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Dynamo Light: How They Work and Why They Are So Dependable

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Being visible is paramount to staying safe while riding and there are many different types of lights available in the market, but the king of them is the Dynamo light. Dynamo lights use a bicycle mounted generator for power, stay lit while you wait at traffic stops, and add very little weight to the bicycle. Read on to learn how Dynamo systems work and why they are so dependable.

Dynamo Light: Where Does The Power Come From

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

Generator types

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

Front Light types

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

dynamo light

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

dynamo light

A few headlight options from Supernova and Busch + Müller

Rear light types

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

Benefits

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

The Importance of Visibility Doesn’t End When the Sun Comes Up

Being visible to others while riding your bike is the key to avoiding accidents. While most people focus on night time visibility, far more hours on the bike are spent under the sun. Here are a few tips to keep you safe and visible all day.

Clothing

The easiest way to be visible is to wear highly visible clothing. Whereas black may be slimming, it doesn’t offer others the best chance to see you. The most visible color available is aptly named high visibility yellow. It’s bright yellow is not found naturally and sticks out against the backdrop of 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.

Lights

Many companies are recommending riders use their lights during the day as well as 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

Most cars sold in the US are equipped with daytime running lights. For that reason, the reflectors on your bike will shine back a 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. In situations where there isn’t enough room for a bike and car, be sure to take up enough space as 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.

Signal

No amount of visibility will make up for erratic riding. Be sure to signal where you are going so Drivers, riders, 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

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 it fun and safe. Try to have 2 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 visible clothing. Because kids bikes are lower to the ground than an adult bike, 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 accidents and keep your rides fun and safe.

There is a simple equation that always holds true: control = comfort. By securing your feet in place with a clipless pedal you can use muscles more efficiently,

Tips and Tricks to Pick the Right Clipless Pedal for Your Riding Style

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

There is a simple equation that always holds true why use 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. Depending on your riding style, 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.

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.

When riding a bicycle, few things are as effective as clipless pedals and cycling shoes.

Trying Clipless Pedals, A Beginner’s Guide That Equals Comfort

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

When riding a bicycle, few things are as effective as clipless pedals and cycling shoes. There is a simple equation that always holds true: control = comfort. In the quest for more control of your bicycle, 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 on to see how easy it is to learn to ride “clipless”.

History of Clipless Pedals

Why would you call a pedal that you clip into “clipless”? To understand the name, it’s best to talk about what came before it. Before the clipless pedal, riders would install baskets and straps (toe clips) on their pedals (see below). A toe clip offers a lot of control but are difficult to get in and out of. In the 1970s a company called Look used ski binding technology to create a pedal that would retain a rider’s foot, giving them control, while also 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. When trying clipless pedals, find one that fits your needs.

Trying Clipless pedals explained

A pedal with toeclip (left) as well as a few brands of clipless pedals (right)

Pedal Benefits

A clipless pedal opens like a little jaw to accept a cleat that is mounted to your shoe. The pedal then closes tightly around that cleat, and releases only when the cleat is rotated. Being “clipped in” is helpful because you can train yourself to exert force downward, upward, forward, and backward as you pedal. Being able to control your pedal stroke completely adds efficiency and control. When it’s time to be free, a twist is all it takes to get out.

Shoe Benefits

A common discomfort among riders is something called “hotfoot”. “Hotfoot” is best described as a painful, burning sensation, or numbness in your foot while riding. Hotfoot is usually caused when two small bones in your foot, the sesamoid bones, (below) get compressed under pedaling forces.

To help alleviate this compression, cycling shoes have a very stiff sole to disperse pedaling pressures along the entire length of your foot. Cycling shoes also use a cycling-specific insole that counteracts your foots natural tendency to flatten under pressure, further equalizing force along the length of the foot. In contrast, normal sneakers and standard pedals centralize most of your pedaling efforts onto the sesamoid bones, causing a lot of discomfort.

How to Use Clipless Pedals

Getting In

The first hurtle when trying clipless pedals is clipping in. To clip into your pedals:

  • Step down onto the pedal with your heel slightly raised (Figure 1). The front of the cleat should be just under the ball of your foot and fit into the pedal first.
  • Next, press the ball of your foot down, and lower your heel to engage the pedal. You should hear a “click.” (Figure 2).
  • Million dollar tip: Don’t look down. You can’t see the bottom of your foot anyway, and clipping in is far easier if you feel your way. Looking usually makes the process more difficult.
Trying Clipless pedals engageent 1

Figure 1

Trying Clipless Pedals engagement

Figure 2

Getting Out

To clip out, kick your heel away from the bike. Try to keep your foot as level as possible. If you lift and kick your heel, it makes it more difficult for the pedal to release. While the motion needed to release a clipless pedal is not entirely natural, if you practice before and after your normal ride, it will be second nature in no time.

Trying Clipless pedals release

Clipping out

Practice

Find a quiet piece of road or path you are comfortable with then clip in completely. Pedal 10 feet, stop the bike, clip out and step down. Repeat this process for ten minutes then go for your ride. Once you get done with your ride, take ten minutes and do the same thing again. Keep doing this exercise for the first 30 rides. After that time, clipping in and out of your pedals will be second nature.

