Ask a Mechanic: Adding Style and Saving Weight With Custom Bolts

Steve says, “I’m looking for a way to give my bike that custom edge with some colored bolts. What are your thoughts and suggestions?”

For many people, their bike becomes an extension of themselves and an expression of their personality. Once you’ve got your bike outfitted with all of your favorite components, what do you do to really make it yours? The ultimate sign of a dedicated cyclist is replacing stock bolts with custom fasteners. Add some subtle color accents with anodized alloy bolts, and claim the weight-weenie crown once and for all by swapping steel bolts for titanium. I like Carbon-Ti brand bolts for their color selection and quality.

Not only do the colored alloy Carbon-Ti bolts provide a custom look, but they will also save you a little weight. Titanium bolts weigh even less. Keep in mind, we are talking about several grams per bolt, but it’s more about aesthetics and bragging rights anyway.

With these performance fasteners, it’s not quite as simple as just swapping the bolts. Titanium and alloy bolts have a lower torque spec on them than a steel bolt, and you must use a ti prep anti-seize compound on the threads of titanium bolts. This Ti prep anti seize compound will keep the bolts from cold welding, galling, or seizing upon metal-to-metal contact. Anyone who has had this happen knows that is is an absolute nightmare to remove the bolt, and usually results in a destroyed bolt at minimum. Alloy bolts will benefit from applying blue Loctite or a light, all-purpose grease like Dumonde Tech MR grease to the threads. A good rule of thumb is to observe what is on the bolt you are removing and apply the same treatment to the new bolt. Titanium bolts always get a ti-prep anti-sieze compound application.

Appropriate titanium bolts can be used on brake calipers, stems, seatpost clamps, and disc brake rotors, but always check the torque specs of the component and the bolt. Alloy bolts are good for things like bottle cage bolts, derailleur clamps, derailleur tension and adjusting screws, disc brake lever mounting bolts and most cable clamping bolts. One thing to be wary of is the tendency for alloy bolts to round out at the “wrench flats” of the tool/bolt interface.

Swapping the bolts is pretty simple; just measure the old bolt and then select a bolt of the same length or as close as possible. If you have to use a bolt a little longer than the one you removed, make sure that the threads aren’t going to bottom out before the bolt gets tight. Prep the threads by applying the anti-seize compound or appropriate treatment, apply any necessary washers, and install the bolt. After the bolt is torqued correctly, you’re done.

Now take a step back and admire the nice little additions of color and customization you’ve added to your machine. Point them out on your next ride, or simply wait until someone notices and admires them for themselves, either way it will get people talking.