Lunchtime Rides Around Campus

Riding along Farm Ln., spring 2015 during Tour de MSU
Riding along Farm Ln., spring 2015 during Tour de MSU

Looking for something fun and a little different to do over one lunch hour a month?  Join some of your fellow campus bicyclists and take a slow, leisurely ride around MSU for fresh air, discover new things about campus, enjoy some conversation, etc.

We’ll meet up outside the MSU Bikes Service Center at noon on the last Wednesday of the month and ride for about an hour finishing up back at MSU Bikes.  Rides will feature several stops/ breaks, have a leader and sweeper (someone riding at the rear to help w/ anyone who might need assistance) and will cover anywhere from 3-10 miles at the most depending on the leader and route selected for the month.  Any bike type should be fine and air and mechanical assistance will be available at the start at MSU Bikes.

Brighter clothing, helmets, lights encouraged.  We’ll be following all rules of the road and the campus ordinances, so we won’t be riding on sidewalks, but will use the paths marked for bicycling.

Tim chatting about the Tour de MSU ride
Tim chatting about the Tour de MSU ride at the Sparty statue. The lunch time rides concept was birthed by this first successful organized ride around campus the spring of 2015.

If it’s pouring we’ll cancel the ride. If it’s light drizzle we’ll ride, Seattle/ Portland style!

We’ll continue riding throughout the year, so you’ll have the opportunity to learn about cold weather riding too by actually doing it!

Looking forward to riding with you!

The MSU Bikes Service Center's new exterior
The MSU Bikes Service Center’s new exterior – meet-up here.

Bike Friendly Improvements to Campus this Summer (2015)

Those of you just returning to campus will be pleasantly surprised to find some significant improvements to our campus making it more bike friendly.

There are several areas that have had new bike parking facilities added including some new and much improved bike parking racks as you’ll see in the slideshow below.  These racks, called Varsity Docks by Park a Bike, help keep bikes upright (by preventing the wheel from rolling), feature a more intuitive design for proper locking of bikes and has padding where the rack contacts a bike to prevent damage to bikes.  They are more expensive and don’t easily allow for locking up more bikes than they’re designed for (like the common U-loop style rack we’ve got all over campus) but it’s hoped fewer bikes will fall to the ground (which leads to abandonment oftentimes) and reduces theft due to improper locking.

Additional improvements to the bike parking situation on campus:  83 new U-loop style racks in front of E. Akers Hall to replace old-school style racks, 23 new U-loop style racks in front of E. Akers Hall, 48 new U-loop style racks to the West side of the front of W. Akers Hall, 16 new U-loop style racks in front of W. Akers Hall, an expanded cement pad on the East side of Holden Hall for more moped parking to reduce conflict at the bike racks and to allow for more bike parking loops in the future.

Other bike-friendly improvements:

  • Chestnut Rd. is now another “Complete Street” on campus from North to South (from Trowbridge near the IPF Hqrs. to Kalamazoo St.) with safe accommodations for all road users including bike lanes.
  • Resurfaced and redone bike lanes on Farm Ln. north of the bridge to the Auditorium Rd. intersection.
  • Reinstalled many bike lane symbols around campus that had become worn-off from snow plows, etc.

Our New Improved Entryway and Extended Patio – Now Open!

The finished new porch (as of 8/24/15)
The new porch (as of 8/24/15) ready for arrival of students, awaiting railings.
The finished porch of the Center
The finished porch of the Center with the new hand-rails, stairway and doors. In the background you can also see the newly renovated deck overlooking the river and Erickson Kiva across the river. (as of April 13, 2016)

Below is more information and a photo gallery of pics of the improvements made to the entryway and porch of the Center which started in August and wrapped up late in 2015.

Construction began Monday (Aug. 10) on our new entryway!  Sorry for not forewarning everyone.  The entrance will be safer to access for our customers, particularly those with mobility challenges.  There’ll be new railings and a completely new staircase off to the west side of the entrance rather than off the front as it has been.  This will allow us to display bikes outside without them obstructing access to the shop and the ramp leading up to the entrance.  We’re also getting a new electric-assist door unit to make it easier for our customers to get inside when their hands are full, etc.

Here is a slideshow of the construction, installation and finished new porch and entry way with electric assist door opener including the renovation of the deck:

Road riding survival tips, no. 2: The Door Prize You DON’T Want!

Toronto - Door prize campaign
Poster from Toronto’s 2005 Campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of dooring.  Click graphic for more info. on the campaign.

