When installing bar ends, make sure that the fasteners and clamping area are placed in an unobtrusive fashion so your knees don’t contact them and get sliced and diced in a crash. It’s also a good to idea to check them for tightness frequently, because if a bar end slips while you’re pulling hard, it can be disastrous.
Adjusting Bar Ends
Position bar ends on the handlebar to match the natural angle of your hands and wrists when you grasp the bar ends. If you’re bending your wrists to hold on, change the position of the bar ends until your wrists are in a neutral, relaxed position. This may take a little experimentation. For most riders the bar ends are angled slightly upwards but not too steeply. If you set them too high, when you stand to climb, you’ll have to bend your wrists a lot, which can strain the wrists and prevent you from maintaining a safe grip.
If you’re concerned about bike weight, there are carbon fiber and magnesium bar ends that are extremely light. Lightweight handlebars, however, will need to have reinforcements inserted inside the ends, so that the bar-end clamps tighten securely without crushing the bars.
Fit And Feel
Some bar ends are anatomically shaped to better fit your hands, which you might like. These may be bent aluminum or carbon fiber. Forged construction adds strength and matte or scored finishes improve the grip. Some riders like to put road handlebar tape on their bar ends, too, for comfort and to keep them from heating up in the hot sun.
Keep ‘Em Plugged
Finally, always keep the ends of your bar ends and handlebars plugged. If you lose the caps that the bar ends and handlebars came with, stuff anything (cork, cloth) in there, or tape over the hole until you can get the correct replacement. This is important because the thin edges of bar ends and handlebars can cause nasty puncture wounds if you crash.
Folding tires (illustration) make a significant difference in handling and ride quality. For example, there’s road rubber that uses special materials and construction to improve the suppleness of the tire, resulting in a much smoother ride. And, there are models designed for sky-high pressures, which on super-smooth surfaces, reduce rolling resistance and assist all-out racing efforts. And all folding tires are lighter for improved climbing and acceleration.
Carry A Spare
An often-overlooked advantage of these folding road tires is that it’s easy to carry a spare. Folders pack small enough to fit in a seat bag, jersey pocket or suitcase (when you travel with your bike). This means that you can easily carry a replacement if you’re concerned that one of your tires is ready to fail.
Easy On And Off
You’ll also find that folding tires, both road and dirt models, are usually easier to remove and install. This is because the Kevlar beads are more flexible and because the tires stretch slightly with use.
Innovations In Off-Road Rubber
Interestingly, the biggest advance in tire technology recently is the advent of tubeless off-road tires. These still use air, but like car tires, an airtight seal is formed at the rim to eliminate the need for a tube and rim strip. Although they usually require the use of a special rim, these tires are gaining in popularity because you can run lower pressures than with conventional tires with no risk of pinch flatting.
The soft pressure, combined with a suppleness that results from the elimination of the friction between the tube and the tire, allows tubeless knobbies to grip better in corners and provide more suspension and speed over stutter bumps, roots and rough terrain. Climbing traction improves a lot, too. And, in the event of a puncture, the construction of these new tubulars is such that air leaks out slower than with a conventional tire and tube — usually slow enough to ride home. Plus, if you get a flat that releases the air immediately, you can easily fix the tire by installing a regular tube and inflating as with normal tires and tubes.
Just ask and we’ll be happy to show you the latest in tire technology.
While road-tire treads are strikingly similar, off-road tires come in so many models it can be confusing, initially, trying to pick one out. The key to making a successful choice of either tire type is selecting the appropriate tire for the terrain you’ll be riding.
Tires For The Road
Looking for a little added traction from a road tire? Consider getting one with traction grooves, which some experts believe provide added control in wet and dry conditions. (Other experts claim that road tires are so narrow that any tread placed on them has a negligible effect. We’ll help you decide, based upon our own experiences.) Innovative modern clincher casings can provide an extremely lively and resilient ride, comparable to what you would expect from a premium tubular (a type of tire used by professional racers where the tube is actually sewn inside). A new rubber compound, silica, is found in quite a few new upper-end road tires. Silica improves adhesion and lowers rolling resistance without sacrificing tread durability.
Off-Road Tires: Tubes Or Tubeless?
When buying new tires, first determine if your bike uses standard tube tires, which contain an inner tube inside the tire, or if yours use the tubeless type, which don’t include tubes. The illustration shows how these tire types differ.
Tubeless tires do away with tubes by using a special rim, tire and rim strip that seals the tire so an inner tube isn’t necessary (though you can use one if you wish). The advantage of tubeless tires is being able to run lower tire pressures, which provides additional traction, control and comfort. This is possible because there’s no tube to damage should you hit a pothole or rock and bottom out the tire.
If there’s a disadvantage to tubeless tires, it’s that they are a bit more fussy, and because there’s no tube, if there’s even a small leak, you have to figure out where it’s coming from and how to fix it whereas on a standard tire and tube set-up, you can easily patch or replace the tube to repair leaks.
Off-Road-Tire Tread For Soft Conditions
For soft conditions, loose rock, and loose climbs, pick a fairly wide tire with tall, broad, paddle-like knobs. It’s important that the tread’s knobs have a stable base, for traction when you lean them over on a hard surface. Tread that is overly flimsy can also lead to durability problems. Tires for soft conditions are usually front- or rear-wheel specific.
Off-Road-Tire Tread For Hardpack
For hardpacked surfaces, there are tires that have closely spaced small knobs, and sometimes no center knobs at all. They can be narrower than soft-condition tires as well. If there are rocks strewn into your hardpack, use a smooth but wide tire. Another key to getting a good hardpack tire is making sure that the knob is at least twice as wide at the base as it is tall. If it’s too tall, the tire will deflect under hard cornering loads.
Off-Road-Tire Tread For Mud
If you think you may encounter mud on a trail with few options for avoiding it, the key is to use narrow tires with widely spaced lugs. Wider tires will jam your frame stays and fork with mud. Narrow tires can also penetrate through the soft mud on top and reach the harder ground below for better traction. Choose longer knobs for more grip, or shallower knobs for lower rolling resistance where there’s no mud.
We’ve got a wide selection of tires for any situation. Talk with us and we’ll point you in the right direction.
No one want to be stuck, away from home, with a flat tire. That’s what makes a frame pump such a popular and essential accessory. There are two types of frame pumps, those made for off road and those made for road biking. The difference has to do with the difference in tires. Off-road tires are fatter, require more volume and are run at lower pressures. Conversely, road tires are skinnier and take less air, but at much higher pressures. Frame pumps are designed for these differences.
Big Barrel Versus Small Barrel
For example, off-road pumps typically feature larger-diameter barrels (aluminum barrels are best), which thrust more air into the tube with each stroke. Road pumps have the opposite, a narrow barrel that pushes less air in. This smaller-diameter barrel, though, makes it possible to insert higher pressures because you’re pushing less air in with each stroke.
Check The Chuck
The pump head (also called the chuck) is important, too. Choose a pump with a head that quickly converts between Presta and Schrader valves if you have bikes in the family with both valve types (illustration) or want to be prepared for everything (you might get a chance to rescue some other cyclist whose pump fails). Some pumps automatically adapt to the appropriate valve. Another clever new frame-mount pump design includes a convertible head, plus a T-handle, fold-down feet and a long, flexible hose, features that turn the inflator into a veritable take-along floor pump!
Not all pumps fit all frames. If you’re not sure what to get, ride your bike in so we can take a look and recommend a pump. Usually, mini pumps fit best because they come with a bracket that attaches to the bottle-cage screws. Once this bracket is installed, you just snap the pump into it to hold it securely (sometimes there’s a little Velcro strap to help keep the pump in place). Or, you might prefer to carry your mini in your hydration pack or your jersey pocket (this can get uncomfortable on long rides).
Some Suspension Gets Pumped, Too
A special type of pump you might need is one designed for suspension forks and rear shocks. These have very small-diameter barrels, gauges that may go as high as 300 psi and bleed valves to let small amounts of air out of the shock for fine-tuning the setting. These special tools are important if your bike is equipped with air shocks because regular frame pumps usually cannot achieve high-enough pressures.
Floor Pumps Rule
For all-round ease and speed of use, versatility and durability, few cyclists ever regret also owning a floor pump. Weight and compactness isn’t an issue for something you carry in your trunk or store in your home, so these are designed with larger barrels, two-hand handles and sturdy stand-on bases to deliver larger amounts of air with each stroke. The better ones have a gauge you can view at a glance and are made from high-quality metals and composites. The best of this type will be serviceable for a lifetime of use. Use yours before every ride and save your frame pump or carry-along inflator for on-ride emergencies.
If you’re still not sure what you need in an inflation device, check our excellent selection or ask us. We’re pump pros!
How much tire pressure should you run? Start by trying the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, which you’ll find printed on the tire sidewall (it’s often on a small label but it might be molded into the casing, too, so look closely). This suggested inflation range is a good starting point. If it’s a wide range, for example 40 to 60 psi, experiment to find which pressure works and feels best.
Pump Road Rubber More, Knobbies Less
The most common mistakes are riding with too little pressure in road tires and too much pressure in off-road rubber. The former happens because road treads don’t have a lot of air volume. Sure, road tires are pumped up to high pressures. But, because they’re skinny tires, there’s hardly any air inside. Consequently, even if only a little leaks out (most bicycle tubes are made of butyl rubber, which is porous and naturally seeps air), the pressure and volume are greatly reduced. To prevent this, check tire pressure on a road bike before every ride. If you don’t, you’ll be riding on soft tires, which is asking for trouble. More about this in a minute.
Off-road rubber is inflated to lower pressures and because the tires are much wider than road models, there’s considerably more air inside. These differences mean that fat tires don’t seep air very quickly so they don’t require frequent inflation the way skinny tires do. Unfortunately, the tendency is to over inflate off-road tires. By all means, if you’re riding your fat tires exclusively on pavement and smooth surfaces, inflate them as hard as you like (don’t exceed the manufacturer’s maximum recommendation).
If you’re riding off road, however, seriously consider lower pressures — in the 35- to 45-psi range, depending on the terrain and your weight. This will greatly increase your control and comfort over trails while improving traction and handling. Indeed, if you’ve been riding off-road on 50 to 60 psi, you’ll be amazed at the difference.
How Low Is Too Low
Just, don’t go too low. That’ll increase the risk of a flat two ways (this holds true for road and off-road rubber): First, softer tires pick up more debris, which may work into the tires popping the tubes. Second, when you hit holes, ruts, rocks, etc, soft tires can deform to the point that the rim hits the ground or rock so hard that it pinches the tube (between the rim and obstacle) and cuts it in two places, which is what’s known as a pinch flat or snakebite puncture (because the holes in the tube resemble a snakebite). Besides damaging the tube, this impact can bend the rim, leading to an expensive repair. Under-inflated tires also lack the sidewall rigidity needed for hard cornering. And, too-soft tires wear quicker.
But this doesn’t mean you should always inflate road tires to the maximum pressure. Roads in the real world aren’t billiard-table smooth. The jarring effect of bumpy pavement on over-inflated tires robs energy and makes for a bone-rattling ride. Properly inflated tires will roll over bumpy roads smoother and faster and get you home without shaking loose your dental work. On ultra-smooth roads, however, when rolling resistance is critical, such as in a time-trial or triathlon, go as high as 140 psi if your tires are rated to take it. Stay at the lower end of the pressure zone for comfort and rough roads.
Check Our Chart
Which pressure you use depends a lot on your weight. So we’ve put together this handy chart to help: (road listing is for 23c tire, off-road is for 2.0-inch-width tire).
Once a week conduct this 30-minute bike inspection, which checks all systems. (Print this list and use it as a checklist to keep track of things as you work.)
1. Wipe down the frame and look for flaking paint that may indicate that a crack has developed. Although frame failure is rare, it can happen. (It’s most likely if you crash or ride hard all the time.)
2. Wipe down the rims, to clean residue that affects braking. Scrub with alcohol to remove any black deposits. Closely inspect the rim sides for wear from braking. See deep grooves? Have us check the rim for safety.
3. Spin the wheels. They should be round and true. If they wobble, spokes may have loosened and the wheel should be trued and tensioned.
4. Inflate your tires to the proper pressure (it’s usually written on the sidewalls) and inspect them closely for wear and tear. If they’re bald or the sidewalls are damaged or cracked, replace the tire(s).
5. Grab the top of each wheel and gently push and pull laterally, feeling for play at the hubs. If you find any, the wheel bearings should be adjusted.
6. Apply the front brake and rock the bike back and forth feeling for play. If there’s any play, the headset (steering bearings) needs adjustment.
7. Hold onto the crankarms and push and pull laterally feeling for play in the bottom-bracket bearings. Play indicates adjustment is needed.
8. Check that these key parts are tight by putting a wrench on them and trying to tighten them: crank bolts, chainring bolts, pedals (the left pedal is turned counter-clockwise to tighten), stem bolts, derailleur mounting bolts, derailleur pulley bolts, brake bolts, seat-post bolt, seat bolt.
9. Prep the chain by applying a bike-specific lubricant, let it soak in for a few minutes, then wipe off the excess with a rag.
10. If your derailleur cables run beneath the bottom bracket, drop a bit of light oil on the contact areas.
11. Inspect your chainring for broken teeth, but don’t be alarmed if you have newer chainrings and some teeth are slightly shorter than others. Chainrings are designed this way because the shorter teeth provide a specific release point where the chain can easily drop from the large ring to the small, improving the shifting.
12. Examine all the cables for rust and fraying, signs that replacement is needed.
13. Make sure your handlebars have end plugs because open-ended bars can hurt you if you crash.
14. If you use clipless pedals, check the hardware on your cleats and the cleats themselves for wear (signs of worn-out cleats can be difficulty getting in and out of your pedals, and cleats that pull out inadvertently during hard pedaling).
Let Us Help
Feel free to ask us if you have any questions regarding inspecting your bike for maintenance and safety. We’re here to help! Our expert service department is happy to perform required maintenance, too, should you not have the time, special tools or inclination to do it yourself.
One of the best features of cycling shoes is that they last far longer than other sports shoes. For example, you must replace running shoes every six months (or sooner) because the materials inside the soles lose their ability to provide cushioning. Also, regular sneakers are in constant contact with the ground and the soles and uppers wear rapidly. Contrarily, if cared for, a quality pair of pedal pushers could last five or even ten years! These easy tips will help you get the most from your shoes:
- Maintaining the fit: We recommend wearing only cycling socks with your riding shoes because these thin socks won’t stretch the shoes, which can ruin the snug fit so important for efficient pedaling.
- Walking: Shoes made for off-road use or touring sport lugged soles and recessed cleats that are made for easy walking. Road-specific shoes, however, are designed for optimum power transfer when pedaling. While these shoes may include heel and toe tabs for walking, it’s best to walk as infrequently as possible. Walking flexes the soles and stretches the shoes. Over time, this changes the fit and the stiffness of the shoes, which decreases efficiency and comfort.
