Technical FAQ: Pulling cranks, filing lawyer tabs, and more

In Technical FAQ, Lennard Zinn talks about pulling cranks, lawyer tabs, stretching his IT band, and more

Pulling cranks

Dear Lennard,
Thank you for the helpful article on Campagnolo Power Torque chainset dismantling.

Do you think that for just removing the cranks (aluminum or carbon fiber), an ordinary gear puller, such as one of the pullers shown here, would work OK?

Dear Nick,
Yes, I think it would work fine. You obviously will have to fashion a plug to put in the end of the spindle for the push rod to push against after you’ve removed the crank bolt and washer. You may want to pad the tool’s tips with cardboard to avoid marring the back of the crankarm.

MTB crankset combos

Dear Lennard,
SRAM seems to attribute the best possible front mountain bike shifting to the 3:2 ratio of their 2/10 cranksets, but it is only true of the 42/28 and 39/26. The other two offerings, 38/24 and 36/22, stray from this “golden ratio.” Shouldn’t a 36/24 offer the same advantage (perfectly aligned teeth) they are touting for the first two? I am new to mountain biking but am always looking for better shifting.

Dear Mike,
Here’s the answer from Chris Hilton, SRAM’s mountain bike components product manager:

It’s true that these combinations don’t follow our complete X-glide shifting formula. Ultimately, we learned a lot about shifting performance when developing the X-glide 26-39 and 28-42. The ratio of the rings is one aspect of the system that encourages quality shifting, but ring design, rivet location and design, chain features, and FD cage design all play an important role.

We ultimately used market and customer feedback to determine the combinations of gears that were desired, chief among these was the low double 22-36 and 24-38. Based on our previous experiences, we knew that we could provide the superb shifting that SRAM 2×10 has become known for, AND deliver the desired gear ranges.

The growing popularity of the 2×10 system pioneered by SRAM continues to evolve, covering our entire drive train range from XX to X5, and even includes a new VIA GT 2×10 trekking group. Given its widespread acceptance, I’m sure that it will continue to evolve and provide the best possible drive train options for a wide variety of customers.
—Chris Hilton

Lawyer tabs

Dear Lennard,
I’m watching 3 Days of De Panne and the commentators mentioned the lawyer tab rule change again, as is often the case. Isn’t it possible to just make quick release levers with a big enough of a cam effect that they will clear the lawyer tabs? One would think that this wouldn’t be too difficult to do in an era with such technological advances as electronic shifting. The rule change seems really stupid to me, but everyone seems resigned to just keep using the same old QR levers.

Dear Charlie,
Yes, long-throw quick release levers do exist. You find them on many roof racks, of course, or getting bikes with lawyer tabs up on the roof would be far harder. Montague’s Clix is a skewer that clears the tabs. Neuvation also used to offer long-throw levers for use on the bike, but I can no longer find them on

Dear Lennard,
I’m a lawyer and I don’t file my lawyer tabs. Not because of liability concerns, though. The reason is the crash I witnessed during a Roubaix-style road bike race when the rider three bikes ahead of me heard a clanking noise and upon lifting up his front wheel to check it, pulled the wheel right out of the fork, which yes, had its lawyer tabs filed. He no longer has any of his original front teeth.

Dear Tre,
Youch! I have seen people with loose skewers lift their front end after stopping, only to have their wheel fall out. One of them turned quite pale, having just completed the descent into Silverton, Colorado in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic with his wheel loose enough to fall out.

To lift up on the front end while moving when you hear a suspicious rattle is an ill-advised strategy, whether it is due to a loose skewer or something else. It’s a good idea always to stop and then check it out.

Removing paint from a carbon frame

Dear Lennard,
I am considering purchasing a carbon frame on sale with a hideous paint scheme. Is there a safe way to remove the paint and either leave it as bare carbon or re-shoot to spec? And if left as bare carbon, is that a good or bad thing? I want to avoid a spray over as not to add more weight, whatever that may be.

Dear Paul,
Paint remover would not only dissolve the paint but also the resin that holds the carbon matrix together. The only way to safely remove the paint would be to sand it off by hand and stop before you sand off any carbon. This is not practical if your time is worth anything.

Pedal stroke technique

Dear Lennard,
I’m just wondering what you think of this quote from your recent bike fit article:

Just use the hamstrings to unweight the pedals and never pull back on the stroke or simulate scraping mud off the shoe …”

This seems to be the story of the whole article. Haven’t we always been told to scrape mud (or something else) off the shoe when pedaling? Ever since I started riding and racing, that has always been the mantra of pedaling. Is Bailey’s technique a new way to think about pedaling or did I just miss something? Would like to hear more about this old vs. new way to think about the up stroke.

Dear Jack,
I had Kevin Bailey, the owner of 3D Bikefit, answer your question; this is what he said:

“Scraping mud off the shoes — does it help or hurt the stroke? The key to a clean efficient pedal stroke is Tangential energy. When a rider can rotate on the saddle at the Pelvis they’re able to engage the Gluteus and upper thigh muscles instead of the much smaller lower quad muscles. When a rider tries to “scrape mud” it causes a jerky pedaling action that forces the rider to push down at the top of the stroke and pull at the bottom. This can lead to lunging and dropping of the heel, which effectively varies the saddle height on the bike and can lead to injury. An effective pedal stroke using Tangential energy comes from a good fitting and is a result of proper saddle height, fore-aft position, Pelvic rotation, ankle position and learning to engage the Gluteus and hamstring muscles

IT band stretches

Dear Lennard,
In your article titled “Bay Area fitter utilizes exclusive 3D technology for in-depth bike fits,” you mention IT band stretches that Kevin recommends to his clients. Do you have instructions? I am an avid cyclist and former [Ironman] athlete with chronic ITB syndrome. The ITBS has kept me from running, and is starting to impact my riding.

I am looking for any fit/stretching advice I can find that will help me be pain free on my long rides.

Dear Daniel,
Put one foot up on a step and lock both knees. Lean forward with your back flat and turn toward the side of the leg that is raised. Keep leaning forward further while twisting more to that side; you will feel the pull on your IT band on the leg that is up on the step. I’ve been doing this at least daily since November, and I think it’s reduced the number of occurrences of IT band pain, something that has plagued me a number of times over the past 24 years.

I’ve tried other IT band stretches over the years, and I found them to be either more hassle than I was willing to do regularly, so I didn’t keep them in my daily routine, or I felt them to be ineffective. Rolling out the IT bands on a foam roller has been the most effective thing I’ve found other than this stretch, but I travel a lot and don’t bring a foam roller, and even remembering to do it at home is surprisingly rare. The only time my IT bands have flared up since doing this stretch regularly was during (and the day after) the Birkebeinerrennet 54K classic-technique cross-country ski race in Norway on March 16.