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Saturday, November 2, 2013

How to Fix a Slipping Chain and Gears

Tools You Will Need

Bike stand
Chain tool
Small screwdriver

One of the most important things to maintain on your bicycle is the drivetrain. This includes the shifters, chain, front and rear derailleur, the cassette and crankset. They all work together. Several of these parts can be responsible for slipping gears, making it important to perform regular maintenance of you bicycle. A well maintained bicycle increases the safety and enjoyment of your ride and decreases the chances of getting a gear stuck, jammed, or the chain slipping right off the gear cassette.

How to Fix a Slipping Chain and Gears

Step 1

Place your bike in a bicycle stand. This will allow you to clearly access all the parts and spin the pedals to see how the drivetrain is performing. If you do not have a bicycle stand, put the bicycle upside down and rest it on the seat and handlebars.

Step 2

Look over the chain for excess wear or bent links. Using a chain tool, slip each of its ends through the links of your chain and check your chain against its wear indicators. If the chain is worn out, replace it. Don't bother trying to fit it, once a chain is worn out it is no longer good for using on a bicycle. If a link is bent, either replace the link or the entire chain.

Step 3

Check your gear sprockets. The sprockets are under pressure from the chain, especially when climbing. If any of the edges are no longer rounded at the ends and instead resemble a shark's tooth, it's time to replace the cassette because it's probably causing your chain to slip.

Step 4

Examine your rear derailleur. If the chain and sprockets are fine, chances are this ghost shifting is caused by either a bent derailleur hanger or the derailleur is out of alignment physically. This is common, especially as new cable stretches, often causing the derailleur to shift incorrectly.

Step 5

Inspect the derailleur hanger from the rear. The pulleys should line up. If they appear out of alignment, the derailleur hanger is likely to blame for your poor shifting. This is a cheap and easy part to replace, but change it as soon as possible to decrease the chances of it breaking off or flying into your spokes.

Step 6

Adjust the limit screws on the derailleur with a screwdriver. If the hanger looks straight, adjusting the screws is the next logical diagnostic tool. There is a high- and low-limit screw on the derailleur as well as a tension-adjustment screw. These are marked by an "L," a "B" and an "H." These screws set the parameters on where the derailer can move.

Step 7

Adjust the B screw until the pulley is rubbing against the largest sprocket. When it is adjusted to just clear the chain, tighten the screw.

Step 8

Turn to the H-limit screw. First, relieve any pressure on the cable by loosening the cable adjuster. Examine how the chain is riding on the smallest sprocket. If it's rubbing on the next gear, loosen it until it's centered. If it appears to be moving toward the axle, tighten the screw. Readjust the cable tension and see if this solves the problem.

Step 9

Shift down to your lowest gear and check the L-limit screw if you are still experiencing problems. If the chain is pulling toward the axle as it rides on the sprocket, tighten the screw clockwise until it is lined up underneath. If the opposite is happening and the chain is pulling down, loosen the screw. Before riding, run through all the gears to ensure the derailleur will not shift into the axle.

Tada! You're done!

Keep on riding!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

12 Step Derailleur Tuning

Want to learn how to adjust and fix your derailleurs? Here is the 12 step program as set forth by Jerzy "Smokey" Dymny of the Quadra Bike School.

1. Rear derailleur. Shift to high gear (small ring) and disconnect DR cable. (If DR has a reverse-rise spring the DR travels in opposite direction when released. In that case reverse these instructions for high and low cogs.)

2. Set high limit screw. Chain must travel smoothly on smallest cog but not go past it.

3. Check the complete cable path and reconnect rear derailleur cable.

4. To tune rear shifting, shift chain to middle chainring in front & tighten rear barrel adjuster until each shift click produces one clean downshift in the rear.

5. Adjust the low limit screw to let the chain reach large (low) cog but not shift past it. Check guide pulley spacing and adjust “B” screw to increase spacing if necessary.

6. Test up shifts. Turn barrel adjuster slightly in, if any shift is slow. Repeat till perfect.

7. Leave rear DR in low (large). Disconnect front cable. Adjust height of front derailleur 1–3mm above large ring.  Set front DR low limit screw. Tightening low limit screw pushes derailleur outward from frame.

8. Check complete cable path. Reconnect front cable.  Leave front DR in small ring. Test rear DR shifts up to second highest cog.

9. Shift front DR to middle ring. Test rear DR shifts through all gears.

10. Place Chain/String tool on smallest rear cog and largest chainring. Rotate front cage to match the cage engagement gap to the string angle.

