Archive for the ‘Biking Tips’ Category

Get the right bicycle frame fit

One of the most important details when buying a bicycle is finding the right size frame for your body.  When you have the right size frame you will be in the proper position, which improves cycling efficiency, power and comfort.  You’ll be a better rider.

Frame Size:
The size of a frame is determined from the length of the seat tube.  This is the tube that connects the bottom bracket to the seat.  The frame size you need relates closely to the length of your leg.  Bicycle manufacturers measure the frame size various ways but there are two generally accepted ways.

Most road bicycles are sized by the distance along the seat tube from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the top tube.  This is call center-to-center.  Some bicycles are sized from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the top tube.  This is called center-to-top.  All measurements are in centimeters.

Top Tube Length:
The top tube runs horizontally from the seat to the headset.  Frame size is the most important factor when choosing a frame that’s right for you but different manufacturers have different length top tubes for the same size frame.  Women generally have shorter upper bodies than men and will need a bicycle with a shorter top tube.  If your legs are very long or short in relation to the rest of your body you may need to either pay special attention to the top tube lengths from the various manufacturers or think about buying a custom-built bicycle.

Seat Tube Angle:
This is the angle formed by the seat tube and an imaginary horizontal line.  For all-around road racing bikes, the suitable seat tube angle is about 73.5 degrees.  Mountain bikers may want a little steeper angle – 74 or 74.5 degrees.  Biking athletes prefer a steeper angle – 80 degrees, which gives the rider a more forward position.  As your needs and riding style change you should pay more attention to the geometry of your specific machine.

Choosing Your Frame Size:
The frame size you choose is directly related to the length of your inseam.  Here’s how to get the correct fit:

  1. Determine your inseam – stand with your back to a wall with a 1-inch thick book held between your legs, snug against your crotch and measure from the floor to the top edge of the book.
  2. If you used inches, convert it to metric by multiplying by 2.54.  (For center-to-center, the frame size should be 0.65 of inseam.  For center-to-top, add 1.5 centimeters.)
  3. In general, when you stand over a road bicycle there should be 1-inch of clearance between your crotch and the top tube with socks on and about 1 to 2-inches with shoes on.

Once you have the right sized frame for your body, the next step is the find the correct position on the bicycle (NEXT BLOG POST).

Live, Ride, have Fun!!

Cindy 🙂

How to change a flat tire on the trail.

If you have not had a flat tire yet while riding on the trails, consider yourself lucky.  My brother ran over a thorn one day on the trail and his tire was flat within a minute.  It will happen one day so you might as well be prepared and have the knowledge to get it done.  Now you should carry a small tool kit when you ride but there are a few things for this particular situation that you will need for sure: 

  • spare tire tube (just in case a patch won’t work – make sure it’s the right size – found on the side of the tire itself)
  • patch kit with either glue patches or self-adhesive patches
  • tire pump
  • tire lever or small regular screwdriver

The process of both patching and replacing a tube is fairly similar and easy-to-do with a little practice:

  1. Get off the trail and turn the bike over.
  2. Undo the brakes, if necessary.
  3. Lift up on the quick release lever if you have it or use the proper tools to remove the wheel.
  4. Using a tire lever remove the tire from the rim.
  5. Take out the inner tube.
  6. Make sure the tire is free of thorns and anything else that could damage it.
  7. Once you’ve located the hole, use the glue in the patch kit and apply it around the hole.
  8. Then hold the patch in place for a few minutes and allow to dry for a few minutes.
  9. Pump up the tube and check for any other leaks, fix as necessary.  If none, deflate.
  10. Put one side of the tire back on the rim.
  11. Put the patched tube into the tire – you’ll want to inflate it just a bit.
  12. Put the other side of the tire back on the rim using the tire lever – be careful so that you don’t pinch the tube.
  13. Inflate the tire to the proper amount.
  14. Hook the brakes back up.

Your good to go.  Just make sure to replenish your tool and patch kit if needed.

