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 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.

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 lessen 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, for added comfort and safety here is a list of items that will make your ride safer and a few items that will make easier to function at work or class properly once you are there. 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 typically, self-preservation keeps us upright on our bike, while commuting we need to consider there is a vast amount of other actions we need to protect our self 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, have become lighter, fit better, and are more comfortable than ever before.

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. Additionally, 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 make 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. In order 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, a lot of 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 very popular for their casual look and the advent of pockets. There are even cycling skirts (called skorts) that offer excellent comfort and 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 the 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 critically think without major distraction.

Kids 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 the 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 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

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.

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.

Staying dry with waterproof clothing is a sure fire way to stay comfortable

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Biking in the rain as spring arrives, staying dry is the most important and difficult part of riding. The best way to keep dry is to wear waterproof clothing. While most synthetic fabrics still insulate when wet, being wet diminishes their ability to keep you warm. Therefore, a waterproof jacket and pants are a great way to start, but waterproof socks and gloves make the outfit complete. While a lot of materials are naturally waterproof, once 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,” read on to understand that all waterproofing is not the same.

Waterproof Clothing and Gear for Staying Dry

To keep water out, look for waterproof clothes that have sealed or welded seams (see image). Also, look for waterproof zippers (pictured) or large flaps that prevent water from driving through the zipper. Make sure all the cuffs are adjustable enough to be snugged tight against your skin.

Examples of cycling clothes with taped seams (Left), welded seams (Center), and a waterproof zipper (Right)

A waterproof garment is measured in mm of fluid. For example, a fabric that was 5,000  mm waterproof is tested as follows. The fabric is placed over the end of a long tube. Following that, the tube is filled with 5,000 mm of water and the fabric needs to support the pressure without leaking. Take a look at the table below for a quick reference.

Rating Resistance Weather Conditions
0 mm – 1,500 mm Water resistant/snowproof Dry conditions or very light rain
1,500 mm – 5,000 mm Waterproof Light to average rain
5,000 mm – 10,000 mm Very Waterproof Moderate to heavy rain
10,000 mm- 20,000 mm Highly Waterproof Heavy rain

 Breathe Sweat Out

In addition to measuring waterproofness, textiles are also measured for their ability to breath water vapor out. Breathable means that water vapor (sweat) being produced by your body can escape through the fabric. Breathable fabrics work because water vapor is smaller than water droplets. In order to breath, the material will be perforated with holes small enough to stop water droplets from getting in, but large enough to allow water vapor to escape.

Breathability is important because, as far as insulation is concerned, it’s just as bad to get soaked with sweat as with rain. Therefore, using a breathable material in tandem with base layers designed to pull moisture off your skin is a sure fire way to stay dry and warm.

Breathability is expressed in terms of how many grams (g) of water vapor can pass through a square meter (m2) of the fabric from the inside to the outside in a 24 hour period. To that effect, the larger the number, the more breathable the fabric. For example, a coat with 5,000 gsm breathability, 5,000 grams of water pass through a square meter of the fabric.

Waterproof even when it isn’t raining

During the spring thaw snow melts during the day and freezes again at night. In my commutes, during the thaw, I focus on wearing waterproof clothing to keep warm. The rivers of salty water I end up riding through would soak any non-waterproof clothing rendering it useless.

When Waterproof is Not Important

As the temperature rises, waterproofing becomes less and less important. It’s less important because, at a certain temperature, waterproof materials cannot breathe enough to keep you dry. Therefore, if it rains hard enough, and it’s warm enough, you’re going to get wet.

In the spring and fall, be sure to have your waterproof gear ready. The cool temps and wet conditions can be very dangerous if you aren’t prepared. Being dry is the #1 way to maintain your comfort and safety while riding in inclement conditions.

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 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 areas of a bicycle 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 amounts of lubricant between the links of the chain 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

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

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You can't be with your bike at all times. Therefore,  you'll have leave it unattended once and a while. Read on for some info on the different type and style of bicycle locks and other tips to ensure your bike's safety.

Bike locks vary, how to pick the right one for your bicycles safety

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

You can’t be with your bike at all times. Therefore,  you’ll have to leave it unattended once and a while. That doesn’t mean you can’t take precautions to protect it. Read on for some info on the different type and style of bicycle locks and other tips to ensure your bike’s safety.

Types of Bike Locks

Not all situations require the same level of security. Also, there isn’t a lock in existence that a motivated person can’t get through.  Therefore, there are many different types of locks for different situations. Picking the right lock should dissuade a potential thief from even trying to take your bike.

