It’s been awhile since I wrote. I debated about a couple of topics I’ll get to each but for today I thought I would write about the bike, the environment and our health.

When you talk to your friends about some of the issues that concern them the conversation may turn to: Obesity, especially childhood obesity, dependence on foreign oil and the length of their commute in the morning, i.e. traffic congestion. Guess what? The bicycle can help us with all of those issues.

For me one of my concerns is obesity especially childhood obesity and the affects it has on today’s youth. It amazes me how many children are obese. Additionally on my mind and I am sure I am not alone is rising fuel costs. Yes lately they have been much better.

Interestingly the bicycle can help in both of these areas.

Did you know?

FACT

  • In the US 50% of car trips are less than two miles.  Currently less than 1% of trips in this country are made by bicycle.  (In Holland it is 30%)  Some cities are doing a better job then others; Boulder, CO is already at 21%, Davis, CA is at 20%.  Minneapolis is at 2% – well above national average, but with room for improvement.

FACT

Children bicycling to school.

  •  “In 1969, about half of all students walked or bicycled to school.  Today, however, the story is very different. Fewer than 15 percent of all school trips are made by walking or bicycling, one-quarter are made on a school bus, and over half of all children arrive at school in private automobiles.”

THINK ABOUT:

What if we started to reverse this trend? Think about what it could do to help with childhood obesity. Or better yet the rise in childhood diabetes. One great place to start is Safe Routes To School.  If kids include cycling as a part of their life when they are young they are more likely to continue to ride as they grow older. What a great health gift you would be giving your child!  Cycling is a healthy low impact fitness activity that they can participate in for life.

Do you have children? What if you rode your bike with your children to school? For families that’s have children within walking distance to school you could certainly ride your bikes there.

I live near a school and it amazes me how many parents are driving their children to school versus walking or better yet, riding their bikes. The cars waiting to drop their children off at school backs up in front of my house almost every morning. Sure some parents look like they are dressed for work and dropping their children off on the way, many do not.

Most Americans can easily ride a bike 2 miles. How many of your errands could be done on your bicycle? What if you used your bike for only three or four errands a week? Think how that could improve your health and save on your gas bill and reduce the maintenance needed on the family car? What if you brought your family along? Now the family is participating in a healthy activity while spending time together and getting the errands you need done.

The bicycle of today is easy to ride and ideal for basic errands such as going to the grocery store the video store or even your local hardware store. I’ve set up my wife’s bike for some basic errands. We’ve installed a rear rack on her bike and some grocery bags. These bags are made by Bontrager and are the exact size of a brown paper grocery bag. You can take the bags into the store do your shopping and then attach the bags right to the back of your bike. She rides down to the store for the little odds and ends we need from the week for the store. Since we live so close to the store she often takes the longer route to either get there or come home to add to the work out.

If you think of some of the simple trips you make today and would get in your car for, how many of them could you be doing on your bike?

Here are some more interesting facts that I found from the League of American Bicyclists Web Site

Ride for the Economy

  • According to the Surgeon General, approximately 300,000 U.S. deaths a year currently are associated with being obese or overweight. This compares to 400,000 deaths a year associated with cigarette smoking. In 2002, obesity-related medical care spending accounted for 11.6 percent of all private health care spending, compared to just 2 percent in 1987, concludes Health Affairs.
  • Bicycles cost far less than automobiles to purchase and maintain, and do not require a continual intake of increasingly expensive gasoline. Between six and twenty bicycles can be parked in the space a motor vehicle requires for parking. Bicycles also cause little, if any, wear and tear on roadways.
    Source: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

 

