 or a 34.  I have twice as many gears and I'm 4mph slower!
After a few short years it becomes an obsession.  How can I ever quit doing the entries?  I upload to Garmin Connect too but leaving my lifetime of data in the "hands" of someone's computer isn't going to happen.  The Garmin data gets entered into the diary and calendar.  That's the way it is and has to be.  I understand Fred.

training diary


Thanks for your info on your training log. I am happy to hear that there's someone else out there who gets as much pleasure as I do from logging all the adventures I've had on the bike along with notes about the rest of life. Keep riding!

Fred Matheny

Post crash fear

Having coached college kids, I found going back to basics by way of drills the best way of overcoming fear.  This is to ride tight figure eights side by side with a friend, swapping inside to outside, then with the affeared rider riding with firstly a hand on the shoulder then forearm to forearm, again swapping positions.

After tight slow figure eights expand this to faster long figure eights.  A couple of half hour drills a week has the rider back ready to re-join the group within a few weeks.

Allan Bridge

Training diary

Besides maintaining a training diary, I have noted when I find coins on daily runs and rides.  Bill Rodgers (Boston Billy) has his coin collection framed in his trophy room.  Picking up those two quarters in the parking lot at Stanford more than twenty years ago seem like just last week.  Fifty cents was my biggest haul to that point.  The five dollar bill on a wilderness trail 23 years ago, must have been dropped by another runner or hiker - should I have picked it up or left it?  Thirty five cents there on the road on the last 100 miles of Boston-Montreal-Boston in 1998, gee, I can still recall the exact place and time.  Besides providing useful training data, a diary (and loose change log) can enrich years of memories.  I say write EVERYTHING down, but never tell your lawyer you keep a diary.  It can be used against you in court, according to my attorney.

40 yrs of logs



i agree with the comment about ''why bunch up like racers?"


it is so dangerous

the only reason to do this is if you are actually racing as a hobby or career, and you are with your known, GOOD team, and you are actually practicing peloton riding.

even so, MOST riding/training does not have to be done in the super-dangerous peloton, on the road, with traffic, stop lights and signals, etc

sure - you can go 2-3 mph faster, but why, at what risk and cost?

just my 2c

i have never done that


so i don;t know whatever the great thrill must be



Group riding

 I have the same fear of a crash in a group as Brad B.

 I've been rear ended in car accidents numerous times and had my car totaled and gotten injured twice in these type accidents. It is totally unneccesary to drive so close to another car. You will only get to your destination a few milliseconds sooner by following so closely, and you have to be much more attentive, so it's stressful, why risk it.

  As for cycling, I mostly ride alone. On occasion when I ride with a group, it's not a race, it's just for fun and to get some exercise and maybe help out a charity. So why bunch up like racers? It's not a race, so what is the point of drafting and the inherent danger in that?

  I've been riding for a couple of decades, but still do not like riding closer than 5 ft or so from another rider front or back, the danger doesn't provide an advantage.


Why? It's fun. It provides additional bike handling skills. But that's just me.

Rear cameras

In many states, including Florida, a vehicle only needs to have a rear license plate.  So a rear facing camera may not provide the necessary vehicle identification.

For bike cameras to act as a

For bike cameras to act as a deterrent, motorists would have to know they were being filmed.  I fail to see how a bike or rider mounted camera is identified, by most motorists, as an item that is recording their actions.  Maybe we'd need a 3' square sign that read "Smile, you're on camera!"  The Cycliq makes my point for me - it looks like a bike light, not a camera.

What to carry...

I am surprised no one listed a degreaser wipe like Grease Monkey.  There may be others out there but the one I have experience with is the Grease Monkey individually packaged wipe.  From fixing a flat to fiddling with the drive train you are bound to get oil/grease on your hands.  A degreaser is simply great to have for clean-up.  (And, no, I don't have any connection to Grease Monkey.) Finally, I always carry an extra, handling one to a fellow rider standing by the side of the road with dirty hands is a nice way to 'pay-it-forward'. 

Cyclists Can Suffer from Exercise-Induced Asthma

Thank you very much Dr. Mirkin! I have suffered from cold weather breathing problems for some time and had no idea what was wrong. I also have tree allergies, so your article had a lot of information for me.