11. Shift to the large ring. Set high limit screw. Test rear shifting to second lowest cog.

12. Check that front derailleur shifts through whole range & downshifts quickly.

© 2012, Quadra Bike School

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Why Bicycle Mechanics are not licensed and so underpaid...

For a combination of complicated legal and political reasons bicycle mechanics don't have licenses, certificates are basically just bogus, and bicycle mechanics are ridiculously underpaid.

It comes down to this...

You can make more money PER HOUR if you operate your own backyard or garage bike repair shop. Or better yet, open a bicycle repair shop and you are the OWNER. The reason is because if you work for someone else's bicycle repair shop then you will be making minimum wage - or barely above minimum wage.

As a career therefore I actually discourage people from becoming a bicycle mechanic unless they are ABSOLUTELY SERIOUS about it. Otherwise it will just be a lark or a hobby for them.

There are a variety of schools where a person can go become a bicycle mechanic (the one I recommend is the Quadra Island Bicycle Mechanic School), but when it comes to getting a job all the bike shops want is experience. They don't care if you have a certificate, an apprenticeship or whatever. They just want people with lots of experience that they don't need to train.

And even if you do have lots of experience, many shops won't look at you because they might think you are "too young" to be that experienced as it says on your resume.

Or they might just not like you for whatever reason. They might even have a store policy against hiring new mechanics because the mechanics they've hired in the past so often turn out to be duds.

I also want to note that once people get into the business, and get experience, many bicycle mechanics will often jump ship from store to store in an effort to get better pay, better hours, more likeable co-workers, nicer boss, etc. They might even leave the bicycle mechanic field entirely to become a bicycle courier or get - egad - an office job or something in construction / manufacturing.

Lets take Ontario as an example. Ontario has a Bicycle Mechanic Apprenticeship Program ... and it is basically a legal and political failure that looks good on paper but hasn't resulted in any actual "apprenticeships" of bicycle mechanics.

Between March 2013 and April 2013 the Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities made a Training Agreement with 113 Bicycle Mechanic Apprentices in Ontario and provided a 30 page Schedule of Training. However, now the apprenticeship is under pressure. The program is going to be de-listed because of those 113 proposed apprenticeships how many have led to people actually becoming an apprentice?


A lot of work went into the creation of this program. A lot of bureaucracy. But so much bureaucracy happened and no actual ball (wheel?) was rolled into place to get the apprentices into place.

Basically they made a program, signed it, and then just let it sit there on paper. That is all it is. A worthless document.

Why? Because they failed to amend a second document and then funnel money and effort into the program. The initiative was made on one piece of paper, but the second was never amended and carried out.

Here's the details...

The trade of Bicycle Mechanic was designated as a new apprenticeship program under the Apprenticeship and Certification Act, 1998 (ACA) back in 2012. However, the trade is yet to be prescribed / named under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009. Basically the 2009 document needs to be amended before the 2012 document can be put into practice.

When the 2009 Act came into effect on April 8th, 2013, the previous apprenticeship legislation and regulations governing apprenticeship programs, including the ACA, were revoked because the 2009 document was never amended to include the ACA document changes.

Before the Ministry can name the trade of "bicycle mechanic" in a regulation under the Act, a 45-day consultation period with industry and training stakeholders will be required to confirm support for Bicycle Mechanic to be named as a trade under the Act - however if members of the bicycle mechanic trade don't speak up and voice their concern within 45 days, nothing will happen, the 2012 document will be throw into the proverbial garbage.

Bureaucratic jibber jabber.

And even if support is confirmed the following events will also need to occur:

The trade will need to be named in Ontario Regulation 175/11 (Prescribed Trades and Related Matters), which means that regulation also needs to be amended;

The College will need to develop the scopes of practice in regulation (O. Reg. 278/11 – Scope of Practice - Trades in the Service Sector), which means that regulation also needs to be amended;

And lastly...

The College of Trades Board of Governors will need to establish a panel review to determine compulsory or voluntary designation. Which if they don't bother or don't feel like it, it will never happen.

As of April 8, 2013 and until all these events occur, no new apprenticeship training agreements can be registered for the trade of Bicycle Mechanic.

Active training agreements (of which there are zero) with existing apprentices will continue to be honoured. Which is funny because there isn't any. They (a sum of zero) will continue to be registered apprentices with the Ministry until such time as the trade is designated or not. Please note these apprentices (all zero of them) cannot be members of the Ontario College of Trades until the trade is named under the Act.

Which is probably never going to happen.