U-Lock

The strongest bike locks are U-locks. They consist of a steel bar, bent in a ‘U’ shape, that fits into a straight locking mechanism. These locks are also resistant to bolt cutters and hacksaws, and a potential thief would need a lot of uninterrupted time and loud tools to get through one. Many U-locks offer an insurance program where the lock manufacturer will pay you to replace your bike if it is stolen. All you have to do is register your bike.

 

Chains

Chain locks are also popular. While some chains can be cut with bolt cutters, some versions rival the strongest U-locks in durability. Chains use hardened steel links and padlocks to keep your bike secure and offer a lot of flexibility in what you can lock your bike to. Look for versions that have some sort of covering over the chain (either rubber or fabric), because it goes a long way in protecting the finish of your bicycle.

Cables

The least secure lock is a cable lock. Cable locks use steel cables with built-in key or combination mechanisms to secure your bike. These locks are great for stopping someone from grabbing your bike and running off with it. But if a thief is prepared and motivated, they can cut through these locks in a few seconds. However, cables do offer the greatest flexibility in what you can lock your bike to.

How to Lock

Location, Location, Location

First and foremost: Lock your bike in a secure location. The ideal location is in plain sight with a lot of traffic. The more conspicuous a thief needs to be stealing your bike, the lower the chance is of them trying to take it. And always remember to lock your bike to something secure. For example, a parking meter might look secure, but if an industrious thief has removed the hardware that secures the meter to the post, they can quickly slide your bicycle and lock up the post and be on their way. So search for immovable objects like a bike rack that’s bolted to the ground.

lock it up rack booby trap

This bike rack was cut and taped back together by a bike thief. Be sure what you lock to is secure.

Protect Your Bike Parts

Bikes are built with quick-release wheels and seats. It’s fine to lock the frame, but a thief might just take a front or rear wheel if available. If you are using a cable or chain, lace it through both wheels, the frame, and whatever you’re locking the bike to. If you’re using a U-lock, then remove the front wheel and place it next to the rear wheel. Then capture both wheels and the frame when you lock it up. Many manufacturers make component-specific locks that secure your wheels or seat to the bicycle frame.

Lock it up Frame and QR lock

Frame locks, and locks that replace your wheel’s quick-release levers are common on commuter bicycles

If you follow these tips then you’ll be on your way to making sure your bike isn’t stolen, and it’ll be one less thing for you to worry about.

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Balance bikes are sweeping the world as the best way to teach children to ride bikes. What is a balance bike and how does it work? Balance bikes are designed to teach kids the most difficult portion of riding – Balance.

Balance bikes are a great way for kids to adapt to a life of riding

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Balance bikes are sweeping the world as the best way to teach children to ride bikes. What is a balance bike and how does it work? Balance bikes look a lot like a normal bike with two wheels, frame, seat, and handlebars. What you won’t see on a balance bike a crank, chain or pedals. Balance bikes are designed to teach kids the most difficult portion of riding – Balance.

Balance bikes for fitness and fun

The best way to get kids excited about their balance bike is to make sure it fits them and it’s fun. To adjust the fit, start by loosening the seat and dropping it all the way down. Next, have your child stand over the bike and lift the saddle until it makes contact with their backside. Tighten the seat at that height. Once the seat height is set, adjust the handlebars to a comfortable position for your child. They should be able to reach out normally and hold the grips. If they look as if their arms are too high (this will fatigue them prematurely) lower the bars. Inversely, if the child is reaching too far down, raise them.

balance bike sizing

So once the bike is fit right, be sure to make it fun! In short, make sure the bike is what the child wants it to be. Stickers, colored tape, bags, bells or horns work great to customize your child’s balance bike for them.

Safety

A balance bike is a bike and should be treated as such. This means you want to practice in a flat safe area free of traffic, wear a helmet and be careful of obstacles.

Start out fun

Starting out on the balance bike can be intimidating for your kids. Try to keep it fun. Kids love motorcycle sounds and wheelies. In my 15 years working in a bike shop, I never once ran into a kid who didn’t like getting pushed around on a bike while making motorcycle noises. If you can add a wheelie to the mix, all the better. Even if the first rides aren’t very long, be sure to stop as soon as it’s not fun. 5 to 10-minute rides may seem short but are totally acceptable.