What to Carry

Unlike Kerry, below, I have broken a chain - one road and two MTB.  So I always carry a chain tool and chain links (2?).  Then you have the ability to make a single-speed out of a bike with busted derailer or hanger.  
My spare tubes (2) are wrapped in an old cycling sock with a twist between the two tubes.  This is from experience as I have had holes worn in a tube when it was unprotected in the bag.  The sock is then an emergency rag and......emergency TP!!
From my old MTB days I carry a plastic whistle around my neck (with my ID in a vial).  I carry tire boot material too and it's saved tires for three other people over the years (I use thin suede as I have lots).  My two CO2 are taped together with duct tape and electrical tape. (sidewall repair with the boot material).
I don't need a multi tool for the same reasons as Kerry so I carry 4&5mm allens taped together.  All this stuff (and a few more bits) has been honed from 40+ years of riding in N.Am.

What I Carry

Several folks mentioned carrying copies of driver's licenses etc. I carry my cell phone for both emergencies and so my wife can determine where I am via the RoadID tracking app, so I have my CC info, drivers license, insurance cards, etc. on my phone as PDF files rather than carrying separate paper or physical copies.

Dropped Chain Quick Tip

Rather than using your foot to lift the dropped chain, try shifting the front deraileur to the opposite ring while pedaling SLOWLY. Shift to the small ring if the chain dropped to the right (outside) or to the big ring if the chain dropped to the inside.

Dropped Chain Quick Tip

Another ditto for oshloel.  I've used this method since forever - on the rare occasions my chain goes over the big ring.  It works every time and no distracting gymnastics are needed.

Dropped Chain Quick Tip

Ditto to oshloel's comment.  It works for me everytime. And it really doesn't distract your attention from the road all that much.

tire boot - fedex envelope

what really works for a tire boot is fedex envelope - tyvek cloth/paper

plus it is really light and tiny

helps to cut it to rough size first

have 1 or 2 of them in tool kit

i had to use one yesterday... @#$


other comments: chain tool is good if derailleur fails, can take links out

a lot of multi tools have a chain tool

though sram chains with master link make removing the chain tool-less

i also take needlenose pliers and tiny crescent wrench, plain and phillips screwdrivers



What to carry

What you carry on your bike is driven by experience.  In well over 300K miles of road riding I have never had a chain failure, so I can't see carrying a chain tool.  Likewise the only "loose screw" I have every experienced is a loose stem or seat post bolt, so I only carry a 5 mm Allen wrench.  I've filed a notch in my house key that serves as a spoke wrench (and it works just fine for emergencies).  I've never had a deraileur limit screw go out of adjustment so a screwdriver is not in my seat bag.  Where I live, multiple flats are extremely rare so a single tube and some instant patches have dealt with any flat situation I've every had.  I find that a lot of people don't know how to use their multi-tools :)

The thing I don't understand is why people don't just carry their wallet (or equivalent).  It's got your money, credit cards, ID, insurance cards, etc. and I'm amazed by the number of times people report on on-line forums that they found themselves on a ride without some or all of these items.  Wallet, house/car keys, reading glasses (I'm old!), and (now that I have one) cell phone plus a bandana are what occupy my jersey pockets.  On longer rides I carry food for a stop and on really long rides food to eat while on the bike.



One More "Money" Tip

I always carry cash, along with photocopies of my drivers license and insurance card. However, I'm a bit squeamish about carrying a credit card. So I have the info of my main CC committed to memory. In a pinch, I could use it that way. Best of both worlds!


Wider Tires and Bigger Cogs

I was really surprised when my Giant TCR Advanced came through with an 11 spd 11-32 cog.  I had been riding mostly a 25 since I was in my mid 60's so I was feeling a little embarassed about it.  But, at 73 I'm not climbing very well any more so I quickly embraced the change.  I should have done it years ago.  The handwriting was on the wall when I struggled up the Mt tabor climb on the Hilly Hundred in Indiana on the 25. It's 23% at the top and I always feel like I'm not going to make the last 10 yards.  The 32 is just what the doctor ordered. I have also started riding 25 mm tires on my older road bike with 100 lbs of pressure and quite like the smoother ride.  I haven't really noticed any performance issues.  I wonder about other riders in their 70's and their experience climbing and if maybe I'm just getting soft and not willing to suffer.





While I am still young (mid 60s), I immediately switched to a triple chain ring when I was out in Seattle. I simply could not ride some of the hills. Now that I am back in Ohio, I find I do not need the triple anymore, but I am loath to remove it from my bike. Just in case!


BTW The math captcha questions are too easy. We need some integrals.

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