Category Archives: Riding Tips

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.
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.
Winter fat bike season is once again upon us as the leaves fall and temps become cooler. While riding a fat bike is much like riding a regular bike, there is a certain fat bike etiquette to keep in mind when you get out there on the trail this winter season for some fun.

As the winter season progresses remember your fat bike etiquette

by Jess Leong  

Winter fat bike season is upon us again as the snow and temps drop. Similar to riding a regular mountain bike, there is a certain bike etiquette to follow when on the trail. Everyone outdoors, on the trail, wants to have a good time and make memories in the crisp, clean air. Whether biking, hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing, these are all valid activities where trail etiquette is important. The trail needs to be shared for everyone to have a good time. The rules below will not only keep everyone free from harm but also make it fun for everyone.

Many general rules of the fat bike trail are the same as mountain biking or riding on regular trails. However, there is a major difference to keep in mind in addition to the general rules of the trial.

Practicing fat bike etiquette enhances to general rules of the trail

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) developed the “Rules of the Trail” to promote responsible and courteous conduct on shared-use trails. Keep in mind that conventions for yielding and passing may vary in different locations or with traffic conditions. This list is also on IMBA‘s website and in the Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide.

Before You Ride

  1. Plan Ahead: Know your equipment, your ability, and the area you are riding, and prepare accordingly. Strive to be self-sufficient: keep your equipment in good repair and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions.
  2. Let People Know: Make sure there’s at least one other person who knows where you’re headed, when and where you left, and when you’re hoping to return. Things can happen on the trail; someone must know where you might be if something goes wrong.
  3. Ride Open Trails: Respect trail and road closures — ask a land manager for clarification if you are uncertain about the status of a trail. Do not trespass on private land. Obtain permits or other authorization as required. Be aware that bicycles are not permitted in areas protected as state or federal Wilderness. This means you guessed it; check ahead of time!

While Riding

  1. Leave No Trace: Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don’t cut switchbacks. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in.
  2. Control Your Bicycle: Inattention for even a moment could put yourself and others at risk. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations, and ride within your limits.
  3. Yield Appropriately: Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you’re coming — a friendly greeting or bell ring are good methods. Try to anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Bicyclists should yield to other non-motorized trail users unless the trail is signed for bike-only travel. Bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to ones headed uphill unless the trail is signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. In general, strive to make each pass a safe and courteous one.
  4. Never Scare Animals: Animals are easily startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement, or a loud noise. Give animals enough room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses, use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain). Running cattle and disturbing wildlife are serious offenses.

Understand ice and snow travel and how to do it safely.

Practice fat bike etiquette, follow the the rules of the trail and have fun.

Practice fat bike etiquette, follow the rules of the trail, and have fun.

Riding in the winter means riding on top of ice and snow. Throughout the winter, there will be times when it’s warmer or colder out, which can affect the ground beneath your tires. Know how to deal with this. Many people also ride on top of the frozen water. Riding across a frozen lake or river can be extremely dangerous if the ice were to crack. Learn how thick the ice needs to be to carry you and your bike when venturing across frozen waters.

Always bring items that can help if you’re in a situation where the ice breaks from under you. International Mountain Bicycling Association recommends that ice picks and a length of rope be carried if riding on lakes or rivers.

Fat Bike Etiquette – General Rules of the Trail

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) developed the “Rules of the Trail” to promote responsible and courteous conduct on shared-use trails. Keep in mind that conventions for yielding and passing may vary in different locations or with traffic conditions. This list is also on IMBA‘s website and on our Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide.

Riding a trail system before it snows is advisable when possible.

Riding a trail system before it snows is advisable when possible.

Be polite and respectful to all.

