Archive for July, 2014

ToolTime #11 Double-Sided Bottom Bracket Lockring Hook Spanner

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014



How’s that for a name? That’s a mouthful!! This week we are going to talk about that exciting tool that does more exciting things than you can imagine!

You also might be wondering what happened to Tool Time last week. We admit, we let the ball drop. It was supposed to be on Crank Pullers, but honestly, Sheldon Brown has so much more to say than we do (see here also). Even though that is an article from the 1980s, we can neatly summarize bottom bracket interface development since then: lighter, stiffer, more proprietary or weird tools. Great article here. There really was no need for innovation beyond square taper, but you know racers and R&D folk…. So what does this have to do with the awesome Double-Sided Bottom Bracket Lockring Hook Spanner? Well, have a look at the tool below:

Can you imagine this as a really obscure hipster moustache?

This is the tool.

This is a specifically Park Tool tool, known as the HCW-5. It has two sides, for different bottom bracket interfaces. So while crank pullers just, well, pulled off cranks, this tool is how bottom brackets themselves are removed! (Or at least beginning the process)


So what this tool actually does is not remove or service the bottom-bracket per se, rather it removes the component that locks the bottom bracket down, the lockring. 

There really isn’t that much to say you know. We’ve done quite a bit of research, and nothing super interesting comes up. They’re just, well.. lockrings?

The tool itself is usually found in 3 forms. There are C-spanners, or C-wrenches that simply have the interface seen on one end of the HCW-5, (either the 3 or 1-pronged part) or you have the double-sided spanner as seen above/below. The advantage to this is space-saving in a tool kit, as it removes the need to carry around a myriad of tools. However, you do lose some leverage, as there is now reduced handle room.

We did find this cute Japanese tool that’s still in use today:

Hozan's unusually-named c-wrench

Hozan’s unusually-named c-wrench



Really, the exciting part of bottom brackets is in servicing the bottom bracket itself, not the removal of the cranks. Then you get to use stuff like pin spanners, other BB tools and adjust bearings! What fun!

To finish off this rather sparse article, below are some cool tools involved in a bottom bracket overhaul. The articles we linked above are really quite fascinating – take a read!!


Until next week! — Étienne


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Kevin’s Bicycle Couture Collection

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014


Bike Co-op Work Learn student Kevin Chan is known to have some serious bike pride.  Already a respected Vancouver cycling advocate (he was the Vice-President of the BC Cycling Coalition), he will soon be attending the University of Toronto to pursue a Master’s degree in Urban Planning, with the goal of learning how to increase cycling and other sustainable transportation modes in cities.

But enough about his credentials – let’s talk about his sense of style for a moment here.  We knew that Kevin had a lot of shirts with bikes on them.  A joking challenge was uttered by another Bike Co-op employee one afternoon about seeing how long Kevin could go only wearing shirts with bicycles on them to work.

The answer?  Two straight weeks.

The above photos are some select choices of Kevin’s exceptional taste in bicycle couture.  A few of the shirts he wore aren’t even shown in the pictures above!

However, Kevin isn’t the only style conscious cyclist here at the Bike Co-op and Bike Kitchen. Rumours are spreading that a challenger will arise in this fashion showdown to see who will hold the title of UBC’s top bike style model………….. *Oh snap*





ToolTime #10 Cone Wrenches

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014


Today we’ll be looking at a variant on the normal open-ended wrench, the cone wrench. What is the difference between the normal open-ended wrench and the cone wrench? Well, 5mm to be exact! A cone wrench is simply a thinner version of the normal wrench. Whereas a normal box or open-ended wrench is typically 7mm thick, a cone wrench is only 2-3. This allows them to adjust bicycle hub cones which need to be thin to fit within a bike frame.


To understand cone wrenches we have to understand their need…

Travel with us back to the 1860s, to the world of Jules Suriray, a bicycle mechanic in Paris who patents the idea for ball bearings in a bicycle. Load bearing and easy rolling are now wonderful features of the bicycle wheel… until it wears. Unfortunately, Monsieur Suriray did not account for adjustment, and these hand-built wheels did not take off.

