Cable Hose & Outer Cutters – Update

Ok, they arrived in the post this morning – my wire rope cutters at a third (or maybe more) of the cost of the fancy named bike-specific tools available.

Wire Rope Cutters

Wire rope cutters & cut gear cable outer/hose

You can see on the left that the cut, rather than being mangled to bits, flattened & inviting foul words, is pretty much as near perfect as one could hope for. All for tenner.


I’ve long suspected since embarking on this project, that bike tool manufacturers tend to create this myth around the bike. That is, that it is a mechanical device that needs tools made specifically for “the bike” as it uses technology that exists nowhere else on the planet. Well, to coin a phrase, I’m no expert, but it would appear that knowing that a “pro housing cutter” is simply a wire rope cutter can save you quite a lot of money..

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Tools Needed To Build A Bike

I suspected that getting the right tools to build up a bike might be an extremely daunting & expensive journey to embark upon, but it turned out not too bad. You probably have the basics already – spanners/wrenches, screwdrivers etc. But you will need to buy some specialist stuff to get this done properly. It’s hard to be amusing or light-hearted about tools, believe me I tried, so I’ll just list what you need straight up.


You probably also already have allen keys, (I’ve never bought any – I’ve several sets courtesy of free gifts attached to the front of bike magazines & despite the advice to “get the best you can” – they have been more than adequate, never rounding off).


Now here’s an expensive one I hear you cry, but I took a gamble & bought a home made device off Ebay. You can see it in the pic here, below the chain whip. Pretty basic stuff and it only cost me £6. A proper headset press ranges from £40 – £140. Did it work, or did I humbly go to my local bike shop for help? Stay tuned!

Chain whip, headset press, cassette removal tool, bottom bracket tool

Chain whip, headset press, cassette removal tool, bottom bracket tool

Incidentally, you won’t need a chain whip to put the bike together, only when you need to remove the cassette – it will stop it spinning.


I went for the best, it isn’t a huge amount of cash for a Park tool like this, only about £10. Considering the extreme load & stress placed on the bottom bracket, I thought it worthwhile to get the best.


This became a little more complicated than I suspected due to the fact I opted for Shimano Centrelock (centerlock)  rotors, which meant compatible wheels & more specialist fitting.

Centrelock Lock ring removal tool & cassette removal tool

Lock ring removal tool & cassette removal tool

Now, you may read elated posts from elated bikers naturally pleased that they can save tool-money here, telling you that you’re in luck, because the cassette removal tool is the same as the lock ring removal tool; well not quite in many instances as you can see from the picture on the right.

You may gleefully fit your cassette, then your front centrelock rotor, only to find that you can’t fit the rear centrelock rotor because the tool doesn’t fit. Many of them are simply too shallow to engage the rear lock ring.

Lock ring comparison

Lock Ring Comparison

You can clearly see the problem in the picture above, the specific cassette removal tool on the left is not deep enough for the splines to connect, the Superstar tool on the right, however, is easily long enough and cancels out the tool on the left in every aspect from now on. Superstar do tend to buck the trend with components and tools, using the same factories to manufacture their product that many other high end brands use, they say, but somehow forgetting to add the huge mark-up on the price tags – cost? £4.99..

CRANK TENSIONER  TOOL (Shimano TL-FC16 Installation tool)

I guess this works in a similar way that your headset cap and bolt work to tension the stem & forks creating a perfect snug fit, so on that deduction I thought it worthwhile rather than trying to bodge it – only about £2, it’s made of a tough nylon and is designed to be tightened by hand to simply tension Hollowtech crank arms before tightening up – this will become clearer later, if not already.


Well I already have cable cutters for my car so didn’t bother buying any, only to find that after mangling my gear cable outer / hose to the point it looked like I’d found it in the road it became pretty apparent that I needed to get some. It seems like you can be forced to pay through the nose with many bike tools (see “headset press” above), but you don’t always have to – I read a “check this out, suckers” kinda article on the web where a guy pointed out that whatever you call it, this tool is basically just a wire rope cutter. Nothing more fancy or specialised than that. So, I await my £10 wire rope cutter bought on Ebay instead of my £30-£40 “cable outer cutter” from a bike shop. Will it work? I’ve not got a scooby, but if it does, it will reinforce my growing opinion that the home bike mechanic is easily ripped off on the choice of tools made available to him out there. No picture here yet as it hasn’t arrived..


