Author Archives: John Brown

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. Once you start commuting by bike, you will find the hassle factor lessens while your overall trip acts as your workout for the day. You are saving yourself hours in the gym. Here is a list of other beneficial necessities to make commuting by bike 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 have to have is a bike. However, here is a list of items that will make your ride safer and a few that will make it easier to function at work or class properly once you are there for added comfort and safety. Past functioning, you need to stay safe on the bike also, so I consider all these things necessities.

Helmets

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

Lights

While the helmet is a crucial safety product, it is not the only important one. Lights, whether it is day or night or your level of bike riding skill, are essential to ensure you have the safest ride possible. Sometimes, when 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, making it susceptible to theft. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help protect it. Here’s some info on the different bike locks and other tips to ensure your bike’s safety.

Waterproof Bag

Being caught in the rain is not possible when commuting; it is inevitable. 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. Plenty of waterproof panniers are available for riders looking to take their things on the bike.

Bike Commuting Niceties

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

Shoes and pedals

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

Rain gear

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

Cycling shorts

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

Fenders

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

For winter, studded tires are helpful.

Like winter tires for your car, studded tires are 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 exercise that will give you better attention, higher energy levels, and some free time to think without critical or significant distractions.

About John Brown, the author

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

Bicycle maintenance will keep your bike in optimal condition

by John Brown

Like any other mechanical device, routine bicycle maintenance and cleaning will keep your bike in optimal condition as the season progresses. 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 the degreaser toward the center of either gear set. Doing so will drive the degreaser into bearings that need to remain lubricated.
  • Second: Once well saturated, begin freeing up dirt and debris by scrubbing back and forth with the stiff-bristled brush.
  • Third: After you have broken up all the contaminants, rinse the drivetrain with a warm soap/water solution.

Tip 3: reapply lubricant

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

Lubricating the chain

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

Lubricating the cables

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

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

bicycle maintenance

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

About John Brown, the author

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

Riding to school can be easy with these tips and tricks

by John Brown

All around the country, bike paths are being built as quickly so riding to school is possible. Many of these paths are routed from neighborhoods to nearby schools in an effort to get more kids energized by riding to school. To encourage your kids to safely ride their bikes to school, please look at our helpful tips below.

Riding to school safely begins with a helmet

First and foremost, a well-fitting helmet reduces the risk of serious injury by half. As a result, helmets are the most critical piece of cycling gear for kids. Sadly, many bicyclists under the age of 14 are not riding with a helmet that fits properly. For example, a well-fitting helmet will be snug on the rider’s head. When fitted correctly, the strap toggles should be located about a ½ inch below the ear lobe, with the chin strap tight enough to hold the helmet on your head but not so tight it chokes you. Important to realize is that helmets lose effectiveness over time, so review their production date. Therefore, consult the manufacturers’ recommendations for when to replace your existing helmet.

Why is riding to school good?

There are tons of organizations that encourage children to exercise. Child obesity is a real issue in the US, and any activity goes a long way to help. Studies have shown that activity before school increases attention span, boosts mood, and improves fitness and BMI. And it only took one ride to start to see those results! Based on these results, Specialized Bicycles have invested substantial resources in developing programs for kids with ADHD to substitute exercise for medication with excellent results. Overall, the quick trips riding to school help kids kickstart their metabolism, gain focus, and learn valuable skills.

Bike Maintenance and safely

Be sure that your child is comfortable on their bicycle and that it is sized adequately. Bikes that are too small or too large are difficult for children to control. If you have concerns about the fit, visit your local bike shop to have the bike adjusted. Verify that the brakes work, tires are inflated, and tight controls. Ensure your child can squeeze the brake levers easily and stop the bike.

Children’s bikes sold must have reflectors on the bars, seat post, wheels, and pedals. Those reflectors should be considered the most basic level of visibility. Add to that visibility by having your kids wear brightly colored clothes and installing lights and a flag on the bike. Young kids should try to avoid riding at night or twilight.

Riding skills

Teaching basic skills can be fun and easy. Find a flat section of low grass (like a high school football field) and have them practice riding with one hand off the bar. Use the Board Trick to learn how to handle riding over obstacles. When riding a bicycle on the road, you must follow posted traffic laws and signal your directions. Teach your kids the basics of signaling turns and navigating on roads.

Riding to the right is the most basic ride rule on sidewalks and bike paths. More important than that rule is the courtesy of riding around others. Being courteous is the best way to make sure everyone has fun. It is tempting for kids to try and bring a phone or iPod on a ride with them. Those distractions are a detriment to your child’s safety. Keep your digital toys in a backpack or, better yet, at home.