How to Get the Most Benefits from Clipless Pedals

Clipless pedals allow you to put more effort into each pedal stroke by pressing down as well as pulling up. To learn a complete pedal stroke try these exercises:

One Leg Drills

Find a piece of flat road or path, clip one foot out, hang that foot away from the bike, and pedal entirely with one leg. Initially you will find it difficult to go more than a few seconds per leg, but don’t get discouraged. Focus on the muscles it takes to turn those pedals around with only a single leg. When both legs are clipped back in, try to use those muscles in your normal pedal stroke.

High Cadence Drills

This drill is easiest to complete on a very gradual hill. Get into a gear that takes very little effort and try to pedal as quickly as possible. While pedaling, concentrate on pulling up on the pedals and keeping your upper body as still as possible.

When trying clipless pedals for the first time, the information above and practice will have you riding faster, longer and in greater comfort quickly.

Bike Locks: Keep Your Bike Safe While They Are Left Unattended, learn more from these helpful tips.

Bike Locks: Keep Your Bike Safe While They Are Left Unattended

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

You can’t be with your bike at all times. Sometimes you’ll have leave it unattended, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help protect it. Here’s some info on the different kinds of bike locks, and other tips to ensure your bike’s safety.

Types of Bike Locks

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

U-Lock

The strongest bike locks are U-locks. They consist of a steel bar, bent in a ‘U’ shape, that fits into a straight locking mechanism. These locks are also resistant to bolt cutters and hacksaws, and a potential thief would need a lot of uninterrupted time and loud tools to get through one. Many U-locks offer an insurance program where the lock manufacturer will pay you to replace your bike if it is stolen. All you have to do is register your bike.

 

Chains

Chain locks are also popular. While some chains can be cut with bolt cutters, some versions rival the strongest U-locks in durability. Chains use hardened steel links and padlocks to keep your bike secure, and offer a lot of flexibility in what you can lock your bike to. Look for versions that have some sort of covering over the chain (either rubber or fabric), because it goes a long way in protecting the finish of your bicycle.

Cables

The least secure lock is a cable lock. Cable locks use steel cables with built in key or combination mechanisms to secure your bike. These locks are great for stopping someone from grabbing your bike and running off with it. But if a thief is prepared and motivated, they can cut through these locks in a few seconds. However, cables do offer the greatest flexibility in what you can lock your bike to.

How to Lock

Location, Location, Location

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

lock it up rack booby trap

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

Protect Your Bike Parts

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

Lock it up Frame and QR lock

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

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

 

Lights are essential to make sure you have the safest ride possible. Here in this photo Brian Will, from Iowa's Cedar Valley Cycling Club lead a safe ride using trails and roads near sunset.

Lights are Essential for Bicycle Visibility: Check Out These Tips for a Safe Ride

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Lights, no matter your level of bike riding skill, are essential to make sure you have the safest ride possible. And sometimes when you’re riding in conditions without optimal visibility, you need a little added illumination. Plus, most states require bike lights to ride on a roadway (here is Minnesota’s law). That’s where proper lighting comes in.

Lights are the best way to stay safe when the sun goes down. The two types of lights on the market are lights that allow you to see, and lights that allow others to see you.

Lights to Help You See

To help you see, use a high output LED to cast a focused beam of light out in front of you. These lights start at 600 lumens and increase in output. Their size and run time depend on the battery: rechargeable, battery-operated, or run by a generator. So, how do you know which one is best for you? It all depends on how often you plan on using it. The battery-operated kind work well as backups in the rare chance you get caught in the dark. The rechargeable kind are best if you plan to use them on a regular basis, and want to save on batteries. If you ride long periods of time in the dark, then it’s hard to beat a generator-powered light. Any of these lights will be great for unlit roads, trails, or paths.

When you look to buy a light, they are all compared by the lumens they produce. What’s a lumen, you ask? Well, lumens are the most popular description of brightness. In the past, lights were measured by the amount of energy they consumed (watts), but with the creation of LEDs that get more light output with less power consumption, measuring brightness with watts has become impossible. Simple rule, more lumens equal brighter light. As a comparison, the iPhone flashlight is less than 10 lumens.

Lights to Help People See You

The lights designed to be seen use an LED to flash intermittently when turned on. They can be as small as a few coins stacked on top of one another, and have run times in the hundreds of hours. They are usually easy to move from bike to bike if needed, and are great for city streets and well-lit paths. Some riders are now finding added security in running these lights during the daytime.

Reflectivity

Another great way to ride safe in the dark is to use reflective products. Thanks to advancements in reflective technology you can find clothing that is completely reflective, looks like normal fabric, and glows when hit by light. There are reflective stickers you can adhere to your bike, and reflective bags you can mount behind the saddle or on your handlebars.

How to be Seen

Visibility is about safety so it’s best to use a belt and suspenders approach. A headlight will allow you to see and be seen from the front. Match that with a reflective jersey and you become visible from the sides as well. Mount a rear blinker and you become visible from 360 degrees.