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 visit and 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 ‘down’ cooler time of the year. In the slower winter months, you can learn more, get better deals, and faster service.

See faster turnaround time on repairs at your bike shop.

Most 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 really quick 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 into winter, bicycle brands change over 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, and 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.

Worth more than Discounts

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 are likely to 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 normal 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 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 as well as inviting speakers to come and give presentations. Many riders have questions about subjects like bike packing or fat biking, and shops will schedule professionals to come to talk about those subjects.

Bike Shop

Minnesota’s Angry Catfish runs a backpack presentation.

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, and they would love to share their knowledge. Storage can only be cleaned and re-organized so many times after all the boxed bikes get built. After that, the friendly face of a customer is a welcome sight.

Bike noises that can ruin a great ride 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 is coming from, then apply a wet lubricant like Park Tool’s CL-1 to where the rubber seal meets metal. Spin the offending part until the noise goes away, 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 somewhere between a small squeal or a fog horn, then you are suffering from brake squeal. Brake squeal is caused when the brake pads touch the braking surface and, rather than building friction, vibrate. The noise you are hearing is that vibration.

Before you get too concerned, brakes will oftentimes squeal when they are 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.

For contamination, the solution 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 pads 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 into 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. To test and see if the hubs are loose, grab the rim and gently push side to side. 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. If you feel any play or rattling, take the bike in for service.

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 coming from your bike signal that it is good to bring it in for service. 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. The only consideration before entering into the noise tracking project is how much time you want to devote to it. Hopefully, these tips will give you the confidence to try.

Good heart health may improve with an electric bike in your routine

Many people could reassure you about how your lifestyle affects your heart health, and I am one of them. Hi, I’m Rea Jill, and my neglect of health issues throughout my life brought an abundance of consequences that deeply affected me. Now, watching my weight with a better diet and using my e-bike in my exercise routine, I’ve improved my lifestyle. Which has made a huge impact on my cardiovascular health, and maybe yours?

My personal heart health story

I was always eating without control, for starters, and never checked the quality of my food or its ingredients. I ended up being overweight, which in results brought other chronic illnesses. I had a terrible time while suffering physical illnesses as well as being insecure about my body image. On top of it all, I even had a severe heart problem a few years ago, which ultimately brought me to my senses. I could not go on like this, and something must be changed.

For me, what was to be done to gain good heart health?

I had no other choice but to seek professional help. I visited many doctors, and their
recommendations were all the same. They all advised me to get into physical activities and start
doing sports. I learned quickly that physical activity is key to helping you maintain your heart health. There are numerous exercises that you can take part in to help you regulate your weight and enhance your heart function. For instance, you could involve yourself in aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening as well as stretching. Most of these exercises required going to a gym, but at the time, that wasn’t for me.

The optimal solution finding an e-bike that worked for me

I was interested in finding a more suitable way that would help me achieve my goals. Not only that,
but I was eager to help others as well. I became a weight loss trainer, yet I am known among
friends as the e-biker. How is this related to my weight loss story? Well, that played a pivotal
part in it. My go-to physical activity was at first normal biking, but I soon grew tired of it.
Instead, I tried using an electric bike, and that made all the difference. It added a sense of adventure to my life simultaneously to helping me lose weight. My addiction to e-bikes started at this time, and it never faded away.

Then I Joined an e-biker club offering these seven benefits!

Suppose you do not have the resources nor the time to go to the gym, but you could start cycling to achieve your physical fitness goals?

In the last couple of years, electric bikes have been the go-to appliances to help people who want to keep fit. E-bikes are not your average cycling equipment. They are fitted with electric bike components that can assist you to propel yourself when cycling. If you are wondering how an e-bike can help your heart, then here are several ways that e-bikes could improve your heart function:

1. Require less exertion

If you have a heart condition that limits you from performing rigorous exercises, e-bikes can help you a great deal. These cycling appliances have a motor incorporated on them such that riders do not need to exert a lot of effort when exercising with them. Therefore, you can cycle without straining your heart. Thus, you still benefit from the exercises without causing harm to yourself.

