Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
You might recall that a few months ago, a reader named Barbara, who’s been cycling for years, wrote in for help with her brand new Bianchi Venezia (photo). I offered a few tips and there followed many excellent suggestions from you readers – thank you!
Since her first email I’ve kept in touch with Barb and she’s read your comments and appreciates all the help. But her bike is still scaring her. Today, I want to follow-up to let all of you know what’s been going on and the latest development.
Originally she described riding her new Bianchi like this:
“Can someone help me understand why on my new bike I seem unable to control my front wheel? I have barely missed striking a parked car. Our streets often have bike lanes and I wobble around in them. The bike makes very wide wobbles.
This is new to me. I have ridden bikes for years but never had this problem. I feel amateurish. The bike shop supposedly tightened the handlebars. That was no help.
I am now very slightly but not visibly tremulous. Is it me or possibly a bike problem?”
To backpedal to Part 1 and read our suggestions for Barb and yours: https://www.roadbikerider.com/barbs-wobbly-bianchi/.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, and Barbara sent this scary follow-up:
“Have you ever heard of this? I fell from my bike with the bike on top of me. This happened three times.
I realize now that all three times I braked hard and quickly because the front wheel was moving me in a dangerous direction. My hard braking caused the front wheel to turn, fold toward the bike and the bike lost balance falling in the direction of the front wheel.
Something is daemonic about my bike.”
A wobbly bike is one thing, a bicycle that ejects you is much worse. So I immediately wrote back, “Wow, that’s awful, Barbara. Something’s wrong for sure. I wish you lived near me. I’d be over to ride the bike and figure this out. I live in Santa Cruz, California. You’re not nearby are you? [Barbara didn’t say so I assume she doesn’t.]
I’m still thinking that what you need is to find a test pilot to ride your bike and see if they can get it to misbehave as it does for you.
Another option might be to return the bike to where you bought it and demand a refund and then buy another bike made by another company. Most new bikes are covered by guarantees and yours might still be under warranty. That might be something to consider.”
As I waited for Barb to reply, I made this list of possible problems to go over with her next time:
- Step through frames can be prone to wobble because there’s one less bracing/stabilizing frame tube up high.
- High handlebar positions can lighten the front end to the extreme potentially allowing the front wheel to swing right and left on its own because the tire isn’t held against the road the way it would be if more weight was on it.
- A locking brake could be a loose caliper, loose wheel or damaged rotor
I was ready to send the additional ideas I just mentioned to Barb when she updated me. Luckily, I didn’t need to. Here’s her most recent email:
“I took my bike to a top notch bike shop. The bike repair techs checked it. They said the headset is fine but the handlebar is too high and at the wrong angle. A bolt in front of the handlebar was also loose.
The tech then rode it for ten minutes. No problem. She did point out the bike geometry plays a part in my experience with the bike. She said that if it isn’t correct for me I should return it (the bike still tilts when dismounting).
I rode the bike briefly on the way home. No trouble. It felt more comfortable. The handlebar is now straight across and lower. I will see how it goes as I ride it more.”
To me this is great news and I bet all of you who helped will agree. I think you’ll also agree that if it’s still difficult to control the bike even if only when dismounting, Barb should consider a different bike.
Thanks again for helping Barbara and let’s watch the comments as she may post more once she’s had a chance to put in some miles.
10,123 Daily Rides in a Row
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.