"Bike Maintenance & Repair" Archives

Nov 15 2017

Swapping Stock Surly LHT Handlebars for Nitto Noodles: Why and How I Did It by Tamia Nelson

One of the very many benefits of bicycles is that most of the mechanical work can be done by you, the owner. And as DIY jobs go, swapping handlebars is pretty straight forward. Which is good, because Tamia realized early in her ownership of the Surly Long Haul Trucker that the stock bars didn’t fit her comfortably. In this article, she describes why she swapped the stock handlebars and shows you how it’s done.

How often do YOU think about handlebars? Not often, I’d wager. Unless you ride a bike a bicycle with handlebars that don’t fit. THEN you think about them a lot. Because the longer the ride, the more your body will suffer.

When I bought my stock-build Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike, it was outfitted with good basic bars, but they just didn’t suit me. They were narrower than I liked, which makes steering a tad nervous. I also couldn’t find a grip position which was comfortable for more than a few minutes at a time. And another thing was wrong. I like a handlebar bag, and the one I like best was a tight fit. My thumbs were pinched by the bag, making them go numb.

Pinched Thumbs (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

After asking the opinions of more experienced cyclists and with a bit of shopping around I decided to swap out the stock handlebars with a pair of 44 cm-wide Nitto Noodle handlebars.


Carpel tunnel syndrome and too many episodes of frostbite have left my hands prone to numbness and nerve damage if I don’t move them frequently while on the bike. So a wide expanse of “real estate” seemed a good idea, which is one reason why I wanted wide handlebars. Not only that, but the Noodles have a geometry that would appear to lead to less strain and pain from neck right to the fingertips.

Nitto Noodle geometry seemed just what the doctor ordered. The upper grip region is level, extending from the clamp area in the center all the way along the ramps. A backward-sweep to either side of the clamp brings the Noodles’ grip closer to the rider — beneficial for cyclists with shorter arms or torsos. The slight flare of the drops — the lower part of the bar — make riding “in the drops” less stressful on shoulders and neck, too. Most of the time, I ride on the ramps and hoods — the rubber cover over the brake levers — and in this position, the ramp angle to the drops seemed just right for positioning my wrists to avoid strain and aggravating a flare-up of carpel tunnel pain. Additionally, the wider width of my new handlebars would permit me more “thumb room” between the bars and my bar bag, as well as better steering control. But the only way I could be sure the Noodles would suit me was to put them on the bike. So that’s what I did.


Here’s where it helps to get the advice of others who know more than you do. After asking for assistance on the Surly Long Haul Trucker and Cross Check group online, I felt confident that the swap would be well within my abilities. It’s not hard, but it is a bit involved. First, and before buying new handlebars, determine the clamp diameter of your chosen bars. If they’re not the same size as the stem clamp on your bike, you may need a new stem, though some mechanics fit a shim if the ‘bar is narrower than the stem clamp.

The stock handlebar on my LHT had a smaller clamp diameter than the Noodles. That meant that the stem (the “neck” which extends forward to clamp the handlebar) had to be replaced with one which would clamp tightly to the Noodles. So because the original stem fitted my reach perfectly, I bought a new stem with the same length and angle of rise as the original, yet with a different clamp diameter.

Is this sounding like a project? You’re right, and there’s more.

Brake levers have to be removed, too, but only after unwrapping the handlebar tape. And then the biggie was to remove the bar end shifters (“barcons”) from one bar to another. (Read how in “Bar-End Shifters: How to Remove and Install Them.”)

I made a list of the steps, then laid out my tools and new parts and went to work.

Nitto Noodle Handlebars New from Box (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

I unwrapped the bar tape and set it aside, being sure to keep left and right separated so they could be smoothly re-wrapped on the new bars. I removed the bar-end shifters from the bar ends and left them dangling on their cables and out of the way. The brake levers came off next, and then the handlebars were removed from the clamp, which was removed after that.

On went the new stem, then the Noodles were clamped snug but not tightly in the stem’s clamp. I fiddled with the bars by rotating them to get what seemed the right position, then clamped the stem faceplate snugly to prevent handlebar movement. Brake levers go on next, and then the bar-end shifters. Don’t put the bar-end shifters on first like I did originally, or you’ll realize your mistake in a hurry. I re-wrapped the bar tape last.

After two hours and a few wrong turns, the job was done. The old bars could be nested between the brake hoods on the new Noodles, indicating that I’d have plenty of room for my thumbs with the new set-up, but the proof would be in the, er, cycling.

Nitto Noodle Handlebars versus Stock Handlebars (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

A few test rides later, I professed myself happy. As you can see in the pictures below, I had plenty of room for getting a grip.I returned home from each ride without the tingly numbness and pain I’d become accustomed to.

