Dr. Fixit; April 1983

Dear Dr. Fixit

What is the best way to clean a chain? Especially at this time of year, chains seem to take more time getting clean than they do getting dirty.


Dear K..

The chain needs to be soaked in solvent and agitated to dislodge the grit. A few years back, there were ads for an agitator specifically for this purpose. The chain was on a perforated tray inside a bucket of solvent. The tray was suspended on springs so it would keep agitating the chain for a while on its own. I haven't seen an ad for one of these for a couple of years. The advantage of the perforated tray was that the grit could settle to the bottom of the bucket away from the chain. A minnow bucket would work about as well. The spring action couldn't keep it going very long because of the viscosity of the solvent.

Even such a fancy approach as this one takes a lot of time, however. Obviously some sort of mechanized agitator is desirable. A paint can shaker would be an excellent solution, but costs more than most of us are willing to lay out for such a limited use piece of equipment. These are quite popular among long distance tourists however; they put in so many miles that the machine gets a lot of use. One of these will fit quite nicely in a 55 gallon oil drum on your rear rack, along with the rest of your tools and emergency supplies.

If you don't put in enough miles to justify getting one of these, you will have to make do with second best. A good compromise is to put the dirty chain and solvent of your choice into the cuisinart. Really dirty chains may do better in the blender.

Dear Dr. Fixit

What is the best way to prepare for the Ironman? Is there an alternative sport that will get me ready for the ride without having to ride in the snow?


Dear B.R.

The usual training program is as follows: Starting on September 15, ride south. by November 1, you should be south of the Mason-Dixon line. Head for Fort Myers, Florida and gradually increase your distance each day. Beginning on February 15, you should be headed North. Arrive in Minnesota no earlier than one week before the Ironman date. You may very well be unable to ride during this last week, because of snow, but you will not lose your conditioning too much during a one week layoff if you ride rollers each day.

Dear Dr. Fixit

I would like to convert one of my ten speed bikes to fixed gear for early season training. I've heard that this is the best way to develop one's 'spin' at the beginning of the year. The problem is, fixed gear cogs (which contain no freewheeling mechanism) will unscrew from the hub if you try to coast. Usually a special track hub is used, which takes a lock ring threaded in the opposite direction from the cog. Is there a way to avoid the expense of buying a separate rear wheel?


Dear J.G.

Of course. First remove the freewheeling mechanism from an old freewheel. This is most conveniently done by soaking the mechanism in salt water for a week or so. An alternative approach is to use epoxy rather than oil to lubricate it. Next thread the freewheel onto the hub without using any grease. Ride hard for about a week, standing on the pedals as much as possible and being careful not to coast at all. At the end of the week the ex-freewheel and the hub should behave as a single unit. Use considerable care not to break any right hand spokes on this wheel, though, they will be rather difficult to replace.

Dear Dr. Fixit

My husband insists on cleaning his bicycle parts in the cuisinart. He says it saves time. The carrots taste awful. What can I do?


Dear V.L.

Buy him his own cuisinart. Yours will eventually become clean again.