- Moisture: Water won’t hurt cycling shoes as long as you dry them properly. To do this, as soon as you get home, extract any removable liners and stuff the shoes with newspaper, which will absorb the moisture and dry the shoes. Do not place the shoes by a heat source because this can damage them. If the shoes are really wet, replace the newspaper after a few hours (the first batch is probably saturated).
- Maintenance: While not much can go wrong with cycling shoes, we recommend checking the bolts that attach the cleats to the soles about monthly. If these loosen, the cleats can change position, which may cause knee pain. If you have a pair of shoes with buckles that ratchet, they may be attached with hardware. It’s a good idea to regularly check that this hardware is tight, too.
Bike thieves are sneaky and resourceful so you’ve got to be diligent when locking your machine. When shackling your ride, it helps to examine how you’ve secured it while thinking like a thief. Ask yourself how you’d violate the lock and escape with the bike if you were a crook, and take pains to eliminate any risks. Here are some tips to help:
Lock your bike to something that can’t easily be cut, broken or removed. And, don’t attach your pride and joy to something like a loose or short pole. The crook might be able to pull the post out of the ground or lift your bike over the top.
Where you leave your bike is important, too. Secure your ride in a visible, well-lit area and you’ll force the thief to operate in plain view, which may be enough to get him to pass on your machine and find another. And, don’t routinely lock your baby in the same place all the time. A thief may notice the pattern and pick your bike as an easy target. Similarly, if you leave your rig outside a movie theater, a thief may realize there’s a strong chance that you won’t be out until the movie’s over, which gives him time to get the tools he needs to swipe your ride. Also, if you store your bike in your garage, leave the door closed and consider locking the bike to something because you never know who might spot the bike when the door is open.
When using a U-lock (illustration), position your frame and wheels so that you fill as much of the open space within the lock’s U portion as possible. The tighter the lock up, the harder it is for a potential thief to use tools to attack your lock.
Always secure your components and accessories, too, especially quick-release wheels and seat posts, with a secondary cable lock.
Don’t rush when locking your bike because you might mistakenly lock it incorrectly. To prevent this, check your lock before leaving to be sure you’ve secured it properly.
For the greatest theft deterrence, use two locks such as a U-lock and a locking cable. This forces the thief to get through two locks and usually the creep will skip your bike and find an easier one to steal.
Get It Back
If you’re unlucky enough to have a bike stolen, don’t assume it’s gone for good. As long as you can identify the bike (you did record the serial number, didn’t you?) and you’re willing to do a little leg work, there’s a chance of recovery. Immediately prepare a flyer with a photo and description of your bike. Include any details that make identification easier such as special accessories or markings on the bike. Post these flyers on telephone poles, on community bulletin boards, at colleges, by bus stops, in short, everywhere and anywhere. Also, hand them to all your friends and let us know as soon as possible so we can be on the alert, too (sometimes thieves think they can sell stolen bikes to bike shops and we’re always on the lookout).
Sign Your Bike
One thing that you can do that will help if you happen to find the bike is to put your name or license number on it somewhere secret. One hidden location is inside the handlebar (write your name on a piece of paper and slip it inside). You might also write your name on the underside of the seat. These marks will help in the event that you discover your bike at a swap meet or police auction because they’ll help you prove ownership. Good luck. We hope these tips keep your bike yours!
Once you’ve rounded up the essentials (helmet, pump, seat pack, patch kit, spare tube, tire levers, mini tool, cycling shorts, gloves, jersey, shoes/pedals), these accessories will make your cycling even more enjoyable.
Floor pump: The frame pump (often called a “mini-pump”) is essential for emergencies on the road and trail, but for everyday use you’ll want a floor pump. It’ll make short work of airing your tires and save wear and tear on the frame pump.
Cyclo-computer: One of the joys of cycling is being able to cover lots of ground and a cyclo-computer can tell you how far, how fast and how long you’ve ridden. Some even have extra functions such as heart rate, cadence (how fast you’re pedaling), altitude, and temperature. There are wireless models for a super clean installation too.
Vehicle (car) rack: The trails or roads you bike aren’t always riding distance away, so you may want a rack designed to easily and safely transport your bike on your car, van, truck or SUV. Which one you get depends on how many bikes you’ll carry and on the type of vehicle you drive. Ask us to recommend the right rack for you.
Hydration system: Water bottles and cages are adequate for carrying drinks. But, hydration systems are a great option for quenching your thirst. Insulation keeps your beverage of choice cooler (or warmer) longer and the drinking tube makes sipping more convenient. The capacity on larger systems is almost twice as much as you can carry in two large bottles, too. And, the hydration pack provides a place to stash food, ID, small tools and more.
Eyewear: Don’t forget to protect your eyes with sunglasses designed for cycling. It’s not just glare you should be concerned about; airborne debris from passing vehicles is hazardous, too. Quality shades provide increased safety, including slightly higher brow coverage for when you’re bent over. And the UV protection means less fatigue at the end of long days in the saddle.
Lock: Security for your bike is important. Get a good lock and always use it correctly to prevent the heartbreak of bike theft.
Socks: Even something as simple as socks can enhance your riding if they’re specifically made for cycling. Ours are, and they breathe, wick and reduce friction for maximum comfort on every ride. They also look very cool.
Our staff can suggest other great accessories and help prioritize your purchases.
An important shifting rule is to reduce pressure on the pedals during shifts. Modern drivetrains will shift regardless of pedal pressure. But, if you can always ease up a bit, the shifts will be smoother and your chain, cogs and chainrings will last longer.
Shift Before Hills
The hardest place to ease pedaling, of course, is when you’re struggling to get up a steep hill. The trick is to shift before the steep part of the hill so you can make the shift with little pressure on the pedals.
Finesse Front Shifts
Another thing to remember concerns shifting the front derailleur. You’re shifting between chainrings that are significantly different in size. This means that the derailleur has to work hard to move the chain from one to the other. So, the light-pedal-pressure rule really applies here. If you can finesse this shift, you’re much more likely to get a clean, smooth shift. And, you’ll eliminate problems associated with high-pressure shifts such as having the chain come off.
Shift That Dropped Chain On
Speaking of chains falling off, you can usually shift the chain right back on the chainring if it falls off. This isn’t possible if it falls off when you’re climbing a hill, because you lose your momentum and have to stop. But, anytime you’re riding where you can coast for a few seconds, you can almost always get the chain back on by gently pedaling and shifting the front derailleur to move the chain toward the ring.
Pedal slowly and lightly and the ring will grab and engage the chain and you’ll be riding again as before. (When a chain comes off repeatedly, something is wrong and you should have us take a look at the front derailleur adjustment.)
In addition to proper shifting, cleaning and preventive maintenance can extend the life of your drivetrain as well. For starters, keep your chain clean and well lubricated. Chain-cleaning tools make it a snap to keep your links spotless. We can recommend some.
You should also inspect your chain every six months or so and measure it for stretching. The rule of thumb for checking wear is to put a load on the pedals, pick a chain pin on the top side and measure to any pin 12 inches away. Because the links are exactly one-inch long when brand new, you should be able to measure exactly 12 inches between two pins. If the measurement is 12 1/8 inch, or longer, it’s time to replace the chain.
Check The Cogs, Too
Keep in mind that cogs wear at about the same rate as the chain. So, if you put on a new chain, your worn cogs won’t work right. They’ll skip, which is an annoying and possibly dangerous condition where pedal pressure causes the links to ride up and jump over the teeth on the cog. The cure is to replace the cassette cogs.
Remember to keep your front chainrings and rear cogs clean. One trick to removing grit from cogs is to fold a rag in half, place it between the cogs and slide it back and forth. Repeat between each pair of neighboring cogs until the cassette is clean. Don’t spray degreaser on the rear cogset because this can penetrate the hub and freehub body, breaking down the grease in those areas, leaving them completely unprotected against friction.
Modern high-end light systems offer enough brightness to give your riding companions sunburn (kidding!). And, they come in a wide variety of price points. But, how much light is needed for safe road or off-road riding?
Light It Up
To illuminate the road or trail ahead for your own eyes, not just to be seen at night by others, 10 watts is a good starting point. In general, the greater the headlight’s wattage, the brighter the light. There are also systems with yellow and white light, the latter being brighter at the same wattage.
Find The Right Features
Modern lighting systems are packed with features. There are twin- and single-beam headlight systems. There are different battery types (rechargeables are found on better lights). There are ingenious quick-release mounts so you can install and remove the light in a blink. Most lights offer high- and low-beam options like your car (use the high beam for downhills, pitch-black woods, high speed and intersections). There are even computerized light systems on which battery usage and light output is controlled via microchip.
The ultimate trail setup is having one handlebar light and another on your helmet. The head-mounted light illuminates your field of vision and is especially handy for following bends in the trail because it moves with you as you turn to look (just don’t look directly at friends when riding because you’ll blind them for a few seconds). Meanwhile, the bar-mounted beam allows monitoring conditions directly in front of the bike for bumps, roots and trail irregularities.
High-watt light systems require large amounts of power so battery systems have gotten very sophisticated. In ascending order of cost, bicycle lighting systems use lead-acid batteries, Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) batteries, and Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) batteries. NiCad batteries are lighter and less susceptible to power loss at high or low temperatures than lead-acid, and will last many more recharge cycles. NiMH batteries weigh 30% less than NiCad batteries and offer similar run-times and durability. Proper care and feeding of your battery must be followed to insure you get maximum battery life. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding charging and use of any rechargeable battery.
Night Rides Can Be The Best Rides
Having a good light means you can ride safely at night, which is sometimes the best time to ride. It’s after car-commuting hours so the roads are less busy. The sun’s gone down, so it’s often the most comfortable time of day, too. And, at night, off-road riding can be magical. The best way to decide on a lighting system is to come in and look at some to compare features and cost. Which one is best for you really depends on how and where you plan to use it and how much you’d like to spend. If you can answer these questions, we can help you pick the perfect light.
To select shoes, visualize yourself cycling and using your bike the way you plan to ride. Then check out our chart and see what shoes match your riding.
When shoe shopping, don’t underestimate the importance of trying them on. Some brands run wider than others. Some sole shapes may fit better than others. Some brands run big and some run small. No matter how much you like the look or features of a shoe, a lousy fit can ruin a ride. So, it’s always best to come in and try some on.
|How you ride…||The shoe for you…|
|You’re a casual cyclist who doesn’t feel comfortable looking like a gonzo bikie.||Consider casual cycling shoes, which look more like sneakers. There are even cleated models that work with clipless pedals.|
|You love rolling up the miles but you enjoy stopping to admire the view almost as much.||Look at footgear made for touring. It’s flexible for comfort with rubber soles and recessed cleats for walking. Off-road models work, too.|
|You love off-road rides and races.||You’ll want a lugged sole, recessed cleat, snug-but-comfy fit, light weight, decent sole stiffness (not too stiff) and secure fastening system.|
|You’ve been on off-roader but now you plan to get a road-specific bike.||You may want to continue using your off-road shoes. Just get the same pedals for your road bike that you have on your off-roader.|
|You’re a serious triathlete.||Check out triathlon shoes, which are designed for high efficiency but also with features to get you in and out quick.|
|You ride metric centuries and group rides that are more social than competitive.||You’ll do fine with a mid-line road shoe because it’ll be more flexible and comfortable than the full-on road race model (see below).|
|You enjoy hammering on the road with your buddies sprinting for every city-limit sign.||Get a lightweight, high-end road shoe with super-stiff sole for exceptional energy transfer and extra-secure strap system.|
For Yourself, Consider A Bike With Flat Handlebars
Whether you’re using a childseat, a trailercycle or a trailer to take your kids along, you’ll probably want to do so on a bicycle equipped with flat handlebars. These are higher and wider than dropped bars and provide more control against the destabilizing forces of the additional weight you’re carrying. You feel this the most with a trailercycle. If Junior squirms around a lot, it can be quite difficult to steer a straight course.
Set Some Rules
If you’re having trouble controlling the bike because of a rambunctious child in the seat behind you, consider setting some rules. Usually, if you tell him that he can’t ride unless he rides safely, he’ll get the point quickly and behave. Or try bribery: Promise a treat at ride’s end if all safety rules are obeyed. Trailers are much more forgiving in such situations. Kids can even play a favorite card game or amuse themselves with other safe-to-travel-with playthings inside the confines of a bike trailer.
One common mistake when using childseats is relying on a kickstand to support the bicycle and your child. While this might occasionally work, it’s a dangerous habit because the kickstand is designed only to support the bike’s weight. Add the heft of the childseat and passenger and the machine is more likely to fall over than to stand up, which can result in serious injury. Remove your child from the seat at stops unless you’re holding the bicycle upright.
Keep in mind that the weight limit for childseats is approximately 40 pounds. When children get this big, it’s time to remove the childseat and consider a trailer or trailercycle.
Pulling a bicycle trailer requires practice and planning. Keep the additional width of the trailer in mind as you plan routes to avoid roads and paths that may be too narrow. And, unless you’re a strong cyclist, consider what hills and headwinds you might encounter because these are a much bigger challenge when you’re toting papoose and caboose.
One of the great things about bicycle trailers is excellent resale value. When your young ‘uns are too big to ride in the trailer, run a classified ad in the local newspaper and you’ll sell it quickly for a good price.
Training Wheels Are Okay
A lot of parents wonder if training wheels are a good way for kids to learn to ride their first two-wheeler. We’ve had excellent luck with them. Proper installation (we’re experts) and sturdy training wheels (ours are super-tough) ensure easy handling, optimum safety, and a positive learning experience.
When buying a bike for your child, don’t make the mistake of purchasing one that’s sized too large. That’s a common tendency because it’s natural to want the machine to last as long as possible for your growing youngster. The problem is, if the bike’s too big, it’s going to be scary and dangerous to ride, which could turn your kid off to biking altogether. We’re experts in bike fit and we can help you pick out a bike that’s safe and that will provide a great first biking experience. And, don’t worry about Halfpint outgrowing the bike. Our bikes are sturdy enough to last through several children. If you don’t have a sibling, niece or nephew to pass the bike on to, ask us about your best options for selling the bike.
One of the great benefits of buying a helmet from us for your son or daughter is that we can adjust it to your child’s head while you watch. This serves two important purposes: the helmet gets adjusted for optimum safety and you learn the key adjustments and how to make them. This knowledge comes in very handy because kids occasionally like to play with the straps and buckles, altering the fit. So, it’s important to regularly check the helmet’s fit and correct adjustment problems to keep your child safe and comfortable.
When making adjustments, don’t cinch the chin strap too tightly. While this might feel okay at first, it will probably feel tighter and cause chafing and discomfort on a ride. Watch where the side straps align, too. They should pass next to, not over, the ears. The buckles should rest just below the earlobes.
