general wrenching frustrations

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bikefind
Participant
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warning. whining rant and complaining below.

Ok. when I go into a weight room, if there are other women there, I’m almost always stronger than the rest of them, judging by what we’re putting on the bench press, etc. I don’t think of myself as a physically weak person, and don’t generally run into experiences that make me think of that notion as a delusion.

Generally.

But when I go to work on my bike, it’s insane. You’d think I’d just gotten up from spending a couple years in a coma or something. I’ll have myself wedged against a wall holding onto something I’m trying to wrench apart, I’m pushing/pulling/twisting to the point of seeing stars and getting no action.

The other day I was putting my wheel back on in front of my boyfriend, and I was pushing the quick release in (hurting my hand, but getting it) and he pushed me away (grounds for murder, but another topic) and felt the release and said with shock, “that was hard for you?”

I’ve ruined tools. And not by using them cavalierly. I’m constantly trying very very hard to make sure things are all squared up when I start putting pressure on them, but invariably all the pressure I’ve got isn’t enough and then something slips and I’ve stripped something.

Could it be that my arms are strong but my hands are weak? I just went online and looked at some sites with hand exercises, which I’m going to start trying.

Or maybe I’m just doing everything wrong. I don’t know – I’ve taken lessons from a good mechanic, I’ve volunteered at FR and cashed in my hours to take their classes, spent time attempting to wrench in the shop. I suspect I’m missing something. I hope it’s something I can learn and not just a piece of my brain that’s supposed to be there but isn’t. I really want to be better at this stuff than I am right now.

(It occurs to me to also mention that there have been times when I’ve worried that my brain just isn’t sophisticated enough (as far as motor stuff goes) or my hands aren’t coordinated enough, but on the other hand, I’ve spent portions of my life making a living as a musician, so I’m hoping I can reliably reject that idea.)

Anyway, anyone have ideas to share? Advice that might help me improve would be appreciated.* Even better would be a chance to learn from someone. I could drop some cash to that end, or maybe do some sort of bartering. (If someone’s considering this, but wary, I’ll use my own tools, or replace anything I kill.)

*besides liquid wrench. I keep that in arm’s reach.


Lyle
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It’s tool use that separates man from the ape. Get a socket set and a long ratchet.


icemanbb
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It may just be a question of leverage. Depending upon what you’re trying to wrench apart applying the force in the most efficient fashion is key. This can be especially difficult “on the road” where you don’t have the advantage of a stand and/or all the tools. Than again sometimes parts just get “frozen” together. Brute force, a little profanity(or a lot) a little liquid wrench helps. You sure the boyfriend wasn’t just “yanking your chain” regarding the QR?


peaceturkey
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Jason
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I don’t think it is a matter of strength. It is a matter of getting the tool and your body in the correct position. I am not sure how to describe it in much more detail. If you are struggling to loosen or tighten something then you need to stop. If you are putting 100% effort in trying to turn something, chances are you are not watching the wrench slip on the faster a bit. That is when tools and parts become damaged. You need to stop and get a longer tool or reposition where you have better leverage.

An example is that I have a couple pedal wrenches. I use different ones depending on how the pedal is tightened on the crank arm.

I also have multiple allen wrenches in each size depending on what fastener I need to adjust. I think I have 4 or 5 different allen wrenches in each size.

Another example is using open ended wrenches and cone wrenches. They have multiple positions they can be applied to the fastener you are trying to work on. You need to find the best position that will give you the most leverage.

I see people use the chain whip and cassette lockring tools in the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. It is very difficult to use them in that position and you risk busting your knuckles up. I put the two tool tools very close to each other and use them like scissors.

A lot of open end wrenches and sockets come in the 12 point variety, especially cheaper tools. The 12 points help you get the wrench on the fastener quicker and in a very optimal position but they only contact the fastener in a small area. You need to get a good set of 6 point wrenches. You should be able to still find a good position for the tool and the wrench sits on the fastener much more securely.

