Author Archives: John Brown

Being visible and noticed doesn’t end when the sun comes up

by John Brown

Now with spring riding soon in full swing, stay visible and noticed. Wear clothing that makes you stand out to others while riding your bike or walking. Being noticed by others is the key to avoiding accidents. Focus on the two forms, passive and active visibility, to help stay safe. Things like reflectors and bright colors, especially in patterns that make you stand out, are forms of passive visibility. While lights and blinkers are great examples of active visibility, most people focus on nighttime visibility. Though, far more hours are spent in broad daylight riding a bike. Here are a few tips to keep you safe and visible whenever you ride.

Clothing that makes you more visible and noticed

Read on to see where each one is helpful and most efficient.

If you were driving a car which cyclist would grab your attention first?

The easiest way to be visible is to wear obvious clothing. Whereas black may be slimming, it doesn’t offer others the best chance to see you. The most visible color available is high visibility (hi-vis) yellow. It is bright yellow not found naturally and sticks out against the backdrops on most normal roads and paths. If hi-vis yellow isn’t for you, try to wear other colors that would stand out, like bright blue, red, or orange. Better yet, an obnoxious pattern of several above-mentioned colors, so you are sure to be noticed.

The most visible color available is high visibility (hi-vis) yellow.

Lights that make you visible and noticed

Many companies are recommending riders use their lights during the day and at night for a great reason. Active forms of visibility like blinking lights do a lot to attract the attention of others. For best visibility and longest battery life, use your lights in “blink mode” rather than a steady beam.

Reflectors that makes you more visible and noticed

Most cars sold in the US are equipped with daytime running lights. For that reason, the reflectors on your bike will shine back at drivers during the day and alert them to your presence. Beyond the standard reflectors your bicycle comes with, think about adding adhesive reflective tape to bags, helmets as well as your bike.

Position

Being visible while riding can be as simple as your position on the road to be noticed. In situations where there isn’t enough room for a bike and car, be sure to take up enough space to ensure no driver could miss seeing you and try to “squeeze” past. Also, ride at a controlled speed where there may be blind corners, driveways, or crosswalks. Additionally, don’t stop in places where others can’t see you until it’s too late.

When making a lane change, signaling your turn and making eye contact with those you are approaching.

Signal

No amount of visibility will make up for erratic riding. Be sure to signal where you are going so auto drivers, other cyclists, and/or pedestrians know where you are headed. When overtaking riders or walkers from behind, be sure to let them know where you are going with a simple “on your left” or “on your right.” Then, give them a moment before passing and ring a bell if you have one.

Kids

Kids riding bikes is something we need to preserve in this digital world. The best way to keep kids on bikes is to keep them fun and safe. Try to have two adults riding with kids if possible, one leading and one following. Be sure to remind children of how and when to signal, and dress them in colorful clothing. Because kid’s bikes are lower to the ground than an adult bike, they can go unnoticed. A flag mounted to the bike reminds drivers that there is a bike below.

Following these tips will limit the chance of an accident and keep your ride fun and safe.

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit and that particular fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then to a store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, parts, or just share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.
No bicycle discomfort is as debilitating as back pain. Luckily, back pain is usually caused by a few, simple to fix issues.

Searching for the cause of back pain and finding the solution for biking

by John Brown

Over the past quarter-century, I have helped all manner of riders get going on their bikes. I’ve been lucky to see the life-changing power of a bicycle. Sadly, I have also seen riders walk away from the sport forever due to simple discomforts. No discomfort is as debilitating as back pain. Luckily, back pain is usually caused by a few easy fix issues. These issues manifest themselves in lower back pain and upper back pain. See below for the causes and fixes.

Lower back

The sky-high seat rider can result in back pain.

The #1 cause for lower back pain is saddle height. Not only is this problem common and painful, but also easily fixed. While trying to get a more efficient pedal stroke, many riders will raise their saddle too high. If your saddle is too high, you will tilt your hips at the bottom of each pedal stroke, trying to reach the pedals. That tilting forces the very small muscles in your back to do the job that the very large muscles in your leg should be doing. To find a proper saddle height, check out our bike setup article, or visit your local shop for a bike fit.

The shocking truth

Another frequent cause of lower back discomfort is road shock. While riding, it is common for the small imperfections in the road to send vibrations through the bicycle and into your body. After some time, this constant vibration can fatigue the muscles in your back. There are a few quick fixes for this problem. The first and easiest solution is tire pressure. Rather than maxing out your tire’s pressure, lower the tire pressure in 5 psi increments until you find a pressure that works for you. Another quick way to squelch road vibration is by adding a suspension seat post. A suspension seat posts absorb the shock before it gets to you.

