Author Archives: John Brown

Sadly, it is sometimes unavoidable to ride in the rain. So, when you do get caught in the rain, use these bike maintenance tips to protect your equipment.

Quick and easy post bike maintenance tips after riding in the rain

by John Brown

Sadly, it is sometimes unavoidable to ride in the rain. In my experience, the rain actually waits for me to get as far from home as possible before starting. So, when you do get caught in the wet weather, how do you protect your bicycle from the damages of water? Read on for a few helpful bike maintenance tips.

The First Step In Bike Maintenance Tips Is Get It Clean!

The first step after a riding in the rain is to get your bike clean. Road grime, mud, and other muck that has accumulated on your bike will hold moisture and encourage corrosion. A bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge is the best way to clean out that crud. Try to resist the urge to point a hose at the bike because pressured water gets into bearings promoting wear.

The Second Tip – Get It Dry

Once your bike is clean, use an old towel to get it dry. Rubber parts like tires and grips don’t need a lot of attention, rather focus on all the metal parts. Really try to address the steel hardware and make sure its dry to the touch before you’re done.

Then, Clean The Rims

Unless you have disc brakes, riding in the rain takes a toll on both the rims and brake pads. All the road grime that attaches itself to the rim works like sandpaper, wearing both the rim and the brake pads when you stop. Therefore, after riding in wet weather you will want to focus on getting all that abrasive grime off the rims and pads. If the dirt is left in place, your brakes can start making noise, be less efficient, and wear out quicker.

Lube The Chain

Water and motion will do a good job of scouring all the lubricant off your chain. Additionally, the same road grime that wears rims and brake pads will wear your chain. Additionally, that wear leaves your chain particularly susceptible to rust. To lube your chain, start by propping the bike up so you can rotate the cranks backward freely. Next, Backpedal the bike, while dripping lubricant onto each chain link. Once the chain is well saturated, give a few moments for the lubricant to penetrate the chain. Finally, wrap a rag around the chain, backpedal, and remove all the excess lubricant. Done!

Lube The Cables

Like the chain, cables will lose lubricant and wear quicker in the rain. To keep your bike shifting and braking well, drip a small amount of lubricant onto the cables where they enter the housing. Once capillary action carries a few drops of lubricant into the housing, shift through your gears a few times and squeeze the brakes repeatedly to help the lubricant find it’s way.

Drain The Bike

A bicycle may appear to be sealed from the elements, but it is, in fact, able to take on water when you ride in the rain. The water that collects inside your bicycles frame can destroy bearings, rust a frame from the inside, or freeze in the winter and burst frame tubes. To drain a frame, pull the seat and seat post out of the bike, and turn the bike upside down. Leave the bike for a few hours to drain and then replace the seat and post.

Overall, when servicing your bike after you ride in the rain be aware of the corrosion and wear rain can cause. Focus on getting the bike clean and re-lubricated, ready for your next ride.

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 ride your bike with your favorite music

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

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.

Earbuds for 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 it’s best you 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 in your phone and a mount to hold our 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 popular choice is to use your phone paired to 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.

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.

Finding visibility for safety and fun in fall’s limited light

by John Brown

With schools now in full swing, Halloween on every child’s mind, trees soon dropping their leaves and the days getting shorter we need to begin considering visibility while riding our bikes. The main forms of visibility we focus on are passive and active visibility. Things like reflectors and bright colors are forms of passive visibility, while lights and blinkers are great examples of an active visibility. Read on to see where each one is helpful and most efficient.

Passive visibility

Most autumn rides start in the light, and only devolve into darkness as the ride stretches on. In these cases, most riders rely on passive visibility to get them home. Provided that your ride is under street lamps or some form of light, that passive visibility will get you home safely. The most common form of passive visibility is the lowly reflector. These plastic devices are required by the CPSC to be installed on all bicycles sold in the united states. You will find reflectors come in two colors, white (front and wheels) and Red (rear). Additionally, many apparel companies install reflective materials onto their products. Like the reflector on your bike, these reflective materials will take any light thrown at you, and return it back to the source of the light. Where passive reflectivity falls short, is when there is no light source to activate the visibility.

This jacket offers excellent visibility through color and reflective materials.

Sealsinz makes some cool winter gloves that are both visible and insulated

Active visibility

When the area is devoid of a light source, as a rider, you need to create that light to keep yourself safe. For cyclists, Lights and blinkers are the most common devices for light. Where the light and the blinker differ is that blinkers are designed to be seen while lights allow a rider to both see and be seen.

