Fall Riding   Leave a comment

bicycle-world-ny-riding-in-the-fall-600There is no better time to ride than fall.  This is a fact, not simply an opinion.  Granted, summer brings warmer temperatures, and longer days.  Spring combines mild weather, and the opportunity to get back outside as winter releases its grip.  Winter rides can be a refreshing and challenging way to take on the cold.  But pound-for-pound, fall is the undisputed champ.

 Why is fall the king of the riding seasons?  Several reasons.  First, from a weather perspective, the best fall days are an unbeatable combination of mild temperatures that reside in that perfectly balanced zone where it’s neither too warm nor too cool.  If you get too cool, ride up a hill to warm up.  Too warm? Find a flat or downhill road, bump up your speed and cool off.

Next, from a fitness perspective, if you’ve been riding all spring and summer, your fitness is likely still at a fairly high level in the fall.  This allows you to ride longer and more comfortably than you could during similar spring weather.  What might have been a long and challenging ride in April, is likely much easier to accomplish (and enjoy) from a physical perspective in October.

Fall is mentally the superior season to ride.  During spring and summer, many cyclists are targeting specific training goals, or following rigid training plans.  The shorter fall days result in an inability to train at the same levels, and with the road cycling season winding down, the pressure associated with “training” goes away.  This “pressure release” allows riders to put away the hardcore training plans, and go out to ride for the simple enjoyment of being on your bike, and squeezing the last days out of the season.

Ok, so now that we’ve established that fall is the best time to get out on a bike, there are some things that you need to keep in mind riding this time of year to fully enjoy it.

Riding apparel:  The range of temperatures you’ll encounter in fall (or spring for that matter) will require more versatile clothing choices.  Cooler temps might require warmer socks and/or windproof shoe or toe covers to keep your toes warmer.  Arm and/or leg warmers are another versatile option for staying warm during cooler parts of the day, and can be removed during the warmest parts of your ride.  A cycling cap under your helmet can help keep your head warmer on a cool fall ride.  Light weight, full-fingered gloves can be a great option for keeping your digits from getting over-chilled when the temperature starts to drop.  Finally, my top secret weapon for cool-weather riding is the classic cycling vest.  A windproof vest will keep your core warm but can be opened up or removed if you get too hot.  A warm core, will actually keep your extremities warmer.  As your core temperature drops, your body automatically starts to divert heat away from your extremities to keep your core warm.  If your core stays warm in the first place, your circulation stays normal, keeping your hands and toes warm.

Leaves:  I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with leaves through the years.  I don’t like raking them, but I do like watching them change color.  Falling/fallen leaves benefit cyclists by making it easier for you to see further down the road, and around corners that are “blind” when the foliage is in full bloom.  On the other hand, fallen/falling leaves can create a variety of hazards.  Visually, the strobe effect between shade and sun is exaggerated when the leaves are off the trees, and can be disorienting.  Leaf-less trees block less wind and provide less shade and protection than the same trees in full bloom.  Finally (and I’m speaking from recent experience here), those pesky leaves can be downright hazardous on the road.  Wet leaves on the road are as slippery as ice, so be careful and slow down before entering turns where there may be leaves on the ground.  Leaves can also mask hazards on the road or trail.  If you do encounter leaves that can’t be avoided, try not to turn or brake as you ride over them.  If possible, make any turns or speed adjustments before or after the leaves, while your tires are still in contact with the pavement.

Daylight:  In our area, we’ll get upwards of 15 hours of daylight in mid-summer.  In October, we’re down to approximately 11 hours of daylight.  If you ride in the morning or evening, your window for riding has shrunk.  Less available riding time, however, is only half the battle.  The sun is also getting lower on the horizon, and there are fewer leaves to block the sun when it’s low in the sky.  As a result, road glare on car windshields increases significantly as you head in the direction of the sun.  This makes it much harder for drivers to see you when driving heading into a rising or setting sun.  This glare, even for just a few seconds, can make cyclists literally invisible to oncoming cars.  To deal with this issue, it’s a good idea to plan your routes so that you minimize the amount of time you’ll be riding into a rising or setting sun.  While this is good advice for any season, it’s especially true this time of year.  Finally, it’s always a good idea to bring along some lights and wear reflective clothing if you think you may not make it home before dark.

Bottom line, fall is a great time to get out and ride.  Go enjoy it before the snow hits.

In Other News…..

This edition of the blog marks the 1 year anniversary of the Bicycle World Blog.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it over the past year, and we hope to keep it going.  With that in mind, if there are any topics you’d like us to cover, or any questions or comments regarding anything we’ve posted, let us know and we can address them in future posts.

Last year, we launched the blog with coverage of Bicycle World’s annual Ridley Ride.  This year’s Ridley Ride took place last Sunday, October 6th.  For some background on Belgian cycling and the inspiration behind the Ridley Ride, go back and read our coverage from last year.  This year’s ride was another smashing success.  Despite mist and drizzle, a group of about 20 hearty riders went out to enjoy a ride that featured some “Belgian-style” roads followed by more “Belgian-style” refreshments afterward.  Despite the drizzle, the temperatures were warm enough to keep everyone reasonably comfortable during the ride.

This year, one of the cool things I noticed was the expanding range of bikes (all Ridleys) that were on display.  My own 2007 Excalibur had a couple of twin brothers on the ride, along with the updated version of the bike.  There were a handful of Ridley’s top-end road bikes represented by a handful of Noahs and Heliums in the mix.  There were even a couple of Ridley’s top-rated cyclocross bikes in attendance with both X-Fire and X-Night models in attendance.  The beefier construction, knobby tires, and disc brakes gave these bikes a distinct advantage on the dirt section of the ride that ran along the south shore of the Croton Reservoir.  When we rolled into our mid-ride coffee stop, a customer at the Black Cow asked if we were “Team Ridley”.

