CyclingTips Tech Mailbag #1: Gearing, Steering, and Tool Storage


Welcome to the CyclingTips Mailbag column, where you send us your technical questions, and our team of Nerds gives you answers. Do you have a question about wheel and tire standards? Want to know how to diagnose that weird shifting problem? Wondering where that damn ticking came from? ! Send us your questions at [email protected] to be featured in an upcoming CT Mailbag column.

In this introductory edition, we tackle some mysterious handling quirks, how best to organize your tools, and how to find the best gear for your fitness and terrain.

Hello James,

I was hoping you might be able to help with some advice. I rode a Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4 for about six years. The bike uses Shimano Ultegra with Fulcrum Racing Zeros alloys. Recently I upgraded to a 2018 Cannondale SuperSix (which was featured on CyclingTips here).

I’m definitely not the best on turns and descents, but I would have become very comfortable on tarmac. I wasn’t able to achieve the same comfort or confidence on the SuperSix. The front feels jittery at higher speeds, to the point that I’ve had a gear wobble a few times and can regularly feel one developing.

Recently the SuperSix rear derailleur bricked. While waiting for the store to take a look, I rode the Tarmac again.

I’m struck by how light the bike is and how willing it is to move when I jump on the pedals, how the bike feels smaller and more maneuverable under me, and how well I can navigate turns and descents. much more comfortably. I miss the disc brakes and the “whoooosh” carbon wheel, but I now feel quite conflicted with my time on the SuperSix.

So my questions are:

1: Is there anything in the geometry that would help explain my experience between the two bikes?

2: Is there anything I could consider changing on the SuperSix to make it look more like the Tarmac?

3: I think the inevitable outcome may be to get a completely different bike – do you have any advice on a frame that would provide a similar experience to the Tarmac but allow discs?

— Talked

Hello Jasse,

Looking at the two geometry charts, there’s almost nothing that should cause either of these bikes to handle any differently than the other, and the switch from rim brakes to disc brakes shouldn’t have effect on the way the bike turns in a turn.

The first thing I would do is check that you’ve copied your Tarmac position exactly to the SuperSix. Not only will this impact pedaling performance and comfort, but changes in weight distribution can have significant effects on handling. Are you using the same rod length? What about handlebar reach and lever position? Are you performing the same amount of handlebar drop?

Your mention of the high-speed shimmy is particularly interesting. To me, that suggests one of a few things: either you have less weight on the front wheel than before (thanks to a shorter stem or higher bar position), there’s a noticeable imbalance in your front wheel, or something in your frame is out of alignment (for example, one or both wheels are out of alignment).

Looking at your Instagram account (sorry I’m a bit nosy!) it looks like you use your stem lower on your Tarmac than on the Cannondale, so I’ll start there.


[After writing this reply, Jase contacted me to say that the stem on his Cannondale was, indeed, about 1 cm higher than it was on the Tarmac, and changing that has dramatically improved the handling. Success!]

Hi Dave,

I love your tool articles!

I have always (for nearly 50 years) built and maintained my bikes. At last count, there are seven in the hangar. They are mostly Campagnolo, exposed cable, rim brake. (Except for my only disc brake bike – a 3T Exploro – with Shimano. I have my bike mechanic son do the hydraulics.)

I’ve collected a bunch of tools to do what I need and built a few at home (eg wheel centering jig, bearing presses). These live in four poorly organized and cluttered toolboxes. I would like to rearrange, maybe using a 5 or 7 drawer tool cabinet and maybe some wall storage.

What is the best practice for organizing tools? Group tools by function? What to store where (wall vs. drawer)? Do you have resources to help, like this foam to place in the bottom of the drawers?

BTW, I like your Instagram Feed.


Richard Watson

Hi Richard,

You actually brought up a topic that I had planned to cover in an upcoming edition of Cool Tool Tuesday. In the meantime, here are some quick tricks I’ve found that work well.

