Author Archives: John Brown

Give a call to the shops closest to you and verify they have the models you want to test ride.

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

by John Brown, BrownCycles.com

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

Faster turnaround time, at your bike shop, on repairs.

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

Bike Shop

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

Bike shop discounts and deals!

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

A bike shop visit is worth more than a discount

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

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

Learn more at your bike shops, clinics, and classes

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

Bike Shop

Park tool School is in full effect.

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

Classes at Browns Bicycle

Don’t let simple mechanicals ruin an otherwise great ride. Come learn the basics of fixing flat tires, mending a broken chain, and getting home on two wheels rather than two feet. Please bring your bicycle with you for a hands-on instruction session. All ages are welcome, although we require all minors to accompany an adult. Check out class dates here.

Just to show the love.

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

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 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, and parts or share your latest ride. You can also see John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.
Discovering how things work here is a group of neighborhood kids learning about bicycle maintenance. 

Teaching your child the ancient art of bicycle maintenance

by John Brown

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

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

Here this father-son team assembles a new bike for a school program.

Safety first in bicycle maintenance

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

bicycle maintenance

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

Tools of the trade-in bicycle maintenance

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

bicycle maintenance

Professional bike mechanics use hex wrenches, box wrenches, and screwdrivers.

Having fun with bicycle maintenance

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

Teaching a little at a time

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

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

After the bike functions properly, teach your kids to adjust the seat, bars, and controls. You may ask why I would recommend the simple adjustments last. The simple answer is that these adjustments require the most leverage and are best saved once your child practices using the tools.

Test ride

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

bicycle maintenance

Test rides are fun!

Learn through mistakes

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

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 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, and parts or share your latest ride. You can also see John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.
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 isn’t your thing

by John Brown

Snow, ice, and cold make for excellent conditions for fat biking, but how do you keep in shape when winter bike riding isn’t your thing? Luckily, many fun activities, exercises, drills, and products help keep you in shape through the winter months.

winter riding

Fun is fat through the winter.

Fitness ideas if winter bike riding isn’t your thing

Even the most minor efforts can 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, and other gym-related activities.

On a bike trainer vs. winter riding

Another winter bike riding option you can enjoy through the winter is 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 while 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 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 increase your heart rate. I love skating on our pond with my boys because I’m not good at it, so I get to use new muscles, and two, I have to work hard to keep up with those rascals.

winter riding

Our winter oasis, where I fumble through learning to skate

However, enjoy your time off the bike if you find your fitness through the winter. The brief time between fall and spring is perfect for strengthening new muscles, working 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.

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 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, and parts or share your latest ride. You can also see John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.

Minnesota River bottoms, a fun year-round trail network

by John Brown, 

In the summer of 1849, the first Bloomington Ferry began operations next to the Minnesota River bottoms. It carried people from the Bloomington shores to Shakopee. Exactly 40 years later, the first Bloomington Ferry Bridge was opened. Carrying people, carriages, and motorists across the river for over 100 years.  No longer open to auto traffic, the current pedestrian bridge is a beautiful arch, spanning the Minnesota River and connecting Bloomington to the Highway 101 trail to Shakopee. The Bridge is also the starting point for The Minnesota River Bottoms trail. The River Bottoms are some of the metro areas’ last natural trails, famous for mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and bird watching.

Minnesota River Bottoms

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

What are the Minnesota river bottoms?

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

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

Wildlife of the Minnesota River Bottoms

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

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

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

What to expect

On the map, there are a few popular entrances to the River Bottom trail, including Lyndale Ave, Crest Ave, and Old Cedar Ave. These entrances offer ample parking and a clear trailhead. Once you start down the course, you will see that nothing is paved but worn-in enough to be firm under your tires. Except at the Lyndale trailhead, you will find a short section of paved, heading east, and perfect for walking and wheelchair use. While a mountain bike is best for unpaved trails, fat tire bikes navigate well in winter. If you need to cross a stream, there are bridges, and at 9-mile creek in the summer months, there is a rope ferry to get you across. Because the River Bottoms are so smooth, they are an ideal place to take kids mountain biking.

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

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

When to ride

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

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

Living in the Twin Cities, we are lucky to have a place like the river bottoms to ride. The fact that it is left free to change and natural is unique in a metro area. You will find some of the metro’s last natural trails from the Bloomington Ferry Bridge to Fort Snelling.

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 can 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 more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.

Biking with gaiters may be an added bonus to staying warm

by John Brown, 

Cold, snow, sleet, and ice are normal conditions for my winter bike commute to work here in Minnesota. With the elements being so unfriendly, I am excited to try commuting with a pair of gaiters for added warmth. With that direction in mind, I was excited to try the Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters. For those who aren’t familiar with a pair of gaiters, they cover your shin and calf, below the knee, and above the ankle. Splash-proof protection works in combination with your winter boots to extend your leg. They are designed to keep snow, slush, and debris off your legs and dripping into your boot.

Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiter

I am wearing the Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiter for the first time.

A gaiters construction

The Armadillo LT gaiter’s upper is constructed out of Flexia, a three-layer material designed to stretch, be waterproof, conform to your leg and stay in place. The lower section is made of dense nylon, which is extremely tough. The zippers are waterproof, and the straps and clips seem to be more than tough enough for their job. Even though these gaiters exude durability, they are remarkably lightweight.

Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiter

High-quality buckles, zippers, and straps are standard.

A full-length zipper makes for an easy fit.

I have to admit that I have never tried riding with a gaiter. Whereas my point of reference is small, I spend a lot of time on my bike in the cold. For the frigid weather, my riding boot of choice is the 45NRTH Wölvhammer, built with gaiters in mind. The Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiter paired with them easily. Thanks to the full-length zipper, I got my riding gear and boots on, then fashioned the gaiter into place with relative ease. That ease comes from the stretch that the upper material offers and the easily adjustable lower Velcro strap and upper buckle strap.

Warmth on the bike

The addition of a waterproof layer was immediately apparent when I left my house. We had gotten a fresh coating of wet snow overnight, and the salt trucks were out in force. Thanks to the slush created, my legs were immediately doused in slop but stayed dry and warm. This is a far cry from a week prior when I rode home without the benefit of gaiters. This time, I buzzed along my usual route to work and noticed that my legs were warmer than normal. Also, when looking down at my legs (not something I recommend), I saw all the sludge my tires were kicking up and bouncing off the gaiters. When I reached the office, my legs were dry and comfortable, and the gaiter was still doing a good job repelling moisture.

Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiter

Snow and slush are no match for the Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiter.

Moving forward

With my first foray into gaiters, I want to see where they are best used. I know that hikers and snowshoeing fans love them for their warmth and protection; now, after trying them, I am fascinated to see how they will help from a cycling perspective. Right now, I will reach for them whenever the weather is cold and wet. While I am sold on their benefit for wet conditions, I look forward to blocking the wind chill when temps get colder. Stay tuned for more information on my adventures with the Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiter.

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

Searching for back pain causes and finding a solution biking

by John Brown

Over the past quarter-century, I have helped many riders get going on their bikes without back pain. I’ve been lucky to see the life-changing power of proper posture while riding a bicycle. I have also seen riders walk away from cycling due to simple discomforts and not understanding the reason. No discomfort is as debilitating as back pain. Luckily, back pain is usually caused by a few easy-fix issues. These issues manifest themselves in lower back pain and upper back pain. See more on some causes and simple fixes to enjoy cycling again.

Lower back pain

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

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

The shocking truth

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

How is your reach?

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

Upper back Pain

Shrugging off your responsibilities

The leading cause of upper back pain is riding position. More specifically, the shrugging of one’s shoulders. In my experience, many riders don’t know they lift their shoulders when riding. It is just a nervous habit they formed somewhere along the way. Paying attention to where your shoulders are located will help you relax them, alleviating pain.

Additionally, try moving your hands to different positions on the bars. That change in grip does wonders to rest other muscle groups. Sometimes, a proper bike fit is needed to remedy shrugged shoulders, so if the problem persists, visit your local shop for a fitting.

Don’t become a pack mule.

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

Keep on going

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

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit and that particular fever 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 can 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 more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.
Reflectors are forms of passive visibility, while lights are great for active visibility. Read on to see where each one is helpful and most efficient.

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

by John Brown

With the MEA Weekend, trees dropping their leaves, and Halloween on every child’s mind, we need to keep visibility in mind while staying active this fall. As the days get shorter, the primary forms of visibility we focus on are passive and active visibility when riding our bikes or walking. And, things like reflectors and bright colors are forms of passive visibility, while lights and blinkers are great examples of active visibility. Read on to see where each one is helpful and most efficient.

First Passive visibility

Most autumn rides start in the light and only devolve into darkness as the ride stretches on. In these cases, most riders rely on passive visibility to get them home. Provided your ride is under street lamps or some form of light, that passive visibility will get you home safely. The most common form of passive visibility is the lowly reflector. These plastic devices are required by the CPSC to be installed on all bicycles sold in the united states. You will find reflectors come in two colors, white (front and wheels) and Red (rear).

Additionally, many apparel companies install reflective materials onto their products. Like the reflector on your bike, these reflective materials will take any light thrown at you, and return it back to the source of the light. Where passive reflectivity falls short, is when there is no light source to activate the visibility.

This jacket offers excellent visibility through color and reflective materials.

Several manufactures make cool winter gloves that are both visible and insulated

Active visibility

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

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

MagicShine Bike Helmet and remote (inset)

MagicShine Bike Helmet and remote (inset)

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

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

The Omni Bike Helmet, with photoreceptors, is covered and lights on.

What to use this Fall

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

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit and that particular fever 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 can 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.
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.