10 years later, the idea of “perhaps we should lubricate these things” was introduced by an English toolmaker William Bown, who used felt soaked in lubricant to reduce friction and wear within the hubs. This idea was then co-opted by a nearby tool designer, Joseph Henry Hughes, and in 1877 he announced the adjustable ball-bearing hub! Interestingly, these were not used for bike wheels at first, rather… roller skates?

Being suave in 1910 was all about the scary contraptions you owned


British bicycle maker Daniel Rudge quickly adapted the idea and used them for his racing bikes, and thus began the use of hub adjusting tools in the bike world. In conjunction with Whitworth, the adjustable hub with its wrench-servicing spread to hubs as a common thing. Check out this cool bike from that era.

When the 1883 invention of milled ball-bearings became married with these adjustable hubs, the need for cone wrenches took off!


One would think that wrench tools would be used lots beyond the bike industry; however, cone wrenches were made specifically to accommodate the narrow space that adjustment cones allow for. Typical 7mm-thick wrenches cannot fit in this space, so mechanics had to come up with a thinner, yet robust design for adjustment.

Early Sturmey-Archer internally geared hubs already used such wrenches for hub adjustment and many companies today continue to use their own type of wrench – but locking and adjusting hubs is still common practice.


Cone wrenches tighten the cone and locknut system you find in most hubs – see the exploded diagram.

The only way to really learn to use cone wrenches is to do it over, and over, and over again, until the feel you have is correct. Too tight and you put improper pressure/contact on the bearings, too loose and your bearings will wobble all over the place and not bear the load!

So check out this video on hub adjustment,


… then once you think you know it all, check out Shimano’s new hub adjustment!!!

And really that’s about all we could find. Cone wrenches are an integral tool in bike servicing, but themselves do not have a ton of recoverable history. Let’s call it short and sweet 🙂


Until next week!

— Étienne & Cole Murphy

Back to Tool Time #1 – the list of articles!



Sheldon Brown’s Article on Cone Wrenches

Sheldon Brown’s Article on Cone Adjustment

History of bearings in bikes

Histoire générale de la vélocipédie – Louis Baudry de Saunier

“Roller skates, 1910” by Unknown – George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, Call number LOT 1146-18 [item] [P&P], reproduction number LC-USZ62-55467 (b&w film copy neg.)



Volunteer Orientation – Aug 13

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Are you looking for a new place to volunteer? We are excited to be able to expand the number of volunteer opportunities that we are able to offer. Volunteers will join the Volunteer Team, and will receive weekly volunteer announcements letting you know about programs where we need help:

  • Cycling Resource Centres
  • Outreach Events
  • Supervising drop-in volunteers
  • and more!

If you are interested in helping us out and volunteering simply fill out a short application form and we will be in touch. Our next Volunteer Orientation will take place on Wednesday August 6th 6:30-7:30.

*Members of the Volunteer Team are eligible for the Volunteer Team Rewards Program.

Are you looking for something a little less formal? Check out our weekly drop-in volunteering opportunities.



Women and Queer Night – Aug 6

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Women and Queer night takes place on the first Wednesday of every month. It’s free of charge and no registration is required. Just bring yourself, your bike (if you have one), and drop by. A light dinner will be provided, courtesy of the AMS Bike Co-op.

The aim of Women and Queer Night is to provide a safe space for anyone who identifies as female and/or LGBTQ to learn about bike mechanics, ask questions and get to know other bike-friendly folks! We want to break down the barriers sometimes felt by women and LGBTQ people in bike shops, realizing that bike shops and learning to do maintenance on one’s own bike can be intimidating.

We will have knowledgeable volunteers available to help you learn how to get your ride in tip-top shape! If you do not have a bike, no worries – we can still teach you some neat skills and answer any bike related questions you may have.

*** The Deets ****

Where: The Bike Kitchen
When: 6-9PM, August 6th
Cost: Absolutely free!
Bring: Your bicycle!

Want some more info? Read more here.



