Author Archives: John Brown

The best way to stay dry is to wear waterproof clothing. While most synthetic fabrics still insulate when wet, being wet diminishes their ability to keep you warm.

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

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Biking in the rain as spring arrives, staying dry is the most important and difficult part of riding. The best way to keep dry is to wear waterproof clothing. While most synthetic fabrics still insulate when wet, being wet diminishes their ability to keep you warm. Therefore, a waterproof jacket and pants are a great way to start, but waterproof socks and gloves make the outfit complete. While a lot of materials are naturally waterproof, once perforated with stitching, zipped closed with generic zippers, and left to be loose at all the cuffs, their waterproofing goes out the window. Before you go out and buy anything labeled “waterproof,” read on to understand that all waterproofing is not the same.

Waterproof Clothing and Gear for Staying Dry

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

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

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

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

 Breathe Sweat Out

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

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

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

Waterproof even when it isn’t raining

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

When Waterproof is Not Important

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

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

If you are looking for a gently used bike in the south Twin City Metro, you may be in luck if you are in town on Saturday, May 11th.

Bicycle maintenance and cleaning will keep your bike in optimal condition

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Like any other mechanical device, routine bicycle maintenance and cleaning will keep your bike in optimal condition. Additionally, routine bicycle maintenance will make your bike safer to ride when you need it. Where do you start? What do you use? Well, here are a few tips to put you on the right track!

Tip 1: For optimal bicycle maintenance stay away from the hose

Bike running smooth hose and bucket

Angry hose and happy bucket

Every moving part on your bicycle needs lubrication to stay in optimal condition. The pressure of water coming from a hose will force water into areas that need to be lubricated. The water will displace grease and leave your bicycle susceptible to corrosion and excess wear. Instead of a hose, fill a bucket with warm, soapy water (Dawn dish detergent works well) and use a large sponge to clean all the parts of your bicycle. Rinse all the soap and gunk off with fresh water, and let the bicycle air dry.

Tip 2: Focusing on the drivetrain

If you have a particularly dirty drivetrain* and want to get it clean you will need the following:Bike running smooth supplies

• Degreaser
• A stiff bristled brush
• Rubber gloves
• Protective eyewear

 

*(the gears, chain, and the little pulley wheels on your derailleur)

  • First: Start by applying a liberal amount of degreaser to the chain, gears, and derailleur pulleys. Also, pay close attention not to direct degreaser toward the center of either gear set. Doing so will drive degreaser into bearings that need to remain lubricated.
  • Second: Once well saturated, begin freeing up dirt and debris by scrubbing back and forth with the stiff bristled brush.
  • Third: After you have broken up all the contaminants, rinse the drivetrain with a warm soap/water solution.

Tip 3: reapply lubricant

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

 Lubricating the chain

bicycle maintenance

Proper lubrication is essential to keep your bike in optimal condition

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

Lubricating the cables

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

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

bicycle maintenance

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

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

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

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

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

Types of Bike Locks

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

U-Lock

The 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 a lot of 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.

How to Lock

Location, Location, Location

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

lock it up rack booby trap

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

Protect Your Bike Parts

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

Lock it up Frame and QR lock

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

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

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

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

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

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

Balance bikes for fitness and fun

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

balance bike sizing

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

Safety

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

Start out fun

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

Support the child not the bike

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

Pedals aren’t all bad

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

What age

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

Transitioning to a full-size bike

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

Make your bike a balance bike

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

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

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

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

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

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

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

Cold weather riding be realistic

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

Get the right gear for cold weather riding

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

-goggles

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

-balaclava

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

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

-boots

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

-gloves or pogies

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

Highland Claw

Details of the Highland Claw.

Pogies are awesome when things get frigid cold.

-hand and foot warmers

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

Start warm

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

Waterproof

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

Having fun

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

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

Fun and fitness when winter bike riding is not your thing

by John Brown

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

winter riding

Fun is fat through the winter

Off the bike fitness ideas

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

On the Bike training

Besides fat biking (which is the best winter riding option) you can enjoy your bike through the winter by buying an indoor trainer. An indoor trainer holds your bicycle upright and offers resistance when you pedal, thus turning your bike into a stationary bicycle. When using an Indoor trainer, you can ride from the comfort of your own home or in a group setting. Most bike shops have trainer nights in their stores through the winter.

winter riding

Trainer rides are a great way to connect with other riders

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

Spin classes

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

Winter riding

Spin Class is a fast and fun workout

There are, however, a few downsides with spin classes to keep in mind. One issue is that a spin bike won’t fit the same as your bike. Many riders will install their saddle and pedals on a spin bike before each class. The other potential problem is that the courses you can select, are not tailored toward your personal goals. The levels are usually high tempo, high effort workouts that might not fit with your training plan.

Fun in the Snow

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

winter riding

Our winter oasis where I fumble through learning to skate

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

Reflectors are forms of passive visibility, while lights are great for active visibility. Read on to see where each one is helpful and most efficient.

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

by John Brown

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

Passive visibility

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

This jacket offers excellent visibility through color and reflective materials.

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

Active visibility

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

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

MagicShine Bike Helmet and remote (inset)

MagicShine Bike Helmet and remote (inset)

 

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

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

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

What to use this Fall

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

 

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

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

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking

Over the past quarter century, I have helped all manner of riders get going on their bikes. I’ve been lucky to see the life changing power of a bicycle. Sadly, I have also seen riders walk away from the sport forever due to simple discomforts. No discomfort is as debilitating as back pain. Luckily, back pain is usually caused by a few, easy to fix issues. These issues manifest themselves into lower back pain and upper back pain. See below for the causes and fixes.

Lower back

The sky high seat rider can result in back pain

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

The shocking truth

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

How is your reach?

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

Upper back

Shrugging off your responsibilities

The leading cause of upper back pain is riding position. More specifically, the shrugging of one’s shoulders. In my experience, many riders don’t know they are lifting their shoulders when they ride. It is just a tense habit they formed somewhere along the way. Paying attention to where your shoulders are typically helps you relax them, alleviating pain. Additionally, try moving your hands to different positions on the bars. That change in grip does wonders to rest different muscle groups. In some cases, a proper bike fit is needed to remedy shrugged shoulders, so if the problem persists, visit your local shop for a fitting.

Don’t become a pack mule

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

Keep on going

Like I stated before, I have seen riders get off their bikes forever due to discomfort. It’s always sad to see, especially because I know that their pains can most likely be eliminated with some simple adjustments. Be vigilant about eliminating discomforts. After all, small pains today can manifest into serious problems later. Find a bike fitting professional you feel comfortable with and talk about your issues. Your back will thank you.

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

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

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

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

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

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

Float

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

Spring Tension

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

Cleat Material

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

Offroad pedals

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

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

Path

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

Competitive road

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

Shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

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

Dynamo Light: Where Does The Power Come From

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

Generator types

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

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

Front Light types

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

dynamo light

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

dynamo light

A few headlight options from Supernova and Busch + Müller

Rear light types

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

Benefits

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

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