Bicycle Safety Tips

It's simple! Follow the "rules of the road". With few exceptions, when operating a bicycle on the streets and highways you must comply with the motor vehicle traffic regulations of your state and locality. Yes, you have all the rights of a motor vehicle driver, but you also have the same responsibilities they do. That means you must drive on the right side of a two way street, except when overtaking or passing. You must obey traffic lights and signs. At uncontrolled intersections, remember the vehicle on the left yields the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.

Where bike paths or lanes are available, use them. When traveling with a group, it is best to ride single file and never more than two abreast.

Signals are important. Turning right? Extend your right hand and arm in a horizontal position straight from and level with your shoulder beyond the right side of your bicycle. Turning left? Extend your left arm straight and level to the left side of your bike. For slowing down or stopping, extend your arm downward to your side. By following the regulations applicable to motor vehicles (which the law requires you to do, like it or not), you make it less likely a motor vehicle driver will misunderstand what you are doing and where you are going. Such misunderstandings cause accidents.

MONOWALKER hiking/cycling trailer

The MONOWALKER, designed by Kai Fuchs, is a great looking wooden and aluminum bike trailer, but as you might guess from the name it is more than that. The product is primarily a single wheeled hiking trailer, but by adding another wheel and a bike drawbar, you can convert it into a cycling trailer. Watch the video on the MONOWALKER site to see it used as both a hiking and biking trailer (as well as a backpack). It looks like a pretty nice product, and the video definitely made me want to try one.

Kai points out that the trailer is ideal for:

• Hikers – who want to hike without weight on shoulders and who appreciate adventures in nature.
• Climbers - who want to bring equipment to the base camp, in order to start the tour from there
• Photographers that want to carry the equipment for outdoor purposes/ or a tent
• Parents/ Dads that want to camp with their kids but who would have too much to carry for 2-4 people- even a child carrier for kids that is usually carried on the back can be connected with the use of the hip belt
• Women that cannot carry much weight on their back.
• Youth group leader – who need to carry their personal things plus group equipment
• Disaster Control which needs to carry heavy equipment on impassable trails, and where vehicles are of no good use
• Scientists in nature who need to carry equipment on narrow trails
• Hunters that need to pull animals out of the woods

To that list I would add touring cyclists, who might want to convert the trailer and use it in hiking mode at times (as the video illustrates). It would be nice to have a way to carry all of your stuff (off the bike) on a long cycle tour.

A hubless wheel from the past: The Black Hole

As I mentioned in a recent post, hubless wheel concept bikes have been appearing on the web in droves lately. Fast Company recently featured a few of those recent concept bikes (and one really old one) in their “Almost Genius” category, reserved for designs that don’t quite work. On the Core77 discussion boards, slippyfish recently started, “The Official Hubless Wheel Hater Thread”. One of the posts on that thread even points a pretty entertaining gallery of late 19th century hubless monocycles. Of course, BSNYC’s “save the hubs” campaign gets a mention too. All in all, it seems that everyone is kind of tired of seeing new hubless wheel concepts on the web every week.

What better time to revisit a couple of old posts about a hubless wheel, which (I believe) actually went into production for a short time in the mid 90s. The picture you see above is an early prototype of the Black Hole hubless wheel system from “Wear and Tear”. According to the company, this assembly weighed about a pound less than a conventional fork and wheel. Sounds great…why didn’t it catch on?

To the left, you can see a later prototype of the Black Hole. Obviously, the designers were a little too optimistic with that large opening in the previous prototype. I am not sure what happened to Wear and Tear, but I have my doubts that this later prototype was lighter than the average conventional fork and wheel that was available at the time.

On an unrelated note, the Taipei International Cycle Show opens tomorrow. As he did last year, Eric Stoddard will be writing a guest post or two from the show. I’m looking forward to reading what he has to say.

Fuel EX 9.9

Trail Performance, Patented

The Fuel EX 9.9 is the pinnacle Fuel EX model, with the highest-performance shocks, wheels and drivetrain, and the lightest weight. Also available as a frame only.