Yield to all other users of the trail when riding. This includes hikers, especially skiers since they do not have brakes to stop when traveling. Be constantly aware of your surroundings for who and what is around you. Everyone is trying to enjoy the outdoors. When on your Fatty:

  1. Ride on the firmest part of the track to prevent making a deep rut in the trail.  Cutting into the trail more than an inch is difficult, if not impossible, to repair.
  2. Stay as far right as possible on the trail. This is so that other bikers, hikers, etc., can pass on the left.
  3. Do not ride on Nordic or classic ski trails. These trails are specifically groomed, and tires that cross them will ruin the trail and cause problems for those using or repairing them. Being respectful and sharing the trail is important for the enjoyment of everyone.
  4. Respect any closures or alternative days where bikers or skiers specifically have the trail. This is also important because if the trail is closed, no one will look out for you if you fall. Plus, other trails might be closed or have maintenance going on. This can cause problems if you’re there.
  5. Wear reflective clothing and use lights or blinkers. This helps signal to others where you are from a distance. Skiers and snowmobiles travel quickly, and seeing you as far away as possible can help them change their route so there is no collision or problems that will arise.
  6. Consider donating to the shared trails to help cover the cost of maintenance. It takes people to keep the trails well-groomed and ready for people to ride, ski, or hike on them. A donation can go a long way to keeping that trail ready when you want to use it again.

If you are riding in a group, do not ride side by side. This makes it hard for anyone passing by to get through or weave around. It also can block up the trail.

Don’t Forget!

Also, always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear. Search for an IMBA Club to join, and don’t forget to HaveFun!

Jess Leong is a freelance writer for HaveFunBiking.com.

Minneapolis map app tells you trail plowing status

Minnesota’s cyclists are a hardy bunch, but ice and snow-blocked trails put on the brakes for many riders. Now, just in time for winter weather, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) has released its new Trail Plowing Status map app.  Transponders mounted on the city’s snow removal equipment show in real-time which trails have been cleared. With the new tool, users can track more than 70 pieces of city equipment as they plow more than 150 miles of trails across Minneapolis.

Click on the map to go to interactive map

According to the 2015 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census, Minneapolis is one of the top cycling cities in America. And with an extensive trail network, nearly 12,000 people commute by bike annually here.

That number takes a big dip during winter, especially when snow is in the forecast. The Trail Plowing Status app hopes to remove the mystery of whether your route to work is safe for riding, walking, or rolling. The MPRB hopes this will encourage more active transportation enthusiasts to use the trail network all year.

The app also allows the Park Board to collect data to analyze and improve its operations. If you run into some unplowed trails, there’s an option on the website to report any problem areas.

A final note – excuses not to ride

When talking about bicycle infrastructure in Canada, the number one excuse I hear is “winter.” Many North Americans see the cold and snow as a fundamental barrier to year-round cycling. But one city, Oulu in Finland, with winter weather worse than most Canadian cities, shows that winter cycling has nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with safe cycling infrastructure.

Here is a comparison video of why Canadians Can’t Bike in the Winter (but Finnish people can)“People will ride a bicycle in the winter if the city is designed for it.”

Visually keep an eye out hazards that may be developing in the ice.

Bike, ski or walk on water with these ice safety tips

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking.com

For many unfamiliar with the bold north, biking or walking on water is a fun winter tradition when incorporating a few ice safety tips into the adventure. Mother Nature’s annual temperature swings in the upper Midwest will determine when it’s safe to venture onto a frozen body of water safely. From mid to late December through  February, riding a bike across a body of frozen water is a regular occurrence. This year, ice is already forming, and the fun may begin sooner and extend the season of outdoor fun.

Along with the proper clothing for a comfortable ride in the winter, here are some ice safety tips you need to know to ensure a safe time pedaling across a lake or stream frozen over.

Ice safety tips – First and foremost, know the thickness of the ice.

There’s no way around it. While many visual cues can help you determine if it is safe to roll out or step onto the ice, the most reliable way is to measure the ice thickness.

There are a few tools you can use to measure the ice. An ice chisel can be stabbed into the ice until it penetrates all the way through. A cordless drill with a wood bit also works well to auger a hole to measure the thickness.

Ice safety tips – What is a safe thickness?

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources states on ice thickness, any ice thickness less than four inches should be avoided at all costs. At four inches, the ice can support bicycling, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and walking. At five to seven inches, the ice can sustain the weight of a snowmobile or an ATV, while eight to twelve inches are needed to support a small car’s weight. And while these guidelines are generic, ice conditions vary, and the above is for newly formed ice. Make sure to read more on thickness before going out there.

Measuring in one place is not enough. Take measurements in several different areas (approximately 150 feet apart) to ensure that the entire area is safe. Ice thickness can vary, even over a relatively small area—especially over moving water.

