Author Archives: Jess Leong

Winter fat bike season is once again upon us as the leaves fall and temps become cooler. While riding a fat bike is much like riding a regular bike, there is a certain fat bike etiquette to keep in mind when you get out there on the trail this winter season for some fun.

As the winter season progresses remember your fat bike etiquette

by Jess Leong  

Winter fat bike season is upon us again as the snow and temps drop. Similar to riding a regular mountain bike, there is a certain bike etiquette to follow when on the trail. Everyone outdoors, on the trail, wants to have a good time and make memories in the crisp, clean air. Whether biking, hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing, these are all valid activities where trail etiquette is important. The trail needs to be shared for everyone to have a good time. The rules below will not only keep everyone free from harm but also make it fun for everyone.

Many general rules of the fat bike trail are the same as mountain biking or riding on regular trails. However, there is a major difference to keep in mind in addition to the general rules of the trial.

Practicing fat bike etiquette enhances to general rules of the trail

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) developed the “Rules of the Trail” to promote responsible and courteous conduct on shared-use trails. Keep in mind that conventions for yielding and passing may vary in different locations or with traffic conditions. This list is also on IMBA‘s website and in the Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide.

Before You Ride

  1. Plan Ahead: Know your equipment, your ability, and the area you are riding, and prepare accordingly. Strive to be self-sufficient: keep your equipment in good repair and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions.
  2. Let People Know: Make sure there’s at least one other person who knows where you’re headed, when and where you left, and when you’re hoping to return. Things can happen on the trail; someone must know where you might be if something goes wrong.
  3. Ride Open Trails: Respect trail and road closures — ask a land manager for clarification if you are uncertain about the status of a trail. Do not trespass on private land. Obtain permits or other authorization as required. Be aware that bicycles are not permitted in areas protected as state or federal Wilderness. This means you guessed it; check ahead of time!

While Riding

  1. Leave No Trace: Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don’t cut switchbacks. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in.
  2. Control Your Bicycle: Inattention for even a moment could put yourself and others at risk. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations, and ride within your limits.
  3. Yield Appropriately: Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you’re coming — a friendly greeting or bell ring are good methods. Try to anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Bicyclists should yield to other non-motorized trail users unless the trail is signed for bike-only travel. Bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to ones headed uphill unless the trail is signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. In general, strive to make each pass a safe and courteous one.
  4. Never Scare Animals: Animals are easily startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement, or a loud noise. Give animals enough room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses, use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain). Running cattle and disturbing wildlife are serious offenses.

Understand ice and snow travel and how to do it safely.

Practice fat bike etiquette, follow the the rules of the trail and have fun.

Practice fat bike etiquette, follow the rules of the trail, and have fun.

Riding in the winter means riding on top of ice and snow. Throughout the winter, there will be times when it’s warmer or colder out, which can affect the ground beneath your tires. Know how to deal with this. Many people also ride on top of the frozen water. Riding across a frozen lake or river can be extremely dangerous if the ice were to crack. Learn how thick the ice needs to be to carry you and your bike when venturing across frozen waters.

Always bring items that can help if you’re in a situation where the ice breaks from under you. International Mountain Bicycling Association recommends that ice picks and a length of rope be carried if riding on lakes or rivers.

Fat Bike Etiquette – General Rules of the Trail

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) developed the “Rules of the Trail” to promote responsible and courteous conduct on shared-use trails. Keep in mind that conventions for yielding and passing may vary in different locations or with traffic conditions. This list is also on IMBA‘s website and on our Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide.

Riding a trail system before it snows is advisable when possible.

Riding a trail system before it snows is advisable when possible.

Be polite and respectful to all.

Yield to all other users of the trail when riding. This includes hikers, especially skiers since they do not have brakes to stop when traveling. Be constantly aware of your surroundings for who and what is around you. Everyone is trying to enjoy the outdoors. When on your Fatty:

  1. Ride on the firmest part of the track to prevent making a deep rut in the trail.  Cutting into the trail more than an inch is difficult, if not impossible, to repair.
  2. Stay as far right as possible on the trail. This is so that other bikers, hikers, etc., can pass on the left.
  3. Do not ride on Nordic or classic ski trails. These trails are specifically groomed, and tires that cross them will ruin the trail and cause problems for those using or repairing them. Being respectful and sharing the trail is important for the enjoyment of everyone.
  4. Respect any closures or alternative days where bikers or skiers specifically have the trail. This is also important because if the trail is closed, no one will look out for you if you fall. Plus, other trails might be closed or have maintenance going on. This can cause problems if you’re there.
  5. Wear reflective clothing and use lights or blinkers. This helps signal to others where you are from a distance. Skiers and snowmobiles travel quickly, and seeing you as far away as possible can help them change their route so there is no collision or problems that will arise.
  6. Consider donating to the shared trails to help cover the cost of maintenance. It takes people to keep the trails well-groomed and ready for people to ride, ski, or hike on them. A donation can go a long way to keeping that trail ready when you want to use it again.

If you are riding in a group, do not ride side by side. This makes it hard for anyone passing by to get through or weave around. It also can block up the trail.

Don’t Forget!

Also, always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear. Search for an IMBA Club to join, and don’t forget to HaveFun!