Tip:  Filling your tire tubes with a sealant like SLIME will greatly reduce the need for you to patch holes on the trail because this product instantly seals small holes.  This can be purchased at your local bicycle shop and/or retail store such as Walmart, Kmart or Target.

Ride, live, have fun.

Cindy 🙂

What to expect when you go trail riding.

When starting out, I’d suggest that you see if a friend has a bike and helmet you can borrow.  What’s the sense in buying a bike when you’re not sure if you are going to like it or not.  If it’s been a while since you’ve been on a bike make sure you wear a helmet – yes it’s important, especially if you’re going on a trail. 

The trails in my area have:

  • roots
  • rocks
  • trees close to the trail just wide enough for your bike to get through (most of the time)
  • spiders and other bugs
  • snakes
  • small animals like possum, racoon and armadillo
  • lynx

Any one of these items, while riding the trail, can catch you off guard and the next thing you know your picking your butt up off the ground.  Believe you me, I know.  This past summer I was riding with my daughter and the trails in my area are known for their banana spiders, in fact, the local biking club uses it as they “mascot”, symbol, what have you there are so many.  Anyway, I was in front and I went right through one of their webs.  Now keep in mind that these spiders are usually about as big as the palm of your hand and bigger.  This was on my face, just for a few seconds mind you because I dismounted my bike, I’ll admit it, ungracefully, to get that thing off me.  They don’t bite so I’m told but I’m not one to take the chance.

Are you done laughing yet?

No.  Ok I’ll wait.

My point is if this happens to you and you have to get off your bike fast you could get off right into a tree or rock so protecting your melon is a wonderful idea.

The other thing you want to do is make sure you are prepared.  It gets very hot in the summer here in Florida so we carry lots of water, in fact, you can never have too much water with you.  I usually have two plastic bottles of water as well as a vitamin water or two, just for myself, as well as some snacks.  A “camel pack” is really helpful on the trail.  It’s a backpack, small and thin, just for your water and has a hose that goes over your shoulder for easy access while riding.  They come in various sizes and colors and range in price from $30-$100, so you can choose the one you like best.

You’ll want to carry a tire repair patch kit with you and a tire pump.  If you don’t know how to repair a tire you should learn if you decide you like biking – I’ll do a blog on that topic soon.

I’ve found that I prefer a waist pack, bought at Walmart for $10 I think.  It included two plastic bottles and has plenty of zippered pockets to carry snacks, digital camera, cell phone, car keys, etc.  You may find that a “camel pack” is all you need because some of them have pockets as well.

If you decide you like biking, the next step is to buy a bike.  You can start out going to Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority or another sporting goods store in your area.  Now you don’t want to buy the cheapest and you don’t need to go all out and get the most expensive.  Get a mountain bike with nice nobby tires, comfortable gear shifters and top notch brakes – preferable disc brakes.  Shop around, try them out and make sure you buy a bike that YOU like.  My advise for you is… don’t go to Walmart or Target for your first bike and don’t go to a Bike Shop.  The bikes at Walmart, Target, Kmart, etc., are not the best for trail riding, were most likely put together wrong and are built with cheap parts.  On the other hand the bikes at the Bike Shop are expensive, usually starting out around $800 and can go up to $5,000+.  Yes, they are quality bikes but if this is your first bike I would not recommend spending that much unless you are completely sure you will stick to mountain bike riding.  You’ll be much happier with the bike you get from Dick’s Sporting Goods or Sports Authority.

Ride, live, have fun!!  Cindy 🙂

Riding for more than 2 hours? You need to eat snacks and drink plenty of water.

If you want to ride for more than two hours, you’ll need to keep your body hydrated and your muscles fueled. Two hours is about the time in which muscle depletion generally occurs when you’re cycling so to avoid that you can snack every 20-30 minutes. You have to eat enough to prevent hunger and avoid eating too much as that will cause bloating, nausea and then deteriorating performance.