Support the child not the bike

While helping your child with their balance bike, remember that the goal is for your children to understand how to balance WITH the bike. This is different from balancing ON TOP of the bike. A great way to help this is to support the children by the shoulders rather than holding the seat and handlebars. If you support the child, they will learn to use the bike to help them balance. If you hold the bike stable, the kids have more trouble feeling what real bicycle balance is.

Pedals aren’t all bad

All our talk about balance makes it sound like pedals at the young age are a bad thing, That’s not the case. Bikes with training wheels or tricycles have a great place in teaching kids how to pedal. The action of pedaling forward is not as difficult to learn as balance, but the frustration of not being able to do it can hamper a child’s move from balance bike to pedal bike.

What age

Balance bikes come in many different sizes. The smallest sizes can accommodate kids as young as 18 months. Before picking a balance bike, have the child stand over it. You want some clearance between the child and the bike, and a comfortable distance from the seat to handlebars. Most Balance bikes will top out sizes for kids around 6.

Transitioning to a full-size bike

In a few stories, you will hear about the kid who got off his balance bike, mounted his new pedal bike, and pedaled away. It’s a great story, but not too common. Transitioning to a pedal bike takes a little effort. Start in a similar fashion to the balance bike – Fit and Fun. Adjust the pedal bike’s seat and handlebar. Next step is to explain how the bikes brakes work. With a balance bike kids can become accustomed to stopping by dragging their feet, so it’s important to show them how the pedal bike stops. Next step is to let them ride while supporting them by the shoulders and let them pedal around. Once they feel comfortable pedaling, you can let go. You will find they have almost no issues riding and the transition from balance to a pedal bike will happen within a day.

Make your bike a balance bike

After all this, you’re probably asking yourself “Why can’t I just pull the pedals of my child’s bike and use that as the balance bike?” The truth is, you can do that.

Pulling the pedals off a bike will give you a lot of the same benefits as a balance bike. The shortcomings of doing that are pedal bikes are wider than balance bikes and make it more difficult for the child to push off. Pedal bikes are also heavier than balance bikes. Pushing around the extra weight of a pedal bike can be difficult for smaller riders.

However, you choose to teach your kids to balance, keep it fun.

What do you do when it feels colder outside than a stare from your ex-girlfriend? I’m talking super cold, like dark side of the moon cold. Well here are our best tips for managing frostbite cold weather on you bike.

Tips and tricks for riding in the cold weather of zero degrees

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

We at HaveFunBiking are nearly experts at riding in cold weather. Being from Minnesota, it’s a bit of a necessity to manage the cold. For most places in the country, cold means down near freezing, but what do you do when it feels colder than a stare from your ex-girlfriend? I’m talking super cold, like the dark side of the moon cold. Well here are our best tips for managing frostbite and cold weather on your bike.

Cold weather riding be realistic

Being realistic is the most important thing. When the temperature gets perilously cold, your ride can go from fun to life-threatening in a matter of minutes. Start by figuring out the route and a few bail-out points along the way if things go wrong. Next, make sure that your ride isn’t beyond your level of gear (more on that next). Finally, be sure that you know which direction the weather is going, cold weather is a way different thing to handle if it’s cold and windy, or cold and snowing.

Get the right gear for cold weather riding

Riding in temps approaching and dipping below zero requires very different equipment than riding in temps just below freezing. While you can often use the same jacket, pants, tights, and insulating layers, keeping extremities warm becomes a new challenge.

-goggles

In temperatures below 5 degrees, your eyes will water, and those tears will freeze. Both dangerous and uncomfortable the best way to combat frozen eyes is ski goggles. I find ski goggles to work better than sunglasses because they are typically more resistant to fogging, cover a larger area, and seal around your eyes.

-balaclava

A balaclava (or ski mask) will cover everything on your head but your eyes. It can protect your nose, cheeks, neck, and ears from frigid winter temps. Additionally, they are usually relatively thin, so fitting them under a helmet is more comfortable. To find one that fits well, make sure it will cover your face quickly, but also be able to stretch open enough to expose your mouth and nose (see image below).

There are tons of exercises, drills and products to help you keep your fitness through the winter riding months.

-boots

Keeping your feet warm is paramount to keeping you warm, and nothing works better than winter boots. There are plenty of winter hiking boots that you can use with flat pedals and a few cycling specific winter boots that work clipped in. In both cases, be sure that the footwear is waterproof.