Lastly, tools get worn out. Replace them or sharpen them when they get worn. Allen wrenches can be cut down a few mm when they get worn. Look at the end of the allen wrenches, if they are even slightly rounded, do something about that. Do not use a grinder to grind the wrench down, it will ruin the heat treating in the wrench and it will round off the first time you use it. Use a hack saw. It is like the old saying, “the most dangerous knife is a dull one”. When it is dull you need to put more effort in and you are more likely to slip and cut your self.


Lyle
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What he said.


dooftram
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Wrenching has almost nothing to do w/ strength and everything to do w/ patience, persistence, and the right tools. Other than what’s been said, try to clean and grease/lube things w/threads before you put them back on a again. Makes their later removal much, much easier and keeps threads happy. If you can’t do it by feel, get a torque wrench so you don’t overtighten shit. As far as boyfriends go….well, sometimes its better to get help from someone you’re not sleeping with. Or find one w/infinite patience and a good set of shop-level tools. Some people learn best by watching instead of being told. I know I do.


bikefind
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Thanks so much, all of you. This makes me feel like there’s a point to keeping at it, which creates a nice counter to the voice in my head that keeps saying “maybe you just suck.”

And I’m in the midst of a tool-buying phase, so it’s good to have these tips to guide my choices.

iceman, I don’t think he was yanking my chain, and I already swear like a drunken new yorker, but I’ll see if I can turn it up a notch:)

Jason, thank you, this is great. It’s fantastic that you’re here. What in the world are the differences between the allen wrenches though? and I think I missed something here- chances are you are not watching the wrench slip on the faster a bit.

dooftram: can I use chain lube for the threads? If not, what should I look for? And I know you’re right about the bf – I’m going to keep looking (not for a new bf. just a new bike wrenching mentor.)


dooftram
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“can I use chain lube for the threads? If not, what should I look for?”

Sure, but grease doesn’t drip. And it’s just…well, get some and start using it and you’ll see what I mean.

You should be able to get it or similar just about anywhere you can buy a bicycle. Or find similar bearing grease at any auto parts store even cheaper.


Lyle
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Better yet, use molybdenum anti-seize. You can buy it at an autoparts store in an 8oz bottle that will last the rest of your life.


dwillen
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I use a thin chain lube on old, stuck screws/bolts. It penetrates pretty well and makes taking them out much easier sometimes.


Lyle
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For rusted/seized threads, try PB Blaster. Though any kind of thin oil is better than nothing.


dwillen
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I am sure there are better solutions than mine, but like you say, sometimes it’s easier to use something you already have.

Chain oil is nice because most people have it in the house already. If you need it thinner for better penetration, you can cut it with a bit of paint thinner/kerosine/white gas and drip that on the screws/bolts. Pretty close to the same concoction as all the commercial solutions.


Ahlir
Participant
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Most folks have WD-40 around the house, which does a pretty good job of loosening things up. Try that first. Otherwise go to the store and find something like Liquid Wrench, ie “penetrating oil”.

@dwillen: I’ve been meaning to ask, are you actually running a Rohloff? Did you build your own or does someone around here sell something with it? It just seems like it should work really well for this town. Anyway, those are cool hubs.


sloaps
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+1 on the PB Blaster.


dwillen
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@ahlir there is one on my mountain bike. It is maybe 7 years old now; a discontinued commercial frame from Van Dessel (in NJ). If you come to a flock in the woods ride, you’re welcome to take it for a spin. I think it’s even more useful in the woods, where you don’t really know when the next hill will pop out from around the corner and between the trees. At least on PIttsburgh roads I know I’m going to have to bike up Greenfield Ave before I even unlock my bike.


Jason
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@bikefind:

Standard length Allen wrenches:

allen wrench Pictures, Images and Photos

Stubby Allen Wrenches, better for tight areas and high torque:

allen wrenches Pictures, Images and Photos

T-handle, even better for high torque when you use the allen in the handle. The regular t-handle is great because it allows you to drive the tool into the fastener at the same time you try and turn it. The ones with ball ends are nice for tight quarters but a set that does not have the ball ends is a necessity.

