10 tips for every cyclist

Words: Richard Belson, Instructor at the United Bicycle Institute

spiderman-NEW1.) A couple years back, my son brought a Mylar Spiderman balloon home from a birthday. Eventually, it got droopy, so I finished the job and stuck a folded up Spidey into the seat bag of my commuter. A month later, I slashed my tire on the way to work—I used the balloon as a tire boot by folding it back on itself and placing it between the cut casing and the new tube. Two years later, when replacing the worn out tread, I realized that Peter Parker had been accompanying me through over 500 days of riding to work.

2.) The only way your chain will stay clean is if you never ride your bike. If you ride your bike, you need to clean your chain.

3.) If you want your bike to feel like new again, replace the cables & housing—even if you think it’s in good shape. It wears so gradually, it’s hard to tell that it’s causing any problems. As soon as you shift and brake with the new stuff, you’ll wonder why it took so long.

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4.) Don’t underestimate the refreshing feeling of brand new bar tape or grips.

5.) Dunk-degreasing your chain removes more than just the dirty, unwanted exterior gunk off—it also removes the irreplaceable factory grease from its inner mechanisms. We prefer over-lubing a chain with your preferred lube, then wipe off the excess with a clean, dry rag. The extra liquid will wash away the majority of the accumulated dirt and spent lube from the chain’s exterior, while allowing the chain to retain its inner stock lubrication.

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6.) Isopropyl Alcohol (91%)—available from most pharmacies and grocery stores—makes a great, affordable degreaser. Also, it leaves no film behind, so it’s great for suspension service, and it won’t harm sensitive parts, finishes or seals. If, after you’ve tried alcohol, you need more muscle, then move to biodegradable or chemical degreasers. But read labels carefully—many degreasers will etch polished or anodized surfaces, or dry out rubber seals.

7.) Learn which derailleur hanger your bike requires, buy an extra, and put it on your keychain. You’ll head Murphy off, and will have it on hand if you ever need it.

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8.) Keep a couple different sized master links in your seat bag—if you bail a buddy out of a jam while out on a ride, you may get free beer, coffee, or dinner!

9.) Support your local bike shop whenever possible—you’ll be bummed when they’re gone.

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10.) Get and use a Park CC-3.2 and thank me later!

Keep reading

We put together a field guide to being prepared for anything you might encounter on your ride. Pick up a copy of Bicycle Times Issue #41—or better yet, order a subscription—and help support your favorite independent cycling publication.

 

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Letter to the Editor: Stop Monkeying Around

In this day of Tweetbook and Facetube, we don’t get a lot of letters to the editor, or even emails to the editor. It’s often frustrating for our team to work so hard on the magazine and not receive much in the way of feedback, good or bad. But we know you must have opinions, so let’s hear ’em! You can always reach us at [email protected]. Here’s one we received recently:

Dear sir:

First I really enjoy your magazine. The columns are insightful, informative and encouraging. I must however, take exception with your book review (Issue #40, p. 8) entitled “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” I am open to new and different ideas. I agree that we must protect our environment in a positive and lawful manner.

bt-monkey-wrench-1By publishing the review your writer and magazine appear to support radical environmentalists who break into construction sites, destroy others property, bulldozers, rip up and destroy power and rail lines. This behavior is never acceptable. It harms others and is cowardly. It accomplishes nothing to protect our environment. Without law and respect for others and their opinions and property we have anarchy. “The end doesn’t justify the means.” These actions are crimes and those who conduct them need to be punished.

Providing other publications in Mr. Abbey’s review for your readers which supports and encourages these repugnant actions is unacceptable and morally wrong. By publishing the review Bicycle Times appears to be endorsing and promoting these crimes to your readers of ALL ages, young and old.

Please stick to what you do best; continue to promote the great sport of cycling for all family members responsibly across all generations, and interests and abilities. Keep politics out of your fine publication. Why promote anything that harms others?

Encourage people to do the right thing. Doing otherwise only alienates and pushes away some of your readers and subscribers. We get too much politics and divisive rhetoric on TV everyday. Protect us from that and give us more on the sport we all love. I eagerly await your next issue.

I hope I’ve somehow helped BT be an even better publication with another viewpoint.

Respectfully,

Keith Jordan
Leavenworth, Kansas

Your input

What did you think of our book review in BT Issue #40? Let us know in the comments below. Not getting the magazine? Purchase the issue or subscribe, today

 

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Ask Beardo: What’s the deal with cargo bikes?

