Five Ways to Make Cycling Part of Your Daily Life

National Bike Month may be over, the time when we in the cycling industry go all-out to preach the gospel of pedal-powered bliss, but we believe that any month on the calendar qualifies as Bike Month! Hopping on a bike for any variety of reasons any time of the year can be a game-changer for personal health and fitness as well as for the greater good of the environment.

Here are some ideas about how to make cycling, as seamlessly as possible, a part of your daily life. The idea is to make it as little of an “event” as possible – just the idea that you can hop on your bike with the minimum of fuss for a myriad of reasons.

Run Errands

There’s likely a surprising amount of quick jaunts that take place within a tight radius of your home. A quick trip to the grocery store/pharmacy/post office/etc. Several years ago Clif Bar initiated their 2 Mile Challenge – to use a bicycle for as many (if not all) short trips as possible within a 2-mile radius of home – and that’s the perfect place to start. Make a mental checklist of how many places you frequent by car that are that close to your residence – then start using a bike instead.

My local grocery store is just over 1 mile away from home and I try to make that quick trip for small purchases by bike. Likewise, I make it a point that any time I take a trip to the public library it’s by bike. Regarding carrying capacity, my preference is just to use a cycling-specific backpack – such as the Ogio Commuter Backpack. It’s versatile, there’s no mechanical fiddling necessary on the bike regarding racks/panniers, and it just flat-out looks good to boot.

Ogio Commuter Backpack is a great choice for running errands.

The Ogio Commuter Backpack provides plenty of well-organized space for running errands and it’s supremely comfortable while riding.

Versatile Gear

Just hop on a bike and go – you don’t need to get all kitted up. Take inspiration from cyclists in Copenhagen. A set of platform pedals or toe clips/straps and shoes that work well on a bike as well as walking around are really all you need to make the utility-bike transformation. Regarding shoes, a perfect choice is the Merrell Roust Frenzy. It works great on the bike with either platform pedals or toe clip/straps, you’re comfortable walking all-day long off the bike, and they look great, too (and don’t scream out “I’m a cycling shoe!”).

Merrell Roust Frenzy shoe is supremely versatile - both on and off the bike.

The Merrell Roust Frenzy shoes are a perfect means to pedal efficiently as well as walk comfortably.

Regarding a bike, there’s plenty out there that’s reliable, perfectly utilitarian, low maintenance, and easy on the wallet. Something in the vein of the Schwinn Slicker will certainly get you where you need/want to go with ease and aplomb.

Schwinn Slicker is a great choice for commuting, transportation, running errands, and general fitness.

The Schwinn Slicker has everything you need in a reliable, all-purpose bike for errands, transportation, and general fitness.

Commute to Work

Most of us have to leave the house to make our way to work, so why not try to make the trip by bicycle? It’s a wonderful way to integrate exercise into a busy schedule (plus spend more time outside), and for those with short to medium-length commutes the time commitment may be rather comparable.

Ogio Commuter Backpack has a dedicated protective laptop sleeve.

Backpacks such as the Ogio Commuter making commuting to work an easier proposition with features such as a dedicated laptop sleeve plus a myriad array of organizer pockets.

Depending on the distance you need to travel and the dress code at work, it’s likely that you’ll have to switch clothes when you arrive. However, you don’t have to burden yourself down by transporting all your clothing with you on the bike. Drive in on a Monday with a stockpile of clothes for the week so your ride to work is basically just a regular ride. And ideally your workplace will have a shower facility, but I can attest that a quick cleanup is possible, too, sans shower.

Even longer commutes can provide opportunities for cycling. I once worked in the next city over and took a regional express bus. When I wanted to get some riding in I’d take my bike with me to work on the bus in the morning (it had a front rack), and then I’d ride home in the evening. Currently, I share car-pooling with a co-worker and any number of days the person who wasn’t driving would bring their bike to work in the morning and then be able to ride home in the evening.

Fun with Maps

How well do you know your locale? There’s no better way to explore where you live than by bike when you combine the potential distance travelled with the granularity of what you see. I drew inspiration from the gentleman determined to walk every mile of every road in New York City (imjustwalkin.com), which amazingly amounts to 6000+ miles, to peruse Google Maps in my area to plan out leisure rides to places I’ve never been.