Thanks to Eric, Ben, and Benny for hosting all of us on the ride.  As always it was a great time.

So that’s it for this edition of the blog.  For a change of pace, and in keeping with the Ridley ride theme, I’m going to add something new for this edition:  the first ever Bicycle World Trivia Challenge.  Be the first to submit the correct answer to this month’s trivia challenge, and you will not only receive fame, fortune, and bragging rights associated with being the win, but Bicycle World will also provide you with a lifetime supply of free air for your tires!

Here’s the question:  How many cyclocross world championships have been won on Ridley bikes, who was riding those bikes, and what years did these victories occur?

Good luck. Keep riding.

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Posted October 14, 2013 by bicycleworldny in Cycling in Fall

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Have You Been Watching the Tour de France?   Leave a comment

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PORT DE PAILLERES,FRANCE- JUL 6: The peloton climbing the road to Col de Pailheres in Pyrenees Mountains during the stage 8 of the 100 edition of Le Tour de France on July 6, 2013.
Radu Razvan / Shutterstock.com

It’s July and there’s a big bike race wrapping itself up in France.  It’s the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France and the race will conclude on Sunday, July 21st as the riders arrive in Paris.

If you’ve been watching the race so far, you’ve seen plenty of excitement, from a bus getting stuck under the finish line during the 1st stage, to Chris Froome’s domination of the Ventoux.  If you haven’t been watching so far, it’s really worth a look.  In this month’s edition of the Bicycle World Blog, we’ll give you some tips on how you can best enjoy the remainder of the race, along with some entertaining stories from the history of the Tour.

This year’s race is being shown on the NBC Sports Network.  Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, cycling coverage on TV has decreased in the US.  The good news is that the technology and overall quality of the coverage we are able to receive has increased exponentially.  Even non-cycling fans can enjoy the breathtaking HD coverage of some of the most beautiful places in Europe.  Whether it’s unbelievable helicopter footage of the Alps or Pyrenees, watching the race pass through quaint and historic villages, or the up-close and personal footage shot from the back of motorcycles within the peloton, watching the tour offers a quick escape to France during the dog-days of summer here in the US.

In addition to TV coverage, the internet provides plenty of in-depth Tour coverage.  Sites like Velonews.com and Cyclingnews.com offer coverage of each stage, the riders, and all the news surrounding the tour.  The Tour’s official site, LeTour.com offers live updates in both French and English.  My favorite technological advancement, however, is the ability to follow the Tour through my smartphone.  There are a number of great apps that can bring you live coverage of the Tour as it happens.  Cyclingnews’ Tour Tracker is arguably the best of these.  This free app provides live commentary of each stage as it happens, allows you to follow the race live on each stage’s map or elevation profile, and keeps you connected to the race no matter where you are.  While I’m not suggesting that you keeping your smartphone open next to your computer as you toil away at the office is a good idea, I’ve heard that it’s something your boss is unlikely to notice (hint:  most stages end around 11am eastern time).

With all the Tour coverage available, there’s really no need to go into the actual news surrounding the race with this month’s blog.  Instead, I’ve picked out some favorite historical Tour tidbits from the past 100 races that you may not have heard about, and that show you how the race has evolved over time.

Who needs a mechanic…or a blacksmith?

In 1913, Eugene Christophe was leading the race as they climbed the famous Tourmalet.  At the top, he took off his wheel, and flipped it to get into a higher gear (bikes with derailleurs weren’t allowed in the Tour until the 1930’s) and began his descent.  Somewhere on the descent, he broke his fork.  Today, if a rider has a mechanical problem, a team car is usually readily available to provide any mechanical adjustments, wheel changes, or even a complete bike swap.  In 1913, however, the rules stated that riders were forbidden to get outside assistance for mechanical problems.  As a result, Christophe was forced to walk 10 kilometers to the nearest village.  Upon reaching the village, a young girl told Christophe of a blacksmith’s forge on the other side of town.  By the time he reached the forge, he had lost over 2 hours.  Unable to help Christophe due to the race rules, the blacksmith talked him through the procedure to weld his fork back together.  After 3 hours of welding, Christophe set off again over two more mountain passes to finish the stage.  In the end, he was penalized 10 minutes (which was later reduced to 3) because he allowed a boy at the forge to pump the bellows as he made the repairs.  He eventually finished 7th overall despite the 5 hour…and 3 minute…time loss.

Cheaters!

Through the years, there have been numerous instances where people have been caught trying to get an unfair advantage over their opponents.  In fact, cheating has been part of the Tour since the beginning.  The winner of the 2nd running of the tour was disqualified for a unique and entertaining breach of the rules.  The Tour’s first winner in 1903 was Maurice Garin.  In 1904, it appeared that he would repeat his accomplishment.  At the conclusion of the race, however, it was learned that he took a train during one of the stages and he was disqualified.  In fact, several other riders were also disqualified for taking trains and cars during the race.

Food

According to Thor Hushovd’s 2012 diary of the tour, he would consume over 9000 calories a day to keep his strength up during the race.  According to his records, he burned an average of 6000 calories while riding each day, and had to maintain a steady stream of 300 calories per hour while riding to keep from bonking.

Of course modern racers have nutritionists, chefs and coaches who help them with their race diet.  Back in 1903, Garin had to supply his own food, and over the 6 day, 1500 mile Tour he fueled himself with the following power diet:

“ lots of strong red wine, 19 liters of hot chocolate, 7 liters of tea, eight cooked eggs, a mix of coffee and champagne, 45 cutlets, 5 liters of tapioca, 2 kilos of rice, and oysters.”