Jess Leong is a freelance writer for

Put more smiles on children's faces by volunteering with Free Bikes 4 Kidz to clean, prep, or wrench some of the 5,000 bicycles collected this last month.

Put smiles on kid’s faces by helping prep FB4K bike giveaway

If you live near or close to the Twin Cities, help the Free Bikes 4 Kidz (FB4K) bike giveaway program in its 14th year. Volunteer to help put more smiles on children’s faces. Donate your time to help clean, prep, or wrench some of the 1,000s of bicycles collected this year for their distribution drive before the holidays and again in the spring.

This bike giveaway helps put more smiles on kid’s faces

Free Bikes for Kids helps kid's smile with the 2016 season Bike Collection Day, on Saturday, October 8th, Donate your bikes to help more kids.

FB4K helps kids smile with their annual Bike Collection Day a few weeks ago

As more are vaccinated for COVID, Free Bike 4 Kidz proudly continues to have all the safe practices in place at their warehouse and invites you to join them by helping to clean, prep, wrench, and move bikes. They need your help today to get the bicycles out to the kids expecting them for this annual bike giveaway.

freeBy volunteering today to help clean some bikes for FB4K's will help create some fond memories for you and future memories for children who receive them. bikes4kids-4

Create some fond memories for yourself and for the children who receive them.

As volunteers slowly come back in smaller, more comfortable numbers, they need your help now!

Volunteering and putting a wrench to a few bikes will create more smiles.

Volunteering and cleaning or wrenching some bikes will create a smile on your face and the kids who get them. We will continue to have volunteer opportunities in the future, but helping now will ensure the kids waiting for bikes will all have wheels before Christmas. Schedule your shifts today by clicking here to Volunteer or schedule as a group.

Join Free Bike 4 Kids today and help more smiles on kids’ faces!

About Free Bikes 4 Kidz

Free Bikes 4 Kidz is a non-profit organization geared toward helping all kids ride into a happier, healthier childhood by providing free bikes to those most in need. When the public donates gently used bikes, FB4K organizes thousands of volunteers to clean and refurbish them and give them away to needy kids. They started in 2008, fixing and giving away 300 bikes, and in 2014 they reached the goal of 5,000 bikes. In the last several years, over 30,000 bikes have rolled through FB4B’s giveaways, and their sights in the future are set on other locations throughout the U.S. and the world. See more at

Reflectors are forms of passive visibility, while lights are great for active visibility. Read on to see where each one is helpful and most efficient.

Top 5 tips for a very rewarding fall bike ride

by Jess Leong,

Bike riding in the fall can come with many challenges. However, it can also be gratifying. While bicycle season is winding down for some, for many other cyclists, their two wheels are a favorite mode of transportation to explore the incredible autumn landscape. Pedaling along the colorful autumn roads or trails is so breathtaking that I will admit that fall bike riding is one of my favorite times to ride. Not too hot, not too cold, and there are fewer insects once the first frost hits.

If you’re planning to ride around this fall, check out these top tips before heading out.

Fall Bike Ride Tip 1: Layer It Up

For fall bike riding layering your clothing is key.

For fall bike riding layering your clothing is critical.

The temperature fluctuation can be confusing when you want to get dressed and go biking. The morning can look like 47 or 48 degrees Fahrenheit, but by the afternoon, it could be in the lower to mid-70s! The best way to combat this is by wearing multiple layers that you can easily remove and put back on to find your perfect temperature. When layering, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that whatever you decide to put on last will b the first thing you’d want to take off!

Pro Tip: Start while still slightly chilly. As you ride, you’ll warm up, and that chilliness will go away. However, bring an extra layer in case you stop along the way! You want to stay warm when you’re not riding.

Not sure what to do for layering? Check out our article about how to layer, why it’s beneficial, and what to wear.

Fall Bike Riding Tip 2: Beware of Wet Leaf Piles

The falling leaves are gorgeous, and leaf piles can be fun. However, a wet, crunchy leaf pile can be a hazard when riding your bike through it. Not only can water splash upwards onto your bike and legs, but the bike tires can slip on the leaves. When leaves are wet, they become slick or slippery. With a regular bike tire being thinner, it has less surface area for surface tension. A bike can slip out from under you if a leaf gives away or gets stuck onto the tire.

Luckily, this is less of a problem if you have a fat bike. The larger tires add more traction to the surface and, therefore, is less likely to slip. Even with the lesser likelihood of slipping, caution should still be used.

Also, wet leaf piles can conceal several different items. This can include nails, glass, or other objects that can puncture your tires. No one wants a flat while out riding. Sometimes you can’t avoid riding through the piles, but you can ride around the leaves.

Fall Bike Riding Tip 3: Stay Visible

For fall bike riding high visible clothing and saddle bag gear are easier for motorists to see.

For fall bike riding, high-visible clothing and saddle bag gear are more accessible for motorists.

Dusk is coming earlier and earlier as the season continues. This means the evening intrudes on some great riding opportunities in the daylight. While some days will be saved temporarily when we fall backward an hour on November 6th this year, the time change can still negatively affect cyclists.