Sizes 15.5, 17.5, 18.5, 19.5, 21.5"
Frame OCLV Black Carbon w/ABP Race, Full Floater, E2 tapered head tube, magnesium EVO Link, oversized pivot bearings, replaceable derailleur hanger, 120mm travel
Front Suspension Fox 32 F-Series Fit RLC w/air spring, compression, lockout, rebound, alloy E2 tapered steerer, 15QR thru axle, 120mm
Rear Suspension Fox Float RP-23 w/proprietary Trek DRCV, boost valve, Pro Pedal, rebound; 7.25x2.0"
Wheels Bontrager Rhythm Pro Disc wheel system, 6 bolt, tubeless ready
Tires Bontrager XDX, 26x2.2"
Shifters SRAM X.0 trigger
Front Derailleur Shimano XTR
Rear Derailleur SRAM X.0
Crank SRAM Noir 44/32/22
Cassette Shimano XTR 11-32, 9 speed
Pedals n/a
Saddle Bontrager Race X Lite
Seat Post Bontrager Race XXX Lite, 31.6mm, 5mm offset
Handlebars Bontrager Race X Lite, carbon, 40mm rise
Stem Bontrager Race XXX Lite, 7 degree
Headset Cane Creek Frustum SE Light Edition, E2
Brakeset Avid Elixir CR MAG, hydraulic disc
Extras Trek fork and shock sag meter

MSRP $6,819.99 *

Equinox TTX 9.0 WSD

Cheat the Wind

Sharing the same ultra-aerodynamic shaping as the top-end 9.9 SSL, the TTX 9.0 is ready for some serious speed. And outfitted with SRAM's high-value, smooth-shifting Rival gruppo, the 9.0 strikes the perfect balance between affordability and performance.

Sizes Women's XS, S, M
Frame OCLV Black Carbon
Fork Bontrager Race XXX Lite TT, carbon
Wheels Bontrager SSR
Tires Bontrager Race Lite, 700x23c
Shifters SRAM TT 500, bar end control, 10 speed
Front Derailleur SRAM Rival
Rear Derailleur SRAM Rival
Crank SRAM S-300 53/39
Cassette SRAM PG-1070 11-26, 10 speed
Pedals n/a
Saddle Bontrager Race WSD TT
Seat Post Race Lite TTX
Handlebars Bontrager Race Bullhorn w/Race Lite clip-ons
Stem Bontrager Race Lite, 7 degree, 31.8mm
Headset Cane Creek IS-2 Integrated w/cartridge bearings, sealed, alloy
Brakeset Alloy dual pivot w/Bontrager Race Lite Aero levers

Equinox 7 WSD Review

Performance Pedigree

Loaded with many of the go-fast details found on the flagship TTX—the lowered down tube, the internal cable routing, the stable, tri-specific geometry—the value-spec’d Equinox 7 stands ready to help you achieve your personal best. The Alpha Red Aluminum frame provides just the right mix of stiffness, efficiency, and low weight, and the SRAM Rival/Bontrager component group rewards riders with a sensible blend of performance and affordability. So whether it’s a sprint distance event, an Ironman, or a local time trial series, the wind tunnel tested and extremely aerodynamic Equinox 7 delivers the speed and efficiency you need to go faster than the competition.

Sizes Women's 47, 51, 54cm
Frame Alpha Red Aluminum
Fork Bontrager Race Lite TT, carbon
Wheels Bontrager SSR
Tires Bontrager Race Lite, 700x23c
Shifters SRAM TT 500, bar end control, 10 speed
Front Derailleur SRAM Rival
Rear Derailleur SRAM Rival
Crank SRAM S-300 53/39
Cassette SRAM PG-1070 11-26, 10 speed
Pedals n/a
Saddle Bontrager Race WSD TT
Seat Post Race Lite TTX
Handlebars Bontrager Race Bullhorn w/Race Lite clip-ons
Stem Bontrager Race Lite, 7 degree, 31.8mm
Headset Cane Creek IS-2 Integrated w/cartridge bearings, sealed, alloy
Brakeset Alloy dual pivot w/Bontrager Race Lite Aero levers

Six Basic Biking Skills

In 1971, I rode a Peugeot ten-speed into the White Mountains of New Hampshire, 120 miles from my home, without a clue what I was doing. I brought no cash. I didn’t eat or drink. I didn’t know how to shift gears. I didn’t wear cycling clothes. I had no way to fix a flat and wouldn’t have known how to do the job even if I’d had the tools to do it. Starving, cold and miserable, I spent a sleepless night next to a river. I decided at daybreak that I’d pedal home — if I could — or hitchhike there if I couldn’t.

