Category Archives: Riding Tips

With these tips, wood ticks won’t haunt your next outdoor adventure

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking.com

Unless you enter the annual Woodtick Races in Cuyuna, MN,  on June 8th, these bloodthirsty wood ticks are annoying and could be hazardous to your health. Especially if you are biking or hiking on trails through the woods or in tall grass. Always take note as you enjoy your outdoor adventures. These little critters, especially if they are the deer tick species, can be nasty with disease. Like the wood tick, the deer tick also lurks in any natural wilderness setting. However, they are small as a freckle, have tiny black legs, and you may find them loaded with disease-causing pathogens or Lyme Disease.

Two wood ticks and a deer tick pose with Roosevelt dime for reference. photo by David Bosshart

Two wood ticks on the left pose with a deer tick next to a Roosevelt dime for reference. Photo by David Bosshart

Getting a deer or wood tick in a city park or on a paved bicycle trail, but the probability is very low. Especially on paths with the grass mowed along the edges. Generally, these blood-sucking critters are only a problem if you are off the trail biking or walking through tall grass and brushy wooded areas. Ticks tend to crawl up on vegetation, tall grass, and wood and wait to grab onto a passing animal or human.

Once attached to people or pets, deer ticks can be hard to find. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), their numbers are on the rise and carry harmful pathogens. Thanks to the CDC’s website, there are several things everyone should know about ticks to stay disease-free.

Wood Tick Bite Prevention

Before You Go Outdoors

  • Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, wooded areas or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, biking, camping, or hiking could bring you close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their yards or neighborhoods, in rain gardens, and in natural areas
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear and remain protective through several cleanings
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanoate. EPA’s helpful search tool can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions
  • Another option is the Tickless Active we are testing. This rechargeable device emits a series of ultrasonic pulses undetectable to people, pets, or wildlife but interferes with the ability of ticks and fleas to orient themselves
  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than two months old
  • Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under three years old
  • Avoid contact with ticks, especially in wooded or brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
  • Ride and walk in the center of the off-road trail.

After You Come Indoors

Diagram from the Center for Disease Control

Diagram from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  • When out in the wilderness, check your clothing and gear for ticks. If not careful, they may be carried into the house, your car, or on clothing and gear. Any ticks that are found should be removed. At home, tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, they may need additional drying time. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium-temperature water will not kill ticks
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, hydration saddle packs
  • Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may effectively reduce the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks, and it is an excellent opportunity to do a tick check
  • Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full-body assessment upon returning from potentially tick-infested areas, including your backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. If you are comfortable, another set of eyes to check is a good idea. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside belly button
  • Back of the knees
  • In and around the hair
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist

Now that you know more about these vampire-like blood-sucking parasites and how to avoid them, plan your #NextBikeAdventure and have some fun!

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

by John Brown

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

Clothing that makes you more visible and noticed

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

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

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

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

Lights that make you visible and noticed

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

Reflectors that makes you more visible and noticed

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

Position

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

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

Signal

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

Kids

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

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

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit, and that particular fever was 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 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 bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, parts, or just share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.
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.

Win this e-bike at HFB

Bike Commuting Necessities

While commuting by bike, there are very few items you need to get started. Ultimately, the only thing 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 properly at work or class once you are there for added comfort and safety. Past functioning, you need to stay safe on the bike, too, 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 everything 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. 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 bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, parts, or just share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.

Bike noises can ruin a great ride and may be easy to fix with these tips

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Bikes are fun to ride, and any distraction from that fun can be annoying. One distraction that is easy to eliminate is noises your bike normally doesn’t make. The reason they are easy to eliminate is that each noise is telling you what’s wrong. Here are some of the most common noises and their causes.

Annoying bike noise from corrosion

Before we get into the annoying noises themselves, we should talk about what causes them. Most annoying noises are caused by corrosion between two surfaces or excess wear. Noises from corrosion can be remedied easily, whereas parts that are worn out need to be replaced. In most cases, corrosion is not visible to the naked eye but can be removed with solvent and guarded against in the future with a little grease.

Annoying Noises or Creaks

“Creaks” are the most common and annoying noises on your bike. It usually sounds like you are opening a rusty door when you pedal and subside when you stop pedaling. Creaks are attributed to either the pedals or the bottom bracket (fancy name for the bearings on which your cranks turn).

