Used Bike TLC – Need Chain, Chainring, Headset Advice

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Used Bike TLC – Need Chain, Chainring, Headset Advice


This topic contains 4 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Mickleback 2 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #219698

    I just picked up a well-used Surly Pugsley for my wife, and I was just going through the things that need attention.  I’m pretty sure I have it all figured out, but could use some advice on a couple of things.

    Here’s what I (think I) figured out thus far:

    brakes – The (avid bb7 mech) brake pads are kinda cracked on the edges and look a little worn but not horrible.  However, they squeak like the dickens when I brake hard.  I assume I should replace them, and they’re *kind of * cheap, so this one seems like a no-brainer.  However, if I’m just being paranoid and just need to adjust instead, or should focus more on the discs, I’m all ears.

    stem – It’s got a 110 Salsa Stem on it with a little rise.  She complains that it’s too far out, so I was just going to replace with a short trail stem of some sort.  Any suggestions on brands and/or whether this is a horrible idea?  I think the closer / higher I can make it, the more she’ll ride, so I was just going to buy the cheapest decent brand name stem in like 30mm I could find.


    Here’s what I really need some advice on:

    Chainring – It’s currently running 2×9 with a protector on the outer front ring.  I’m going to remove the protector and put a big ring on instead.  The current biggest ring is 32T, and I don’t know if I should go with 34T or 36T for the bigger one.  Is it just up to my own discretion or is there something else I need to take into consideration (like the chain size, or # of teeth on the back rings or something?).  If it’s just left up to me, I assume 36T would give me the most range, but I really have no strong opinions on the matter.  Any advice?


    Chain – I’ve never purchased a new chain before.  From what I’ve read, it only matters how many gears are on your rear cassette — is that right?  So if I buy a 9-speed chain, I should be good, regardless of derailleur brand, # of front rings, teeth, etc?  Does anyone have any advice on an inexpensive, but well-made chain brand?


    Headset – The headset is pretty sticky, but I can’t tell if that’s just the stiffness of the cables or if it needs serviced.  Servicing headsets freaks me out for some reason, but the LBS is super pricey.  If it basically turns but is a little stiff, is it even worth looking into?  There are no grease leaks or any other signs of damage or noise or anything, and it doesn’t really bind up.


    I’ve been out of bike maintenance for a while, so I really appreciate your advice.  Thanks.



  • #219721

    That’s a great bike!

    Brakes: I’m a fan of the BB7s myself because they’re easy to maintain/repair. However, Avid brakes are known for being squeaky, especially when they’re wet.

    Stem: Go shorter than 110mm for sure. 30mm might be too short, especially if the bars are fairly narrow already (say, under 720mm). Stems are really basic so you can even get away with a no-name brand. I say look for something around the 60mm length, but that’s just a guess.

    Chainring: Depends on how strong a rider your wife is and also what the terrain is like where she’s riding. 36T should be ok though, especially since there is a bailout ring. If you can get a protector that fits the big ring, it’s a decent investment to prevent broken teeth on your new 36T.

    Chain: Get a SRAM 9spd chain. It’ll be cheaper than the 10spd chains. You’ll need to remove some links from the chain to make it fit your gearing configuration.

    Headset: I would personally leave it alone, then replace it once it’s no longer functional.

    Good luck!

  • #219780

    Nice bike. The chain. Do you have a chain stretch measurement tool?  If the chain is worn and you change it be warned that depending on how worn stretched it is  you may need to replace the rear cassette too. Otherwise the chain will jump under load in some gear choices. The chain rings may need to be changed too especially the granny ring – symptom is chain suck when gritty dirty.

    Nothing worse than a suck and see approach to your wife’s bike imho 🙂

  • #219781

    The brakes. The pads are they evenly worn? The wear even to the pad plate?  If not it maybe the calliper is out of alignment with the rotor. To see look down the rotor and pull the brake lever.   If the rotor moves or twists then slacken off the calliper bolts and while holding the brake on retighten the bolts.

    If the pads are not overly worn it may be the surface of  the pads are ‘hard’. Take them out and carefully rub the brake pad surface with emory cloth just to remove the top layer.

    The rotors may be worn. Run your finger nail on the rotor brake surface from the inside to the outer edge. If you feel a ‘u’ or curve then its worn. The surface should be flat like the rotor arms. New pads on a worn rotor will be initially rubbish for braking until they fit the ‘u’ and probably be noisy too.

  • #220100

    Are you located in the UK? It’s just that whenever I need advice on what’s best when putting together a new set up on my bike I give Mo a call at The Bicycle Doctor in Manchester. He’s so helpful and has been building bespoke bikes for decades. There is nothing he doesn’t know about bikes & he’s one of those guys that is all too happy to help.


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