ToolTime #9 Torque Wrenches

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

tooltime09 Today we’re going to look at a tool that has existed for a long time, but only recently made its way to the bicycle. The wrench… with torque. What exactly is the purpose of such a specialised wrench you might ask? Well, certain objects and parts are designed only to operate under a certain amount of force. Consider grabbing a piece of rolled up paper. Ideally, you want to hold it such that it doesn’t lose shape, or fall out of your hand, but also make sure you don’t hold it so tightly that it crumples and you can’t use the paper. Certainly there is a tolerance for this, as you can squeeze the paper a bit, and it will return to an un-crinkled state without effort. That boundary is where torque wrenches operate.


A cat analyzes the requirement for precise application of force



The need for torque wrenches far predates the bicycle. Originally invented to help in the water-works profession, it made its way to a more reproducible form at the Chrysler company due to work by Walter Percy Chrysler and its eventual patenting master, Paul Allen Sturtevant. The type of wrench that they would have been familiar with is the beam type of torque wrench. We have one such wrench in the kitchen, and it does give a fairly accurate reading. The way this wrench works is by having two beams that are parallel to each other, connecting at the point of contact. As you apply force to the handle, one of the beams deflects/moves, while the other remains constant. The force required for a deflection can then be read by noting how far the handle-beam has moved relative to the original beam.

Beam Style Torque Wrench - Park Tool TW-1

Beam Style Torque Wrench – Park Tool TW-1

Clever eh? Here is a video published by Sturtevant Richmont that details the company’s growth from it’s origins. Here is the same video with waaaay too epic music and subtitles instead. If you watched the video, you would note that the Richmont company made two key patents in the torque wrenches most common in bike shops today. The micrometer adjustable wrench, and the click-type clutch system. “What on earth is that?” you might ask? Let’s take a look at a Pedros wrench like the one we have in the shop.

The way this style of wrench works is in two parts. First, the pre-calibrated wrench has various torque settings that can be chosen, by winding/twisting up the wrench to the desired torque setting. On the right you can see the various settings that are covered up as torque increases. That is our adjustable micrometer part. The clutch system is really quite clever. On the image on the left, you can see a black band and a bolt, around where the head of the wrench joins the shaft of the tool. This is in fact a pivot point. When the force reaches the desired torque, there is a clutch that will ‘slip’ and the head will bend, preventing proper leverage on the tool. One can continue to tighten the tool beyond this, but that would defeat the point of the wrench! There is also an audible clicking sound that happens as the clutch slips, something to listen for if you are tightening something! Pedros published their own article on the fascinating ins and outs of torque wrenches. The other two types of torque wrenches seen in the bicycle industry are preset wrenches and digital wrenches. Preset wrenches are exactly what they sound like, pre-set to a given torque for fast and easy adjustment of parts. Field mechanics will use this at races for quick bar/stem swaps, or to do other adjustment. These are best suited to small torque values, as they are often shaped like a tri-tool, and achieving the required leverage for something over 7Newton-metres can be challenging.

Bontrager Preset Torque Wrench (5Nm)

Bontrager Preset Torque Wrench (5Nm)

Digital wrenches are becoming far more common as the desire for precise, digital values increases. They are not in fact measuring torque, but rather strain on the material itself, and are strain gauges. These wrenches provide much greater accuracy (+/- 2%) but often at a significant cost, ranging from $350-$375. Most models make use of an LCD Display, while the Computorq3 (shown below) uses an audible tone that warns the user when the desired torque is neared. 


Computorq3 Digital Torque Wrench


So, are you convinced? Ready to give a torque wrench a try? Or do you think you can just ‘feel’ the difference yourself. Unbrako, the allen key company, published a neat document that highlights the inherent inaccuracy of testing torque.

“It has been estimated that between 50% and 80% of the applied torque is needed to overcome friction.”