Great lights are usually rechargeable and use an LED bulb. For riders who spend a lot of time off-road or on unlit paths, these lights are a necessity. While most mount onto the bars or helmet, there are a few companies who integrate lights into the bike or your helmet.

MagicShine Bike Helmet and remote (inset)

MagicShine Bike Helmet and remote (inset)

 

Blinkers are usually battery operated and use an LED to flash intermittently. These blinkers can easily be mounted to your bicycle. In some cases, blinkers are incorporated into helmets, gloves, shoes, saddles and handlebars.

The Omni Bike Helmet, with photo receptor covered and lights on.

The Omni Bike Helmet, with photo receptor covered and lights on.

What to use this Fall

For the fall season, mount a pair of blinkers to the bike (one front an one back). When you get stuck in low light and high traffic, simply switch on the blinkers. If your route is going to be unlit for any portion, a front light makes things safer. Overall, just think ahead before your next ride and pack to insure you can see and others can see you.

 

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 kid’s 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 that will determine the overall bike size. Be sure to find the right size at your local bike shop.

Teach to shift

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 pavement and the lower gears for off-road conditions. By teaching your kid(s) how and when to shift will them 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 to brake

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 when the wheels skid, you lose control. I found an easy way to teach this balance is to 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 trying to ride along its length, helps teach control. A great part about the Board trick is that it gives a visual indication of where to ride without any 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. 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 in case it doesn’t go to 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

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 that is a mountain bike ride and encouraging the fun is the most important part.

No bicycle discomfort is as debilitating as back pain. Luckily, back pain is usually caused by a few, simple to fix issues.

Back pain and biking, searching for the cause and finding the solution

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking

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 to fix issues. These issues manifest themselves into 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. Many riders, while trying to get a more efficient pedal stroke, 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 seatpost.  Suspension seatposts 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 typically helps 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 their pains can most 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.

A clipless pedal is a quick and easy upgrade to make your next ride better

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

There is a simple equation that always holds true with clipless pedals: control = comfort. By securing your feet in place with a clipless pedal you can use muscles more efficiently, relieve excessive strain on your feet and be connected to your bicycle more directly. Read on to see how easy it is to learn to ride “clipless”.

Before the clipless pedal, riders would install baskets and straps (toe clips) on their pedals.

Before the clipless pedal, bicycle riders would install baskets and straps (toe clips) on their pedals.

Why would you call a pedal that you clip into “clipless”? Before the clipless pedal, riders would install baskets and straps (toe clips) on their pedals. Then, in the 1970s, a company called Look used ski binding technology to create a pedal that would retain a rider’s foot and allowing them to free themselves easily. This invention was called the “clip-less” pedal because it did away with the need for toe clips. Today, there are many clipless pedal designs. Each one is suited for a different riding style, but function similarly.

Float

While your leg cycles through a pedal stroke it is common for your foot to rotate slightly. That foot rotation is because most people’s joints aren’t perfectly aligned. Therefore, to compensate for a foot’s normal rotation, clipless pedals allow your foot to rotate within the pedal without releasing the pedal. That designed rotation is called float, and measured in degrees

Spring Tension

Clipless pedals use a retention mechanism to hold the cleat in place. This retention mechanism needs to have enough spring tension to hold the cleat under effort, while still allowing the rider to easily disengage. Some pedals have adjustable spring tension while others are fixed.

Cleat Material

The cleats is the item attached to your shoe that clips into your pedal. So, the cleat material has a large influence on how easily they clip in, float, and clip out. The most common cleat materials are brass, steel, and plastic. Brass is a great wearing material, that corrodes at a very slow rate and clips in and out incredibly smoothly. Steel on the other hand, has an even greater wear life, but corrodes more quickly. Finally, Plastic cleats wear very quickly, but can be designed to clip in and out smoother than any other material.

Offroad pedals

The requirements of an offroad pedal are that they need to work in all conditions, use a small cleat, and be durable enough for the occasional rock strike. Because of these requirements most offroad pedals and cleats are made of metal to be very durable. They also have bodies that are designed to clear mud and debris easily. Of all the clipless pedals on the market the most popular pedal is the SPD. SPD pedals have an engagement mechanism on both sides, with adjustable tension and use a steel cleat. Another very popular brand is the Crank Brothers Egg Beater series. These pedals engage on 4 sides, use a brass cleat, but have no adjustment for tension.