Always check, too, that the helmet rests squarely on the head so that the helmet’s brow juts forward to protect the forehead and face during a fall. Some helmets include bumped-out brows or visors for this purpose. The front edge of the helmet should rest at or near the top of the eyebrows. One of the first mistakes a child often makes when putting on his own helmet is to tilt it back, exposing his forehead to the dangers of a fall, so always double-check this before rides.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the helmet is a protective device that requires proper care to do its job. Teach your child to treat his helmet with respect because if he abuses it, it may not be able to offer total protection in an accident. For example, repeatedly dropping a helmet on a hard surface or leaving it in a parked car on hot summer days are mistakes that can seriously reduce a helmet’s protective qualities.
For more information about helmets for adults and children, visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.
Fit & Comfort
Perhaps the most difficult body parts to keep warm on cold days are the hands and feet. For finger protection, a lot depends on how warm your hands get while riding. Cyclists with excellent circulation and hot hands can get by with basic long-finger gloves (anything much thicker may cause overheating and sweating).
If your fingers are more susceptible to the cold, consider a thicker or different glove type such as a mitten design that keeps the fingers together to add warmth. It’s also possible to purchase glove liners and benefit from the same layering approach you use on your torso and legs to stay warm.
Frozen toes are no fun, either. Like keeping your hands comfortable, what you wear has mostly to do with how your feet handle the cold. Shoes often determine comfort. For example, if you normally ride in thin, lightweight road shoes, consider riding in a heavier off-road pair if you have them. Often the off-road shoes are thicker and much warmer. Even if you have to swap your pedals from your off-road to street bike, it’s worth it to keep your feet from freezing.
Other suggestions for keeping the tootsies toasty include thicker socks, wind-proof, breathable socks, and sliding plastic bags over your feet before putting on your shoes. Wearing booties, which are heavy-duty insulating shoe covers, is another option. And, booties do more than keep your feet warm. They also keep water out of your shoes and protect your cycling dogs from the ravages of winter weather. Neoprene toe covers are fairly new items that work great on all but the coldest of days. They provide your toes with a complete wind shield, but preserve your ankle flexibility.
Now that your hands and feet are comfy, attend to some other important parts of your anatomy, namely your ears and face. Something that cold-weather diehards find useful is a balaclava, a thin, breathable hood that fits under the helmet to protect the ears, neck and face. For less frigid conditions, a simple ear band can work, too. It’s best to be prepared by carrying a selection of these easily packed items in your bike bag or pack.
Good gloves protect your palms in case of a fall, and can prevent the numbness and nerve damage that can occur on longer rides (some models are specially designed to address specific needs, such as added comfort or extra protection, etc.). Gloves also improve your grip on the handlebars and offer some shielding from sunburn. Additionally, many gloves feature terry cloth panels for wiping sweat off your face. For off-road riding, full-finger models help protect your hands from brush, limbs and poisonous plants.
When selecting gloves pay attention to fit. If they’re a little snug when you try them on, get a roomier pair because that snugness can translate into tightness that may cut off circulation to your fingers and cause numbness. What happens is that, as you ride, your hands may swell up a bit and make the gloves tighter than they were. Also, when laundered, gloves often shrink slightly, adding to the problem.
Find What Works
Finding a pair of gloves that you really like may take a little trial and error. The amount of padding you get varies depending on the model. Some people like more cush, some less. For example, if you ride with a flat handlebar and have comfortable grips, you may not need as much padding in the gloves as someone resting his digits on harder grips.
Sometimes the padding isn’t in the right place for your hands and how you grip the handlebars. So, you might have to try a few pairs to find the one that feels best when you’re riding.
Test The Fit
When you try on gloves, spread your fingers to see how the mitts move with your hand. Make a fist to feel how snug the fit becomes. Check the wrist strap to see if it can be fastened without overlapping or becoming too tight. Be sure to grip some bars in our store that are similar to what you have on your bike, too, so you can a feel how the gloves perform when riding. Watch for pressure points between each digit, especially the thumb and index finger. A glove that doesn’t fit your hand shape can become painful on a ride.
Take, Don’t Tear, Them Off
You probably already know that the easiest way to remove cycling gloves is pulling them inside out. Do this gently, however, because if you just yank away, you may tear some of the stitching and damage the gloves.
Gloves Can Protect Your Bike, Too
Finally, here’s a neat way gloves can protect you if you use a roof rack to carry your bike and park your car in a garage. The risk is forgetting about the bike on top and smashing it to bits when you return home and cruise into the garage. Don’t laugh, this mistake is all too common and easy to make. And, it doesn’t just wreck the bike; it can mess up the car roof and rack, too, adding astronomically to the repair costs. A great trick is placing your garage-door remote inside one of your gloves. When you return home and reach for the opener, seeing the glove should remind you that the bike’s on top.
One way to get a ballpark idea what width handlebars will work best is to measure the span between your shoulder blades. Have your spouse or a friend hold a yardstick against your back and take a reading.
Measure Your Shoulders
Drop handlebars come in sizes ranging from about 38-cm to 44-cm wide and you select by matching the width of your shoulders. So, if the distance between your shoulder blades is 42-cm, that’s what the handlebar width should be, measured from the center of one end to the center of the other end. Some manufacturer’s measure from outside-to-outside, so check with us if you’re not sure which bar size to purchase.
Improve Breathing And Control
The right bar width will provide comfort and increased efficiency because you’ll be able to breathe better. It’s especially noticeable if you’ve been using too-narrow a drop handlebar and you climb frequently. You’ll appreciate additional leverage, too, whenever you stand.
Adjusting Flat Bars
For flat handlebars, width has more to do with riding preferences. The cool thing is, we can cut down handlebars that are too wide, meaning you won’t have to replace yours if they don’t feel right. Usually, riders who enjoy demanding, technical trails appreciate a little additional width (24 to 27 inches), especially if they’re using dual-suspension frames. All-round riders prefer a more standard width of about 22 inches.
Try Bar Ends
Remember that you can change the feel of a flat handlebar and give yourself some room to stretch out by installing bar ends. These are also excellent for climbing because they give you a great pulling position and move your body weight forward (when you’re gripping the bar ends), which helps keep the front end down on the steep stuff.
Try Higher Bars
Riser bars are also available, which are models that slope upwards on the ends to provide less bend in your back when you lean forward to grab the grips. Many off-roaders find that risers are just the ticket for a more comfortable position. They’re also typically a bit wider than flat bars to provide additional leverage, which is helpful on technical terrain.
Try “High-Rise” Handlebars
There are also handlebars designed for more leisurely riding, which you’ll find on cruisers and city bikes. These are sometimes called “sweep,” “high-rise,” “comfort” or “cruiser” bars, and they’ll raise your riding position the most.
If you find that you regularly change your off-road riding position; it’s helpful to have a quick-release seat-post clamp. Some bikes come with these but it’s an easy upgrade if yours didn’t. We can show you a quick-release bolt that’ll fit.
Quick-And-Easy Seat Change
With a quick-release seat-post clamp, seat-height changes are as simple as opening the QR, sliding the seat to the correct position and clamping the QR closed. With practice, some riders can do this while riding, but it’s not easy. The best bet for most riders is to stop, adjust the seat and continue riding.
Lower For Control
The most common time to lower a seat is when you’re riding tricky sections of trail such as dropoffs and rocky descents. Here, the correct pedaling position isn’t important. What’s needed is a comfortable and safe body position so you can apply body English to the bike to get through the tricky sections with safety and style.
Lube The Post
One important and often-neglected point about seat adjustment is that you’ve got to the keep the post lightly lubricated in the frame so it’s easy to move. Left dry, the post can actually freeze in the frame due to corrosion and due to water that can seep between the seat post and frame on wet rides. To prevent these types of problems and keep your post moving freely, extract it about every couple of months (more frequently if you ride in wet conditions a lot) and apply a little lube to the inside of the seat tube on the frame (if you smear the lube on the seat post, it’ll get scraped off when you slide the post into the frame).
Mark Your Seat Position
When you begin changing your seat position, you might forget where you had it in the first place. That can be a pain if you spent a lot of time getting your seat height right for optimum efficiency. The solution is to mark the seat post with an indelible marker so you can always find your original settings. It won’t hurt to measure the distance from the top of the saddle to the center of the bottom bracket. If you memorize this number, even if your mark wears off, you’ll be able to find the proper position and re-mark the post. (Don’t scratch the post to mark it because this can weaken it and cause it to break.)
When you’re in pain, the tendency can be to make drastic changes to alleviate the suffering. But, if you change the seat position too much, while you may ease the pain temporarily, you’ll surely create other problems and you might even cause an injury to your knees, back, hands or posterior. Here are some guidelines to adjusting the seat, and a few recommendations if seat adjustments don’t solve your saddle sores.
Cycling Clothing Helps
First, when trying to find a comfortable seat position, it’s best to do so wearing cycling shorts, which are designed for pedaling with a padded and seam-free crotch (it’s the seams in regular clothing, such as jeans and gym shorts, that cause a lot of saddle discomfort).
Keep The Seat Approximately Level
One of the simplest seat adjustments is angling the seat slightly up or down. But, never set the nose more than three degrees lower (women can prefer slightly tipped-down seats) or higher (men can prefer slightly tipped-up seats) than parallel. Rest a straightedge on the saddle’s top while making adjustments so you can gauge the amount you’re tipping it and keep it within the three-degrees range. If you tip it further, you risk injury.
Don’t Move The Seat To Adjust Handlebar Reach
Another mistake to avoid is determining your seat position based on the reach to the handlebars. Sometimes, if it feels like the bars are too far away, you might be tempted to slide the seat forward to reduce the reach. This solves the reach problem but your seat position should be based on your relationship to the pedals, which will minimize chance of injury and maximize your power when you’re riding. The correct way to make size adjustments such as reach is to change the stem length (the part that holds the handlebars) after you determine your appropriate saddle position. We can help, if you need to make changes.
Try A New Seat
Something to consider if you’re searching for a solution to pain and not finding it in saddle adjustment is that your seat might be the incorrect model for your anatomy. It must provide support for your pelvic bone structure along with the way you sit on and pedal your bike. If it’s a poor fit, no amount of adjusting will solve the problem. The cure is to try a different seat to see if it does the trick. We have a wide selection and we can recommend models that have worked for other customers.
We Can Help
Finally, we’re experts in fitting bicycles and we can help with seat adjustments. If you’re suffering, please speak up. It shouldn’t hurt to ride your bike and we’ll do everything we can to get you comfortable again.
The Basic Adjustment
For optimum comfort and pedaling efficiency, position your saddle so that when your crankarms and pedals are parallel to the ground, a plumb line dropped from the bony protrusion just below your forward knee either bisects, or falls 1 to 2 centimeters behind the pedal axle. This setting varies according to personal preference and riding position. For example, if you like to pedal fast (95 rpm plus), place the plumb line directly over the pedal axle. If you pedal more slowly (80 to 90 rpm), you’ll probably prefer a rearward position.
Allow Us To Help
Seat fore-and-aft position is a tricky thing to determine and adjust without help. If you feel you need advice regarding bike fit, please call us or come in soon.
How To Move The Seat
If you’d like adjust your seat position, on most bicycles all that’s required is a 6-mm Allen wrench. Use it to loosen (turn counter-clockwise) the bolt beneath the seat that clamps the seat rails in the hardware atop the seat post.Once the bolt is loose, you’ll be able to slide the seat on its rails forward and back. Don’t loosen the bolt too much or it might fall out allowing the seat and clamping hardware to scatter and forcing you to figure out how to assemble it again (doh!).
Start By Centering The Seat
Sometimes a seat will get stuck in the rails, but if you knock it a bit with the palm of your hand, you should be able to break it loose from the clamp. Usually, it’s best to start adjustment with the seat rails centered in the seat clamp. This provides the most support for seats with titanium or hollow rails, too, which can bend if they’re not braced properly.
Don’t Tip The Seat Too Much
As you move the seat forward and back to tune position, be careful not to change the seat angle. It’s best to keep the top of the seat level with the ground or barely tipped up or down to your preference (no more than three degrees). To gauge whether or not the seat is level, rest a carpenter’s level (make sure the bike is level before measuring) on the top of the seat. Don’t have a level? Put the bike on a surface you know is level and rest a yardstick on top of the seat. Then eyeball the yardstick’s edge against a distant building or some other level line on the horizon.
Mind Your Feet, Too
Keep in mind that how you feel pedaling can be affected by how your feet are positioned over the pedals. If you’re using the wrong size toe clip or you have your shoe cleats misadjusted, no amount of seat adjustment will make you pedal optimally. Ideally, your shoes, cleats and toe clips will be selected and adjusted so that the balls of your feet rest directly over the pedal axles (centers) when you’re riding.
Perfecting Foot Placement
You can usually feel where your foot is over the pedal. If you’re not sure, a precise way to check foot positioning is to remove your biking shoes and socks. Take some correction fluid or water-soluble paint and put a dot directly on the ball of one foot. Immediately put on your shoe to transfer the dot to the insole. Repeat with the other foot. You now have marks inside your shoes at the exact positions of the balls of your feet. To check foot position, hold the shoes in your hands and place them in the pedals and sight from above to compare the dot inside the shoe to the pedal axle beneath the shoe. If the dots don’t bisect the pedal axles, adjust things so they will.
An important comfort point, that’s often missed, is that cycling shorts are worn without underwear. This sounds weird until you realize that the whole point of special biking shorts with padding inside is to provide a seam-free riding garment.
Eighty-Six The BVDs
When you put bike shorts on over underwear, you end up sitting on the seams in the undies, which compromise the short’s ability to prevent pain. Seams affect circulation and form bumps that can chafe and hurt. So, leave the BVDs at home and you’ll get all the benefits cycling shorts offer.
Still Sore? Try Lube
Simply wearing cycling shorts usually eases saddle sores. But some cyclists like to also use lubricants on the pad inside the shorts (called a chamois; say “shammy”); to reduce friction and enhance comfort. This is something to experiment with if you’re uncomfortable. Long-distance riders find it particularly helpful.
Double Your Shorts To Double Your Comfort
One great trick for preventing and dealing with saddle soreness is wearing two pairs of cycling shorts (don’t laugh; even professional bikers use this trick at times). Not only does adding a second pair of shorts double your padding, it also reduces the friction on the chamois (pad) as well. How? The outside pair of shorts moves with the saddle while the inner pair moves with you.
Another handy shorts trick used by traveling cyclists, racers and handy for anyone who doesn’t have an unlimited supply of cycling shorts, is speed washing and drying. Ideally, you’ll always ride in clean gear because when your riding shorts are dirty, it increases the chances of developing saddle sores.
Unless there’s a laundry mat nearby, though, it can be difficult to wash your pedaling pants when you’re traveling. If you’re lucky, it might be a hot day and scrubbing them in the motel sink and hanging them to dry might work fine. But, let’s say, it’s not warm. Or, that maybe you forget to wash them until the next morning. How do you manage to get them ready in a hurry?