When times change, it affects a person’s sleeping routine leading to a lack of sleep. This sleep deprivation makes people less attentive while driving. While November 6th is a Sunday this year, you would think that people will most likely sleep in, decreasing the number of accidents. However, cyclists and other pedestrians should be aware and be extra cautious that day and the day following. Why? Because people need time to adjust to the time change. According to a study done in Sleep Medicine and The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, it has been found that there is a significant increase in fatal accidents following the changes in daylight savings time when it occurs on a Sunday or Monday.

This means that staying visible is even more critical than usual. This isn’t limited to the morning but throughout the day, whether on the road or trail.

You can do this in several ways, depending on what you are comfortable doing. Plus, the more you do, the more you increase your visibility.

Wear Light or Neon Colored Clothing

Wearing bright colors will make you stand out. If someone doesn’t see you begin with, the color will catch their attention, and they will find it easier to keep tabs on where you are. On the other hand, wearing dark colors isn’t recommended. Dark colors can blend into the dark and reduce your visibility. Natural dyes can also blend you into the background or sidelines, making you less visible.

Wear Reflective Clothing

Reflective clothing is a must when cycling in the early morning before there’s much daylight or in the evening. This way, when the headlights on a car shine on you, you’re immediately recognized.

Add Lights to Your Bike

For fall bike riding add bike light front and back to be more noticeable.

Add bike light front and back for fall bike riding to be more noticeable.

Did you know it’s a law to have lights on your bike? You have to do it, but you should also do it because you’re interested in staying safe.

It’s important to note that lights aren’t required for daytime riding. However, since we never know when it might get dark out, and we can’t plan for all those times when we ride late at night, it’s essential to have a light handy. If it’s already attached to your bike, then it’s something you don’t have to worry about!

Unfortunately, there are no excuses if you get pulled over by a police officer for riding in dark conditions without one. Every state might have slightly different bike-light laws (with many similarities). For bike laws and more about lighting here in Minnesota, The Department of Transportation has a condensed document to review.

Fall Bike Riding Tip  4: Check Your Tire Pressure and Tires

As discussed earlier, leaves can hide different items that can puncture your tire. It’s not always avoidable, so you must check your tires occasionally. This shouldn’t be limited to the fall and winter but should be checked every time before you begin riding. Doing this allows you to catch any problems sooner rather than later.

Another thing to check is tire pressure. While fall isn’t as cold as winter, the cold can still alter the tire pressure. So, checking to ensure the tire pressure is perfect before going out for your ride is best.

Fall Bike Riding Tip 5: The Usual Tools

Remember to bring the usual tools you usually get for your bike adventures! If anything happens, you want to ensure you have all the materials you need to fix it. To know these, check out our article about the tools you should have for any ride.

With these tips, you’re sure to have a great and safe extended season as you continue to ride your bike through autumn.

Keep safe, have fun, and ride on!


Finding a birding spot in the Twin Cities Gateway is always easy along the many trails.

Six different ways to explore the Twin Cities Gateway this summer

by Jess Leong,

With nine communities and the National Sports Center to explore in the Twin Cities Gateway Area, you will find many fun events and family activities here while visiting. From the Gateway’s southwest border where the Mississippi River flows by, the communities offer many connecting trails to spacious parks. Many along picturesque streams with lakeside outdoor fun, you will find many options for fond memories to cherish. Here are six fun experiences – ones you never want to forget.

1: Spotting Your Feathered Friends in the Twin Cities Gateway 

A birding hotspot can be found along most of the paved bike trails that meander through the parks in Shoreview.

A birding hotspot can be found along most paved bike trails that meander through the Gateway parks.

Grab your best pair of binoculars and head out on your bike – or take your car – to see the many birds in the Twin Cities Gateway Area. While robins and finches are pretty fine, we’re talking about catching sight of Blue Herons, hawk, and eagles here. Scout the area, and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of those great raptors and more!

 2: Throwing in a Line and Enjoying the Twin Cities Gateway 

By bike or car Twin Cities Trout Fishing at Cenaiko Lake is worth checking out.

By bike or car Twin Cities, trout Fishing at Cenaiko Lake is worth checking out.

Explore the great area lakes where you can get away from the hustle and bustle and fish in a tranquil atmosphere, perfect for the whole family. Even if fishing in the Twin Cities Gateway isn’t your thing, the beautiful landscape makes a gorgeous backdrop for picnics and outdoor events.

3: Disc Golf – Challenge Yourself and Give it Your Best Throw

Looking for disc golf fun? Here in the Twin Cities Gateway Area find several scenic and challenging disc golf parks, all easy to access from the bike friendly roads and trails there.

Looking for disc golf fun? Here in the Twin Cities Gateway Area, find several scenic and challenging disc parks, all easy to access from the bike-friendly roads and trails here.

Get out there with your best buds or your family to try your hand at the many Twin Cities Gateway disc golf courses in the area. Some of the courses will definitely give you a challenge that even the experienced player will have a run for his money. Whether you’ve done it before or not, try it out – it’s fun no matter what age you are!

4: Bike the Mississippi River Trail then return on the train 

Riders on the Train & Trail Tour arrive in Big Lake, MN for their journey back to Minneapolis.

Riders on the Train & Trail Tour arrive in Big Lake, MN, for their journey back to the Twin City Gateway.

A Multi-Modal Adventure, a great experience that can fit your needs can be difficult. But, here with the areas Train and Trail Tour you can easily find a mix of trails and adjustable bike routes, it’s easy and just plain fun, with all the Gateways bike maps available! Plus, let’s not forget the scenic route you’ll take while on the Mississippi River Trail. A fun experience anytime, it’s especially breathtaking in the fall when the autumn colors take hold.