Another great option for offroad riders is a platform pedal with a clipless mechanism built in (see image). That platform gives the rider foot stability and the ability to pedal while they work to clip in. Many riders who are new to clipless pedals love this option because of the stability it offers if you are clipped in or not.

Path

The benefits of clipless are something all riders can enjoy. Therefore, even if you are riding bike paths or rail trails, clipless could be good for you. With that in mind, the most popular type of clipless for recreational riders is the ½ and ½ pedal. The ½ and ½ have a clipless mechanism on one side, and a flat pedal on the other. This makes them versatile enough to clip in on longer rides, or just pedal around in sneakers for short spins. Like Offroad riders, some recreational riders like a clipless platform pedals for their versatility and stability.

Competitive road

For competitive road cyclists, the requirements of pedals are very specific. They need their pedals to direct all their effort into the bike without compromise. Therefore, road pedals have a larger platform and cleat than other pedals. Because of the very large cleat, road shoes have almost no tread on them. Additionally, most road cleats are made of plastic so they can hold tight under effort, but release easily. For road pedals the most popular brands are Shimano and Look which operate similarly. They both use plastic cleats, and have adjustable tension. The unique Speedplay pedal is another very popular pedal for road bikes. Speedplay is unique because they incorporate the retention mechanism into the cleat rather than the pedal and offer the largest amount of float of any brand.

Shoes

While on the subject of pedals, we should also talk about cycling shoes. Cycling shoes have a stiff sole to disperse pedaling pressures along the entire length of your foot. For competitive riders, the key to a good shoe is the stiffness of that sole. For more recreational riders, it is important to consider comfort over efficiency. Determining comfort on cycling shoes is different than that of normal shoes. First off, in cycling shoes, your feet are trying to pull out of the shoe throughout the pedal stroke. This means that you want the shoes to fit as snug as possible. It is OK for your toe to feather the front of the shoe if you try. Second, most cycling shoes are made of synthetic materials, which stretch over time. This means that they will only get bigger as you use them.

Notice, the cyclist in blue has clipless pedal making each pedal stroke easier.

Notice, the cyclist in blue has clipless pedal making each pedal stroke easier.

Good pedals and shoes can make a big difference in how comfortable your ride is. Be sure to find the right product for you, and practice how to use them.

Being visible is paramount to staying safe while riding and there are many different types of lights available to help with that pursuit. But, the king of them all is the Dynamo light.

A dynamo light is an upgrade you should consider for this fall!

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Being visible is paramount to staying safe while riding and there are many different types of lights available to help with that pursuit. But, the king of them all is the Dynamo light. Dynamo lights use a bicycle mounted generator for power, staying lit while riding at night and low visibility times of the day. Read on to learn how Dynamo systems work and why they are so dependable.

Dynamo Light: Where Does The Power Come From

With no battery, you generate power with your motion. For a Dynamo light to work you need to attach a generator to your bicycle. Generators are rated for either 3.0 watts to power both a headlight and taillight, or 2.4 watts to power just a headlight.

Generator types

The two main generator types are hub type and bottle type. The hub type is built into a front wheel and generates power as the front wheel spins. Bottle type generators mount onto a bikes frame or fork. Bottle generators have a small wheel that rests against the tire and generates electricity as the tire spins the wheel. Typically, the hub type generators have lower resistance than the bottle type and won’t wear out a tire as quickly. Bottle type generators are typically less expensive and can also be installed on your bike without rebuilding or replacing the front wheel. Another benefit of bottle type generators is that they can be disengaged during daylight hours so you can ride resistance free. That being said, as hub generators become more efficient and less expensive, the bottle generators are becoming less common.

Hub generator from Shimano and wheel generator from Busch + Müller (photo Courtesy of Busch + Müller)

Front Light types

Of all the light types on the market, high output LED headlights rule the roost. These HLED lights use very little power to deliver a ton of light. While we are talking about light, most headlight’s power are measured in LUX. The differences in power can be seen below. In addition to light while riding, most headlights have a capacitor to store power and allow the light to shine for a small period while the bike is stopped.

dynamo light

This is the same section of road under 20, 50, and 100 LUX lights

dynamo light

A few headlight options from Supernova and Busch + Müller

Rear light types

Rear lights use LEDs and blink while you ride. They can be mounted to the bicycle’s chainstay, seat post, or fender. These rear lights are typically wired from the front light, across the bike, and to the rear light. While it’s easy to run wiring through a bike built to accommodate them, it is difficult to cleanly run wiring on bikes not made for them.