Ride for the Environment

  • Motor vehicle emissions represent 31 percent of total carbon dioxide, 81 percent of carbon monoxide, and 49 percent of nitrogen oxides released in the U.S. (The Green Commuter, a publication of the Clean Air Council). A short, four-mile round trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe. (WorldWatch Institute).
  • According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle.
  • 60 percent of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively. Since “cold starts” create high levels of emissions, shorter car trips are more polluting on a per-mile basis than longer trips.
  • Michael Oppenheimer, the chief scientist at Environmental Defense, said, “If you reduced carbon dioxide, you’d begin to get rid of most of the stuff that causes these everyday respiratory problems. You’d start to get rid of the nitrogen oxides, which lead to the generation of smog. You’d start to get rid of sulfur dioxide, which leads not only to acid rain but to the tiny particles that people breathe, and which cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems.”
  • A Rodale Press survey found that Americans want to have the opportunity to bike to work instead of driving, with 40 percent of those surveyed saying they would commute by bike if safe facilities were available.
  • According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) October 2000 Omnibus Household Survey, 41.3 million Americans (20.0 percent) used a bicycle for transportation in the 30 days measured in the survey. Bicycling is the second most preferred form of transportation after the automobile, ahead of public transportation. More than 9.2 million (22.3 percent) of the 41.3 million people who bicycled did so more than ten of the 30 days.
  • Several findings from the BTS study indicate a growing concern among Americans with the impact of transportation choices on quality of life—and a willingness to consider bicycling as part of the solution. Half of all Americans (99.0 million people) believe that cars, SUVs, pickups, and vans are the primary cause of air pollution in their communities and 65 percent (135.4 million) are concerned about the level of traffic congestion on the roads in their communities. (They have a right to feel this way: Americans spend 75 minutes a day in their car.) Some 79.1 million (38 percent) of all Americans feel that the availability of bikeways, walking paths, and sidewalks for getting to work, shopping, and recreation is very important in choosing where to live.
  • Motor vehicle emissions represent 31 percent of total carbon dioxide, 81 percent of carbon monoxide, and 49 percent of nitrogen oxides released in the U.S. (The Green Commuter, a publication of the Clean Air Council). Short car trips (over distances that could easily be bicycled) are much more polluting than longer trips on a per-mile basis because 60 percent of the pollution resulting from auto emissions is released during the first few minutes of operation of a vehicle.

A few bike parking vs. car parking statistics:

Number of bikes that can be parked in one car parking space in a paved lot: 6 – 20.Bike Corral

Number of racks for bicycle parking in Seattle: 1,900.

Estimated cost of constructing one parking space in a paved lot: $2,200.

Estimated cost of constructing one parking space in a garage: $12,500. (from seattle.gov).

Ride for Your Health

  • Recreational bike riding is a safe, low-impact, aerobic activity for Americans of all ages. Bike commuting is an ideal solution to the need for moderate physical activity, which can be practiced five times a week. A 130-pound cyclist burns 402 calories while pedaling 14 miles in an hour. A 180-pound cyclist burns 540 calories while pedaling 14 miles in an hour.
  • Bicycling can help solve two of our nation’s leading crises: skyrocketing healthcare costs, which are damaging every sector of our economy, and the obesity epidemic, which in 2000 caused 400,000 deaths, 16.6 percent of all deaths recorded, due to physical inactivity and poor diet. A study of almost 200,000 General Motors employees found that overweight and obese individuals average up to $1,500 more in annual medical costs than healthy-weight individuals. By getting people moving again, bicycling can help improve Americans lose weight and improve their physical fitness. This could not only save lives, it could help greatly reduce the total costs to society of obesity, estimated at $117 billion per year (including $39 billion a year through Medicare and Medicaid programs, which cover sicknesses caused by obesity including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer).McDonald's Quarter Pounder
  • Recreational bike riding is a safe, low-impact, aerobic activity for Americans of all ages. A 150-pound cyclist burns 410 calories while pedaling 12 miles in an hour-almost the equivalent calories of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder®. A 200-pound cyclist burns 546 calories while going 12 miles per hour-almost the equivalent of a Big Mac®.

Sources: Exercise and Your Heart — A Guide to Physical Activity. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute / American Heart Association, DHHS, PHS, NIH Publication No. 93-1677 and McDonald’s.

  • The President, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Surgeon General, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services have all recently expressed concern over America’s overweight problem. According to the CDC, 61% of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese; 13% of kids aged 6 to 11 and 14% of kids 12 to 19 are overweight. Obesity is second behind tobacco in U.S. health risk factors, contributing to 300,000 deaths a year.
  • According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, approximately 70% of US adults are sedentary. This includes 28% who engage in no leisure-time physical activities and 42% who undertake less than 30 minutes of physical activity (such as walking) each day.
  • The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health said, “Physical activity of the type that improves cardiovascular endurance reduces the risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease, hypertension, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes and improves mental health. Findings are suggestive that endurance-type physical activity may reduce the risk of developing obesity, osteoporosis, and depression and may improve psychological well-being and quality of life.”

