Category Archives: riding tips

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

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

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

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

Cold weather riding be realistic

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

Get the right gear for cold weather riding

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

-goggles

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

-balaclava

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

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

-boots

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

-gloves or pogies

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

Highland Claw

Details of the Highland Claw.

Pogies are awesome when things get frigid cold.

-hand and foot warmers

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

Start warm

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

Waterproof

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

Having fun

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

Bike, ski or walk on water safely with these helpful safety tips

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking.com

For many, not familiar with the bold north, walking on water or biking is a fun winter tradition. In the Minnesota region of the upper Midwest, Mother Nature’s annual temperature swing allows many the opportunity to safely pedal, hike or ski across the frozen water. Typically, for three to four months, riding a bike across a body of water with a sheet of ice over the surface is a regular occurrence.

Biking across a lake opening up new places to explore and view the shoreline from a different angle.

Biking across a lake opens up new places to ride and view the shoreline from a different angle.

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

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 find out is to measure the 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.

What is a safe thickness?

Any ice thickness less than four inches, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources states on ice thickness, should be avoided at all cost. At four inches the ice can support activities like 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 is needed to support the weight of a small car. 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.

Asses the area visually

A visual assessment can help supplement your measurement, and can also help if you’re relying on someone else’s measurements.

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

Visually keep an eye out hazards that may be developing in the ice, especially through connecting lake channels.

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.

The color of the ice

Check out the color of the ice. Clear, blue or green ice that is 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 be an indication 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 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 person in the water 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.

Cycling is a demanding workout that engages both the lower and upper limbs. For this reason, it is important to prepare your body for the experience ahead with a few targeted bicycling exercises or stretches.

Pre-ride bicycling exercises you should consider before heading out

by Oliver Devon 

Cycling is a demanding workout that engages both the lower and upper limbs. For this reason, it is important to prepare your body for the experience ahead with a few targeted bicycling exercises or stretches. In this article, we will discuss seven of the most useful movements to include in your routine so that your legs, back, torso, and shoulders get equal attention.

Preparing for the ride here are some bicycling exercises or stretches to consider.

Preparing for the ride here are some bicycling exercises or stretches to consider. Image Source: DepositPhotos

 

 

 

Stretches for pre-ride bicycling exercises

1. High Knees

The benefit of high knees is that they emulate the pedaling motion so that you prepare your lower limbs for the activity to come. To perform them, stand upright and lift your bent knee as far up as you can. Repeat on the left side, and keep this motion going for a solid minute. If you want to challenge yourself a bit more, accelerate your pace by hopping back and forth.

2. Butt Kicks

Your quads and hip flexors should be open and limber before a ride. Butt kicks are the ideal exercise for this, as they are the focus on the front of the legs. Jump up and down, alternating which foot you kick back until it reaches the buttocks. Repeat this 10 to 15 times. Don’t tire yourself out by hopping too hard, as the kick’s vigor is the significant aspect here.

3. Active Squat

Prepare your body for the experience ahead with a few targeted stretches.

Prepare your body for the experience ahead with a few targeted stretches. Image Source: DepositPhotos

Cycling is a demanding workout that engages both the lower and upper limbs. For this reason, it is important to prepare your body for the experience ahead with a few targeted stretches. In this article, we will discuss nine of the most useful movements to include in your routine so that your legs, back, torso, and shoulders get equal attention.

4. Runner’s lung

Who said that cyclists can’t benefit from the stretching provided by a runner’s lunge?

The runner’s lunge is a simple move that warms up important muscle groups. Image Source: DepositPhotos

This simple, yet encompassing move warms up a few of the most important muscle groups, namely the quads, the hip flexors, and the hamstrings. All you have to do is step forward with one leg and bent the corresponding knee at a 90-degree angle while keeping the other one extended back.

