I ordered some old style bicycle pedals for my bike, JSON. These have a black outer body and a silver shaft assembly. They really suit the bike well and come with toe clips which match the pedals of the bike when I originally received it.
Unfortunately when I received the pedals I noticed the shafts didn’t spin very freely and I could feel the bearings biting. These wouldn’t be suitable to ride on. My theory at this point is that these were new old stock and the grease had gone bad. If I could sneak some oil in there maybe they would be fine. There was two problems with this theory - it wasn’t just a grease problem (I should have known this, I think it was just wishful thinking), and removing the dust cover to get to the bearings was a challenging task. The cap was so tightly held in that I ended up breaking the metal body when trying to remove it.
I was going to give up at that point however Alex suggested that I should probably ask the store if they would still warranty it. An email was sent apologising for damaging while trying to repair them and I asked if they would still be ok with processing a warranty. They agreed and asked if I wanted a replacement or a refund.
This was a surprisingly difficult question to answer. I wanted this style of pedal, but if all the pedals had the same fault what was I to do?
Searching various places selling these style pedals new they all seemed to share common reviews:
No bearing - only plastic bushing - broke quickly
Bearing doesn’t spin freely or is seized
Pedal broke after short amount of time
I also had a look at eBay for used pedals that would fit my needs. The problem I found was the total shipped price was prohibitively expensive and even if I paid that, there was no guarantee that the bearing races haven’t been badly pitted.
Looking careful I could determine that most of the new products sold likely all come from the same manufacturer with different brands painted on the side. Some models had bearings that didn’t work, some had plastic bushings and some had weak body.
It seems like the pedals I bought fit into the bearings that didn’t work category. Now I don’t know if its because these are old stock and age has gotten to them, or if the manufacturing process is really poor but the bearings out of the box are certainly not fit for purpose.
After a lot of internal debating I ended up with a plan - I would ask for a replacement and attempt to rebuild the bearings.
The first step was removing the pesky dust cover. This time I took the approach of removing everything from the pedal assembly first. The rear reflectors can be pushed and levered off while the toe cage can be removed by sliding the reflector out and undoing the two bolts. This making it much easier to work on - plus as I was doing a full rebuild I would need access anyway. It’s a good idea to do one pedal at a time so you have a reference pedal.
I placed the main body into a vice and tightened it softly - the point here was just to have something holding the assembly, so it doesn’t have to be super tight. I then used some very small side cutters edge to slide/cut into the side. Because of the tight circular shape things like screwdrivers don’t work very well here. The sharp point on the side cutter allowed me to get inside and then I could lever it out. It took a few goes, and does slightly damage the cap - however it’s the least damaged from all the tools I’ve tried so far. Other pedal designs usually have a grove you can use a screwdriver with - these do not.
If you are trying to get these kind of cheap new(ish) pedals working you actually have a bit of a choice here. I found there to be two problems with my pedals - the grease wasn’t great and the bearing preload was set wrong. You can choose not to do a full rebuild if you are happy with the grease provided - you can just set the preload. This is the easiest option and probably fine for most people. If this is the case - skip to the section labelled “preload”.
At this point, lay down a towel or a rag. Something that will stop ball bearings from rolling away. Using a 9mm socket and a spanner or shifter on the other end, undo the locking nut.
Inside the shaft will a slotted washer followed by another thin nut/bearing race. I didn’t have any thin walled socket that would fit down there, however since the assembly isn’t under any load this nut should be fairly loose. You should be able to use a pair of tweezers to undo this nut. At this point be careful though as you’ll be freeing the bearings. Sit the shaft upright so that the end that usually attaches to the bike is on the table when removing this nut, otherwise the body can slide off the shaft and drop bearings everywhere.
At this point you should be able to see the bearings. Now is a great time to count them, or at least take a picture. We’ll want to make sure we put the right amount back in. I removed all the bearings with tweezers and put them into a nice little pile. For me there was 14 on both sides of the shaft. There might be bearings stuck of the bearing race/nut that we removed.
After those bearings are removed I suggest flipping the pedal over and carefully remove the shaft. Mine has a rubber seal on the bike end. Once again remove the bearings.
Clean all the grease off the bearings, clean the shaft and housings. Once everything is cleaned the assembly process is much the same as the disassembly process. I used red truck and farm grease. It’s probably fine. Spread grease into the bearing races to hold the bearings in place. Make sure you count the bearings to ensure none are missing or you haven’t put too many in. Remember to install the race/nut the correct way, followed by the washer and locking nut - don’t tighten all the way yet. Just enough to keep the bearings from falling out.
Getting bearing preload right is critical, and it can sometimes be the most time consuming part of this process. At both ends of the shaft is a effectively a cup and a cone. By tightening up the nut/race we are removing some of the space the bearings have to wobble around.
Ideally we want there to be no wobble or play. However if we tighten up the assembly too far the bearings will be pressing into the metal, causing a lot of friction and preventing the shaft from spinning. Too tight will cause damage to the bearings and the races. The goal here is to have the assembly as tight as possible without impacting the friction of the bearings.