Nitto Noodle Handlebars versus Stock Handlebars (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop


If riding your bike causes pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands, arms, or shoulders, maybe swapping handlebars and/or the stem could make riding more enjoyable. Get some advice from experienced cyclists and do some shopping. If you have basic tools, a place to work, and can get the components you need, consider doing the job yourself. DIY bike maintenance is satisfying, it saves you money, and educates you on how your bicycle goes together abd functions. But if you can’t tackle it yourself, ask a friend who is mechanically adept, or take it to a reliable bike shop. However you get the job done, your body will thank you for the improved fit, and you’ll enjoy longer rides again.

This article is an update of one originally published on 8 June 2008.

Further Reading

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Nov 08 2017

Bar-End Shifters: How to Remove and Install Them by Tamia Nelson

Whether you call them barcons or bar-end shifters, they’re a reliable way to change gears. But sometimes you need to remove them like, say, when the shifters need to be cleaned and lubed. Or if you’re swapping out the bike’s handlebars. This isn’t a tough job, but removing them involves turning a screw. Be sure to turn it the correct way. In this article, Tamia shows you how to do it right.

Also known as barcons, bar-end shifters are mounted inside the hollow handlebar ends. When I bought my Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike, I didn’t care for the stock handlebars, so replaced them with wider Nitto Noodle bars. Swapping handlebars isn’t a difficult task, but it does require removing the bar-end shifters from the original ‘bars and placing them into the new ones. With the generous and helpful advice of folks on the Surly Long Haul Trucker and Cross Check Group, I learned that the procedure was easier than I feared, but only because everything was done properly. Mess up, and the job becomes a lot harder. So, to pass on what I learned, I’ll describe how I removed then reinstalled my bike’s bar-end shifters.

Ready? Then let’s do it.

1.  There is no need to disconnect the shifter cables from the derailleurs or levers, but …

2.  DO remove the handlebar tape and set it aside to wrap the new handlebars, UNLESS you plan on replacing the tape. Now …

3.  shift gears so both bar-end levers point DOWN as far as they as they can go. DO NOT rotate the levers until after you’ve reinstalled them.

Bar-end shifter levers DOWN

4.  Remove the two cable stops, which are mounted to the downtube (you’ll need an allen wrench to unscrew the bolts). To avoid losing the bolts which hold the stops in place, I reinserted them into the braze-ons. Removing the cable stops slackens the cables and makes it easier to continue with the job. Just allow the stops to dangle while you’re working on the shifters.

Slack cables

With the cables slack, you can now unscrew the bolts which secure the levers in the shifter pods. My bolts were tight, but once loosened with a little elbow grease, they unscrewed very easily.

5.  Before removing the locking bolt, observe the orientation of the various elements of the lever. Once the levers were removed from the pods, I reinserted each lever component and retightened the screw to hold it all together as I worked on the rest of the job — see the picture below. Everything fits together only one way with these shifters (yours might be different), and they slide into place easily. Pull the levers away from the pod, and allow them to hang there as you proceed.

How it all fits together

6.  Look inside the pod and you’ll see a large bolt head. Insert a properly sized allen wrench and loosen the bolt just enough to slacken the pod’s grips on the bars. BEWARE! These bolts are NOT loosened like others. TO LOOSEN, TURN THE BOLT CLOCKWISE.

7.  If swapping handlebars, remove the brake levers and anything else in your bike’s “cockpit.” Now mount the new handlebars. When the time comes to reinstall the shifters, do this AFTER the brake levers are placed. If you forgot, then you’ll be reminded as soon as you try to reinstall the brake levers. I know — I did it that way and had to remove the shifters before replacing the brake levers.

8.  Now reinstall the shifter pods. Align them with the levers pointing straight down. Hold the pod in place, then tighten them — TIGHTEN POD BOLTS COUNTERCLOCKWISE. This pulls the expanders against the inside of the handlebar, which secures the pods.

9.  Tape the handlebars. The picture below shows the tape already in place, but that’s only because this shot was taken to illustrate the tightening procedure. You cannot remove the pods without displacing the cable running along the bottom of the handlebar. With cables covered with tape, that tape must be removed when you remove the bar-end shifter assembly.

Tighten that bolt counter-clockwise

10.  Insert the levers into the pods, being sure to align all the components correctly, then reinstall the cable stops on the downtube.

Reinstall cable stops

11.  Test the shifters by running the chain through all the gear combinations. Adjust shifters if you have to — I didn’t need to, and if you are careful, you might not have to, either.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully removed and replaced your bike’s bar-end shifters. That wasn’t as hard as you thought it would be, was it?