 Figuring out the course

For your kids to be comfortable riding to school, it is essential that they are familiar and comfortable with the route. An easy way to practice the course is on the weekends. Weekends are free from school traffic and give plenty of time to explore alternate routes. Look for clear roads and intersections with lighted crosswalks. Even if the course is not the most direct, your child can feel comfortable as long as it is safe and clear. Also, avoid large hills (either up or down) so as not to exhaust your kids.

Locking the bike during class

With the route and skills covered, let’s talk about how to keep the bike safe during the school day. The easiest way to protect your bike is to lock it up properly. Locking a bike in the same place for extended periods makes it a target for theft. The best locks are also some of the heaviest, and burdening your child with that weight and the weight of school books is not an option. For that reason, I recommend you lock your lock to the bike rack and leave it there rather than carrying it back and forth each day. Periodically lubricating the lock mechanism will keep your it working well year-round.

Putting it all together

After teaching your kids how to ride, equipping them, and working to create a safe course, continue reinforcing all those things throughout the school year. Evaluate their equipment frequently to ensure it’s working correctly. Additionally, ride with them to strengthen their signaling and to ride safely. Finally, be aware of traffic patterns as the year progresses. Above all else, make riding to school fun. Your kids will appreciate it.

About John Brown, the author

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

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

by John Brown

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

Clothing that makes you more visible and noticed

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

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

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

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

Lights that make you visible and noticed

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

Reflectors that makes you more visible and noticed

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

Position

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

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

Signal

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

Kids

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

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

About John Brown, the author

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

The first step In Bike Maintenance Tips is to 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.

About John Brown, the author

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

A guide to planning a safe and fun bike trip this summer

By John Brown

Now that summer is just about here, for fun in the sun, let’s plan a bike trip adventure. While hundreds of people flock to the lakes and local pools to cool down. Many, like myself, will find refreshing the soul on two wheels the best way to go. Please take a look below at how I plan for an enjoyable bike trip through the summer.

A Short Bike Trip

Just because you are limited on time doesn’t mean you need to miss out on riding your bike. You can have fun right around your neighborhood! I have found that a great way to plan a short ride is first to determine a destination point. That destination can be an ice cream parlor, a road you have driven down but never seen up close, or maybe a nearby water park? Once you pick your destination, try to link in some sections of a bike path, rail trail, or some quiet back streets or road, even though they may not be the most direct route to your destination. After you pick a destination and a route, the rest of the planned excursion tends to materialize easily.

What To Bring Along

For a short trip, pack water and the tools to fix a flat. These rides usually only last an hour or so but can do a lot to help your peace of mind.

Bike Trip

Ice cream is always a great mid-ride snack, whether it’s a long or short bike trip.

A Long Bike Trip

It takes a bit more planning on a longer bike trip, though it follows the same order as above. Pick your destination with several attractions or points of interest close to one another. Then, add some bike-friendly routes, and the rest of the planned bike trip will materialize. On longer trips, it is also important to make sure your bike Is working well. Lube the chain, adjust the brakes, check your fit, or drop it off at your local shop for service at least two weeks before you plan to depart.

For longer trips, I like to employ guide books (Like our Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide) to find the best places to ride. Once you determine the location, reach out to local businesses like bike shops, hotels, business associations, or tourism boards to find more details about the area. As I mentioned before, a bike guide is a great place to start planning and reach out to the local tourism bureau. Bike paths and trails have become a popular attraction for most towns. The visitor centers we list are more than happy to talk about their bike-friendly amenities and usually have the most up-to-date information. Also, consider using software programs like Ride with GPS, Map My Ride, and Strava for more route ideas.

Packing For A Longer Trip

Packing for a long trip is more involved than what a short trip normally requires. If you are driving a long distance or flying to get to the ride, you don’t want poor weather to keep you off your bike – so pack for the worst! For example, I once did a 24-hour long mountain bike race in West Virginia in July, and while the race started under sunny skies at 95 degrees, it was snowing on the top of the mountain that night. Please take a look at our comprehensive bike trip list for all the items you may be forgetting.

Bike safety

A great bike trip is a safe bike trip. There is no more important part of bike safety than a helmet that fits. While crashes are uncommon, they do happen, and a helmet is the best way to protect yourself from serious damage. Other than the helmet, practice riding safely with hand signals, situational awareness, and limited distractions to keep you out of trouble. If you are on a family trip, it’s also important to talk to your kids about bike riding safety.

