Ode to Housing Cutters

IMG_20180206_064119Housing cutters are the sharpest tool in the toolbox. Pun unintended. It cuts wire, steel, bolts. The handles come with rubber grip sleeves. The jaws are made from cold-forged steel, high quality sharps that keep its edges for years. It removes expletives from installing shift cables and housing. They double agent as  pinch clamps for stripped bolts. They are the MVP of the toolbox.

*This is not an ad for Park Tool or the word sharp or for edge.

For a more informative note about it, please visit Park Tool Cable and Housing Cutter.

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Bike Tools (NFS)

Tools categorized as spare parts not for sale are AKA bolts and washers that bike shops do not sell online.

They are used as spacers to align a brake assembly (caliper) with rotors (the metal pizza cutter). The main difference of these from a household bolt is that the spacers might be conical shaped or the bolts have hex socket heads. They are made for bikes!

I recommend keeping these bits in a small jewelry or tackle box. One quadrant is reserved for bolts, another for spacers, another for cable crimps, etc., another for shift ferrules, and so forth.


Say, a bike is on the work stand and it has a stripped bolt. Right away, it had to be removed with a power tool. Then it was replaced with a fresh bolt. Now it can be tuned on the trail with a small multi-tool.

Say, the bike is modified from Shimano brakes to SRAM brakes. The bike might need 4 pairs of conical spacers. These spare washers are collected as take off parts from OEM setups. Go ahead and save those spacers before tossing your old brake calipers! If you don’t already have a set of these spacers, your local bike shop will be happy to spare you a set from their collection.

A good rule of thumb is to save any parts that fix “add-on” components to a frame. Hydraulic systems, tires, and wearable parts should be tossed or marked “for parts only” for safety.

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Toolbox boiled into to three (3) supplies

Screenshot_20180128-223806Mechanic tools are more like supplies to make a bicycle roll. They should be able to assemble or re-assemble the non-moving parts on the bike. They could be boiled down to three tools.

Allen Keys are the L-shaped metal bars with a hexagonal head that fit bolts with hexagonal sockets. Modern bikes commonly have these. A good starter allen set will have a 5mm, 6mm, 4mm, 3mm, 2.5mm and a 2mm. A full allen set will cover everything 1mm-9mm. These will be used to snug up the saddle and cockpit often.

An adjustable crescent wrench is the generic tool of the bike toolbox. It assembles any “miscellaneous size” external bolt heads. It is cumbersome on bike bolts, but it gets the job done. The wrench can be any size but the clamp head should be able to fit between the crank arm and pedal (spindle) and have leverage to safely remove a crankset.

A bike pump fills the tires and makes the tires roll. The chuck (head) is the part that fits on the tube valve, or the metal straw sticking out. The pump chuck should fit both Presta or Schrader valves. Likely both styles will come in handy. Your friend might bring over their cruiser bike with Schrader valve, road tubes have skinny presta valves. The pump can fill car tires too. Those are Shraeder. Across bike pumps, durable ones have PSI gauges made of less small plastic parts and more metal parts.

These supplies are common. Your friends might even have spares of these. A good neighbor might be kind and recycle their duplicate tools. And the local hardware store will have a broad selection of tool sets. You can pick which tools work for you. Good luck. If this was helpful or you would like to read more about types of tools write me a message with your comments. Thank you for reading!

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How to: 2 Minute Bolt Check


What is a bolt check? It is a part-by-part scan of the whole bike by manually turning all the bolts–checking proper torque. Almost all the bolts will be a  4 and 5 mm hex head socket cap style. There are two on the stem, one on the seat post, two under the saddle, one at the derailleur hanger, and two on each brake caliper. The last few bolts are axles. They might be a quick release (with the flip lever and knob), through axle or bolt on. They need to be threaded tightly too. Some bikes might have more bolts than this. Don’t be afraid if your bike manufacturer set up theirs differently. You will become familiar with your bike setup. OKAY!

There are two types of bolts within the scope of an official Bolt Check: 5mm hex head and everything else. The 5mm hex head requires a 5-6Nm torque setting or hand tight. The other heads vary and might be circles with grooves, etc. Those ones will have higher torque settings and sometimes they need a special torque wrench. The 2 minute bolt check covers the small bolts. If a bolt needs to be tightened with a special tool, the bike might need further service. If that is the case, check with a professional!

Why run a Bolt Check? It is to maximize personal comfort to stop any rattling aluminum parts from ruining your ride. Number two is safety. It is common to hear someone’s horror story of their wheels falling off “out of the blue.” Third is to to address any reach (seat height, bar angle, etc.) changes that took place since the last bike trip.

