Ask Nick: Stretching tubulars, lawyer tabs

Also: Squeaky rotors

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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.
I have a question about stretching tubulars. I only have one set of tubular wheels, and I like to have some new, pre-stretched tubulars available when I need them.  I’m trying to minimize the down-time associated with changing out tires, so do you see any problem in stretching new tubular tires on some old clincher rims that I have lying around? Just want to make sure this method won’t damage the base tape.
— Ned

Go for it. I’ve certainly done it. Just be careful putting them on the rims. I would also recommend using a rim strip. That will protect your basetape from the rough edges of the spoke nipple holes in the rim bed.

If you’re using bare rims and not a complete wheel, also be careful when stretching the tubulars on that you don’t break the rim. Rims without a hub and spokes don’t have much radial strength. If you’re putting Continental tubulars on them, you’ll have a tough time.

I think everyone is in agreement that lawyer tabs on forks are a nuisance.  In the past I have filed off the tabs but I’m hesitant to do this with my new Enve carbon fork.  I’m not sure if removing the tab will affect the integrity of the fork.  I can’t imagine professional teams putting up with these tabs.  They make wheel changes much slower.  Are they able to get forks without tabs or do they remove them?
— Mark

Pro teams file them off. I filed them off of my own personal Enve fork. But strictly speaking, you’re going to void your warranty if you damage the dropouts in taking off the tabs.

Jake Pantone at Enve had this to say, “The lawyer tabs on our forks are not structurally integrated to the fork legs, crown, etc. But you could damage fibers in the dropout if you aren’t careful. Enve does not condone you filing them off.”

So, tread cautiously. Take off as little material as possible with a hand file. Do NOT use a Dremel tool or other power tool. You could quickly destroy a fork with those.

I want to install a 7800 rear derailleur on my time trial bike with my Dura Ace 9 speed shifters?  Will it work?
— Rob

You’re good to go. Just bolt it on, adjust the limit screws and cable tension. Then time trial to your heart’s content.

I have a question on my new mountain bike. I know most of your experience is with road bikes, but maybe you have good ideas.

I just bought a new 2012 Specialized Epic Comp 29er with Avid disc brakes. I have had experience with other disc brakes too. My Epic’s rear disc brake has never been very reliable, without a very strong or good consistent feel to it.

They feel weak or squeak at times, even when dry. I haven’t lubed anything near them that might transfer to the rotor since it’s a new bike. The front brake on this bike feels very strong and consistent and I find myself having to use the front all the time because the rears seem too weak to stop the bike on hills and emergency stops.

I took it back to the shop where I bought it for a tune and they cleaned off the pads and rotors and it seemed a little better for a while, but is back to the same issue again. My shop also said because of the longer hose length for the rear brake, that the power of that brake lever won’t feel the same as the front.

I looked at the rear rotor while spinning it and don’t see anything out of round or warped to the naked eye and it doesn’t seem to be dragging on the pads at all either. Any thoughts?

Custom Avid Elixir 7 SL, hydraulic disc, alloy backed semi-metallic pad, 160mm HS-1 rotor
— Michael Schneider

It’s true that front and rear brakes often feel different at the lever. Some of that is due to the longer hose. When riding, part of it is also due to the front brake on any bike having more stopping power than the rear.

Most of the Avid Elixirs I’ve worked on benefit from a bleed even when new. That would be my next recommended step. With a well-executed flushing of fluids, Elixirs can feel fantastic. In the wrong hands, Elixirs can feel terrible.

Unfortunately a lot of disc brakes make noise. Recently, I’ve had to clean my pads and rotors a lot. I commute on a bike with Avid BB7s and with all the chemicals put down on the roads to keep them from freezing, my brakes squeal like a banshee. I cleaned them again just last night and they feel and sound much better.

Cleaning your rotors is a quick procedure and I would recommend you do it yourself. Search through your old t-shirts and keep a stockpile of clean rags around just for your brakes. Buy some isopropyl alcohol and wipe away. It’s best to clean the rotors with your wheels off the bike.

If I’m in a hurry, I’ll simply wipe the pads with a clean, dry rag while still in the caliper. If I have a couple extra minutes, I’ll pull them off and wipe everything more thoroughly.

So, get your brakes bled and stay on top of cleaning them. Remember that even when washing your bike, soap and degreaser can affect disc brake pads. They are very porous. Ideally you take off your brake pads before you wash the bike. Then always clean your rotors with alcohol before installing your pads.

An American in France

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