Tighten up the race/nut with the tweezers. I suggest tightening this up until the shaft doesn’t spin freely anymore. At that point back it off until the shaft spins freely again. Now with the 9mm socket, tighten up the locking nut. When you do this, additional pressure will be added to the race. It’s likely the shaft might have too much friction at this point. Undo the locking nut again, and adjust the race/nut to loosen the race. I was doing probably 1/16 turns when I was adjusting mine, so very small adjustments everytime. Check for play as your doing this. The shaft shouldn’t move in or out, and there should be so side to side wobble.
It’s sometimes hard to strike a good balance. I would favour a bit of play over additional friction on the bearings if thats the only choice.
Reinstall the dust cover. I found it quite hard to put in and resorted to the vice. I didn’t want to use the vice as it’ll be putting pressure on the bearings and shaft but I found it the only suitable way to get the cover in. Reassemble the outer body, straps and reflectors.
Was it worth it? Well they certainly spin more freely on my desk, but I’ll have to have them on the road for quite a bit before I can give a final verdict.
In the meantime, here’s my partner comparing one I rebuilt vs the original.
So my next blog post was meant to be on how the brake install went. The good news is the brakes work great - I’ll get into more details on that later. HOWEVER while riding out to somewhere nice where I intended to take some nice picture I had a bit of an incident - so lets talk about that first.
I split off the Bay trail to grab some coffee, eat some food and slap on some sun screen. While attempting to rejoin the bay trail I found myself a little bit confused as to the route and ended up on a footpath rather than a shared path. I spotted where my turn was meant to be and while focused on that it hit me. Well more specifically I hit it. A low hanging branch.
I’m not sure if I didn’t see it, correctly identify it’s height, or if I stood up to ride, but I hit it - likely at around 12km/hr. Lucky I wasn’t going faster. Next thing I know I was on the ground wondering wtf just happened. I remember seeing my Garmin count down from 6 seconds (I believe it starts at 30 seconds so there’s 24 seconds somewhat unaccounted for). Since I was on the ground, still processing everything and unsure if I was ok I let the timer count down.
This triggered an SMS with location details and starts live location sharing with my partner. After I had worked out that I was somewhat ok I stopped the incident on Garmin, and sent a message to say I was fine.
Since I’ve had my Garmin Fenix 6S Pro I’ve recorded 585 activities and only 2 other times have I had incident detection trigger when I was fine. One time was when my watch band broke, and the other was mounting a curb and coming to a hard stop. Both of these are some what reasonable that incident detection triggered.
I am very glad for this system, as had I passed out it would have been over half an hour before someone would otherwise notice (this is the time I sat next to my bike recovering)
Unlike myself the bike only received a small amount of damage. Brake lever scratched and rotated in and handlebar alignment off. Brake callipers needed adjusting but otherwise everything seems fine. After doing some field repairs I eventually made it to the park I was aiming for.
I even rode home the route I planned, however I was feeling very sore when I got home. I’ve got some scratches and bruises but I think I’ll be fine in a few days.
Given I was riding as an alternative to running for recovery purposes I’m not happy about the incident.
So with that out of the way, let’s talk brakes.
These were a breeze to install. I’m missing some end caps here and the grip tape ends is a temporary thing while I work everything out. The hardest part was working out how to mount my light given all the space is taken now by the brakes. I have end caps in storage but I wanted to test everything out first.
First off, the myth that inline brakes make the system spongy is clearly false. If you go back to part 1 of this series you’ll see that the brake cable is uninterrupted for inline brakes. There is no reason why adding inline brakes would make the system worse. My suspicion is that people think that inline brakes are spongy is that they are often installed on brake systems that are already spongy. The inline brakes themselves have a lot of pull - keep this in mind.
While I still haven’t gotten used to their presence, I have already adjusted my riding style. I’m sitting in a much more comfortable position while casually riding and not having to get into the drops to slow down. This is great in the city. I still find myself sometimes moving my right hand down to the original lever out of habit, but a lot less now. Tight corners are now much easier to manage.
And the back brake is getting a lot more use now - since I don’t have to get into the drops I now apply a lot more even braking. Where this is extremely useful is red lights and other stops. Previously I would brake to slow down, stop braking, move my hand to the gear lever to move into the lowest gear, then move my hand back to brakes to come to a complete stop. Now I can use my rear inline brake while changing gears with my other hand and perform the action all at once.
Dual pivot brakes
I ended up with the Tektro R559 dual pivot long reach brakes. The frame / wheel combination I have means that I’m on the higher limit of typically short reach brakes and the lower limit of typical long reach brakes. If I ever buy a new set of callipers again I might try to gamble on short reach brakes. Currently though the long reach brakes do give me the option to switch in a 700c wheel….
So while you can sometimes pick up traditional nut style brakes, it’s more common to find recessed style. These have a shorter shaft and a long recessed nut that is used to hold the brakes in place. I purchased these brakes knowing that the recessed style wouldn’t fit my bike out of the box.
There’s some solutions to mounting these brakes though. The most common is to drill out the back hole (usually using a right angle drill for the rear brake) to allow the recessed nut to fit.
