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P38 Questions.

What are the advantages of a 20" front tire over a 16" tire?
Is the 20" front fork expensive?
What is the best overall chain?
How many chain lengths will I need to replace my old chain?

Hi again lightningman,

1) I have a lot of miles on a P-38 equipped with both the original 16" wheel and the 20" wheel. With the same tires, at the same pressures, the larger wheel has a slightly smoother ride. The difference is noticeable, but not a big deal. Since the ride is smoother, you can crank somewhat harder on imperfect road surfaces if you want. The seat leans back more too with the larger front wheel. You might like this. Also: there are tons of different tires available in the 20" size, and they are available almost anywhere. The 16" tire is an oddball size, and you may need to poke around to find them. Very few bikes use the 16" size anymore.

A tip: place a phone book - or a stack of magazines that is 3" high - under your present 16" wheel and sit on your bike. Can you still get your feet flat on the ground? If you can't, stick with the 16" wheel. I hate to tip-toe at a stop, especially when I am tired.

2) Lightning charges something around $200 for a new fork, whether 16" or 20". At least that was the price some time ago. You have to get on the phone with them for an up to date price. If you get a new fork, make sure the steerer tube diameter and length will fit your bike. Be sure the steerer tube is threaded if you have an old-style threaded headset. And make sure the fork has V-brake studs if you use V-brakes.

I like the touring style fork more than the racing fork. It weighs a few more ounces, but it has room for wider tires and a fender. The racing fork is strictly for skinny 20" tires like the Conti Grand Prix, Schwalbe Durano and the like. Don't even think about using a fender with the racing fork. Even with a skinny tire the fit between the top of the tire and the bottom of the fork crown is VERY TIGHT.

3) Chains from SRAM, KMC, Shimano etc. are all perfectly good. No real differences worth caring about. I buy chains from Nashbar when they have a sale going. The newer 9sp cassettes must be used with 9sp chains. An 8sp chain will not work properly.

4) I think you will need a bit over two chains. Say two and a quarter chains, or two and a third or so. Buy five chains and you should be set for two complete replacements with some chain left over.

When you consider the expense of a new fork, a new front wheel and tire, and the hassle of doing the switch, I question the wisdom of doing this. But it is fun to try new things, and if your legs are long enough it might be worth doing. Your call.

f you decide to do it, please write back to me and maybe you can sell me your old 16" fork.

Safe riding,

Once again Joel thanks for your advice.

Hey Joel,
Road chain or Mountain Bike Chain?

To the best of my knowledge, road bikes and mountain bikes use the same chains.

The only thing to worry about is the chain's width. Skinnier chains work with skinnier cassette cogs in the rear. So you need to match up the chain to the number of gears on your rear cassette. 7sp and 8sp drivetrains use a 7/8sp type chain. 9sp cassettes work with a special 9 speed chain, and I think that if you have ten gears in back you need to use a 10 speed chain.

I have not kept up with innovations in bike components over the last few years. A competent mechanic at a bike shop should be able to give you all the juicy details.

Another great resource for all things bike related is the website of the late Sheldon Brown:

If you can't find the answer to a bike question on this website, you do not want to know it.

Safe riding,

Thanks Joel.


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