Yup, I also have one of these. Using it with the bottom bracket tool, it spun off nearly causing a nasty accident, so I also add the next item to the tool list..


It’s one of those little genius ideas you stumble across, stop the force of tensioning something disperse into various bits of hard metal flying across the room, damaging you, your living room (yes folks, I build my bikes in the living room in winter..) & more importantly, your bike.

On the right, you can see I’m just loosely tightening the nut part of the skewer to stop the lock ring tool flying off while I tighten it. It works and once you try it, you will always use this method.


Tube Cutter

This was just a cheap £5 tube cutter, used for the seat post & the handlebars. Up to you if you want to trim or not, but I always have my handlebars a certain width – despite what fashion dictates. I know I can fit through certain narrow gates at speed without snagging my knuckles as I’m used to the size I prefer. I’ve been biking long enough to see fashions come and go and frustrating new size standards come in making parts of my bikes in the past obsolete. Are wider handlebars better? Not for me, I’m not cruising through the desert on a Harley, I’m more often as not dodging through people in the park on the way to the pub.

Thinking about changing fashions, here’s one that springs to mind; elliptical rings. Years ago these egg shaped chainrings were deemed to be the new wonder to help your pedalling rev’s work more efficiently… Then they disappeared amid cynical reviews saying no-one noticed any difference. I had some, I didn’t notice any difference. Well, last year I heard & read rumours that they were back. I guess new bikers will be a fraction too young to remember & will think it’s all new & exciting. I guess it just goes in revolutions & cycles, ironically..





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Frame Preparation

So you’ve chosen your frame, you’ve ordered it, you’ve collected it from the local smirking parcel depot staff (I later notice it has “handjob” in great big letters scrawled on one end of the box!) & now you just want to crack on & build it..

Well there’s a few things you might either not realise, or decide you can do without – chances are you might regret it at a later stage though. Why spend all that money on a good frame (high-end “boutique” frames are not cheap) & then not prepare the frame properly?

STEEL vs ALUMINIUM (or aluminum depending where you are..)

The Cove Handjob is a steel frame, once upon a time virtually all bikes were made of steel, but since, well, the mid 90’s I guess, aluminium has taken over & some people might even say steel is old fashioned – & it rusts. So why use it?

Steel, though, has properties which I like, & to me, seem right for a hardtail mountain bike – slight flex & some absorption of trail judder. Coming from a full suspension bike, the SDG advertising slogan of “chocolate starfish protector” (hmm, did I just add ‘chocolate’ in there? Can’t remember the ad’ that well..) seems somewhat appropriate for a hardtail too. Though the transition back to hardtail for me has been smoothed by the rear shock on the Manomano seizing up 3 years ago..


I did a lot more searching on this than I had anticipated, go ahead, try it – there’s not a lot of information or advice out there. The general consensus seemed to be Waxoyl it. Now I’ve done this to my old Beetle a few times & didn’t fancy adding an extra pound in weight to my frame. Then a reply to a post I left on the BikeRadar forum led me to JP Weigle’s Frame Saver – a can of toxic-ness that will scare you more than a clown on your doorstep late at night as you read the warnings, & after using, will probably have you feeling for lumps in your gonads for the rest of  your life.

JP Weigle's Framesaver

Not cheap, but protects your steel frame!

It cost me £15, not cheap, but then nor was my frame.

Using the damn thing was a bit of a nightmare though. Potent as it was, it did smell alarmingly like toffee & was almost as messy.

Like WD40, you need to insert the straw into the nozzle (you can see it pictured on the left) & then basically you try your best to get the fluid – which is very runny – into all of the frame. I found sticking to one tube at a time & blocking off anywhere it might run out (& give you a nasty surprise) with tissue paper made the best of an unpleasant half hour or so.

It does advise on the can to be aware of splash-back & avoid using the tiny water escape holes you find on frames, but I ignored this as I could see no other way of protecting these bracing areas & no point in not trying to.

It took an overnight leave before I was confident it had set as best it would ever set. I gave more careful consideration to the head tube & bottom bracket area – especially the latter as gravity tends to send any water that gets in & can’t escape straight to this area. Mucky job, but it hasn’t added any weight to my frame.