Benefits

Lighting in general is one of the most important aspects of safety on the bike. While you don’t need a dynamo lighting system to be safe, they do offer some advantages over battery powered lights. First benefit is you can jump on your bike and go because you never need to charge a dynamo light like you do a battery system. Also, dynamo systems can be upgraded to charge products via a USB port. Finally, Dynamo lighting systems enjoy the feature of being extremely durable.

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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 because each noise is telling you what’s wrong. Here are some of the most common noises and their causes.

Annoying Noises from Corrosion

Before we get into the annoying noises themselves, we should talk about what causes them. Most annoying noises are caused from 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 will 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 either pedal or the entire crank, you should take your bike into a bike shop to have it serviced. If there isn’t any play, the creak is probably associated to 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 sort of 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 seatpost 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 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.

Squeak

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. Squeaks are usually caused by a lack of lubrication. Typically, a bearing’s rubber seal is rubbing 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 back pedaling. 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 squeak sometimes as well. To correct that just clean and lubricate your chain.

Brake Squeal

If you squeeze you 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 to 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 brake 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. 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 sand paper 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 over 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) simply 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 seatposts. 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 a good time 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 a little attention. The only consideration before entering into the project of noise tracking is how much time you want to devote to it. Hopefully these tips will give you the confidence to try.

Giving back to your cycling community you can enjoy some great ways to stockpile some good karma and it’s fun!

How to fix a flat tire on a bike is a skill every rider should have

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

One inevitability of riding a bicycle is that you will get a flat tire. With a little practice and planning, you will be able to fix a flat tire and finish your ride, without a problem. To be prepared, you will need a few tools and to practice how to fix a flat on your bicycle a few times to get it down. Read below for a step by step on how to change your first flat.

Learning how to fix a flat tire is a part of bicycling.  With a little practice and planning, you too can fix a tire and finish your ride.

Needed items to fix a flat tire

To easily fix a flat tire be sure to carry the following items:

Pump

fix a flat pump

Pumps come in many shapes and sizes. Most are portable in a jersey pocket or on the bike. Be sure to look for a pump that is capable of meeting your tires pressure.

Tube

Fix a Flat tire tire size

Tubes are sized specifically to tires. Find the right size tube for your bike by looking on the sidewall of your tire. Common sizes are 700×23 and 26×2.1″. Tire sizes above are underlined in red. Tires size may also be molded into the sidewall of the tire.

Patch kit

Fixing a flat patch kit

Patches seal small holes in innertubes. There are glueless versions and versions that require glue.

Tire lever

fix a flat tire levers

Tire levers come in many shapes and colors, but almost all of them include the same features – A shovel shaped end to scoop the tire bead off the rim, and a hooked end to secure the lever onto the wheel.

FIX A FLAT: Getting Started

The first step to fix a flat is to remove the wheel from your bike. Consult your bicycles owner’s manual for the proper way to remove the wheels.

Begin by removing all the remaining air from the tire. Depress the valve while squeezing the tire until all remaining air is out. Also try to push the bead of the tire into the rim well, doing this will make it easier to remove the tire from the rim.

Taking the Punctured Tube Out

Fixing a flat terminology

Tire, Rim, and Tire Lever Terminology

With the wheel in one hand and the tire lever in the other, try to position the shovel end of the tire lever under the bead of the tire. (see picture below)

fix a flat tire lever in action

Once the lever is positioned beneath the tires bead, push the hook side of the lever down (using the rim as the fulcrum) and lift the tires bead. Once you have lifted the bead with the tire lever, you should be able to push the lever around the perimeter of the rim, freeing one bead from within the rim. (See Video)

 

Some tire and rim combinations are too tight to allow this method. If you can’t make headway pushing the tire lever around the rim, use the hook side of the tire lever to capture a spoke. Use a second tire lever a few inches away from the first to remove the bead, the bead should be loose enough to remove easily at this time (see pictures below).

Remove the innertube and either patch it or take out a new one. Before installing a new innertube, run your fingers along the inside of the tire while inspecting an area a few inches in front of your fingers.(See Video)

You are looking for the object that caused the flat. You won’t always find something in the tire, either it fell out, or stayed in the road.

Installing a New Tube

When putting the innertube back in the tire, inflating it a little helps. Add enough air to give the tube shape, but not so much that it doesn’t fit into the tire

 

Start by putting the valve through the valve hole in the rim, then feed the rest of the tube into the tire.

