Top 5 Bike Tips

You love your bike. Let's keep it rolling!

These tips apply to all riders and bikes whether you are experienced or not, or whether your bike is a heap or cost 10 grand. 

  1. Gear shifting should only be attempted while pedaling smoothly with light pressure on the pedals. There are two main reasons. 1st when there is a lot of tension on the chain (caused by pedaling hard) the front Derrraileur by its nature has a hard time pulling the chain off of one chainring and onto another, and so often it can’t complete the shift. Also gear shifts both front and rear happen much quicker when the crank is spinning lightly, but not slowly. The 2nd reason is that this added tension while shifting stresses the whole drivetrain causing premature wear to the parts. What this means practically is that riders have to plan ahead and shift to a lower gear before they are halfway up the hill and aren’t able to let off pedal pressure to make a smooth shift.
  2. Chain lube is not always your friend. The chain is the only friction surface on a bicycle that needs frequent attention but there are good and bad ways to maintain it. For a chain that is dry the proper technique is to drip lube onto the chain and then follow up by rubbing the excess off with a rag. This part is key because any lube that is on the chain will cause dirt to stick to it, which acts as an abrasive and wears it quicker, not to mention making it all gunky. So the idea is to have just enough lube on the chain to keep it quiet and smooth, adding more oil is not a good way to improve shifting and is in fact worse for the chain. As for what lube to use, thinner is better (any of the bike specific models work well), again to attract less grime. The dry wax lubes are fine but getting rid of the excess is key because the wax itself can build up on the chain.
  3. Bikes are not weatherproofed. It sounds obvious but we see it all the time, bikes that are effectively totaled just because they were left outside for an extended time. So many metal parts are exposed and even stainless steel cables can get corroded and cause shifting problems. Riding in the rain or even snow is not damaging by itself, but the bike needs to come inside to dry. Bikes do not need a heated environment in the winter, just a dry one. It is possible to keep a bike running through winter on the salty roads around here but it takes more maintenance.
  4. All bike tubes lose air pressure at a steady rate. This is primarily due to the light weight of the tubes and tires. Road tires should be kept up to at least 100psi, and they need to be checked before every ride as they may lose up to 5psi a day. Hybrid type bikes vary but should be pumped up at least into the middle of the recommended range on the sidewall of the tire and should be checked every week. Mountain bikes lose pressure more slowly due to the lower pressures but they should still be checked every week. Most people should use at least 35psi for trail use and 50-60psi for road use. The most important reason to keep tire pressure up is to dramatically reduce your chance of getting flat tires. The second is to get the right balance between rolling friction, ride comfort, and traction for the given discipline.
  5. Some ideas for making your cycling more comfortable. Although cycling is a low impact activity, humans were not designed to ride bicycles. Backs, necks, butts and hands all get sore from lots of saddle time. Changing parts to get a more upright position, gloves, ergonomic grips, and saddles can all help but there are some other things you can do. First, cyclists should stretch out before, during and after a ride, as the back and neck muscles get tight from holding a riding position and need to be relaxed. Strengthening abdominal muscles is good for taking stress off the back. Even on a good fitting bike people sometimes get hand numbness on longer rides, so change hand positions frequently and periodically take a hand off the bar (if you are comfortable with that) to get better circulation. Also having a level seat will take weight off your hands. As for saddles, there are some bad ones out there but a wider, softer model is not a good option if you want to put a bunch of miles in. There are now available a good number of saddles available with a cutout design to relieve pressure and improve blood flow. Basically if the seat fits you well, most butt soreness goes away as you put the miles on, but standing up on the pedals now and again is good to give it a break.
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