If there is side-to-side movement in one of the pedals or the entire crank, you should take your bike into a bike shop to have it serviced. If there isn’t any play, the crank is probably associated with corrosion. Removing the pedals and greasing the threads, taking off the chainrings (large gears attached to the crank), or removing the crank and greasing the bottom bracket spindle will usually silence the bike. If the creak persists, take your bike into the shop for a more thorough examination.

Annoying Noises or Clicks

Unlike creaks, clicks rarely follow any rhythm and usually come from the handlebar, seat, or seat post. An easy way to test where the click is coming from is to do it off the bike. With your feet on the ground, flex the bars from side to side. If you hear a click, loosen the stem, clean the bar, and apply a thin layer of grease before reinstalling.

The seat and seat post can be treated just like the bars. While off the bike, flex the saddle forward and backward. If you hear a creak, remove the saddle, clean the saddle rails, apply grease and reinstall. The next step is to remove the seat post from the bike and grease the seat tube before reinstalling it.

It is important to note that carbon fiber posts and frames should not be greased. Instead, use a carbon fiber friction paste-like Park Tool’s SAC-2.

Bike noise squeaks

Squeaks sound like you have a mouse or small bird trapped somewhere in your bike. Like creaks, they are usually rhythmic but can continue even while not pedaling. A lack of lubrication usually causes squeaks. Typically, a bearing’s rubber seal rubs against a metal surface, and the vibration causes a squeak.

The easy remedy for a squeak is to first locate it by spinning each wheel independently. Next, spin each pedal independently. Finally, try backpedaling. Listen for where the noise comes from, then apply a wet lubricant like Park Tool’s CL-1 to where the rubber seal meets the metal. Spin the offending part until the noise disappears, then wipe off any excess lube. Additionally, chains can sometimes squeak as well. To correct that, just clean and lubricate your chain.

Brake Squeal

If you squeeze your brakes and hear a noise like a small squeak or a fog horn, you may suffer from brake squeal. A brake squeal is caused when the brake pads touch the braking surface and vibrate rather than build friction. The noise you are hearing is that vibration.

Before you get too concerned, brakes will often squeal when wet and be silent again when dry. However, if the noise persists when dry, the two major causes are adjustment or contamination. With an adjustment issue, the brake pads are hitting the braking surface at an angle that causes them to vibrate, and readjusting the pads should solve the problem.

The solution for contamination is somewhat more involved. The first thing to do is determine what type of brake you have, rim or disc. If your bike has rim brakes, your brakes use rubber pads to press against the rim near the tire. For disc brakes, semi-metallic pads press against a steel rotor mounted to the center of the wheel.

To clean a rim brake, use soap and water (Dawn dish detergent works well) to wash the rim and brake pads. Also, scour the rim and brake pad surface with sandpaper or Scotchbrite. For a disc brake, start with soap and water as well and scour the rotor surface. If the noise doesn’t subside, take it to your local shop for pad replacement.

Clunks

Clunks are the sound of one object hitting another and are usually heard when you run over a gap in the road or a curb. Most clunks are serious and should be resolved as quickly as possible. They’re serious because something on your bike is loose or worn out.

The most common things to come loose are your wheel’s hubs or the bicycle’s headset. Grab the rim and gently push side to side to test and see if the hubs are loose. For the headset (the bearings on which your fork and handlebars turn), turn your bars 90 degrees, squeeze the front brake, and rock the bike forward and back. Take the bike in for service if you feel any play or rattling.

Clunks are also often found in suspension forks and seat posts. If you feel a clunk only when dropping off an object and have checked your hubs and headset, chances are your suspension needs attention. Suspension service is best left to your local bike shop. They can assess if the suspension needs either service or adjustment.

Service

In most cases, noises from your bike signal that bringing it in for service is good. A trained mechanic can assess and remedy noises far faster than you. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do any of these repairs at home. In fact, most of these problems are easily fixed with little attention. Before entering into the noise tracking project, the only consideration is how much time you want to devote to it. Hopefully, these tips will give you the confidence to try.