2. Cost-effective

Compared to other gym appliances used to promote heart health, such as a treadmill, stationary
bike, or stair-stepper, an electric bike is cheaper to buy. It also has minimal running costs, which
makes it easy to maintain. With an e-bike, you also do not require to hire a professional fitness
coach to help you exercise. You can move around as often as you want as you save on gym
membership and transportation costs.

3. Helps you lose weight

As I mentioned above, being overweight contributes to the development of heart diseases. An
electronic bike allows you to pedal as hard as you may want, which is an effective workout for
weight loss. Studies show that you can burn up to 500 calories an hour with an e-bike. You can
also climb steep hills and cycle through a trail with ease because it also provides you with safety, and there is a minimal chance that you will get into an accident.

An e-bike in your daily exercise routine can enhance your heart health.

4. Helps you strengthens your heart muscles

A study conducted in Denmark involving 30 000 people between the ages of 20 – 93 years old
found that one of the benefits of cycling is that it reduces your risk of developing heart disease.
When you cycle regularly with an electric bike, your heart muscles improve their functions as you reduce your heart’s resting pulse. Suppose heart muscles have become stiff due to sedentary activities, cycling can reverse this condition such that your heart function is stimulated and improved over time.

5. It’s ideal for all ages, especially for boomers

A traditional bike is not always an ideal option for those who wish to maintain their heart health in their senior years. While many senior citizens may have other bone-related ailments that limit their movements, an electric bike can help. With the assisted biking benefits an e-bike offers, heart functions are enhanced.

6. Improves blood circulation

Biking is a good aerobic workout because it helps improve blood circulation in the body through
your blood vessels to the heart. The beauty of using an e-bike while you cycle is that you get to
choose the intensity while you exercise. For instance, if you are obese, you can cycle with
ease without triggering elevated blood pressure, which can exacerbate your heart condition.

7. Enhances your riding intensity

A study conducted in North America involving 1,800 electronic bike riders reported that getting
an electric bike can enhance how often you ride, which is good for your heart. The study also found that 94% of e-bike owners rode more often on a weekly and daily basis compared to conventional cyclists.

The bottom-line to better heart health

The lifestyle that you choose affects your heart health immensely. Whether you young and out of shape as I was with ailing conditions or are elderly, an e-bike can help you meet your physical activity goals. Electric bicycles can completely transform your life, as I have witnessed.

Test riding e-bikes before purchasing is a cost-effective measure when improving your heart health.

About Rea Jill

Rea is a weight loss trainer but known among her friends as the e-biker too. She’s all about sports and even spends her free time reading about the health benefits of biking and doing physical activities in general. Besides that, writing is her hobby. Right now, she is enjoying sharing her passions and expertise through her writing.

All Photos

All pictures above were shot by HaveFunBiking.com of people testing the latest electric-assist bikes at the E-Bike Challenge Minneapolis in 2019.

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

by John Brown,

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

Kid’s mountain bikes

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

Teach to shift kid’s mountain bikes

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

Teach braking on kid’s mountain bikes

Stopping on kid’s mountain bikes is about balancing two things; stopping power and control. Most brakes can easily produce enough stopping power to skid the wheels, but you lose control when the wheels skid. I found an easy way to teach this balance: find a short but steep hill with a clear run-out at the bottom. Stand at the bottom of the hill as a safety precaution and have your kid head down. The first time down, tell them to squeeze the brakes (front and rear) as hard as they can.  On the second trip, squeeze a little less and feel the difference. Have them apply the front brakes more or more rear brake on each successive trip. After a little while, they will have a good feel for the way the brakes work.