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LE PONT LANDAIS,FRANCE-JUL 10: Yellow Jersey (Chris Froome, Great Britain) cycling in front of the Mont Saint Michel monastery, during the stage 11 of Le Tour de France on July 10, 2013
Radu Razvan / Shutterstock.com

Quite a different shopping list from the high performance diets of today.

Speed

You’d think that with today’s aerodynamic, lightweight carbon race machines, and scientific training methods that speeds would have increased exponentially over the years.  While speeds are higher than they were, it’s not by as much as you’d imagine.  In 1960, using steel-framed bikes with downtube shifters that weighed roughly twice what race bikes weigh today, the average speed for the winner was 23 mph.  In 2012, with all of the modern advantages factored in, the average winning speed was 24.7 mph.

Nevertheless, if you think you have what it takes to hang with the pros, keep in mind that in this year’s Stage 11 individual time trial, Tony Martin’s winning average speed was over 33 mph.  Even last place finisher, Assan Bazayv, averaged over 27 mph over the relatively flat, 20 mile course.  Next time you’re riding along at 30 mph, think about holding that speed for over half an hour on flat ground and you’ll gain some perspective of how strong these guys really are.

After the controversies surrounding the recent tours, many feared that the Tour would lose its popularity.  Happily this isn’t the case.  Fans in France are coming out in record numbers, and the racing has been fun to watch.  If you haven’t had a chance to tune in, you really should.  Controversy and intrigue will always follow a larger-than-life spectacle like the Tour de France.  That’s part of what makes it such fun to watch.

Testing, testing….is this thing on?

We hope you’ve been enjoying the Bicycle World Blog for the past few months.  Our goal is to provide you with something that will entertain and inform you, and maybe help you connect to the sport a little better.  Of course, without your feedback, we don’t know whether we’re accomplishing what we’ve set out to do, or whether we’re just ranting into the vacuum of cyberspace.

So we need your help.  Are you enjoying the blog?  Do you hate it?  Do you have suggestions?  While we want to continue to bring it to you, if we’re just “spinning our wheels”, we’ve got other ways of doing so that are a whole lot more fun.  So please chime in and let us know what you think and feel free to hit us up with some questions about anything related to bikes, and we’ll be happy to incorporate it into the next edition.

As always, thanks for reading and happy riding.

Bicycle World NY

Posted July 24, 2013 by bicycleworldny in Tour De France

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Teaching cycling to your child   Leave a comment

Bicycle World NY tips on teaching your child to ride a cycleOne of the most rewarding things a cyclist and parent can look forward to is teaching their child to ride a bike, and enjoying the sport together as a family.  Like learning anything new, however, the process can be more complicated than it initially seems.  With the warm weather here, and parents wanting to get their kids riding, this edition of the Bicycle World Blog will focus on getting your kids on bikes.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already an avid cyclist.  If you’re dreaming of going on long training rides with your child, watching him or her develop into a top racer, or going on a cross-country bike tour together, remember one thing:  your child may or may not share your passion for cycling.  That’s right, kids get a vote too.  Quite often, dreams of watching your child hit the game-winning home run or kick the game winning goal are replaced with the reality of watching your child perform a great clarinet solo.  That’s ok, and the same holds true for cycling.  Your child might not share your passion.  Nevertheless, if you approach it correctly, you can stack the deck in your favor.

To encourage your child’s interest in cycling, it’s important to be positive and remember to be patient with your child as they learn.  When you’re trying to teach your child to ride, keep the practice sessions short and fun.  When your child gets tired or frustrated, quit for a while.  Better to keep things positive and fun than have things go negative and turn them off.

So how do you teach a child to ride a two wheeler?  There are 3 common ways:  training wheels, riding without pedals, and the tried and true “run behind and hold the bike up” method.  All three work and have their own advantages and disadvantages.  You may find that a combination of these methods works best for your child.

Training wheels have the advantage of teaching a child how to pedal, brake, and steer without toppling over.  Many parents make a mistake of installing training wheels at the same level as the rear tire, not allowing any “rocking” of the bike from side to side.  By installing the training wheels slightly higher than ground level, two things are accomplished: 1.) it encourages the child to learn to balance the bike while riding, and 2.) it prevents situations where the wheel of the bike gets suspended over a depression in the pavement, temporarily turning the bike into a stationary trainer.  As your child’s skills improve, you can raise the training wheels slightly higher, and encourage additional balance skills.  The main drawback to training wheels are that they often encourage dependence on training wheels, and learning to ride without them can take longer.

The second method is to teach a child to “scoot” a bike without pedaling.  This can be done by buying a “balance bike” which is a small bike without pedals, or by simply removing the pedals on a small child’s bike.  With this method, the seat should be lowered so that the child can easily reach the ground with both feet.  The child can then propel themselves by pushing off the ground with their feet or walking while sitting on the bike.  As the child gets used to scooting, they’ll eventually learn to pick up their feet and coast while balancing.  Another variation of this method is to have a child coast down a small, smooth, grassy slope to provide forward momentum.  Once the child masters balancing and steering the bike, you can simply reinstall the pedals and the child can ride normally.

The third method is one that many of us were exposed to as children.  A parent supports the bike from behind, gets the child to start riding while the parent runs along behind.  Finally the parent lets go, and the child pedals off on their own…or crashes into a tree.  If you want to try this method, practicing on smooth grass can lessen the pain of any crashes, and it’s important to support the bike from behind, not the handlebars.  This will encourage the child to learn to balance and steer at the same time.  Bicycle World now carries a handle that attaches the frame so that the parent doesn’t have to bend over to support the bike, making things much easier on Mom’s and Dad’s backs.  Note that this method is also the most likely to result in crashes, tears, and trust issues (“Mommy you promised you wouldn’t let go!”) so tread carefully.