Break the pattern. Turn down a road where you maybe don’t know where it’s going. Or perhaps you do know where that road ends up, but have never seen what’s there along the way. Who knew there was a Hells Angels house on the other side of my town on a road where my usual route had me turn off prior to passing it (true story!).

Who would have guessed these guys were across town?

Who would have guessed these guys were across town?

Out on the Town (Day or Night)

Sure, it’s great to have alone time on the bike, but riding with friends is time well spent. Why not hop on bikes to make that pub crawl happen? Or that First Friday art gallery crawl? It’s motivating knowing others will be out, there’s safety in numbers regarding visibility (try a night ride, all those lights on bikes makes a difference), you burn calories between stops, and you might just inspire others to hop on a bike as well. It’s infectious in every good sense of the word.

Tour de Fat festival is great means to bring together people via cycling and a healthy dose of zaniness.

The Tour de Fat festival is the perfect means to bring together friends and cycling. Plus you may get to pedal mad-scientist inventions like this “Shoe Bike”!

So how do you make cycling part of your daily life?

Posted in Culture, Cycling Tips, Learn About Gear, Nashbar Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Star Wars and Bikes – May the Fourth Be With You

Since today is Star Wars Day, “May the Fourth be with you”, we couldn’t help but highlight a few of the cycling/Star Wars crossovers that we’ve spotted on the intergalactic interwebs. Riding bikes and being a fan of Star Wars has provided some particularly rich crossovers, but remember to choose your allegiance carefully!

Empire

These stormtroopers need an upgrade:stormtroopers

Impressive tie fighter costume for cyclocross:
tie_fighter

Legos and Star Wars and bikes:

triple-trooper

This looks as ungainly as the AT-ATs in the movie:

at-at-bike-2

This is not the speeder he was looking for:
budget_cutbacks

We have no idea what is going on here:

darth_unicycle

How many stormtroopers does it take to change a flat:
flat_tire_stormtrooper

See, bikes are faster than the dark side:

star-wars-troopers-lego-toy-fun-humor-bicycle-bike-darth-vader-other

Sweet stormtrooper low-rider:

stormstroppers_star_wars_bike_kmqvz

Rebels

X-wing with a mini R2D2 on the back! Yes:

x_wing_bike_r2d2

More cyclocross fun – racing this CX-Wing was like shooting womp rats with a T-16:

x-wing

Copy rogue leader:

x_wing_bike

This wookiee bike looks comfy:

wookie_bike

OK, so this isn’t strictly a cycling helmet, but R2D2 helmet anyone:

R2-D2-Bike-Helmet

The bike riding is strong with this one:

ride_you_must

Or you can show off your allegiance with these bike/Star Wars-themed shirts from Endurance Conspiracy – either Chewbacca:

chewie-star-wars-cycling-tshirt-

Or Darth Vader:

endur3-525x700

And finally, these intergalactic designs from Mike Joos imagine what various Star Wars characters personal bikes would be (the Boba Fett trailer is especially nice):

Posted in Culture, Nashbar Tagged with: , , , ,

Five Easy Fixes That Make a World of Difference

While March has most definitely come in and gone out like a lion for most of us this year, here’s hoping that springtime will quickly transform to lamb status. We’ve all been getting a bit stir-crazy this winter with the weather and eagerly await the transition to warmer temps. Now that daylight saving time is upon us, too, it means that riding outdoors is just that much an easier proposition.

In the meantime, there’s no time like the present to take care of a few simple maintenance items to ensure your prized bike(s), too, emerge from hibernation in tip-top, road/trail-ready condition.

Chains

Is it time for a new chain?

Is it time for a new chain?

When’s the last time you checked your chain for wear? Preventative maintenance is the key to a silky smooth drivetrain and the chain is the component that needs a certain modicum of vigilance. Swapping out a chain before it’s worn is the key to extending the life of cassettes and chainrings. No matter if your bike is road or mountain, 7-speed or 11-speed, Nashbar has just the chain to meet your drivetrain’s demands. And checking for worn chains is a simple endeavor when you’ve got a handy chain-wear tool (here or here) to let you know when replacement is necessary.
Pro tip: Before you dispose of your worn chain, keep it around for reference so you can readily determine how many links to trim from the new chain to equal its length.

Brake/Derailleur Cables

A fresh set of brake or shifter cables makes a world of difference.

A fresh set of brake or shifter cables makes a world of difference.

