Author Archives: John Brown

I recently spent some time in Philadelphia. While there I enjoyed a few rides, but the most enjoyable one was Trek of Philadelphia’s Doughnut Ride.

Planning a casual doughnut ride for you and your friends

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking

Recently I spent some time in the cradle of liberty, Philadelphia. While there I enjoyed a few rides, but the most enjoyable one was Trek of Philadelphia’s Doughnut Ride. I was reminded of the joys of simple rides and good company, rather than difficult efforts and a competitive pace. Now with 30 days of Biking a few weeks away here is a fun idea you may want to consider with friends, as warmer weather moves our way.

The Doughnut Ride

We left the shop at 7:30 a.m. with a group of eight. Our bikes were a mishmash of road bikes, commuter rigs, single-speed, and an e-bike. When we departed the shop and headed toward the center city, it was immediately clear the pace would be conversational. Our cruise headed out on the river drive bike path, through Fairmount Park, and toward the center city. Rather than stay on the path, we crossed the falls bridge and onto West River Drive. On the weekends, Philadelphia closes West River Drive so we had our run of the entire roadway. After a bit of riding and a lot of talking, we found ourselves at the end of West River Drive and at the base of the Art Museum.

At the Art Museum, our ride began to slip through the surrounding neighborhoods until we reached our hallowed destination – Federal Doughnuts.

After stuffing our face with warm doughnuts we hopped back on our bikes. Full of sugar and fat, we made our way back to the bike shop along the same route. Ultimately, the ride took a little under two hours, including the time eating. Everyone had fun, the conversation was great, and we all got the chance to meet new people.

Why this ride works

The ride was great because the pace and route are clearly stated in advance. Therefore, everyone knew what to expect and where to go. The route itself was carefully chosen to promote great conversation and a casual pace. By including traffic-free paths and streets and a casual destination, every rider could enjoy the trip stress-free. Additionally, the pace is controlled by the ride’s start time. As an example, a competitive minded rider has a list of fast-paced rides leaving on Saturday morning, so there would be no need to come to the Doughnut Ride to try and get a killer workout with so many other options. From start to finish, this ride is a winner.

How to plan your own ride

If you already lead rides for a local club or shop, then setting up a casual ride should be easy for you. If this is your first attempt at leading an organized ride than there are a few things to keep in mind. First off, you want people to be at your ride! To make sure you have attendees, start talking about and advertising (if you’re working with a local club or shop) a minimum of two weeks in advance. Also, make sure all your information explains the pace as well as the payoff (in this case doughnuts) for your ride to build interest. Finally, make sure your route is friendly to a group of riders. As an example, I’ve been on a few rides that required riders to be single file almost the entire time due to narrow roadways. in contrast, the Doughnut ride promoted conversation with wide paths and clear roads.

According to Paul T., Perennial Cycle in Minneapolis does a great job with these types of rides and has a lot of them. Watch for the upcoming events there this season.

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 to 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. 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 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 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.

For every new bike there are bike accessories you should consider getting. Accessories will make you more comfortable, more informed, and more prepared.

Quick vacation tips for renting a bicycle and having some fun

by John Brown, 

Taking your bicycle with you when you travel is not always possible, but don’t give up on the idea of riding altogether. Renting a bicycle is an easy way to experience new places. Plus, it gives you a chance to try a new bike out that you may want to buy when you get home. Before you travel, here are a few tips to get you going.

Here in the photo above a visitor to the Twin Cities is being helped by the staff at One Ten Cycles in Mendota Heights, a couple of miles south of the MSP Airport.