With all this talk of crashing, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about safety.  First and most obviously, get a helmet for your child and make them wear it, no exceptions.  In fact, as a parent, if you plan to ride with your child, you should wear one too, even if it’s just a short jaunt up and down the street.  Not only will it protect you, but if your child sees you wearing one, they’ll model your behavior and wear theirs too.  The good news is that nowadays kids are used to helmets, and there are plenty of cool styles available.  Let your child pick out a helmet that they like, which will make them more likely to wear it.  Additionally, practicing early two-wheel attempts on smooth grass, and dressing your child in jeans and long sleeves can cut down on some scrapes that they may encounter.

So what kind of bike should you get?  Bicycle World’s staff can help you find the right size bike for your child.  Like helmets, letting your child participate in the selection process can be fun and encourage them to ride more.  It’s generally recommended to get the biggest bike a child can safely handle to prolong the time they’ll have before they outgrow their bike.

Keep in mind that a high quality bike from a good bike shop has advantages over those sold at big-box stores.  All children’s bikes at Bicycle World were assembled by trained bike mechanics, so you know that they’re assembled properly.  If something’s not right, our skilled mechanics can make any corrections or adjustments that the clerks at big box stores might not be able to handle.  High quality bikes have better components with quality bearings that actually make it easier and smoother to pedal and ride.  Better bikes come with more durable wheels with more spokes, that will outlast those on big box store bikes.  Coaster brakes and hand brakes on a quality bike are stronger and better designed, and are adjusted and tested to work properly, which is an important safety consideration when you send your little one out on the road.

Finally, a quality child’s bike retains its value longer.  In most cases a quality bike can be handed down to several children after the original owner outgrows it, or even traded in for the purchase of a new bike.  In the long run, a higher quality bike will almost always provide better value in the long run than a big box store bikes.  Bicycle World even carries a collection of “recycled bicycles” that are all high quality, slightly used bikes, that are all fully reconditioned and tuned up.  These bikes all carry a 30 day warrantee on parts and labor.

Now for the fun part:  riding with your child.  Once your child has a decent bike and basic skills, it’s time to ride.  Again, the goal is to encourage the fun aspects of riding so that your child develops a love of the sport.  Luckily our area has a network of great bike trails and paths.  You can download bike trail information here:  http://parks.westchestergov.com/trailways.  Be sure to teach your child to stay to the right on the trails, call out “on your left” before they pass others, and interact safely with pedestrians and other people they may encounter.  Children are also capable of riding on quiet residential roads if accompanied by an adult.  It’s usually best to ride behind your child so you can see where they’re headed and you can call out directions to them.  Riding into town for an ice cream cone or other fun destination can be a great motivator to get your kids on their bikes regularly.

Finding time to ride with your children can also be a challenge, especially if you’re an avid cyclist who trains regularly.  It’s likely that your child won’t develop the skills or stamina to accompany you on training rides right away.  A great alternative is to tack your “ride with the kids” onto the end of your training ride.  In most cases you can predict when you’ll be back from training, and if the kids are ready to ride upon your return, a fun ride around the neighborhood with the family can be the perfect cool down after a workout.  Conversely, a ride with your kids before a workout can give you a great warm-up opportunity.

Riding with your children can be a great experience.  Cycling is a rewarding life-long sport, and you can start your child on this journey with you this summer.  Next time you’re in the shop, take a look at some of the photos we have of kids and their parents riding together.  If you haven’t done so, go back and check out our December blog where we featured Charles Scott’s book, Rising Son¸ which chronicles his ride across Japan with his son, Sho for a truly inspiring story about riding with your child.  At the very least, riding with your kids can be a great way to spend time together.

Later this month, come out and check out a great family event, the Bedford Bike Run on May 19th.  Bicycle World is a proud sponsor of this event.  It’s a great event, and we’re proud to be part of it.  For details check out the link:    http://www.bcsdny.org/community.cfm?subpage=13569

We hope you enjoyed this edition of the blog.  As always, we welcome your questions and comments.

Bicycle World Hosts WCC Spring Bike Shop Tour   Leave a comment

On Wednesday, March 20th, Bicycle World kicked off the Westchester Cycle Club’s 2013 Spring Bike Shop Tour.  The tour consists of a series of dinner events hosted at local bike shops in Westchester County.  Last year, Bicycle World hosted an Italian-themed dinner, and this year, Bicycle World opted for its next European culinary stop:  Germany.

On the menu was an authentic and delicious meal of bratwurst and sauerkraut.  Paired with dinner were a selection of beers from the Captain Lawrence Brewery (special thanks to Captain Lawrence Beer Ambassador and WCC member, Gary Steinel for help with the beer pairings), wine, and apple strudel for dessert.  Dinner was held at Bicycle World where the staff transformed the 2nd floor of the shop into something resembling a restaurant nestled between rows of bikes.

Shortly after the feasting commenced, Eric began a Q/A session with the diners.  Topics ranged from training techniques, bike fitting, bike handling skills and (ironically) nutrition.  The Q/A session quickly evolved into a rolling discussion; just a group of like-minded cyclists enjoying each other’s company.  Thanks to everyone who attended, the Westchester Cycling Club, Captain Lawrence, and everyone else who contributed to make this annual event happen.  After an Italian feast last year, and a visit to Germany this year, maybe we’ll serve Tapas next year for some Spanish influence.

Upcoming Events

In other news, spring has sprung…we hope.  After too many cold and windy days, it looks like riding season might actually be starting.  With it, we wanted to let you know about some upcoming events that Bicycle World will be taking part in this year.