Seriously?? That’s a huge amount of inaccuracy. And if you look at the facts:

Method Accuracy
“Feel” +/-35%
Torque Wrench +/-25%
Turn-of-the-nut +/-15%
Preload Indicating Washers +/-10%
Bolt Elongation Measurement +/-3 to 5%
Strain Gauges +/-1 to 2%

Clearly you can see the impracticalities of truly trying to get accurate – still 10% difference with a torque wrench is significant. Many of the more accurate techniques aren’t possible on bicycles, e.g. PLI washers or Bolt Elongation. Still, it’s important to keep these percentages in mind, and always shoot for the lower end of a torque range, rather than the higher end (i.e. if your seatpost is 3-5Nm, choose 3).   Check out this video from BBB which explains how to use and store their BTL73-TorqueSet Torque Wrench. (It’s similar for other torque wrenches of the same style).   And that’s all for this week! Hope you enjoyed this article, and can take this away for the next time you work on your $15,000 carbon bike. Also, let me know when you get that bike so I can try riding it. 🙂 Étienne Back to Tool Time #1 – the list of articles!

Sources – mini wrenches – full wrench topeak – tw2 – adjusting pedros torque – pedros torque



ToolTime #8 Spoke Tensiometer

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014


tooltime8 copy

Have you ever wanted to make up a word for a tool? Well someone did for absolutely no reason, hence the creation of The Spoke Tensiometer, also known interchangeably as the Spoke Tension Meter.

A Tension Meter is a pretty handy tool when you are building a new wheel. While, similar to the Fourth Hand Tool, there is some debate about whether you really need it, it can still make things quite a bit easier for you. Besides, if you haven’t built a wheel before you’ve probably never even heard of it, so you might as well learn something about it!

Here’s what the funky things look like:


If you haven’t already guessed, a Spoke Tension Meter is used to measure the tension of your spokes! Wheels obviously have spokes connecting the hub and the rim, and well, if there was no tension, your wheel would bend and warp while riding! And nobody wants to true a wheel in the middle of a trip.

So where did the idea of tensioned spokes come from? Tensioned wheels need to be not too loose, such that they warp, but not too tight, so that they flex. Hence the alternate name for a wire wheel: the suspension wheel.

Well, obviously there has always needed to be something attaching spokes to the rim, but the need for a particular tension arose when the idea of tangentially laced spokes arose. What this means is your spokes do not form a straight line between your hub and the rim, but rather are angled in different directions to deal with the force and stress a wheel undergoes.

A common example of this in wheelbuilding is seen in the diagram below:


This is an overly complex image, but note how the spokes are much longer on the left side of the black tire, and shorter on the right


With different spoke lengths, it becomes important to measure and keep the tension in balance.

Spoke Count

Another major need for precise spoke tension was developments in wheel technologies. Sheldon Brown is well-known for his views on spoke count and tension in modern bicycle wheels. Between the adoption of lacing wheels tangentially and the development of materials that exploded in the 1980s almost all wheels were made with a high spoke count, adding strength to the wheel. Typically this was 36 spokes per wheel, although less up front (32) and more rear was also common.

Racing bicycles tend to try to eliminate excess weight by lessening spoke count, and by adopting different lacing patterns (saving length and weight of spokes). In the same era as above, a racing wheel would typically be found with 32f/32r spokes.

But such high spoke counts are not always necessary, and thus the count of spokes in a wheel began to drop – and of course as less spokes hold together the same rim, more tension is needed. Sheldon Brown criticized this, as many poorly or machine-built wheels have difficulty staying true due to the fluxuations and challenges encountered when trying to adjust tension without a critical eye. In reality, most usage will be fine with a lower spoke count, provided the wheel is built well, and chosen correctly (common spoke counts are 20/24 for stock race wheels, 24/28 road wheels, 32/32 for general purpose, 36/36 for touring or higher strength like trailer pulling, 42+ for tandem or cargo bikes).

There was even an argument for the aerodynamics of spoke counts.

Back to Tension Meters

We sadly couldn’t find any details on the original tension meters, but suspect they harken to the era when motorcycle wheels were constructed out of spokes primarily.

In the 1970s Jobst Brandt, author of the legendary wheel building book called, unoriginally, The Bicycle Wheel,  invented an improved version of the tensiometer. He offered the designs and drawings for the device for free and several companies tried to create models for sale. Despite the incredible accuracy of the device, it never made it in the marketplace because of its high cost. Instead, a lower cost alternative created by Wheelsmith became the tool of choice, relegating the Brandt design to obscurity.

