new bike check list

So you just bought a new bike – now what do you check to make sure that everything is set-up correctly on the bike? Bicycles mainly come in boxes with ‘some assembly’ required (and metric tools). Usually handlebars, pedals, and saddle, seat posts all have to be assembled before the bike goes to the show-room floor or out the door.

Always have a qualified bicycle mechanic check over anything you are unsure of or have questions about!

Here are some Top Things that I would check when first bringing your bicycle home or before that next big ride:

1) Front Brake caliper! Stopping when you want to is important.
The Big reason to specifically check the front brake is that if it gets loose, unlike the rear brake, when the brake is applied it may come off the bike. Because of the placement of the front brake and the rotation of the wheels, if the brake nuts are too loose, when the front brake is applied it will come off, the rear brake would stay because the wheel would hold it too the frame. Both are bad situations, but the front is worst case.

Most road bicycles have a 5mm nut on the back-side of the fork. Simply twist the handle-bars to 1 side. Use the allen wrench to tighten the nut. Straighten up the handle-bars, then re-align the brakes so that neither side of the brake pads rub the wheel when it is turning.

2) The pedals… are they properly tightened?
This is a good thing to check occasionally. Because the pedals are built on an axle that allows rotation to happen with out the axle turning, you should occasionally check that A) the axle is tight on the crank. and B) that the pedals are rotating smoothly.

Some pedals require a 15mm pedal wrench, some pedals require an allen wrench on the inside of the crank arm where they attach to the brake. The pedals should be tighter than ‘snug’ but not so tight that you can never get them off.

3) The stem and handlebars: if they are loose, you will lose control!
I hold the front wheel with my legs and gently twist the handle-bars. If the wheel puts pressure on my legs and the handle-bars don’t twist to the side, then that is good. If it moves, I recommend having a mechanic at your local bike shop tighten it for you since this adjustment also is the headset adjustment and having that improperly adjusted will result in damage to your headset.

Next I grab the brake/shifter levers and gently apply down-ward pressure. If they stay in place or the rear wheel raises up, then that is good. If they move, then re-adjust to the proper cycling position and tighten the screws to torque of the stem-clamp.

4) Hubs (the very center of the wheel that allows the wheel to turn) are often over-looked in newly built bicycles.
What is amazing is that if your hubs are too tight or too worn out you can actually feel that in the frame close to the hubs. If your hubs are too tight, then you will pre-maturely wear out the hubs, basically trashing them. Having the hubs too tight is a big energy sapper. It would be like cycling with the brakes on. Have the mechanic at your local bike shop adjust them properly.

5) Saddle: The main contact point on a bicycle.
If the saddle is too loose, it could fall off. This could cause a crash or cut on the lower body.
Seatposts are made more differently now, so if you have any concern about adjustment or how to tighten check with you local bike shop.

6) Seat Post:
If the seat post is loose, then it could ‘drop’ or most likely sink during a ride.
If the saddle is too high, it will put extra pressure on the back of your legs because of the foot and knee extension required to reach the pedals.

If the saddle is too low it will put pressure on various places on the front your legs (quads).

7) Wheel Skewers: If your skewers are loose you could loose a wheel while riding, or have a wheel shift with in the frame causing it to rub either the frame or the brakes.The front and rear wheel are both held on by skewers or ‘quick releases’. On 1 side there is a nut, on the other side there is a handle. Pull the handle and the skewer will loosen, push the handle towards the wheel ‘closed’ and it will tighten. The big adjustment is with the nut, the minor adjustment is with the handle. While the handle is in a straight line from the skewer, I usually tighten the nut until I feel tension on the handle just as I start to close it, then just push the handle the rest of the way.

These skewers should be more than snug tight, but not so tight that you can not get the skewer loose when you want.

If the front or rear skewer are just loose, then your wheel may not fall out, but you will most likely rub your brakes as you ride. And turning may be affected, as you lean the bike it will suddenly shift to 1 side or the other because the axle isn’t snug in the frame of the bicycle.

The front quick release would have to be very loose in order to come off because of the ‘tabs’ that prevent a loose skewer from allowing the front wheel to fall out. Pro teams often file down these tabs so that they can change a front wheel flat during a race much faster – you probably won’t have that issue, so I recommend keeping the tabs. I can remember many instances that I have to re-tighten a front skewer that was loose. The tabs prevent the front wheel from dropping out of the front fork of the bike…. imagine cycling along, lifting the front wheel or hitting an unexpected bump and suddenly your front wheel isn’t there – It is a very bad accident.

Rear skewers are less likely to cause such a bad accident, but if your rear wheel comes out it will be very damaging to your bike.

Again, always have a qualified bicycle mechanic check over anything you are unsure of or have questions about!

Winter LSD

This is the time of year that is great for Cyclists to get in Base Mileage. These base miles that the Great Eddy Merxck talked about in his day.

Here is a great, well put together video of a local Atlanta ride that I had to quit doing.