How is your reach?

Finally, the last common cause of lower back discomfort is your reach. If the distance from your seat to bars is too great, you begin relying on small muscles in your lower back to support the weight of your upper body instead of your core and arms. Look into having your bike properly fit at a local shop or follow our simple fit guide.

Upper back

Shrugging off your responsibilities

The leading cause of upper back pain is riding position. More specifically, the shrugging of one’s shoulders. In my experience, many riders don’t know they are lifting their shoulders when they ride. It is just a tense habit they formed somewhere along the way. Paying attention to where your shoulders are located will help you relax them, alleviating pain. Additionally, try moving your hands to different positions on the bars. That change in grip does wonders to rest different muscle groups. In some cases, a proper bike fit is needed to remedy shrugged shoulders, so if the problem persists, visit your local shop for a fitting.

Don’t become a pack mule.

Be careful how much weight you carry on your shoulders. Riding with a backpack is a great way to carry the things you need, but be careful not to overdo it. If you use a pack to commute, try leaving heavier items like shoes at work. If you absolutely need to carry a lot of weight, install a rack with panniers and move that weight onto your bike frame and off your body.

Keep on going

Like I stated before, I have seen riders get off their bikes forever due to discomfort. It’s always sad to see, especially because I know that most cyclists pain can likely be eliminated with some simple adjustments. Be vigilant about eliminating discomforts. After all, small pains today can manifest into serious problems later. Find a bike-fitting professional you feel comfortable with and talk about your issues. Your back will thank you.

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit and that particular fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then to a store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, parts, or just share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.
Your favorite music keeps you pedaling in high spirits through the toughest rides like nothing else. So how do you bring your favorite tunes along with limited space while riding a bike? Take a look at these few tips below about some of the most popular options.

Easy ways to pedal with your favorite music while riding along

by John Brown

Your favorite music keeps you pedaling in high spirits through the toughest rides like nothing else. So how do you bring your favorite tunes along with limited space while riding a bike? Take a look at these tips below and some of the most popular options.

Earbuds for favorite music

The most common way people listen to music is through earbuds. Earbuds do a great job because they fit snugly into your ear (eliminating a lot of wind noise), are light and collapsible, and don’t need an additional power source. The downside of earbuds is they can limit your ability to hear your surroundings. We take for granted how much our auditory sense contributes to our ability to ride comfortably through the world. If you want to use earbuds, you should use just one. Most media devices will allow you to shift all music to one earbud, leaving your other ear open and keeping you safe.

Speakers

Another simple option is to use the speakers on your phone and purchasing a mount to hold your phone. Doing this option works okay, but music quality and battery life end up being an issue. Although this is not a great option, many riders use their phone as a GPS device, so it is already available to be a media player. Another option is a speaker system that mounts into your helmet.

Another popular choice is to use your phone paired with a portable speaker. Lots of riders find it easy to mount a speaker to their bike or person. Portable speakers maintain good sound quality, rely on their own internal battery, and allow you to hear the world around you. The best part is the volume can be adjusted so that others outside of your immediate vicinity won’t hear your choice of boyband!

As the beat goes on drive your bike safely.

As the beat goes on, drive your bike safely.

Rock and pedal responsibly no matter what music you choose. Be responsible to yourself by not eliminating your ability to hear the world around you, and respect others who may want to enjoy all the sights and sounds uninterrupted.

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit and that particular fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then to a store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, parts, or share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.
Bike commuting is an easy way to increase fitness, jump start your energy level, and enjoy nature. Read and learn about what you need to commute in comfort.

Bike commuting necessities and niceties to make your ride great

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Bike commuting is an easy way to add miles, increase fitness, jump start your energy level for the day while enjoying nature, especially with warmer weather finally here. Once you start commuting by bike, you will find the hassle factor lessens while your overall trip acts as your workout for the day. Saving you hours in the gym. Here is a list of several other beneficial necessities to make commuting by bike that much more enjoyable.

Bike Commuting Necessities

While commuting by bike, there are very few items you need to have to get started. Ultimately, the only thing that you actually have to have is a bike. However, here is a list of items that will make your ride safer and a few items that will make it easier to function at work or class properly once you are there for added comfort and safety. Past functioning, you need to stay safe on the bike also, so I consider all these things necessities.

Helmets

First and foremost, a helmet is the most important product you can buy after the bike. While self-preservation typically keeps us upright on our bike, while commuting, we need to consider a vast amount of other actions we need to protect ourselves from. Now that you’re commuting wearing a helmet isn’t just a logical safety choice but can be very comfortable. Read here to learn how helmets protect you better, become lighter, fit better, and are more comfortable than ever.