Before every ride, it is a good idea take one pass through the bike with an allen key, focusing on the handlebars (or cockpit), axles, and saddle. It only takes 2 minutes.

GOOD LUCK! Find a missing bolt, or stripped head? Let me know how you found a loose bolt! Message me you comments in the CONTACT tab.

Most links go to Art’s Cyclery. A special thanks to them for my race support in 2017!

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Bolt Check

IMG_20171202_125759I started working on bikes for friends! They let me borrow their bike for a few hours. I run a basic bolt check, wheel true, and tire pump. They get it back later that day, and they get a list of their new bike stats (like new tire pressure).

It is a courtesy service for them. They deserve to have a bike that works perfect! They should be confident when they are on their bike. They have a right to know why their bike works the way it does! I hope to normalize wrenching bikes as a woman. No business is taken from my local bike shop friends; KMan, Art’s Cyclery, Foothill! They still have to come there for parts and overhaul!

I was inspired to do this for years. I grew up with a soft spot for wrenching. I spent a lot of hours watching my dad work on wood projects in the garage and who would GIFT me a new tool each Christmas. Wrenching kind of grew on me. Then I was BLESSED with friends who taught me how to fix my mountain bike when I got into the sport. The bike industry has been KIND and SUPPORTIVE as I’ve learned bike repairs.

<< Do you want to more about the service? Or do you have any cool stories of bike fixes you’ve encountered? I want to hear them! Click on the >>Contact Me<< tab on the home page. >>




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_NIK7502.jpgMy spine specialist explained the details on my season injuries a few weeks ago. He determined them as two separate issues: I have a few ligament sprains in my neck and some back contusions. He is confident I will heal with a lot of rest time and professional therapy.

I am mixing the chiropractic care and physical therapy to address the issues. I’ve attended almost three weeks of physical therapy and had seven chiropractic adjustments.

The chiropractor is focusing on pain relief. It is working! Ribs and joints have less sharp pain when I move them. They feel less swollen or “stiff!”

The therapist is strengthening muscle groups I injured in the crashes. Those are my between my shoulder blades and along my upper spine. Simultaneously she is correcting chronic bad habits like poor posture that are impeding my recovery. The corrections are inadvertently forcing me to address my body image in order to improve my overall (spine) health.

The specialists set me up with 2-3 sessions per week. I am working hard to afford the care, sometimes working 60 hours a week across two jobs. I am going to have to be diligent with my work and therapy. I can not slack off! Therapy is well underway, and though it is improving slower than predicted, I can not give up!

I have a follow up doctor’s appointment in early December. I hope to be back on the mountain bike in January sometime.

Please share how you have coped with an injury in the past. I’d like to hear your story too!

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First Ride

Everyone had a memory of their first bike or ride. Whatever your story is I’d like to hear it too! Click the “Contact” tab to message me how you started your two wheeled adventures!

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My neighbor asked me to ride mountain bikes on a random summer day. I was unaware of the sport, besides a brief moment watching a classmate his bike down a set of stairs. I thought mountain bikes were dorky! But, riding mountain bikes sounded fun that day, and I had nothing else to compare it. I had no money and no bike either! My neighbor suggested renting one from the local university’s MTB team. I handed the club’s officer $10 to get me through one week and I took the bike.

I put my hands on the bars, and I became a fiendish explorer. “ANYTHING could be out on the trails,” were my thoughts. I had no knowledge of dirt tracks, or how to shift the gears, and had no concern that I was racing the last minutes of sunlight. I stumbled upon the first trail. It dipped immediately with a steep climb out. I rode full gas to the bottom of the gully and got stuck. I hopped off the bike awkwardly in the wrong gear. I fumbled with my bike up to the next section. I rode into the evening that turned so dark I could barely see my tire in front of me.

The next morning, I woke up early. I couldn’t think about anything else besides the singletracks. I got on my bike and hit the trail. I kind of knew it as a mountain called Madonna, or something like that. I didn’t know much about the other trail heads on the mountain, and meandered into another one. It was steep. I pushed my bike again, and got a running start to hop on it. Sure I’ll get pedaling that way! My feet were swimming in the shoes I borrowed, two sizes too big. They were clipless, but they were bike-specific shoes. NEAT.

I pedaled a little up the trail, my legs in constant burn. I had no idea where the top of the trail was. Imaginary hours later at the top, a summer tree tunnel covered a singletrack ribbon. My eyes widened. And I pedaled fast, I felt the wind, and the sway of the bike. The trail went on for minutes. I got to the bottom of the trail, and had a feeling I was very far from the trail head. My only options were to backtrack back up or continue UP. Climbing was hard for me. But if I went forwards, it was new scenery! I had no idea if I would survive, and did not bring a water bottle. So UP it was!

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