Ice safety tips – Assess the area visually.

A visual assessment can help supplement your measurement and help if you rely on someone else’s measurements.

Its a perfect time of the year to jump on a fatty and hit the trail. This pic was taken last year at the Get Phat with Pat event in the Minnesota River Bottoms, in Bloomington, MN.

It’s a perfect time of the year to jump on a fatty and ride across the lake.

Watch for signs of danger like cracks, seams, pressure ridges, dark areas (where the ice is thinner), and slushy areas—even slight slush signals that the icing isn’t freezing at the bottom anymore means it’s getting progressively weaker.

Ice safety tips – The color of the ice

Check out the color of the ice. Clear, blue, or green ice thicker than four inches should be ok enough to bike on. White ice typically has air or snow trapped inside, weakening it. Dark ice might indicate that the ice is relatively thin—probably not thick enough for biking or hiking.

The Fresher, the better

New ice is typically stronger than older ice. The bond between ice crystals decays even in freezing temperatures as time passes. When the spring thaw begins, the ice weakens considerably. It can be tempting to head out for one last ride across the ice, but it is safest to say no. Even if ice fits the measurement criteria, it can still be hazardous.

No ice can ever be considered “safe ice.”

Along with knowledge of the thickness of the ice and a visual assessment, here are four more suggestions to help minimize the risk when biking on the ice:

  • Carry ice picks and a rope
  • Have a cell phone or personal locator beacon along
  • Don’t go out alone; let someone know about trip plans and expected return time.
  • Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.

Know the proper rescue techniques

Anyone doing anything on the ice outdoors should know the ice rescue technique. Even kids should be familiar with the protocol, so educate them ahead of time. If someone in your party falls through the ice, the first thing to do is call 911. Anyone still on the ice should slowly lie down, distributing their weight over a larger area.

Reach the person in the water using a long-reaching assist—a large stick, a rope, or a ladder if available. The water person should be instructed to kick and slowly ease their way out of the water. Once they reach the surface, they should crawl or roll away from the broken ice area.

Anyone on the ice, including the victim and rescuer, should avoid standing up until they are far away from the broken ice. As soon as possible, get the victim into dry clothing and treat them for hypothermia.

Now have some fun!

Enjoy the ice safety tips for a safer true north experience!

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.

Preparing your bike for storage, a check list to protect your gear

by Bill Anderson

Bike- main-1a

Cyclists enjoying a beautiful day riding with a flower garden in the background

Having enjoyed another summer of riding with many great memories along the way. It is that time of the year to think about preparing your bike for winter storage. Unless you plan to pedal your two-wheel steed throughout the winter? Wouldn’t it be nice when the temperature rises early next spring, you are not cleaning and lubing your bike when you should be riding?- Or even worse, waiting two-to-three weeks for your bike shop to tune it up.

Preparing Your Bike for Storage

When putting your bike away for the winter, there are several things you will want to do to store it properly. Following the helpful tips listed below or taking it to your favorite bike shop will help you avoid future problems and ensure that it will be ready to ride next spring when the weather breaks.

These tips apply whether you’re putting your bike in your basement, garage, or storage unit. If you don’t have a storage place at home and don’t want to rent an entire storage unit, many bike shops now offer winter storage. Just don’t let your bike sit outside.

bike-main-8

Bikes left outside over the winter

You would think this wouldn’t need to be mentioned, but visit any college campus in the upper Midwest in February and see dozens of beautiful high-end bikes out suffering in the cold and snow.

In any case, follow these pointers, so you are ready to go when the weather warms up next spring:

1. Wipe-Down the Frame and Inspect It

bike-main-4

Inspecting the frame is important

While I’m not a fan of wet washing a bike with a water hose, due to problems when water gets down into your components. Then, wipe it dry to ensure that certain metal parts don’t rust.

The best way to do this is to take a brush to knock away any chunks of dried-on mud on your frame or wheels. Then, take a damp rag to your bike, wiping it down all over to get off any remaining dust or dirt. Also, remove any grease or grime accumulated around your drive train or other areas where lubrication can attract dirt.