Lights

While the helmet is a key safety product, it is not the only important one. Lights, no matter if it is day or night or your level of bike riding skill, are essential to make sure you have the safest ride possible. Sometimes, when you’re riding in conditions without optimal visibility, you need a little added illumination. That’s where proper lighting comes in.

Locks

When commuting, you can’t be with your bike at all times. You’ll have to leave it unattended for extended periods of time, which makes it susceptible to theft. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help protect it. Here’s some info on the different kinds of bike locks and other tips to ensure your bike’s safety.

Waterproof Bag

Being caught in the rain is not a possibility when commuting; it is an inevitability. To protect your possessions, invest in a waterproof bag. For example, a messenger bag made with a PVC liner can easily carry all your stuff and keep them dry. For riders looking to carry their things on the bike, there are plenty of waterproof panniers available.

Bike Commuting Niceties

The following items aren’t a necessity for commuting but make your trip quicker and more comfortable.

Shoes and pedals

Most riders look at clipless pedals as a competitive advantage only, but nothing could be farther from the truth. When riding a bicycle, few things are as effective as clipless pedals and cycling shoes. There is a simple equation that always holds true: control = comfort. In the quest for more control of your bicycle, secure your feet in place on the pedal. By doing this, you can use muscles more efficiently, be connected to your bicycle more directly, and relieve excessive strain on your feet. Read here to see how easy it is to learn to ride “clipless.”

Rain gear

The best way to stay dry is to wear waterproof clothing. While most synthetic fabrics still insulate when wet, being wet diminishes their ability to keep you warm. A jacket and pants are a great way to start, but socks and gloves make the outfit complete. In their most basic form, many materials are waterproof, but as soon as they are perforated with stitching, zipped closed with generic zippers, and left to be loose at all the cuffs, their waterproofing goes out the window. Before you go out and buy anything labeled “waterproof,” understand that all waterproofing is not the same.

Cycling shorts

Shorts come in all shapes and sizes. Tight shorts are popular because they offer great comfort as well as unencumbered movement around the bicycle. Baggy shorts are trendy for their casual look and the advent of pockets. There are even cycling skirts (called skorts) that offer excellent comfort and a great off-the-bike look. Whatever short you decide on, the padding will make your ride more comfortable.

Fenders

Fenders are a standard option for many. They are light, sturdy, and keep you dry when riding in wet conditions. If you don’t want to keep them on your bike at all times, snap-on style fenders are available, while a more permanent option is a bolt-on fender.

For winter, studded tires are helpful.

Like winter tires for your car, there are also studded tires available for your bike. They usually have a few hundred carbide metal studs inserted in the tire to give you traction in icy conditions. These tires are typically twice as heavy as a non-studded version, so be sure to use them only when necessary.

Bike commuting is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while traveling to and from school or work. It is an excellent form of exercise that will give you better attention, higher energy levels, and some free time to think without critical or major distractions.

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit, and that particular fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then to a store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, parts, or just share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.
If you are looking for a gently used bike in the south Twin City Metro, you may be in luck if you are in town on Saturday, May 11th.

Bicycle maintenance and cleaning will keep your bike in optimal condition

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Like any other mechanical device, routine bicycle maintenance and cleaning will keep your bike in optimal condition. Additionally, routine bicycle maintenance will make your bike safer to ride when you need it. Where do you start? What do you use? Well, here are a few tips to put you on the right track!

Tip 1: For optimal bicycle maintenance, stay away from the hose

Bike running smooth hose and bucket

Angry hose and happy bucket

Every moving part on your bicycle needs lubrication to stay in optimal condition. The pressure of water coming from a hose will force water into areas that need to be lubricated. The water will displace grease and leave your bicycle susceptible to corrosion and excess wear. Instead of a hose, fill a bucket with warm, soapy water (Dawn dish detergent works well) and use a large sponge to clean all the parts of your bicycle. Rinse all the soap and gunk off with fresh water, and let the bicycle air dry.

Tip 2: Focusing on the drivetrain

If you have a particularly dirty drivetrain* and want to get it clean, you will need the following:Bike running smooth supplies

• Degreaser
• A stiff-bristled brush
• Rubber gloves
• Protective eyewear

 

*(the gears, chain, and the little pulley wheels on your derailleur)

  • First: Start by applying a liberal amount of degreaser to the chain, gears, and derailleur pulleys. Also, pay close attention not to direct degreaser toward the center of either gear set. Doing so will drive the degreaser into bearings that need to remain lubricated.
  • Second: Once well saturated, begin freeing up dirt and debris by scrubbing back and forth with the stiff-bristled brush.
  • Third: After you have broken up all the contaminants, rinse the drivetrain with a warm soap/water solution.