If you are riding competitively, you’ll want to eat on the bike but us recreational riders usually like to stop and enjoy our snacks. I tend to stop to snack every 90 minutes if I’m going to be out all day. Any calories you absorb will delay your muscle depletion before the onset of fatigue. The ideal daily intake of fat is between 20% and 30%.

If you are riding at a higher intensity, the simpler the carbohydrates, such as energy drinks, gels and fruits is what you should eat and drink and then stick to 200-300 calories (60 grams of carbs) per hour.

On the longer rides, which are usually at a lower intensity and lower heart rate, you’ll want to eat more complex carbohydrate snacks. These will typically have a higher fat content and will offer many alternatives.

Before going on your ride make sure you plan your snacks accordingly by estimating the number of calories you will expend, both in total and per hour. Next you’ll need to decide on a “refueling” schedule, every 15-20 minutes is practical. Then pack your snacks. The one thing you don’t want to do is try new snacks on a bike trip – it’s just not the time or place to find out if your digestive tract likes the snack as much as you think it will.

You can snack while cycling but it takes some practice. Start by slowing down, increasing your concentration and trying to anticipate obstacles or hazards. Here’s few tips for snack preparation:

  • Some of the snacks are hard to open, especially if you’re wearing gloves so you can either open them prior to your ride or cut them into bite-size pieces and put them in a baggie.
  • If you use baggies to store your snacks, don’t seal it, just fold it over.  Then you can pull it out and eat it with one hand.
  • If you want to control how much comes out at once, you can seal the baggie and cut a small hole in the opposite end just large enough to allow a single bite size piece to go through.

The most common snacks while cycling are dried fruits, power bars, sports drinks and the newest snack – energy gels, which come in a squeeze tube in syrup or paste form.  There are also some snacks you’ll want to avoid including dairy products, spicy, greasy and oily foods.  Here’s a few more suggestions:

  • cookies (chips ahoy or oreo)
  • fig newton
  • banana
  • grapes
  • apple
  • raisins
  • apricots
  • prunes
  • candy bar
  • donut
  • toast
  • bagel
  • yogurt
  • pudding
  • dry cereal
  • pop tart
  • peanut butter and jelly sandwich

When I go riding I always bring raisins, peanut butter crackers, fruit and granola bars plus plenty of water and 1-2 bottles of crystal light.

Ride, live, have fun!!  Cindy 🙂

What is a Hybrid bicycle?

I see them in the bicycle shops and hear people talk about them but honestly I don’t really understand what a hybrid bicycle is, why it’s different than the other types and who makes them.  I figured I better do a blog post on them because I know I’m not the only one wondering this, so I did some research.

First, we’ll start with the WHAT:

A hybrid bicycle is one that blends the best characteristics of both road and mountain bikes into a sturdy, comfortable and fast bike that’s ideal for streets and bike paths.

Second, we have the WHY:

A hybrid bicycle features from a mountain bike, such as:

  • a more upright frame for a more comfortable riding position
  • a stouter frame that can handle more weight and absorb the everyday punishment your riding may encounter
  • slightly wider tires for better traction and stability

A hybrid bicycle also has features from a road bike, such as:

  • lighter rims for faster riding
  • lighter components and taller gearing for going faster

 The wheels on a hybrid bicycle are a true combination of what you would find on road and mountain bikes.  They can handle a higher air pressure level, which allows them to go faster by reducing rolling resistance.  The rims and spokes are lighter like a road bike.

The frame is made of lightweight aluminum or steel for strenght and durability.

The handlebars are usually flat like a mountain bike and have a wider grip allowing the rider to sit upright for better vision and control.

Hybrid bicycles have a wide range of gearing, which allows riders to climb hills as well as go fast on flats and downhills, more similar to a road bike.  Typically the crank assembly will allow for anywhere from 16 to 27 possible gear combinations, which will account for nearly ever need a rider will have in town or on the bike path.

Hybrids come equipped with platform pedals for riders who put their feet down frequently.