  • On May 19th, the Bedford Central School District will be hosting its annual Elementary School Bike Run, and Bicycle World will be there to lend a hand.  Elementary students from the district will participate in a variety of fun activities including riding laps around the track at the Fox Lane Campus.
  • On June 9th, bike racing returns to downtown White Plains at the 2nd annual White Plains Criterium.  Bicycle World is sponsoring the event and will be on hand to provide mechanical assistance to the racers.  If you’ve never seen a bike race, the White Plains Criterium is a must-see.  Racers will compete on a ½ mile loop in the heart of downtown White Plains, providing plenty of thrills for spectators.

Pro Racing Coverage

Finally, pro cycling season is underway, and if you’re handy with programming your DVR, you can catch some great races.  NBC Sports Group will be carrying several pro races, and you can view their schedule here: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/50797969/ns/sports-cycling/.  Some of our favorite upcoming races include:

  • Sunday 4/7:  Paris Roubiax.  Affectionately known as “The Hell of the North”, Paris Roubaix is one of spring’s cycling traditions.  This one-day classic features 27 sections of cobbled “pave” sections that wreak havoc on the field of riders and their equipment.  Throw in typical miserable Belgian spring weather, and the finish in the Roubiax Velodrome, and Paris Roubiax is simply amazing to watch. (Coverage:  NBCSN, 8am)
  • Sunday 4/21:  Liege-Bastongne-Liege.  Another of the spring classics, it’s also the oldest, and some would argue that the series of climbs toward the end of the race make it the toughest.  With a 2am start time on NBC Sports Network, the best bet is to set the DVR to record it.  (Coverage:  NBCSN, 2am)
  • Tuesday 4/23:  Fleche Wallone.  While not an “official” Spring Classic, Fleche Wallone is considered by many to be on par with them.  Held mid-week and with many riders from Liege-Bastonge-Liege participating, only 7 riders in the past 8 decades have won both in the same year, notching an “Ardennes Double”.  Unless you’re nocturnal, this is another one for the DVR.  (Coverage:  NBCSN, 2am).

Finally, if you want to watch more pro racing and have access to a decent high-speed internet feed, check out www.steephill.tv to get live coverage of pro races from Europe from the local European network feeds.

That’s all for this edition of the blog.  As always, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest happenings around the shop.  We’re looking forward to the good weather settling in, and look forward to seeing you all out on the roads and trails.

Posted March 27, 2013 by bicycleworldny in Events News

Winter Maintenance   Leave a comment

Winter finally hit, and in most cases, that means a lot less time riding.  It’s also a great time to use this downtime to go over your bike and make sure it’s ready to go when the weather warms up.  Taking care of maintenance issues, making upgrades, and otherwise getting your bike in shape is a great way to stay connected to the sport at times when you’re unable to ride.  With this in mind, Bicycle World held free maintenance and repair classes on January 26th and February 23rd. Approximately 20 cyclists attended each event and learned the basics of bike maintenance and repair, including fixing a flat, making emergency gear and brake repairs, basic wheel truing, and other handy maintenance tips and tricks.

The fact of the matter is that while bikes are relatively simple machines, all machines do eventually suffer breakdowns.  Factoring in Murphy’s Law you can almost guarantee that at some point you’ll have a mechanical problem at an inconvenient time, far from home.  Being able to overcome a minor mechanical problem and get back on the road can be the difference between finishing a ride or waiting on the side of the road for a few hours until help arrives.

The goal of this month’s blog isn’t to give you in-depth maintenance and repair instructions.  There are other resources that I’ll list where that information can be found.  Instead, the focus will be on some basics, and some good advice from the Bicycle World Staff to get you thinking about how you take care of your bike.

Let’s start with the most common mechanical issue facing cyclists:  flats.  If you ride a bike, you will get a flat at some point.  There’s really no avoiding it.  So rather than depend on your riding buddies to help you out, or calling for a ride home, it’s important to know how to deal with them.  With a little bit of practice, you can get back on the road in just a few minutes, so there’s really no reason that a flat should ruin your ride.

Practice?  Did he just say practice?  Yes, as a matter of fact, I did.  Winter is the absolute BEST time to practice fixing a flat if you’re not comfortable doing it.  It’s a whole lot more enjoyable learning how to change a tube, work a CO2 inflator, or figure out how to use your tire levers sitting in your living room in front of the fireplace (possibly with a refreshing beverage within arm’s reach) than it will be on the side of the road in a cold rainstorm (Mr. Murphy and his laws again!).  So next time you’re relaxing at home watching the snow pile up outside, grab one of your wheels, a pump, and a couple of tire levers, and run through your flat fixing procedure a couple times.  Before long, you’ll be very comfortable fixing flats, and you’ll enjoy riding without being intimidated by this very minor issue.

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Duct tape on a tire lever-my secret weapon. Looks like I’m down to about 2 feet, need to refresh the supply.

While we’re on the subject of flat fixing, here’s some other advice:

  • Always line up the logo on your tire with the valve stem on your tube.  More than just looking good, lining up your valve stem with your tire’s logo will help you find the cause of your flats.  If you don’t know why you got a flat, you’re likely to have the same flat reoccur.  When you pull out a punctured tube, and find the hole in it, you can use the valve stem as a reference point to line up where something might be lodged in the tire.  So if the hole in the tube is at 3 o’clock to the valve, start looking for something lodged in the tire at the 3 o’clock position relative to the logo, and you’ll likely find what caused your flat.
  • Look at your tires!  It seems obvious, but tiny things imbedded in the tire will often work their way into the tire and eventually puncture the tube.  In a well-lit area, periodically go over your tires looking for tiny slivers of glass or wire that might be caught in your treads.  These can usually be removed pretty easily with a needle or tweezers.  Some tires have wear indicators that can tell you when you need to replace them.  Short of that, if you start to see the threads beneath the tread, it’s a sure sign that your tire is ready for replacement.
  • Don’t ride through debris.  Ok, it seems obvious, but it’s amazing how often I see cyclists riding through debris on the side of the road.  As cars go down the road, debris gets kicked to the side of the road.  Depending on the width of the road or shoulder, if you’re able to move slightly left toward traffic and away from the “debris zone”, you can avoid lots of this flat-causing grit.
  • Inflate your tires!   High pressure bike tires lose air all the time.  Inflate your tires to the proper pressure before each ride.  If you’ve recently used CO2 to inflate a tire, you’ll need to inflate more frequently since CO2 leaks out of tubes faster than regular air.  Underinflated tires are the primary cause of pinch flats.
  • Fix a tire for a buck:  if you suffer a small gash in a tire, re-inflating a tube in that tire can cause the tube to push through the hole in the tire, giving you another flat.  To get home, you can “boot” a tire by putting something between the tube and the inside of the tire.  One common fix is to fold a dollar bill and use it as a buffer between the hole and the tube.