It’s funny how fate changes things. Rolling along the next morning I was so dizzy from hunger I could barely balance to coast down the road when Galen Farrington pedaled into my life. An experienced cyclist from New Mexico, he was touring New England, and he passed me on a little climb like I was stuck in cement. The cool thing was, he stopped just up the road, waited for me to catch up, and said, “You don’t look so good.”

He led me to a restaurant and bought me a meal. Then he rode with me at my ridiculously slow pace for about an hour, the entire time teaching me how to ride my bike. He even spent a while adjusting the derailleur so it would shift perfectly. I never saw Galen again. But in that brief encounter, he turned a pedaling fool into a cyclist. Because he made me realize that there was a lot to learn about riding a ten-speed. And that every little skill, technique and tip I could learn would make riding all that much easier and that much more fun.

What follows are some of the ride rules that Galen taught me; and others that I’ve learned since.

Hanging On
Because your hands do a lot of the work while you’re riding, they’re prone to fatigue, even damage. Most problems can be prevented by frequently changing hand positions. One of the great advantages of the drop-style handlebar that’s found on many road and touring bicycles is that it provides many different grips. It’s possible to grab on the drops, on the tops, on the brake lever hoods and elsewhere. Every ten minutes in fact, you should take another hand position. This will alleviate pressure on the nerves in the palms that can cause numbness and tingling, while helping to keep your upper body relaxed.

There are fewer options on mountain-style handlebars and other upright designs. If you have bar ends, use them. And don’t rule out gripping portions of the bar just because they’re bare metal. If there’s a place to rest your hands safely (always maintain a secure grip), by all means move them there occasionally for a change.

Ideally, you should relax and let your feet and ankles assume a natural position while pedaling. But there is one tip that may help smooth your pedal stroke and provide a power boost on climbs: If you can learn to pull straight back on the pedals when each reaches the 3 o’clock point on the stroke, you’ll discover with practice that you can generate more power.

Most people focus on the downstroke. But this part of the stroke is natural. Even if you didn’t think about it, you’d manage fine. The key to smoothing the stroke and making it as round as possible is training yourself to pull back. The motion is similar to what’s used to scrape mud from the bottom of your shoes. If you want to immediately feel what it can do for you, try it the next time you’re riding uphill. With enough practice, you won’t have to think about it and your pedal stroke will become rounder and more efficient.

Speaking of hills and hand positions: usually it’s best to stay off the drops on climbs. When you’re bent over that low, the diaphragm is compressed making it difficult to breathe deeply. Placing your hands on the brake lever hoods will open your chest allowing your lungs to expand more. This works nicely when seated and standing. If you want even more air when seated, place your hands right next to the stem a position that will raise your torso and open your lungs fully.

When you stand to climb, relax! There’s no need to choke the handlebars, bar ends or brake hoods with a vise-like grip. Doing so will only tense the upper body, make it more difficult for you to react to surprises and tire you out faster. Instead, use a loose grip and let your legs and body weight do the work as you rock the bike slightly side to side.

One crazy rule of cycling is that you should never look where you don’t want to go. And it’s true that the more you stare at an obstacle, the more likely it is, you’ll run right over it. This can be a dangerous problem in corners. If you fixate on the line you’ve picked to carve the corner, you may ride right out of the turn and off the road.

I recommend looking to the inside of the turn. And don’t just turn your eyes. Actually rotate your head slightly so you’re looking just to the inside of the line you want to follow around the bend - or in a tight turn, almost at the road’s edge or centerline. This will make it much easier to hold the correct line around scary corners. Be safe though. Practice cornering techniques at slow speed until you’re comfortable.