Ride for Transportation

  • Bicycles are solely human-powered and use no fossil fuels. Bicycles currently displace over 238 million gallons of gasoline per year, by replacing car trips with bicycle trips. – League of American Bicyclists.

THINK ABOUT:

The bicycle is ideal for so many things. Many, many countries have embraced the bicycle for their primary means of transportation. While it is not likely in America that all Americans can fully embrace the bike because of our existing infrastructure. We can greatly increase our use of the bicycle while at the same time making a healthier lifestyle for the environment and ourselves. For a lucky few who live in cities or close to where they work they have the ability to fully embrace the bike. Over the years mass transit has made great strides in helping cyclists get around more with their bikes. Many buses are equipped with bike racks and it is easier then ever to take your bike on the train today.

Great things get started and happen with small steps. What can you do? Are there three or four errands you can use your bike for? Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started and making something new a part of your daily routine. So don’t delay get riding today!

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“There are no poor cycling days, just poor clothing choices.” Ernest Freeland

Cycling clothing has come a long long way. No matter the type of riding you like to do there is a piece of clothing that is going to keep you comfortable while you are riding. Less is more these days when getting dressed for your ride. By carefully thinking about the conditions you want to ride in you can build a very versatile closet of clothing for your cycling without a huge investment. Buying quality pieces will also offer you greater durability and comfort. One of the biggest mistakes we see is people wearing out their cycling shorts and continuing to use them. A good quality cycling shorts is designed for a season and a half to two season for someone who rides several times during the week. If you ride less you may certainly increase the life of the short but they don’t last forever. Also the way you care for your shorts is going to have a big impact on how they hold up for you. While tops and jackets may last longer cycling short and anything else with a chamois is going to need to be replaced with some frequency.

Here are some links to other articles about cycling apparel.

Dressing for Cooler Weather

The Cycling Jersey

Dressing for Colder Weather

Note – This is the final part of a series we  will be sharing that Ernest wrote about cycling accessories and components. While they aren’t intended to be full on “Buyers Guides”  We do hope they will help you with things to consider when thinking about them or to view them a little differently. Then in future post we will dive deeper into each one of these.

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The cyclist today is not limited to the traditional; Speed, Max Speed, Average Speed, Trip Distance, Odometer, Cadence, Time Ridden and Clock, there is so much more out there. If there is a metric you want to track there is a piece of equipment that will allow you to do so. You could dive deep into your cycling data and get lost in it if you so choose. The upside is it makes it super easy to track the riding you have been doing. If you are interested in improving your riding there are tons of tools and information to assist you in that. Many of these tools will allow you to improve your riding on your own. Yet if you really want to take it to the next level a coach is the right person to help you. A coach armed with the right data could improve your cycling to level you’ve never imagined. It wasn’t that long ago that this sort of information was only available to the elite cyclist with money to spend, not the case anymore. Now you have the ability to compare yourself to your riding buddies by viewing there data or even comparing performance over specific segments of your riding. (the Strava app) You can even track your performance over certain segments to see if you are improving as time goes on. If you so choose you can share all of this information with your friends in the app or over social media so your non riding friends can see what you are up to. Don’t have anyone to ride with but want to be motivated? You can virtually ride against your best time of the route you are on. If this isn’t what you enjoy about cycling and you are more about the riding, technology can help you plan routes and then guide you along the way. (a Garmin with maps and if you want use of an app like Ride with GPS) No more paper cue sheets needed. Visiting a new area and looking for a 30 mile ride to do? No problem. Joined a group ride and got lost and need to find your way back to your starting point, there is a solution for that. Bad weather approaching you while you ride, no worries there is an alert for that. (just link your phone to your Garmin) Want to go for a ride but afraid you may miss that important call or text from someone. If you want it will show up on your cycling computer so you won’t miss it, but if the call didn’t come in you didn’t miss your ride.  Then when you are home, on a preferred WiFi network or linked to your cell phone you can log your ride and share it with the world. Heading out for a ride alone and want your spouse or your friends to know where you are, send them link to follow your ride live. (Garmin Livetracking) As the roads get a little busier and automobiles more quiet there is technology there to let you know how many cars are behind you and how far. (Garmin Varia radar) Heaven forbid something happens to you and you need assistant there is an alert that will sent an emergency notice to your “in case of emergency” contact with your location.