Finally, we get to the WHO:

The major brands for hybrid bicycles are Cannondale, Specialized and Trek.  I’ve seen them in places like Dick’s Sporting Goods as well by Diamond Back, which is a less expensive brand.

Need to figure out which frame size you should buy, go to:

Ride, live, have fun.  Cindy 🙂

Bicycle Racks: What type bike rack should you get?

Bicycle Racks. This has been something that I’ve been dealing with since I started riding and really struggling with which one to get. Most people need to travel to their biking destination so unless you have a pick-up truck where you can just throw it in the back, you’re going to need a bike rack. The variation of your bike rack choices depends on the type of vehicle you have. Here’s an explanation:

  1. Trunk Mount – This type can be used on pretty much any type of car, mini-van or SUV, is the least expensive and easy to put on and take off your vehicle.  I picked one up from my local Walmart for about $45 and it will hold up to 3 bikes.  This type of bike rack will have 4-6 straps, which should be marked as to where to put them on your vehicle.  Once you get them in place, tighten them as much as you can if you are carrying more than one bike as the weight will pull it down some.  These straps may need adjusting after you have the bikes loaded.  If that’s the case I’ve found that if you have one person lift up slightly on the rack while you tighten it’s much easier.  You may also find it necessary to swap the direction of each bike and/or remove the seats so that they fit on the rack.  If you remove the seats make sure you tighten the seat fastener on the bike so that it doesn’t fall off.  Another thing I’ve noticed and for you to keep in mind is that if you use this a lot the straps on the side will rub / scratch the paint so I put a thin sock over each one and then put it in place.
  2. Roof Mount – I’ve seen this type on cars mostly but you can put it on a mini-van or SUV as well.  The lowest price I’ve seen online is $40 for a 1-bike rack and the most racks I’ve seen on a vehicle is two.  Some of these racks allow you to keep the front tire on and some you have to remove the front tire.  I’ve never even considered this type of rack because of the number of bikes I have to carry and I don’t want to have to lift my bikes up onto the roof of my vehicle.
  3. Pick-Up Truck Mount – This is usually a single bar that goes across your truck bed near the cab.  The front wheel of your bike will need to be removed so that you can secure the bike to the bike bar.  This bike bar goes for about $150 online and the most it will hold is 3 bikes.
  4. Spare Tire Mount – If you have a Jeep or other SUV with a spare tire mounted on the back you may want to look at this option for a bike rack.  With this type of rack you can get the kind that mounts over and around your spare tire or one that uses the center tire mount for the bike rack.  Both types have the ability to hold up to 3 bikes and prices range from $100 – $300 depending on the type and number of bikes you want it to hold.
  5. Cargo – Hitch Mount – This is a tray style rack that slides into your hitch and will hold up to 4 bikes depending on the sizes and styles.  I’ve seen this type on the back of RVs and the bigger SUVs as well.  Loading and unloading is an easy process but remember to strap them to your vehicle as well.  There is an add-on to this type called a “hitchin-post” that will allow you to add 3 more bikes to the rack so this would be ideal for large families.  Pricing for the basic set-up ranges from $150 – $350 depending on the style you get.
  6. Hitch Mount – This type is probably the most popular that I’ve seen and there is a good variety to choose from.  They can hold up to 5 bikes and the prices range from $150 – $300 online.  This rack type slides into your hitch and you hang your bikes on it and secure them with the straps.  There is a pin at the bottom you can take out to fold it down, which will allow you to open the back door on your vehicle.  There is another variety of hitch mount bike rack that goes out horizontally from your hitch and you just pull the bikes onto it and secure the tires to it with the straps.  I’m thinking this is the type I’m going to buy very soon.


Ride, live, have fun!  See you on the trails – Cindy 🙂

Cycling During Winter: Tips

Being in Florida, we really don’t have to worry about snow but it does get pretty cold down here. For us bike riders no matter where you are from, bicycling in the winter can be made more enjoyable by following a few tips.