 Renting a Bicycle At One of Many Bike Shops

As bike trails and paths are becoming more commonplace, more bike shops are entering the rental market. Before you travel, find a few area bike shops and call about renting a bicycle. Be sure to ask about both rental fleets (typically made up of basic mountain bikes, cruisers or hybrids) as well as “Demo” bikes. Many shops that don’t rent bikes have demo units used to let potential buyers try before they buy. The fee for a demo is usually higher than that of a standard rental, but the bicycle quality is also typically higher.

renting a bicycle bike shop

Renting a bicycle outside a bike shop

Renting a Bicycle Consider Rental Companies

In most major cities or tourist destinations, there are businesses that only rent bikes. Finding one of these companies is as easy as a google search or ask the hotel you are staying in. Many rental companies have services in place to deliver a rental bike to the hotel. If you are going to the rental shop understand They usually operate on a first come first serve basis, so be sure to get there early if you are trying to ride on a busy weekend.

renting a bicycle avalon

Rental fleet

Or Bike Share Programs

Bike shares are becoming very popular throughout the US and abroad. Companies like BCycle, Zagster, and Citi bike offer options to rent “as you go” with tons of locations around the US. Bike shares are a great option if you are touring a city because you can pick up a bike in one location, explore, and then drop the bike off at a docking station any time of day or night.

renting a bicycle citibike

Citi Bike docking station

Renting a Bicycle Touring Companies Also A Option

Many bike tour companies have bike fleets. Tour companies such as Trek Travel and Backroads offer tours around the globe and supply bikes as part of the cost. The benefit of taking a dedicated tour is support. Lodging, Equipment, route, food, and guides are all included in the cost of the trip.

Getting Comfortable

The most important trick to make sure you have a great bike rental experience is to make sure the bicycle is comfortable. Your own pedals, saddle, and the right size bike are a great way to start.

     -Size

If you don’t have a bike, ask for the brand and model of the bike from the rental company. Then, try to find a local bike shop that sells that model. If you stop into the shop and explain your situation, they can typically let you know what size you ride. As a side benefit, If you like the bike you rented, that local bike shop would be a great place to buy one to keep at home.

     -Pedals

If you use clipless pedals, remove them from your bike, drop them in a ziplock bag, store them in your riding shoes, and bring them with you. Once you get your rental bike, have your pedals installed. Having a familiar pedal can go a long way to make a new bike feel like your bike at home.

     -Position

Measure your saddle height. Do this by rotating your pedals until a crank arm is in line with the seat tube of your bicycle. Use a tape measure to measure from the top of the saddle to the middle of the pedal (in line with the seat tube). Also, measure the distance from the tip of your saddle to the handlebars and the height of your handlebars. Once you get your rental, ask to have it adjusted to be as close to your own bike’s measurements as possible. Keep in mind that one bike will never fit exactly like another, so close is great.

Renting a bicycle measurments

Key measurements

     -Saddle

After measuring the height of your saddle, remove it from your bike and bring it with you. Having the rental company install your saddle on the rental is a nice way to make an unfamiliar bicycle comfortable.

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Minnesota River bottoms, Bloomington’s natural trail network

John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

It was the summer of 1849, the first Bloomington Ferry began operations next to the Minnesota River bottoms. It carried people from the Bloomington shores to Shakopee. Exactly 40 years later, the first Bloomington Ferry Bridge was opened. Following that, versions of that bridge carried people, carriages, and motorists across the river for over 100 years. The current pedestrian bridge is a beautiful arch, spanning the Minnesota River and connecting Bloomington to the Highway 101 trail to Shakopee. The Bridge is also the starting point for The Minnesota River Bottoms trail. The River Bottoms are some of the metro areas last natural trails, popular for mountain biking, hiking, fishing and bird watching.

Minnesota River Bottoms

Bikes on the Bloomington Ferry Bridge, near the trailhead of the Minnesota River Bottoms

What are the Minnesota river bottoms

The Minnesota River bottoms are worn in by the riders, hikers, and runners who frequent them

The “River Bottoms” to locals, is a trail network stretching from the southwest corner of Bloomington, all the way to the trails of Fort Snelling State Park. These trails are worn in by the riders and runners who frequent them. While under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, they are not maintained by any government entity. Due to the fact that the “River Bottoms” aren’t maintained by any organization, the trails often take on a “path of least resistance” or direction. It is not uncommon for new trails to spring up after heavy rains and high river flooding. While riding, expect exclusively dirt trails with some log crossings, sand sections, and occasional overgrowth. Warning, pay particular attention for the Urtica Dioica plants, or stinging nettles, growing on infrequently used trails from June through August.