Although it’s not always possible, I find wall storage near where you’ll be working to be the most efficient option. I like to hang only the tools that are used most often and group them according to their purpose. For example, the chain whip goes next to the cassette lock tool. And the cord cutters sit near the punch/poker. Frequently used tools (such as pliers and hex keys) are placed centrally for quick access.

It is also common to hang large objects (like a wheel gauge) on the wall as they are unlikely to fit in the tool cabinet; just find a remaining place on top or in a far corner. Pegboard is the most common option, but you’ll want to find a method to secure the pegs so they don’t constantly fall out when you pick up tools. Personally, I use plywood sheets and carefully positioned wood screws to hold the tools.

I then use tool cabinets (drawers) for less used tools or ones that I like to keep a bit more protected. Here, I group tools by type, which generally corresponds to function. For example, the pliers are in a drawer (a cut-out dish drainer keeps them upright and saves space). My threaded bottom bracket shells, crank pullers, and random cassette lock tools sit together in another drawer (small plastic containers keep small tools organized).

Foam inserts for drawers are very trendy these days and I use them when I want to keep tools safe or neatly organized. For example, my precision measuring tools are stored in a drawer for protection, while my bearing removal tools are foam cut to prevent them from rolling and mixing.

The foam I’ve been using for a long time is FastCap’s Kaizen foam, which is the original “toolbox foam.” It is a high density layered foam that allows you to easily trace around the tool and then remove layers of foam in 3mm segments. The big limitation with foam-lined boxes is space; you are effectively laying out your tools and therefore needing a larger box to hold the same number of tools rather than not using foam.

— Dave

I have a quick question for Dave Everett.

I became a member this year and am grateful for all of your passion and expertise!

I’ve put nearly 5,000 miles on my bikes in 2021, mostly on vintage 853 LeMonds and more than half on commuting miles. I manage a location of REI, a North American outdoor retailer, in New Jersey. Our team is 70 people and I started rolling more when COVID hit in 2020 because our staff were affected in multiple ways and I had no way to help them other than maintaining a supportive workplace.

I live less than five miles from my store, but I often turn my 21-hour commute into a 30-50 mile drive on dirt and pavement: canal trails, parks, unpaved farm roads. The miles allowed me to breathe and release the ever-present tension of the COVID era.

My cycling highlight of 2021 was riding from southern Maine to Battery Park in New York on a 2001 LeMond Poprad in three days. It was one of those trips where everything goes well and where there is no shortage of smiles!

After 15 years in my company, we receive a month’s pay — a sabbatical — in addition to our regular holidays. I hope to spend my four weeks riding in the Alps and surrounding terrain.

I was going to use a combination of 50/32T White Industries chainrings with an Ultegra 32t rear cassette due to climbing, but noticed you spec’d your Ritchey Logic with a 44/33T. I’m a fraction of the runner you are, so I must have gone madly to the big ring. Can you explain why you chose this combo and possibly give me some guidelines to make my decision? Open to any guidance from someone who lives in the field!

Thank you all for your work and efforts on the site!!!!


Colin Manning

Hi Colin,

Basically, I chose it because at the time (and still, if I’m being honest) I wasn’t in top form. Lord, I’m the father of a three-year-old child and a 7-month-old child! I don’t ride as much as I used to. It’s actually a 46/33T, not a 44/33T. The range offered by the 46/33T chainrings and the 10-30T cassette is slightly more than that of a 50/34T with an 11-28T. Although oddly jumping to a 50/34T with an 11-28T recently, I found it to be a bit more natural in cadence than my SRAM Force setup. Maybe I was just having a good day.

In the Alps, I hardly used the 33T chainring with the 30 or 28T cog. There just aren’t enough steep places for it to be used much. I’ve actually used it more in the last month living in the Basque region; the climbs are shorter and steeper, and if my legs get tired, I’ve reached it. The setup was ideal for venturing out on some gravel (with 30mm tires). It certainly works well there compared to other road setups. It fits well in this N+1 road/gravel group killer I think, but not for just any extreme gravel. A bit of gravel!

Overall I’m happy with the choice of how I ride (not too fast and for fun) and where I ride.

– Bad quality


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