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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.


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A Crash-course About Cycling Gloves

fingerless cycling gloves
Fingerless gloves are ideal for road cyclists.

Plenty of cyclists ride without gloves. We like to call these kind and well-meaning people “risk-takers”.

Along with a helmet, a good pair of riding gloves can save you from an E.R. visit and worse. Gloves protect against road-rash on the hands, sunburn, and of course, cuts. Wearing gloves certainly is preferable to picking glass or debris from your palms!

So how does one choose the right pair of gloves?

Most riders want gloves that offer maximum protection while permitting the greatest amount of flexibility without introducing too much perspiration. For road-riders, this means fingerless cycling gloves, particularly in warm weather.  Bare fingers can still be used to operate gears, modulate the brakes, and feel the road vibrations–without excess sweat.

Full-finger gloves are favored by BMX racers, but mountain bikers often use them too.

For BMX and mountain bike riders, the choice of gloves is a bit more complicated. Fingerless gloves may not be enough protection, particularly in BMX racing. In fact, most team events require full-finger gloves. The same level of finger and knuckle protection is a great idea for trail riders and mountain bikers too.

Some gloves offer features such as palm padding or suede palm, for riders with hands that are sensitive to the regular pressure of resting on the handlebars. The Aramus GC gloves from Lizard Skins, for instance, offer a suede palm and built-in gel pads to improve rider comfort.

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Team Cycle Shack Jerseys are Here

Our official jerseys are finally available online and at the Naples bike shop.  The jerseys include 140-gs ultra soft and smooth fabric and the orange-black Cycle Shack logo design along with our slogan, “Let’s Ride” on each arm.

The jerseys are unisex and available in size XS through size XXL.  Check them out here along with the sizing chart.


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Shack & Back Group Rides are Now Weekly

Due to popular demand, the Shack and Back group road bike ride is now weekly, every Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. at our Naples bike shop (location here). The group will travel to Ave Maria along Oilwell Rd. and return around 10:15-10:30. Pace will average between 17 and 20 MPH. This is a no-drop ride. Info on previous rides here.