Torx T-Handle Pictures, Images and Photos

Ball end allen, works great when you need it but tends to ruin fasteners because the tool does not make enough contact for higher torque. be careful using these.

ball end allen key Pictures, Images and Photos

Y-wrench allen, similar to a t-handle but allows me to have 3 different size allens in my hand at once.

Y WRENCH SOCKET Pictures, Images and Photos

Socket with an allen wrench, this is good for those really stuck fasteners. Sometime I will use on of these in 8mm and a air powered impact to get crank arm bolts out. The impact wrench is nice because I can use all my energy keeping the tool inside of the fastener and the impact does the work loosening the bolt.

A 8mm Socket Allen Key is used to Remove the Lower Bolt. Pictures, Images and Photos


Jason
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@bikefind: and I think I missed something here- chances are you are not watching the wrench slip on the faster a bit.

It was supposed to read “fastener”.

Picture that you are trying to loosen a stuck axle bolt and you are putting all of your effort into turning the wrench. You are probaly watching your knuckles so you do not bash them when the nut comes loose. When people are putting 100% into a wrench they sometimes will twist the wrench a bit, allowing it to slip off of the fastener.


Jason
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We also have a 3′ section of pipe the we use for additional leverage when needed. Also a 3/4″ dowel rod works well for threading through chainstays to keep crank arms from rotating while removing stuck pedals.

I don’t seem to need the 3′ section of pipe much anymore since I started using an air powered impact. I use it mostly for extracting stuck bottom brackets and crank arm bolts. You need to be very careful with one of those tools because you can ruin some parts or tools very quickly.


John
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The other day I was putting my wheel back on in front of my boyfriend, and I was pushing the quick release in (hurting my hand, but getting it) and he pushed me away (grounds for murder, but another topic) and felt the release and said with shock, “that was hard for you?”

A few tips on quick releases, if you haven’t heard them already:

You should have to push fairly hard to close a quick release, but not ridiculously hard. They’re infinitely adjustable, so find what works. I think the rule of thumb is that you need to push hard enough that you can see the imprint of the lever on your palm after you close it. The orientation of the lever can matter, too. It’s usually best to close it near (but not over) the fork or stays, so you can use those for leverage.

You should also periodically put a drop of oil on the quick release’s cam pivot. That will make it easier to operate, especially if it’s an open cam style.


ejwme
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I struggle with the same exact problems bikefind, I inherited an ability to strip and break tools and fasteners from my mother. Jason’s advice is spot on, I’ve managed to refocus my strength for good, not wreckage, by doing what he’s described. But I’m probably not as strong as you are, so maybe aren’t as frustrated either. But don’t give up!

And on the quick release – this isn’t sarcastic at all, seriously, but I’d bet good money that you loosened it for him. Mine I find that I end up tugging and pulling with all my might to no avail, take a breath, then the second (or third or fourth) try it comes right off without much fuss, it’s like night and day. I’m still trying to find the quick release “sweet spot” where it gives me confidence that the wheel won’t come off but I can unfasten it without turning purple. I seriously bet you loosened it for him.


lulu
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bikefind, it is perfectly normal to sometimes strip a screw head, especially if it is oxidized.

Phillips head are designed so that the screwdriver slips above a given torque applied to the head. It is better to destroy the head of the screw, than over torque and destroy the threads.

I’ve fixed many 70’s japanese motorcycles, and it is routine to use an impact wrench or a screw extractor.

In addition, most of cheap recent bikes have really, really low quality fasteners, which don’t conform to any standard. So you will strip those.

There are common values of maximum torque for each screw diameter. You can try to use a torque wrench, if you really have no clue, if nobody is there to teach you. It would be a place to start. After a while, you’ll get used to it.