Take a look below at some of the most common and damaging cycling mistakes and solutions made by newbies and seasoned riders alike.

Solve common cycling mistakes easily for more fun

by John Brown, Brown Cycles

Mistakes are something humans can’t escape, but nobody is perfect. That said, we can try to eliminate some of the simple errors we may make without ever realizing we are proceeding down the wrong path. Consider taking a look below at some of the most common and damaging cycling mistakes made by newbies and seasoned riders alike.

Cycling Mistakes #1 – Wear your helmet only when you think it’s needed

Many riders make the mistake of thinking “I don’t need to wear a helmet, I’m only going around the block with the kids”. This mentality is often responsible for catastrophes. The truth is you never know when an accident can happen, so you should always be prepared. For example, the worst crash I have ever had was riding from a campsite, down a straight gravel path to the washroom. Before I knew it, I was smack dab on the ground faster than I could get my hands up to catch myself. The moral of the story Is to wear your helmet whenever you ride your bike.

mistakes

Helmets are always in style

#2 – Believing you have plenty of air in the tires without checking

Frequently, I see riders headed down the trail with tires so low you can hear the rim bouncing off the ground with each pedal stroke. Low tire pressure can lead to pinch flats and, more importantly, loss of control. The innertube that holds the air in your tire is naturally porous and loses air naturally over time. In fact, a tube can lose between 3-5 PSI a day. At its extreme, your tire could go from full pressure to less than half pressure in the span of one week. Be sure to protect your ride by checking tire pressure before each ride.

#3 – Lube the Chain After Every Ride

Believe it or not, an over-lubed chain is more damaging than an under-lubed chain. While I do not recommend riding around with a dry chain, knowing when to lube is essential. Having a ton of lube on your chain will not better protect it. In fact, too much lube will attract dirt and debris, creating a harsh slurry that covers and wears your drivetrain. The best way to lubricate your chain is to apply lube to the chain, allowing it to soak in for a minute, and then use a rag to wipe off as much excess as possible. When done, the chain should feel almost dry to the touch.

The right amount of lube is a great thing

#4 – Use the water hose to clean your bike

After a dusty or wet ride, many riders reach for the hose to spray dirt off the bike. Sadly, while the bike may look clean, it will be in worse shape than if it hadn’t been cleaned at all. Pressured water from a hose can displace grease and leave nothing behind. Now, with no grease, the bike wears out at an accelerated rate. Instead of using a hose, try a warm bucket of soapy water and a big sponge.

#5 – Bring water along only on some rides

Many times, riders will assume that because the weather is cool or a ride is short, they don’t need to bring water with them. Truth be told, the biggest drain on your energy while riding can be related to dehydration. Stay hydrated by bringing water or a sports drink along on all rides.

mistakes

Yay, Water!

#6 – Assume cycling shoes are only good for clipless pedals

If you don’t want to ride clipless pedals, I get that. There are many reasons clipless pedals are great, but at least as many reasons why they aren’t suitable for everybody. What you can do is use a cycling-specific shoe with your flat pedals. A cycling shoe has a stiff sole and additional arch support to disperse pedaling forces over the entire length of your foot. Therefore, you have more efficiency and less discomfort.

Mistakes in general

Overall, thinking about what you are doing before you ride your bike is a good idea. Make sure your bike is ready for the ride, be equipped to take care of yourself during the ride, and be prepared to reach out for help if needed. Once you go through that mental exercise, you will see the common cycling mistakes melt away. Have Fun!

About John Brown, the author

John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN as a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit, and the fever still existed. 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.
I recently spent some time in Philadelphia. While there I enjoyed a few rides, but the most enjoyable one was Trek of Philadelphia’s Doughnut Ride.

Add a casual doughnut ride to 30 Days of Biking in April

by John Brown

Recently I spent some time in the cradle of liberty, Philadelphia. While there, I enjoyed a few rides, but the most enjoyable one was the Trek of Philadelphia’s Doughnut Ride. I was reminded of the joys of simple rides and good company, rather than difficult efforts and a competitive pace. Now, with 30 days of Biking a few weeks away, here is a fun idea you may want to consider with friends, as warmer weather moves our way soon.

