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Fuji Rider Sarah Haskins wins the Philadelphia Escape Triathlon

Triathlete Sarah Haskins (pictured) won the Philadelphia Escape Triathlon this past weekend riding a Fuji competition bike. Congratulations to Sarah and all the amazing riders who choose Fuji road bikes for their competitions.

We’d also like to congratulate Nicolle Bruderer who won the Guatemala National Championship individual time trial event on her Fuji competition bike. Congrats to these amazing athletes who, like Cycle Shack, choose Fuji bikes.

 

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Bicycle Discomfort? Check Your Posture

A common complaint among casual cyclists is discomfort: numbness and tingling in the arms and hands, shoulder tightness, and numbness or pressure in the crotch are the most common complaints. Usually, these issues are symptomatic of a bigger issue, though, and that issue is posture.

With all physical activities, there’s a proper form. When lifting weights, muscle isolation is desired–at least partially to ensure proper form and reduce possible injury to the lifter’s body. The concept of form applies when running and even when sitting. So bicycling is no different: Bottom line, your form matters, and your body’s position on the bike (its posture) is the key ingredient in good form.

A rule of thumb when fitting cyclists to a bike (or adjusting their existing bike) is to check three areas: legs, arms, and back. Starting with the legs, the ideal posture has the rider’s leg nearly straight when its foot is in the 6 o’clock pedaling position. This is achieved mainly by raising or lowering the saddle.

Of course, that also raises or lower’s the rider’s pelvis, and therefore affects their arm reach. If the bike frame is too small for the rider, the handlebars will be too close, and the rider’s arms and shoulders will be stressed with unwanted pressure. If the frame is too big, the opposite issue occurs, and the rider’s back will be stressed as she stretches to steer the bike. So having the right-size frame is critical.  For riders with particularly long legs and short arms (or vice versa), we sometimes take this a step further and upgrade their bike to a longer or shorter stem (a piece that fine-tunes the distance from the handlebars to the rider’s torso).

Finally, we look at the cyclist’s back. For relaxed riding, an upright, almost sitting position is a must. On beach cruisers, riders sit almost straight-up.  For athletic or competitive riding, or for an effective fitness workout, the rider is going to be leaning forward. (A racer will be leaning all the way forward–this is known as the “aero” posture.)  In any event, having the right posture generally means that the stress on the back will be reduced, the center of gravity will be primarily toward’s the rider’s rear.

Back posture usually falls into place once the arms and legs are addressed, however for people with nagging back issues, chronic pain, or post-surgical back conditions, supportive measures may make it possible to ride in comfort. This is why we offer semi-recumbent bike frames, and even seats with back-rests, and why our cruisers have swept-back handlebars. These are all geared toward enabling proper posture on the bike.

Have a question about comfort or posture while riding? Give us a call at 239-331-2065 and we’ll give you a hand.

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How to do a proper bike tune-up (and the tools you’ll need!)

Your bike was shifting great, braking instantly, and effortless to ride.

But that was 1000 miles ago. Now, those shifts aren’t so quick, and the brakes are making some noise–and not stopping you. You chain might’ve even popped off of the crank.

It’s time for a tune-up.

At Cycle Shack, we have a tried and true methodology for bike tuneups that we’ve employed on thousands of bicycles in southwest Florida. There are five key areas we seek to improve with every tune-up we do:

  • Wheel performance
  • Drive-train performance
  • Brake performance
  • Steering performance
  • Aerodynamic performance

Curious as to how we do it? Read on. Only be prepared–when we tune a bike, we don’t cut corners. That means be prepared with the right tools.

Area 1: Tuning the Bicycle’s Wheels

 

A spoke wrench is used to loosen and tighten spokes in a bicycle wheel.

With every tune-up, the first thing we examine (and re-examine) is the truing of the wheels. This means tightening and loosening the spokes of each wheel until any built-up warping of the rim is eliminated, and the wheel turns true.  The result is better braking and less wasted energy output on the rider’s part.

Tools required: Spoke Nipple Wrenches, Wheel Truing Stand w/Caliper Guides (though you can true a wheel on the bicycle using the brake pads sort of like caliper guides)

Area 2: Tuning the Bicycle’s Drive Train

Tools required: Cable Lubricant, Allen Keys, Philips Screwdriver, Chain Lubricant, Shop Rags, Scrub Brush

First, the cables: Probably the most time-consuming part of any good tune-up, the drive train gets a lot of attention. For starters, we lubricate all of the cables and cable-housings used for controlling the derailleurs using a quality high-tech lubricant such as Tri-Flow. Apply the lubricant at the end of each cable housing and allow it to enter the outer cable and coat the outside of each inner cable. This will free the cable to move inside the housing and reduce friction. (If the bike has electronic shifting, there’s no cable to lubricate. Instead, we check the battery and make sure it will still take a charge charge.)

The derailleur is controlled by a single cable, and the tension on that cable is critical.