The other option that’s also sometimes available is to use the front brake (has a longer shaft) on the rear brake. How do you install the front brake then? For me I was lucky enough to be able to fit the nut through the bottom of the forks. This only gives half the mounting distance than typical however I believe it’s plenty.
For both the rear and front shafts I found I could only use one of the wedge locking washers, but once again - I feel like this is plenty. If this doesn’t provide enough friction the outcome is that the brakes could become unaligned and start rubbing while riding. It’s not catastrophic failure.
I’m happy with having the brakes mounted this way as it means I don’t have to make permanent changes to the bike frame and if I want to I can reinstall the original brakes.
I’ve installed some new toe cage peddles. I was a bit nervous installing these again as they can add a certain amount of risk in casual riding, but I’ve been pretty happy so far with them. They certainly look the part. Unfortunately the NOS I purchased, the grease had gone bad. I’ve tried my best to get some oil in there, but I’m going to either flush out all the grease somehow or do a rebuild. Neither of which I can do easily right now.
Lastly I’ve updated my Kmart bike lock to ABUS. Hopefully no one steals my lock. This lock feels very over engineered but I like it. It’s spring loaded and pops out when you unclip it.
That’s all the upgrades I want to do for now. Sometime next year I plan to strip all the parts off, de-rust, de-paint and give it a brand new paint job.
I’m currently waiting for my bike parts to arrive today, but in the meantime I thought I was explain to y’all the plan.
JSON is my road bike. I use it to get to many things. It now gets very regular use, sometimes short rides, sometimes ride that I consider long. JSON is a vintage road bike, I don’t know when it was manufactured or by whom. Given it has Suntour 7 derailleur I’m guessing mid 80s. While these bikes are amazing (please try one), given the age they do come with some design problems. The biggest has to be braking. While I like to keep things fairly original on the bike, given that I doing more and more city and busy area riding I want to make the bike a little safer.
Now the brakes work just fine on JSON. The major problem comes with where the brakes are. If your not familiar with road bikes, those curved down parts of the handlebars are called the drop bars. The idea is that when you want to ride fast you “ride in the drops” - that is move your hands to the bottom of the handle bars to get a lower position. In contrast if you want a more comfortable ride you might ride on the “tops” or like the picture below is doing riding in the “hoods”. The hoods in a modern road is the combination gear shift and brake controls - well the hood is actually just the cover on top….
I however don’t have a modern bike, so I can’t ride on the hoods. Even if I did ride on the sides I don’t get enough lever force to correctly apply the brakes. This means that if I want to brake I have to be in the drops. When I’m riding around the city or busy path ways I’m often sitting upright to get better visibility and stability at the lower speeds. At the moment I have to choose between being in the drops for braking, or upright for visibility and flexibility - often I end up riding in an awkward halfway position with one hand in drops and one hand not.
We have options though! What I plan on installing is what are called inline or interrupter brakes. These are an additional set of brakes that you can install. The idea is that these will sit on the top of the handlebars so that I no longer need to go into the drops to brake.
But how do you install an extra set of brakes when there is only one cable? That’s where the inline part works, but lets first look at how a normal set of brakes work.
I’ve tried to create a crude diagram of brake fundamentals for bowden tube brakes. A bowden tube is, well a tube. It has a wire running down it. If the tube is fixed in place at either end you can push and pull the wire and the wire will push and pull from the other end. The final part is some pivot points, so when you pull on the brakes it pulls some wire out of the tube, that pulls the wire down on the brake end which squeezes the brakes together. Ok I get how bowden tubes work, what does this have to do with inline brakes….
For inline brakes the brake levers connect the outside of the bowden tube. The actual cable is unimpeded and the other brake will work as normal. Hence the inline part. In this diagram the left bowden tube is physically attached to the lever arm behind, and while the right part of the bowden tube outside is connected lever arm on top.
When we squeeze these levers together like you would on a brake the two bowden tube segments pull apart, widening the gap between the two bowden tubes.
The wire has to remain the same length however it now has further to travel, so this causes the wire to pull on the brakes…. hopefully bringing the bike to a stop. I’ve kept the wire the same length in these diagrams. I’ve also left the bowden tube the same length as well as that can’t shrink - so if we created a gap in between the tubes, where does that length go? We’ve effectively lengthened the bowden tube. In the real world the bowden tube gets slightly pushed aside, you do need to account for the movement in the bowden tube when it comes to routing and taping the tubes.
Installing these takes up handlebar space. I’ve already moved my phone mount to the stem, however I might need to rethink my bike light.
Finally, lets talk brake callipers. While braking on JSON is fine, I do want to make it better. Especially when I loan out my bike to someone else to ride. It currently has its original single pivot brakes, and the springs are a bit worn. Coupled with wheels that are over due for trueing it can lead to a fairly mushy experience if your not used to it.
So there’s two advantages to switching to dual pivot brakes. One is that due to the new location of the pivot point there is more mechanical advantage on the brakes, allowing them to activated easier. The other advantage for me is that they easier to center, align and most importantly have a brand new spring that isn’t worn out - allowing for much closer adjustment to the rim. I’m also going to try some new brake shoes as well. The current ones are most certainly not original, so I don’t mind changing that out.