Being that it’s most efficient machine in the world, it should be no surprise that a bicycle pointed downhill can accelerate frighteningly fast. You could hit the brakes every time to get things back under control. But that might lead to skidding, wears the brake pads and could surprise following ride partners. A sensible alternative is changing body position to slow down. By sitting taller or moving from gripping the drops to the tops and spreading your legs a bit, your body will catch much more air, which will slow you down parachute style. Of course, this trick only scrubs off some speed. If you really need to slow hard, use the brakes.

Many cyclists experience a terrifying phenomenon on fast downhills called speed wobble. What happens is, at a certain speed the bike begins to shake, sometimes wobbling violently. Many things can cause this to happen and it’s not always the bike’s fault. So it’s good to know ways to prevent and stop it should you experience it.

Try this: clamp your knees against the top tube, which braces a main frame member, and should stabilize the bike and stop the wobble. Riders who’ve experienced wobble learn to always rest a knee against the top tube when descending fast as insurance.

Most people don’t shift enough, which leads to premature drivetrain wear, sore knees (or worse) and one tired rider. Here’s how to shift a bicycle: Think of yourself as the bike’s engine. Like an auto engine, you’re most efficient pedaling at a certain rate, usually from 70 to 90 pedal revolutions per minute. To maintain this efficiency, shift every time you feel your pedaling rate (called cadence) slow or speed up. Following this rule, on a rolling course, you’ll be shifting almost constantly to maintain that steady cadence. But at ride’s end, you’ll be fresh while a ride partner who shifts less will be spent.

How do you know what gear to select? First, don’t get confused by the many choices, and don’t worry about harming the bike by shifting it “wrong” — you can’t hurt it as long as you slightly ease the pedal pressure when shifting (you must pedal to shift). And understand that the correct gear is any gear that allows you to pedal comfortably at the moment. There’s no right or wrong gear and there’s no proper sequence to follow. You just shift when your body tells you it’s time for a change.

Shifting the right lever one click makes it slightly easier or harder to pedal. Think of this lever as a way to fine-tune the effort required to pedal. As you pick up speed on a slight downhill for example, you’d click the lever once or twice to shift into a better gear for the speed. Shifting the left lever makes large differences in pedal effort. Think of this lever as a way to make it considerably easier or harder to pedal. Dropping into a valley for instance, you’ll want an easy gear to get back out. But, you’ll probably be in a hard gear because you were just riding downhill. To make the pedaling easy immediately, shift the left lever to move the chain onto a smaller chainring providing much easier pedaling.

If you’re at all nervous about shifting, practice. A good way to do this is to shift the bike when it’s supported on a stand. You might place the bike on a trunk-style bike rack or in a repair stand, hang the nose of the seat on a low branch, or ask a friend to hold the bike off the ground by the seat. Once the bike is supported, use one hand to pedal and the other to shift while watching the chain move over the cogs and chainrings. With a few sweeps of the levers, you’ll get a clear understanding of what’s going on back there and should feel more comfortable about shifting a lot while riding.

How to Lock A Bicycle And Get a Stolen Bike Back

I’ve owned approximately fifty bicycles. But, I’ve been lucky enough to only have one stolen. It happened in 1990 in Italy while I was on a ten-day tour of Italian bicycle factories sponsored by the Italian Bicycle and Motorcycle Trade Association. On the first day, we stopped near Lake Como for lunch and while we were eating, thieves broke open the van and stole my ride, a nice Specialized Allez I’d customized with hydraulic brakes and super-light pedals.

Our hosts were as dismayed as we were but there wasn’t a thing they, or the carbinieri (police) could do. So, we returned to the hotel in Milan and I spent the evening bummed that I probably wasn’t going to be able to pedal through the incredible Italian countryside. I needn’t have worried.