Airport Ride – Nov 14, 2010 from Joe Reger, Jr. on Vimeo.

It’s not the craziness of stop signs, the big pack, or the fear of crashing – that is all part of it and it is all going to happen if you race or ride in big groups….

The reason I quit doing this ride was it has become an out of control hammer-fest through the winter. It no longer fit into MY training plan. Guys are out of the saddle attacking the pace-line, and this was shot mid-November – coming off our racing season.

Although some folks like to ride hard all winter, I personally do not. I prefer to use the winter months to do Winter paced base mileage, or what I like to call LSD (Long Slow Distance).

-Some people just like doing the ride – that’s Great! They are out of the house, on their bikes and getting exercise, and that is all good!
-Some people are too nervous not to go hard all winter long, they think they will loose something.
-I was too stressed and maxxed out from a season of Pro1,2 racing that my mind and body needed the break from riding at that intensity all summer.

A great thing about LSD during the winter is that this is the time of year that you need to be working out at the gym also building a Stronger Cyclist. Gym workouts and fast paced group rides do not mix. They are part of a yearly plan, but not at the same time. A great yearly plan should have a mix of phases that will change so that the cyclist doesn’t get burned out.

But I wasn’t the only one… we had a ‘just-right’ sized group of Cat1,2,3 level riders/friends (Men & Women) that had a cohesive group that were all on the similar training plans. It was Awesome to ride along relaxed, and chatting with different people, pull for as long or as little as you felt like, and not be cut-throat about trying to keep someone from getting that wheel in front of you. This is the relaxed pace that can mentally refresh your mind and get you looking forward to the upcoming intensity needed for a full racing season.

Hard group rides will always be around, I like to take this time of year to relax. There are plenty of Hard efforts in the upcoming year of training and racing. Do you want to be riding in peak form through the winter, or next season?

How to dress for Winter Cycling

It is once again that time of year when the clocks have “Fall Back” and the weather has turned from cool to cold seemingly overnight, or you don’t know what to expect from 1 week to the next.

During this time of year, it is important to remember that if you are riding in the afternoons, you must expect that towards the end of your ride, as the sunsets, it is going to get much cooler than when you started.

This early sunset also means that it maybe necessary to have a tail-light. It is challenging for motorists to see into the setting sun – a tail-light will help you be seen. This past weekend we were out a bit longer than anticipated, unfortunately the short route had a quarter mile of a busy road – although have a RoadID is a good idea, a tail-light is more of a preventative measure.

Dressing in layers may mean that you carry extra clothing that you can put on or zip up towards the end of the ride.

Of course, The core or trunk of you body is the main area that you need to keep warm. Dressing in layers is 1 of the best ways to do this. A big thing that I like about layering is that you can adjust how much or how little air you gets to your body. My way of doing this is to have a moisture-wicking base layer. Then I usually add a jersey. Now depending on the temperatures, I will either put on the wind-breaker or vest. The great thing about wind-breakers and vests is that either one can be worn on the outside. I have found that sometimes the warmth from the wind-breaker or winter jacket is too warm, but the air flow is too cold – put the vest on the inside and you can keep cooler, yet still keep the cold air from direct contact to the body.

Another thing that I like to do is where a hat or skull cap under my helmet. Most of the bodies heat loss is through the head – so keeping your head covered slows this loss of heat.

If it is below freezing then I like covering my face and nose. This keeps the cold breeze off and allows me to warm-up the air just a little bit more before breathing it in.

The other 2 main body parts are the furthest points from the trunk of the body – the fingers and the toes. Try to Never start a ride when your fingers or toes are already cold. If those get cold, then it is tough to ever get them warmed back up.

A great tip that I learned is that once you get inside to a heated area, loose the outer layers of clothing. The warm air will get to your body easier and warm you up quicker. Also, just before you go back outside you want to trap that warmer air and keep out the cooler air by adding the layers back on. By taking off your jacket while inside, it allows your jacket to better do it’s job of keeping you warm once you go outside.

Psycho-Cross

As if the past couple of weeks haven’t been crazy enough, I wanted to go watch Psycho-Cross at the Dick Lane Velodrome this year. I have track raced at the Dick Lane Velodrome several seasons and it really improved my road racing. After being away from track racing for several seasons, I got back down there a couple times this year and got some video .

After missing it the previous year and seeing the pictures from the Psycho-Cross race I really wanted to attend the event this year. But as the registration deadline came upon us, things get set into motion and you become pulled in different directions attempting to fit in as much as possible with the limited hours employees call a weekend.

|Photo by Ben Brian|

What I thought was going to be a simple transfer of vehicles at the velodrome turned into chaotic string of phone calls, drastic change of transportation, spastic organization, and directionally challenged, hang it all out, let’s Party event!

After finalizing my ride with Geoff, Eddie informed me that we were heading to A.T.S. to grab my Mt bike – I would not be spectating, but indeed racing – whichever race was still available once we got there – luckily the Master’s had already started, and I registered for the B’s race.