You can even document your favorite ride and save it for a rainy day to ride on your smart trainer. Got video on the front of your bike, take a video linked to your ride data and you can ride your ride on a trainer with video. Participating in a ride or race far from home but you want to “pre-ride” the course or train for certain segments. You can do it virtually from your home. Modern technology has literally opened up a whole new world for cyclists today. No matter what your passion is in cycling there is technology that will improve your ride. Not to forget all of the ride information that is available on the web that has been shared by thousands of cyclists like yourself, helping you to plan your next great ride.

Note – This is part of a series we  will be sharing that Ernest wrote about cycling accessories and components. While they aren’t intended to be full on “Buyers Guides”  We do hope they will help you with things to consider when thinking about them or to view them a little differently. Then in future post we will dive deeper into each one of these.

Pedals play an important role because they are where the power from your pedal stroke is transferred into the bike. Certainly the frame, crank and wheels all contribute, but it starts with the pedals. As I mentioned in my post about shoes, there are two types of attachments for cleats to the shoes but a number of different variations of cleat shapes. When selecting pedals you need to consider the type of riding you want to do but also

Alice Bike Fit

Andrew Sink Fitting Alice

issues related to fit. Do you have any injuries that will affect the foot, cleat, pedal interface? These could be knee injuries that would require you to have a certain amount of float from your cleat. Maybe you have feet that will require you to have a unique placement of the cleat so that your feet are comfortable. Will you need shims to address alignment issues with your foot? Does your body require pedal spindles that are a little longer or of varying length to improve your pedal stroke? If you don’t know the answer to these questions a professional fitter will be able to assist you in determining your needs. Do you need pedals with easier release settings for you to exit the pedals?

Like many other things there is a lot that you can talk about in what makes the pedals different. They include the way the release systems work, are they adjustable? How close your foot is to the pedal spindle. From a component construction standpoint of the pedals the pricing generally is driven by features such as what the spindle is made out of, the quality and type of the bearings and the material of the pedal body.

Riding with clipless pedals and shoes is a game changer and really essential to being able to achieve a strong fit. This is the foundation of your fit and by utilizing a clipless pedal system you start with a strong foundation to build the rest of your fit from. Many riders are initially intimidated by clipless pedals but for most when they get used to them they can’t imagine riding without them.

Note – This is part of a series we  will be sharing that Ernest wrote about cycling accessories and components. While they aren’t intended to be full on “Buyers Guides”  We do hope they will help you with things to consider when thinking about them or to view them a little differently. Then in future post we will dive deeper into each one of these.

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Want to upgrade your bike and gains some speed? Wheels are a great place to do it. Plus they make your bike look really cool, or at least more personalized to you. Another great thing about wheels is that in many cases they can move to your new bike when you decide to make an upgrade. There are a ton of factors when selecting a new wheel for your ride. So 07936_A_1_Race_XXX_Lite_TLR_Disc_29.pngmany you could spend hours and hours discussing and learning about it. Your riding style is going to play a huge factor in the type of wheel that is going to be best for you. A person who is interested in climbing faster would benefit from a lighter wheel in most cases but not necessarily all. Yet a road cyclist who wants to go fast may benefit from a heavier wheel then they currently ride but one that is more aero. The advantages of the aerodynamics will offset increased weight. Something else that one needs to consider and look at when selecting a wheel is the speed that you will be riding at. Many of the numbers that you see reported are at speeds that many of us can’t maintain for an extended period. While there is a lot to consider wheels are always a great item to upgrade because the performance benefits are huge.

Note – This is part of a series we  will be sharing that Ernest wrote about cycling accessories and components. While they aren’t intended to be full on “Buyers Guides”  We do hope they will help you with things to consider when thinking about them or to view them a little differently. Then in future post we will dive deeper into each one of these.

Car racks are important to protect your car and your bike. Plus they make it a lot easier for you to get to the many great places there are to ride around here. Loading a bicycle in and out of your car is just not a lot of fun. It increases the likelihood of damage to both your bicycle and your vehicle. It may be something as basic as knocking your brakes out of adjustment. Maybe worse you bend your rear derailleur hanger unknowingly. That could result in a shifting your derailleur into your rear wheel and causing even more damage to the bike and possibly you as a result. Grease stains on your interior are no fun to remove from carpet or worse yet damage to the vehicles interior, like a rip or tare.