Walk over to your bike(s) and take a quick squeeze of the brake levers. Throw the bike onto the work stand and make a few shifts through the gears. If the mechanical braking or shifting action isn’t quick, precise, and of minimal effort then it’s time for brake cable or shift cable replacements.
Pro tip: Before disposing of old housing, keep it around so you can use it as a guide for cutting new housing to the same length. Save yourself some time and effort!

Brake Pads

 

When's the last time you replaced your disc brake pads?

When’s the last time you replaced your disc brake pads?

Swapping out your brake pads for a fresh set is a quick means to guarantee safe, confident riding. And for those who’ve been braving Mother Nature’s worst this winter, it’s likely you’re due for new pads both front and rear. It’s pretty easy to be lulled into less-than-adequate braking performance as pads gradually decline, but once you’re got new pads you’ll be reminded just how awesome your brakes can be when they’re in peak condition.

Cleats

New cleats ensure crisp, clean entry and release.

New cleats ensure crisp, clean entry and release.

Out of sight and out of mind, cleats are easy to overlook. But if you can’t recall the last time you’ve installed a new pair on your shoes, it’s likely the time is now. A new set of cleats will ensure you’re maximizing that all-important pedaling efficiency plus they guarantee crisp, clean entry and exit from the pedals. And for those with road shoes, a simple investment in cleat covers as well not only helps extend cleat life, but provides a little extra on the traction side – perfect for negotiating the smooth floors of convenience stores while out on a ride.
Pro tip: If you haven’t already done so, trace an outline of the cleats on the sole of your shoes so there’s no question as to duplicating the exact cleat position. You’ve worked hard to dial in the perfect position so why not ensure perfect continuity.

Handlebar Tape

Handlebar tape comes in so many different hues and patterns.

Handlebar tape comes in so many different hues and patterns.

Not so much a fix, but a definite morale booster for those first rides when it’s warm enough for bare arms and legs. It’s amazing how something as simple as fresh handlebar tape can utterly transform the aesthetics of a road bike. Crisp and clean, fresh and fun, dollar for dollar you can’t beat how sharp your cockpit looks with new handlebar tape. No matter if you prefer matching the bar tape to your paint job, opt for timeless black, or are a stickler for white, Nashbar has a world of options to accommodate any predilection. Why not stock up now for the season?

Posted in Cycling Tips, Nashbar Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Emergency Repairs 101: DIY Tire Boot

There was no doubt that yesterday’s Nashbar lunch ride would be a well-attended, spirited outing. The sun was shining and the temperature was above 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time in forever.

It’s amazing, however, how quickly things can go so wrong. One moment you’re zipping along in a smooth paceline, the next moment – POW! Your front wheel clocks a rock and the tire is instantly flat.

A front flat would add a bit of adventure to the Nashbar lunch ride.

A front flat would add a bit of adventure to the Nashbar lunch ride.

No problem, though, because you’ve got a spare tube, tire levers, and a mini-pump, right?

Well…

Ouch! A heavy hit to the front tire put a nice slice in the sidewall.

Ouch! A heavy hit to the front tire put a nice slice in the sidewall.

During the triage assessment of the front tire/tube it didn’t take very long to figure out the extent of the damage – and it was rather grim. The tube was toast – the blowout rendered it unrepairable, but no worries as we’ve got a spare tube. But the tire, too, took a heavy hit and suffered a slice to the sidewall. Simply swapping out the tube wasn’t going to cut it (ouch, no pun intended) – we needed to boot the tire to finish the ride.

Ideally, we’d have a dedicated tire boot on hand to solve the problem. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. So it’s time for plan B. The typical solution to this roadside conundrum is to use paper currency – usually a trusty $1.00 bill – as it’s rather strong and can be folded and manipulated into the perfect shape. In the absence of paper money, however, it’s time to get really creative.

A PowerBar Performance Energy Blast wrapper becomes an impromptu tire boot.

A PowerBar Performance Energy Blast wrapper becomes an impromptu tire boot.

And in this case it was a PowerBar Performance Energy Blast wrapper that came to the rescue for our emergency repair.

Here we go! PowerBar Performance Energy Blast wrapper to the rescue.

Here we go! PowerBar Performance Energy Blast wrapper to the rescue.

We folded the wrapper to maximize its strength, placed it in between the new tube and the crippled sidewall, and crossed our fingers during the inflation process.