I asked some of the Bicycle World team for some of their tips too.  Here’s some solid advice from the people deal with bikes every day:

Mechanic Ben Meister:  “Keep your bike clean. “  Is Ben just a neat freak who doesn’t like to get his hands dirty? Not necessarily.  A clean bike keeps dirt and grit from working into moving parts where it can cause damage.  Additionally, if you spend some time cleaning your bike on a regular basis, you’ll be more likely to find problems before they escalate.  In most cases, some soapy water, some sponges and a few rags are enough to keep your bike looking great and free of major problems.

Eric:  “Wipe your chain down after every ride.”  Just like keeping the bike clean, a quick wipe down of your chain will keep any grit or dirt from working its way into the chain, between the plates and rollers where it can prematurely wear out your chain.  It only takes a couple seconds to wipe your chain down, and it can increase its longevity dramatically.

Justin Holmes(Sales):  “Lube your chain.”  Seems obvious, but we’ve all ridden past squeaky, noisy bikes.  Lubes wear out, so a regular re-application to your drivetrain will prolong its life and make shifting smoother.  There are many different lubes available, but almost all are easy to apply using the directions on the bottle.

So how much maintenance and repair should you take on yourself, and how much should you leave to the professionals?  The answer is really based on your comfort level, available time, and budget.  Learning to do your own maintenance and repair can save you money and time.  On the other hand, taking on a complicated repair might require special tools and training.  Basics like fixing flats, keeping your bike clean and properly lubed, and making minor adjustments to your bike are all relatively easy to do with simple tools that you might already own.  A more complicated task,  like replacing your bottom bracket, might be something you want to leave to the professionals.  Nevertheless, there are great resources available to help you decide what you might want to take on yourself, and guide you through the process.  Park Tool’s website has a great repair section that gives step-by-step directions on hundreds of maintenance and repair projects.  You can find it here: http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help.   There are also some great bike repair books out there that you can keep on your workbench.  Books like Lennard Zinn’s Zinn and the Art of Mountian Bike Maintenance or Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance are great resources as is Park Tool’s Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair. With these resources readily available, you can see ahead of time what’s involved in a specific repair project, and decide for yourself if it’s something you’d be comfortable doing yourself.

Finally, I wanted to share my own until now, super-secret, bike repair/maintenance tip.  As many people know, duct tape can fix almost anything.  While the origins of this miracle product are shrouded in mystery (some say the Mayans invented it, others say it came from alien visitors) duct tape is universally recognized for its ability solve problems.  Having some of this miracle substance on hand during a ride has come in handy on several occasions.  I’ve used it to secure a broken spoke to other spokes, fix a plastic water bottle cage that cracked after a pot hole hit, and used it to secure torn bar tape.  The list of potential uses is seemingly endless.  My personal tip for this blog edition is to keep 3-4 feet of duct tape wrapped around a tire lever.  It takes up virtually no space in my pocket, weighs next to nothing, doesn’t affect the usefulness of the tire lever, and can come in handy to solve hundreds of problems you might encounter on the road.  I’ve included a picture showing my secret weapon so you can see how it works.

I hope you enjoyed this issue of the Bicycle World Blog.  Learning to work on your own bike can be a very rewarding experience, and can end up saving you time and money.  Finally, if you do get overwhelmed or have questions, the guys at the shop are always available to help.  As always, we welcome your questions and comments.  Be sure you connect with us on Facebook, and subscribe to the blog.

Happy riding.

Posted March 4, 2013 by bicycleworldny in bike maintenance

Winter Riding 101   Leave a comment

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Winter Riding 101

Happy New Year from Bicycle World.  So far we’ve had a relatively mild winter, but as we know there are no weather guarantees here in the Northeast, so in this edition we’ll talk about winter.  Believe it or not, you can actually ride year round in almost any weather, if you’re properly prepared for it.  More important, by riding in the winter, you’ll be ahead of the curve from a fitness perspective when spring arrives.

To many, the idea of training in the winter means tortuous hours stuck in a spare room grinding away on an indoor trainer.  While indoor trainers are effective, it can be mentally difficult to ride indoors where the view never changes.  On the other hand, indoor trainers are great for structured training, and you can get a very effective workout in a shorter amount of time if you plan your workouts properly.  Best of all, you’ll never have an interval interrupted by traffic or a red light when you’re on your trainer.  In addition to riding, winter is a great time to cross train.  Hiking, cross country skiing, shoe shoeing, and ice skating are all complimentary activities that can help keep you in good cycling shape over the winter.  Eric Heiden, the 5-time gold medalist for speed skating in the 1980 Winter Olympics used cycling to cross train for skating, and eventually went on to ride alongside Greg LeMond as a professional cyclist on team 7-Eleven in the 1986 Tour de France.