As design of vehicles change and lighter materials are used in building them it is important to make sure that the rack you select is designed to work with your vehicle. If it is, make sure to read all of the notes about how to properly mount the rack to your vehicle. Many of them have specific instructions to make sure the car and bike are safe when being transported. Most rack companies offer fit guides to assist in selecting a rack for your vehicle. Of course we are happy to help and will help you install your rack the first time while educating you on the proper way to do so and mount your bicycles. A good quality bike rack will last a long time and offer protection for both your bicycle and your vehicle. Allowing you to focus on the ride.

It just makes sense to carry the bike on the outside of the car leaving more room to bring your fellow cyclists and their gear along for another great adventure on your bicycles. You, your bicycle and your car will be happier.

Upcoming Rides and Events

Note – This is part of a series we  will be sharing that Ernest wrote about cycling accessories and components. While they aren’t intended to be full on “Buyers Guides”  We do hope they will help you with things to consider when thinking about them or to view them a little differently. Then in future post we will dive deeper into each one of these.

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Cycling shoes are an important piece of your equipment from a comfort standpoint as much as what many would have thought of first, power transfer during your pedaling stroke. When I think about comfort on your bike, your position and fit is essential but so are contact points. Contact points are your hands, which include your gloves, handlebar shape and bar tape/grips. Your rear end, so saddle selection and cycling shorts and chamois cream are all essential here. Then this brings us to your feet, pedals, shoes, insoles and socks all play a factor. When I mention these areas they are also all affected by your position on your bike. An adjustment to your fit can address one problem area but possibly lead to needed changes in another area. A properly fit pair of cycling shoes offers consistent support for your foot while you are pedaling. This will reduce pain and fatigue as a result of the pedaling process. Most cyclist are pedaling 80 – 90 times a minute or about 4,800 revolutions per hour.

Think about the act of pedaling. You start the pedaling process as your foot presses down on the insole of the shoe, once you apply enough energy you compress the outer sole into the pedal and then the pedal starts to move. In a non-cycling specific shoe you have several things happening. First the insole and inner sole of the shoe deforms from the pressure of the foot pushing, then the outer sole deforms from being pushed into the pedal. You have two surfaces that are not consistent in support to your foot during the pedaling process. This can lead to hot spots, fatigue, toes that “fall asleep” etc.. Not to mention the energy lost in the process of all of that happening. A cycling shoe offers consistent support for your foot without a change in the shape. Some cyclist will exert the same amount of impact that a marathon runner does. You want your foot supported during the pedaling process.

Cycling shoes aren’t like running shoes in the sense that you are going to go thru four or five pairs a season. They are going to last for a bunch of seasons offering you thousands of miles of riding comfort.

Cycling shoes come in two types as far as the cleat/pedal interface goes. A “three hole” which has the cleat mounted to the bottom of the sole causing you to walk with your toes in the air. Generally considered road shoes. Then there is a “two bolt” style (generally called SPD’s) where the cleat sits flush with the outer sole allowing you to walk with your fleet on the ground normally. Yes some shoes will accept a two bolt cleat that leaves it external but most are a recessed or flush mount. This style was originally designed for mountain biking but is becoming popular with road cyclists, touring cyclists and is the shoe used in spinning.

The “three bolt” pattern offers a larger pedal cleat interface and a lower foot position to the pedal spindle. The two bolt pedals have a smaller cleat pedal interface with a pedal design that is generally more open in design for shedding dirt and such around the cleat. Now there are “two bolt” style pedals that have a larger body/cage around them giving the foot more support. For cyclist that select this style of pedal and shoe that is going to have a higher volume of riding miles we recommend buying a shoe that has a firmer sole to offer more support for your foot while pedaling. Some shoes that are geared for spinning or casual riding will be designed with a softer sole more conducive to walking in.

Thinking about how you are going to be using your shoes and your riding style will help us help you select a perfect pair of shoes for your cycling adventures. If for some reason they don’t do the trick most of our shoes come with a comfort guarantee that allows you to return them.

Note – This is part of a series we  will be sharing that Ernest wrote about cycling accessories and components. While they aren’t intended to be full on “Buyers Guides”  We do hope they will help you with things to consider when thinking about them or to view them a little differently. Then in future post we will dive deeper into each one of these.