Wildlife of the Minnesota River Bottoms

Bikers, birdwatchers and hikers can enjoy the wildlife sightings along the banks of the Minnesota River.

Bikers, birdwatchers, and hikers can enjoy the wildlife sightings along the banks of the Minnesota River.

The River Bottoms are great for all types of recreation. It’s not uncommon to see hikers, bird watchers and people fishing along the banks of the Minnesota River. I have enjoyed sharing with my son the sights of Bald eagles and Beavers who make the watershed their home. Additionally, being a natural area, the River Bottoms are home to countless animals.

What to expect

There are a few popular entrances to the River Bottom trail, Lyndale Ave, Crest Ave, and Old Cedar Ave. These entrances offer ample parking and a clear trailhead. Once you start down the trail you will see that nothing is paved but worn-in enough to be firm under your tires. While a mountain bike is best for these trails, wider tires on Hybrids and adventure bikes navigate well. If you need to cross a stream, there are bridges or a ferry (at 9-mile creek) to get you around. Because the River Bottoms are so smooth, they are an ideal place to take kids mountain biking.

The Minnesota River bottoms are worn in by the riders, hikers, and runners who frequent them

You will find runners who frequent the natural settings of the Minnesota River bottoms

When to ride

Spring, summer, winter or fall the Minnesota River bottoms is a natural haven for cyclists

The best part of the River Bottoms is that it is one of the first places to dry out each spring. It is also one of the first places to freeze when winter rolls through. Avoid this trail in early spring as the trails thaw and after a strong rain. Other than that, these trails are sandy enough to drain quickly. One of the best things about the river bottoms is riding fat bikes. There in the winter, in fact, fat bikes can trace their development directly to the river bottom. When the snow falls, the river bottoms are the perfect mixture of flat trail, bermed turns, and accessibility to create a near-perfect winter track.

We in the twin cities are lucky to have a place like the river bottoms to ride. The fact that it is left free to change and natural is unique in a metro area. To that point, there are user groups that are working against the eventual possibility of developing the river bottom area. Whatever your opinion is on development, get into the wilds of the River Bottoms and enjoy this local treasure.

No matter how brave you are sometimes weather conditions keep you from conquering those trails. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to have fun with indoor biking.

Indoor biking is fun and effective training through the winter

by John Brown

No matter how brave you are sometimes weather conditions keep you from conquering those trails with indoor biking. This is especially true as the mercury drops and turns our beloved Earth into something reminiscent of the Russian front. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to have fun with indoor biking.

Indoor Biking with a Spin Class

Most gyms offer spin classes. These classes use a stationary bicycle, music, and instructors to guide a class through about a 1-hour workout. Spin classes are a source of indoor biking, and it gets you out of the house.

There are, however, a few downsides with spin classes to keep in mind. One issue is that a spin bike won’t fit the same as your own bike. To fix this, many riders will install their own saddle and pedals on a spin bike before each class. The other potential problem is that the classes are not tailored to your personal goals. The classes are usually high tempo, high effort workouts that might not fit with your training plan. Some riders find they like the community of spin class but not the specific ride, so they opt-in or out of certain portions of the workout.

Riding your bike indoors spin class

Indoor biking with a spin class

Using an Indoor Trainer

Riding an indoor trainer has gotten much more popular for riders of all ability levels, and it’s the kind of indoor biking where you can use your own bike. A trainer is a device that holds your bicycle upright, creates resistance when pedaling, and simulates an outdoor ride while riding your bike indoors. Using an Indoor trainer, you can ride from the comfort of your own home, or in a group setting (most bike shops have trainer nights through the winter).