  1. Tires – wide tires with widely separated knobs work best on snow, use low pressure (start with 15-20 psi and go from there to find what works best for you) and glue tires to the rims using tubular tire glue or any strong cement in about 6 – six inch strips (only glue one side).  Studded tires improve traction on ice.  Chains improve traction on snow or ice but dig themselves in on soft snow and give the rider a rough, slow ride on pavement.
  2. Lubrication – during the winter months the load on bicycle bearing are so slight that just about any grease will protect them.  Put low temperature grease in the bearings to make them easier to pedal and steer all year round.  If you use your bike on a regular basis, have the bearings repacked yearly to extend their life.
  3. Lighting – most states require bicycles to have a white light in front and a red light in back, both visible at 500′, as well as side reflectors and a red rear reflector.  Strobe lights may be brighter but they don’t meet legal requirements.  Flashers work best when mounted on your bike or rear rack where they can be aimed more accurately, rather than on clothes, packs or helmet, where they can shift around.  Winter trail riding requires little light as the snow reflects it – 4-5 watts is enough.  Clear (white) reflectors return twice as much light as amber ones and more than three times as much as red ones.
  4. Riding Technique – when on ice and soft snow, try to pedal smoothly and relax your upper body.  When the bike starts going sideways, make small corrections – don’t oversteer.  Practice riding in a straight line wh4en the trail is good so it’s easier under bad conditions.  On some trails, riding at a higher speed will take less effort because your tires don’t have time to sink into the snow.  Have the less experienced riders lead so they can use the trail before the better riders cut it up.  Snow machines leave the center of the trail soft so ride in the tracks left by their skis.  When riding on an icy road, try not to brake hard and if you must use your back brake.
  5. Clothes – cycling builds up a lot of heat so you’ll need clothes that are warm and comfortable but that also controls the buildup of heat and moisture while insulating and protecting you from the wind.  Experiment with the gear as everyone is different.  Multiple light layers with neck zippers let you adjust your ventilation as you ride.  Base layers (against your skin)  and mid-layers should be synthetics or wool (cotton will feel wetter and colder).  No t-shirts.  Outer layers should consist of windproof fronts and very breathable sides and back.  If you feel warm as you start out then you’re probably overdressed for any ride longer than 30 minutes.

Drink water frequently to avoid dehydration.  Carry emergency food and an extra layer of clothes in your bag.  If your feet get cold, run with the bike.  Cover your tools with tape so you don’t have to touch the metal directly when doing repairs on the trail.  Only bring a cold bike indoors if you can keep it there until it’s dried off completely.

Enjoy your winter riding!!

Cindy 🙂

Bicycle Riding at Night: Why and How to Stay Safe

Since the time change I’ve been contemplating riding my bike at night during the week.  There is a group of riders at my local trail head that go out every Wednesday night for a 12+ mile ride but I haven’t worked myself up to it yet.  In my research on the subject I found a few other reasons why bike riding at night is the best option.

  1. To avoid wind – during the day the wind can make it very difficult to pedal but if you ride at night most often you’ll find the winds have died down.
  2. To avoid the sun and/or heat – temperatures during the day, depending on where you ride, can reach well over 100 degrees and unless you are on a trail or road that’s pretty well covered with trees that sun can beat down on you, making your ride very uncomfortable.
  3. To avoid traffic – there is less people or other bikers to worry about when you ride at night.

Riding at night does have some drawbacks but by following these basic safety precautions and making sure you are prepared for anything that might come your way, you’ll enjoy the ride.

  1. Night Vision – your ability to see, even with a good set of lights, will be diminished.  If you plan to do a lot of night riding buy a good set of lights, both front and rear.
  2. Safe Speed – you may only be able to see a few feet in front of you so travel at a safe speed so that you can avoid potholes, road kill or debris that might be in your path.
  3. Your Safety is Key – if you don’t feel safe riding at night, don’t do it.  Keep in mind that you could have a run-in with a wild animal (bear, wolf, moose, etc) so be prepared.  Beware of drunk drivers, or other people looking to spoil your night ride.  Make sure you have a cell phone with you and a family member or friend knows your route and ETA.  If possible, travel with a partner or group.