Over the years we seen just about everything that can be done wrong on a bicycle done wrong. Some of them downright scary. So what follows is an overview of the items you should be looking at when purchasing a new or used bicycle. When buying from your local bicycle shops you shouldn’t have these concerns. When making a purchase from somewhere else or a used bicycle this knowledge will be extremely helpful.

It is a pretty common occurrence for a bicycle to come in the door that isn’t safe to ride because it was improperly assembled. We see this mainly on bikes that were purchased from department stores or mass merchants and even from online sellers. Often you have the same people assembling the bicycles along with anything else that needs to be assembled at the store, not a professionally trained bicycle mechanic. Most bicycle stores will offer a safety inspection to let you know if the bicycle is safe to ride. The eye of the professional will be more skilled in checking over the safety of bike and may often save you money in the long run of making a poor investment.

A safety inspection for purchase is much more in depth than a pre ride inspection. Most of the areas outlined below are good ideas to monitor on a regular basis for your own bikes, not all of them apply but many of them do.

A good visual once over is a great place to start. General condition of the bike, is there anything that looks odd or jumps out at you? Is there rust? A possible indicator that it hasn’t been properly stored. Is there rust on the drive train? Rust on the brake and shifting cables. Rusted cables can be at a risk of braking or cause issues in the cable housing. Are the spokes rusty?   Are the spoke nipples rusted or corroded?

If you are inspecting a used bicycle the first thing to do is check the frame for damage. Looking for dents and damage in the frame. Most importantly you want to check each of the welds for hairline cracks. Often there is dirt around the tubes joints, wipe it away and take a good look at this area.

One of the big things we see is the front fork is backwards. This often makes the bike unstable and squirrely when riding, because it shortens the wheelbase. You can tell if the fork is on backwards if the dropouts are behind the fork instead of facing forward on the bike.

Another popular thing we see are pedals that are not threaded all the way into the crank arm. You can recognize this when you can still see the threads from the pedal. Also you want to check that they are screwed in straight and not cross threaded. In some cases we see the pedals installed on the wrong side as there are right and left pedals. Installations like these can cause the pedals to fall out during a ride potentially injuring the rider and or damage the threads in the crank arms.

While you are checking the pedals it is a good idea to make sure that the crankset is tight. Push and pull the crank arms inwards and outwards towards the frame to make sure everything is secure. You shouldn’t feel any movement. If you are inspecting one side and both sides move that means you have a loose bottom bracket. If only one side has movement that generally means that side is loose. Riding with loose crank arms could cause damage to the arm causing it needing to be replaced or falling off while you are riding.

Next up the brakes. First you want to inspect the brake pads and make sure they are hitting the rim when the brake lever is squeezed. Are they rubbing on the tire sidewall? Are they partly on the rim partly off the rim? Are they secure to the brake arms? Used Bike: You want to check the rim for any cracks or damage. Is there excessive wear on the sidewall of the rim from the brake pads? Many rims have a wear indicator on the side. What is the condition of the brake pad? Are they worn out, do they have even wear? Uneven wear can indicate a brake adjustment issue. Most brake pads have a wear line printed on them. For disc brakes you are going to need to pull the brake pads to inspect them. In addition you’ll want to check the rotor thickness to see how much wear it has experienced. For hydraulic brakes check the line for leaks. Then ask about the service history of the brakes.

Next when you squeeze the brake levers do they stop before they hit the handlebar? If you squeeze them really tight is there cable stretch that allows the brake lever to hit the handlebar? New bikes have a brake in period where they need readjustment as the cables, housing and other items “settle” in. Which is why we offer Free Lifetime Basic Adjustments. Some of the initial stretch can be removed by the mechanic and other minor issues are often caught during the mechanics test ride. Are the brake levers tight on the handlebar or do they move?

While you are checking the brake levers it is a great time to make sure the handlebars and stem is tight. Will the handlebars move forward or backward when you grab them and try to move them? If you move the bar from left to right does the stem stay straight and not move. Having a steering system that is tight and secure is essential to your safety.