This article is an update of one originally published on 4 August 2008.

Further Reading

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Aug 11 2017

A Kickstand Support Keeps Your Bike Upstanding and It’s Absolutely Free! by Tamia Nelson

Road shoulders aren’t always wide and paved. More often than not, the verge is adrift with sand, loose gravel, or unconsolidated soil. This doesn’t bode well for cyclists who use a kickstand to keep their bike upright when they pull off the travel lane to get off the bike. Why? Because you may walk away from your parked bike only to hear it topple over before you’re more than a few steps away. Luckily, there’s an easy way to prevent the slow subsidence that sometimes topples our bikes: the kickstand support. Tamia tells you how.

Are you tired of having your bike’s kickstand sink into sand or slide sideways in gravel? Here’s an easy solution to this common problem, one that weighs very little and costs absolutely nothing — a stout metal jar lid. Almost any lid will do, though a wide lid works better than a narrow one.

The principle is simple. The lid spreads out the load, providing a stable base of support for the kickstand leg and reducing the likelihood that it will punch down into soft sand or slip on loose gravel. Just put the lid on the ground with the threaded flange uppermost. Then maneuver the kickstand’s leg into place. That’s it. Mission accomplished.

My kickstand support is a lid from an empty jar of salsa, if you’re interested, but just about any metal jar lid will do. It’s a good idea to check that the lid doesn’t shift when you release your grip on the bike — and that the kickstand leg doesn’t skate across the metal surface. Sometimes you have to move the lid a bit to find a more stable lie. But that’s about all. Once your bike is standing pretty, you can walk away, confident that it will remain upright.


After many months of use, however, your support may begin to show its age. When it starts to look like it’s been hit with birdshot, it’s probably time to consign it to the recycling bin and get a new lid. But you’ve really no cause for complaint. The price is right.

Will this work with a two-legged kickstand like the Pletscher? I haven’t tried it, but I can’t think of why it wouldn’t. You’ll need two lids, though —and it will probably be a bit fussier to get the legs where they have to go. Anyway, even if you need two supports, they shouldn’t weigh your down, and it’s not hard to keep it stowed but handy. I slip my lid into the map slot of my handlebar bag:

It's Not Heavy

But if you don’t use a bar bag your can probably find room in the seat pack that holds your spare tube and tools. (You do carry a tube and tools, don’t you?) Or just tuck your lid into your jersey or jacket pocket.

However you decide to haul your support around, you can now leave your bike on its kickstand without a qualm, knowing that you’ll find it upright and undamaged on your return. That’s a happy state of affairs, isn’t it?

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Jun 19 2017

The Gross Anatomy of a Bike by Tamia Nelson

A bicycle is the sum of all its parts — headset, crank, cluster, and many others. But what are these parts, where do you find them? Tamia dissects a bike to identify the most commonly referenced anatomical features. Don’t worry, though, the demo isn’t gross.

Do you know what’s meant by a bike’s headset? Or the rear dropout? Or the chainstay? You might not if you’re new to cycling. Or if you’ve been riding bikes for awhile but never gave thought to more than the pedals, saddle, and tire pressures. Yet if your bike develops a strange knock, or the steering seems wonky for no reason, or the brakes aren’t functioning properly, than you’ll have an easier time diagnosing the problem if you know how to identify the bike’s constituent parts. This is doubly true if you are thinking of learning to service and repair your bike.

Even simple bicycles are built of many parts. The frame is obvious, as are wheels, tires, the saddle, pedals, and handlebars. But what about the other parts? Some you can see, at least partially. Others are hidden. All are important. In the photo below, shot by TNO‘s Contributing Photographer Anthony Jancek, you can see how one kind of pedal breaks down:

Breakdown of a Bike on Display - Photo (c) Anthony T. Jancek

This is part of a larger display of a dismembered bike in a shop window. Each part is suspended from the ceiling by a length of monofilament, which probably accounts for why the pedal’s ball bearings aren’t there. (It wouldn’t be easy to suspend spheres from even the finest thread, after all.)

But what about the bigger picture? Well, here it is:

Gross Anatomy of a Bike - Photo (c) Tamia Nelson

This is a touring bicycle, so will differ in some ways from a racing bike or a mountain bike, but all bikes share a similar anatomy. Listed in the annotated photo above are the main important parts. Caveats? Shifter levers will be in different places on bikes with brifters or grip-shifters, and the handlebars will differ from a straight or raised set. One glaring absence in the diagram is the right side pedal. New bikes, particularly more expensive bikes, aren’t equipped with pedals. The assumption is that each cyclist will have a favorite pair. (Why this doesn’t extend to saddles and handlebars is beyond me.) But you know what pedals are located, right? That’s a good start!

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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