Riding you bike indoors trainer class

Indoor Trainer Group Ride

There is usually a leader when riding with a group, but if riding alone, you can still have fun. It’s best to start with a plan. If you intend to just get on the trainer and ride for 60 minutes while watching TV, I hate to break it to you, but that quickly gets boring. So how do you keep the ride fun? First, you cannot rely on terrain to supply stimulus so you must create your own intrigue. There are no hills, descents, turns, or beautiful vistas to keep you interested. But you can use your trainer to mimic the efforts of a great outdoor ride.

How to Build a Ride

As an example, let’s describe a normal outdoor ride, then create a workout to mimic that ride on the trainer. The ride starts by carving through a neighborhood on our way to open roads. Snaking through our neighborhood would require some turning, braking and acceleration (a great natural warm-up), so on the trainer, you would do something like:

  • Pedal in an easy gear for one minute
  • Then for the two subsequent minutes, increase your pedaling speed (called Cadence)
  • Follow that by slowing that cadence down over the next two minutes.
  • Repeating that two or three times is a great way to get your legs moving

The next obstacle on our imaginary ride is a hilly section of the road. To mimic hilly terrain when riding your bike indoors, try the following:

  • Shift into a harder gear and pedal at 80% of your maximum effort for 2 or three minutes
  • Followed that by one or two minutes of soft pedaling (hard effort for the climb, followed by no effort on the descent).
  • Repeat this type of interval in groups of three.

Finally, our ride concludes with a series of city line sprints (earn those bragging rights over your friends). To simulate this action, try the following:

  • Shift your bicycle into a difficult gear
  • Ride at 80% effort for one minute
  • Then sprint all out (max effort) for fifteen to twenty seconds.
  • Follow each effort with some soft-pedaling.

Workout Example

A written cue sheet of this ride would look like the following:

5-Min. warm-up

1-Min. 50% effort low cadence                                                                                                                       1-Min. 50% effort medium cadence                                                                                                           1-1-Min. 50% effort High cadence                                                                                                                 1-1-Min. 50% effort Medium cadence                                                                                                               1-Min. 50% effort low cadence                                                                                                                                     Repeat 3x

4-Min, soft pedal

3-Min. 80% effort                                                                                                                                             2-Min. soft-pedal                                                                                                                                                          Repeat 3x                          

4-Min. soft-pedal

1-Min. 80 effort                                                                                                                                               15-Second sprint                                                                                                                                             45-Second soft-pedal                                                                                                                                                  Repeat 4x                           

9-min. cool down with drills

A ride like the one above takes one hour, keeps you moving, and only involves hard effort for ¼ of the ride. By switching up different intervals of effort and rest, indoor biking can be beneficial and very fun.

Trainer Pitfalls

Time on the trainer can be very beneficial to your riding, however, it can also be very hard on you if done improperly. When riding outdoor, you have natural portions of rest while coasting or descending, but on an indoor trainer you cannot coast. People tend to pedal at effort on a trainer throughout the entire ride and overdo it. A good rule of thumb is to balance high effort with rest at a three to one ratio. If a ride calls for 10 total minutes at 80% effort, be sure to include 30 total minutes of low effort work.

riding your bike indoors tired

Too Tired!

Low Effort, High Benefit Drills

How do you keep the ride interesting without effort? Try including drills like one leg drills, high cadence drills, spin up drills, top only drills, and toe touch drills. These require very little effort but build new skills.

bike indoors

One leg Drill

  • One leg drills – As they sound, these drills are done with one leg (see above). Clip your right leg out of your pedal, hang it away from the bike, and pedal with only your left leg. Try to get the pedal stroke to be as smooth as possible, without any noise or bumps.
  • Spin-up drill – With your bike in an easy gear, try to spin the pedals as quickly as possible. Keep increasing your cadence until your upper body begins to bounce, then taper back to a normal speed. Repeat, each time trying to get faster while keeping your upper body still (this whole drill takes about 30 seconds per spin-up).
  • High-cadence drill – With your bike in an easy gear, spin at the fastest cadence you can without your upper body bouncing. Hold that cadence for one or two minutes.
  • Top only drills – Try to pedal using light effort and attempt to keep the top of your foot in contact with the top of your shoe throughout the pedal rotation. You won’t actually be pressing down on the pedal during this drill, but instead pulling up.
  • Toe touch drills – While pedaling, attempt to touch your toe to the front of your shoe at the top of each pedal stroke. While this isn’t possible, it will help teach your body to begin the pedal stroke earlier in its rotation.