In recent years, the company Full Speed Ahead components, or FSA, used Brandt’s design to create a model with a carbon fibre backing and a light-weight shell. This tool also did not sell particularly well, though Wheelfanatyk does sell their own version of the tool with a digital interface.


There is an ongoing debate about the usefulness of Tension Meters. On one side the “pluckers” argue that tension meters do not really provide a very good measurement because they constantly need to be calibrated. They believe that relative and absolute tension can be estimated easily enough by “plucking” the spokes and listening to the tone that each one makes.

Often the “meter-ers” essentially believe that this view is hubris, and think that while the most experienced wheel builders may be able to use ‘feel,’ even they would benefit from a tool that helps compare tension (especially for relative tension between spokes).

Of course this is a very simplified explanation of the debate!

One criticism of “plucking” is that people who are tone deaf, or those who do not have experience building many wheels are unable to hear the difference between the sounds of the different spokes. Fortunately, for those who refuse to use a tension meter and want to rely on ‘plucking:’ There’s an App for That! You supply spoke model, length, and other needed information and then this new app claims to be able to measure spoke tension by listening to the pitch made when you ‘pluck’ each of the spokes.


Tensiometers need to be calibrated to stay perfectly accurate. In general, they should be handled carefully, and tuned often to obtain a precise and accurate tension. For most use cases, one doesn’t need this, since tension is probably not perfect anyway. If the Bike Kitchen closed it’s doors and reopened as a racing shop dealing exclusively in high-end Italian race bikes – well, you can be assured we’d have sweet tensionmeters.

For a company such as Boyd Cycles, which exclusively builds wheels for racers, they use  something to calibrate the tensiometer: a spoke held under a known tension that the tensiometer can be tested against several times a day to make sure it remains accurate.

Spoke Tension Meter Calibrator used by Boyd Cycles

Spoke Tension Meter Calibrator used by Boyd Cycles

Because spoke materials and gauges differ, when using a Tensiometer to accurately measure absolute values one needs a conversion table. This is the table from Park Tool’s TM-1.

TM-1 Tension Meter Conversion Table-1

TM-1 Tension Meter Conversion Table-1

Now that you’ve been saturated with tables and figures, here’s a video to end the day, hilariously showcasing the care and attention a tensiometer can be given:

And that’s your information overload on Spoke Tension Meters! We hope you learned something, we certainly did!

The words have been spoken.


Kevin & Étienne
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New Volunteer Orientation – July 16

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Are you looking for a new place to volunteer? We are excited to be able to expand the number of volunteer opportunities that we are able to offer. In addition to our weekly Volunteer Night we also would love your help with the following programs:

  • Cycling Resource Centres
  • Outreach Events
  • Mechanical Opportunities
  • and more!

If you are interested in helping us out and volunteering simply fill out a short application form and we will be in touch. Our very first Volunteer Orientation will be on Wednesday July 16th 6:30-7:30.

After completing the application form and attending an orientation you will be kept up-to-date about future opportunities that you may be interested in supporting.



Tool Time #7 4th Hand Tool (another video!!)

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014


Editor’s note: This week’s article was prepared by AMS Bike Co-op Programs Manager Christine Park.

Happy Canada Day y’all!  Christine here – I’m the gal who sits in the desk behind the chain lube at the Bike Kitchen (aka. the Programs Manager).  I’m glad to be joining the illustrious team of guest writers for Tool Time!  Especially since I will be introducing you to the wonderful world of one of my favourite tools… the cable puller/4th hand tool!

To start with, cable puller, cable stretcher and 4th hand are both acceptable names to use for this tool.  Yes, this one right here:



For this article, though, I’m going to stick to the term “4th hand”.

Let’s Begin, Shall We?

4th hand tools are specific to bike repair – you don’t find these handy little numbers elsewhere, because they have a very specific purpose.  They are used for tightening brake and derailleur cables on a bicycle.  The idea is that using a 4th hand tool leverages the cable that you want to tighten and pulls it snug for you.  You can use a 4th hand tool with one hand, freeing up your other hand to tighten/loosen bolts.