-gloves or pogies

Claw style gloves work best to keep your hands warm. They bundle your fingers together to conserve heat. I also like to get super thin wool glove liners and use them in conjunction with my winter claw gloves. This first layer can stay on your hands if you ever need to take the outer gloves off. If the gloves and liners aren’t cutting it, you can also look to pogies. A pogie is something that mounts to the bike around the handlebars and creates a warm little pocket.

Highland Claw

Details of the Highland Claw.

Pogies are awesome when things get frigid cold.

-hand and foot warmers

Another great accessory that helps keep your hands and feet warm is a chemical warmer. Readily available at most outdoor stores, these warmers react with the oxygen in the are to create heat. When using them, open them and leave them exposed to the air for a few minutes before shoving them in your glove for best results.

Start warm

I’ve talked in the past about starting a bit cold for winter riding. While this is good advice for the high freezing temperatures, your body will have serious issues creating enough warmth once the temps revolve near zero. Wear enough to be warm walking outside, and your ride will be pleasant. Also, store your clothes and gear in a warm place. Leaving your boots an gloves in a cold garage is a sure fire way to freeze yourself out.

Waterproof

Being dry is being warm at super cold temperatures. For this reason, waterproof clothing helps a ton. Waterproof gloves, boots, jackets, pants, and gaiters will keep the water out and warmth inside.

Having fun

Above almost all else, a positive attitude will keep things fun in the cold weather. That positive attitude also helps if you need to cut rides short. Be appreciative for the time you had to ride vs. the time you wanted to spend outdoors. You may only get 40 minutes, so enjoy it.

There are tons of exercises, drills and products to help you keep your fitness through the winter riding months.

Fun and fitness when winter bike riding is not your thing

by John Brown

Snow, ice and cold are excellent conditions for Fat Biking, but how do you keep your fitness if fat biking isn’t your thing? Luckily, there are tons of exercises, drills, and products to help you keep you in shape through the winter months.

winter riding

Fun is fat through the winter

Off the bike fitness ideas

Even the smallest efforts help you stay fit. Trying things like taking the stairs rather than the elevator, parking on the opposite side of the lot and walking when shopping or taking time in the evening to go for walks around the neighborhood will make a big difference when the riding season comes back around. You can also start putting some time in at the gym. In the past, I had a gym membership that I would turn off except for three months a year. I enjoyed yoga classes, weight training, treadmills, spin classes, as well as all sorts of other gym related activities.

On the Bike training

Besides fat biking (which is the best winter riding option) you can enjoy your bike through the winter by buying an indoor trainer. An indoor trainer holds your bicycle upright and offers resistance when you pedal, thus turning your bike into a stationary bicycle. When 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 in their stores through the winter.

winter riding

Trainer rides are a great way to connect with other riders

If you join a shop’s group trainer ride, there is usually a leader. However, riding alone can still be fun. Most people start riding their trainer while watching TV and it’s a great plan at first, but that quickly gets boring. I find it interesting to use trainer specific workouts online. There are plenty of free and for-pay versions. Additionally, depending on the trainer you buy, some of those workouts will change the resistance through your trainer.

Spin classes

Most gyms offer spin classes. These classes use a stationary bicycle, music, and instructors to guide a course through a one-hour workout. These rides are enjoyable and offer an intensity that is difficult to achieve riding alone at home.

Winter riding

Spin Class is a fast and fun workout

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 bike. Many riders will install their saddle and pedals on a spin bike before each class. The other potential problem is that the courses you can select, are not tailored toward your personal goals. The levels are usually high tempo, high effort workouts that might not fit with your training plan.

Fun in the Snow

If you live in a colder weather climate and snow is the reality for months at a time you can enjoy the white stuff and keep your fitness. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating are fantastic ways to get your heart rate up. I love skating on our pond with my boys because one, I’m not good at it, so I get to use new muscles and two, I have to work hard to keep up with them.

winter riding

Our winter oasis where I fumble through learning to skate

However, you find your fitness through the winter, enjoy your time off the bike. The brief time between fall and spring is perfect to strengthen new muscles, work on flexibility, and let your body recover from a full season of cycling. Additionally, time off the bike always makes me more excited to get back on it once the weather clears.

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, HaveFunBiking.com

No matter how brave you are sometimes weather conditions keep you from conquering those trails. 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 toward 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 wworkout.

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 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:

5Min warm up

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

4Min soft pedal

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

4Min soft pedal

1Min 80 effort                                                                                                                                               15Second sprint                                                                                                                                             45Second 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, but 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 – Like 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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