It’s easy: Wash them thoroughly in the sink. Then roll them up in a towel and wring (get a friend to hang on to the other end of the towel) to quickly dry the shorts. If you do this several times using different towels, you’ll be able to almost completely dry the shorts in minutes and they’ll be clean and ready for more miles.
If you’re pretty sure your bicycle fits properly, any hand discomfort you experience may be related to how you ride and your equipment. Remember the most important rule of hand comfort: change hand positions often. Even if your bike is equipped with flat bars it’s possible to move your hands around to grip different parts of the bar. Also, consider adding bar ends to provide additional spots to hang on.
These are the bars found on many touring and all road-racing bicycles. As shown on the right, there are many places to rest your hands, which means you can change grips regularly to prevent any pain or numbness. Most riders use the positions they like best. For example, the top illustrations depict extreme positions designed for fighting headwinds or racing because they place you in an aerodynamic and powerful “tuck.”
The middle illustrations show higher holds excellent for climbing when standing (fingers wrapped around the brake hoods) and when seated (fingers draped over the brake hoods). These positions are also nice for cruising the flats or over rolling terrain. And notice that you have easy access to the levers for braking in shifting here, too.
The bottom two drawings are more upright positions. These are good for sitting higher and opening your chest, which helps breathing and lets you look around without craning your neck. These are nice positions for steady gradual climbs and for when you’re comfortably cruising along a nice road chatting with a friend. With practice you’ll be able to quickly move to the levers to brake and shift as needed, though for safety, you always want your hands actually touching the levers when riding in traffic or dangerous situations.
For comfort, relaxing your grip on the bars can’t be overemphasized, either. With practice, it’s easy to keep a controlled grip even though your upper body is relaxed. A trick that can help is regularly removing one hand at a time and shaking it out by your side to relieve the tension and revive the circulation to the palm and fingers.
Change The Grips Or Tape
Some cyclists find that different grips or padding is the cure for hand problems. We offer many different types of bar tape and grips and experimenting with a change often helps. Sometimes, just changing the bar’s diameter with the new grip or tape helps hands relax and ease discomfort.
Try Different Gloves
Another thing to try is different types of gloves. If the pair you have is too tight it will prevent proper circulation. And some types provide more padding than others. There are even gender-specific styles and some with shock-absorbing materials in the palms. We have an excellent selection and will be happy to show you some.
If you’re biking off-road, consider wearing long-finger gloves because these are better suited to protecting the entire hand from thorns and poison plants than short-finger models.
How comfortable a seat feels has a lot to do with where your sit bones (those bones you feel when sitting on a curb or bench) rest on the seat. Ideally, those bones will rest on the saddle’s padding. If you’ve been using a seat for a while you can usually see indentations formed by the bones, which allows gauging whether or not the seat is appropriate for your anatomy.
Get A Seat That Fits
It’s hard to predict which seat will be right for a given rider. Sometimes a wider seat solves pain and other times the narrow ones do the trick. It’s all a matter of which seat suits your body shape. For starters, the wider your pelvic anatomy, typically the wider you want the seat to be.
Modern Seats Offer Improved Comfort
Over the years, more amazing seats have been designed than probably any other bicycle component. And today, there’s still a wide array of models to select from, some with fairly wild shapes. One feature shared by many of these seats is a cutaway in the saddle top designed to relieve pressure on sensitive tissues in the genital area. Our customers have found these saddle types to be particularly helpful for eliminating problems with numbness. There are also models that have softer sections in the center of the seat designed to work the same as the cutaway.
Another pressure-point eliminator is gel. Some seat makers use this in the sensitive areas to prevent pressure that causes pain and numbness.
Wear Cycling Clothing
When trying seats, be sure to do so wearing your cycling clothing because if you’re wearing pants with seams in the crotch area, you’ll feel the seams and won’t be able to judge the seat comfort. Also, after putting on a new seat, it’s best to re-check saddle height because the shape of the new one may be a little taller than the one you’ve been using. If a seat is too high or too low, you’ll feel discomfort from the incorrect seat position and won’t be able to feel whether the seat is an improvement or not. The easiest way to match seat height is to measure it before you remove your original seat. You’ll then have the exact height to place the new seat and you won’t have to experiment to find your optimum position.
Wear Cycling Clothing
You can help us fit you correctly to your bike by wearing clothes you’re comfortable cycling in. For example, if you’re getting fitted while wearing shoes with thick soles and heels, it’s harder to recommend the ideal frame size or seat height. Also, wearing tight-fitting street clothes can make it tough for you to pedal or reach the handlebars on a test ride.
A Perfect Fit Is Usually Possible
It’s often easy to find a bike that fits perfectly. This is possible because manufacturers make frames in a wide variety of sizes and because bicycles can be fine-tuned with seat and stem adjustments, or part changes, when the adjustments don’t do the trick. Once in a while, however, we run into a person who needs a size out of the ordinary, such as might an NBA basketball player or a horse jockey. Bike makers offer wide size runs, but that doesn’t mean they have everything. And, if you’re very tall or short, we’re happy to search to find an appropriate bike or have a bike custom built (an option that can be very satisfying and results in a one-of-a-kind mount.) We’ll do our best for you.
The Stand-over Test
A ballpark indicator of how a frame fits is clearance between the crotch and top frame tube when you’re straddling the bike (illustration). On bicycles designed for road use, you usually want about one to three inches of clearance (depending on the size and design of the bike). On off-road models, which usually have sloping toptubes and long seat posts, more clearance is needed. Look for three to six inches (depending on size and design).
Cycling should be as easy and comfortable as possible. We enjoy finding the optimum fit for the most enjoyable experience on your new bike.
Health & Fitness
One of the best things about off-road riding during the off-season is that it provides a change of pace. You’re actually working the same muscles but because the riding is so different and because there are so many new distractions pedaling off road, you feel like you’re participating in a brand new sport. Most cyclists find it exciting, refreshing and fun. And, it becomes the perfect cross training for road cycling.
You develop new skills spinning off road, too. For example, learning to ride through technical sections, you develop better balance and bike-handling skills. Playing bumping games with friends where it’s safe will help you when you’re jamming in a tight pack on the road. Scaling steep off-road climbs, will build upper-body strength that comes in handy on climbs and sprints on pavement.
Fun And Games
Some off-roaders even play bicycle polo in the winter. Use a beater bike because this sport can be very tough on your bike. You’ll never have more fun getting an incredible workout, though. Use a soccer ball and get permission to play on the field you want to use. Construct a mallet from a dowel about an inch thick and 36-inches long, with a block of wood at the end. Definitely wear your helmet. BMX safety pads are a good idea, too. Groups of about four or five players on each team work best. Soccer goals are about the right size for goals. Be careful and respectful of each other: rough play can break bones and bikes.
While highly trained cyclists taper for as long as three weeks before a race, for most weekend warriors, one week of rest is sufficient.
Take It Easy
What should you do in that last week? Cut your mileage in half. If you’re prepping for a century, keep your heart rate in the aerobic zone (65-75% of your maximum heart rate) on your rides. And, maintain a pace that quickens your breathing but still allows conversation.
Racers: Test Your Legs
If your event is a criterium, road race, or mountain-bike race, add three to four 10-second sprints one day midweek to keep your muscles tuned and used to hard efforts. Take several minutes rest between each sprint. The last day before the event, ride very easy for no more than forty minutes.
Ready, Set, Go
On the big day, warm up easy for twenty to thirty minutes before your event (break a good sweat and elevate your heart rate) and you’ll find yourself charged up and ready to go. Have a great ride!
Different types of cycling requires different types of strengths. But, you don’t have to be a racer to appreciate having additional power. For example, strength gains will help on hills and when trying to maintain a faster pace to keep up with a group ride. Here are some suggested workouts (most include hill work) designed to build specific strengths. Fit these into your training as hard days, usually no more than one per week.
|Build strength for…||Recommended training…|
|Keeping up with the group you ride with or being able to ride with the leaders.||Increase the distance of your average rides and add some hills towards the end that will force you to work hard when your legs are tired.|
|Gaining all-around power.||Do an out-and-back course that allows you to head out working hard against a headwind. Push the pace as possible depending on your fitness. Then, turn around and warm-down using the tailwind to help you home.|
|Flattening hills.||Find a loop with multiple short climbs. As you do the loop, ride each hill twice, trying to improve your time on the second leg.|
|Competing in triathlons, time trials or mountain-bike races where you need to maintain a steady hard pace.||Do three to five intervals of 4 to 6 minutes climbing a 4- to 6-percent grade with 2 to 3 minutes of recovery between each effort.|
|Racing on the track in criteriums or improving your road sprint.||Do five to eight 15- to 20-second all-out sprints up a short, steep incline.|
|Increasing your acceleration and speed.||Warm-up for an hour then do a series of telephone-pole sprints. These are done by sprinting all-out from one pole to the next, spinning easily and resting until the next pole and repeating.|
|Maintaining a steady hard pace.||Do a warm-up that brings you the base of a long, gradual hill. You must be thoroughly warmed up, sweating and loose. Staying seated and, using a gear that’s hard to turn over, climb the hill several times. Don’t even consider this workout if you have knee problems.|
Here are 10 safeguards against old Sol’s damaging rays:
1. The sun causes 80% of premature skin aging. So, proper sun protection can be one of the best defenses against wrinkles.
2. Beware sneaky places that you might not expect to get sun such as the skin exposed by holes in the back of gloves, the backs of your calves, the back of your neck. Does that old jersey have tears in it? Surprisingly your skin can get burnt there. Protect all these exposed areas with sun block.
3. Are you bald? If you use a helmet that’s full of ventilation holes, make sure you apply sunscreen or wear a cycling cap underneath your lid to save your head.
4. Sunglasses can reflect a lot of light toward your nose, so protect your beak with an extra-high-SPF sunscreen.
5. If your arms are extra sensitive, consider wearing a long-sleeve white jersey.
6. At higher altitudes there’s increased exposure to UV rays so use more sun protection.
7. Keep in mind that heavy sweating can wash away even supposedly waterproof sport sunscreens. You’ll need to reapply regularly.
8. Be sure to treat your ears with sunscreen, too, because depending on your hair length, they could be constantly exposed.
9. Always carry sunscreen with you on rides so you can apply as needed.
10. If you ride a lot in the sun, about once a year, get a dermatological check-up so a professional can check how your skin is doing and advise you.
The heavier you are and the harder you exercise, the more calories you burn. The body can store roughly an hour-and-a-half to two-hours worth of glycogen (muscle fuel). That’s all. So, if you’re riding longer, you need to carry (or stop to purchase) food and consume enough calories to keep from developing a glycogen deficit.
Beat The Bonk
This glycogen deficit causes a miserable condition that’s known as the bonk or hitting the wall, which feels like you’ve run out of gas. Your legs feel incredibly weak and small hills become Mt. Everest. You may experience a pins-and-needles feeling in your arms and lightheadedness, even nausea. If you stop for a while, you may get back on the bike and feel fine, only to have the bonk return in just a few minutes. You can even become disoriented and dizzy, which can lead to a crash.
Food To Go
Jersey pockets are designed to carry the energy bars, fig bars, fruit or energy gels you need to prevent the bonk. Stashed like this, the grub is easily reached while riding, too. Some people use electrical tape to stick packets of energy gel to their top tube or stem for even easier access (good for racing). For high-intensity events or rides, energy gels and drinks work better than energy bars. They can be swallowed in seconds (chewing an energy bar can interfere with breathing) and the ingredients enter your system almost as quickly.
Be sure to experiment in training or on rides that are not as important as your big event to ensure that your food and drink choices are right for you. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for others. And, twenty miles into a century is no time to find out that the energy drink your training partner recommended upsets your stomach.
We’ve got an assortment of tasty energy food and can recommend types you’ll like.
Here’s an overview of the three types of eating for cycling with suggestions:
Exercise and heavy eating don’t mix, but you need calories to fuel your workouts because not eating can cause you to quickly deplete your energy reserves. Plus, some athletes get an upset stomach exercising on an empty tank. An energy drink specifically formulated for pre-workout can provide easily digested liquid calories designed to enhance endurance. Look for an all-purpose supplement that supplies healthy complex carbohydrates and protein with low sugar and fat. You may find that energy bars, fruit and cereal make good pre-workout meals, too.
Energy Replenishment During Workouts and Events
Your body can only store a one- to two-hour supply of glycogen (muscle fuel). Once this is depleted, if you keep riding, you risk bonking (also known as hitting the wall). So, it’s important to carry food or stop for snacks while riding.
What you eat and drink depends on what works for you. Energy drinks are easily consumed and provide fuel in the form of steady complex carbohydrates, as well as replenishing electrolytes and minerals lost through sweating. But, you’ll also want edibles. Energy bars require more effort to eat than drinks or gels and are best for long, low-intensity training rides. Energy gels (similar in form and taste to cake frosting) have become very popular the last few years. These are easy to eat and absorb and provide concentrated carbohydrates that deliver immediate energy during intense efforts. Some varieties include vitamins, amino acids, caffeine and electrolytes. Whatever you eat, be sure to drink plenty of water, which helps your body more quickly absorb the essential ingredients in energy foods.
Eating to Recover
There’s a one-hour window of opportunity immediately after workouts when the muscles absorb the most nutrients and when glycogen, an energy reserve in your muscles, is replaced most efficiently. You don’t have to eat a big meal, but you should eat something soon after training to recovery quickly and store energy for your next ride. Lots of people get good results with a small, high-protein-and-carbohydrate shake. But other carbo-rich foods work well, too, such as a vegetarian burrito. Experiment to see what works best for you.
It’s easier to stay disciplined when your plan is laid out in advance so consider establishing a weekly or monthly ride schedule and keeping it in a prominent place for motivation (on the refrigerator or on an office file cabinet).
Track Your Training
Logging your training is an excellent motivator, too. It’s rewarding to look back and see how much you’ve accomplished, and it fuels your desire to do more. All that’s required is a notebook. For each ride, jot the date, distance, time and a brief description of the ride with any details you feel like tracking such as the weather or who you rode with. Details like these will make the ride come alive when you’re reviewing your workouts, later.
You can also enter specifics such as your resting morning heart rate, how you felt, your average speed, body weight, any foods you tried on the ride, even new bike equipment. The data can be as detailed and specific or as casual as you like. The more detailed it is, though, the easier it’ll be to interpret the data to determine why you felt good or bad on given days/rides.
Be sure to follow a sensible diet with your riding regimen, too. Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day will keep your energy levels high and your metabolism going. Many cyclists find that snacking on energy bars is a great way to get a boost during the day. And they drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Don’t rush fitness gains, either. Let your body gradually get in shape. And keep it fun because the more fun you have, the more likely it is that you’ll achieve your goals. Finding a partner or two with similar abilities and goals can be a big help in enjoying your riding. And committing to ride with someone else serves as a strong motivator. If you don’t have a ride partner, check with us to find out about the group rides in our area. Soon you’ll be enjoying new rides, making friends and getting healthier, all while having a ton of fun!