Standing position

When kids learn to ride a bike, they do so sitting down. While sitting is fine for smooth roads, it can become uncomfortable when riding over rocky trails. Try to teach your kid to stand while riding, using your legs to absorb bumps. You want to encourage them to have some bend in their knees and elbows and keep their weight back over the seat. This position lets them absorb all the rough terrain they might encounter.

L-r: Matt Johnson and his sons Jack 10, and Cole, 9, mountain bike in Salem Park in Inver Grove Heights on Sunday, June 12, 2011. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Board trick

A fun trick to teach some skills involves nothing other than a board. A 1×6 piece of wood that’s about six feet long works best. All you need to do is set it on the ground and have the kids ride over it. Riding perpendicular helps them work on absorbing impact in the standing position while riding along its length, which helps teach control. A great part about the Board trick is that it gives a visual indication of where to ride without penalty if they can’t stay on.

Up and Over

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

Short and sweet

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

Bribery

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

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

Fun biking, skiing or walking on water with these ice safety tips

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking.com

For many not familiar with the bold north, biking or walking on water is a fun winter tradition when incorporating a few ice safety tips into the adventure. Here in the upper Midwest, Mother Nature’s annual temperature swings make it easy to safely the frozen bodies of water. 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 to determine 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 can also help if you’re relying 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, which 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 quite thin—probably not thick enough for biking or hiking.

The Fresher, the better

New ice is typically stronger than older ice. As time passes, the bond between ice crystals decays even in freezing temperatures. 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 be sure to 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 make it to 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!

Fun winter activities to stay healthy during this ongoing pandemic

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking

For many of us, being active outdoors (biking, hiking, etc.) with the Coronavirus’s uncertainty has been challenging. This year (2020) has been like no other in recent memory. Despite the lifestyle changes caused by this virus, there’s still plenty of fun to be had. In fact, seeking out healthy activities maybe even more important now as winter approaches. Doing something you enjoy can distract you from problems and help you cope with all the new life challenges. Page through our latest Bike/Hike Guide with many maps of Minnesota destinations offering fun winter activities. Then, layer up your dress attire for the temperature swings ahead and head out. You will soon discover that outdoor pursuits pose a lower risk of getting sick than indoor activities do if you haven’t already.

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 hit a Minnesota trail.

 

Why choose outdoor activities?

According to a recent article from the Mayo Clinic. The COVID-19 virus is primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Released into the air when a person is talking, coughing, or sneezing. In contact with others indoors, you’re more likely to inhale these droplets from an infected person.

This Bike Pic  Tuesday as the temps continue to drop, we caught this biker dude, with plenty of layers and a mask having fun in the Bold North, near Bloomington, MN.

With plenty of layers and a mask, this biker dude is having fun in the Bold North.

When outside, the fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. You’re less likely to breathe in enough of the virus’s respiratory droplets to become infected. Being outside enjoying Minnesota’s fun outdoor activities offers other benefits, too. As you may have discovered this summer, being outside also offers an emotional boost that will help you feel less tense, stressed, angry, or depressed.

This Bike Pic Thursday, we caught this biker chick out having fun along the Minnesota River bottoms near Bloomington, MN.

This biker chicks winter activities include having fun along the Minnesota River bottoms near Bloomington, MN.

Move more with low-risk Minnesota activities.

In general, any activity that allows you to keep a social distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from others is lower-risk. Here in Minnesota, a winter wonderland pursuits, consider moving with these low-risk outdoor activities to stay healthy and safe. Again, use the current Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide, with all the maps, to find a place to enjoy the following hobbies.

  • Fat Biking
  • Nature walks
  • Snowshoeing
  • Downhill and/or cross country skiing
  • Ice skating
  • Ice fishing and hunting
  • Fitness classes, held outside to allow extra distancing
  • And exploring the snow-covered trails on an ATV.

Similar to your summer experiences, try to avoid crowded walkways and narrow paths. Choose routes that make it easy to keep your distance. Wear a mask when you can’t maintain at least 6 feet (2 meters) from people you don’t live with.