2. Inspect Your Frame

bike-main-9

Look for cracks, signs of fatigue

Here’s a bonus hint. Wiping down your bike offers you a chance to inspect the frame thoroughly. While cleaning, look for cracks or metal fatigue, particularly near welded spots and on the bottom bracket, which supports much of your weight.

3. Cleaning Your Drivetrain

bike-main-5

Wiping the chain is important

Now is an ideal time to clean and lube the cassette, chain and crank to eliminate all the crud that may have accumulated over the riding season. Plus, a fresh coat of lubricant will help protect against rust. If you have several thousand miles on the chain or a lot of wear, this is the time to consider replacing it.

4. Lubricate the Cables

bike-main-4a

Apply oil near cable housing and work in

To avoid problems that may pop up in the spring, with rusting or poor performance in the cables, take a few minutes to lubricate the cables that control your brakes and derailers. Here apply a few drops of light lubricant on a rag and rub it on the exposed cable – lightly work through the cable housing. This will help keep your shifting mechanism in shape while eliminating any stress on your cables.

5. Inspect Tires, Wheels, and Brake Pads

bike-main-2

Tires should be free of cracks

While you’re wiping down your tires. Check your wheels for loose or broken spokes by spinning the wheels and looking that they still spin true. Make sure your wheels spin straight, with no wobbling from side to side and no rubbing against the brake pads. If your wheels don’t spin straight, it’s probably time to take your bike in for wheel truing.

At the same time, inspect your brake pads for proper alignment and any excessive wear in the pads.

6. Then Inflate the Tires

Before you put your bike away, be sure to fully inflate your tires. Especially if you are going to store your bike resting on its wheels, instead of hanging it from the ceiling. If your tires are flat, the bike’s weight presses down through the rims on one spot on the rubber. Over several months, that can cause deterioration of your tire as the rubber can end up distorted and/or the tire can develop a weak spot in the sidewall

7. Wipe-Down the Tires, Saddle, and Handgrips

bike-main-7

A conditioner will keep it soft

Now that you have cleaned and lubed your bike, wipe down all the remaining components for any wear or misalignment. Take an optional step that mainly affects the appearance of the bike. Armor-All works well for your tires, rubber handgrips, and seat – if it is one with a cover made from leather, vinyl, or another smooth synthetic surface. Products like this are both a beautifier and protectant and will give a nice clean, and shiny appearance while keeping the material soft. This only takes a few extra minutes and will be something that you’ll be glad you did in the spring, as your bike will look sharp, and ready to go.

8. Remove any Batteries

To avoid corrosion from battery acid leaking out onto your bike while in storage, remove any accessories with batteries, like front and rear lights. If the battery is hard to remove, like in the case of some electric-assist bikes, be sure it is fully charged before it goes into storage. See, “How to maintain an E-bike” for more information.

9. Clean Out Your Panniers and Trunk Bags

If you choose to leave your bike bags on, in storage, clean and wipe them out. Make sure there are no food items left inside, as you may find a family of rodents, nesting there next spring.

 10. Empty Water Bottles and Camelbaks

bike-main-9a

Clean and dry the insides of your bottles if you plan to store them on the bike

Take all your water bottles off your bike, or at least make sure they are drained. Dumping out whatever is left in them since the last time you rode and running them through the dishwasher to get them nice and clean. When finished, leave the lids off to allow them to dry entirely inside.

If you have a Camelback or backpack canteen water carrier, flush the bladder with a very mild solution of vinegar and water, and then follow that up with several rinses of plain hot water, then leave the lid off to dry.

Now, as you sit in front of the window watching the snow fly, recalling all the memorable rides you had this year, you can rest assured that when the first opportunity to ride next year comes along you are ready.

Tips for cleaning your bike gloves at seasons end

by Sommer Adams, a HavefunBiking contributor

With cooler weather approaching, it’s time to store away your summer gear. Especially your bike gloves, if you plan to reuse them next year. Even if they look clean, they are often used for wiping the sweat from the braw, and worse, as a tissue, and shouldn’t be ignored. That makes them disgusting bacteria collectors if not cleaned regularly or before storing. Here are the best ways to clean them, even if they are not machine washable.

A gentle washing with a little bacterial soap and /or white vinegar may clean and sanitize them.