Tip 3: reapply lubricant

Most areas of a bicycle are protected from the elements with rubber seals. Those rubber seals do a good job of keeping lubricants where they are supposed to be. Furthermore, it also means that the only bicycle areas that can be lubricated without disassembly are the chain and cables.

 Lubricating the chain

bicycle maintenance

Proper lubrication is essential to keep your bike in optimal condition.

  • First: To lube the chain, prop your bicycle up so you can freely backpedal. While backpedaling, coat the chain evenly with a lubricant like in the image above.
  • Second: Fold a rag around the chain between the lowest pully and the chainrings. Next, backpedal with your right hand while holding the rag in place with your left. You want to try and remove all the excess lubricant you can. When complete, the chain will feel almost dry to the touch, and that’s OK. Even though the outside of the chain seems under lubricated, there is still ample lubricant between the chain’s links and within the rollers.

Lubricating the cables

If shifting of braking feels rough at the lever, you may need to lube the cables. Here’s how to do that:

  • First: Apply lubricant in small doses where the cable enters the housing (see below).
  • Second: Cycle the gears, or squeeze the brakes until capillary action draws the lube into the cable housing.

bicycle maintenance

Ensuring your bicycle is clean and properly lubricated is essential to make sure your bike is in optimal condition.

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit, and that particular fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, parts, or share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.

Hybrid bikes are one of the many available options for casual riding

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Trail bikes, fitness bikes, hybrid bikes, and dual-sport bikes all fall into the same category of bicycle. Although these bikes all occupy the same category, they have very different uses. Read on to find out what bike will fit your needs best.

Before Buying One Of Many Hybrid Bikes, Determine Where You Want to Ride

Hybrid

Road, trail, or offroad.

Hybrid Bikes for Road Riding

Paved surfaces are more inviting to cyclists than ever before thanks to bicycle conscience city planners and influential cycling groups. Bike lanes on city roads, bike paths on retired rail lines, and dedicated cycling trails are just a few of the options open for paved riding. Because of these options, there are many bicycles available for paved riding specifically.

Hybrid Bikes for Path/Trail Riding

By far, path and trail riders are the largest segments of casual cyclists. This is due to the vast availability of riding options. Due to the fact that there are tons of options, these bikes are designed to ride comfortably and efficiently through almost anything.   

Hybrid Bikes for Off-Road Riding

A newly emerging category is casual off-road riding. For this reason, many bicycle manufacturers have developed products to allow riders to enjoy trails comfortably. These bikes are similar to path/trail bikes, but usually include tires with more knobs and suspension.

How frequently do you plan on riding?

The cost of a bicycle can range from around $300 up to the tens of thousands of dollars. The most basic models use less durable materials like plastics rather than metals in the shifting components, and mild steel rather than stronger alloys for the drivetrain and cockpit. As the prices increase, stronger materials replace less durable materials, lending to a bicycle that will hold up better for frequent use. Consequently, at a certain price (different for every category of a bicycle), the durability doesn’t increase. Instead, the weight begins to decrease. A lighter bicycle is easier to control and accelerate (making for a more enjoyable ride). Determining how frequently you intend to ride and weighing that against the bikes you are looking at will ensure you get the right bike for your needs.

Bike Features

Disc brakes vs. rim brakes

Hybrid

Rim brakes work by two rubber pads squeezing the aluminum rim of your wheel. They are inexpensive, functional, and lightweight. When conditions are good, they work incredibly well. Disc brakes use hardened semi-metallic pads to squeeze a hardened steel rotor. Disc brakes produce an enormous amount of friction, and that friction can overcome poor conditions. To summarize, both brakes work, but disc brakes work better in poor conditions.

Suspension vs. no suspension

Hybrid

Bikes that go off-road typically use suspension forks to silence the chatter of gravel paths, dirt roads, and trails. Bikes with rigid forks tend to handle better because they are laterally stiffer and end up being lighter due to the lack of moving parts.

Wheel size

hybris

26″ x 1.75 and 700×37

In this category, you will find smaller wheels and larger ones. The smaller wheels are usually 26” in diameter and around 2 inches wide. The larger wheels are sized out at 700 c (roughly 28″ in diameter) and usually are between 28 and 42 millimeters wide.

Differences

Once you have figured out where and how often you want to ride, and you learned about some of the features, it’s time to learn about the differences in the bikes.