The start of the 45 day consultation period hasn't started yet. So the program hasn't been cancelled yet per se... but it does appear to be on hold indefinitely and is potentially going to be scrapped, mostly because the bureaucracy has grinded to a stop.

In theory people could contact the Ministry of Training and encourage them to continue with the program, but without a decent amount of public support the program will likely be scrapped because of the government's present cost cutting mood.

A decision on whether the program will live or die should come about in September. Unless it falls to the side thanks to bureaucratic incompetence.

Apprentices (all zero of them) who wish to cancel their registered training agreement may request a full refund of the $40 registration fee by contacting their local apprenticeship office. A complete list of apprenticeship offices is available on the ministry web site at

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How to Wrap Road Bike Handlebars

I have posted on the topic of How to Wrap Bicycle Handlebars before. Twas a YouTube post before too.

However you may recall I only gave that video 4.5 stars out of 5.

I think I have found a 5 star video on the topic, a two-parter. Both parts of the video are shown below.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Should Toronto have elevated bicycles lanes?

Should Toronto have elevated bicycles lanes?

Post your comments below and let everyone know what you think of this Utopian idea of building elevated bicycles lanes across Toronto. See the photo and map below if you are unfamiliar with the concept.

Toronto Architect Chris Hardwicke wants to build something pretty futuristic. He proposes "a high speed, all season, pollution free, ultra-quite transit system that makes people healthier. Using an infrastructure of elevated cycle tracks, velo-city creates a network across the City. "

His Velo-City idea, although novel, is largely unrealistic. I can still admire it however and daydream about it. The kind of spending required to even start a pilot project like that however should really be going towards subway expansion instead.

Below: Chris Hardwicke's map of where he would build elevated bicycle lanes.

Or you know, we could just improve the quality and number of existing bicycle lanes. Much more feasible. (Although not so much under our current crack-smoking temper-tantrum wife-beating mayor Rob Ford.)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Slightly Oval Chainring - Look for better quality!


Hi Charles,

I own a good quality fixed gear bike. Nonetheless, is it normal for there to be tight and loose spots on the chain. When the crank side arm is facing front, the chain is at it's tightest. Turn 180 and it is loose. It is not so loose that it will come off the chain ring. For a Campagnolo crank I was expecting higher tolerances. I have read that tight and loose spots are to be expected on a fixed gear bike. I would like a second opinion. What is yours in this matter. Thank you



Hello Andre!

It is the result of lower quality chainrings and cranksets that are more oval shaped instead of perfect circles. It is only off by a mm or so, but its enough to be annoying. (With bicycles, being off by even 0.5 of a mm is often a big deal.)

If it bothers you then you can purchase higher quality parts that are more perfectly round.

Make sure you mounted the ring properly. Try removing the chain ring and remounting it slowly by tightening the bolts, every 2nd one in a star pattern, so they are evenly tightened. Tightening all the way on one side and going around can warp the aluminum ring. Let me know if this works and helps you. :)

The companies that are making such shoddy parts are the ones who like to spread the claim that such imperfections are "normal". Yes, imperfections do happen. Its the result of a faulty manufacturing process that results in a percentage of chainrings being slightly oval shaped.

Even better quality companies sometimes have this problem, but their quality control should be ensuring that the chainring is as close to perfectly circle as they can make it. And anything less than quality should be tossed and recycled.

But claiming that such imperfections should just be "accepted" as normal is misinformation on their part.

Charles Moffat
The Bicycle Mechanic

PS. I do agree, I would expect better quality from a Campagnolo chainring. If I was the manufacturer I would be apologizing and offering to send you a new one.


Hi Charles,
I just finished putting my bike back together. I followed your directions and found there to be much less play on the loose side. Much better!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sylvester and Arnold Bicycling

I just thought this photo of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger on bicycles amusing.


What is even more amusing is how they both chose black bicycles (trying to fit in and look badass eh?) and are wearing roughly the same things. White running shoes, blue shorts, watches, black sunglasses.

I wonder who would win in a bicycle race?

(Note: Robin Williams would probably beat them both in a bicycle race. Robin Williams is pretty serious about his cycling. See the photo further below.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bicycles and Bike Parts prices to go up

The Conservative government of Canada and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are raising taxes (tariffs) on bicycles and bicycle parts being imported to Canada.

Canada annually imports $125 million in bicycles from the 72 countries covered by the increase.

The Conservatives are raising tariffs to 13 per cent from 8.5 per cent, which will result in a price increase of roughly 4.5%.