Second, the derailleur tension: Once the shifter cables are lubricated, it’s an excellent idea to zero out both barrel adjusters at the two ends of the cables (one on the derailleur and usually one on the shift lever housing).  This will minimize tension on the cable and allow you to retension the cable manually by loosening the cable tie-down bolt on each derailleur, pulling the shifter cable to a moderate degree of tightness, and then re-tightening the tied-down bolt. The derailleur is properly tensioned when it will shift ONE cog per index notch on your shifter, in BOTH directions. If you have a difficult time getting the tension right on the rear derailleur, there’s a good chance you’ll need to perform a derailleur alignment–more on that in a future post. When adjusting derailleur tensions, you’ll need either a 4mm or 5mm Allen key for turning the tie-down bolt, and possibly a vice grip or “third hand” tool to pull out tension on the cable itself, if your fingers are grippy enough.

 

The high and low limit screws control how far the derailleur is able to move the chain towards the outside of the cassette or chain ring.

Third, set the derailleur limits: Assuming your bike has derailleurs (most multi-speed bikes do), the limits are the final thing to get adjusted on the drive train. The limits are screws that control how far to the left and right the derailleur is allowed to manipulate the chain.  Too far one way or the other, and chain will fly off the crank or cassette. Not far enough, and the chain won’t be able to reach the outermost rings. When adjusting limit screws, go a quarter-turn at a time and re-check the shifting. “Easy does it.” To adjust the limit screws, you need a small Philips screwdriver.

Finally, clean and lubricate the components. Use a heavy-duty scrub-brush to remove any caked-on dirt from the cassette and/or chain rings, scrub the chain itself with a clean brush, between each link (an industrial degreaser like WD-40 may help to loosen the gunk from the chain), and then dry the chain completely once clean. Now, lubricate the chain with a quality chain-specific lubricant (for road bikes, use Finish Line Wet Lubricant. For mountain, use Finish Line Dry Lubricant). Use a clean shop rag to wipe off any excess lubricant from the chain.

Area 3: Tuning the Bicycle’s Brakes

Tools required: Allen Keys, Wrenches or Sockets, Cable Lubricant

Tri-Flow is the lubricant of choice for shifter and brake cables.

Some bikes have coaster brakes, and some have hydraulic brake lines attached to rotor-style brake calipers, but for the the sake of this guide, we’re going to assume (like most bikes) that yours has side-pull rim brakes. Start by lubricate the cable brake lines as you did for the shifter cables, using a similar lubricant such as Tri-Flow.

The objective of the tuneup is to get the brakes as close to the rim as possible without touching it while the brake lever is not being pulled.  This is accomplished by putting just enough tension on the brake cable to get the brake pads in that sweet spot. It does require some experimentation–and trial and error the first several tune-ups you do.  Adjusting the brakes usually requires a 4mm or 4mm Allen key on most side-pull brake mechanisms, though sometimes the bolt to be turned is actually a hex bolt, in which case you’ll need an 8 or 9mm wrench or socket.

Area 4: Steering and Tire Performance

Tools required: Air Pump, Allen Keys

Steering performance can best be summed up in three points. First–make sure the tires are inflated to the recommended PSI, which is always inscribed on the sidewall of the tire itself.  Second, make sure the handlebars are correctly aligned with the front wheel by adjusting the stem where it attaches to the steerer on the top of the fork (inside the steerer tube). Usually, there’s a pair of 5mm Allen bolts at the top of the steerer that can be loosed to adjust the handlebars and re-tightened when the bars are aligned. Third, make sure the bars themselves are aligned on center within the stem. Depending on the stem, there may be as many as 4 Allen bolts that are used to secure the handlebars.  So, for steering, the tools you’ll need are a bicycle air pump and a variety of Allen keys.

Area 5: Aerodynamic Performance

Even if your bike isn’t for racing–make sure it is operating at peak aerodynamics. You need any extra drag even if you’re just riding up to the grocery store. Keeping the frame clean and clear will reduce wind resistance. Dust the entire from from top to bottom and then use a quality bicycle polish to finalize. Your bike will slide through the air and look like new!

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Cyclists, Motorists, and Traffic Laws

Cycle Shack serves one of the most bicycled communities in the United States: Naples Florida and the surrounding areas in Collier County. This is one of the few areas in the country where there are more bicycles owned than there are automobiles, and where bikes on public roadways comprise a meaningful percentage of overall commuter traffic.

So naturally, there are more accidents involving bicyclists, and many are fatal. While there are numerous reasons for this troubling reality, including poor intersection design, bike lanes that are too narrow or filled with debris, lack of protected bike infrastructure, or even a cyclist violating traffic laws, the vast majority of accidents occur because drivers are distracted while driving, or because they do not understand their responsibilities  relative to bicyclists.

Most importantly: yield to bikes at all times. That’s right. Cyclists have the right to impede automotive traffic for safety’s sake. But there’s plenty of confusion about this very simple rule.