Hybrid Bikes

Hybrid bicycles at one point were the only bike in this category. They get their names from the fact that they were initially a hybrid of a mountain and road bike. Today, a hybrid is a great bike for fun and fitness. They usually incorporate suspension forks to smooth out the road. Most types use a tire that is 30-40 mm wide and well suited to gravel roads, rails to trails, or paved roads. If you are looking for the most comfortable ride across the largest segment of conditions, a hybrid is a right choice for you.

Fitness bikes

Fitness bikes share a lot of features with hybrids. They have similar wheel sizes, riding positions, and gearing. Where they differ is that hybrids incorporate a lot of features to add comfort, while fitness bikes focus on efficiency and being lightweight. If you are the type of rider who wants to get a great workout and enjoy your neighborhood or local bike path, a fitness bike is a right choice.

Dual Sport bikes

Dual sport bikes are a new and quickly growing segment of this category. The Dual sport bike is similar to the hybrid, in that it uses suspension. Where it differs from a hybrid is that they are designed for off-road use. By changing the rider position, incorporating wider tires, and using disc brakes, these bikes excel on bike trails that are a bit more technical. If your adventure takes you off the beaten path, dual sport bikes are the tool of choice.

How to choose

Paramount to buying the right bike is trying them. Start with a bike that fits you correctly. Take it for a good 10-15 minute ride to see how it handles. Ride it on hills and on some path if possible. Next, try some other models that use different features. Test riding will quickly highlight the benefits of disc brakes, suspension, and tire sizes. Once you feel comfortable on a few bikes, try them back to back and figure out which is the right fit for you.

Check out the latest styles for 2021

Thanks to the latest reviews from 29 experts at BikeRide.com, see 46 of the best hybrid bikes to consider when buying your next bike.

About John Brown the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit and that particular fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated to a service manager and then store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping each and every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, parts, or just share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.
Give a call to the shops closest to you and verify they have the models you want to test ride.

Winter in a bike shop is a great time to visit and learn!

by John Brown, BrownCycles.com

The winter months are the perfect time to visit a bike shop and learn. Other than just enjoying bikes at a time when you may not be riding, there are many benefits to visiting your bike shop during the ‘down’ cooler time of the year. In the slower winter months, you can learn more, get better deals, and faster service.

See faster turnaround time on repairs at your bike shop.

Most shops operate on a “first in / first out” repair schedule. This means during the busy summer months; there will be dozens of bicycles ahead of yours in line to be repaired. Those dozens of bikes could equal weeks of waiting before your bike gets fixed. Through the winter months, there are fewer bikes in for repair. That means you can expect a really quick turnaround time. Plus, with fewer bikes in the shops to be worked on, each seems to get more attention. That’s not to say your shop won’t do a great job in the summer months. I’m just saying that it is always a good thing when service isn’t rushed and the mechanic has more time.

Bike Shop

Quiet time in the shop is the best time for quality service.

Bike shop discounts and deals!

As fall turns into winter, bicycle brands change over from one model year into the next. Because of that change, the transition becomes a sweet spot for buying a bike. In some cases, you can get last year’s models for a discounted price, and if those aren’t available, the new models are readily available. Along with the new model year shift, many shops also run sales through the winter to maximize store traffic.

Worth more than Discounts

It’s no secret that winter in a bike shop is slow. Why not take advantage of that slow time to talk with both the salesperson and mechanics? Need to know more about all the different bike types? Where is the best place to ride your fat bike? How do the new shorts differ from the ones you already have? These individuals in the bike shop can help.

If it’s a question about your bike’s service or adjustments, the mechanics are likely to spend more time with you and not be rushed. Even better, at this time of the year, some shops will allow customers to watch and learn as they fix their bikes in the winter. Due to the time added to teaching, this is not an opportunity to be considered or offered through the summer.

Learn more at your bike shops, clinics, and classes

As many bike shops have evolved from normal retail locations into community cycling centers, most have adopted a strategy of education and involvement. Because shops have far more time in the winter, most schedule their programs during this downtime. In the most basic cases, you can enjoy trainer rides at most shops. Typically these rides are a “bring your own trainer” affair, where customers come and ride together.

Bike Shop

Park tool School in full effect.

More ambitious stores are running classes on home bike repair as well. Usually, those classes focus on one part of the bike, like wheels or derailleurs. Finally, the most forward-thinking shops are doing classes and clinics as well as inviting speakers to come and give presentations. Many riders have questions about subjects like bike packing or fat biking, and shops will schedule professionals to come to talk about those subjects.

Bike Shop

Minnesota’s Angry Catfish runs a backpack presentation.