The tariff tax increase is part of a larger plan by the Conservatives whereby imports from 72 countries will be increased.

In 2012 Finance Minister Jim Flaherty trumpeted the benefits of his budget in October 2012 by announcing various budget measures in a bicycle shop, the Joe Mamma bike store in Ottawa. This year Jose Bray, owner of the Joe Mamma bike store, says he feels misled by Flaherty.

In October 2012 Flaherty declared that he would not raise taxes and would give small businesses a tax credit.

But instead Flaherty has increased taxes, by way of new tariffs that he says will increase prices for a number of consumer products, including bicycles.

Pensioners and Native Canadians are also getting the proverbial shaft with the new budget.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Atomic 22 Nuts

Atomic 22 Nuts is a solution for people who are worried about having their back or front wheels stolen off their bicycle.

What are they?

Basically, they are weirdest looking pair of nuts you've ever seen (pun intended).

The idea is simple. If the bicycle thief doesn't have a wrench that can take off the nut, he really can't steal your wheels on you. Thus you really don't need the extra D-lock for your bicycle.

However these nuts and other parts are pretty expensive and are usually sold in bundled sets. But hey, if its expensive then the bicycle thieves won't have them. See the prices at

Learn more by visiting

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bicycle Mechanic Apprentice

"Hi Charles,
I tried to post to 'The Bicycle News' but was unsuccessful. I wanted to pass on some news for March 2013.
 I have just signed a training agreement with the Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities to be a bicycle mechanic apprentice. They in  turn gave me a 31 page training and curriculum schedule for bicycle mechanics. I am to complete 2000 hours of on the job training followed by 250 hours of class room time. In six to eight weeks they will send an 'Apprentice ID Card'. The fee for filing the form was $40.00. I am also a recent graduate of the Winterborne School in Guelph. To my knowledge I am the first and the only official bicycle mechanic apprentice in Ontario and Canada. You may want to pass this most current information  on to your readership.
My name is Roy Berger.
Keep on wrenchiing. Cheers. Roy
March 27th 2013"
Well congrats Roy!

I wish you luck in your new career as a bicycle mechanic.
I hear Gears Bike Shop is always hiring new mechanics. If they have a shop in your area I recommend checking them out and asking for work.

My personal recommendation for people is the Quadra Bicycle Mechanic School in B.C.

And failing that, there is also Winterbourne and of course the Barnett Bicycle Institute. They all offer training programs, certificates and fancy names to go with their course.

I myself got a BTAC Certification from the old BAM program back when they were training bicycle mechanics under Smokey Dymny. That was a big deal back then because it was BTAC passing out the certifications.

However as you may have learned, being a certified bicycle mechanic doesn't mean squat if the local bicycle shop won't take the risk of hiring you. They all want to hire experience mechanics with years of experience - but they never bother to take on new mechanics because they don't want to be bothered with training them.
Or retraining them as the case often is, because each bike shop likes their own way of doing things - which results often in shoddy mechanics doing sloppy work because they are rushing the job of fixing a client's bicycle.

And as many bicycle mechanics who are older will also tell you, being a bicycle mechanic is often about loving what you do. You just love fixing things, and you love bicycles. The pay is horrible, but you're happy because you are doing what you love.

Monday, March 18, 2013

London Police criminalize Critical Mass

Over in merry ol' England the police have decided to criminalize bicyclists who gather for monthly "Critical Mass" meetings. Read more below.

The trial of the nine cyclists prosecuted after last July's Critical Mass ride ended last Friday, with five found guilty after a trial that dragged on for 10 days over a three-week period.

The sentences handed down were relatively minor – most of the defendants received nine-month conditional discharges and were required to pay £300 costs – and the rate of successful prosecution is low considering 182 were initially arrested on the opening night of the Olympic Games.

But the fact remains that the Metropolitan police apparently found a group of cyclists such a threat that they effectively criminalised riding a bicycle north of the river Thames for the night. What is believed to be one of the biggest mass arrests in recent history targeted a peaceful group deemed dangerous solely because they gathered to ride together in large numbers.

The Met chose to heavily police the ride on the basis that they considered it to threaten "serious disruption" to the community and the successful prosecutions were for breaches of an order made under section 12 of the Public Order Act. Despite 18 years of experience of dealing with Critical Mass, the in-depth knowledge that presumably must have come with trying to ban it in 2005 and plenty of advance reconnaissance from the infamous forward intelligence teams, the Metropolitan police singularly failed to demonstrate any understanding of the ride's dynamic.

