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Whether you’re just starting out on a new bike or an expert rider looking to take their mechanical skills to the next level, learning about a bicycle’s torque specs is essential to proper gear maintenance and performance. As you search through bike gear and equipment, each aspect of the unit will have its own particular torque specs, helping you tune the bike without stripping a bolt or over-tightening.
In this article, we discuss torque specs as they pertain to bicycles and general hardware that is used for holding, carrying, or moving weight.
Tightening your equipment will give you confidence as you hit the road, knowing all your parts are properly maintained and safe to ride. If you’re shopping for a new bicycle or if you recently picked one up, it is important to trust your bike mechanic and be informed about how to apply torque based on the unique torque specs of your gear.
Let’s get started by discussing more about torque specs and how you can use them to optimize your bike experience.
WHAT ARE TORQUE SPECS?
Knowing how to fix your own gear will prove to be very helpful, especially if you experience an emergency or a unit breakdown far away from a bike mechanic. Preparing your adventure gear before you leave home is the best way to avoid any mechanical issues and to prevent yourself from needing to reference your bike’s torque specs while on-the-road. Below we discuss more about torque and how it can be properly used in routine maintenance of your bike equipment.
WHAT IS TORQUE?
Using torque and unique torque specs, we can fasten bolts and secure hardware components by using tensions and force to promote bonding. Although the bonding is not permanent, using the right torque will ensure longer product life and easy maintenance. Torque is applied to fasteners such as nuts and bolts, which causes them to attach to the unit and hold large components in place without wavering.
As you apply torque, the fastener you are tightening becomes slightly flexible and will stretch itself temporarily to create a force to hold mechanics in place. This temporary flexing and force creates preload, or tension. Torque specs will dictate the fastener used and how much force it can take before you risk stripping it.
It is important to note that if you apply too much torque, you can easily and unintentionally damage the components or the thread may deform. If you under-tighten the fastener you will likely experience a wobbly bike or loose parts. You can compromise the integrity of your bike’s structure or destroy important components by riding your bike with over-tightened or under-tightened components. If your mechanics sounds like they are creaking or squeaking, it is important to check your hardware and reference the bike’s torque specs before performing maintenance.
TORQUE SPECS & TECHNIQUE
Torque will determine the overall functionality and performance of your bike, so it is important to assemble your unit fully and properly before putting many miles on it. Riding on a loose or over-tightened bike can cause much greater issues and headaches than preparing your gear with patience and proper attention.
Torque is simple to calculate by multiplying the force applied by the length of whatever lever you used to tighten the component (T= F x L). It is important to note that vibration, over-use, or abuse should not affect the clamping force that was used to secure a uniform threaded fastener. The weakest part of the join you are tightening will dictate the max-torque that can apply to the component.
Since torque is a twisting force that creates rotation, the torque calculation considers the length in the equation to be the distance between an axis point and where the direct force is applied. Torque is measured in Newton meter (Nm), pound-inch (lb-in), or as pound-foot (lb-ft) units. A Newton meter is the most standard torque measurement applied to bikes. When measuring torque in terms of bicycles, weight is a huge factor in how the unit will perform.
TORQUE & ENGINEERING
As more models become lighter with the invention of carbon fiber, engineers are pushed constantly to find the torque specs and max-limits of each material used as a part of the unit. Engineers consider the properties of the materials, the shape of the component, its dimensions, the intended riding conditions, how long the product will last, overall performance, ergonomics, and much more.
Torque specifications are unique to each unit and help mechanics or owners determine how to tighten their units for a safe and long-lasting ride. The torque specs are essential to ensuring that the forces applied to any of the bike’s components are within its designed values and engineering. If torque is too low or something is not tight enough, you could experience an unsteady unit or parts will fall apart and slip off.
If you over-tighten your components and apply too much torque, you can easily stress the units and create damage that is irreparable—sometimes you could compromise the safety of your entire bike. With the emergence of carbon fiber and its increasing popularity, torque is becoming more centralized in the design and the tools that mechanics and engineers are using to construct cutting-edge bikes.
Carbon fiber can be easily compromised if it is not supported by proper ergonomics, geometry, and complete assembly. A torque wrench will be the most useful tool in establishing precision torque in combination with your bike’s particular torque specs.
STANDARD BICYCLE TORQUE SPECS
Moving on, we will discuss standard bicycle torque specs and the varieties of components that torque specs are applied to. Torque specs are measured in Newton meters and Inch-pounds and although the component may be for the same use, its dimensions and torque specs will vary by brand. Standard component torque specs are specified by each design feature and its various subsections of components.
For example, a bike’s bottom brackets consist of bearing cups and cartridge bottom brackets, each of which have their own torque specifications depending on the brand. Brakes have many individual components that all require specific torque. We recommend consulting your bike’s user manual, or your bike manufacturer’s website for the most up-to-date information of your unit’s torque specs.
SAFETY & TOOLS FOR PROPER TORQUE
When performing torque checkups or while putting your bike together for the first time, it is important to use the right tools and safety precautions to ensure that your bike is properly secured and all components are functioning well. One of the main tools you can use to achieve proper torque on all of your bike’s components is a torque wrench. Below we discuss torque wrenches, how to use them, and proper technique.
TORQUE WRENCHES & TECHNIQUE
Using a torque wrench is practical when you need to measure rotation resistance and to ensure the proper tightening of mechanics. Torque is useful because there is a direct correlation between the amount of tension in the bolt and how much effort you put in to turn the bolt. Just like with a screwdriver and a screw, you must match the bolt you are tightening with the torque wrench.
A torque wrench cannot be used as a universal wrench. It is specially designed to give accurate and precise torque measurements or adjustments. Industrial torque wrenches are accurate to plus or minus four percent when they are calibrated properly. Torque wrenches are used to apply and secure a fastener while using its calibrated mechanisms to show you the total torque applied or to report the component’s current torque. Double check that the torque measurement is the one you are intending to use, as there is a big difference between pound inches or pound feet.
TYPES OF TORQUE WRENCHES
The first type of torque wrench on the market is known as a beam type. A beam type torque wrench has a simple design but is accurate when used for left and right-handed adjustments and threading. Its socket head has two steel beams and a primary beam plus an indicator beam that will show you precision values. A beam type torque wrench works as the primary beam deflects when the handle is pulled. Its primary beam flexes and moves with the handle creating no stress or potential fatigue in the steel.
Although a beam type torque wrench is the most simple, click-type and dial type wrenches are the most common. These wrench styles do have more moving parts than a beam wrench and will require more maintenance and calibration. Since bikes typically have a wide range of potential torque applications (20-inch pound to 600 inch-pound) it is necessary for you to have the proper tools to cover this torque range. No one torque wrench will cover such a diverse range of torque specs.
As you shop around for bicycles or consider upgrading your gear, it is important to consider the unit’s torque specifications and if you are equipped to service your bike with confidence and know-how. Although torque specs range from bike to bike and amongst component brands, you can guarantee that a torque wrench is a useful tool to carry in your repair kit or to be used every time you’re preparing for a long ride.