While we’re down there, let’s talk about bottom bracket facing; forums are full of riders pondering should I or shouldn’t I get my bottom bracket faced. Short answer is – you should. The area is the lowest point of your frame, sees water a fair bit, & suffers huge amounts of stress from being the engine of your bike.  So give it all the help it can get. Your bottom bracket needs to go in symmetrically as well, facing makes this happen. All it basically does, as far as I can make out, is come at each side symmetrically & cut away evenly till the sides are well, faced – we’re talking mm here, nothing more, it creates a nice snug seal for your bottom bracket.

The head tube; to face & ream or not? I didn’t initially – why? Cos my local bike shop had a look & said it actually didn’t need doing as the frame had been machined so well in the initial build. So I saved some cash there. If this area does need doing, get it done. For similar reasons you do the bottom bracket area, the head tube takes a lot of stress & pressure & it helps the headset sit correctly & evens the stress out over the whole of the contact area.

Some people do the brake mounts too, but I didn’t get that done. Hey, I might regret that later, we will see..

Oh, & I’ve found that any tiny chips that occur in the frame’s paint can be repaired with Humbrol enamel paints that you can pick up from most craft/hobby shops;  more important for steel than aluminium frames I would imagine.

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An Introduction

My name’s Sean. I’ve always been fascinated with mountain bikes ever since my friend pulled up one fine summer’s day in the local park where we used to hang out on a contraption that I knew was a bike, but couldn’t quite place it’s origins. That was about 1990, the bike was a Muddy Fox Courier – with a cool, understated splatter design on the frame a la Jackson Pollock/Stone Roses. From that moment on, I had to have one. No looking back.


I’ve gone through several bikes over the years, Marin Bear Valley that got stolen, some Diamondback or other & a Trek (that also got stolen, my fault this time – we’ll come to that another day when I touch on security) & a Kona Manomano that has served me well since 1999. But times change, & like us all, bikes get old & heavy too.

Time was ripe for some change, & a chance encounter with a gate followed by a 999 call, hospital & 2 weeks in pain on the sofa (we’ll come to that later too!) gave me time to reflect & consider my next move.


I decided to push the boat out & go for my dream bike – a Cove Handjob in vivid pearl orange & build it all myself – then just pray it doesn’t get stolen. Why Cove Bikes? Cos they’re sorta bespoke, very cool & being a big kid, I love their bike names!


I know how bikes work & can happily do most things at home, but there are some things I had to learn from bike shop advice and most of all, scouring forums & indeed, the helpful guys at Cove themselves.

At the top of my rapid learning curve, I found that some information was just not quite “out there” & took too much time to research & find out – sometimes because opinions differ, other times simply because it just didn’t seem to be readily available or at least, easily found.


My aim is to give you cool bike builders out there who aren’t Cytech trained mechanics but maybe read the “How To” sections in Mountain Biking UK (MBUK), Dirt Mountainbike Magazine or MBR  (Mountain Bike Rider) the real deal in what it’s like to build up a bike from scratch – the good the bad & no doubt the ugly.

I’ll cover everything I can think of that you might not find elsewhere, I’ll touch on those issues you probably don’t hear about so often – reviews are one thing, but using & fitting the components can be a different ball game; a pic of an external bottom bracket being secured in place doesn’t give you the low-down on the pain involved in the damn thing slipping or not going in right, does it..!


One curious thing to note as we head off on our journey – obtusely, your frame is at it’s most vulnerable before the build, just sitting (as mine does) on it’s own sofa in the living room. Unprotected from swinging plates & swinging doors & falling over when you stupidly try to balance it on the floor, the frame can get chipped before you’ve even begun. One bike shop owner told me that since the lead was removed from the paint, frames can chip easier – I’m not sure how true that is, it might be a curious thought or turn you into Spock as you raise one eyebrow whilst being told, but I can assure you it’s not one of the things I’ll be looking into!

Think about it, when you crash, most often your frame may well not even touch anything else – it’s protected; in much the same way as you might be in your zorbing sphere on your way to work as you try to travel green while your bike’s being built.

It’s protected by the wheels, seat & handlebars.  For now, wrap the extremities in bubble wrap – better safe that sorry.

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