Some people tend to over-torque, other to under-torque. Even people who look like they know what they are doing may have bad habits.

Good screwdrivers will make a difference, too.


Jason
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“Good screwdrivers will make a difference, too”

X2

Yet another tool that will get dull and worn out. With these I buy craftsman and I take my whole set back every year and exchange them for new ones. I am not sure what I am going to do if Sears ever goes out of business. You almost need an magnifying glass to see when phillips bits are getting worn. Do not use old screwdrivers on your bike.

@lulu: Do you know Japaneses motorcycles use a different type of Phillips? American screwdrivers will fit and most of time will do the job. Those pesky screws on the float bowl of carbs, ugh, I stripped a few of those before I found out I was using “American” screwdrivers on a “Japanese” screw.

Look up JIS (Japanese International Standard)screwdrivers. They will save you a lot of 4 letter words when working on motorcycles.

Also, I am not sure I agree with the comment about a screw head is supposed to strip before the threads strip. I have never heard that before. If you screwdriver is sharp and the fastener is new, it should not strip the head, you should be able to break the head off or strip the threads (this all depends on how many threads are engaged).


bikefind
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@ejwme: I didn’t loosen anything for him. I was in the process of putting it on. (This wasn’t something I felt (or feel) like I needed guidance on – I’ve taken plenty of wheels off and put them back on.) He was concerned, though, that I wasn’t putting it on tightly enough. I was starting to close the release, opening it if it was too hard or too easy to close, screwing the other side to adjust, pushing the quick release again. When I got it to the point where it felt like there was enough pressure (leaving a mark in my hand kind of thing) I started pushing it in. That was when he decided to take over and expressed shock that I was having to exert myself to close it at that level of tightness.

It wasn’t a big deal, mainly annoying. I think the wheel would have been on fine. I mentioned it here in the context of theorizing that my problems might have something to do with a lack of particular kinds of physical strength. This seemed to support that. At this point, though, I’m going to go with Jason and the others in this thread who’ve said it’s not about strength. (The bf disagrees, btw. He specifically told me today “it’s about strength”. I have clipless pedals on my old mtn bike that I want to put on the new one, and I’ve been wrestling with them for about a week now.)

(Also not a big deal. My interest in succeeding in the task is far greater than my desire to move the pedals.)

All the advice I’m getting here is fantastic, and I know I’m going to come back to it repeatedly. I think experience can be a big factor, but I’m also thinking today about another liability I deal with that I’m not always aware of. I can be really awkward about physical tasks. Like I’ll go to pick something up and I’ll just grab it in the least efficient way possible. Or I’ll have something in my hand and I’ll need to do something else that takes two hands, and I’ll stand there struggling with the second task, trying to do it with one hand, for a painfully long time before I realize I need to put the first item down. (Either that or my handicapped efforts lead to some sort of disaster and at that moment I think, “oh, it would have been good to put the other thing down.”)

Anyway, how that relates, is that I don’t always seem to have alot of common sense about physical things. I’m sure there are times I’m trying to use a tool, and doing things right as far as most of the advice people would think to give you, but I’m probably doing it from a weird angle or from a posture that makes it really difficult. And it’ll never occur to me (“well, how else could I get in there?” “well if you move the bike, you can do it from there.” “oh! move the bike! right…”)*

Sometimes I feel like I need a combination physical therapist / mechanical mentor. Someone who can recognize and explain to me what I’m doing wrong in a way I can understand. Although just having someone whose brain(s) I can pick is a big help too.

*It’s actually kind of amazing to me that I’ve learned to ride as well as I have, with my general lack of coordination. Not that I’m anything all that impressive in a context like the bike pgh scene, but when I first decided I wanted to ride a bike as an adult, I would sometimes just fall over. No physical intuition whatsoever. I actually had to have someone explain to me how to get off a bike. Like bringing one pedal to the bottom of the pedal stroke, taking the other foot off and putting it on the ground. The idea of doing that would have never ever come to me on my own. I had just been jumping off the bike when I got to where I wanted to go. I did that for months.