The policing of the ride was farcical, with the rolling roadblocks at most of the major Thames crossings in central London causing far more disruption to traffic than Critical Mass could ever have hoped to, even if that had been the intention. Given that Critical Mass has been happening on a monthly basis in London since 1995, the Met had five years to consider how to deal with the ride on the night – and mishandled it in a spectacular fashion.

Either we have to work on the assumption that a sophisticated police force completely fails to understand the leaderless consensual model Critical Mass follows, or we are forced to accept the much more unpleasant possibility that they understand very well what Critical Mass is and what it represents and chose to act in such a way that allowed them to criminalise recreational cyclists. It appears to me that the Met is keen to frame the ride as a protest; their own report on the incident describes the ride in these terms, and they have had some level of success in selling this representation to the media.

While this suspicion directed towards public gatherings, and the imposition of the section 12 order that it resulted in, undoubtedly represents an affront to the right to free assembly and free association, the most worrying aspect of the policing of the ride on the night was that it was directed towards an explicitly apolitical social event. Not only must protests be constrained, but any large public gathering is de facto considered a protest.

The police report contains various other inaccuracies; to suggest that "the procession usually attracts approximately 100 cyclists" and that the July ride was exceptionally large is ridiculous – as the Met is well aware, the ride regularly attracts up to 1,000 cyclists during the summer months and has been doing so for years. Playing up to Olympic exceptionalism should have been beneath our police force.

The legality of Critical Mass in London depends on being a "public procession" which is "commonly or customarily held", and since their defeat in the House of Lords in 2008, the Met should know better than anyone else that Critical Mass is not a protest and should not be policed as such. In fact, it is not unreasonable to suggest that it is in the interest of the Met to radicalise the ride; if, as has been suggested, this month's meet-up explicitly protests the guilty verdict, it plays into a vicious spiral of reactionary policing and protest that might eventually allow them to get the ban they failed to secure five years ago.

Unfortunately, this official disposition towards cycling is not limited to the Metropolitan police's overreaction to a monthly fun ride around London. The Met's attitude towards Critical Mass represents in microcosm the profound disinterest in engaging with cycling that permeates all of our public institutions.

It is readily apparent that they did not consider it to be in their interest to engage with cyclists on their own terms. Similarly, the lip service paid towards the development of a proper cycling infrastructure in this country demonstrates that our public bodies readily grasp the PR value of claiming to be bike friendly but have no real interest in following through and promoting schemes that have any significant benefit to cyclists. The £62m set aside by government for the development of bike infrastructure borders on the insulting when the figure is contextualised; as critics have pointed out, it's a sum equal to the cost of building a mere two miles of motorway.

While five relatively minor non-custodial sentences for the unfortunate few that the Met decide to prosecute may not seem like a big deal in itself – the complete lack of any mainstream media coverage of the trial is testament to the fact that it is not deemed to be of interest to the general public – the precedent that it sets and the attitudes that it reveals make this a deeply worrying outcome.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Beeyond a Bike

The girl in this video was trained by the same bicycle mechanic as I was.

To learn more about her Beeyond a Bike program visit

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hub City Cycles is Hiring

Hub City Cycles Community Co-op in Nanaimo is currently looking to hire someone as a Bicycle Mechanic in the spring of 2013. Possibly more than 1 person.

Preferably someone who has some experience working in a bike shop as a mechanic and even more preferably someone who has graduated from a bike mechanic training institute such as the Quadra Bike School. If you had some experience teaching (people how to fix their own bikes) that would also be great. All of this is on their wish list and would be great to have, but not essential.
If interested visit to learn more.

Bicycles as Art

Making art out of bicycles is nothing new for bicycle mechanics - but it can be very interesting. Here are some images of bicycle art I've collected.


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Looking for a bicycle mechanic school in Canada? The Quadra Island Bike School in British Columbia is a Canadian bicycle mechanic school that trains professional bicycle mechanics against the backdrop of the beautiful Quadra Island.

About the Author

Charles Moffat is equal parts bicycle mechanic, cyclist, painter, sculptor, fantasy writer, poet, website designer and pun maker. For more details see



Do you own a bike shop and are looking to hire a bicycle mechanic in North America? Just email me with the job posting details and I will post it for you. (Also, please let me know when the job has been filled so I can update the posting.)


If your bicycle is basically junk and you don't know what to do with it then SELL IT TO ME. I will use it for parts. I will give you a fair price ($20 to $30) for your old clunker just so I can rip it apart for parts.

If you need repairs check out my Bicycle Mechanic Services in Banbury-Don Mills.