5. Foam rolling

The foam roller is a useful piece of equipment to have on hand for your pre-ride bicycling exercises or stretching session. It can be used to target the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors alike. For total relaxation, roll back and forth over the desired muscle, especially where you experience soreness. This will unwind your body and prepare you for the road.

6. Chest Stretch

The lower part of your body isn’t the only one put under strain by a cycling session. Pay attention to your chest as well and stretch it accordingly. Using your bike as support once again, grab onto the top tube while keeping your feet apart at hip-width. Bend at the waist until your back is parallel to the ground and press down. Repeat five to ten times for noticeable results.

7. Shoulder Reach

Your shoulders are engaged in the pedaling experience as much as the rest of your body is. To exercise them properly before taking the bike out for a spin, stand upright and extend your arms straight above your head. Shrug your shoulders up and down for a couple of minutes to warm up the latissimus dorsi muscles, or lats as they are called in the fitness community.

 Final Thoughts

Stretching your limbs and torso before a cycling session is essential for your comfort and wellbeing. A warmed up musculoskeletal system functions smoothly, just like a well-oiled machine would. It is your responsibility to perform a pre-ride routine and prepare your body for the exercise that lies ahead.

 

About the Author

Oliver Devon is an amateur rider on the gravel and a seasoned veteran when it comes to the world of riding. Sitting on the edge of his seat, he sifts through tons of news daily, everything is stored into his head and everything above that gets posted on BikeGearExpert, the place that he calls home.

Sadly, it is sometimes unavoidable to ride in the rain. So, when you do get caught in the rain, use these bike maintenance tips to protect your equipment.

Quick and easy post bike maintenance tips after riding in the rain

by John Brown

Sadly, it is sometimes unavoidable to ride in the rain. In my experience, the rain actually waits for me to get as far from home as possible before starting. So, when you do get caught in the wet weather, how do you protect your bicycle from the damages of water? Read on for a few helpful bike maintenance tips.

The First Step In Bike Maintenance Tips Is Get It Clean!

The first step after a riding in the rain is to get your bike clean. Road grime, mud, and other muck that has accumulated on your bike will hold moisture and encourage corrosion. A bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge is the best way to clean out that crud. Try to resist the urge to point a hose at the bike because pressured water gets into bearings promoting wear.

The Second Tip – Get It Dry

Once your bike is clean, use an old towel to get it dry. Rubber parts like tires and grips don’t need a lot of attention, rather focus on all the metal parts. Really try to address the steel hardware and make sure its dry to the touch before you’re done.

Then, Clean The Rims

Unless you have disc brakes, riding in the rain takes a toll on both the rims and brake pads. All the road grime that attaches itself to the rim works like sandpaper, wearing both the rim and the brake pads when you stop. Therefore, after riding in wet weather you will want to focus on getting all that abrasive grime off the rims and pads. If the dirt is left in place, your brakes can start making noise, be less efficient, and wear out quicker.

Lube The Chain

Water and motion will do a good job of scouring all the lubricant off your chain. Additionally, the same road grime that wears rims and brake pads will wear your chain. Additionally, that wear leaves your chain particularly susceptible to rust. To lube your chain, start by propping the bike up so you can rotate the cranks backward freely. Next, Backpedal the bike, while dripping lubricant onto each chain link. Once the chain is well saturated, give a few moments for the lubricant to penetrate the chain. Finally, wrap a rag around the chain, backpedal, and remove all the excess lubricant. Done!

Lube The Cables

Like the chain, cables will lose lubricant and wear quicker in the rain. To keep your bike shifting and braking well, drip a small amount of lubricant onto the cables where they enter the housing. Once capillary action carries a few drops of lubricant into the housing, shift through your gears a few times and squeeze the brakes repeatedly to help the lubricant find it’s way.

Drain The Bike

A bicycle may appear to be sealed from the elements, but it is, in fact, able to take on water when you ride in the rain. The water that collects inside your bicycles frame can destroy bearings, rust a frame from the inside, or freeze in the winter and burst frame tubes. To drain a frame, pull the seat and seat post out of the bike, and turn the bike upside down. Leave the bike for a few hours to drain and then replace the seat and post.