Once the tube is in the tire, begin moving the tube into the rim well.

Begin at the valve, and feed the tire bead back into the rim well. It will be easy to get the bead moved over the edge of the rim initially, but will get progressively more difficult as you get farther away from the valve. It is normal for the last few inches of bead to be the most difficult to seat, don’t get discouraged and don’t attempt to use a tire lever to put the bead back. Tire levers can pinch and puncture innertubes. Instead of a tire lever, use your thumbs and the heel of your palm to force the bead back onto the rim. (See Video)

 

Once the tire and new innertub are reinstalled begin airing the tire up. Once there is a small amount of pressure in the tire, check to see if it is seated properly. A quick spin usually tells you visually if everything is even. (See Video)

If you are sure the tire is seated evenly, bring the tire up to pressure completely. Tire pressures are usually marked on the sidewall of the tire if you aren’t sure of how much to put in. Put the wheel back into the bike, reengage the brake, and you are off.

Summer fun for you and the kids is two wheels away. Here are the best ways to keep your kid's bike working well and operating safely.

Tips and tricks for keeping your kid’s bike running smooth and safe

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Summer fun for you and the kids is two wheels away.  It a time to bond, explore a new area of the neiborhood and maybe share some life lessons? Sadly, that fun can come to a premature end if your bike breaks down, or worse, you crash. Here are the best ways to keep your kid’s bike working well and operating safely.

How much air should you put in kid’s bike tires

Nothing will spoil a fun ride faster than a flat tire, and most flats are due to low tire pressure. Take a few minutes before your kids ride to help them check the tire pressure. If your kids don’t know how to use your pump, checking pressure is a great way to teach them. When considering a pump, remember you kid’ bike tires work best around 35psi so make sure your pump can easily hit that pressure.

Adjusting your kid’s bike brakes

The biggest key to control is braking. Adjusting brakes for children is a little different than for adults. Due to children’s small and relatively weak hands it is important to focus on the brake lever position before adjusting the brake. Ensure the lever is as close to the bar as possible (see image) and the spring tension on the brakes are as low as possible. You have it right if your kids can easily reach and squeeze the brake levers.

Lubing their chain

A dry chain will wear faster than one that is properly lubricated. Additionally, a dry and worn chain can break under stress. To avoid excess wear, be sure to lube the chain periodically in dry conditions and immediately after wet rides.

Inspect you kid’s bike for bent or broken parts

Every year, bike makers change bike designs to make them indestructible for kids. The following year, kids find new and interesting ways to destroy those bikes. Pay close attention to your kid’s bike for bent or broken parts. The most common parts that get bent are rear wheels, seats, handlebars, and rear derailleurs. The parts that most frequently get broken are brake levers, shifters, pedals, and reflectors (reflectors leave sharp sections of plastic behind). If anything is bent or broken, replace it immediately.

Also inspect tires for wear

Tires are more susceptible to flats when worn. The normal wear indicator for a tire is when the tread goes bald. Beyond tread wear there are a host of other indicators. Look for cracks in the tread or sidewall, threads coming loose, or bubbles in the tire. Worn tires should be replaced immediately.

Are the handlebar grips tight?

As rubber wears and ages, it becomes harder and less elastic. For grips, the softness and elasticity is what keeps the grips in place. Put your hands around the grip and twist hard. If the grip can rotate or move, get them replaced. Also, when a bike gets dropped on the ground the end of the grip can get torn. Once torn, that grip will leave the sharp end of the bar exposed with the potential to cut small riders in the event of a crash.

Is the seat adjusted and tight?

When riding, a stable seat allows your child to control the bike with their hips. If that saddle is loose, it can be difficult to control the bike. Check the saddle by grabbing it firmly, flexing up and down, and twisting. Be sure to tighten it if there is any movement.

How to bike fit your kid’s bike

Kids grow so quickly that it’s important to constantly check their fit in the bike.  Be sure they can easily pedal without their knees going to high. Also ensure that they aren’t reaching too low for the bars.

Proper helmet fit

The final bit of safety for riding is probably the most important. A helmet needs to fit properly to work well. If the straps are too tight or the shell is too small, it will be painful to wear and your child will try not to wear it. Additionally, always check for dents or cracks in helmets. It is possible to break a helmet without crashing on it. Most helmets are relatively inexpensive, so making sure they are comfortable enough for your kids to want to wear them is a small investment to keep them safe.