5: Explore the Farmer’s Market – Discover Local Produce and Goods

Have yoom in your bike bag to stop at one of the many farmers market in the Twin Cities Gateway.

Have room in your bike bag to stop at one of the many farmers’ markets in the Twin Cities Gateway.

Peruse what the local farms and businesses have to offer, and you may stumble upon fun surprises and foods that you might not have known existed. You thought that yellow watermelon was photoshopped? Or root beer honey was a joke? Think again! You never know what you might find there in the Twin Cities Gateway farmers markets scheduled throughout the week.


A fairytale come true at any age, with superb entrees and desserts, in the Twin Cities Gateway.

A fairytale come true at any age, with superb entrees and desserts, in the Twin Cities Gateway. 

So pick some activities to try in the Twin Cities Gateway this year, and have some fun!

Jess Leong is a writer for

Here these cyclists are enjoying Minnesota's peak riding time on the Red Jacket Trail, near Mankato.

Fall colors are still prime in southern Minnesota this weekend

As the Fall colors continue to lose their brilliance or drop, throughout the northern half of the state, many southern sections of Minnesota are just peaking or still in their prime. To find a perfect fall colored adventure this weekend check the Minnesota Fall Color Website, brought to you by Explore Minnesota and Minnesota State Parks and Trails.

Trail options with fall colors in their Prime

From the site, it looks like southern and parts of western Minnesota are still offering a kaleidoscope of prime fall colors for your bike touring pleasure this weekend.  Here are a few areas to check out.

Cannon Valley: This 19.7-mile trail between Cannon Falls and Red Wing is a popular Rail-to-Trails attraction here in Minnesota. It’s a beautiful, shady ride above the Cannon River with a picnic area in Welch, its midpoint. It is maintained by a trail association and there is a daily fee of $3. See more at Cannon Falls Tourism at the west trailhead and Red Wing Tourism at the east trailhead, near the Mississippi River.

Douglas: This is a 12.5-mile rolling trail ride through rolling farmland between Pine Island’s city park and the northern outskirts of Rochester. For more information see Rochester Tourism.

Great River Ridge: This 13-mile paved trail connects the southeast Minnesota towns of Plainview, Elgin, and Eyota and is near Whitewater and Carley state parks. The first half follows a winding creek. Also, the five miles from Elgin to Plainview are slightly uphill and follow the highway. See more at Plainview/Elgin/Milleville Tourism.

And still more Southern Minnesota Trails

Shooting Star: This 22-mile trail follows the Shooting Star Scenic Byway from Austin to LeRoy. LeRoy is on the Upper Iowa River near the Iowa border and continues towards Austin, just south of I-90. Then, in the eastern half, the trail goes through Lake Louise State Park. After passing through Adams and Rose Creek, the trail rolls into Austin’s bike-friendly atmosphere. See more at Austin Tourism.

Winona’s Trails: The terrain around Winona is looped by spectacularly beautiful bicycle trails and routes aimed at a variety of riders. Whether you are out for a scenic ride with the family on the 5-mile paved trail around the lake or the bike-friendly street routes in town, there are great backgrounds. The Mississippi River Trail leading in and out of Winona will have colors that can add excitement to your adventures and memories, and this is even true if you decide to sample the mountain bike trails here. For more, see Winona Tourism.

South and Southwest Minnesota trails

Root River/Harmony-Preston Valley: Between Fountain and Houston, the 42-mile Root River Trail, in the lovely bluff country, is one of Minnesota’s pride and joys. Then add the 18-mile, Preston to Harmony trail section and you will find more spectacular colors on this rolling terrain. For more, see Root River Trail Towns Tourism.

Blazing Star: This paved trail currently runs from the lake with the same names as Albert Lea to Myre-Big Island State Park. The total trail distance of paved is approximately 20-miles. Along the route, you can enjoy the natural environment that includes wetlands, oak savanna, big woods, and prairie. Also, the park is a great birding spot, especially during fall migration. See more at Albert Lea Tourism.

And one Western Minnesota trail option

Luce Line State Trail is a 63-mile long rails-to-trail route that starts in the Plymouth and stretches out west 30-miles west, on a limestone surface trail, to Winsted. From Winsted to Hutchinson the trail is paved, See more at Hutchinson Tourism.

Ride safe and enjoy the colors!

Outside Bike Storage: Preserving its Condition While Battling Mother Nature

by Jess Leong,

 If you’re like the many people who ride bikes, you may have selected or been forced to use outside bike storage where your bicycle has to fend for itself in all the elements. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially since many people don’t have a place to store their bikes inside.

We mentioned in a previous article that if you’re unable to store a bike indoors, that you can usually find a nearby bike shop that can store your bike for you – especially through the winter. However, sometimes even this isn’t possible and outside bike storage is your only option. Perhaps there are no bike shops that offer that service nearby, or perhaps the cost in doing that would be out of your budget. Whatever the reason, here’s what you need to know to store your bike outside for a couple day or indefinable.

What Happens When You Use Outside Bike Storage for your Bicycle

As many can guess, bikes left outside in rain or snow can rust.