Still, when the weather cooperates, it can be both mentally and physically rewarding to get outside and ride.  Before you do, you need to make sure that you’ve got the right attitude, clothing, skills, and equipment.  Riding in winter is as much a mental challenge as a physical one, and once you’ve overcome the mental aspects, the rest is relatively easy.  Finally, keep in mind that everybody reacts to colder weather differently.  What works for one person might not work for somebody else, so be ready to adapt our recommendations to your own situation and tolerance for cold weather.

The first and most obvious obstacle is overcoming the cold and staying warm and dry on the bike.  More specifically, winter riding means controlling the relationship between the cold outside air and the heat you generate on the bike, while simultaneously staying dry.  Before we dig into specific clothing, it’s important to understand this relationship between temperature and moisture.  When you work hard, you generate heat.  In order to regulate temperature, your body produces sweat which will cool you as it evaporates.  If, however, you cool off before the sweat evaporates, you’ll be cool and wet, and the moisture will rob you of heat and you can become dangerously cold.  Understanding this relationship means that it pays to anticipate the road ahead and prepare for it.  Prior to going into a long climb where effort will peak and speed will drop, you are likely to get warm and sweaty, so before the climb begins, you need to have a way to ventilate the excess heat and moisture.  This can be as easy as unzipping your jersey or jacket.  Once you reach the top of the climb, you need to anticipate that an increase in speed and lower level of exertion will allow your body to cool off, so you need to be prepared to zip back up and trap the heat that you’ve generated.   If it’s wet outside, you have the added challenge of keeping the outside moisture from penetrating your clothing, while still venting heat and moisture from the inside.

Dressing for the cold takes a little extra effort, but isn’t that hard to do if you keep the heat and moisture management principles in mind.  Start with classic layering:  you’ll want outer layers that block the wind and rain, allowing you stay warm.  Next, insulating layers that trap warm air close to your body, should be used, and wicking materials in contact with your skin transport moisture away from your skin to keep you warm.  Finally the ability to adjust airflow across these layers is important.  The typical advice for winter riding is to start every ride feeling a little bit cold since riding will warm you up.

Some of the most versatile winter riding garments include arm warmers, leg/knee warmers, and vests.  Arm warmers can add an extra layer of insulation to your arms, but can easily be removed if you get too warm.  Knee and leg warmers can allow you to ride with your favorite shorts, but keep your legs protected.  Like arm warmers, they can be removed if you get too warm.  Vests do a great job of keeping your core warm by blocking wind and moisture.  In fact, one of the most versatile pieces of cycling apparel is a convertible jacket/vest that can be worn as a regular jacket, or as a vest with the arms removed.  Making an occasional extra stop to adjust these layers is worth the effort and will allow you to stay comfortable longer.  It takes some experimentation to find out what works for you.  A great piece of advice is to keep a log that records what the conditions were when you rode, what you wore, and how it performed.  In doing so, you can easily reference what works best for you under any weather conditions.

If you can’t invest in a full complement of winter riding gear all at once, you may have other options available to you.  Cold weather leggings for running or cross country skiing can be pressed into service on the bike, and work great.  Ski gloves, or even ergonomic work gloves, can be used to keep your hands warm if cycling-specific gloves aren’t an option.  If you don’t have winter shoe covers or riding boots, some strategically placed duct tape on the vents of your shoes, combined with some quality wool socks can keep your feet from freezing.  For insulating layers, practically any fleece or wool layers can keep you warm.  Finally, avoid cotton at all costs.  There’s a saying among backcountry enthusiasts that “cotton kills” because it is a poor insulator and retains water.  A cotton t-shirt will get wet quickly and stay wet for a long time without adding any insulation benefits.

Now that you’re dressed to ride, what can you expect on the roads?  When it’s cold off, there are fewer people out, so traffic tends to be lighter.  With no leaves on trees, you can see what’s coming around bends in the road.  At the same time, hazards like ice, darkness, and low sun angles need to be considered.  It’s a simple fact of physics that water freezes at 32 degrees.  If you find yourself out riding in sub-freezing temperatures, you need to be vigilant about the road ahead.  It’s better to slow down and proceed through potentially slippery areas carefully than to risk it and wipe out, even if it means getting off the bike to negotiate an icy area.  Even if it’s above freezing, you need to look for wet areas where ice may not have fully melted, or shady areas where ice is protected from the sun.  Just because it’s 40 degrees out doesn’t mean that the ground has warmed up to the ambient temperature, and ice may be present.

In winter, days are shorter, and the likelihood of getting caught out after dark increases.  With this in mind, it’s important to have access to lighting, especially if you’re planning a late afternoon ride.  Finally, glare from the sun can actually be more hazardous in winter than summer.  Since the sun angle is lower in the sky, the sun is more likely to be in your eyes at some point, even in the middle of the day.  Trees that have lost their leaves block less of the sun, and if there’s snow on the ground, it can further increase glare.  With all this in mind, it’s not only important for a rider to wear appropriate eye protection, but also to be aware that drivers are more likely to have the sun in their eyes, and not see a cyclist.  As a general rule of thumb, if you’re riding into the sun (eastward in the morning, westward in the afternoon) the same sun glare that’s interfering with your vision will also be hindering the vision of drivers.  If you add in the increase of road grime that’s likely to accumulate on car windshields further increasing glare, selecting routes that minimize oncoming sun glare into consideration is a good idea.

If you dress appropriately and are prepared for potential obstacles, riding in the winter can be a great way to get outdoors, get some exercise, and have fun.  It would be a pity, then, to have your bike break down and prevent you from riding.  The good news is that bikes are durable, and aren’t affected by temperature or moisture.  The winter, however, means salt on the roads.  Road salt loves to eat metal, and splashing through a salty puddle is a great way to get salt into the metal parts of your bike.  Even on dry days, fine salt dust can work its way into your chain and other components and quickly turn them into a rusty mess.  If you’re going to ride in the winter, it’s a good idea to allocate a little extra time after every ride to rinse your bike off and perform some basic maintenance.  If you can get any salt residue off your bike before you store it and lubricate moving parts, you’ll save yourself a headache later.

