Ask Nick: Intimate tech questions are as personal as asking boxers or briefs

Technical editor Nick Legan discusses boxers or briefs, pro bike building, 8-speed cassettes and wet ride maintenance

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

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.

Is the tape that is placed on road brakes intended to be removed during the initial bike build, or after brake installation? I think it is a shipping aid and should be removed, but, surprisingly, there is some disagreement among my peers.
— Phil

You are right, my friend. That tape is to keep the cable fixing bolt assembly from scratching the arm of your brake during shipping and storage. I take it off before I install the brake because that’s when I think it’s easiest to do so. My reasoning is that shiny metal is nicer to look at than a piece of foamy tape. Don’t worry if your buddies disagree with you. Your bike looks nicer to a fella like me.

You recently covered the tools you bring to support certain events and the thought process that got you there. I frequently travel to races and have to care for several bikes while away from my main kit. I was curious as to whether you found a case that you really love. Packing my 2-foot-long yellow construction box into a hatchback isn’t the most efficient solution.
— Andrew

That’s an intimate, highly personal question. You’re basically asking me boxers or briefs. But I’m in the business of sharing. Unfortunately, there’s no quick answer. You have to figure out how much you need. Try to avoid redundancies unless they make your work go much faster. Hopefully you won’t be rebuilding bikes, so you’ll probably only need minimal tools for adjustments and maintenance.

I’m a fan of Pelican cases. They’re pretty cheap, really burly and offered in lots of sizes. You can make your own palettes using sheets of aluminum or carbon fiber. Figure out where all your tools should be, in order of frequency of use. Then drill holes on either side of the tool and use elastic cord to keep them in place. You can make very tidy, travel-proof tool kits that serve your needs. Check out Ben’s blog post at Problem Solvers for a great visual and more words on how to build one.

Oh, and I wear boxers.

I’m running the old 8-speed Dura-Ace and want to upgrade to newer wheels. I know Shimano has some 10-speed-specific wheels, but generally can I put an 8-speed cassette on a modern 9/10-cassette body? Do I need to space it out or is the body too wide?
— John

You’ll be just fine. Shimano 8-speed cassette bodies are the same width as Shimano 10-speed cassette bodies. You won’t even need a spacer. Just make sure you don’t buy Shimano’s Dura-Ace hubs with aluminum freehub bodies, made from 2004 to 2007. Those only work with Shimano 10-speed cassettes. If you wait for a bit before buying new wheels, know that Shimano’s new 11-speed cassette hubs will also work with your 8-, 9- and 10-speed cassettes, but will require a spacer. Enjoy!

I raced a duathlon this weekend in the pouring rain. It was miserable, but I finished. I was dead after the race and didn’t get a chance to do any post-ride maintenance on my bike. The next day when I was going out for a recovery ride, I stood my bike up on its rear wheel and water came out of the (carbon) frame (I have holes at the rear-end of the chainstays). I know that I should clean and re-lube my chain and pivots after a rainy ride, but what other maintenance should I do? Should I remove the bottom bracket to drain the frame or anything else?
— Phil

In the days of steel bikes it was really important to drain your frame after a wet ride, but with carbon and other non-ferrous frames it’s less important. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to look after. Water sitting in your frame is not a good thing no matter what your frame is made of. That water can ruin bearings, whether in your bottom bracket or your headset.

So, what to do? Start with a bike wash and inspection. Then pull your seatpost and invert your bike. Dump as much water out as possible. If you live in an arid climate, the water will probably evaporate if you leave it out overnight. If you’re in a humid area or you’re particularly worried, it’s worth pulling your crank, bottom bracket and fork. Dry everything out, re-grease and re-install everything.

Your cables can probably use some lube too. A light oil at all the access points and cable guides (like under your bottom bracket) works well. I would also check your brake pads. They get gritty after a wet ride. Best to clean them with a pick and some sandpaper. Lastly, inspect your tires. It’s always good to catch a piece of glass or stone before it can get to your tubes.

Trending on Velo

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.