Gentle washing with a little bacterial soap and/or white vinegar may clean and sanitize them

Preparing bike gloves for storage

Thankfully, like shorts, jerseys, and other articles for bicycling, most bike gloves are made from materials that can be machine-washed. Many gloves can easily be machine cleaned by using a little care and hanging them up to air dry. So, before packing away, your summer bike gloves, follow these steps for healthy and extended use – for both cloth and leather.

Supplies you may already have on hand for cleaning your cycling gloves:

  • Antibacterial hand soap
  • Detergent
  • Leather conditioner
  • White vinegar

Cloth Gloves (handwashing)

Step 1 – Close the Velcro or glove fasteners.

Step 2 – Wash the bicycle gloves using cool water and mild liquid soap in a sink. If the gloves are dirty/smelly, add 1/8 cup white vinegar to your wash water.

Step 3 – Rinse the gloves well and inspect them for soap suds. Rinse again if necessary.

Step 4 – Lay the gloves flat or hang them up to dry. Even better if you can hang the gloves out in the sun. The sun is a “natural sanitizer” and works great to disinfect your clothes. Plus, if you dry your gloves under the sun, they will smell fresher.

Cloth Gloves (machine wash)

Step 1 – Close the Velcro, snap, or button that is on your gloves.

Step 2 – Put the gloves in your washing machine, set them on cold water, and add laundry detergent. Do not use bleach. You may wash other items with the gloves. If your gloves are particularly smelly, add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the fabric softener slot of your washing machine.

Step 3 – Rinse the bike gloves by hand after the wash if any soap suds remain.

Step 4 – Then lay the gloves flat or hang them to dry, or you can hang them out in the sun to dry. The sun’s ultraviolet rays will help kill bacteria on your workout clothes. But they need to be completely dry in the sun to be totally disinfected.

Leather Gloves (handwash only)

Step 1 – Put on the bicycle gloves and run some cool water over your hands, applying a very mild soap, such as Castile or leather soap, into the dirtiest parts of the glove.

Step 2 – Rinse the gloves well, spending twice as long on the rinsing as you did washing to ensure all the soap is gone. Do not wring moisture in the gloves. Squeeze gently to remove the water.

Step 3 – Remove the gloves from your hand and place them between layers of a bath towel. Then press to remove excess water.

Step 4 – Put the gloves back on and flex your fingers a few times to mold the gloves back into shape. Then, remove and lay the gloves flat to dry without pressing them again.

Step 5 – If desired, massage your cycling gloves with a pea size amount of leather conditioner when almost dry – use less conditioner if only part of the glove is leather.

Other Helpful Tips

  • In between washing your gloves in the steps above, if they become smelly and damp while you are riding. While wearing the gloves, lightly spritz and rub vinegar into the glove and let them dry as you ride.
  • Leather and cloth gloves may be stiff once dry, but they will soften with little use.
  • Wash leather gloves as infrequently as possible. If you are a dedicated long-distance rider, they may not last more than one season, regardless of how often you clean them.
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.
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.

Top 5 tips for a very rewarding fall bike ride

by Jess Leong, HaveFunBiking.com

Bike riding in the fall can come with many challenges. However, it can also be gratifying. While bicycle season is winding down for some, for many other cyclists, their two wheels are a favorite mode of transportation to explore the incredible autumn landscape. Pedaling along the colorful autumn roads or trails is so breathtaking that I will admit that fall bike riding is one of my favorite times to ride. Not too hot, not too cold, and there are fewer insects once the first frost hits.

If you’re planning to ride around this fall, check out these top tips before heading out.

Fall Bike Ride Tip 1: Layer It Up

For fall bike riding layering your clothing is key.

For fall bike riding layering your clothing is critical.

The temperature fluctuation can be confusing when you want to get dressed and go biking. The morning can look like 47 or 48 degrees Fahrenheit, but by the afternoon, it could be in the lower to mid-70s! The best way to combat this is by wearing multiple layers that you can easily remove and put back on to find your perfect temperature. When layering, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that whatever you decide to put on last will b the first thing you’d want to take off!

Pro Tip: Start while still slightly chilly. As you ride, you’ll warm up, and that chilliness will go away. However, bring an extra layer in case you stop along the way! You want to stay warm when you’re not riding.

Not sure what to do for layering? Check out our article about how to layer, why it’s beneficial, and what to wear.