The tube's replaced, the boot's in place - time for inflation.

The tube’s replaced, the boot’s in place – time for inflation.

About 60psi is all the makeshift wrapper boot could handle, but that’s enough air to gingerly make one’s way back to the home office.

The boot holding steady with about 60psi in the tire.

The boot holding steady with about 60psi in the tire.

Taking great care to avoid any further debris on the shoulder, the boot held. We completed the ride under our own pedal power without having to resort to calling a co-worker for a lift.

Mission accomplished! Our makeshift tire boot got us back to the home office.

Mission accomplished! Our makeshift tire boot got us back to the home office.

Necessity, indeed, is the mother of invention. Put on your thinking cap, assess what’s readily at hand, unleash your inner MacGyver, and make the best of less-than-ideal circumstances. It’s all part of being a cyclist and makes for great conversation down the road. Just don’t ask about what the rock impact did to that carbon fiber front wheel…

Posted in Cycling Tips, Nashbar Tagged with: , , , , ,

Fast Fixes: Tightening a Loose Headset

Have you ever experienced something a little bit off with the front-end handling of your bike? More specifically, is there shuddering/vibrations under front braking?

A good place to investigate first is your headset, an often times forgotten but critical component for tip-top performance on any bike. A headset that’s too loose equates to poor front braking performance and diminished handling. Furthermore, an ill-adjusted headset diminishes the headset’s lifespan in addition to the immediate performance issues.

These days the home mechanic is very much in luck as threadless headset systems are easy to adjust. The adjustment process has multiple applications, too, as this process can be used to remedy an existing issue as well as make sure your headset is perfectly adjusted after routine maintenance such as swapping out a stem or simply shifting some spacers around to raise or lower your current stem.

Step 1: What tools do I need?

A hex wrench and a torque wrench are the tools necessary to tighten a headset

A hex wrench and a torque wrench are the tools necessary to tighten a headset

Tool-wise, there’s not much to making headset adjustments. The top cap bolt, used to apply compression on the stem and headset, will utilize a hex wrench while the stem bolts, used to cinch the stem against the steerer tube, will also utilize a hex wrench. Depending on the manufacturer, the bolts may range from 3mm to 6mm while some recent stems are also featuring Torx bolts, in which case a Torx-specific wrench is necessary.

It’s important to note that while it’s perfectly fine to loosen the stem bolts with a hex/Torx wrench, when it comes time to tighten the stem bolts it’s imperative that a torque wrench be utilized. Tightening to a specific torque value is paramount for functionality and safety. This is of the utmost importance when carbon fiber is involved, either in the stem or steerer tube, as there’s no place for guesswork or estimation.

Step 2: Assess headset

Check for a loose headset by squeezing the front brake and then rocking the bike forwards and backwards

Check for a loose headset by squeezing the front brake and then rocking the bike forwards and backwards. If there’s play your headset is loose.

Excessive vibrations/shuddering in the front end are a tip-off that a headset may be loose. To confirm the diagnosis, while stationary simply apply the front brake and then try to rock the bike frontwards and backwards. If there’s play then you’ve got a loose headset.

Step 3: Loosen stem bolts

Loosen the stem bolts

Loosen the stem bolts

With the hex/Torx wrench, loosen the bolts that attach the stem to the steerer tube. You don’t have to back them out too far, just enough to release the tension.

Step 4. Tighten top cap bolt

Tighten the top cap bolt to eliminate headset play

Tighten the top cap bolt to eliminate headset play

While the bolts that fasten the stem to the steerer tube and the stem to the handlebars have specific torque values to exactly dial in the amount of tightening required, the top cap bolt simply needs to be snug. It’s typically an iterative process as you tighten the bolt and then check via the process in Step 2 to see if there’s any play remaining. Repeat as necessary until the play is gone.

Keep in mind that it’s possible to tighten the headset too much. You’re seeking just enough tension to eliminate any play.

Step 5. Tighten stem bolts

Tighten your stem bolts the proper amount with a torque wrench

Tighten your stem bolts the proper amount with a torque wrench

Make sure your handlebar/stem are centered and then tighten the stem bolts to the correct torque setting.

Congratulations on picking up another maintenance skill! Now get out there and enjoy a ride with your newly adjusted headset.

 

Posted in Cycling Tips, Nashbar Tagged with: , , , ,

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