For instance, most drivers (and many law enforcement officials) don’t realize that cyclists are permitted to occupy the center of the lane, rather than hugging the right side, if in the cyclist’s estimation, impeding automotive traffic increases their own safety. Yes, cyclists are legally allowed to impede traffic in order to reduce the likelihood of getting buzzed by a passing car, or to maintain increased visibility in order to reduce the chance of a collision. Of course, occupying the center of the lane is only allowed if the lane is less than 14 ft. wide (almost all lanes in Florida are 12) and if there is no marked bike lane present.

Pay attention to that last point–marked bike lane. Any road cyclist in Collier County will tell you that those 24-inch roadside rain gutters that are not marked as bike lanes are not only hazardous to navigate and filled with bike-damaging debris, but are also not, in fact, bike lanes. This would be a situation where occupying the center of the lane, and impeding traffic, is not only acceptable, but compulsory, since an accident in the “bike lane” could lead to injury or death for the cyclist and a whole lot of trouble for the driver he gets tangled up with.

Understanding the law is just one way to make your cycling life more safer and more enjoyable, and of course, always use the right safety gear. A good-fitting helmet is crucial and gloves are helpful in case you do have to bail off your bike. High-visibility headlights and taillights are also a great way to make sure drivers see you, too. Enjoy the road, and happy cycling!

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Bike Pedals 101

A molded plastic platform pedal is the most common type of pedal you’ll find on a bicycle at the bike shop.

The only piece on a bike that is almost always touching the rider is the pedal. The pedal transfers the power from the rider’s muscles into the crank arms, drive train, and wheels, motivating the bicycle forward over the ground. Pedals often have a reflector on the front and back to increase the rider’s visibility, too.

So, pedals are pretty important, right?

Before buying a bike, or installing new pedals on your old bike, it’s important to understand the engineering differences between the various pedals that are out there.

Types of Bike Pedals

First, know that there are three basic types of pedals: platform pedals, cage pedals, and clip-in pedals. Each serves a specific purpose.

A cage pedal is made of machined metal and typically allows the use of accessories like toe straps.

Let’s start with platform pedals. These are typically constructed of hard, molded plastic or die-cast metal (either steel or aluminum alloy). They’re called platform pedals because the foot rests on top of them–they provide a platform for resistance against downward pressure. They also provide a generous area upon which to place one’s foot. Platform pedals are the most common pedal, coming as standard equipment on most cruisers, mountain bikes, and many entry-level road bikes, too.

Cage pedals (or quill pedals) are constructed of fabricated, turned metal, most often steel, but sometimes aluminum alloy. Cage pedals transfer power in the same way as a platform pedal, but they are equipped to work with additional accessories such as slip-in toe clips or toe straps. These accessories are use to help keep the foot from moving around on the pedal, and to allow the rider to use some upward pressure to transfer power, rather than just downward pressure. Sometimes cage pedals are chosen over platforms because they may weigh less.

Clip-in pedals are designed for use with cleated cycling shoes.

Clip-in pedals are pedals intended to be utilized with cleats attached to cycling shoes.  The cleat latches into the pedal in a position that provides optimal power transfer around the entire circumference of the pedal-stroke. This is why they are popular with road riders and speed-oriented cyclists. While clip-in pedals can be operated without cycling shoes and cleats, the practice is discouraged due to this type of pedal’s inferiority as a platform, since the un-cleated foot cannot rest flat on it.

One advantage of clip-in pedals is that they hold the rider’s foot in place throughout the entire ride, benefiting the rider’s overall consistency and posture. This can be beneficial for reducing the physiological impact of pedaling on the rider’s knees, ankles, and hips, however getting an accurate clip-in fit is critical to making this benefit possible.

Removing and Installing Pedals

Pedals connect to the crank arms of a bike using a threaded spindle shaft, either 9/16″ or 1/2″ in diameter. Inside the pedal  shaft contains the bearings that allow the pedal to turn relative to the crank and remain horizontally oriented as the crank rotates.  At the end of each crank arm, a machined thread accepts the threaded shaft of each pedal.

A pedal wrench eases installation and removal of pedals.

Note that, in order for the pedals not to unscrew while pedaling, the left pedal and crank arm are threaded in reverse. This means turning the left pedal counterclockwise in order to tighten it to the crank arm. When installing or removing pedals, a pedal-wrench is recommended to torque the pedals into the crank arms.

Prior to installation of pedals, you should put a small amount of grease into the thread on the crank arm. This will allow the threads to screw together more smoothly and allow for easier remove of the pedal later on.

When installing pedals, hand-tighten the pedals at first, and be sure they are turning easily into the crank arms. If they are not turning easily, this is an indication that the pedals are cross-threading. Do not proceed further since cross-threading will ruin the crank-arms, pedals, or both.  If you encounter this difficulty, carefully back the pedals out of the crank arms and try starting over.

Be sure you have the left pedal on the left crank arm, and the right pedal on the right crank arm, too. All pedals are marked “right” or “left”.  Sometimes these designations are abbreviated with “L” and “R” printed or embossed somewhere on the pedal itself–usually on the shaft.