Depending upon your sweat rate and the weather, you lose anywhere from 1 to 2 quarts of perspiration an hour. On rides, you must replace this fluid loss with more than just water because you’re not only losing H2O, but also vital nutrients. Energy drinks are best because they contain the electrolytes and nutrients lost through sweating.
Go For Flavor
Energy drinks also provide carbohydrates to fuel the muscles. But it’s got to be an energy drink you enjoy because if it tastes good, you’ll drink more. And, if it tastes bad, you won’t drink enough, if at all.
When you’re carrying energy drink in both bottles, lower the concentration in your second bottle because as you fatigue and heat up, you’ll likely prefer less flavor and sweetness. If you’re riding hard, it’s also important that your energy drink isn’t too concentrated. Too rich a mixture can upset your stomach and even slow down or prevent water absorption.
Preparing for a cycling event or race? Be sure to experiment while training to find the drink that’s most compatible with your system. That way, you’ll be drinking something that works and you won’t experience stomach aches or cramping during the important ride. Also, train with bottles and hydration packs to determine, which works best. The latter are great for long rides because of their large capacity. Plus, the hose makes it much easier to drink enough. So on bumpy terrain such as in an off-road race/ride they can offer an advantage.
Gauge Your Level
To make sure you’re properly hydrated before an event, check your urine. It should be pale yellow or clear. Dark yellow and strong-smelling urine is a reminder to drink a few more glasses of water, although vitamin pills can have a coloring effect as well. Another key sign of proper hydration is having to get up during the night before the event to urinate.
When the temperatures start soaring, insulated bottles and hydration systems can keep your water cooler, which will help keep your body temperature lower. You can also freeze water in your bottles the night before. But, fill only half way so you can top it off with drink before the ride. The ice in the bottom will chill the liquid for a while. Ice in a hydration pack can also help cool your torso.
So what else should you do while you’re in the weight room? Improving your upper-body fitness is very helpful.
Bulk Up To Ride Better
Increased strength in the torso and arms is useful because the muscles there are used when sprinting, hill climbing, and controlling the bike. And, they’re muscles that don’t really develop much during cycling. Strength gains here are especially helpful for off-road riders, too, who need additional strength for hanging on over rough, rutted trails. Adding bench presses, biceps curls, and push-ups will improve total upper-body fitness.
Ever notice that your lower back hurts after long climbs in the saddle? That’s a sign that your abdominal muscles could use some beefing up. They’re an often-neglected muscle group important for climbing and comfort. The cure? Seated rows, back extensions, crunches and lat pull downs.
Vary Your Work
When doing your gym work, be sure to alternate between lower- and upper-body exercises to give the different muscle groups a rest as you’re working out.
Ask For Help
If you’re not familiar with the exercises we’ve mentioned ask for instruction at your gym before attempting a workout. This is important because it’s easy to get injured if you perform an exercise incorrectly or use too much resistance. A professional trainer can explain how the exercises are done and help plan a routine that matches your goals and fitness level.
Dress The Part
Remember to dress in comfortable clothes and cross-training shoes and bring energy food and drink to the gym. And keep in mind that one of the most fun and motivating ways to exercise indoors is to do so with friends. Ask cyclists you know where they do their weight workouts and see if you can tag along to join the fun.
Using a heart-rate monitor while you train is a little like using the tachometer in your car. Just like your vehicle is happiest when driven at certain rpms, exercising at an effective intensity level will help you make the most of your training time. There’s a lot to know about using a heart-rate monitor and training, much more than we can cover here. But we can offer a few guidelines and point you toward sources of more information.
A basic rule is that the harder one exercises, the higher the heart rate. Also, the longer you ride the higher your heart rate goes for the same amount of effort and workload. This is a phenomenon known as cardiac drift.
Find Your Zone
If you’re training for fitness and/or to lose weight, your time is best spent in the aerobic zone, which is 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (You can aproximate your max. heart rate using this simple formula: 220 minus your age. Another that considers other health factors is: 210 minus ½ your age minus 5 percent of your body weight + 4 if you’re male).
Below the 65-percent minimum intensity level you won’t see much improvement in aerobic capacity, one of the biggest factors in determining how fit you are. But, exercising at higher levels isn’t really necessary if your goal is mainly improving your fitness or losing weight.
If you’re training to race, the amount of time you spend in each zone varies throughout the year. In early season, spend virtually all of your riding time in the aerobic zone. Late in the year, incorporate intervals and sprints that take your heart rate into the higher zones. Because cycling is mainly an aerobic sport, even during late season riding, around 60 percent of your riding time should be spent in the aerobic zone. As your fitness improves, you’ll see your resting heart rate start to drop.
To gauge yourself day to day, check your heart rate first thing in the morning and keep track of it. If your heart rate is high when you first get up, it’s a sign that you may be tired from overtraining and that you should take it easy.
These are just some basic guidelines. Most heart-rate monitors include manuals. Read yours for more information. We’ve also got great training books that detail how to use your heart-rate monitor to train effectively and efficiently. And, if you’re just beginning a fitness program or have been inactive for more than a few weeks, consult your physician.
A great tool for learning to ride a steady pace is a heart-rate monitor with an average-heart-rate readout. Use this feature during a hard ride or race. Afterward it will show the average heart rate you sustained. Then, the next time out, use this figure to gauge your pace on a new route to avoid overdoing it. For example: if your average (and safe) heart rate was 150 beats per minute for a sustained effort, maintaining 150 bpm or below during most of the new ride ensures an efficient pace from beginning to end.
Mind your monitor to avoid heart-rate spikes caused by big efforts such as sprinting up hills or pushing too big a gear as much as possible, as these efforts will quickly drain your energy reserves and make it harder to maintain your desired pace.
If it’s 40 degrees and you feel like you’re busting a gut but you can’t reach your target heart rate, relax and try to gauge your effort by feel. Why? Because cold temperatures can lower your heart rate. The converse is true as well; heat can raise your heart rate. Also, the longer you ride the higher your heart rate will go for the same amount of effort and workload. This is a phenomenon known as cardiac drift.
The Beat Goes Up
If you ride both on and off road, you should find that your average heart rate is higher when you’re riding on the trails. The steeper pitches, upright seating position and greater use of your upper body usually drive your heart rate higher. And, if you try to hold the heart rate you held in a mountain-bike race for a road time trial or metric century, you’ll blow sky high. The more you use your heart-rate monitor, the better you’ll be able to distinguish between readings that are abnormally high or low and your regular readings.
Know Your Heart And Monitor
There’s a lot to know about heart rate and training with a heart-rate monitor. And it’s important that you fully understand your fitness level and know how to properly train. We can offer guidance and books that provide more thorough information.
Maintenance & Repair
Before you can put air in a Presta valve, you must unscrew its tip. Look closely and you’ll see that the valve’s tip is knurled to make it easy to turn it by hand. Unscrew it all the way (counter-clockwise) and then press the tip down until some air escapes. This is important because it frees the valve, which usually sticks after being sealed for a while. Until you free it, it can be difficult to impossible to put air into the valve.
Here are six other valuable valve facts:
1. Replaceable Presta Cores
Some Presta valves have replaceable cores. You can tell if yours is by looking for wrench flats on the sides of the valve just below the tip. A replaceable core is a nice thing if yours gets damaged somehow. However, it’s also something to check regularly because if it loosens, you’ll develop a slow leak and get flats all the time. The solution is simple, just snug the valve by tightening it with an adjustable wrench (turn clockwise).
2. CO2 Cautions
Take extra precautions using CO2 inflators on valves with replaceable cores. The drastic pressure drop as the CO2 leaves the cartridge super-cools the cartridge and adapter. In damp weather, this can freeze the cartridge to the valve. And when you unscrew the adapter, you extract the valve core with it, deflating the tube. To prevent this, after inflation, squirt the valve with some water from your waterbottle to de-ice things and then carefully remove the adapter from the core.
3. Converting Schrader Holes For Presta Valves
If you use a Presta valve tube in a rim drilled for Schrader valves, you’ll notice that the hole is too big. This isn’t a problem unless you ride with low air pressures as some off-ride cyclists like to. In that case, the Presta valve may creep as the tube shifts inside the tire. This can lead to a bent or broken valve over time. To prevent this miscue, install rim grommets, O-ring-like rubber washers that fit in the valve hole reducing its diameter to match the Presta’s.
4. Protect The Valve When Pumping
An important tip about valves is that they’re not indestructible and they’re at the most risk when you’re pumping up the tire using your frame-mounted pump. To protect the valve, always support it by holding the end of the pump that’s on the valve in such a way that you can hook a thumb or finger over the tire. That way, as you push to inflate the tire, you’re pushing against your hand and not the valve, which will bend or break if you push against it alone.
5. Valve Nuts
A common question with Presta valves is whether or not it’s important to install the valve nuts (knurled metal rings that are used with threaded valves). Not all Presta valves are threaded from top to bottom. But, if yours are threaded, there’s a good chance that there are valve nuts on them. These can make it easier to inflate the tire because they hold the valve proud of the rim making it easier to get the pump head on them. Be sure not to tighten them too much, however, or they’ll be difficult to remove by hand when you have to fix a flat on the road or trail. Overtightening the nut can also put pressure on the valve/tube junction where it passes through the rim and cause a flat.
6. Dealing With Slow Leaks
One final tip: when you’re searching for a slow leak, don’t ignore the valve. Sometimes valves fail and air seeps out. To check, put a little spit on the end of the valve and stare at it for a few seconds. If the valve is leaking, a bubble will form. Often you can tighten the valve and the leaking will cease. If this doesn’t do the trick on a Schrader valve, try removing the valve core, putting a drop of oil on the spring and reinstalling the core. This will usually stop the leak. To work on Schrader valves you’ll need a valve cap with a built-in valve tool or a separate valve tool. These have pronged ends that fit inside the valve to grip and turn the core. They’re available at auto-parts stores.
The hardest thing for most cyclists to keep clean is the chain. It gets gunked up over time and the black goo has a way of getting on your hands, bike clothes and elsewhere (especially if you make the mistake of carrying the bike in your vehicle).
Go Easy On The Lube And Use The Right Lube
To keep the drivetrain clean, try to use the least amount of lube that will adequately lubricate your chain and derailleurs. Also, use a lube appropriate for your riding and conditions. We’re happy to recommend lubes if you’re not sure which brands or types are best for your needs.
When lubing the chain, let the oil soak in and then wipe off the excess. This helps prevent a buildup from developing. As soon as you notice grime, spend a few moments wiping the chain clean with a rag. It only takes minutes to give the links the once over like this and it can go a long ways towards maintaining a lubricated-but-tidy chain.
Cleaning Muddy Bikes
Another challenge is mud. The best approach is to deal with it immediately upon returning from your ride. Why? Because, if you let the mud dry, it’s more difficult to remove without scratching your frame. When you wash it off before it dries, it rinses right off saving you scrubbing and possible paint-job damage. Be sure to apply lube to the chain, brakes and derailleurs after rinsing so that the water doesn’t cause squeaking and corrosion.
The easiest way to keep your bike(s) clean is to assemble a simple cleaning kit consisting of a bucket, some brushes and sponges and some detergent (illustration). With this handy, when your bike’s dirty, you can fill the bucket with warm soapy water and gently clean off the mud and dirt. Then rinse the suds off with a hose trickling the water over the bike from the top. Never blast high-pressure water at the bike because it can wash the lubricant off parts and out of the bearings, which will cause serious problems later.
Proper Bike Storage
How you store your bike can affect how clean it stays, too. It’s best to keep it inside away from the aging affects of the weather. It takes a while, but even if the bike is under an overhang, if it’s stored outside, dampness in the air will rust the steel parts, ozone will attack the tires and sunshine will fade the paint. If you live near the ocean, it’s especially important to keep the bike indoors because the salt in the air will corrode things extremely quickly.
An easy way to store a bicycle indoors is to purchase bike hooks from us. These question-mark-shaped hooks screw into a stud in the wall and hold the bike by a wheel. Or, you can install two hooks, one for each wheel so the bike can hang horizontally (upside-down). With a few of these hooks, it’s possible to hang many bikes in the garage or house.
A higher-tech storage solution is a stand that displays the bike. If you’ve got a beautiful bike (aren’t they all?), one of these racks holds the machine proudly (usually the stand supports two bikes, one low and one high) showing off your prize possession for all to see.
For the most common breakdown, a flat tire, carry a spare tube and tire levers (these make it easy to remove the tire and they usually come in sets of two or three). A patch kit for repairing one of your tubes if you have a second flat. A tire boot (a 1- x 2-inch patch or an old section of tire) for tire cuts (the boot is placed between the tube and tire to cover the hole). A chain tool (illustration) allows you to fix a broken or damaged chain. And, a mini-tool (some include chain tools) with 4, 5 and 6mm Allen wrenches and screwdrivers will allow you to adjust most of the bike’s bolts. And, always carry cash for food and to call someone in case of the rare failure that you can’t fix.
Grease Be Gone
Other handy things to carry include a little hand cleaner (paste types work well) and a small rag to scrub your hands after completing a repair. A great way to carry cleaner is to pack it into an empty 35-mm film container and stow it in your seatbag.
Make Sure Your Mini-Tool Has What You Need
When selecting your all-in-one mini-tool, test it on your bike. Bicycles and components vary and not all tools work well on all bikes. Check to see if yours can access the brake and derailleur adjustments; if the chain tool looks sensible; if the all-in-one includes the right tools for your bike. Chain tools can turn out to be great ride savers should your or a friend’s links fail, but some tools don’t include them.
Carrying Tools Helps Others Help You
You might think that it’s senseless to carry tools and supplies if you don’t know how to fix your bike. But, if you carry the right stuff, you’ll at least have what you need and can try to repair things. Also, you’ll have what’s needed in case another cyclist stops to help.
Pack A Manual, Too
If you’re a novice mechanic, consider tucking a small repair book in your kit with your tools. This might require carrying everything in a slightly larger bag, but it’ll pay dividends if the advice in the book helps you successfully repair your bike.
Don’t leave that repair book in your kit, either. If you read it before the ride, you’ll have a better idea where to begin when things go wrong. You can also learn about repair by watching friends fix their bikes. Bicycles are fairly user friendly and with a little know-how, experience and the right tools, minor repairs are easy to fix.
One of the great things about modern derailleur drivetrains is that they’re easily fine-tuned should the need arise. How do you know? Usually, the symptom that tips you off that adjustment is needed is hesitation during shifts. You click the shifter but the chain doesn’t quite engage the next gear the way it used to. There are several possible causes, the most likely being a shift cable that has stretched slightly, which happens to all cables.
