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When riding a bicycle, there is a simple equation that always holds true – control = comfort. In the quest for more control of your bicycle, few things are as effective as clipless pedals and cycling shoes. By securing your feet in place on the pedal, 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”.

Trying Clipless Pedals, A Beginner’s Guide

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

When riding a bicycle, there is a simple equation that always holds true – control = comfort. In the quest for more control of your bicycle, few things are as effective as clipless pedals and cycling shoes. By securing your feet in place on the pedal, 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 pain, burning sensation, or numbness in your foot while riding. Hotfoot is usually caused when two small bones in your foot (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, 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 your ride, take ten minutes and do the same thing again. Keep doing this exercise for the first 30 rides you own the pedals. 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.