Once there I got dressed, grabbed the wallet, headed to registration, got signed up, back to Geoff’s car – and it’s locked…. back past registration, search the sea of spectators, find Geoff, back to the car, drop off wallet. Get water – no bottles.?! No time! I grab a quick outfit for the event & race back to the start line where I have about 30 seconds for them to say “Go!”

It is a nice easy uphill start to the event then into some switch backs that is Great to thin the pack out right away. I started near the back, and things were not to get much better for me, but the fun hadn’t even started yet. After the first “there is no way they could better utilize space” of a course, switchbacks, the cotton-mouth was driving me crazy, and I had no water bottle to drink from, it’s warm for October and a far stretch from the 50* and rain of this time last year.

You come out of the top switch backs, down over the curb onto the asphalt that leads you into the velodrome, dropping into the infield for a suicide lap (right hand turns). After making it through turns 3/4 of the drome, you go through a chicane on the back stretch then back onto the grass for some switch backs that loop you back around to the backside field for the only set of barriers – this was cool, because you could now see who was behind you as you double back. Next you get onto the inner track of the velodrome, then onto the ‘run-up’ to the parking lot, through some more switchbacks -remember use of space here! – then onto the grass area switchbacks then onto the asphalt back to the velodrome again…. if it sounds easy, it wasn’t. It was pretty tough! Some guys were making the run-up this year, last year only 1-2 people did the whole day.

Finally by the end of the 2nd lap I knew I wasn’t going to be in contention for anything but the “lantern rouge” (last finisher) so I called out for not just any drink – the drink of mythical creatures, the drink that turns bar wenches into Angels – BEER! Interesting how during a cross race, it is not only appropriate, but almost expected for those racing to consume this liquid beverage.


|Photo by Peachtree Bikes|

Beer was indeed quickly handed out by several spectators that seemed to take pity on my suffering and willing to add quantities of fluids to wash away said cotton-mouth. Nervous at first of racing on hops and barley, I swigged gingerly, and did a lap. No problems except for the cotton mouth rearing it’s ugly head again.

|Photo by Ben Brian|

After a couple rounds of Psycho-Cross and refreshments from the Fans, the hairpin turns started to be smoothed out, I used my brakes a little less – whether I was more relaxed in the turns or not going as fast is debatable. But 1 thing for sure, the Fun was in Full effect!


|Photo by Ben Brian|

I couldn’t tell you where I placed in the race, and really I don’t care. I had a Blast, raced a solid effort (maybe I should say I got some solid race-pace efforts), and nearly drank my entry fee worth of beer < -- that alone is a great reason for you to get out and try a cyclo-cross race this winter! BUT the main reason that you should try doing cyclo-cross is not about winning, it isn't about how well you do. Cyclo-cross is truly about bike handling skills - mounting, dismounts, carrying, and steering through terrain variations. Oh, and having Fun while getting in a great workout that your body probably isn't used too.

Distracted Driving

Distraction is the new Driving While Intoxicated.

As I road ride in and around the Atlanta area, it is VERY common to see people pass by me with their phones raised up next to the steering wheel. Are they texting? Phoning a friend? checking FaceBook?
Did they even see me before they looked back to their phone, or did I just get lucky again and they looked back to the phone once they were going past me?

Today’s drivers have more distraction inside a moving vehicle than the radio and whomever they may have as a passenger – now all their friends are in the car with them……on their cell phone and even laptops.

Studies have now shown that texting while driving is more distracting than driving while intoxicated. ‘I’ve heard’ that intoxicated drivers tend to be more focused on the road b/c they know they are intoxicated and do not want to get arrested. Many drivers in todays society just don’t focus while driving. And I am guilty of this also. But I have yet to have someone screaming at me because I waited until I was stopped or until I got to my destination to text them back.

Here in Georgia we have a new law that basically says ‘Thou shall not Text while operating a motor-vehicle’. But since it hasn’t stopped the police from doing it, why would it stop everyone else? In fact, some folks have what is even worse form of distraction in their vehicles – laptops. Whether they are checking websites or doing reports, I still see company employees and government employees using laptops while driving.

I think a good thing that I had gotten into the habit of doing each time I hear a car coming from behind me, is to turn my head slightly towards the car. I am able to stay straight, and not swerve while doing this. I check to see where the car is in the lane that we are both in. I feel that this does 2 things:

1) I see where the vehicle is, have they started to go around me yet, or are they coming up directly behind me. If I think a vehicle does not see me or is coming too close, I will get out of the way – I have done this before.

2) To the drive of the vehicle it would seem that I just looked ‘at them’. Sure, I may not have seen who exactly is driving the vehicle, but the impression that the driver may have gotten could be different. At the very least it let the driver of the vehicle realize that I know the vehicle is there & they are not ‘scaring’ me by coming too close or narrowly zipping past me.

We can’t always be safe, but hopefully this way we can minimize our risks while out cycling. Hopefully this will keep more people alert, and aware while driving any vehicle that is on the road – including bicycles.