When riding in the road you’ll sometimes find yourself riding past parked cars (thankfully most of the on-street car parking on campus is now gone, but now and then you’ll pass a delivery vehicle or someone dropping off a friend, etc), and sometimes you’ll feel you need to ride close to them to avoid getting in the way of or slowing down motor vehicle traffic.  Well, there’s a very dangerous area near parked cars called the “Door zone” which is where many bicyclists have been seriously hurt or killed, either by the door itself or by getting knocked off their bikes and sent flying out into the travel lane.

Watch this new video that captures such a moment by a taxi’s dash-cam; fortunately for this bicyclist the taxi was able to stop before causing the bicyclist serious injury:

London taxi driver captures the moment he almost ran over a cyclist
London taxi driver captures the moment he almost ran over a cyclist who was trying to avoid a car door (click to view on Facebook; courtesy The Telegraph)

The door zone extends out a lot further than you might think and, unfortunately, a lot further than most road agencies even realize, so sometimes bike lanes will even be marked way too close to parked cars encouraging riding in the “door zone”.

Avoidance instructional video
Parking lot demonstration of why we avoid the door zone on a bicycle

This short video (courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists) is an excellent instructional which clearly shows where you should ride.

So, next time you’re going to pass a parked vehicle be sure you get over far enough in advance (after shoulder-checking for a gap in traffic) to avoid the “Door prize you don’t want”.

Road riding survival tips, no. 1 – Mind the Gap!

So, perhaps you’re new to riding in the road and are now trying to stay off the sidewalks as much as possible like our campus ordinance and bike safety advocates want you to.  Great!  Well, there are a number of things to keep in mind, beware of, and not just cars, trucks and buses.

CAUTION! Pavement edge drop zone
CAUTION! Pavement edge drop zone

Here’s one of them to the right.  This is a pretty common road-side hazard that takes many forms.  It’s basically the edge of the road and that difference in height between the edge and the curb gutter pan cement (or dirt if you’re out in the country) can cause you to lose control and crash you as you try to regain control should your front wheel drop off that edge.  The same condition occurs at the edge of a off-road path or sidewalk and is often covered by grass making the hazard hard to notice until it’s too late.  This is one of the most common crash scenarios that we hear about in our shop. I hope this will serve as a visual reminder why you shouldn’t ride up close to the curb when riding in the roads.  And when riding on pathways or sidewalks (if you must) keep that nasty edge in mind when/ if you have to go off the edge to get around something/ someone. Survival Hint:  Pop a little wheelie when getting back on the road/ path/ sidewalk to avoid crashing. Not far from the above photo is this pothole in the bike lane (2nd photo to the right); could also be a dead animal or spare tire, or whatever.

Beware the bike lane pothole
Mind the Gap!  And beware bike lane potholes!

You need to be able to miss stuff like this without swerving into traffic, so it’s best to ride far enough out into the travel lane (particularly when using these very narrow bike lanes or paved shoulders) so that you have options to get around such things without swerving at the last second into traffic & risk getting hit. See this web page courtesy of the League of Michigan Bicyclists that lists all of the Michigan Laws Pertaining to Bicyclists including the right to ride in other areas of the road way to stay safe and get to where you need to go like any other legal road user.

Greater Lansing’s 1st Ever Bike Movie Night! – CONCLUDED (archived article)

Greater Lansing Bike Movie Night poster
Greater Lansing Bike Movie Night poster

MSU Bikes is excited to be teaming up with the Tri-County Bike Association and other supporters to have our first ever bike movie night on May 29th, 2015, the last Friday of National Bike Month.  The movies will be showed twice with the start of the first showing at 6 pm and the 2nd at 8 pm at the Midtown Brewing Company, one of Lansing’s finest brew pubs.  The movies will run twice so that if you’re late or helping out with the valet bike parking you won’t miss any of them!  No food or drink will be provided by the sponsors but MBC’s full menu will be available to order from.

The movies will be provided by the good folks of the Kalamazoo Bicycle Film Festival, an annual event that has been showing great bike movies since 2010.  It will be a show of 22 short movies spanning the entire spectrum of bicycling that you won’t want to miss!  The line-up of movies is listed on their website if you’re curious.


Check out our Facebook event for the show here.


A $5 donation is suggested in lieu of an admission fee.  Donations will be shared between some of our local community bike programs to be announced at the event. Supporters providing some assistance to make the event possible so far include:  TCBA, Go Green Trikes, the League of Michigan Bicyclists, the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council & the Curmudgeonly Cyclist.  Mid-MEAC will be providing their Valet Bike Parking equipment for the event and volunteers from our community bike programs will be helping run the VBP service.

Thanks to Allison McKenna of allielune designs (online portfolio: allielune.carbonmade.com) for doing the artwork for our event poster (& for the original Kalamazoo Bike Film Fest poster)!!