Newer bikes fare better in the outside elements because the seals on the bike’s components are tighter than on older or more worn bicycles. Being well-sealed allows it to block out moisture from making its way inside and corroding the bike from inside and out. Leaving these new bikes out for a few days or even a week might not be a problem. However, the longer it is left outdoors, the more problems the rider will see – this is especially true for older bikes. Older bikes can degrade faster since they have been weathered down over time.

What you can expect to see is rust forming on the chain and gears before affecting the rest of the bike. This can make the drivetrain brittle over time, and cause problems when shifting gears and riding.

We know rain and moisture can cause problems, but did you know humidity and heat can also be a problem? In the summer, keeping your bike in direct sunlight can cause problems in certain areas on your bike as well. The direct light can cause rubber and plastic to harden, leaving tires, seats, grips, and cable housing brittle.

Additionally, bikes that are left outside also run the risk of being vandalized or stolen. According to the National Bike Registry, over 1.5 million bikes are stolen every year with less than 3 percent being returned. Besides running the risk of corrosion, you run the risk of never seeing your bike again.

What You Can Do If Using Outside Bike Storage

Place a Bike Tent Over Your Bike

It’s not recommended to place a tarp directly on your bike because it can work like a green house, accumulating heat and moisture. Heat can affect your plastic or rubber parts and degrade them. When it’s cold or rainy, it can trap the water vapor. The moisture can then settle on your bicycle, corroding it.

A bike tent, however, allows a shelter from the elements, while also allowing air to circulate any moisture away. Bike tents aren’t expensive compared to some options and are generally easy to put together.

If your bike does get wet, wipe down the bike so the water doesn’t sit to long.

 Lube and Grease Your Bike – Especcially with Outside Bike Storage

Place waterproof grease over areas that might be breached by water, such as screw holes, bolt heads, or bearings. The grease will create a barrier against water, stopping it from getting through. Lubing up your chain and other appropriate parts of the bike is also a helpful way to create a barrier from any moisture. Using a wet lube rather than dry lube is key. Dry bike lubricant will wash away easily and doesn’t provide any protection from corrosion.

Use the Bike

This doesn’t mean you should ride the bike outside during a blizzard. Instead, lift it up and turn the pedals. Moving it around can help with reducing rust. Over time, dust, dirt, or grime can get into the shifter and fine mechanical parts, so using the bike can knock this stuff off – especially if you’re riding it.

Remember, the salt from the road can affect the bike! Salt affects aluminum or alloy parts. So, if you take it for a spin, make sure to wipe down your bike afterwards and clean it.

Replacing Components to Last

Many factors affect how quickly and badly a bike can corrode. While storing a bike indoors is the best option, sometimes it’s not possible. Following the above steps should help minimize the buildup of rust. It can also limit mechanical problems that may occur.

Trying to limit corroding factors is the best you can do. Some people who know they will store bike outside under a cover or in a bike tent will opt to spend extra money to ‘upgrade’ their bikes. The bikes they tend to buy are already considered ‘durable’. Then, they change out parts to other materials that are less likely to rust over time. Some bikers also will opt for a ‘rustproof’ labeled chain. If this isn’t possible, then frequent bike maintenance and greasing is the way to go. This ends up being the key factor that many bikers rely on if they are storing their wheels outdoors.

Be aware, if you store your bike outside, there will be more maintenance required than if you stored your bike indoors. Keeping up with this maintenance might seem a little daunting, but it is well worth the effort. Why? Because come spring, your bike will be ready to go and have minimal rust and problems.

Giving back to the trails, paths, roads and events you enjoy is a great way to stockpile some good karma and it’s fun! There are countless ways to give back.

Bike Maintenance: Best Time to Bring in Your Bike to the Shop


by John Brown,

As the mercury hovers below freezing this is the perfect time for bike maintenance to prepare your bicycle for sunnier days. There are many benefits to bringing your bike into the shop during the ‘down’ winter months rather than waiting for the spring season to come around.

Here in the photo above these bike maintenance shop mechanic’s at Penn Cycle are waiting for your bike. While waiting they are putting bicycles together for Free Bikes 4 Kidz,

1. Bike Maintenance at the Shop 

Most shops operate on a “first in / first out” repair schedule. This means during the busy months there may be weeks of bicycles ahead of yours in line to be repaired. Bring your bicycle in during the winter to be repaired. The repair time will be the same, but the waiting list will be shorter.

2. Discounts, Deals, and More!

The fall and winter weather may discourage riders from going out, but bike shops still need to do business. In order to draw customers, bike shops sometimes offer special pricing on different services, bikes, or parts. Additionally, lots of shops offer free clinics, demos, and presentations as well!

3. Employees can Offer their Expertise and Undivided Attention

It’s no secret that winter in a bike shop is slow. What better time to talk with sales people and mechanics? Need to know what bike type might work best for you? Is a fat bike right for you? Is that biking glove really better than the one you already have? If it’s a question about the service or adjustments to your bike, they are likely to spend more time with you and not be rushed.

The spring and summer packs the mechanics’ schedules, and their focus needs to be on completing repairs. During the winter they have much more time to spend with customers, educating them on how their bike functions.

Spring and summer for the sales staff is similar. They tend to be busy trying to attend to every customer in the shop. But in the fall and winter less people come in, so they can focus on one thing – you.