With the front brake engaged rock the bike forward and backwards to see if there is any movement. Here you are checking to make sure the headset is tight. If the bike has a suspension front fork it could be normal to have some movement as a result of the fork. If you turn the front wheel perpendicular to the bike and rock it back and forth you; can often eliminate movement as a result of the fork. Higher end forks will have less movement if any in the stanchions. Used Bike: If you notice a lot of movement in the fork inspect it a little closer as that could indicate an issue with the suspension. For suspension bikes check the functionality of the suspension. Does it work? When you adjust the settings on the fork do they do what they are supposed to? Is there wear on the stanchions? Has the fork been serviced on a regular basis?

Now that you have checked the braking system you’ll want to check the wheels for trueness. Spin the wheels do they move from side to side and or rub on the rims? Does it look like it is out of round, moving up and down when spun? We call this “hop”. “Hop” can also be a tire that is improperly seated on the rim. If so they will need to be trued – straightened out. Do they spin freely without a lot of drag or resistance? Next grab the tires and try to move the wheel from side to side. Is their movement? If so this indicates that the hub is loose and needs to be adjusted. While you are checking the wheels you’ll want to make sure the tires are properly inflated. There is an inflation range printed on the side of the tire. Proper tire pressure will greatly reduce the likelihood of a flat tire and make the bicycle more fun to ride. Used Bike: Inspect the conditions of the tires. Is there excessive wear? Flat spots in the tires, cuts and gouges? What about dry rot? Can you see any damage to the sidewalls or wear from a brake pad rubbing on them? Does the tube hold air?

Sticking with the tightness for safety theme the saddle and seat post are your next inspection. You’ll want to see if the saddle moves from side to side. If you push or pull on the nose of the saddle does it move up or down? Does the seat clamp work to keep the seat post secure? Used Bike: Does the seat post move up and down? Or is it seized in the frame?

Not to be forgotten is the drivetrain. You want to make sure the gears shift properly through the complete range. While harder to do without knowledge and a work stand, check to make sure the limit screws on the derailleurs are properly set. These are really important as they keep the chain from falling off or worse yet shifting into the rear wheel causing a possible catastrophic failure. While looking at the rear derailleur you want to make sure the hanger is straight and not bent. Does the bicycle pedal easy and smoothly or is there a lot of resistance in the drive train? Used Bike: Checking the wear of the drivetrain could save you a lot of expense. Inspecting the chain for wear with a chain wear indicator is important. How about the condition of the cassette and the chain rings? Are the teeth overly worn?

Modern bikes are built to be strong, durable and lightweight. Every one of the bolts on a bicycle has a recommended torque setting. It is important to use a torque wrench when tightening bolts on bicycles today. Especially on parts that involve carbon fiber.

Finally if you are purchasing a bicycle that is going to require training wheels you want to make sure that the rear axle is long enough to accept training wheels. In many cases we see axles that are too short to accept training wheels. Very often the case with department store bicycles. If that is the case you will need to replace the rear wheel with one that has a longer axle. Bicycles that have gears are generally not candidates for training wheels. There are some options for adult geared bicycles to accept training wheels. If the rider is old enough to be able to use a bike with gears there are ways to teach a rider young or old to ride a bicycle.

Spending some time inspecting the bicycle will be a good investment of yours to help you notice issues before they become bigger problems. In many cases your total cost of ownership for your bicycle will be less if you spend just a little more for it when you purchase it. The difference in the quality can be great and along with the durability will last you longer and be less expensive to maintain.

Want to learn more about how your bicycle works? Or how to work on your bicycle? Check out our Mechanics Classes.

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Helmets are the most important cycling accessory you should own. Hopefully you never need it but if you do it can truly be a lifesaver for you. Did you know? That helmets should be replaced every three to five years. The materials that make them so safe break down over time due to exposure to the sun and perspiration in them. Helmets continue to get Bontrager Specter Helmetlighter with enhanced venting and moisture management for your head. In many cases it is actually cooler to wear a helmet then not as it helps move more air across your head keeping you cooler. Helmet safety has been increased now with Mips – Multi-directional Impact Protection System.

“Mips is a revolutionary technology that lets the helmet slide relative to the head, adding more protection against rotational violence to the brain caused by angled impacts. To identify the new generation of helmets, look for the little yellow Mips logo.” from mipsprotection.com

Note – This is part of a series we  will be sharing that Ernest wrote about cycling accessories and components. While they aren’t intended to be full on “Buyers Guides”  We do hope they will help you with things to consider when thinking about them or to view them a little differently. Then in future post we will dive deeper into each one of these.