Tour de MSU Campus 2015 – Inaugural fun, slow, social ride – (archived article)

Lansing Bike Party
Lansing Bike Party members riding on one of the new bike lanes on campus on W. Circle Dr. by IM Circle/ Music Bldg., summer 2013.

Join your fellow MSU bicyclists on Wednesday, May 13th, 2015, for a fun, slow, social ride around campus to see all the newer bike-friendly facilities that have been installed in the past year or two that everyone might not know about. We’ll start at the Spartan Statue (Kalamazoo and Chestnut) at noon and stop occasionally to look and talk about different features.  This will be a good opportunity to discuss challenging aspects and features we ride past that remain for MSU to progress towards a gold and someday a platinum Bike Friendly University award. No RSVP or registration required; just show up and ride! Here’s a map showing where we’ll be going around campus in case you want to jump in at some point along the route (sorry, just don’t have a good way to know WHEN we’re going to be at different points along the route).

Our updated MSU Bike Facilities map (JPEG version) is here (updated May 2015) which shows you all of the bike-friendly features of our campus.  (PDF version of the MSU Bike map)

Highlights of our Tour de MSU:
– Ride down recently updated/ improved S. MSU River Trail
– Brief stop by MSU Bikes Service Center
– (quick peek @ outdoor air station/ DIY repair station)
– Stop at corner of N. MSU River Trail @ Bogue St. to talk about the upcoming resurfacing project
– Cruise down the 1st marked separated bike/ped pathway behind Owen Hall (which served as a model for renovating other paths on campus)
– Brief stop @ new DIY bike repair station outside NW Akers Hall entance

Poster for MSU Bike Week events
Poster for MSU Bike Week events.  Click image for PDF version of the poster/ flyer for your workplace/ cafes, etc.

– Pass thru redesigned Shaw Ln./Bogue St.intersection
– Stop by new DIY bike repair station outside NW entrance to Snyders- Phillips Hall
– Visit the MSU Bike (Parking) Garage inside the Grand River Parking Ramp #6
– Brief discussion of W. Circle Dr. being the 1st “Complete Street” on campus
– Stop by new DIY bike repair station outside E. entrance to Yakeley Hall
– Pedal over to the Brody Complex via the MSU River Trail w/ brief stop by end of MSU River Tr. behind Jenison to talk about the status of completing the connection to the East end of the Lansing River Trail at Harrison Rd.
– Visit the new DIY bike repair station outside Emmons Hall in the Brody Complex
– Stop by upcoming new residential/ retail building project at corner of Kalamazoo and Harrison to talk about planned bike facilities
– Cruise down Harrison Rd. to the new under construction Multi-Modal Transportation Center near Trowbridge/ Harrison Rd. and discuss new bike facilities going in there.
– Back to campus, brief visit to new DIY bike repair station outside loading dock on north side of Holden Hall
– Stop by the MSU Bike Garage in the Trowbridge Parking Ramp #5 – Pedal back to the Spartan Statue via Red Cedar Rd.

Mid-MEAC's Valet Bike Parking crew
Friendly volunteers will watch your bike while you enjoy breakfast! (Mid-MEAC’s Valet Bike Parking crew [Brandon and Julie Powers in purple shirts] w/ Tim and Lauren Olson, formerly of MSU Sustainability)

Click here to learn about the 3rd Annual MSU Bike to Work/ Campus Breakfast on May 15th, 2015, which is also National Bike to Work Day.


May is Natl. Bike Month! May is National Bike Month!

It’s the official kickoff to the bicycling season.  If you’re looking for materials to help promote bicycling in your work place the League of American Bicyclists have got a bunch of stuff here.


Sparty on bike - Beaumont Tower

National Bike Challenge Starts May 1!

Calling all MSU bicyclists! It’s time to start warming up for the National Bike Challenge again. If you’ve never participated in the past, it’s very easy to join the fun.  You’ll be eligible for great prizes and get to see how your miles compare to others at MSU and around the country!  Be sure you’re registered under MSU as your school and then our miles will all be counted together! (We don’t have a Team MSU per se as there are limits on how big a team can be and other logistical headaches) Here’s MSU’s summary/ profile: https://nationalbikechallenge.org/school/6394

3rd Annual MSU Bike to Work & Campus Breakfast – CONCLUDED (archived article)

Poster for MSU Bike Week events
Poster for MSU Bike Week 2015 events

Mark your calendars for Friday, May 15, 8 am – 9:30 am, National Bicycle to Work Day, for our 3rd Annual Bike to Work – Campus Breakfast to honor and recognize those who bicycle to work/ campus and celebrate bicycling as an important part of MSU’s Bike Month activities.   Join us for a free breakfast in the large private dining room of the Brody Square Cafeteria.  Just give your name and the event name at the register.