John Brown is a writer for

How to Prepare for a Flat Bike Tire in Winter


by Jess Leong,

You’re all bundled up against the winter chill, and everything seems to be going well. Then suddenly something feels off. You look down and find you’re riding on a flat bike tire. It’s the last thing you want to deal with in the cold, but you always need to be prepared for it.

Why Are There Flats That Happen in Winter?

Flats happen for a variety of reasons. In general, there are three different types of flats. These are:

  • Punctures – Any time an object passes through the tread of the tire, it is considered a puncture. Usually the hole left in the tire is small enough where you can just replace the tube.
  • Slashes – This is when an object cuts the sidewall of the tire. Usually, if a tire is slashed it needs to be repaired or booted (a temporary patch on the tire itself) before a new inner tube can be installed.
  • Pinch flats (also known as a snake bite) – This happens when the tire hits a square edged object (curb, pothole, etc.) and the object “pinches” the inner tube between itself and the metal rim of the bicycle. This usually leaves two small holes in the inner tube (hence, snake bite)

No matter what season it is, these flats are common. A few reasons why flats happen to a large degree in winter:

  • Air pressure – Air pressure in your tire gets lower as the temperature drops. This means that a tire inflated at room temperature will have a much lower pressure when ridden near freezing. Lower pressures increase the possibility of pinch flats.
  • Hidden sharps – Running over sharp objects such as glass, nails, or metal that is hidden in the snow. Snow can buffer some of these objects from getting to your tires, but it can also hide these materials.
  • Tire flexibility – As the temperature drops, the rubber in tires typically become stiffer. A tire is built to deform over objects and absorb the impact. But when the rubber becomes stiff, the tire cannot deform as easily. This can make the tire easier to puncture.

Consider Other Tire Options for Winter

Many tire companies produce puncture resistant tires. Typically these tires will have a thicker rubber tread or use a belt under the tread designed to stop sharp objects. They also incorporate a reinforced sidewall to resist against slashes. Puncture resistance does come at a cost both financially and in the form of ride quality. Many riders will purchase these tires specifically for winter use and switch back to something lighter and better riding in the spring.

Another option is to use studded tires. Studded tires are usually built out to be puncture resistant as well as being the only option for traction on ice.

Know How to Change a Flat in Regular Conditions

First and foremost, you need to know how to change a bike flat. If you don’t know how to change a tire in the best of conditions, you probably won’t be able to do it out in the cold. Before taking the bike for a spin, take a few minutes to refresh your memory on how to change a flat if it ever happens to you.

Also, check out our article for six items to have along for your ride. These items are great to keep with you year-round.

Carry Gear to Change Your Flat Quickly

Working on your bike in the winter is a game of time – the longer it takes, the colder you get. With this in mind, pack tools and products that help you move quickly. A dedicated tire lever (rather than one that is part of a multitool or patch kit) offers a better grip and more leverage. A CO2 inflator will get you up to pressure and back riding in seconds while a pump could take minutes. Carrying a 4″ section of old tire with the beads cut off (a bead is the thick rubber portion of the tire that makes contact with the rim) can act as a quick tire boot in case you slash the tire. Most importantly, check the tire thoroughly for objects before putting the new tube in. Run your fingers on the inside of the tire, feeling for sharp objects, while visually inspecting the outside of the tire a few inches in front of your fingers.

Gloves with Good Movement, But Still Warm

This certainly sounds like a tall order! However, if you can, try to find good winter gloves that are able to keep your fingers nice and warm but also allows some dexterity. Numb fingers don’t help when changing a tire and can even hinder your ability to adequately fix your flat.

If all else fails, wear warm gloves, and if a flat occurs you can change your riding gloves for another pair that allows for more movement of your fingers.

Inspecting your Tires

Before heading out, check your bike’s tires. Inspect them carefully to ensure they are still properly inflated. Look to see if they have any nails, glass, or other debris that could puncture the tube. Check the condition of the tire by looking for cracks in the rubber, threads coming free of the sidewall, or tread that is worn.

Carry Good Walking Shoes

In case all else fails, make sure you have a good pair of walking shoes. Whether you’re already wearing them or they’re in your pack, it’s handy. Sometimes the only option you have is your own two feet. If you’re not too far away or you have to walk back to an area, good shoes are a must so you can walk the rest of the way!

Remember Your Phone

If something happens, you want to always have your phone handy. It’s cold out, and you never know when you might need to call for backup or to let a worried friend or family member know why you’re running late.


Sadly, flats are inevitable and can happen to anyone, anywhere. Even if you take all the right precautions and get puncture resistant tires, you can still find yourself sitting on the side of the road staring at a deflated tire.

Know how to repair a flat, and practice it at least twice. You will find the first time to be daunting, but the second to go quite quickly. Keep aware of your surroundings, know your route, and always be prepared.

Be safe, and have fun!


Jess Leong is a writer for

Fat bikes aren't just for winter. They are great year-round since they were originally invented to tackle snow and sand.

History of Fat Bikes and Why Fat Bikes Exist

Fat Bike Season: Fat Bikes are “In” for This Winter Season

by Jess Leong, HaveFunBiking

Been to a bike shop recently and noticed the Fat Bikes? If so you are aware that these bikes look a little different from the normal bikes you’re used to seeing. What makes these weird bikes stand out are their large tires that make them look like a bike version of a monster truck! You know, except most of the frame designs are normal looking and everyone I have interviewed say “they are a blast to ride.”