Illustration by Stephen Haynes

Beardo,

I’m interested in cargo bikes. I’ve been riding for a while, and more of my trips are taken on my bike. But some pretty normal tasks needed for daily life re- quire more cargo space than my rack and panniers can handle. I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the price of a cargo bike versus how much time I’ll actually ride it. What’s your take on cargo bikes?

linda heffestotleson

Cargo Curious in Lower Yardis, Nebraska

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Linda,

In my younger days there were few things my trusty messenger bag and I couldn’t carry by bike: cases of beers and live animals and small children and radiator fan shrouds for a 1985 VW Sirocco and other bicycles. It’s amazing what a strong back and a bad attitude can manage to haul around. Not all of those things at once, mind you, but you get the idea.

But some loads where just not fun, so at the time when cargo bikes were still uncommon here in the United States, I happily loaded up both one- and two-wheeled trailers with even more food and beer and laundry and children and brakes and rotors for a 1992 Mazda 626 and trail building tools and multiple bikes. Again, not all at once, but still, lots more stuff.

It wasn’t until I started riding a cargo bike that I really started to unlock my potential as a beast of burden. Enough beer for a huge party and gaggles of small children and and reluctant parents of the gaggle of children and ladders and doors for a 1996 Ford F-150 and bags of cement and lumber and even more bikes. And sometimes combinations of these things at once. Combinations like a case of beer and new toilet from Home Depot, or two children, an extra large pizza, imported cheeses, a dog and two growlers of beer.

You didn’t really talk about what you wanted to carry, but as an everyday replacement for a car, cargo bikes are hard to beat. They have some drawbacks: initial expense, storage issues and issues with hilly terrain and loads. I can’t help you with storage issues, but find it perfectly acceptable to strap one of these modern e-bike motors to a cargo bike. In fact, I highly recommend it, as you’ll ride it more. Price? Sure, we are talking real money, and some people loooove to talk about all the motorcycles and used cars you can buy for the price of a new cargo bike. But that’s just short-sighted crap.

Take a typical $7,500 car. Now go on the internet and use one of the many cost of ownership calculators to see what it would cost to drive, insure and maintain your personal automobile
for five years. Try something around $30,000. Even with a new drivetrain and tires every year, the cargo bike has a tiny cost to operate. And if you charge an e-bike from empty every single day of the year, it runs less than $100 annually.

My point? Cargo bikes are sweet. Random passersby love them. I love them. You might love them. They are cheaper to operate than any car, used or new. So get one. Ride it. Bring your crap with you. Be happy. Or at least happier than you were, as some folks start out a lot higher on the happy meter than others.


This Q&A originally appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #35. Support your favorite independent cycling magazine and order a subscription today. Beardo is counting on you.

 

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World War I: Cycling Into Battle

By Damian Antonio. Illustration by Jeffery Alan Love.

cycling-into-battleLast year we commemorated one hundred years since the start of World War I. While the legends of the Western Front and German U-boats are firmly cemented in history, less recognized are the contributions of the humble bicycle to this epic conflict. On August 21, 1914, in southern Belgium, a 17-year old British soldier named John Henry Parr was sent on a mission with another reconnaissance cyclist to obtain information on the German army’s position. While offering covering fire for his comrade, who escaped on his bike, Parr was shot and killed, thus becoming the first British soldier to die in the Great War. More than 700,000 more would follow over the next four years.

The fact that the first man to die was a cyclist is not particularly surprising. Bicycles were regularly used in dangerous missions for scouting, relaying messages and medical evacuations due to their relative speed, silence and carrying capacity. So effective were they that by the conclusion of the war, more than 100,000 Brits were employed as army cyclists (up from 14,000 at the start of the war). In the French and Belgian forces, that number was closer to 150,000.

In fact, almost every army in Europe, as well as a host of others including the United States, contained a bicycle contingent by the end of the 19th century. They had gradually replaced the cavalry units for reasons best explained in the October 1914 issue of Cycling Weekly:

The reasons of the success of the soldier-cyclist are not far to seek. in the first place it must be realized that his mount, unlike that of the cavalryman, is silent in progress. This gives him an enormous advantage over his noisy foe… But silence is by no means the cyclist’s sole advantage. He has a good turn of speed, which is a factor useful alike in attack and retreat… The ability to take cover often spells the difference between victory and defeat, and here the cyclist scores distinctly. He has but to lay his mount down flat upon the ground and it is practically invisible.

In addition, several military strategists noted that unlike horses, bicycles did not need to be watered, fed or rested, they were cheap to produce and training troops to ride them was quick and easy. Cycling Weekly also captured one of the finest examples of the effectiveness of the bicycle-soldier when it described the moment in which the actions of a few British cyclists saved the lives of hundreds of their allies:

In the forest near the German trenches it was believed that a force of German infantry, with machine and field gun, was hidden. Along a road which runs past, French reinforcements were advancing, and unless they were warned would go to total destruction. Who was to warn them? Suddenly, from out of the trees where the English lay hidden, dashed a figure in khaki on a bicycle. He went down when he had only covered a few yards. Another followed him, and he, too, went down, but a third carried on. Riding at full speed across an inferno of fire, with his head bent low over the handlebars, he managed to reach the advancing line of French untouched and to deliver his message of warning.