Fall Bike Riding Tip 2: Beware of Wet Leaf Piles

The falling leaves are gorgeous, and leaf piles can be fun. However, a wet, crunchy leaf pile can be a hazard when riding your bike through it. Not only can water splash upwards onto your bike and legs, but the bike tires can slip on the leaves. When leaves are wet, they become slick or slippery. With a regular bike tire being thinner, it has less surface area for surface tension. A bike can slip out from under you if a leaf gives away or gets stuck onto the tire.

Luckily, this is less of a problem if you have a fat bike. The larger tires add more traction to the surface and, therefore, is less likely to slip. Even with the lesser likelihood of slipping, caution should still be used.

Also, wet leaf piles can conceal several different items. This can include nails, glass, or other objects that can puncture your tires. No one wants a flat while out riding. Sometimes you can’t avoid riding through the piles, but you can ride around the leaves.

Fall Bike Riding Tip 3: Stay Visible

For fall bike riding high visible clothing and saddle bag gear are easier for motorists to see.

For fall bike riding, high-visible clothing and saddle bag gear are more accessible for motorists.

Dusk is coming earlier and earlier as the season continues. This means the evening intrudes on some great riding opportunities in the daylight. While some days will be saved temporarily when we fall backward an hour on November 6th this year, the time change can still negatively affect cyclists.

When times change, it affects a person’s sleeping routine leading to a lack of sleep. This sleep deprivation makes people less attentive while driving. While November 6th is a Sunday this year, you would think that people will most likely sleep in, decreasing the number of accidents. However, cyclists and other pedestrians should be aware and be extra cautious that day and the day following. Why? Because people need time to adjust to the time change. According to a study done in Sleep Medicine and The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, it has been found that there is a significant increase in fatal accidents following the changes in daylight savings time when it occurs on a Sunday or Monday.

This means that staying visible is even more critical than usual. This isn’t limited to the morning but throughout the day, whether on the road or trail.

You can do this in several ways, depending on what you are comfortable doing. Plus, the more you do, the more you increase your visibility.

Wear Light or Neon Colored Clothing

Wearing bright colors will make you stand out. If someone doesn’t see you begin with, the color will catch their attention, and they will find it easier to keep tabs on where you are. On the other hand, wearing dark colors isn’t recommended. Dark colors can blend into the dark and reduce your visibility. Natural dyes can also blend you into the background or sidelines, making you less visible.

Wear Reflective Clothing

Reflective clothing is a must when cycling in the early morning before there’s much daylight or in the evening. This way, when the headlights on a car shine on you, you’re immediately recognized.

Add Lights to Your Bike

For fall bike riding add bike light front and back to be more noticeable.

Add bike light front and back for fall bike riding to be more noticeable.

Did you know it’s a law to have lights on your bike? You have to do it, but you should also do it because you’re interested in staying safe.

It’s important to note that lights aren’t required for daytime riding. However, since we never know when it might get dark out, and we can’t plan for all those times when we ride late at night, it’s essential to have a light handy. If it’s already attached to your bike, then it’s something you don’t have to worry about!

Unfortunately, there are no excuses if you get pulled over by a police officer for riding in dark conditions without one. Every state might have slightly different bike-light laws (with many similarities). For bike laws and more about lighting here in Minnesota, The Department of Transportation has a condensed document to review.

Fall Bike Riding Tip  4: Check Your Tire Pressure and Tires

As discussed earlier, leaves can hide different items that can puncture your tire. It’s not always avoidable, so you must check your tires occasionally. This shouldn’t be limited to the fall and winter but should be checked every time before you begin riding. Doing this allows you to catch any problems sooner rather than later.

Another thing to check is tire pressure. While fall isn’t as cold as winter, the cold can still alter the tire pressure. So, checking to ensure the tire pressure is perfect before going out for your ride is best.

Fall Bike Riding Tip 5: The Usual Tools

Remember to bring the usual tools you usually get for your bike adventures! If anything happens, you want to ensure you have all the materials you need to fix it. To know these, check out our article about the tools you should have for any ride.

With these tips, you’re sure to have a great and safe extended season as you continue to ride your bike through autumn.

Keep safe, have fun, and ride on!