Just to show the love.

If for no other reason, stop by the shop and say hello. Depending on how quiet the shop is through the winter, things can get pretty boring for the staff, and they would love to share their knowledge. Storage can only be cleaned and re-organized so many times after all the boxed bikes get built. After that, the friendly face of a customer is a welcome sight.

Bike noises that can ruin a great ride may be easy to fix with these tips

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Bikes are fun to ride, and any distraction from that fun can be annoying. One distraction that is easy to eliminate is noises your bike normally doesn’t make. The reason they are easy to eliminate is that each noise is telling you what’s wrong. Here are some of the most common noises and their causes.

Annoying bike noise from corrosion

Before we get into the annoying noises themselves, we should talk about what causes them. Most annoying noises are caused by corrosion between two surfaces or excess wear. Noises from corrosion can be remedied easily, whereas parts that are worn out need to be replaced. In most cases, corrosion is not visible to the naked eye but can be removed with solvent and guarded against in the future with a little grease.

Annoying Noises or Creaks

“Creaks” are the most common and annoying noises on your bike. It usually sounds like you are opening a rusty door when you pedal and subside when you stop pedaling. Creaks are attributed to either the pedals or the bottom bracket (fancy name for the bearings on which your cranks turn).

If there is side-to-side movement in one of the pedals or the entire crank, you should take your bike into a bike shop to have it serviced. If there isn’t any play, the crank is probably associated with corrosion. Removing the pedals and greasing the threads, taking off the chainrings (large gears attached to the crank), or removing the crank and greasing the bottom bracket spindle will usually silence the bike. If the creak persists, take your bike into the shop for a more thorough examination.

Annoying Noises or Clicks

Unlike creaks, clicks rarely follow any rhythm and usually come from the handlebar, seat, or seat post. An easy way to test where the click is coming from is to do it off the bike. With your feet on the ground, flex the bars from side to side. If you hear a click, loosen the stem, clean the bar, and apply a thin layer of grease before reinstalling.

The seat and seat post can be treated just like the bars. While off the bike, flex the saddle forward and backward. If you hear a creak, remove the saddle, clean the saddle rails, apply grease and reinstall. The next step is to remove the seat post from the bike and grease the seat tube before reinstalling it.

It is important to note that carbon fiber posts and frames should not be greased. Instead, use a carbon fiber friction paste-like Park Tool’s SAC-2.

Bike noise squeaks

Squeaks sound like you have a mouse or small bird trapped somewhere in your bike. Like creaks, they are usually rhythmic but can continue even while not pedaling. A lack of lubrication usually causes squeaks. Typically, a bearing’s rubber seal rubs against a metal surface, and the vibration causes a squeak.

The easy remedy for a squeak is to first locate it by spinning each wheel independently. Next, spin each pedal independently. Finally, try backpedaling. Listen for where the noise is coming from, then apply a wet lubricant like Park Tool’s CL-1 to where the rubber seal meets metal. Spin the offending part until the noise goes away, then wipe off any excess lube. Additionally, chains can sometimes squeak as well. To correct that, just clean and lubricate your chain.

Brake Squeal

If you squeeze your brakes and hear a noise somewhere between a small squeal or a fog horn, then you are suffering from brake squeal. Brake squeal is caused when the brake pads touch the braking surface and, rather than building friction, vibrate. The noise you are hearing is that vibration.

Before you get too concerned, brakes will oftentimes squeal when they are wet and be silent again when dry. However, if the noise persists when dry, the two major causes are adjustment or contamination. With an adjustment issue, the brake pads are hitting the braking surface at an angle that causes them to vibrate, and readjusting the pads should solve the problem.

For contamination, the solution is somewhat more involved. The first thing to do is determine what type of brake you have, rim or disc. If your bike has rim brakes, your brakes use rubber pads to press against the rim near the tire. For disc brakes, semi-metallic pads press against a steel rotor mounted to the center of the wheel.

To clean a rim brake, use soap and water (dawn dish detergent works well) to wash the rim and brake pads. Also, scour the rim and brake pads surface with sandpaper or Scotchbrite. For a disc brake, start with soap and water as well and scour the rotor surface. If the noise doesn’t subside, take it into your local shop for pad replacement.

Clunks

Clunks are the sound of one object hitting another and are usually heard when you run over a gap in the road or a curb. Most clunks are serious and should be resolved as quickly as possible. They’re serious because something on your bike is loose or worn out.

The most common things to come loose are your wheel’s hubs or the bicycle’s headset. To test and see if the hubs are loose, grab the rim and gently push side to side. For the headset (the bearings on which your fork and handlebars turn), turn your bars 90 degrees, squeeze the front brake, and rock the bike forward and back. If you feel any play or rattling, take the bike in for service.