These seemingly unusual fat-tired bikes – many prefer ‘badass’ or are also known as “fat bikes.” They also are known as “wide-tired bikes,” “balloon-tired bikes,”  “winter bikes,” and my favorite “fatties.” Don’t let the term “winter bikes” deter you though. These bikes are great year-round since they were originally invented to tackle sand and snow.

Why Fat Tires?

Fat bikes are not replacing mountain bikes they are just adding adding another dimension to the sport of cycling.

Fat bikes are not replacing mountain bikes they are just adding adding another dimension to the sport of cycling.

Fat tires were developed so that bikes could become all-terrain compatible. The fat tires allow the bikes to have more stability and traction to diverse surfaces. This includes surfaces such as snow, mud, sand, pavement, and more. This works because the tires have more area that touch the ground at any given point. Having that contact, the bike tires are able to keep some sort of grip on solid ground.

Additionally, the fat tires allow bikers to enjoy mountain biking or other biking activities in the winter. They ride a bike that can keep them safer due to the tire’s gripping ability and weight dispersal. Plus, the tire pressures aren’t something to worry about. Due to the design of the fat bike tires, the rider doesn’t have to worry about air pressure within the tires as they ride (at least for the most part)!

Fat Bikes, a Brief History

The Beginning Origins

Fat bikes are becoming popular on mountain bike trails throughout the year.

Fat bikes are becoming popular on mountain bike trails throughout the year.

Fat bikes have been around since the early 1900’s. However, it wasn’t until the 1970’s to 1980’s that the modern-looking fat bikes came to life. Before this, there were bikes that had 2-3 wheels that were cleverly put together side by side to try to increase that surface area contact to the ground.

It wasn’t until bike frame builders in Alaska began looking at and experimenting with the different parts of the bike and tires to make the bike safe for the winter months. They began putting together multiple bike rims so it could hold multiple tires on a bike’s front and back. While someone would roll their eyes and say that it was ‘of course’ the Alaskans that took it to the next level, there were people in Mexico also working on a project. It was in the late 1990’s, 1999’s Interbike convention, where the two designers met to discuss what they had produced. It was around this time when a builder named Mark Gronewald, an Alaskan frame designer, coined the name “Fat Bike” in 2001 for his bikes. In 2011 he was able to build a bike that had a full range of gearing that riders could use.

Making it Commercial

In 2005, the company Surly Bikes – located in Bloomington, Minnesota – went on to release their specialized frame. They called it the Pugsley which had an offset wheel and frame build.

Fat bikes are great year-round, here is a Surly bike at a race in the Minnesota River bottoms in Bloomington, MN.

Fat bikes are great year-round, here is a Surly bike at a race in the Minnesota River bottoms in Bloomington, MN.

Their design was the one that moved into local bike shops around the world. The pugsley made fat bikes commercially available for bikers. Since then, many other bike companies have gotten in on the action and produced their own designs for fat bike riders.

Ten years ago fat bikes seemed like a novelty and were considered an oddity and weird. Today, however, it’s more accepted, common, and even affordable for the average Joe. I mean, as far as bike prices go.

Fat bikes have expanded around the world due to the versatility aspect of the wheels. With the ability to ride on snow and mud, they can be used year-round. So now biking season is all season long!

What is riding a fat bike like? Learn more in our article highlighting how fat bikes can make winter riding more fun!


Here are some bike friendly Halloween costumes to consider.

Choose Your Bike-Friendly Halloween Costumes Carefully

What to Consider When Choosing, or Making, Your Bike-Friendly Halloween Costumes

by Jess Leong,

No clowning around! Halloween is just about here…!

But not for another 2 weeks and 4 days (who’s counting, anyway?). That is a blessing to those of us who still need to figure out what our bike-friendly will be for this upcoming Hollow’s Eve. We still have 18 days! (okay, so maybe we’re counting).

Here are some bike friendly Halloween costumes to consider.

Here are some bike-friendly Halloween costumes to consider.

That leaves many of us with just enough time to find a costume for you, a friend, child, and even your pet.

This year October 31st lands on a Monday which means that many people will be working. If you work in a place that allows costumes and you bike to work, or plan on biking that evening when trick-or-treating has commenced, then what you need is a bike-friendly Halloween costume.

When choosing a bike friendly Halloween costumes make sure excess fabric doesn't dangle down to low to get caught in a wheel or gear.

When choosing a bike-friendly Halloween costume, make sure excess fabric doesn’t dangle down to low to get caught in a wheel or gear.



If  children are biking for Hollow’s Eve, then they’ll need bike-friendly Halloween costumes as well.

Want to get your costume ready and start early? Help Anoka, MN, the Halloween Capitol of the World, celebrate its 96th year of fun in their Forever Halloween festivities.


Bike-Friendly Halloween Costumes?

Why bike-friendly Halloween costumes you ask? It’s safer for you and for those near you.

Choosing a bike friendly Halloween costumes can make your #nextbikeadventure memorable.

Choosing a bike-friendly Halloween costume can make your #nextbikeadventure memorable.

