Ask NicK: Cleat lube, dream wheels, fixie conversions and more.

Cleat lube, dream wheels, fixie conversions and more.

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Editor’s Note: VeloNews tech editor Nick Legan is a former ProTour mechanic who most recently wrenched for Team RadioShack at the 2010 Tour de France and elsewhere. His column appears here every Thursday. You can submit questions to Nick at, and be sure to check out Nick’s previous columns.

Mr. Legan's shoes. Photo: Nick Legan © VeloNews

Q. Nick,
In the photos of the D2 shoes article I noticed your cleats have a substance in the bed of the cleat. What is this? It looks like wax. I’ve used Zeros for about seven years and always had the issue of a slight squeak from the contact point. Do you know of a secret substance?
— Rodney Sneep

A. Rodney,
Speedplay cleats require maintenance, just like your drivetrain. Squeaking can occur and man it drives me nuts! Over the years I’ve played with different lubes on my Zero cleats. WD-40 does a good job of cleaning them out. A Teflon spray works well in keeping them working freely. Now I use Speedplay’s own SP-Lube and I’ve been really happy with the results.

But make sure you perform both the cleaning and the lubing of your cleats. Otherwise you’re cramming them full of lube that gets dirty and can jam the engagement spring.

Q. Nick,
I am currently in the planning stages of building my dream bike for commuting, touring, cyclocross/multi-surface riding. I have selected a Lynskey Cooper CX frame and will be running Shimano 105 with a compact crank, Avid BB 7 disc brakes. My question though is regarding my tire and wheel choices.

For everyday commuting I would probably want a 28mm-wide road slick, but for cyclocross or long unpaved trail riding, would like 32mm-38mm. I already know I want a rim that accepts the wider widths nicely. That is, most current 700c rims already create a rather tall and narrow profile to tires, and I’m convinced a wider than normal road rim is the way to go.

This brings me to my next point: A mechanic has suggested I use a 29er rim as it will accept a 700c tire. However, he stressed that while the diameter of 29’ers and 700c road rims is the same, it is the width that varies. He was not sure I could run a tire as narrow as 28mm on a 29er rim but I’m not convinced I will get the proper ride quality out of a 35mm tire on a 700c rim. Do you see my dilemma? Furthermore the wheelset needs to be for disc brakes.

So it boils down to this: First, are 29er’s and 700c rims really the same diameter just with different widths? Secondly, am I looking at a width of tire too wide for most road rims but too narrow for most XC rims?

I am of course aware most cyclocross wheelsets are just road wheelsets. I currently have EA70’s with Maxis Raze tires. I just feel the rim profile is too narrow to do justice to wider tires. I should add that I’m currently leaning toward the Easton EA90 XC 29″ wheels if they are compatible with 700×28 tires.

What do you think? What are my options?
— Pete Garde

You’re entering a strange, wonderful world of choices, compatibility and most importantly, fun!

Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter. Yes, 29er and 700C rims are the same diameter at the hook of the rim. Rim width and rim bed depth though can make mounting narrow road tires on a 29er rim very difficult.

When I received your question I went to my shop and tried mounting some 28mm road tires on several of the 29er wheels I have. It was never an easy task to get the tire properly seated (both tubeless and with a tube) and impossible on some of the widest rims.

To be honest, if the widest tire you’ll be running is 38mm, I don’t think you need a full 29er rim. That said there are plenty of road rims that are wider than your current Easton rims, which are some of the narrowest rims currently in production.

Salsa’s Delgado Cross is the first rim that comes to my mind. It’s 22.5mm wide. It isn’t designed for tubeless systems though. HED has also made its Ardennes rims available.

Your best bet will be building a set of custom wheels. And I would recommend a couple sets of wheels when you can afford it. Just make sure to use the same brand of hubs for both. That will keep your shifting and brake adjustments to a minimum. Put narrower rims on your commuter set and wider ones for off-road use.

I know this magazine primarily caters to racers, but you are the only mechanic I know who isn’t trying to sell me something or brag about how much you know. So I’m going to ask about converting a 1980 10-speed to a fixed gear.

Can I use the existing 52-tooth chainring for my conversion? Or do I need to get a whole new chainring/BB/crank to compensate for the new chain line? Or am I just all confused about the whole process?
— Dave Hiller

I hate to give you less than a definitive answer, but I can’t in this case. It’s very possible that you may be able to use your current crank, bottom bracket and chainring. It’s also unlikely you’ll have to change all of them.

Road double and track chainlines are pretty close (43.5 and 42mm respectively) and you can adjust that with chainring spacers and bottom bracket spindle length.

The rear spacing on your frame is likely to be 126mm. If you use a rear track hub (120mm spacing) you can either pinch the frame or swap the axle and space it out three millimeters on both sides. Using your current wheel may also be possible but you’ll have to do some tinkering to find out.

I would recommend reading Sheldon Brown’s site. He was a big fixed-gear proponent and has lots of tricks on how to build one on the cheap. Here’s a link to his chainline page.

But, you shouldn’t have to spend much money to make your fixie dreams come true.

Q. Nick,
I have a question about SRAM road shifter set up. It’s not technical, but a question of ergonomics.

I am under the impression that SRAM designed their hoods to be turned in about 5-10 degrees for improved ergonomics, yet I see countless bikes coming out of shops with the inside surface of the hood perfectly parallel to the drop, like a Campy or Shimano hood should be setup. While it may feel OK in the hand, the brake lever pulls across the bar and usually into it, limiting lever travel. I took a look at the install guide on SRAM’s site and while this is addressed in one of the drawings, it isn’t directly called out.

I can’t figure out why SRAM doesn’t promote this enhancement more and I feel like shops are not servicing the product by not setting it up optimally. I know it could be a setup preference, but bikes on the floor should be set up properly and tweaked from there.

So my question is, do the SRAM sponsored pros run their shifters rotated in (compared to Shimano or Campy) according to their design? Where do you stand on the setup of these shifters and is this a lost feature?
— Ryan Cate

As you point out, shifter rotation is a personal preference. There are some pros that do rotate their Double Tap shifters inward. But most run them pretty straight forward. There are also several pros that run their Campy or Shimano shifters rotated inward.

I think more important than initial setup on the showroom floor is the education that a shop’s sales staff can impart to customers. There is no right or wrong when it comes to many things in life.

When you state that Campy and Shimano hoods should be straight, you’re limiting them. If a rider is more comfortable with them angled out, or inward, let them ride that way. Running SRAM shifters canted inward is only an enhancement if the customer likes it that way. Otherwise, it could be a real drawback.

Try not to think in black and white or right and wrong, and cycling, as well as life, will be much more interesting. Great question. Thanks for sending it Ryan.

— Nick

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