Clunks are also often found in suspension forks and seat posts. If you feel a clunk only when dropping off an object and have checked your hubs and headset, chances are your suspension needs attention. Suspension service is best left to your local bike shop. They can assess if the suspension needs either service or adjustment.

Service

In most cases, noises coming from your bike signal that it is good to bring it in for service. A trained mechanic can assess and remedy noises far faster than you. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do any of these repairs at home. In fact, most of these problems are easily fixed with little attention. The only consideration before entering into the noise tracking project is how much time you want to devote to it. Hopefully, these tips will give you the confidence to try.

Kid’s mountain bikes: tips and tricks to get them on the trail

by John Brown,

I love riding my Mountain bike and want to share that passion with my boys. I am dedicating weekends to kids’ mountain bikes to teach them to love the sport too. The sense of freedom and excitement it gives me has been amazing to experience through their eyes. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

Kid’s mountain bikes

Dozens of companies produce kid’s mountain bikes. They often have suspension, brakes, and gears similar to adult versions. The kid’s bikes usually have either 20″ or 24″ wheels to determine the overall bike size. Be sure to find the right size at your local bike shop.

Teach to shift kid’s mountain bikes

One big difference between riding around the neighborhood and on trails is the need to shift quickly and frequently. Most kid’s mountain bikes have between six and 21 gears, with the higher gears being used on the pavement and the lower gears for off-road conditions. Teaching your kid(s) how and when to shift will become more comfortable while riding over varying trail conditions. I find it is easy to teach this on the sidewalks in front of my home. Have your child ride down the sidewalk in one gear, then shift to an easier gear and ride on the grass back. By shifting between gears and conditions, kids can get a great feel for how the gears work.

Teach braking on kid’s mountain bikes

Stopping on kid’s mountain bikes is about balancing two things; stopping power and control. Most brakes can easily produce enough stopping power to skid the wheels, but you lose control when the wheels skid. I found an easy way to teach this balance: find a short but steep hill with a clear run-out at the bottom. Stand at the bottom of the hill as a safety precaution and have your kid head down. The first time down, tell them to squeeze the brakes (front and rear) as hard as they can.  On the second trip, squeeze a little less and feel the difference. Have them apply the front brakes more or more rear brake on each successive trip. After a little while, they will have a good feel for the way the brakes work.

Standing position

When kids learn to ride a bike, they do so sitting down. While sitting is fine for smooth roads, it can become uncomfortable when riding over rocky trails. Try to teach your kid to stand while riding, using your legs to absorb bumps. You want to encourage them to have some bend in their knees and elbows and keep their weight back over the seat. This position lets them absorb all the rough terrain they might encounter.

L-r: Matt Johnson and his sons Jack 10, and Cole, 9, mountain bike in Salem Park in Inver Grove Heights on Sunday, June 12, 2011. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Board trick

A fun trick to teach some skills involves nothing other than a board. A 1×6 piece of wood that’s about six feet long works best. All you need to do is set it on the ground and have the kids ride over it. Riding perpendicular helps them work on absorbing impact in the standing position while riding along its length, which helps teach control. A great part about the Board trick is that it gives a visual indication of where to ride without penalty if they can’t stay on.

Up and Over

Once they get comfortable with the standing position, you will want to teach them how to get over objects. To start, find an object on the trail that might be challenging for your kid to ride over. Please take a minute to show them where to ride to get over it. Have them back up, get a moving start, and take a run at the object. By standing over that object, you can be a safety net if it doesn’t go too well. Reach out, straighten them out, and congratulate their try. If your trails don’t have a good place to practice this, you can build an obstacle with a pair of two by fours and some lengths of PVC (see picture below).

Short and sweet

Please do your best to keep it fun. Pack treats, snacks and drinks and take a lot of breaks. If a section of trail was super fun, turn around and do it again. Keep the pace slow and have fun. If you meet a puppy, stop and pet it. Do anything you can to keep it fun, and a big part of that is keeping it short. Rides over an hour can start to wear out new riders and take some of the joy out of it. And regardless of the duration, be sure to encourage the things they did well.

Bribery

Kids are like politicians in that they aren’t above bribes. I always take my son for a treat after the ride (our current favorite is a smoothy from Wendy’s). This Pavlovian exercise can do wonders to reinforce the fun experience of a mountain bike ride, and encouraging the fun is the most important part.

Beyond Laws and rules, we should work to employ some common courtesy toward each other while riding our bikes on the road and trail.