Bianchi Blows Me Away
The first visit in the morning was to Bianchi, a sprawling multi-building complex. We entered via the company’s well-stocked retail store, which had Bianchi everything, from socks and shoes to water bottles, toe straps, pumps, hats, bags, wheel covers, you name it. Before we could reach for our wallets, however, we were introduced to a tall handsome well-dressed and very fit-looking man who I recognized as Felice Gimondi, one of the greatest roadies ever and a celebrity in Italy.

He greeted us in Italian (while the interpreter translated) and then looked directly at me and apologized for my bicycle being stolen. He then explained that by the end of our factory tour, he’d have a new Bianchi ready for me to take back to America, which he did. And, I rode that celeste full-Campy beauty out to Monza and back the next day in my new Bianchi socks and shorts.

Bicycle Theft is Bad News
Unfortunately, most stolen bicycle stories don’t have such happy endings. And, while I’ll never forget receiving that new Bianchi, I’ll also always remember and miss my stolen Allez. It had special meaning, too, as all bicycles have to their owners.

That’s the saddest thing about bicycle theft. You get attached to your machine and when it’s stolen, you feel violated, lost, depressed. In fact, plenty of people have given up bicycling because their bicycles got stolen, which made them feel violated, unsafe and at risk. Rather than suffer these feelings again, they take up other activities that seem safer.

It’s sad too that kids are afraid to ride to school for fear that their wheels won’t be there when they get out. And that a lot of people who might consider biking around, don’t do so because they feel like there’s no way to keep their bicycle safe while they’re in a store or restaurant. Hopefully, the tips in this article will help you learn how to lock your bicycle and keep it safe and sound.

Recognize the Risks
There are two main points every cyclist should keep in mind. The first is to recognize that there are thieves out there and that they know how to steal bicycles, even locked ones. So, you’ve got to be alert and careful. A lot more about this in a minute.

The other key point that’s rarely explained is that when a bicycle is stolen it’s not a hopeless situation. While it may be unlikely that you’ll see your baby again, if you act fast and do the right things, there’s a reasonable chance of recovery.

How to Keep Your Bicycle Yours
Believe it or not, the vast majority of stolen bicycles get that way because they weren’t locked. So, your first defense against theft is purchasing a quality lock and using it whenever you leave your ride unattended. Thieves usually ignore protected two wheelers because so many freebies are readily available.

But, don’t just slap on the lock any old which way. Thieves are scoundrels but they’re not always stupid. They’ll get your machine or part of it, if you’re lazy about securing it. For example, most dirt and road rigs are equipped with quick-release wheels, which make it easy for crooks to swipe a very expensive chunk of your machine if you forget to lock the wheels (or the rest of the bicycle, if you only secure one wheel!). Likewise, if you wrap a cable around a parking meter, the felon can just lift the bicycle over the post’s top, toss your pride and joy in his truck/trunk and take it home where he can break off the lock at his leisure.

Here are some rules on how to lock and safeguard your bicycle:

Seven Super Safety Rules and One Suggestion

1. Ask other cyclists and bike shop personnel where the high-risk areas in town are so you won’t make the mistake of parking your bike there.
2. At home, store your bicycles inside. If kept in a garage, leave the door closed and store the two wheelers out of sight (consider locking them, too); because you never know who might cruise your neighborhood looking for valuables.
3. When stopped, if you can’t take your bicycle inside, always use your lock.
4. Always lock your bicycle in a safe area and to an unbreakable and immovable object being certain to secure the frame and both wheels. If you must park in a high risk area, use two good locks but different types such as a U-lock and a quality chain-type lock like Kryptonite's impenetrable Fahgettaboudit lock shown at the top of this page or their New York Chain lock. This arrangement thwarts thieves prepared to only attack U locks. See the diagrams below for instructions on locking with and without front wheel removal.
5. Take with you any easily-removed accessories and components such as pumps, cyclecomputers, lights, seat bags, quick-release seat and seatpost, etc.
6. To reduce the risk of becoming a target, never tempt thieves by leaving your bicycle locked for long periods such as overnight, or securing it in a predictable fashion, such as putting it in the same bicycle rack every day.
7. Mark your bicycle so that you can easily prove it’s yours. Some fire station or police departments sell bicycle licenses, which is one way to label your bicycle. You can also write your name on a piece of paper and slip it inside the handlebars. Or write your name underneath your seat with an idelible marker.
8. If you’re convinced no lock can keep your bicycle safe and you mainly bicycle around town, buy a Brompton. This ingenious folding bicycle collapses without tools in about ten seconds to such a small size that you can put it in a Safeway cart with room to spare for groceries. Because it folds so small and so quickly, you never have to leave it outside. Just bring it in with you. It’s a nice riding bicycle too with impressive features.