Overall, when servicing your bike after you ride in the rain be aware of the corrosion and wear rain can cause. Focus on getting the bike clean and re-lubricated, ready for your next ride.

Your favorite music keeps you pedaling in high spirits through the toughest rides like nothing else. So how do you bring your favorite tunes along with limited space while riding a bike? Take a look at these few tips below about some of the most popular options.

Easy ways to ride your bike with your favorite music

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Your favorite music keeps you pedaling in high spirits through the toughest rides like nothing else. So how do you bring your favorite tunes along with limited space while riding a bike? Take a look at these few tips below about some of the most popular options.

Earbuds for Music

The most common way people listen to music is through earbuds. Earbuds do a great job because they fit snugly into your ear (eliminating a lot of wind noise), are light and collapsible, and don’t need an additional power source. The downside of earbuds is they can limit your ability to hear your surroundings. We take for granted how much our auditory sense contributes to our ability to ride comfortably through the world. If you want to use earbuds it’s best you use just one. Most media devices will allow you to shift all music to one earbud, leaving your other ear open and keeping you safe.

Speakers

Another simple option is to use the speakers in your phone and a mount to hold our phone. Doing this option works okay, but music quality and battery life end up being an issue. Although this is not a great option, many riders use their phone as a GPS device, so it is already available to be a media player.

Another popular choice is to use your phone paired to a portable speaker. Lots of riders find it easy to mount a speaker to their bike or person. Portable speakers maintain good sound quality, rely on their own internal battery, and allow you to hear the world around you. The best part is the volume can be adjusted so that others outside of your immediate vicinity won’t hear your choice of boyband!

As the beat goes on drive your bike safely.

As the beat goes on drive your bike safely.

Rock and pedal responsibly no matter what music you choose. Be responsible to yourself by not eliminating your ability to hear the world around you, and respect others who may want to enjoy all the sights and sounds uninterrupted.

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 is 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 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-ridable sections of the race course. 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 cyclo-cross 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 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!

Cycling is one of the healthiest forms of exercise and when you plan properly it can be a great activity year round! Here are some top tips for staying safe when cycling at times when Mother Nature seems to throw a wrench in your plans

Cycling tips on driving your bike in inclement weather

by Personal Injury Help

Don’t let inclement weather stop you from biking. Cycling is one of the healthiest forms of exercise and when you plan properly it can be a great activity year round! As fall approaches, here are some tips for staying safe when cycling at times when Mother Nature seems to throw a wrench in your plans:

Inclement weather and the rain

Lighten up

Stay visible by using both headlights and taillight and wearing clothes motorists can see.

Stay visible by using both headlights and taillight and wearing clothes motorists can see.

Visibility is the key along with staying dry. It is a lot harder for both motorists and pedestrians to see you when it’s raining out. You can wear a reflective and fluorescent vest to stand out and attach reflectors to both your bicycle and helmet (which you should always wear!). Flashing lights on the front of your bicycle and on your saddle are also very eye-catching in the rain.

Avoid non-porous surfaces

Drive your bike cautiously, when wet these wooden trail surfaces are very slippery.

Drive your bike cautiously, when wet these wooden trail surfaces are very slippery.

Driving your bike on brick, metal and wood surfaces when wet all become very slippery. Try to avoid traveling over these surfaces when raining. If you must ride on these smooth exteriors, do so without turning your handlebars to prevent skidding and slow down.

Dress for the temperature

In inclement weather and rain, when cycling, wear a light wicking layer under your rain gear and have a dry layer tucked away if you become wet.

In inclement weather, when cycling, wear a light wicking layer under your rain gear and have a dry layer tucked away if you become wet.