The Doughnut Ride of Philly

We left the shop with a group of eight. Our bikes were a mishmash of road bikes, commuter rigs, single-speed, and an e-bike. When we departed the shop and headed toward the center city, it was immediately clear the pace would be conversational. Our cruise headed out on the river drive bike path, through Fairmount Park, and toward the center city. Rather than stay on the path, we crossed the Falls Bridge onto West River Drive. On the weekends, Philadelphia closes West River Drive so we had our run of the entire roadway. After a bit of riding and a lot of talking, we found ourselves at the end of West River Drive and at the base of the Art Museum.

At the Art Museum, our ride began to slip through the surrounding neighborhoods until we reached our hallowed destination – Federal Doughnuts.

We hopped back on our bikes after stuffing our faces with warm doughnuts. Full of sugar and fat, we returned to the bike shop along the same route. Ultimately, the ride took under two hours, including the time spent eating. Everyone had fun, the conversation was great, and we all got the chance to meet new people.

Why does this ride work?

The ride was great because the pace and route were clearly stated in advance. Therefore, everyone knew what to expect and where to go. The route itself was carefully chosen to promote great conversation and a casual pace. Every rider could enjoy the trip stress-free by including traffic-free paths and streets and a casual destination. Additionally, the pace is controlled by the ride’s start time. For example, a competitive-minded rider has a list of fast-paced rides leaving on Saturday morning, so there would be no need to come to the Doughnut Ride to try and get a killer workout with so many other options. From start to finish, this ride is a winner.

How to plan your ride

If you already lead rides for a local club or shop, setting up a casual ride should be easy. If this is your first attempt at leading an organized ride, then there are a few things to remember. First off, you want people to be at your ride! To ensure you have attendees, start talking about and advertising (if you’re working with a local club or shop) at least two weeks in advance. Also, ensure all your information explains the pace and payoff (in this case, doughnuts) for your ride to build interest. Finally, make sure your route is friendly to a group of riders. For example, I’ve been on a few rides requiring riders to be single-file almost the entire time due to narrow roadways. in contrast, the Doughnut ride promoted conversation with wide paths and clear roads.

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

About John Brown, the author

John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN as a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit, and the fever still existed. 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 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 bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, and parts, or just share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.
The 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.

Waterproof clothing is a surefire way to stay comfortable

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

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

Waterproof Clothing and Gear for Staying Dry

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

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

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

RatingResistanceWeather Conditions
0 mm – 1,500 mmWater-resistant/snowproofDry conditions or very light rain
1,500 mm – 5,000 mmWaterproofLight to average rain
5,000 mm – 10,000 mmVery WaterproofModerate to heavy rain
10,000 mm- 20,000 mmHighly WaterproofHeavy rain

 Breathe Sweat Out

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

Breathability is important because, as far as insulation is concerned, it’s just as bad to get soaked with sweat as with rain. Therefore, using a breathable material in tandem with base layers designed to pull moisture off your skin is a surefire 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 24 hours. To that effect, the larger the number, the more breathable the fabric. For example, in 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 will 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 comfort and safety while riding in inclement conditions.

About John Brown, the author

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

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 retail center and walk when shopping, or taking time in the evening to walk around the neighborhood will make a big difference until the riding season returns. 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 letting your body recover from a full season of cycling. Additionally, time off the bike always excites me 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.
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 and get fast service

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 on repairs at your bike shop.

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 good 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 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. 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 an adult should accompany minors. Check out class dates when available.

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 many times after all the boxed bikes are built. After that, the friendly face of a customer is a welcome sight.

About John Brown, the author

John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN as a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer. 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.

The Minneapolis app tells you trails plowed after it snows

Minnesota’s cyclists are a hardy bunch, but ice and snow-blocked trails can put the brakes on many rides. Just in time for winter weather, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) new Trail Plowing Status Map App. is ready and waiting when it snows.  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 over 70 pieces of city equipment as they plow over 150 miles of trails across the city of Minneapolis.

Click on the map to go to an interactive map

According to the 2015 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census, Minneapolis is one of the top cycling cities in America. 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 heard is “winter.” Many North American cyclists consider the cold and snow a fundamental barrier to year-round biking. But one city, Oulu in Finland, with winter weather worse than most upper North American 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.”