Enjoy free bicycle valet parking provided by Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council just outside the main entrance to Brody Hall.

Free food!
Free food! Yummm!

There is a limit of 56 people for the room so please RSVP using this form. There is a short survey on the RSVP form which we hope will allow us to have some interesting data to share during the breakfast regarding our attendees and their bike commuting.

We’re lining up speakers now and looking for volunteers to sit on a panel discussion.  There will again be raffle prizes.

News:  We’ve confirmed one of our speakers, Dr. Greg Holzman, who’s heading up the Healthy Campus Initiative, which is a program of the Provost.  HCI is assisting with pulling together all stakeholders on campus to develop some effective ways to improve the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians on the MSU Campus.  We’ll get an update on that initiative.

Download the PDF version of the poster for printing and hanging in your work place to help promote the events.

Click here to go to MSU’s inaugural Tour de MSU Campus information.

Mid-MEAC's Valet Bike Parking crew
MSU Bike to Work/ Campus Day 2013 – Mid-MEAC’s Valet Bike Parking crew (Brandon and Julie Powers in purple shirts) w/ Tim and Lauren Olson of MSU Sustainability.

May is Natl. Bike Month!May is National Bike Month!

It’s the official kickoff to the bicycling season.  If you’re looking for materials to help promote bicycling in your work place the League of American Bicyclists have got a bunch of stuff here.


Sparty on bike - Beaumont Tower

National Bike Challenge Starts May 1!

Calling all MSU bicyclists! It’s time to start warming up for the National Bike Challenge again. If you’ve never participated in the past, it’s very easy to join the fun.  You’ll be eligible for great prizes and get to see how your miles compare to others at MSU and around the country!  Be sure you’re registered under MSU as your school and then our miles will all be counted together! (We don’t have a Team MSU per se as there are limits on how big a team can be and other logistical headaches) Here’s MSU’s summary/ profile: https://nationalbikechallenge.org/school/6394

New DIY Bike Repair Stations and Resources at MSU

Needing to put a little air in your bike tires, fix a flat tire or do a minor adjustment?  Well, if you’re on campus you’re in luck!

MSU Bike facilities map
MSU Bike facilities map, updated May 2015

This map shows you where you can find eight do-it-yourself bike repair stations on campus and further below are some photos showing you what they look like so you can recognize them.  (Brody Complex station is on the east side of Emmons Hall; E. Neighborhood station is outside W. Akers entrance near bike parking area [the dot on the map is slightly off on this location; sorry!).

The five newest stations (made by Bike Fixtation) installed in the five residential neighborhoods were purchased and installed thanks to donors, Rick Brown and Kathy Donahue Brown through the Brown-Hoover Charitable Trust (established by Rick’s mother and stepfather, Carroll Brown Hoover and James Hoover).  This State News article gives more information about the newest stations.

You can also view a video showing how these stations can be used here.

There have been three Dero-brand stations on campus for a while and have proven very popular.  There is one outside the MSU Bikes Service (installed 2008) and one inside each MSU Bike Garage (secure bike parking facilities –  details here).

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Is there a special bike in your life needing TLC?

So, is there a special bike in your life that’s been languishing in your garage or basement waiting for that day to get back on the road? Perhaps it was involved in a crash and you bent the frame or forks and figure it’s a goner? Well, we’ve got good news for you! Our mechanics would love to bring your pride and joy back to life in time for Valentine’s Day or other special occasion for you or your loved one.

Bring your bike in now for a free estimate; you’ll beat the spring rush and
your bike will be in tip-top shape when the warmer weather arrives!

Over the years we’ve done some very nice renovations.  For example, here are some before-and-after photos of a 70’s vintage Schwinn 3-speed – from garage-hanger to beautiful city bike!


… and a couple videos of our mechanics straightening a “goner” frame giving it new life.

Bike frame-repair part 1
Bike frame-repair video, part 1
Bike frame-repair video, part 2
Bike frame-repair video, part 2

Thoughts on Bike Lights

Don't be a Ninja on a bike!
Don’t be a Ninja cyclist! Be SEEN and LIVE! Click image to learn more from the Tempe AZ Bicycle Action Group.

After reading the excellent “Bike Lights” article in Momentum’s Sept/Oct 2010 issue by Jonathon Reynolds which shares some research on when/where most bike accidents occur, I’d like to comment on the topic.