With a little research and a little experimentation, indoor biking can keep you satisfied while you wait for the weather to get better.

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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

Summer fun for you and the kids is two wheels away. It is a time to bond and explore a new area of the neighborhood and maybe share some life lessons? Sadly, that fun can come to a premature end if the 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 in 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 your 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 are 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.

It's Saturday, you know what that means! Miles of Smiles Saturday is here again! This is the last weekend of March! April is quickly approaching!

Making your next group ride fun and safe with these tips

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

With summer officially here in the next couple days, I hope you have plans to ride with family and friends. As you get your bike ready, before heading out on a group ride it is a good idea to brush up on your local traffic laws. Bicycles are given the same rights and requirements as cars in most municipalities. This becomes even more important as you ride in a group. So drive your bike as if it is a car. Be cognizant of stopping at all traffic lights, stop signs, and crosswalks. Ride with the flow of traffic in a manner that is as safe and predictable as possible.

Group ride rules

What to expect on your group ride – Know the rules!

Group rides are typically categorized by speed and distance. If you are joining a ride, investigate the route and ensure that the group will be riding at a speed you can manage. In the case where you are organizing a group ride with friends, it is helpful to share the route and expected speed with all riders beforehand. Additionally,  many rides are categorized as “No-Drop” rides. A  “No-Drop” ride is one where everyone rides together for the duration of the ride. If a ride is not categorized as “No-Drop” the group is under no expectation to wait for riders who cannot keep up.

As a side note for people putting together their own rides with friends. Try to find riders who are all about the same level of fitness and have similar interests. Similar interests help foster great conversation and similar fitness maintains the group connection.

It’s not a race

The best part of a group ride is the shared experience of rolling through the countryside together. Whereas there are some group rides designed to see who is king of the mountain. But most are designed to use the strengths of a group to add to safety and efficiency. Trying to go at full speed and drop all those around you will only do damage to a great group ride and friendships.

Hold your line

group ride turning

In a group ride, you are responsible for the safety of yourself and those around you. Those around you are also responsible for your safety. Consider the group before You make decisions or change direction. While riding solo, you naturally carve through the apex of a turn to maximize speed and maintain momentum. In a group, you cannot cut the corner like this. You need to offer as much space as the rider to the right or left of you needs to complete the turn.

Ride close

group ride two by two

Ride to the right. Two by two.

This is probably the most important tip for riding in a group. Ride two by two, side by side as close to the other riders as you and they feel comfortable with. By riding in this formation, you can be more efficient while still allowing traffic to move seamlessly around you.

Give warning

Unless you are first in line, you can’t see what obstacles may be coming down the road. As the rider up front, it is your responsibility to let the riders behind you know if the group encounters grates, potholes, other riders, pedestrians or automobiles. Usually, a simple hand signal will work, a quick wave of the hand lets riders behind you know what’s happening. As a rider who is following, it is requisite of you to signal to riders behind you the signals you see ahead. You can call out the obstacle but in many cases, the riders behind you may not hear your voice.

Ride confidently and safely

As you ride with a group more and more, natural confidence and comfort will develop. Stay alert, as you become more comfortable in the group it’s possible to lose focus on yourself and those around you. Always remember to pay attention and follow the tips above – drive your bike just like your car.

Discovering how things work here is a group of neighborhood kids learning about bicycle maintenance. 