With this year’s mild winter, there have been plenty of opportunities to get out and ride.  Even if that trend doesn’t continue, by planning accordingly, you can still get out and enjoy your bike the on the next sunny winter day that comes along.

Before I wind up this edition of the blog, I wanted to mention that Bicycle World will be hosting bike maintenance and repair classes on Saturday January 26th and Saturday February 23rd.  Both classes are free, and you’ll learn the basics involved in keeping your bike on the road.  Call the shop at 914-666-4044 to reserve your spot.  While you’re there, you can check out the newly renovated shop area.

Until next time, thanks for reading the Bicycle World Blog.  Feel free to throw us your questions and comments, and we’ll include them in future postings.  Finally, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, subscribe to the blog for updates, and visit our website (www.bicycleworldny.com) for updates on what’s happening.

Happy winter riding!

Charles and Sho Scott sign their new book, Rising Son   Leave a comment

Charles and Sho Scott's new book called Rising Son- a must read!

Charles and Sho Scott’s new book called Rising Son- a must read!

 

On December 5th, Bicycle World hosted Charles Scott, author of the newly-released and inspiring book, Rising Son, which chronicles his 2500 mile, 67 day journey by bike across Japan with his 8 year old son, Sho riding along on a trailer bike attached to Charles’ bike. In the process, Charles and Sho raised money for a global tree planting campaign and were named “Climate Heroes” by the United Nations. Charles and Sho read excerpts from the book, answered questions from the audience, and autographed copies of the book for attendees. Overall, it was a great evening, and we wanted to share some highlights with you in case you missed it.
As one would expect, riding 2500 miles, in 67 days, halfway around the world presents a long list of challenges. Aside from training for the physical demands, the logistics involved between getting the family to agree to the trip, securing the necessary time off work, and deciding what kind of equipment was needed to accomplish an unsupported 10 week trip, Charles also had the challenge of figuring out how his son, Sho, would be able to complete the ride successfully and safely.
Upon deciding to take on this challenge, Charles had to persuade his wife, Eiko, that this father-son trip was a good idea. He also had to convince his employer to allow him to take a sabbatical long enough to complete the trip. To complicate matters further, as the trip approached in 2008, the economic crisis was just hitting, and despite the approval of the time off from his employer, Charles was not guaranteed that his job would be waiting for him upon his return. Add to that the quizzical looks and doubtful comments he got from others who learned of his plans, and there were plenty of reasons to put off, or even cancel the trip.
Nevertheless, Charles and Sho persevered, planned, and trained for the trip, and before long found themselves in Japan setting out on their ride. Early in the trip, the strain of riding and adjustment to being away from home got to Sho, resulting in a few stressful days filled with temper tantrums. As the tantrums escalated, Charles started to feel some of the doubts about the trip reemerge. Finally, he had a conversation with Sho and challenged him, telling him, “You’re a team member. I depend on you, and I can’t do this by myself.” Sho listened, and as Charles tells it, “Once he saw himself as a team member and instead of a little kid, he started to help put the tent together, the tantrums stopped, and he came around.” From that point on, the two worked as a team and completed the full 2500 mile journey.
Almost all cyclists can identify with the concept of perseverance to some degree, and it’s impressive that Sho learned this lesson at only 8 years of age. Cyclists like to talk about “suffering” to the point where non-cyclists often wonder why we ride bikes at all if it’s such a miserable experience. Let’s face it; if you’ve ridden for any length of time, you’ve faced some adversity along the way. Whether it’s being exhausted and knowing that you still have a long distance to go before you get home, getting stuck out in bad weather, running out of food or water, or getting dropped in a race or group ride, cycling provides plenty of opportunities to experience discomfort. According to Charles, the key is to learn to accept the existence of discomfort, acknowledge it, and carry on despite it. He and Sho accepted that at times they might be uncomfortable: climbing high mountains, dealing with bad weather, or in Charles’ case, dealing with a broken toe resulting from a failed attempt at sumo wrestling (you have to read the book to hear the rest of that story). They learned that if you can accept this discomfort for what it is, you can set it aside and continue.
In addition, it’s important to remember that no good story is devoid of adversity. In fact, adversity is often the most memorable and significant part of any achievement. If something comes easily, it can lack value. How many of our greatest, most epic, cycling stories surround something that hasn’t gone according to plan? In hindsight, it’s often these misadventures that become our fondest memories. Without the risk of failure (or occasionally failing), it’s hard to fully appreciate success.
Sho, now 11 years old, summed up this story of perseverance in his recollection of the hardest point of the trip where he really had dig deep to overcome difficulty. When asked to describe his toughest moment, Sho says, “We were going up a really steep mountain. It was really hard, like 12%, and it was already going on 1 ½ hours and I was really wiped out. It was raining, which made it worse, and I just wanted to stop.” Despite this, Sho kept going, accepted the discomfort, and pedaled on to complete the ride. It’s truly amazing what’s possible with the right attitude.
It was fantastic having Charles and Sho share their stories with us, and we’d like to thank them for making this event such a great success. If you’d like a copy of the book, Bicycle World has a few signed copies in stock. Rising Son truly is an inspirational story about a father and son’s wonderful experience together.
Finally, since Sho was riding a trailer bike that was attached to Charles’ bike, we had to ask Sho if he ever stopped pedaling during the tough times and let his dad do all the work. Sho replied, “Yes. A lot!” After 2500 miles of riding, who can blame him?