Jason
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Here is a good diagram of the two different screw heads. You can see pretty clearly that the American screwdriver would not be able to fit deeply enough in the JIS screw and would strip it easily.

Photobucket


Jason
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@bikefind: Do not believe for a second that myself or anyone else here has not stripped a lot of fasteners and ruined perfectly good part by doing bone headed things. We all do it and we all, hopefully, learn from it.


ejwme
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sorry bikefind, I must have read your description wrong, didn’t mean to insult or provide unsolicited advice.


bikefind
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we’re good ejwme – sorry if I made you think I felt insulted:)


Lyle
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Lucky for you, you don’t have my father screaming at you when you screw it up.

As far as quick-releases go, the theory is that you’re supposed to be able to set them once and then never have to fiddle with them.

The reality is that you most likely have “lawyer lips” on the fork.

The outcome is that you are probably now less safe on a bike than had you NOT had the lawyer lips, because you’re constantly messing with your quick-release adjustments and increasing your chances of getting it wrong.

Don’t feel too bad about not automatically knowing how to start/stop on a bike, you’d be amazed how many other adults are just fumbling along with something they learned when they were 6 or 8. Check out how many of them weave over to a curb when they have to stop for a red light — or don’t stop for the light, for the same reason.


bikefind
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As far as quick-releases go, the theory is that you’re supposed to be able to set them once and then never have to fiddle with them.

This was just after repacking the hubs. Had to take them all the way out for that.

lawyer lips? I’m totally confused.


Ohiojeff
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Lawyer lips are the little things that keep your front wheel from dropping out of the fork when you release your (now-not-so)quick release.

One can file them off….


edmonds59
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From your description of setting the quick release, it sounds like you were doing exactly the right things to get the tension right. That’s exactly how I do it and I’ve been doing it for xxxxxxxxxxxxxx-years.

Tell your BF, hey, I don’t push you out of the way when you’re trying to use your little tools. ;)

No one is born with the inherent “feel” required by mechanics, it has to be learned, and while you can be taught how to do something, “feel” can’t be taught. The only way to learn how to work with mechanicals is to put your hands on and do it, sometimes you’re going to fuck things up. Big deal. If you work on old bikes, things will break. Obviously with safety critical things, someone who knows what they are doing should check what you have done. But sometimes the best way to teach someone something is to stand back and let them fuck something up. Again, big deal. Things are replaceable. Remember this if you ever have children.

If dude thinks it’s all about strength, I guarantee he will break more things than you do.


ejwme
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no worries bikefind :D

I’m so glad to hear others treating the “quick” release the way I am. Makes me think that I really ought to swap out for a… non-quick release, whatever that’s called. Sounds faster and safer (with appropriate tools).


lulu
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Jason,

I did not know about JIS! Thank you very much.

I did not mean that the phillips head would be stripped before the threads. I meant that the screwdriver will slip when the torque applied to the screwdriver is too high. I learned it in high school. Since you made me wonder (so many things you learn in high school are wrong!), I googled it, and in wikipedia, here is what I found:

“The Phillips screw drive was purposely designed to cam out when the screw stalled, to prevent the fastener damaging the work or the head, instead damaging the driver. This was due to the relative difficulty in building torque limiting into the early drivers.”


Jason
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@lulu: Ahhh, I did not know that. I wonder is they are referring to an early style of phillips bit or the ones we use today are the same.

Edit, I read the Wiki page, good stuff right there.


bikefind
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ok, so first thanks a million Lyle for showing up here with the big pedal wrench and getting my pedals off. bigger thanks for letting me try it first and making sure I was at least going about it in an appropriate way.

next, I’ve had a couple conversations with people about threading, and almost lost my mind trying to sort stuff out tonight. Thought I’d post about it here.

crank (right) side pedal is normally threaded, left side is reverse threaded. When you imagine the pedals rotating around the bottom bracket (focusing on the left for an example, so that would be counter-clockwise) the pedal is actually rotating relative to the spindle in a clockwise direction. Clockwise translates to “righty” in the “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” scheme, but since the left pedal is reverse threaded, righty means loosey. Which makes it sound like pedaling forward would be loosening your pedals while you ride your bike.