Teaching your child the ancient art of bicycle maintenance

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

As a parent and tinkerer, one of the most fun activities I share with my two boys is teaching them how things work. Now that my older son is riding more and helping me reviewing a bike for HaveFunBiking, the time has come to teach him how a bike works. Almost everybody gets the basics, but after 20 years working in shops, I want to give as much of my experience to him as possible. Take a look at my plan for teaching my sons bicycle maintenance.

This father, son team assemble a bike for a school program.

Here this father, son team assemble a new bike for a school program.

Safety first in bicycle maintenance

Like wearing a helmet when riding a bike, working on a bike has safety gear as well. Eye protection is a must. With safety glasses on the next step is to show your child the danger zones on a bike. Spinning wheels, spinning brake rotors, along with the crank, chain and cogs are all dangerous to little fingers. Teach your children to stay away from those areas when the bike is moving. On that subject, it is also important for kids to wear clothing that is snug fitting. Loose clothing can get caught in moving parts.

bicycle maintenance

Caution areas are highlighted in red. These are the places fingers can get pinched.

Tools of the trade in bicycle maintenance

The next step is to teach your kid what the tools are and how to use them. Bikes only use a few different tools like, metric hex wrenches, screwdrivers, and metric box wrenches. First show you child how to hold each tool for best leverage, and what part of the tool engages with the bike. Then, show them where each tool fits on the bike before beginning the fix.

bicycle maintenance

Hex wrenches, box wrenches, and screwdrivers used by professional bike mechanics across the country.

Having fun with bicycle maintenance

Now that the safety and instruction portions are over, make the process fun! Your kid is more than likely dying to get their hands (and wrenches) on the bike as quickly as possible, so let them have at it. Considering you gave them the safety and function basics already, their exploration of the bike will be safe and enlightening. Once they play a little, ask your kid to teach you how the bike works! Have them exercise their brain and logic by explaining how the bike functions.

Teaching a little at a time

It’s easy for parents to get overzealous when teaching. If you are mechanically inclined, sharing that gift with your kids can be exciting, but try not to overwhelm them. Feel comfortable stopping the lesson when they loose interest. I like to start teaching with the rear brake (assuming it is a rim brake). The rear brake usually needs adjustment, and is a rather simple example of how the rest of the bike functions. Once the rear brake is dialed, and your kid is comfortable with the process, have them adjust the front brake.

Next, I start teaching about how to adjust the shifting system. Hopefully you and your child had a good conversation when they “taught” you how the shifting worked, because that conversation is a great baseline for teaching how to adjust the shifting. Because of the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur, start with the rear shifting first. Once they get the hang of that move to the front derailleur.

After the bike is functioning properly, teach your kids how to adjust the seat, bars and controls. You may ask why I would recommend the simple adjustments last? Simple answer, these adjustments require the most leverage and are best saved for once your child is practiced at using the tools.

Test ride

Once you child completes the adjustments, it’s time to take a test ride. Have your kid test ride in a supervised area away from traffic (like a driveway). Once the test ride is complete, make any additional adjustments needed, and be sure all the hardware is tight.

bicycle maintenance

Test rides are fun!

Learn through mistakes

Most of the fun of learning to work on bikes (or anything for that matter) is the process. Nobody gets it right on the first try, and all of us learn from the mistakes along the way. In fact, the mistakes are more valuable than the successes. So the most important part of teaching your kids to work on bikes is to let them make mistakes and be a resource for the solutions if needed.

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

by John Brown

With summer in full swing, consider taking center stage by wearing clothing that makes you more visible to others while riding your bike or walking. Being noticed by others is the key to avoiding accidents. There are two forms, passive and active visibility to focus on. 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 on the spent under the sun while riding a bike. Here are a few tips to keep you safe and visible whenever you ride.

Clothing that makes you more visible

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 highly visible 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 color, so you are sure to be noticed.

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

Lights

Many companies are recommending riders use their lights during the day as well as 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

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 as 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 try to make 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 it 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 colorful clothing. Because kids 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 accident and keep your ride fun and safe.

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 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 it’s 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 its 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 the frame of your bicycle 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.