Bring The Bike Lock

If your ride involves time stopping, maybe at a restaurant or ice cream parlor, be sure to lock your bike securely. Follow these three rules when locking your bike. One, Lock it to something secure. If the bike rack or a signpost you plan to lock your bike to isn’t secure, you are making a would-be bike thief’s job easier. Two, Lock the frame and at least one wheel of your bike. Locking just a rear wheel or front wheel makes it easy for someone to walk away with the rest of your bike. Three, Lock your bike in a well-trafficked area. Bike thieves will be less likely to try and take your bike with witnesses around.

It’s All About The Fun

The most important part about making a bike trip memorable; it is all about fun. We all have days that start late, roads that get closed, out of the blue rain falls, and generally stuff that happens. Remember that the bike trip is all about the ride, not necessarily the destination so enjoy your time in the saddle.

Bike Trip

Always keep it fun!

About John Brown, the author

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

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

by John Brown,

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

Kid’s mountain bikes

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

Teach to shift kid’s mountain bikes

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

Teach braking on kid’s mountain bikes

Stopping on kid’s mountain bikes is about balancing two things; stopping power and control. Most brakes can easily produce enough stopping power to skid the wheels, but you lose control when the wheels skid. I found an easy way to teach this balance: find a short but steep hill with a clear run-out at the bottom. Position yourself below them on 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 down, have them squeeze a little less and feel the difference. Then have them apply the front brakes more, then more rear brakes on each successive trip. After a little while, they will have a good feel for the best way to use their brakes.

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 more than using a plank. A 2×6 piece of wood that’s about six feet long works best. You need to set it on the ground and have the kids ride over it. Riding perpendicular helps them work on absorbing impact in the standing position while riding along its length, which helps teach control. A significant part of the board trick is that it gives a person a visual indication of where to ride without penalty if they can’t stay on.

Up and Over

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

Short and sweet

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

Bribery

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

Staying dry is the most critical and challenging part of riding when biking in the rain as spring arrives. The best way to keep warm and dry is to wear waterproof clothing. While most synthetic fabrics still insulate when wet, being damp 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 many 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 snuggled 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 breathe 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 breathe, 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.

About John Brown, the author

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

Tips on bicycle theft prevention to keep your e-bike safe and secure

by John Brown

Bikes in general, are stolen often, but for a thief, an electric bike is the crown jewel. With e-bikes normally, a larger investment here is some of these bicycle theft prevention ideas to consider. To protect your e-bike investment, consider using a U-lock in combination with a cable lock or bike lock alarm. You could also take the bike inside a building with you or use a mobile bike storage locker for storing your e-bike. There are also some modern ways with GPS tracking devices to help you retrieve your bike if it is stolen.

Types of bicycle theft prevention

Not all situations require the same level of security. Also, there isn’t a lock in existence that a motivated person can’t get open.  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

U-locks are a good bicycle theft prevention tool.

The most reliable 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 powerful 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 much flexibility in what you can lock your bike to. Look for versions that have some better 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 a 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.

Secure indoor bike storage options

First and foremost, secure indoor storage is best! Especially in an area that stays above freezing, if you have an e-bike to protect its battery. If any of your bikes will be stored in a public area of your building, please use one of the bike lock systems above.

Safe, weatherproof storage lockers are like a garage for your bike.

Bike lockers are another bicycle theft prevention option and are available at many municipalities’ Park & Ride lots, near bus stops, and other community locations. Check your city’s website for a location near you. In Minneapolis, see info on Metro Transits bike lockers,

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 use 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.

If it is stolen, a GPS tracking device may help you get your bike back

Even with the best security measures, nothing is 100% theft-proof. With thefts unfortunately a sad reality of bicycle ownership, a tracker could help provide some peace of mind – and the means to find your bike – should the worst happen. Bicycle trackers are an emerging technology that allows riders to locate their bike, usually through a dedicated app. following a GPS chip.

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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.

Consider a casual doughnut ride with your friends over 30 Days of Biking

by John Brown

Recently I spent some time in the cradle of liberty, Philadelphia. While there I enjoyed a few rides, but the most enjoyable one was the 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 little over a month 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 faces 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 does this ride work?

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 then 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. at Perennial Cycle, Minneapolis does a great job with these types of rides and has a lot of them. Watch for the upcoming events there this season.

About John Brown, the author

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