Which brings me to why I love 4th hand tools.  They make you feel like a bike repair ninja.  Rather than loosing your cool over fiddling around with tiny cables that always slip out from between your fingers, the bike gods have gifted us with this magical little device that lets you nonchalantly control your cable tension like it’s no big deal.

4th hand tools can make you go from feeling like poor Etienne, who simply does not have enough hands to do the repair he wants:



To this! Quadruple-handed cosmic bike repair power!!!! With bonus patriotism!!!!


There are some folks in the bike repair world who feel that 4th hand tools aren’t entirely necessary. According to this small faction, 4th hand tools are a luxury, not a necessity, and you can do a good enough brake adjustment without them.  But to them I say……. Seriously?!?! We’re talking quadruple-handed cosmic bike repair power here.  And your adjustment really just won’t be good enough if you don’t get your cable tension right.  Just use a 4th hand tool.


The 4th hand tool wasn’t the original kid on the block when it comes to brake adjustments.  Before the 4th hand, we had it’s predecessor, the 3rd hand tool.  This fellow, right here:


3rd hand tools were also used to help tighten calliper brakes back in the day.  The idea with 3rd hand is similar to the 4th hand in that it applies tension to the brake in a way that frees up a hand to tighten and loosen bolts.  However, the way it goes about it is different – rather than tightening the cable, it tightens the brake.  Specifically, it squeezes the brakes against the tire, so that if you’ve loosened off the bolt holding the cable it should slide right into the ideal place.  Voila. Brake adjustment, right?

However, 3rd hand tools aren’t really that helpful, because you don’t have any fine control over the tension on the cable.  They also don’t work in all adjustment scenarios – you can’t use a 3rd hand tool to adjust derailleurs, and some brakes also won’t really jive with a 3rd hand tool (specifically, V-brakes and disk brakes).

So, clearly, somewhere along the line, someone had a genius idea….

What if we tension the CABLE rather than the BRAKE.  *Oooooooooooh.  That makes sense.*

So the 4th hand tool was created, which is a much more versatile option for all your cable tensioning needs!

There was just one little problem……….. What to name this new tool?

Since 3rd hand tool was already taken, they just decided…. Welp, add another hand.  Hence, the 4th hand tool. Why not?


Using a 4th hand tool is easy, and can save you heaps of time and frustration when adjusting your cables, because you’ll have more control over the tension, enable you to get that adjustment “just right”.

Generally, 4th hand tools are mostly used on brakes.  You don’t really need to use a 4th hand tool to adjust your derailleur cables – this is because you only need to get a derailleur cable “finger tight”.  However, some folks like to use a 4th hand tool for derailleurs as well, it’s up to you and what you prefer, so long as you don’t make your derailleur cables too tight!

But for my tutorial, I’ll focus on brake adjustments, since that’s where 4th hand tools really shine!

To use a 4th hand tool, start by placing the cable in the guide as seen in the image below.



Place the leveraging end of the 4th hand against the brake or derailleur that you’re adjusting for leverage.  Start by squeezing the handles a little bit and loosening off the bolt that is securing the cable.  Once the bolt is loose, keep squeezing until you have the cable where you want it. The cable will become tighter with the more leverage you apply with your 4th hand tool.

Once you have the cable to the tension that feels right, fasten the bolt down and check your adjustment.  You can continue adjusting the cable using your 4th hand tool.  If the cable is still too loose, keep leveraging the cable as described above.  If the cable is too tight, you can also use the 4th hand tool to lightly ease off tension without completely losing all tension in the cable.  In that case, you start with the cable engaged in the tool, squeezing the arms slightly.  Then loosen off the bolt holding the cable and slowly ease up on your squeeze on the 4th hand tool.

Check out the video below for a visual on what I just described above, including some bonus instructions on adjusting your brake pads!

That’s it for 4th hand tools!  Check back next week for Spoke Wrenches.

Kevin & Étienne
Back to Tool Time #1 – the list of articles!