It is tempting to bundle up with multiple layers when you’re cycling in the rain with the hopes of preventing the water from soaking all the way through your clothing to you. Unfortunately, what will probably happen, all your layers will become wet from sweat and you’ll be stuck wearing multiple layers of soggy clothing. When it’s raining out dress according to the temperature outside, not the volume of rain. If you don’t have any waterproof clothing, a very thin poncho or large trash bag, with holes for arms and head to slip through can do wonders.

Inclement weather and the snow

Bikes with low tire pressure offer more stability on slippery roads. Adding studs to the bikes tires adds more control.

Bikes with low tire pressure offer more stability on slippery roads. Adding studs to the tires of the bike adds more control.

Slow down—it’ll take you twice as long to stop in the snow than in clear conditions. When approaching stop signs or intersections, give yourself plenty of room to stop and avoid skidding.

Use fenders—when you put fenders on your bicycle, you not only stop snow from splashing up all over yourself and your bicycle, but you also keep your cycling neighbors day as well. A win-win!

Use an old mountain bike—fat tire bicycles are great, but they often cost more than $3,000. If you have an old mountain bike gathering dust in your garage, it’s often a great and cost-effective option if you want to get outside in the snow. You can also buy winter bike tires, with studs, if you’re so inclined.

Inclement weather and the heat

In hot weather stay hydrated by taking a few sips of water every few miles.

In hot weather stay hydrated by taking a few sips of water every couple miles.

Get acclimated—if you are used to going 15-mile and the temperature suddenly jumps up into the 90s, with high humidity, it’s not safe to expect to take the same route in the same timeframe. It can take weeks to get used to cycling at high temperatures, so try taking in easy for a while so you can get used to the heat.

When the air temperature and humidity surge, take a break and find a place to cool off like this biker dude.

When the air temperature and humidity surge, take a break and find a place to cool off like this biker dude.

Stay hydrated—a 150-pound cyclist will need to drink at least one 16-ounce bottle of water per hour. Plus a glass of water about 45 minutes before leaving. If you’re heavier or if you’re going on a particularly hilly or challenging route, you could need up to four bottles per hour.

Cycling is one of the healthiest forms of exercise and when you plan properly it can be a great activity year round!

Cycling is one of the healthiest forms of exercise and when you plan properly it can be a great activity year round!

Stay loose—you’ll want to wear clothing that’s loose and keeps you cool when you’re sweating. Avoid dark colors, but more importantly, avoid something that’s heavy and form-fitting.

This article was created by Personal Injury Help (www.personalinjury-law.com), an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only. Be sure to review your local cycling ordinances to ensure you ride safely and legally!

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

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

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking

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

Lower back

The sky high seat rider can result in back pain

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

The shocking truth

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

How is your reach?

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

Upper back

Shrugging off your responsibilities

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

Don’t become a pack mule

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

Keep on going

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

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

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

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

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

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

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

Float

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

Spring Tension

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

Cleat Material

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

Offroad pedals

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

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

Path

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

Competitive road

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

Shoes

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

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

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

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

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 because each noise is telling you what’s wrong. Here are some of the most common noises and their causes.

Annoying Noises from Corrosion

Before we get into the annoying noises themselves, we should talk about what causes them. Most annoying noises are caused from 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 will 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 either pedal or the entire crank, you should take your bike into a bike shop to have it serviced. If there isn’t any play, the creak is probably associated to 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 sort of 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 seatpost 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 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.

Squeak

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. Squeaks are usually caused by a lack of lubrication. Typically, a bearing’s rubber seal is rubbing 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 back pedaling. 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 squeak sometimes as well. To correct that just clean and lubricate your chain.

Brake Squeal

If you squeeze you 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 to 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 brake 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. 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 sand paper 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 over 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) simply 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 seatposts. 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 a good time 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 a little attention. The only consideration before entering into the project of noise tracking is how much time you want to devote to it. Hopefully these tips will give you the confidence to try.