Tips and tricks for riding on roads more efficiently and more comfortably

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Riding on Roads

Let’s get this out of the way first – Be Safe! With spring biking season soon here you will be riding on roads with pedestrians, other riders, and cars. With more road traffic each year it is possible to have an accident even if you do everything correctly. To protect yourself in the easiest and most comfortable way possible, wear a helmet, and review the following tips, wear a helmet that fits.

riding on road

Helmets are safe and fun

Comfort when riding on roads

Some riders experience upper body pain while riding on roads. some of the most frequent pain is associated with the upper body, and due to position and fatigue. The position most responsible for this pain is the shrugging of shoulders while riding. That shrug compresses all the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back and fatigues them needlessly. Fatigue comes into play starting at the hands. A firm grip on your bars is a great way to keep control of your bike, but if you hold on too tightly you can prematurely fatigue your hands, arms, and shoulders.

riding on roads

Shrugged shoulders fatigues all the muscles in your neck, and shoulders

Rather than shrugging your shoulders and squeezing the bars into dust, try to relax your back (see picture) and shoulders and hold the bars firmly. By relaxing your upper body, you will preserve strength throughout your ride, making for mile after mile of pain-free riding.

Vision and Route

Riding on roads

Cars, pedestrians, other riders, potholes, grates, as well as traffic lights and signs need your attention while riding on roads. The best way to keep yourself safe and in control is to direct your attention outside of your immediate area. Try to focus thirty or forty feet down the road rather than right in front of you. If you need to change direction or stop quickly, thirty feet is about the minimum distance you need to react. As you ride more, you will get comfortable with what your reaction time is. Additionally, knowing your route in advance leaves your mind free to concentrate on the things going on in front of you.

Control

Front brake

Your front brake is your most powerful tool in stopping. As a new rider, we get taught that the best way to stop is to use both brakes evenly and that if we use too much front brake we are prone to crash “over the bars”. While going “over the bars” is a real concern it can be combated with a little practice. Not only can going “over the bars” be combated, but you will learn to stop your bike more effectively in the case of an emergency. As you begin to stop, your weight shifts forward and adds more pressure to the front wheel. This pressure can do two things. If you brace properly with your arms, that pressure to the front wheel increases traction and stops the bike. If you do not support yourself moving forward, the increased pressure to the front wheel turns into a fulcrum. Practice stopping by finding a piece of unoccupied road you are comfortable with. Get up to speed and begin applying only the front brake (see picture below). Be cognizant about bracing yourself with your arms while stopping. Do this a little at a time, each successive stop should be a bit more power. Stop once you are applying enough power to stop, while the rear wheel is slightly lifting.

riding on roads stopping

As you brake harder, more pressure is applied to the front wheel

Rear Brake

The rear brake is far more susceptible to skidding than the front. While skidding a tire, you are not in complete control or reducing speed effectively. The bright side is that a rear-wheel skid is far more controllable than a front-wheel skid. In wet, loose, or slippery conditions, a rear brake can be safer to use. The rear brake is also great to control your speed by small amounts.

Both Brakes

The ideal time to use both brakes is during turning. As you turn and brake you are sharing traction between turning and stopping the bike. It is very important to try and control your speed before turning rather than in the turn.

Cadence

Your chances of lifting a 1000 pound weight once is pretty slim, but you might be able to lift 100 pounds ten times and can more than likely lift 20 pounds 50 times. Riding a bike is the same way. If you try to shove the bike up a hill in your hardest gear the chances of making it are slim. Shifting your bicycle into an easier gear and pedaling faster (higher cadence) will propel you up almost any hill. Higher cadence riding is just one way to be more efficient on your bicycle.

Draft

Riding on roads drafting

The riders above are both working too hard. The riders below, are drafting well.

Another way to be more efficient is to use the work of others to your advantage. At lower speeds, most of your effort goes to moving your own mass, but as your speed increases, more and more of your effort goes to moving the air around you. In fact, air resistance grows exponentially at a rate of about 7 mph. That said, the amount of effort required to move your bike at 14 mph is twice as much as at 7 mph. Also as you approach 21 mph that effort is four times more than going 7 mph. A way to save energy is to ride behind another rider who has already moved the air (see above). By drafting, you are riding in the slipstream of another rider. To draft, try to ride at the same speed ahead of you, and keep your front wheel within two feet of their rear wheel.

Be Prepared

Be sure to ride with the materials needed to get home. Train yourself to fix a flat and carry enough food and water to keep your energy up throughout the ride. Consider carrying packable rain gear with you as well. If you liked this info, take a look at our Mountain biking hacks also.