The cool thing is, derailleur designers provide a simple way for you to dial in shifting so it works perfectly again. You don’t even need tools. To make the adjustment, look at the point where the cable enters the rear derailleur. See that round knurled piece? That’s a barrel adjuster, which is used to tune the derailleur adjustment.
Standing behind the bike, the barrel adjuster is turned either counter-clockwise or clockwise in half-turn increments until the shifting hesitation is cured. Which way do you turn it? It depends on what type of hesitation you’re experiencing. The most common problem is slow shifting into easier gears. But, you might also be experiencing the opposite.
This rule will help you remember which way to turn it: If the derailleur is hesitating when shifting toward the spokes, turn the barrel toward the spokes (counter-clockwise); and if it hesitates shifting away from the spokes, turn the adjuster away (clockwise) from the spokes. (Always turn it only a half turn, check the adjustment, and repeat as needed to cure the hesitation.)
Protect That Derailleur
Although it’s not really maintenance, another thing to remember about derailleur-equipped bikes is that the rear derailleur is fragile and must be protected. This is worth emphasizing because there are many times that the derailleur is at risk, such as during flat-tire repair, while shipping a bike and even parking your bike. All it takes is the bike falling over for the rear derailleur to get hit and bent. Usually, we can fix the damage with special alignment tools. But, you can avoid the downtime by thinking of your derailleur as a delicate object and watching out for it.
One of the most common derailleur accidents, especially for off-road riders, is falling over or dropping the bike and bending the derailleur. When this happens, you might not notice. It’s important to notice however, because once the derailleur is bent, bad things can happen such as shifting into the spokes, which may ruin the derailleur and might seriously damage the rear wheel and frame. Signs of having a bent derailleur include sudden hesitation shifting into harder gears and a clicking sound when you’re on your top cog (shift out of this gear immediately if you hear this sound because the derailleur is hitting the spokes and may get pulled into the wheel at any moment). Bring your bike in immediately for us to check it if you notice these problems.
The chain on an off-road bike is susceptible to damage due to the excess wear that dirt, sticks and rocks put on the links. And, a broken chain can quickly ruin a ride and force a long walk home. So, the most valuable tool in your seat pack when you’re trail biking might just be the chain tool (it extracts and inserts chain pins to separate and join the chain). As long as you carry this important tool (they’re small and inexpensive), should your chain separate or a link fail, you can simply remove the bad link and rejoin the chain to continue riding.
Many chains require special replacement pins for repairs. Be sure to carry a spare or two in your seat bag if they’re needed. Also, remember that after the repair, the chain is shorter. So, avoid using your large chainring in combination with the larger cogs on your rear sprockets because this can jam the drivetrain.
Practice Makes Perfect
It’s a good idea to practice using your chain tool on a length of used chain to get a feel for what it takes to align the chain tool’s pin with the chain pin and drive it out. If you know how to do this properly, you won’t struggle when something goes wrong with your chain on a ride.
Check Chain Wear
Chains don’t last forever. You can keep track of wear by measuring. When new, you’ll be able to measure exactly 12 inches of chain between two pins (just hold a ruler next to the chain, align one pin with the beginning of the rule and see if a pin lines up with the 12-inch mark). If the second pin is at 12 and 1/8 inches or more, it’s time for a new chain.
Replace The Cogs With The Chain
If you need a new chain, you’ll probably also need new cassette cogs. This is because the cogs wear at approximately the same rate as the chain. If you replace the chain without new cogs you’ll usually experience skipping, a disconcerting and possibly dangerous slipping sensation when pedaling hard. What’s happening is that as you apply pressure, the new chain links can’t grip the worn teeth adequately and as a result, they slip off the teeth and jump forward. New cogs will prevent this aggravating (and unsafe) condition.
Keeping a chain in tip-top condition will prevent premature wear. Lubricate the links before they get dry and squeak. And, use a lube that’s appropriate for the riding conditions (we can recommend the best for our area). After applying lube, be sure to wipe off the excess because it’ll attract grit and grime if you leave it on. If the chain gets grimy, you can clean it quickly by wiping it with a rag, a few links at a time until the entire chain is down almost to bare metal (there should be a thin layer of lube)
Off-Road Riding & Racing
Take Care Of Those Shoes!
Your homemade booties will keep your tootsies dry and warm, however, they won’t keep your shoes dry like booties that fit over them. So, when you get home, you’ll probably have soaked shoes. It’s important to dry them properly. Here’s how (Note: Never put wet shoes over a heat source because this can shrink and damage them.):
- Hose off any grit and mud build-up on the outers and tread. If you’re using cleated shoes, be sure to remove any mud or gunk around the cleats so you’ll be able to get in and out of your clipless pedals smoothly. To knock off any embedded grit, hold a shoe in each hand and clap the soles together. It’s also a good idea to lightly lube metal cleats so they won’t rust.
- Find a Sunday or other large newspaper or a few issues and spread some newspaper on the floor to rest your shoes on.
- If they’re designed to be taken out, remove the insoles, place them inside a section of the newspaper and stand on them so the paper absorbs most of the moisture inside them. Then rest the insoles on the paper to dry.
- Now, completely open all the closures and stuff the shoes with balled-up newspaper. Rest the stuffed shoes on the newspaper and let them dry.
- Remove the wet newspaper stuffing and replace it with balled-up dry pieces a couple of times during the day. By morning, the shoes and insoles will be dry and ready to go.
If a lever loosens and changes position, or when installing new levers, it’s important to set them correctly. To prevent levers from bending in crashes, be sure to position them so that when the lever is closed, the end does not protrude past the end of the handlebars. This will ensure that the bars hit the ground, not the levers, which bend easily.
For optimum control, it’s also important to find the right position for how you ride. Ideally, the levers will be positioned so you can rest your hands on them and operate them comfortably without bending your wrists (illustration). In other words, the levers should be a natural extension of your arms. Depending on the distance from the handlebars to the seat and how you sit on your bike, you might like them somewhat flat or more angled downward.
Some brake levers have set screws that allow fine-tuning reach, the distance from the handlebar to the lever. This is helpful for adjusting the lever to provide maximum braking power at the point where your hand creates the most force. For example, the larger your hand, the more comfortable you are with a wide reach while a smaller hand requires a shorter reach in order to control the brakes.
If your brake levers don’t have reach adjustments, try fine-tuning the reach with the cable barrel adjusters. If these don’t provide the adjustment you need, you can get it by loosening the cables slightly, however, only make this adjustment if you fully understand brake adjustment because if you’re not sure, you could compromise your brakes.
If you have any questions about these adjustments, please contact us. We want you to be safe and are happy to help.
An interesting irony of off-road riding is that you often have more control and a better chance to avoid obstacles if you bring a little extra speed into a tricky section of trail. The tendency is to slam on the brakes when the trail looks scary. But, if you slow too much, you lose momentum, making it harder to balance and more difficult to negotiate trail hazards.
Practice Makes Perfect
It takes a little confidence to bring more speed into these sections, though. A great way to develop it is to practice riding tricky stretches until you can get through smoothly. It’s best to do this while riding with friends. They can spot for you as you make your attempts. And, if they’re skilled off-roaders, they can point out things you may be doing wrong and demonstrate the correct riding technique. Don’t be shy about asking for help, either. Most better riders enjoy helping friends improve because it means safer rides and more fun for everyone as you’re able to ride more challenging loops.
Dial-In Your Ride
Proper equipment set-up helps, too. For example, if you’re riding suspension, it should be adjusted for your weight and the trails you’re covering. Seat and handlebar adjustments should position your body in a comfortable, efficient and safe position. And, the bike’s gearing should be suited to your strength and fitness level. We can take a look and offer suggestions if you’re not sure about these details.
Most important is knowing your limitations. If you’re not sure about an obstacle or trail hazard and you’re riding alone, don’t attempt to ride it. Instead, walk the section content in the knowledge that you’ll try riding it someday when friends are there to spot and help. That’s a wiser course of action than risking injury.
Stop And Stretch
Stretching helps flexibility and comfort yet it’s often overlooked by cyclists. All it takes though, is thinking of it and taking a break to loosen up (we don’t recommend on-the-bike stretching because you might crash). One great stretch for the back that’s easy to do is standing straight, raising your arms over your head and reaching as high as you can. Hold this position for thirty seconds or so and you’ll feel much looser. Also, bend your neck to both sides and to the front and back and hold for a few seconds in each position to ease any tightness. To relieve pressure on the hands and arms that causes fatigue and pain, every few miles remove one hand at a time from the bars and shake it out by your side.
Another good relaxation techniques is monitoring your breathing. Many athletes tense up when exercising and actually hold their breath, which increases muscle tension and fatigue. If you can exhale completely every few minutes and draw in deep breaths of fresh air, you’ll help your muscles relax and remain fresher.
On warm rides, a great pick-up is washing the face, neck, hands and arms with cool water (usually available on organized rides; or stop at a store). This will remove any salt, cool the skin and feel great.
Always Hook A Thumb
While it’s important to relax your body to smooth the ride, don’t mistake relaxation for a lackadaisical approach to safety. Be sure to keep a secure grip on the handlebars at all time, especially as trails get rougher. Remember to always keep at least one thumb hooked beneath the handlebar. It’ll prevent your hands from slipping off the bars, a dangerous mishap that can occur if you grip without hooking a thumb.
Softer May Be Better
Finally, something that can make it much easier to relax is using lower tire pressure when riding off road. This will soften the tires helping to absorb shocks from the trail and keeping them from reaching your body. Many cyclists ride with 50 to 60 psi but a pressure of 34 to 40 will feel much more comfortable as well as provide better traction and control.
Ride partners will appreciate it if you ride with fenders when it’s muddy. Besides keeping the spray out of their eyes, fenders will keep it out of your peepers and off your clothes, too. Best, they’ll keep the muck off the bike, somewhat reducing cleaning time and limiting the wear and tear on the finish. We can show you some fenders suited to the mud.
Don’t Muddle The Puddle
When riding in muddy conditions be careful at puddles. It may seem fun to blast through, but it’s never a good idea because you can’t be sure what’s at the bottom. If there’s a hole there, you’ll end up doing a sweet Superman imitation and sail over the bars when your front wheel gets stopped cold. This will entertain your ride partners immensely but it can be quite painful and could wreck the fork and frame if you’re really unlucky.
Our recommendation? Slow way down and try to skirt the edges of puddles so you know you’re passing over solid ground.
If you’re coming into a muddy section that’s only a yard or so across, but still looks like it could cause a loss of control, try this technique (this requires being able to lift the front wheel; if you don’t know how, learn before trying this move): as you approach the bog, lift the front wheel and hold it up, until it’s over dry ground. If you do this correctly, the front wheel will miss the mud altogether and the rear wheel will cruise through the muck. Because your front wheel is airborne as you cross the goo, there’s no chance of getting the front end stuck and getting launched.
Ride It Out
Another important mud maneuver is hanging on a little longer when things seem out of control. Often, if you can just ride out the initial unsteadiness you feel, the bike will regain control on its own. It helps to stay off the brakes and remain relaxed.
Dodge The Danger
Keep in mind that no one is forcing you to ride through the mud. If it looks risky, the best bet may be to get off and walk around the muddy section. There’s nothing wrong with that and you’ll have the last laugh should one of your buds bury their front wheel and auger in!
To improve at climbing, some cyclists install bar ends. These handlebar add-ons mount to the ends of the bar (hence their name) outboard of the grips (you must move the shifters, brakes and grips toward the stem, first).
Additional Hand Hold
With bar ends, you’ve got an additional hand position that’s forward of the regular grip. When holding the bar ends, you move forward helping to pin the front wheel to the ground. Also, on the bar ends, you’ve got a stronger wrist position, which adds control when you’re standing to climb.
Drop The Pressure To Get A Grip
Another equipment tip that helps when you’re struggling to scale the steep stuff is reducing tire pressure. Depending on the trail conditions, you can often drop the air down to 30 psi and create a larger footprint on the trail increasing traction and climbing success. (Don’t lower pressure too much on rocky terrain or you’ll risk pinch flats.)
Use Some English
Body English can help too. Most of the time, you work to pedal fluidly, smoothly. But, on a climb, especially a steep one, you must lean forward to keep the front wheel from lifting off the trail, which reduces the bite that the rear tire has. So here, what’s really needed is adequate traction each time you pedal. One way to get this is to bounce downward with each pedal stroke, driving the rear tire into the dirt, which increases traction and will help get you up the hill.
Get The Gears
Of course, having the right gearing can help in the hills, too. If you feel like you’re always working too hard, even in your easiest cogs, bring your bike in and we’ll see if it’s possible to install lower gears to lighten your load.
It takes practice to become a perfect pedaler. One pedaling drill you can do on any ride with downhills is spinning the pedals as quickly as possible as you accelerate down slopes. To do this correctly, leave the bike in a gear that’s too easy, one that forces you to fan the pedals to keep up with the speed of the bike. Your goal is to rev your legs as quickly as you can while remaining seated. At first, you’ll probably bounce a lot on the seat. But, with practice, you should be able to stay in the seat and maintain a calm upper body even though your legs are spinning at supersonic speed. If you do this drill a lot, your pedaling speed and efficiency will quickly improve.
If you’re willing to purchase a handy piece of cycling equipment, a great way to smooth your spin is to train indoors on rollers. Rollers consist of a frame with three spinning drums (one for the front wheel, two for the rear), with a rubber belt connecting the front drum to one of the rear drums. You put your bike on the rollers and start to pedal and you can balance and ride just like you do spinning down the road outside. Most rollers have optional equipment that allows increasing resistance because there isn’t much drag from just the roller unit itself.
Develop A Winning Spin
Rollers require above-average balance and exaggerate any pedaling flaws. With enough practice, you naturally eliminate pedaling problems because they’re so noticeable. And, when that happens, you ride faster with the same effort because your pedaling becomes more efficient and more of your energy goes into driving the bike.
Think they’re just for roadies? Actually, the concentration and spin improvement builds confidence and the ability to ride tight singletrack, maintain your balance in slick mud and skirt narrow ledges high in the mountains, too.
A classic cycling trick to improve pedaling technique is riding a fixed-gear bike in the winter. Constant pedaling is required because you can’t coast. And you must accelerate pedal speed on downhills because you can’t shift. These factors combine to smooth your pedal stroke and force you to spin complete circles. Pick ride routes that avoid steep climbs and descents. You don’t need to buy a new bike to pull this one off, either. A threaded-hub wheel, a track cog, a BMX chain and a few axle spacing tricks can turn your regular bike into a fixed-gear rig. We can help with the conversion.
Try The Track
If you’re one of the privileged few who can ride a track bike at a velodrome (a circular, banked track for cycling), you’ll reap the same benefits as training on a fixed-gear bike. Never ride a track bike on the road, though. Brakes are a must on the street, and track bikes don’t have them.
IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association has lots of great ideas and tips to improve your off-road excursions. Here are ten great tips:
1. Bells are a great way to let your fellow trail users know that you’re approaching. Just be careful not to ring yours too close to horses or hikers.
2. Keep your groups small – no more than four. You’ll minimize your impact and won’t disrupt others.
3. Trailwork is fun. Get involved with your local club and attend their next trail event.
4. The next time you see a park ranger introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. By earning their respect, we’ll preserve great places to ride.
5. Teach a kid to ride. It should be part of growing up.
6. Take a date or friend on a trailwork event. Girls (and guys) love to play in the dirt!
7. Buy your riding buddy an IMBA membership.
8. If you see trash on a ride, pick it up – especially the energy bar wrappers and inner tubes that give cyclists a bad name.
9. Once per ride, stop and chat with a hiker or horseback rider. We are all part of the trail community and need to get along.
10. Volunteer for a park board or trails committee.
For more great tips and information visit IMBA.
Most wobbly riding comes from upper-body tension. Consequently, if you can relax your neck, shoulders, arms and hands while biking, you’ll find that you’re a lot less likely to weave.
Shrug It Off
Two things that can help ease tension are regularly shrugging and dropping your shoulders, and bending your elbows. What happens is, as you tighten up during a ride, your shoulders ride higher and lock up close to your neck. Shrugging every 15 minutes or so and relaxing your arms really helps relieve this stress.
Check Your Tension Level
A good gauge of relaxation level is upper-body fatigue. If you finish rides with stiff arms, sore hands, tight neck muscles and hurting shoulders, you’re definitely riding with too much tension in those areas. Ideally, when riding, it feels like the legs are doing all the work and the upper body is as relaxed as can be. In fact, the only times the upper body comes into play is on steep sections when you must stand and muscle the bars a bit to get over the hills and during sprint-like efforts.
The Less You Try, The Easier It Becomes
Remember that all bicycles are designed to track straight with no help from you. The less you try to ride straight, the easier you may find it to be to actually head straight. It’s great practice to try to follow the white line on the road. But, don’t stop paying attention to road hazards! And, don’t ride directly on the white line, which can become slippery in certain weather conditions.
A Little Help From Your Friends
It can also help a lot to ride with friends who are better cyclists because you’ll see how easily they ride straight and you’ll be able to follow their lead. Following a wheel and having someone behind tracking your steadiness may help, too (though you may have to put up with some snide comments).
An excellent way to become a better pedaler is to practice a shuffle-like pedal action. This resembles the motion used to scrape mud off the bottoms of your shoes.
Do The Pull-And-Push
Each time a pedal reaches 3 o’clock, pull straight back (parallel to the ground) with the front foot (illustration) and simultaneously push straight forward with the trailing foot. This action feels funny at first but if you work at it a bit, you’ll find that it helps a lot, especially on hills. And, after a while you’ll pedal smoother than ever because you’re able to apply power through more of the stroke. This happens because the natural up-and-down pedal action is complemented by the new fore-and-aft motion.
There are other drills for improving pedaling. A fantastic one is doing single-leg workouts on an indoor trainer. Here’s how: Warm up for a while with the bike in an easy-to-spin gear. When you’re feeling warm and loose, pull one foot out of the pedal and rest it on the trainer or on a stool next to the bike. Then, pedal for thirty seconds to a minute trying to be as efficient as possible with your one foot. Pedal easily with both legs for one minute. Then, repeat the drill with the other leg.
You never realized how little you were pulling, did you? Almost immediately it becomes easier to pedal smoothly during normal pedaling, because you are essentially teaching each leg to pedal in perfect circles. Practice the single-leg drill two to three times a week and you’ll soon have a silky smooth spin and more pedaling power when you hit the road and trail.
Rev It Up
Another great technique can be performed on the road and on a trainer. A cyclo-computer with cadence helps with this drill but if you don’t have one, just count how many complete revolutions you make with one foot in ten seconds, and then multiply by six to get your rpm (revolutions per minute). Put your bike in a low gear and take your cadence up to 120 rpm (or a 20 count for 10 seconds) and hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
Try hard not to bounce and concentrate on staying smooth and supple. Give yourself a few minutes rest and repeat between four and six times during your ride. Keep in mind this a technique drill and not an interval, so be sure to gear down enough that you aren’t straining to hold your target cadence. Doing one or two reps is a great way to complete a warm up as well (you can also do this drill on a downhill trying to spin as fast as possible without bouncing).
Follow these seven tips for safe traffic jamming:
1. Always leave yourself an out. Scan the situation and make sure you’ve got a safe exit route in the event something crazy happens. If you can swerve into a driveway or you’ve left plenty of room to brake, you’ll drastically reduce the chances of an accident.
2. Be non confrontational. Drivers are under a lot of stress and they can lose it at times. You might be tempted to reciprocate. But don’t because it serves no purpose and may exacerbate the situation. Instead, take a deep breath and let it go. Don’t let someone else’s stress rub off on you.
3. Remember to signal early. If you intend to turn at an intersection, especially if you’re moving into the left-turn lane, signal early. And, don’t move left until it’s safe to do so. If you get trapped on the right curb due to heavy traffic, wait until it’s safe to get in the left-turn lane. Sometimes, it possible to turn right (if that road is less busy), execute a legal U-turn and use the light to proceed through the intersection the way you want to go.
4. Be careful not to stop on an oil slick. Motor vehicles leak oil, and the deposits are usually in the middle of the lane at an intersection. Riding through this stuff is bad for your tires and can lead to loss of traction and a crash when you start pedaling again.
5. Don’t get doored! If you’re approaching an intersection and parked cars are on your right, remain alert for drivers exiting their cars. Should they swing open their door, you’ll have to react quickly to avoid a serious crash.
6. Eye contact is key. For safety in traffic, always try to establish eye contact before moving in front of cars. When you’re behind a slow-moving vehicle, try to meet the driver’s eyes by looking in his mirrors and don’t pass until he lets you know it’s safe to.
7. Always expect the worst and ride accordingly. If you can adopt this attitude at all times, you’ll be safest in traffic and elsewhere.
Probably the most important rule of group riding is good communication. Ideally, the leader will explain the ride in advance pointing out any safety considerations such as rough roads, high-traffic areas, easily missed turns, etc.
If no one seems in charge, you should speak up and ask, because sometimes there is no formal leader and the assumption is made that everyone knows what’s going on simply because they’ve come out for the ride. This is sure to cause problems. If you don’t know, ask, and keep asking until you find someone who can tell you what’s going on. There are always a few people who know and are willing to help and it can make a big difference in how much you enjoy the ride and how safe it is.
Once the ride is underway, you can learn a lot about a group by watching the other riders. Try to find and avoid those who wobble and speed up and slow down. These are signs of poor handling skills and possible fatigue that can cause a wreck. Instead, try to ride with the people who hold a steady pace and a straight line because they’re less likely to do unpredictable things that can cause mishaps.
Don’t Overlap Wheels
When cycling in a group, always pay attention to where your front wheel is in relation to the person in front’s rear wheel. Keep your front wheel behind his rear wheel, not overlapping it. Why? Because, if he suddenly veers to avoid a hole or rock, his rear wheel will knock your front, which will send you flying.
Use Care When Looking Back
Another extremely dangerous maneuver is turning around to look back like you might do if a friend was on the ride and you were trying to figure out where she was. There’s only one safe way to look back and it requires a willing helper. To do it, ask the person next to you if you can rest your hand on their shoulder while you look back. They’ll say yes and you can then hold on and look back. Having your hand on a shoulder prevents you from swerving as you look back and it keeps your bike going at the same speed as the other bikes preventing slowing that could cause problems. Practice this tactic with a single riding partner before trying it in a group.
Finally, there’s the challenge of expectorating in the peloton (a bike racing term for what the group is called). Everyone has to do it, so don’t hold off. But, do it carefully so you don’t soak your ride partners and get banned from the next ride. Always spit with the wind and away from riders. If this means steering to one side of the road first, go for it (but only when you’re sure it’s safe to move over).
Medical research shows that quality bicycle helmets prevent 85 percent of head injuries. Helmets made for U.S. sale after March 10, 1999 must meet the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission standard, so look for a CPSC sticker or mention of the helmet meeting the standard in the owners’ manual inside the helmet box.
How Helmets Protect
Bicycle helmets protect by reducing the peak energy in a sharp impact. Nearly all bicycle headgear is made with expanded polystyrene (EPS) often covered with a thin plastic outer shell. Once crushed, the inner foam does not recover, which is why helmets must always be replaced after a crash. The outer shell on the helmet helps the lid skid easily on rough pavement so that it doesn’t catch and jerk your neck causing whiplash or worse. Molding the EPS into the shell rather than adding the shell later is a new manufacturing technique used in some high-end models. You’ll find that helmets come in many colors. If you ride at night, we recommend, light and bright colors, which are best for visibility.
Get A Good Fit
Fit is the most important consideration in selecting a helmet. Find one that fits snugly out of the box (not tight, though, just snug) and fine-tune the fit by adjusting the straps and adding pads where necessary to take up any space between the helmet and your head. Some head shapes require more fiddling with fitting pads and straps. Extra-small heads may need thick fitting pads. We’re always ready to help with helmet adjustments. Just ask.
Replace Crashed Helmets
It bears repeating that you must replace any helmet that’s been crashed. Ironically, they work so well that you may need to examine them closely to spot marks or dents that indicate that you whacked your head. We have a great selection of helmets to choose from, and we’re here to help with any questions you might have.
There was a time, not too long ago, when few cyclists rode wearing special cycling eyewear. But, that all changed when Greg LeMond started winning Tour de Frances wearing cycling glasses. Cyclists everywhere started trying proper eye protection and discovered that, at the end of rides, they were less fatigued. These days, most cyclists would no sooner ride without cycling glasses than pedal without biking shorts or a helmet.
Optimum Eye Protection
Cycling eyewear cuts the ultraviolet rays that hurt and tire your eyes. And they also provide a shield against airborne objects thrown up from passing cars and other riders (as well as flying insects).
What’s more, modern cycling glasses are lightweight so you hardly know you’re wearing them. Temples and nosepieces include slip-resistant gripping materials so the shades stay in place even when you’re riding on bumpy terrain or standing and working hard to get up a hill. And, the lenses and frames are built of impact-resistant plastics and metals, which can take a substantial amount of wear and tear without failing. What’s more, the lenses and frames are built to direct cooling air to the face to reduce sweat so you’re less likely to drip on the glasses. The breeze reduces fogging, too.
Like regular sunglasses, you’ll find cycling eyewear in a wide range of designs and prices. There are even designs that accommodate prescription lenses. We can show you a selection of different eyewear models. We think if you try a pair, you’ll enjoy riding even more. When shopping, keep in mind that a quality pair of cycling glasses could last ten or more years, so, get a pair with features and styling that you really like.
New helmets include directions explaining how to adjust the straps and retention system for a perfect fit. It’s a good idea to put these in a safe spot so you have them when adjustment fine-tuning is required. If you lose your directions, bring your helmet in and we’ll show you how to adjust it.
It takes some experimentation to find strap adjustments that are comfortable while riding. You don’t want them cutting off circulation, chafing your face or pressing on your ears. Usually, if you adjust them snug when the helmet is sitting on your head, they’ll be comfortable when you’re riding. You’ll know right away if they’re too tight.
Get The Buckles Right, Too
Buckle placement is important. Keep the chin buckle forward enough so that it doesn’t chafe against your neck when you lower your head. The side buckles should rest just beneath your earlobes.
Protect Your Forehead And Face
Probably the trickiest thing is keeping the helmet sitting squarely on the head. This is crucial because if it’s tipped back (the most common mistake), your face will be exposed and unprotected in a fall, which is extremely dangerous. Getting the helmet to sit right on the head requires experimenting with the relationship between the front and rear straps. If the helmet tips rearward, you can usually move it forward by shortening the front straps and lengthening the rear straps. This is accomplished by loosening the side buckles, sliding the straps in the appropriate direction, cinching the buckles and taking up any slack in the chin buckle.
Ask For Help
This sounds complicated because it is. And, it’s crucial to get it right for your safety. If you’re not sure if your helmet is set up safely or have any questions about fit, please come in and ask. We want you to be as safe as possible.
Practice Makes Perfect
Just like you practice other skills, you should practice braking, too. For example, you might pretend a car has suddenly pulled out in front of you and execute a panic stop, throwing your weight rearward as you forcefully apply the brakes. If you can train your body to react like this it’s more likely to do so in a real emergency.
As you ride and use your brakes, the brake pads wear slightly. You feel this as more travel in the levers and you need to adjust the additional travel out before it gets to the point of jeopardizing your braking.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to do this on almost all modern bicycles. Look for knurled adjusting barrels on the levers (on most off-road bikes; illustration) or on the brake calipers (most road bikes). By turning these barrels (usually counterclockwise), it’s possible to make up for the worn pads and improve braking.
Check Pad Wear
Don’t forget to check the pad wear from time to time though. Because, if you just keep tightening brake adjustment with the barrels, you’ll eventually find that the pads have worn out. To check, look at the pad surfaces. When new, most pads have grooves in them. When these grooves start to disappear, it’s a sign to replace the pads. Depending on the design some are easily replaced, others require tools and know-how. We’re happy to advise if you have questions.
Remember that different weather conditions and riding surfaces affect braking performance. When it’s raining, it’s important to anticipate stops and brake early, pumping the levers to allow the pads to wipe water off the rims so they can grab and slow the bike. And, when you’re riding on slippery surfaces such as sand and mud, reckless braking can cause the wheels to lock, which may throw the bike into a dangerous slide.
