Garage Files: Things Even Good Mechanics Can Miss


put aside your sharp pair of cable cutters. Those will likely cut right through and leave you with another frayed cable. Instead, use a pair of side cutters, and crimp the cable end with one to three lines, firm enough to hold it in place.

11-Many beginner mechanics make the mistake of greasing everything when they build a bike. This is a mistake. Certain places need friction to work properly. The steerer tube (the place where your stem clamps to the fork) is a good example. This should be clean and dry when the stem is installed. Grease here could make it easier for your stem to slip, causing a nasty crash.


12-Many bikes come with very long steerer tubes when they are new. This is to allow riders to custom-dial in their bar height to fit. Some mechanics will neglect to cut the excess steerer tube on top of the stem once the desired fit is found. This leaves a nasty stack of spacers that can hurt in the event of a crash. (We call these “sternum crackers.”) If you’re not planning on changing your stem height, cut the excess and reduce the number of spacers.

13-Stem bolts should always be torqued equally. However, there are some stems that require the upper or lower bolts be bottomed out before the other side is tightened. Most stems have etching on them to indicate if they work this way.


14-To dial in your cockpit, measure the distance between the brake lever and grip, and match it on the other side. You can also use a digital angle finder app on your phone to dial in the angle of the levers and shifter. A symmetrical cockpit feels better and more familiar.

15-Many mechanics align brake calipers by simply holding the brake and tightening the bolts. This usually works well enough. If you really want to do the job right, though, you should use the little window on the top of the brake caliper to align your brakes. Simply loosen the bolts and then align the caliper so that there is daylight on both sides of the rotor, and then snug the bolts. Be very careful if working on a brake with a spinning wheel. Brake rotors have been known to cause some nasty finger gashes.

16-You can easily check the alignment of a derailleur by standing behind it and…

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