Bike-friendly costumes take some extra creative thinking to put together. With many different considerations to be taken into account, it means some costumes, unfortunately, should not be used while biking. Costumes and clothing can cause problems by getting caught in, or on, different parts of a bike like the wheel spokes or the chain and gears. They can even get caught on the seat or the handlebars when riding.

If a costume fails and gets caught, besides hurting yourself, you might also hurt others who are riding or walking near you. Plus, no one wants to spend their Halloween in the ER.



Allowance for Arm Movement

The costume of your choice should allow for adequate arm movement. Your reaction time determines how well you control your bike. If you aren’t able to move your arms easily before you get on the bike, reconsider your costume design.

Besides, if you can’t move your arms well it will be hard to use them when signaling to other cyclists and auto traffic behind you.

Allowance for Leg Movement

Your legs are the engine you need to get you to wherever you’re headed. If your legs are encumbered in any way it or if there’s excess cloth, it can become entangled in the moving parts of the bike. Excess material can get caught in the spokes, tires, or gears while riding. Even if your able to stop your bike, some parts of a costume can still get caught while getting off your seat!

Let your legs be free and without loose fabric so you can pedal freely and easily without the fear of anything getting into a place it shouldn’t.

Allowance for a Helmet

Helmets tend to fall on the wayside during Halloween, but instead of leaving it at home try to incorporate it somehow – even if it might look a little silly! Being a tad bit silly is better than getting into a crash or falling without a helmet!

Sometimes you can cleverly disguise a helmet within a costume, or decorate the helmet to fit your costume. Once you’re off that bike, you can take off the helmet and resume your character, but until then? Please consider portraying your character as being smart and safe.

Full Face Masks

Face Paint is a good option for when coming up with a bike friendly Halloween costumes.

Face Paint is a good option for when coming up with a bike-friendly Halloween costume.

Full face masks are definitely cool – especially now that there’s Kylo Ren! However, save the face mask for when you’re off your bike. Face masks limit, if not block, your peripheral vision and even some of your vision directly in front of you. Being on wheels, you need to be aware of your surroundings and be able to see people or kids who might just ‘appear’ in front of you.

Because of the lack of peripheral vision, full face masks are a hazard. Plus, if anything knocks the face mask from its optimal position, then your vision is completely blocked – or severely limited at best. Rather than paying attention to riding, you’ll be preoccupied on trying to fix it so you can regain your vision.

If possible, opt to wear face paint or keep your mask in your backpack or carrier pouch until you get to your destination.

Bulky Costumes

We all love the super creative costumes that can definitely fill a room – literally. We’ve seen plenty of people wearing boxes to be a couch, a living room table, a tardis, or any other creative thing you can think of. While this is okay, just make sure that you’re prepared for what comes with it.

Wearing a big, bulky costume, or a costume that has a lot of volume, can be tiring. Sometimes they are heavier, and while wearing them, you’re certainly prone to more wind resistance as you’re pedaling along!

If you’re sure you want to wear those types of costumes then make sure to check the following:

  1. It has enough room for arm movement. Cut out more of the sides for arm holes if you need to.
  2. It has enough movement for the legs to go up and down for riding the bike. The costume should stop halfway down the waist so you’re not jostling it while riding – which can be distracting.
  3. The costume doesn’t limit your head from moving. You need to be able to turn your head to see and limiting your head movement can be dangerous. You wouldn’t be able to see around you and know what’s going on.

Capes or Draping

We won’t lie to you. Capes or cloaks billowing behind you look awesome – you look like you’re flying! A natural superhero, witch/wizard, or whatever you may be! However, while it looks cool and can make you feel invincible, costumes with draping and capes can also get caught in the spokes, tires, gears, and be distracting to you.

As stated above, if these things get caught, it can be dangerous and end up with you on the ground – which is a lot less fun. Let’s fly through the air while staying on our wheels rather than flying over them.

Temperature Regulation

This is commonly overlooked, but important to consider. Halloween weather and temperatures tend to be unpredictable. Some years have been really warm, while other years it’s downright chilly! When choosing your biking costume, make sure that you’re choosing a costume that will work with the temperature and keep you comfortable.

Remember, pedaling will generate heat, and if you’re costume tends to make you warm make sure you’re making that adjustment for when you bike. It isn’t so fun when you’re sweating up a storm in your amazing costume as you travel to your destination. Showcasing sweat stains on your costume at a party is probably not what you have in mind.

Dr. Seuss say "Leave the clowns to the hounds this Halloween when choosing a bike friendly costumes."

Dr. Seuss says, “Leave the clowns to the hounds this Halloween when choosing a bike-friendly costumes.”

On the other hand, you don’t want to be cold either. While riding your bike there will be wind blowing at you. If you’re prone to getting chilled, it might be better to wear a costume with that in mind.

No matter what you decide when dressing up for Halloween or any themed bike parade, dress safe and have fun!





Jess Leong is a writer for

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget that you can send us your creative and fun bike-friendly Halloween costumes! If you send them in, we can feature your photo as our next bike pic! We’d love to see what you’re wearing. (And perhaps it’ll inspire some of our own costumes for next year’s Hollow’s Eve!) Send your pictures to [email protected] or reply below! If you’re into Twitter and Facebook, tweet or share it with us @HaveFunBiking.