Sharing The Road
One of the leading causes of cycling accidents is wrong-way riding. Here’s why it’s so dangerous and why you should always ride in the same direction as traffic:
- Motorists expect to find other traffic on the right side of the road
- At intersections, motorists look where they expect traffic
- Motorists assume that you can see lights and signs that dictate traffic behavior
- In all 50 states, the laws require that you ride on the right, with the flow of traffic
- Disobeying traffic control devices in any direction is illegal
- Even on one-way streets where you can ride on either side, go with traffic
- Making a turn requires a wrong-way cyclist to cross twice as much traffic for turns
- Cyclists must be able to see traffic control devices at intersections
- Turning motorists aren’t looking for traffic traveling in the wrong direction
4. Closing speed
- Riding 20mph into a car going 35mph is like hitting a wall at 55mph
- Motorists overtake wrong-way cyclists much faster
- The likelihood of surviving such a crash is low
5. Traffic control devices
- Traffic lights are impossible to read from the wrong side
- If you don’t know where traffic is going, you increase your chance of getting hit
- Not obeying traffic controls destroys order on the roadway
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
1. Ride on the right
- Always ride in the same direction as traffic
- Use the lane furthest to the right that heads in the direction that you are traveling
- Slower moving cyclists and motorists stay to the right
2. On the road
- The same laws that apply to motorists apply to cyclists
- Obey all traffic control devices, such as stop signs, lights, and lane markings
- Always use hand signals to indicate your intention to stop or turn
3. Always wear a properly fitting helmet
- Ensure that the helmet fits snugly and sits squarely on top of the head, not tipped back
- Always wear a helmet while riding a bike, no matter how short the trip
- After a crash or any impact that affects your helmet, whether damage is visible or not, replace it immediately
4. Ride predictably
- Ride in a straight line and don’t swerve in the road or between parked cars
- Check for oncoming traffic before entering any street or intersection
- Anticipate hazards and adjust your position in traffic accordingly
5. Be visible
- Wear brightly colored clothing
- At night, use a white front light, red rear light and reflector and reflective tape or clothing
- Make eye contact with motorists to let them know you are there
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
1. Remove yourself
- Make every attempt to get out of their way
- Yield lane position by turning or slowing down and getting behind them
- Be prepared to execute emergency maneuvers
2. Avoid contact
- Do not return any gestures or shouts
- Do no make eye contact
- Do not push for proper lane position to avoid challenging the driver
3. Report them
- Report vehicle license plate and a description of the driver and vehicle to state and local police
- Tell local bike clubs and advocacy organizations about the driver/vehicle
- Write a letter to your city councilmen, state legislators, governor and Congressmen
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
1. Obey, obey, obey
- Cyclists, just like motorists, must obey all traffic control devices
- It takes longer to travel through an intersection on bike; plan to stop for yellow lights
- Avoid cars that run red lights: wait for the green and scan to make sure it’s clear
- Bicycles must activate a vehicle detector just like a motor vehicle
- Detectors are embedded in the roadway; look for squares cut into the roadway
- Detectors use magnetic forces to sense vehicles, not weight
3. Unresponsive signals
- In most states, after three minutes, you can treat a red light as a stop sign
- Pass through a red light only as a last resort and do so with extreme caution
- Yield to other vehicles while crossing the roadway
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
1. Drive cautiously
- Always reduce your speed when you encounter cyclists
- In inclement weather, give cyclists extra trailing and passing room
- Recognize situations that may be potentially dangerous to cyclists and give them space
2. Yield to cyclists
- Cyclists are considered vehicles and should be given the appropriate right of way
- Cyclists may take the entire lane when hazards, road width or traffic speed dictate
- Motorists should allow extra time for cyclists to cross intersections
3. Be considerate
- Scan for cyclists in traffic and at intersections
- Do not blast your horn in close proximity to cyclists
- Look for cyclists when opening doors
4. Pass with care
- Leave at least four feet of space between your car and a cyclist when passing
- Wait until road and traffic conditions allow you to safely pass
- Check over your shoulder after passing a cyclist before moving back to normal position
5. Watch for children
- Children on bicycles are often unpredictable – expect the unexpected and slow down
- Most children don’t have adequate knowledge of traffic laws
- Children are harder to see because they are typically smaller than adults
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
1. Safety considerations
- Bikes are not required to travel in bike lanes when preparing for turns
- Never ride within three feet of parked cars; beware of the door zone
- Avoid bike lanes that you think are poorly designed or unsafe; alert your local government
- Avoid riding in lanes that position you on the right side of a right-turn lane
- Bike lanes should stop before an intersection to allow for bikes to make left turns
- Always signal as you move out of a bike lane into another traffic lane
- Report obstructions and poor maintenance to your local government
- Avoid riding immediately adjacent to curbs where trash collects
- If debris forces you out of the bike lane, signal your move out into traffic
4. Parked cars
- Never ride within three feet of parked cars
- Watch for brake lights, front wheels, signals and driver movements
- Position yourself in the field of vision of a motorist pulling out of a parking space
5. Right turns
- Avoid riding in lanes that position you on the right side of a right-turning motorist
- Move out of the right-turn lane if you’re not turning right
- Ride in the rightmost lane that goes in the direction that you are traveling
6. Left turns
- Move out of the bike lane well in advance of the intersection; signal every move
- Position yourself in the rightmost left-turning lane
- Reposition yourself after executing the turn; remain clear of parked cars
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
Here are some guidelines that will help you choose the optimum safe position on the road:
- Most bicycle laws use the same language regarding where cyclists should ride
- Directions to ride “as far to the right as practicable” appear in most laws
- No clear definition of “practicable” has been identified
- Do not ride where you’re subject to poor road conditions and constant hazards
- Give yourself ample room to the right to maneuver in an emergency
- Ride in the right third of the lane if there is insufficient room for lane sharing
- Slower moving vehicles travel to the right of faster moving ones
- Motorists are looking for other vehicles in or near the travel lanes, not against curbs
- Follow the same rules as motorists, including yielding right-of-way and signaling
- Ride just to the right of the travel lane to remain visible to other motorists
- Ride at least 3 feet from parked cars in all situations; consider this a right-side limit
- Always ride in a straight line; do not swerve in and out between parked cars
- If a lane narrows ahead or is blocked, signal and establish your position in traffic early
- Avoid riding where glass and other trash accumulates on the right side of roadways
- Avoid grates and gutterpans as they can cause you to crash
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
1. Plan ahead
- If you are familiar with the traffic patterns, be sure to get in the correct position early
- Keep in mind the relative speed between you and other traffic; plan accordingly
- Be aware of road conditions that would impede your progress across lanes
- Look for traffic, pedestrians and hazards in front of you and behind
- Identify lane markings and traffic control devices affecting the next intersection
- Note bus stops, driveways, crosswalks and other special traffic zones
- Signal your intention to turn or change lanes if your speed is near other traffic
- Signaling may not be necessary if overtaking traffic speeds won’t allow time to see it
- Signal only if you think that oncoming traffic can react safely
- Relative speed may require you to move quickly and decisively when it’s safe to do so
- In high-speed overtaking-traffic situations, cross all lanes at once when safe
- Move after signaling in low- and same-speed traffic situations
- If you get caught between lanes while crossing traffic, ride the white line until clear
- Your safety is paramount while changing lanes; if traffic is too heavy, use crosswalks
- Ride to the red light then move to the left turn lane if volume and speed do not allow crossing
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
1. Ride on the right
- Ride in the same direction as traffic; stay far enough away from curb to avoid hazards
- Ride in the right third of the rightmost lane that goes in the direction you are going
- Take the entire lane if traveling the same speed as traffic or in a narrow lane
- Always ride in or near a travel lane; stay visible by riding where drivers are looking
- Wear bright clothing at night as well as during the day
- Do not pass on the right; motorists are not looking for other vehicles there
3. Parked cars
- Ride in a straight line, not in and out of parked cars on the side of the road
- Beware of cars merging into the roadway from a parallel parking position
- Always ride far enough away from parked cars to avoid opening doors
4. Take the lane
- If there is insufficient road width for cyclists and cars
- When you’re traveling the same speed as other traffic or if hazards narrow the road
- Before intersections and turns to assert your position on the roadway
5. Extra-wide lanes
- Do not ride completely to the right; you’re more visible 3 to 4 feet away from traffic
- Also, tight-turning cars and cars entering will be more likely to see you before they turn
- Be careful of motorists passing on the right around left-turning vehicles
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
1. Ride on the right
- Always ride with the flow of traffic
- Do not ride on the sidewalk
- Allow yourself room to maneuver around roadway hazards
2. Yield to traffic in busier lanes
- Roads with higher traffic volumes should be given right-of-way
- Always use signals to indicate your intentions to switch lanes
- Look behind you to indicate your desire to move and to make sure that you can
3. Yield to traffic in destination lane
- Traffic in your destination lane has the right of way
- Making eye contact with drivers lets them know that you see them
- Signal and make your lane change early, before you need to
4. Directional positioning
- Position yourself in the right-most lane that goes in the direction of your destination
- Ride in the right third of the lane
- Avoid being overtaken in narrow-lane situations by riding in the right third of the lane
5. Speed positioning
- Position yourself relative to the speed of other traffic
- Leftmost lane is for fastest moving traffic, rightmost for slower traffic
- Yield to faster moving vehicles by staying to the right in the lane
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
1. Positioning for turns
- Before a turn: scan, signal and move into the lane that leads to your destination
- Ride in the right third or middle of the lane, as lane width dictates
- To traverse multiple lanes, move one at a time, scanning and signaling each move
2. Avoid turn lanes
- If your lane turns into a right-turn-only lane, change lanes before the intersection
- Changing lanes too late could result in an overtaking motorist turning in front of you
- Maintain a constant position relative to the curb or shoulder during a turn
3. Beware of blind spots
- Most drivers do not always expect to see cyclists on the roadway
- Do not ride next to another vehicle unless you are in a different lane or passing
- If you can’t see bus, truck or car mirrors, drivers can’t see you
- Signal well before the intersection; make sure you are in the proper lane position
- Left arm out and down with palm to the rear to indicate stopping
- Left or right arm straight out to indicate left or right turn
- Look for potential hazards in front and behind as well as to each side
- Scanning allows you to avoid dangerous situations
- Scan for motorists, road conditions, pedestrians, animals, traffic signals
Tip courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org).
Traveling With Bikes
What To Bring
Carrying a few spares can save the day should your bike breakdown in transit or during your trip. Here’s what we carry: seat-binder bolt; spokes (that match your wheels); brake and gear cables; tire and tube (especially if you use a hard-to-find size); replaceable rear derailleur hanger (if your bike has one); chain tool (and spare pin if your chain uses them); stem-binder bolt and clipless pedal and cleat screws.
Carry Know-How, Too
Having the right parts to fix your bike will only help if you know how to use them, though. Consider packing a small repair manual in your travel kit along with your tools and parts so you’ll have the advice you need to execute essential repairs.
Pad Your Bike To Protect It
You can avoid most damage during shipping by packing your bicycle carefully. Use pipe insulation to wrap and protect the frame tubes. Ask us for a fork block. These pieces of plastic and/or wood fit between the fork blades to prevent bending should a heavy object land on your bike crate. We also have axle caps, which prevent axle ends poking through the box.
When you’re packing your bike, pay attention to what’s touching what. Ensure that there’s as little metal-to-metal contact as possible to minimize damage. Put cardboard between metal parts that might touch. Inspect the packed bike for things that might rub, poke or scratch other parts of the bicycle.
One of the more fragile parts of any bike is the rear derailleur. Protect this by shifting into the largest cog. This moves the derailleur closer to the wheel where it’s less likely to get bent on the trip.
It’s not funny when you get to your destination and discover that you left your seat or your front wheel in your garage while packing. Before sealing the box, take inventory and make sure everything is inside the box. Also, place loose parts (quick-release skewers, pedals, etc.) in a small box, seal it securely and stash it in the bottom of the bike box. That will prevent the parts moving around and beating up your bike in transit.
Leave The Air In
Don’t worry about deflating the tires, something people often recommend because they think they might explode when the cargo bay de-pressurizes. There’s no risk to the tires and deflating them will just mean you have to fully inflate the tires before riding. It’s an unnecessary hassle and not much fun if all you have is a mini pump.
Nothing’s worse than reaching your destination and realizing that something on your bicycle has been damaged, especially if the glitch prevents you from riding. Fortunately, this is rarely the case if the bike is packed carefully. If you’re not sure how to do this, we’re happy to do it for you. We take the bike apart just enough so that it fits in the box and travels safely. This usually involves removing the pedals, front wheel, seat and post (as a unit) and handlebars. Don’t worry though, as long as you have a few Allen wrenches to fit these components, reassembly is a snap. It should take you no more than 30 minutes.
Optimum Protection And Easy Assembly
One of the reasons to have us box your bicycle is that we know how to protect the frame and components from damage. We pad the frame and install shipping materials that keep parts of the bike from banging against each other in transit. And, when we disassemble your machine, we don’t change any brake or derailleur adjustments, which means you’re set to ride, once you’ve installed the parts we removed. Check with us for current rates on boxing.
If you travel frequently, consider purchasing a bike case. These crates are more expensive than bike boxes but they offer more protection than cardboard and can be used over and over. Additionally, they include wheels on the bottom for easier toting through airports. Plus, once you own one, you might recoup some of its cost by renting it to cycling friends who travel. And, think of how cool it will look all stickered up with decals from all the far-flung destinations you’ve ridden in.
Take Along Tools, Too
When preparing your travel kit, assemble all the tools needed to build your bike. Be sure to pack some spare parts in the event of a breakdown. There’s nothing worse than taking your bike on a trip only to not be able to ride it because something broke. We recommend bringing spare tubes, a spare tire, patch kit, several spokes, a brake and shift cable, chain pins and a seat post binder bolt (holds the seat post tight in the frame).
A nice trick is to pack an inexpensive pair of gloves in your tool and parts kit. Put these on for assembly and then again for packing your bike, and you’ll save yourself a lot of hand scrubbing to remove grease and grime.
Don’t Panic If Something Was Left Behind
If you’re unlucky enough to get somewhere with your bike and then realize that you left something crucial back in the garage, such as your shoes or front wheel, don’t give up. Remember that you can ship almost anything, almost anywhere in the world overnight. It’ll cost you a pretty penny but you’ll at least salvage the riding part of your trip. You can’t put too high a price on that.
One of the most serious risks comes from roof-mounted bike racks. It’s all too easy to forget that the bikes are up there and drive into your carport or garage. When this happens, even if your bike escapes major damage, it’s likely that the roof rack and car top will be bent or worse. And, car roof repair can be shockingly expensive. So, it’s definitely worth it to avoid the hassle of driving into things with the bikes on top.
Remind Yourself That Bikes Are On Top
One trick that might help is placing the garage remote control in a cycling glove. This way, when you see the glove, it should trigger your mind to remember that there’s a bike on top. This trick won’t work if there’s no remote control. Instead, you might place a sign on your dashboard or try hanging a flag on your carport with a picture of a bike on it. Maybe even a mirror mounted on your garage wall that lets you see the loaded roof rack as you pull up. One of these suggestions just might save you major grief.
There are two reasons careful bike placement can’t be emphasized enough when using a rear rack. First, the bikes need to be high enough so that if you hit a rough road, there’s no way the wheels can strike the ground as the car bobs up and down.
Second, you must keep the wheels well above the exhaust system to prevent the heat from melting tires and popping tubes (illustration). Try mounting the bike with the rack’s arm inserted beneath the seatstays, which will raise the bike and wheel. Or, just ask and we’ll take a look and recommend a solution for your rack, bike and vehicle.
For Safety, Check And Re-check
Occasionally check the rack installation, too. It can loosen over time and you definitely do not want the rack flying off on the highway. Snug bolts and attachments, inspect all components, and apply lube to parts that may rust or corrode. For rear racks, make sure the pads are still in place and protecting the car.
Finally, remember to stop occasionally on trips to check the bikes and rack. And, don’t neglect to protect your precious cargo at stops. If you don’t have a lock, leave someone with the car or park next to a window so you can watch your precious cargo.