Category: How To

I was talking with Jeff about his new Sekine project the other day, and he was curious about how to fit wheels into this old frame — he had tried a modern set of wheels off his road bike, and the hub was way too wide to fit between the dropouts.

I told him that I was having a related problem with an old bike that I resurrected. In my case, though, I had a hub that fit just fine between the dropouts, but I had to add axle spacers to “build out” the proper “over-locknut dimension” (O.L.D.) so everything fit properly. Over time, though, I found out that my axle spacers were causing me some problems. I had some old 1mm thick axle spacers in my spare parts boxes, and they were no longer viable — they were warped or something, so I couldn’t adjust an excessive amount of play out of my rear hub bearings…I decided to remove them and reset my frame’s dropout spacing to fit the “native” 120mm O.L.D.

The culprits: old axle spacers that were no longer flat, causing excessive play in the bearings.

Old axle spacers

To respace a frame, you will need a length of threaded rod (“allthread”), some large washers and nuts to fit the rod, and an accurate metric ruler or precision calipers. I used 3/8″ allthread since it was closest to the diameter of the hub axle I am using.

Start out by taking the rear wheel out of the frame and measuring the dropout spacing from the inside face to the opposite inside face, like so:

Measuring dropout spacing

Here, it shows a spacing of 126mm. The second step is to insert the allthread and washers into the dropouts as shown below:

Allthread ready to push those chainstays together!

Simply crank on the nuts with an appropriate wrench — and do it evenly…a half-turn on each side at a time so everything stays aligned. Remove the allthread and washers periodically to check your progress. You may have to go pretty far past your “target” width so the chainstays and dropouts finish off at the appropriate distance. I squeezed my frame down to about 105mm before the respacing “took”, leaving me with a perfect 120mm spacing. Once the axle spacers were removed from my hub, I was able to get rid of the bearing play and everything was rock-solid once again!

Want to spread out your rear triangle rather than squeezing it down? Simply install the allthread with the washers on the INSIDES of the dropouts and twist those nuts accordingly.

I should add at this point that this method only works with steel frames. While it can be done to a certain degree with an aluminum bike frame, I don’t really recommend it — if you only have to squeeze or spread the dropouts a couple millimeters, it’s probably OK to use this method on an aluminum frame. DO NOT attempt this method on a carbon frame, though, unless you really want to break something!

For Jeff’s application, I think a “flip-flop” hub might be a perfect solution — plenty of room on the axle for proper spacers, if needed (just buy NEW spacers that you know are flat!), and room for a 5 or 6-speed cluster on the freewheel side of the hub.

The other thing Jeff wanted to do was go from the Sekine frame’s native 27″ wheels down to a more modern and versatile set of 700c wheels. Going to 700c wheels is better in the long run because there is much better availability of tires and rims for this size.

Doing the swap is easy enough to do, since 700c wheels are a bit smaller in diameter and will easily fit into such a frame. The one sticking point, though, might be finding brakes that have enough “reach” to work with the new, smaller wheels. Sheldon Brown offers a kludgy, but acceptable brake drop method, but I think it is a bit more elegant to find appropriate long-reach brakes…Ebay might be a good source, or you could always go for a modern set of Tektro long-reach badboys.

I want to add in a plug for fellow Floridians and master wheel builders For about $100 or so, you can buy a handbuilt, rock-solid set of wheels. I went for their bottom-shelf 700c flip-flop set with Formula hubs on Weinmann rims…not expecting too much, but I can say that I’ve BEAT on these wheels: rolling down stairs, riding on 2 miles of cobblestones every day that I commute, etc. The wheels are still as true as the day they came in the mail!

So, get out there and tinker…there’s lots of good stuff you can do right at home to bring an old frame back to life, even with more modern components!

Over at our other site,, I do a weekly article in which I call the segment, “Thursday Tech Tip.” Basically I address any issues that most riders will experience. But I know what you’re thinking…”that’s a mountain biking website!” Well yes it is, but unless I’m dealing with suspension and linkages, it all still applies to your bike.