It’s Friday and HaveFunBiking George will soon melt away as the spring thaw approached,

Winter activities can also include stopping to make a snowman when fat biking?

As fall turns to winter, your well-being also includes doing things that make life worth living. With the right information, you can make thoughtful choices about ways to bring a sense of normalcy and joy to your life during this pandemic. Maybe with some fun Minnesota winter activities!

Remember that just getting together for a chat at a safe distance can offer a valuable opportunity to be with people you care about — and boost your mood at the same time.

Making yourself heard, with a bicycle bell or by voice command?

By Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking

Working on the gift section in the winter edition of the MN Bike/Hik Guide, coming out in early December, we tested a new bicycle bell from SpurCycle. The Compact Bell is perfect for the mountain bike or a flat bar commuter. The bell also offers the same high-frequency ping as their original bell, just smaller with less moving parts. However, with more people walking and biking, is it better to use a bicycle bell or your voice command to bring attention as you approach?

The SpurCycle Compact Bicycle Bell

In a recent test of the SpurCycle Compact Bell, I found the ring lasts longer than most bells. I found the high-frequency ping with a rich aftermath tone helps those, as you approach, of your on-coming presents.

The perfect brass bell housing holds a ring longer, starting with a very hard “ping.”

This compact bell is plenty loud for off-road riding and suburban commuting but won’t win against car horns and heavy street traffic in a metropolitan area. This bell’s true advantage is how long the ring lasts (or “sustains”), ending at the same frequency.

From its package, test out the high-quality ping this bicycle bell makes.

It’s great for commuters or mountain bikers because you can start the ring 10-15 seconds before passing a biker or pedestrian. Letting let them know where you’re approaching from and how far away you are. With the SpurCycle Bell, there’s no need to ring your bell 20-times like the inexpensive department store models. The initial ring offers enough of a shrill to get the attention of even the most hardcore earbud rockers if you do choose to hit it repeatedly.

If your bike has a larger diameter handlebar (22.2 to 31.8 mm), consider the SpurCycle Original.

Mastering the use of your voice or the use of a bicycle bell

In a recent article published by CyclingSavvy, on should you use a bicycle bell or your voice? For many, it’s a cultural issue. In this in-depth article, John Brooking discusses how you can use a bell or your voice to alert people and what to check for after sending an audible signal. He also touches on the other sounds bicycles make and how these extend your pre-ride safety check. Mastering the use of your voice or bell when riding is a call-and-response. Musicians use this so the audience can sing along; you can use it, so your passage is predictable and safe.

Personally, I prefer the bell to voice commands. Especially if you are in an urban area with heavy pedestrian foot traffic. Spending time in Amsterdam on a bicycle made me a true believer that the bell’s sound was mightier than the voice.

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

by John Brown

With school now in session and fall in full swing, we should all consider using visibility gear now available as a key component so we are better seen while riding our bikes. The two main forms of visibility we need to focus on are passive and active visibility. Things like reflectors and bright colors are forms of passive visibility. While lights and blinkers are great examples of active visibility. Read on to see where each one is helpful and most efficient.

Using visibility passively

Most autumn rides start in the light and only devolve into darkness as the ride stretches on. In these cases, most riders rely on passive visibility to get them home. Provided that your ride is under street lamps or some form of light, that passive visibility will get you home safely. The most common form of passive visibility is a 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 on their products. Like the reflector on your bike, these reflective materials will take any light thrown at you, and return it back to the source of the light. Where passive reflectivity falls short, is when there is no light source to activate the visibility.

This jacket offers excellent visibility through color and reflective materials.

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

Using 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 photoreceptor, covered and lights on.

What to use this Fall

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

If you like the idea of taking your road bike or a slight version of it off the pavement and onto a designated park area, cycle-cross may be for you. The actual name is cyclocross and is a form of bicycle racing and parallels with mountain bike racing, cross-country cycling and criterium racing.