Which would be bad. Don’t want the buggers to fall off. In fact, I’ve had people tell me, as a way to remember about the threading, that it has to be threaded so that when you pedal (on either side) you’re tightening as you go. This seemed maddeningly backwards to me because I used that direction to loosen the pedals.

So, after staring into space for a while, and then trying to find a sheldon article I’d been told of, but with no luck, I found something on wikipedia.

And oh good lord no, no, anything but this, it’s about precession. Which always takes my brain and ties it into a gooey knot, then stuffs my whole head into the nearest blender.

Anyway, I’m kind of getting there. I can hold the idea in my head for a couple moments before I notice I’ve started staring into space again. In case anyone is interested, check out the 2nd paragraph under “attachment” on wikipedia’s bicycle_pedal page.

“Although the left pedal turns clockwise on its bearing relative to the crank (and so would seem to tighten a right-hand thread), the force from the rider’s foot presses the spindle against the crank thread at a point which rolls around clockwise with respect to the crank, thus slowly pulling the outside of the pedal spindle anticlockwise (counterclockwise) because of friction and thus would loosen a right-hand thread.”

woof.

oh. oh. oh. this just fell into place. the fourth time through seems to have done the trick. this calls for some celebratory staring into space.


Ohiojeff
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but since the left pedal is reverse threaded, righty means loosey.

Indeed, but the upshot of this is that the pedal wrench goes “up and back” on both sides of the bike to loosen the pedals. If you are applying pressure on the wrench to get a pedal off you pull “up” and toward the back wheel.

No need to worry about left or right threading–unless you want to of course. In that case, the next course is “English or Italian: Bottom Brackets and their Threading”


bikefind
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Indeed, but the upshot of this is that the pedal wrench goes “up and back” on both sides of the bike to loosen the pedals. If you are applying pressure on the wrench to get a pedal off you pull “up” and toward the back wheel.

Right. That wasn’t the thing that was throwing me. It makes sense that they’d both loosen in the same direction wrt front/back of the bike, rather than both be threaded the same way (left/right). The thing that was blowing my mind was that the way you would turn the crank (while holding the pedals in a fixed position) to indicate the motion of unscrewing the pedals is the same relative motion that ends up tightening the pedals while riding. I had to read the precession text a bunch of times to get that solidly.


Jason
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I have never understood why the pedals are threaded that way either. You are exactly right. If your bearings seize and you pedal forward, your pedal can come off.

Bottom brackets are the same way. As you pedal forward you are trying to unscrew the bottom bracket.

Also why is it called a “bottom bracket” and not “crank bearings”? It is in the “bottom’ but there is no “bracket” about it. Head sets should be head bearings.


bikefind
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I know I’m always better off if things make sense to me. If someone just tells me something like “go right for this, left for that” or “forward to do this, backwards to do that” I *will* get it backwards a good percent of the times I try to remember.* If I have a reason to think it goes the way it does, then I’m in good shape. If the reason’s actually correct, even better.

*sometimes I think this is a sort of mild dyslexia, never being able to distinguish between two things that strike me as equal, but then sometimes I think it’s something weirder. Like when I was in kindergarten, I remember being really offended when they taught us left from right. I remember thinking indignantly that they were equivalent to each other (without quite having the words for it) and that there was something really wrong with giving them different names. Of course at this point in my life, I see the usefulness of it (finding someone’s house on a grid of streets, conceiving of which way something is threaded, knowing which side of someone’s chest to cut into to do heart surgery, if that’s your line of work) but still that old feeling persists.

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