I can’t see myself riding on the road at night but definitely on the trails.  Sounds like a lot of fun!

Do you have any comments on bike riding at night?

Ride, live, have fun!  Cindy 🙂

How often does this happen to you?

I know there are certain rules aka Trail Etiquette that are common at the trails I ride at, but I’m just wondering if for guys the common courtesy they should show to women go right out the door while on the trail.  Today my mom, my oldest daughter and I went riding at the trails and there were a bunch of people there, so many that it took me a while to find a parking spot.  While on the trail we must have passed at least a dozen or so groups of riders and not one of them got out of the way so that we could pass.  Several of them didn’t even slow down, basically forcing us off the trail.  They were all guys – from young to old.

Now I’m not the type to demand that my man open the door so I can get in or out of the car or anything like that but I sure hope that’s not the direction today’s generation of guys are heading.

Since I’m talking about Trail Etiquette I thought I would share some common rules with you:

  1. Be Courteous – all trail users should be respectful of other users regardless of their mode, speed or skill level.
  2. Be Predictable – travel in a consistent and predictable manner, looking behind before changing positions on the trail.
  3. Don’t Block The Trail – use no more than half the trail so that you don’t block the flow of other users.
  4. Keep Right – stay to the right side of the trail, except when passing another user.
  5. Pass On The Left – if you need to pass others going in the same direction as you, pass them on the left and make it clear you are passing with either your voice, bell or horn as a signal.  Yield to slower and on-coming traffic and remember kids and pets can be unpredictable so be careful around them.
  6. Stopping – when stopping, alert others behind you and then move off the trail.
  7. Use Lights At Night – if riding at night make sure your bike is equipped with lights.  You should have while light(s) that are visible from 500′ to the front and a red or amber light visible 500′ to the rear.
  8. No Drinking & Riding – you will need all your reflexes on the trail so no drinking and Riding and no drugs.
  9. Be Respectful Of Private Property – trails are open to the public but often the land on the side of the trail is private property.  Don’t litter, destroy or otherwise disrespect the private property or the owners rights.
  10. Clean Up Litter – do not leave glass, paper, cans, plastic, or any other garbage on or near the trail.  Let’s keep our trails beautiful for many generations to enjoy.
  11. Travel in groups on well traveled trails, carry a small bottle of mace and your cell phone.
  12. Have You Outgrown Trails – if your speed and style endangers other users, check for alternative routes that better suit your needs.  Selecting the right location is safer and more enjoyable for all concerned.

Here’s a downloadable brochure that  you can print out and share with others:

Ride, live, have fun!!  See you on the trails.

Cindy 🙂

Mountain Biking vs. Road Biking

Mountain biking is a far more technical riding process than road biking because it’s mostly done off-road, trails can be full of stones, roots, tree trunks, and other debris.  It requires more concentration and technical ability on behalf of the rider.  A mountain biker’s average speed will rarely be over 20 miles per hour.  Mountain bike frame tubes aren’t normally as thin as a road bike, shocks are now very common, their tires have more tread for better traction and their handlebars emphasize on the best control and handling possible.

Road biking is done on paved roads, thus reducing the rider’s need to concentrate on the road as much and rather letting him focus on his stamina or other physical aspects.  Road bikes are much faster where the biker may be going at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour (the Tour de France average was 34 miles per hour).  Road bikes are designed to cut the wind as much as possible, which makes them faster.  Their frame tubes are thin and light, their forks hardly ever have shocks, their rims and tires are also thin and their handlebar is shaped differently so that the rider can keep his body as close to the bike as possible.

They are both equally as good for your health and I encourage everyone to try both to see which they prefer.  I prefer mountain biking.  All the obstacles, hills, valleys, roots, etc., just make it that much more fun for me.

Ride, live, have fun!!  See you on the trails.

Cindy 🙂