Ask Nick: Phinney’s mechanical drivetrain, reusing bearings

More on motos, podium cleanup, tubular glue and reusing sealed bearings

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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.

First, a reader’s email on how moto drivers work their way up the ranks of bike racing.

Just thought I would comment on the question in your 2 May column about race motos.  A good friend of mine, Dean Lyons, pilots a moto for photographers at TOC, U.S. Pro Nationals and other events.  Last year, he had VeloNews’ own Casey B. Gibson riding pillion at the pro race in Philly, formerly known as CoreStates.  Dean actually still bike races as a master here in North Carolina.  We’ve been racing together for years.  He got his start by being a motorcycle referee in local races and then moved up to the big NRC criteriums held in the Southeast.  When the Tour de Georgia got started, he was recruited for that and got his name known with Medalist Sports.  After that came the gig with Tour of Missouri, then the Amgen Tour of California.  He moved up through the ranks with the UCI races.  First working as a marshall, then carrying the time board and finally carrying a photographer. Understanding the race from a racer’s viewpoint has been very helpful, especially in regards to peloton dynamics and trying to stay out of the way of the racers.

It does seem like the moto pilots prefer BMW’s, especially the big dual-sports such as the R1200GS.

Kirk Port
Raleigh, N.C.

I noticed that Taylor Phinney’s pink BMC Time Machine has mechanical Dura-Ace components. I thought the advantage of using the electronic system on a TT bike was that a rider could shift from either the bar-ends or the horns. With all of the advantages and reliability of the Di2 system (and the resources of the pro BMC team), why is Phinney not using Di2?
Rob Hammerschmidt

A. Rob,
Phinney uses mechanical Dura-Ace on his time trial bike because of the way the UCI measures the shifters when it comes to his time trial position. The maximum allowable extension can be no more than 80cm (with the morphological exception for tall riders) in front of the bicycle’s bottom bracket. But where the UCI measures the end of the extension on the shifter varies.

Di2 shifters are measured at the end of the shifter and mechanical shifters are measured at the pivot of the shifter. Using the mechanical drivetrain gives Phinney a front end that is effectively several centimeters longer.

Bradley Wiggins and other tall riders also choose mechanical bar-end shifters instead of Di2 for this reason.

I’ve been watching pro cycling on TV for many years and seen a few documentaries, like the classic “Hell of the North.”  Occasionally after a stage I’ve seen a rider receive a quick rub down with a white cloth, which appears to be textured similar to those used for exfoliation.  Is this massage always performed and is it used to stimulate the muscles or flush toxins or other?  What gives?
– Corey

A. Corey,
What you’re seeing is a good ol’ fashioned sponge bath, but in public, on TV and with grungy, post-race cycling clothes on. It’s not really for therapeutic reasons. It could be argued that it’s hygienic, but it’s really to get the riders looking decent before they attempt to kiss a podium girl (really the soigneur should be brushing the rider’s teeth…).

Notice that it’s usually the stage winner or the leader of a classification that’s receiving the wipe-down treatment. They’ll soon be in front of television cameras for a podium presentation. Gotta keep the sponsors happy by looking the part of a clean-cut victor!

I used to always train and race using singles, but now find the glues are not as good as they used to be. Some years ago I used Clement Glue (no longer available). This red glue was very easy to apply. In my younger days of racing we didn’t have cars following with spares and we could rip off a single pretty quickly, install a new one, pump it up and chase back on. I’m curious what brand of glue you now use.

I use Vittoria Mastik One glue for all the tubulars I install. Chip Howat has performed several studies at the University of Kansas on the adhesion of various tubular glues and he recommends Vittoria.

In his studies, both on aluminum and carbon rims, Howat used Clement Red and there were experienced some interesting results. It performed surprisingly well on carbon rims, but dismally on aluminum rims. Mastik One, however, outperformed it in all aspects. Because it’s readily available and the best, the decision is simple.

That’s not to say that it’s easy to peel off a tire after it’s properly glued onto a rim. It should be difficult to remove and I would argue that the tires you were riding in the past may have been unsafe (by my standards).

Is there a recommendation against reinstalling ceramic bearings into a newer set of wheels? My LBS installed ceramic bearings in ’04 Ksyrium SL’s. I inquired about removing the bearings for installation into a newer pair of SL’s. The bearings are compatible with the newer model wheels. The shop owner said it was not advisable to bearing swap.

The ceramic bearings have approximately 7,000 road miles. My ’04 SL’s roll extremely well, but they need to be respoked.

What is your take? Are there legitimate reasons not to reinstall ceramic bearings into a newer wheelset? It would be great to extend their life in a new wheelset.
— James

It’s pretty common for a sealed, cartridge bearing to be damaged when it is removed from a hub. Because of that damage, reinstalling them isn’t really accomplishing much.

But, with proper tools, many bearings can be removed without harm and reused. I reached out to Cory Caldwell at Enduro Bearings with your question. Here’s what he had to say:

“As far as reinstalling bearings, here is the ‘Enduro Take.’

Cartridge bearings can be pulled in and out of a hub, BB, headset or suspension pivot several times if done with the proper tools. Using the wrong tools (most often a hammer and a punch) will most often damage the bearing and require you to replace it. If you use a press tool, or a blind hole puller, the bearing will be pulled evenly and allow you to reuse the bearing. Similarly, installing a bearing with a hammer will often chip over or deform the bearing and cause it to not spin smoothly.  We recommend using a press tool to insure that the bearing is only being pressed on the outer race. Here is a quick video that shows how to replace the bearings in a hub set.

Once the bearings are out of the frame they can be repacked very easily by carefully prying the seals off from inside. You can then spray them with a cleaning solution and repack them with grease.

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