Getting a Stolen Bicycle Back
I know it seems hopeless when your bicycle is ripped off. But, maybe it will steel your resolve to hear that I know two cyclists who had their bicycles stolen in New York City and later recovered them. One guy found his in a yard sale two years after he lost it. The other guy, walked door-to-door for weeks passing out fliers and talking to people until he got a lead and recovered his Raleigh. In both cases, the bicycles were found in the same condition they were in before they were stolen. I can tell you plenty of stories like this about bicycles that were stolen in Santa Cruz, too.

People claim that bicycles are stolen in bulk and taken out of the area to be sold. Or, you hear that there are rings of thieves who steal bicycles and strip all the parts and make money selling the parted-out machines or refurbished bicycles built of the parts. That may go on. But, in my experience, it’s very rare.

Where they Go
Once stolen, bicycles are usually sold ASAP to someone for quick drug money. Or, the bicycle remains with the person who stole it or with that person’s family or the general community, where he/she lives. Even when the bicycle is turned for drug money, if the transaction takes place here, the bicycle will probably stay here.

So how do you get it back? The most important thing is to act fast once a bicycle is stolen. If you wait, you might forget details about the bicycle that help identify it. And, you’ll miss the chance of letting people know about your bicycle during the time when it’s most likely to be found. Often, a thief will try to get the bicycle repaired (bicycles that ride are easier to sell) and if you’ve alerted the shops, the mechanic will recognize the bicycle and call you. Also, thieves often try to sell bicycles to shops, which never works (because the crooks have no idea what the bicycle is worth) and always raises suspicions.

Steps to Take to Get the Bicycle Back

1. Print hundreds of fliers with a short, accurate description of your stolen bicycle and put them everywhere. As the weather ruins the fliers and knocks them down, put up more.
2. Hand deliver a flier to every bicycle shop in town. They may ask you to write down the information on a card (because it takes less space) and place it on their bulletin board. The important thing is that you let them know the details so they can ID the bicycle if it comes in.
3. Tell everyone you know that the bicycle was stolen and offer to give them a flier.
4. Aggressively search for your bicycle by checking everyplace you think it might turn up. Keep in mind that most of the time, the bicycle is still being ridden so there’s a pretty good chance it might turn up where you see lots of bicycles such as on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz or along West Cliff Drive.
5. Use your best judgment if you happen to spot your bicycle. I know it seems risky, but most recoveries happen because the owner simply grabs the bicycle when he sees it or stops and confronts the person riding it. These people usually know that something’s fishy with the bicycle they’re riding and they’re usually ready to give it up rather than deal with a trip to the police station to discuss things. Obviously, I’m not recommending you take unnecessary risks. But, if you see your bicycle, it may well be your only chance to get it back. If you call the police, the bicycle may be long gone before they ever show up.
6. Don’t give up. Sometimes it takes quite a while for a stolen bicycle to surface. Be patient and tenacious in your searching, and you just might be rewarded as my 14-year-old daughter was. It took her 2 years, but she kept looking and one day got her bicycle back by asking for it from the boy she saw riding it.

Why I Left Out the How of Bicycle Theft
You’ll notice that I didn’t describe the details of how thieves steal bicycles. While I’d enjoy busting some myths (no, thieves don’t break locks with liquid nitrogen) with a complete explanation right down to what tools they use, it’s too risky to do so because this article might get in the wrong hands.

So, for now, if you’re interested in the details, ask me the next time you see me on a ride. In the meantime, keep your bicycle safe.