An intro into cycle-cross may extend your summer of biking fun

If you like the idea of taking your road bike, or a slight version of it, off the pavement and onto a designated park area, cycle-cross may be for you. Also called CX, cyclo-X, or just ‘cross the actual name is cyclocross and is a form of bicycle racing known worldwide. Cyclo-cross has parallels with mountain bike racing, cross-country cycling, and criterium racing. The CX course is normally set up temporarily in a city park.

The cycle-cross course is marked with yellow tape.

The cycle-cross course is marked with yellow tape.

Marked by plastic tape that goes up, over, and around rolling, grassy and forested terrain. If you want to try cyclocross most states welcome amateurs to come out and try. If nothing else it’s a fun spectator sport the whole family will enjoy.

The right cycle-cross bike for you

With lower gears a cyclocross bike frame is fitted so the rider sit more upright.

With lower gears, a cyclocross bike frame is fitted to the rider so they sit more upright.

Cyclocross bicycles are similar to road racing bicycles. They are lightweight, with somewhat narrow tires and drop handlebars. However, if you are just starting out, a mountain bike or road bike with a few modifications will do. Stop by your local bike shop and they can assist you in preparation so you can try this exciting sport.

Looking closer at the CX bike there are greater tire clearances, lower gearing, stronger frames, disc brakes, and a more upright riding position than standard bikes. They also share characteristics with mountain bicycles in that they use knobby tread tires for traction. The main reason for being lightweight, ‘cross riders need to occasionally carry their bicycle over barriers.

The ideal terrain for a CX course

The ideal course, offers many twists and turn, some short uphill and downhill juants along with a few well placed barriers.

The ideal course offers many twists and turn, some short uphill and downhill jaunts along with a few well-placed barriers.

A cycle-cross race consists of many laps on a short (2.5–3.5  km or 1.5–2 miles) course. The race route is usually on the grass and can incorporate pavement, wooded trails. Obstacles along the way can include steps, steep hills, and other barriers requiring the rider to bunny hop or quickly dismount, carry the bike while navigating the obstruction and remount. As a result, cyclocross is also known as the “steeplechase of cycling.” The sight of racers struggling up a muddy slope with bicycles on their shoulders is the classic image of the sport. Normally there are only a few un-rideable sections of the racecourse. For a spectator, they make a great place to stand on the sidelines and cheer.

Cycle-cross racing tactics

Compared with other forms of racing, cyclocross tactics are fairly straightforward and the emphasis is on the rider’s aerobic endurance and bike-handling ability. Although cyclocross courses are less technical than mountain biking, obstacles can require a specific technical ability of a rider.

Here in the forefront a amateur rider tests out the muddy cycle-cross course with a fat bike.

Here in the forefront, an amateur rider tests out the muddy cycle-cross course with a fat bike.

For example, rider experience and technique come into play on course sections that are extremely muddy, wet, or even snow. Normally too extreme to be ridden on a standard road bike tire, the challenge in cyclocross lies in maintaining traction in loose or slippery terrain at fast speeds. The power of the rider is generally higher over the duration of the race to overcome greater amounts of rolling resistance from loose dirt or grass.

Overcoming the cycle-cross barriers

Although getting off and on a bike sounds simple, doing so in the middle of a quick-paced race is difficult. Often, when sections become extremely technical racer will carry the bike and jog for an extended time to save energy. Being able to fluidly dismount, pick up and carry the bike, then put it back down requires practice and skill. In competition, CX riders may do this many times throughout the race.

Here a rider dismounts, jumps over the barrier, then hops back on to resume her position in the race.

Here a rider dismounts and jumps over the barrier, then hops back on to resume her position in the race.

Now with the leaves changing colors and cool crisp days of fall are upon us here are some links to the race schedule that welcome new riders – in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and other states in the U.S. Visit your local bike shop for more information and extend your summer fun with cyclocross.

Remember if it rains you just play harder!