So if you’re interested in learning on what today’s Tech Tip is…just CLICK HERE!

The other day, Moe and were talking about an article idea: presenting ways to repair common bicycle breakdowns without tools. If you were stranded out in the middle of nowhere without tools, could you fix a broken derailleur, repair a flat tire, reconnect a broken chain? It sounded like a great idea for an article — tips that could be QUITE useful in an emergency.

After some research, though, we found very little to go on…

Take a broken or damaged derailleur — while it might be possible to “massage” a bent cage or hanger back into place without tools, what about if the derailleur is completely trashed, or you snap a cable out in the wilds? If you had a screwdriver, you could turn the high/low adjustment screws enough to force the derailleur to stay in one place, resulting in a rideable (if not exactly comfortable) singlespeed configuration that could get you back to civilization. Without a screwdriver or knife blade to turn those screws, though, you’re dead in the water…

Same with a broken chain — without SOME kind of tool, connecting a broken chain is virtually impossible. You must have a way to punch out the pins in the chain to remove a mangled section or to get the chain ready to lash together with a piece of wire. Back in the old days, before I had amassed a large collection of bicycle tools, my friends and I would use a finishing nail and a hammer to drive the pins in and out. In a pinch, I suppose you could use a nail or similar sharp piece of metal and a fist-sized rock to pound in a pin and bind the two broken ends of the chain with a piece of wire looped through the links’ pin holes. But, this qualifies as still needing tools. Strike two for our great idea!

I did manage to find a couple tool-less wheel and tire repair tricks, though. Master tinkerer, expert ratrod builder and funny guy Gerry Lauzon of Montreal has a nice tutorial on fixing a taco-ed rim on his blog.

Another trick (one which I hope to never have to try) is one I saw in Barbara Savage’s excellent Miles From Nowhere: A Round the World Bicycle Adventure…at least that’s where I think I remember seeing it! Anyway, she got a flat tire out in the wilds somewhere, and she wound up stuffing clothing into the tire to replace the tube. That made the bike rideable enough that she could keep going until she reached a place where she could properly fix her tube.

Finally, a lot of people know that gashes in a tire’s sidewall can be repaired temporarily (or even permanently) by a piece or two of duct tape. Did you know that a folded dollar bill or an empty Powerbar wrapper also work excellently as emergency tire boots?

I guess the moral of this story is don’t travel without tools. At minimum, carry a patch kit and tire levers, a pump, a small screwdriver and a set of hex keys. There are plenty of multitools on the market that have all the tools you might need (including chain tools on several models) to facilitate an emergency roadside repair. If you insist on traveling light and don’t want to carry any tools, at least bring a cellphone with you so you can call for help when (not if) you get stranded.

And, if any of you have had to “MacGyver” any emergency repairs, we’d love to hear about ’em. Leave those stories and tips in the comment section below.

The Secret Lab, West Coast Division were at it again in building a new project that is not only practical, but pretty cool.

I’ve seen photos of people carrying their bikes on their Xtracycles. In fact you can even by a kit from them called the Tray Bien for about $99. But I wanted to make my own for super cheap.

Since I had and old Thule fork mounted tray that I wasn’t using, I decided to put it into service by recruiting it for this project.

First step was to get some pipes. I had some extra 20mm copper and steel pipes laying around in the lab. I inserted those pipes into the holes where I could usually fit my footsies in the front and the other hole in the back.

I then secured those pipes with some screws to prevent them from sliding out or rotating.

Once all that stuff is done, I just tighten the tray mounts and placed my Redline 925 and used the straps from the Freeloaders to secure it.

You’re probably wondering why anyone would carry their bike on a bike. Basically its an alternative way to transport your bike from one place to another. It’s better to do it this way than it is to drive your car around with your bike on the rack.

Check out what my buddy Ben C. made for his commuter rig. It’s made out of PVC.

It’s wide enough for a brief case, back pack or a pizza box.

It’s strong enough where his 10 year old son rode on the back of it.

If you want the plans for this bad boy, just email Ben directly HERE