Bicycles were not simply used as a means of traveling somewhere quickly and quietly, however. While attempts to convert them into actual weapons by mounting machine guns on handlebars and makeshift sidecars ultimately failed, the bicycle did prove to be very adaptable during the war. The French were instrumental in developing folding bikes that could be slung across their infantrymen’s shoulders and deployed when they reached suitable terrain or needed to make a speedy getaway. Bicycle ambulances were created by welding two bicycles together, side by side, and placing a stretcher in between them. Tandem bikes allowed for a primary pilot to sit at the front and a gunner at the rear. And some bikes were rigged to tow machine guns and other small artillery into position.

The bikes, fitted with front and rear carriers, rifle clips and other attachments were cumbersome, inefficient and ill-suited for the rough terrain by today’s standards. Ridden by dedicated troops, however, they proved to be surprisingly effective, as noted here by sir John French, commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force, when addressing the British House of lords in 1915:

I am anxious in this despatch to bring to your lordship’s special notice the splendid work that has been done throughout the campaign by the cyclists of the signal corps. carrying dispatches and messages at all hours of the day and night in every kind of weather, and often traversing bad roads blocked with transport, they have been conspicuously successful in maintaining an extraordinary degree of efficiency in the service of communications. many casualties have occurred in their ranks, but no amount of difficulty or danger has ever checked the energy and ardor which has distinguished this corps.

The future of bicycles at war Considering the speed at which military technology has evolved over the last century, it is unsurprising that bicycles, as an instrument of warfare, enjoyed a relatively short moment in the sun. Where once they were considered state of the art pieces of equipment, they have largely been superseded by motorized transport that offers greater carrying capacity, firepower and protection for their troops.

They have, however, continued to thrive as a guerrilla weapon in unconventional conflicts, such as in Vietnam and Sri Lanka, where they are used for much the same purposes and reasons as in WWI. The last army to formally disband its cycling unit was Switzerland in 2003. However, some personnel felt that this decision was short sighted and that the humble bicycle still had plenty to offer on the battlefield.

“No one can understand why they are going to abolish us,” said Swiss army cyclist Julian Voeffray in 2001. “It is stupid. Over short distances we are very fast, much faster than the motorized units. We can be very discreet, we are well armed and we perform well against the tanks.”

There are signs that perhaps other militaries are beginning to come around to Voeffray’s way of thinking. Famous bike-lovers, the Dutch, used bicycles during their recent deployment in Afghanistan as a means of carrying out patrols once they felt the situation was safe enough to dispense with their armored vehicles. in a war where, towards the tail end, the focus was more on public relations than firepower, they felt that the bicycles enabled them to build closer relations with the local people.

So if you’re a gun nut and a bike nut, don’t despair; the next generation bicycle-mounted machine gun may well be just around the corner.

 

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In Print: Mushroom Foraging with Keith Bontrager

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Editor’s note: If you own a Trek, Gary Fisher or LeMond bicycle, chances are a former motorcycle racer and tuner from Santa Cruz, California had design input on the tires and components on that bike. Not only is Keith Bontrager a whiz with engineering, he’s also an expert on mushroom hunting. We asked him for some advice on proper foraging tips to find tasty fungus for the kitchen.


By Keith Bontrager

I don’t have to tell you that there are a lot of good reasons to ride your bicycle: transportation, sport, fitness, head clearing, looking stylish, an adrenalin fix, pub crawls, whatever. They’re all good. One of my favorites is finding dinner.

The thought that comes immediately to most people when I mention wild mushrooms is “you’re insane” (and that’s certainly true in some respects) – there is some edge to this sort of thing. But with a little care you never need to put yourself in jeopardy. Here are some solid rules:

Read the full story

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In Print: If It Ain’t Moto, It’s Music

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Words and photo by Kevin Murphy

Through the 1980s and ‘90s, Ross Shafer and Salsa Cycles were a force to be reckoned with. Salsa became one of the most sought-after boutique brands, which made stems, handlebars, quick releases, production and custom frames. But it wasn’t all just great product.

Shafer and his Petaluma, Calif. crew instilled a joyful soul into the brand and everything it touched. Annual festivals, fun apparel, and an ethos they lived and breathed. It was full-on fun, and moto. The incredible popularity and cult status among Salsa bicycle owners would be reason enough to tell the story of Shafer and Salsa. But there’s a hidden track on this LP.

Read the full interview.

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