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Technical FAQ: wrist pain, greasing fastener threads, and more on drivetrain compatibility

The VeloNews technical expert offers suggestions on how to manage riding with arthritis, and when to lube vs when to use a thread-lock coating.

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Have a question for Lennard? Please email him at veloqna@comcast.net to be included in Technical FAQ.

Dear Lennard,
Do you have any tips on controlling severe pain in the “wrist/hand-around-the-thumb area” from arthritis? I’m 77 and do now a considerable amount of riding on very poor asphalt roads, which over the years seems to have taken its toll, leaning on the bars. I try to control it with regular pain relievers, Aspercreme, etc. (and switching to 28mm tires rather than 23’s) all of which has helped some, however some days just lifting small objects can be very painful.
—Bill

Dear Bill,
I asked bike fit guru Andy Pruitt about your issue, and this is what he said:
“Wow! Now that is a very personal question! I have an arthritic wrist on the left and an arthritic thumb on the right!! My wrist is bad enough that I wear a custom-made leather strap that hooks thru my thumb to keep it from sliding up the arm. I modeled it after a neoprene wrist splint at Walgreens. I wear it for gravel and MTB but not usually for road riding. The thumb is a bit harder. I had to go away from Campy ErgoPower on the road as my thumb just couldn’t take the thumb shift lever. The same on MTB; Grip Shift (yes, it is still available) solves the thumb issues on the MTB. Lastly, fit is crucial to make sure your drop is measured from the top of your saddle to your hoods is not too aggressive.
— Andy”

We recently set up a mountain bike with 12-speed Grip Shift because thumb problems and thumb shifters don’t mix. And, of course, I custom fit him to his bike.

For road riders with thumb and wrist issues, we have used electronic shifters to resolve shifting issues, since electronic shift buttons require so much less pressure to actuate a shift.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I have a 1983 BMW motorcycle that I just finished tuning up and it struck me that I do not apply grease on fasteners like I do with bicycles. In fact, working on motorcycles for the past many years I have never used grease on any fasteners other than highly specialized grease on transmission splines or anti-seize on spark plug threads. Yet on bicycles, I grease virtually every fastener such as the cage bolts, BB, derailleur hanger bolt, you name it. Why the difference? I’ve posed this question to my bike mechanic friends and none could come up with an answer.
— Peter

Dear Peter,
I passed your email on to my friend, Ted Costantino, who has wrenched on motorcycles for decades, and he replied like this:
“No, not really true. But we do use more Loctite than grease on motorcycle bolts, because of the vibration. To pass inspection at the track, most critical bolts have to be lock-washered and safety-wired, so I got in the habit of using threadlock plus wire on race bikes and track bikes. That habit carries over today; I just used thread lock the other day on the nut for an electrical socket I was installing through a trim piece; I didn’t even think of putting grease on it. But for bolts for bodywork that are removed and replaced often, axle clamp bolts, and all sorts of adjuster bits in the drivetrain, a dab of grease or a drop of oil is definitely the way to go.”

I think another part of it is that except for the fine-threaded bolts on switchgear and similar stuff, the bolts and nuts on motorcycles are pretty stout, and some of them call for impressive torque specs. When you’re working your way around the torque pattern on a set of cylinder-to-crankcase bolts, you want those suckers to stay tight. Me, I tend to grease ’em, but I’ve seen manufacturer specs that call for installing them dry, because lube might lead to overtightening. In which case, I might give them a dab of threadlock if I have any concerns about them staying put.”
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
Just a quick note regarding the chain lifting off of the chainring in the mud. Back in my motocross days (20+ years ago), we’d run sprockets that were scalloped to allow mud to clear from under the rollers. Chain tension is tangential to the sprocket and carried by the faces of the teeth so there’s little/no force pushing the chain radially inward against the ring. I haven’t noticed this on bicycle rings/cogs, but I haven’t really been paying attention. Here’s a pic of a current scalloped sprocket.
— Louis

Dear Lennard,
I currently have a SRAM Apex 1x on my gravel bike. I have a 40t chainring and 11-46 cassette. I’m looking to upgrade to GRX 1x but am also looking for some lower gears for bikepacking. Is it possible to run GRX 1x shifters, GRX crankset with Wolf Tooth 38t chainring, GRX rear derailleur with goat link, and an 11-speed 50t cassette? If not, what would you recommend?
— Brandon

Tooth shape may encourage a chain to stay put on a chainring when caked in mud.

Dear Brandon,
The Wolftooth Components chainring is no problem.

The RX-812 rear derailleur (RX-817 for Di2) is made for 1X drivetrains and is rated up to 42T for the largest cog. On most bikes (depending on the geometry of the derailleur hanger), the derailleur rating is conservative, and you can get a few more teeth out of it by tightening the b-screw, maybe even more teeth than that by turning the b-screw around backward. So, with a Goat Link in addition, I’d say it’s likely you could boost that up to 50T.

Thing is, where are you going to get an 11-speed cassette that has a 50T cog on it? Not from SRAM. Just dropping chainring size to 38T and going to a 10-42 cassette will give you a considerably lower gear than you currently have.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
What’s the measurement tool called in the photo in the cleat positioning article? It’s not mentioned.
— Chris

Dear Chris,
It’s a vernier caliper.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
Regarding lubing e-bike chains, I have a Specialized Creo. I used a piece of Velcro strap to secure the chainring to the crank when applying lube.
— Lance

Dear Lance,
That’s a great idea! That (or a toe strap) could be the trick for my wife’s bike. It still won’t work with mine because of the tiny chainring. Thanks!
― Lennard


Lennard Zinn, our longtime technical writer, joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a custom frame builder (www.zinncycles.com) and purveyor of non-custom huge bikes (bikeclydesdale.com), a former U.S. national team rider, co-author of “The Haywire Heart,” and author of many bicycle books including “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” “DVD, as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.” He holds a bachelor’s in physics from Colorado College.

Follow @lennardzinn on Twitter.