Wrenching No Wrenches: Dropper Swap

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Well, my local riding buddy and friend Annalisa was traveling to her sister in Wyoming for the summer. Her sister too was a mountain biker and Annalisa had a very nice KS Lev externally routed dropper post that she wanted to give to her sister who did not have the wherewithal to have a dropper on her bike yet. She had about a week left where she was selling her furniture and packing for the road trip. Additionally, she had to take the dropper off her Specialized before she sold it. How nice would it have been to know how to remove the dropper and toss it in her suitcase! I got a call about this, “is it easy?” I chuckled a little bit. “Sure come on over.”

First rule of bike mechanics, is to bring a nice craft beer, which she taught me. We poured off a 500mL Sunny Daze IPA into cups first.

As we had it, this particular model only needed three tools, and may be on a trail-side multi-tool set. Otherwise, a metric key set is less than $10 at the local hardware store that would include a:

4mm Allen Key.

2mm Allen Key.

3 mm Allen Key.

Arguably, the process was a blur of steps we were reminded of thing remotely elementary: Pop off KS dust cap from the top edge with our fingernail. Pull cable down and out. Remove set screw (the non-shouldered 2mm bolt). Pop off guide cap and ferrule. Pull housing through frame/along frame. Remove grips and remote lever with the 3mm Allen Key. See that the dropper is free of the frame, re-assemble in reverse order. (Add ferrule, then guide cap, and push the cable through the housing and tighten set screw so the cable is flush with it.) DONE!

We fixed the dropper in fifteen minutes or three quarters of a beer. She looks at the bike, “the rear rotor is rubbing.” And so we re-clamped the bike stand clamp to the seat tube. The rotor pads are a funny thing, that their clearances are so small and if say a branch from the trail taps the caliper, the pad shifts a quarter millimeter. THAT’s hairs lengths. Bike mechanics works in miniatures of car mechanics. And I was telling Annalisa a mechanic can split hairs with a surgical hand to adjust the pads back into alignment. I said put your eyeball just above the tire treads and peer with one eye into the caliper to look for the white light (space between the rotor and pad), then spin the tire. The initiative to rotate the tire with your eyeball so close to the tire is fretful in itself, and I have skinned my cheek at least once at 3 in the morning on a red-eye bike overhaul. But, a perfect tuned bike is a perfect tuned bike. That’s how I told her to look at it.

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We passed her brakes, because the levers squeezed firm. OKAY! She commented that she had replaced her chain a few months ago and being a relatively inexpensive and easy swap part, she wanted to replace it. I said, “aha!” I have a tool for that (pictured here). Out of my toolbox comes a chain checker. I tell her chains stretch on a decimal scale 0.0-1.0, and we don’t swap chains less than 0.5. We like to swap after 0.5 and before 0.75. When its more than 0.75, sometimes we swap the cassette and chain too. The cassette is made of metal, you know, and the cassette teeth can become narrower or shorter. If a drive train with a new chain still ghost shifts it’s a good time to get a new sprocket.

At some point the beer was empty, or her bike worked pretty good. She unclamped the bike from the stand and I tossed the shop cloth.

If you like this kind of post, please message or leave a comment. Thanks!

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