There’s a common misconception that you only need lights when it’s dark or getting dark.  Due to almost getting hit in the middle of the day by a driver, whom I believe simply didn’t see me in the dark shadows of a tree (some people’s eyes don’t adjust very quickly to extreme lighting changes), I have since strongly encouraged people to use flashing lights, front and rear, whenever they ride and not just when it’s getting dark.

There’s a good reason why many newer motor vehicles have lights that come on automatically whenever the engine is running; they’re called “Daytime Running Lights”.  While US car manufacturers have effectively lobbied against requiring them Canada and many European countries have enacted legislation requiring them on motor vehicles while at least one, Germany, requires front and rear lights be working at all times on bicycles.

If you need data to be convinced, take a look at this data on when the bulk of crashes occurred – DAYLIGHT HOURS!  Yes, the bulk of the fatal crashes have occurred later in the evening hours but it’s obvious your visibility isn’t just important when it’s dark out (courtesy of the Michigan Traffic Crash Facts tool).

Additionally, people should definitely stick with lights that have easily rechargeable batteries or USB rechargeable so that they’re more likely to use the lights all the time rather than trying to conserve batteries.  We stock many affordable lights at MSU Bikes and can special order just about any other light on the market.

Finally, I see way too many cyclists riding around with lights that are hardly visible, or hanging off a backpack often pointing to the ground, apparently thinking “I’ve got a light, I’m safe”, but apparently have no idea how invisible they are.  I’m not sure if it’s the nature of rechargeable batteries or the modern LED lights, but it’s also best to have backup lights on the rear and front as I’ve had them look bright at the start of my commute home only to discover they died sometime during my ride.

So, be sure to check your lights often and recharge or replace those batteries to stay alive!  And make sure they’re aimed properly down the road so they’re actually visible to motorists.

almost-all-lights
Selection of strong widely available tail lights. Click for an excellent review of tail lights. We stock many affordable lights at MSU Bikes as does any good bike shop.

Our 2014-2015 Holiday Schedule

Santas on bikesOur shop will be closed from December 20th through January 4th , 2015 for the university holidays.

We’ll be open again on Monday, January 5th.


Until then our mechanics are caught up and turning around repair work rapidly.  Consider bringing in your bikes now rather than waiting til spring like everyone else!  Avoid the long lines in the spring!

Click here to read more about the magic our mechanics can work on older bikes in bringing them back to life.

Lovely 70's Schwinn 3-speed brought back to life
Lovely 70’s Schwinn 3-speed brought back to life

Sidewalk Bicycling vs. Bike lanes – the debate rages on

Joy ride on the newly updated MSU S. River path
Joy ride on the newly updated MSU S. River path. Click pic for video.

There’s been considerable press in the State News and discussion this fall (2014) about bike safety and rules after some pretty serious accidents earlier in the semester and the subsequent launch of the MSU Police bike/ pedestrian safety campaign.  Was even included in an Impact 89FM radio show with a MSU Police officer (Randy Holton) who coordinated the aforementioned campaign earlier this week (our part of the show starts at 18:45 (have to download the show and open w/ Windows Media Player or other player to see the time).

All of this has caused me to reflect on where we’re at as a university in terms of improving bike and pedestrian safety; are we becoming a more ‘Bike Friendly University‘? MSU received a bronze BFU award in 2011, but what has changed over the past 4 years?

 

S. River Path near Erickson Kiva, summer 2012
Photo of the chaos during class change on S. River Path near Erickson Kiva, summer 2012.  Click pic to watch a video of bike/ped chaos from 2012 at Shaw and Farm Ln.

Well, on the visibly obvious front, we’re up from approx. 50% of our campus roads having bike lanes in 2010 to over 70% today which is phenomenal progress considering we had NO on-road bike lanes in the year 2000 when the university made the decision to adopt what has become known as a “Complete Streets” policy for campus roads (CS is now fully incorporated into our current Campus Master Plan).  MSU opened its first “complete street” at the end of the summer: W. Circle Dr.  After a massive construction project over last summer it’s now completely safe and designed for ALL legal road users!

Casual observations along the corridors where the bike lane network is almost complete (Wilson Rd. for example) and wherever bike lanes exist, make it clear that if we build them bicyclists will start to use them.  We’ve also started adding “Sharrow” markings (aka ‘shared lane bicycle marking’) on roads where there’s not currently enough width for bike lanes (see this video that was produced fall of 2013 to inform the community of these new markings).

The most recent example of physical progress: there was a hugely successful safety improvement to our campus transportation system benefiting both pedestrians and bicyclists completed in late summer 2014.   A video I created, MSU Bicycling on Unmarked Sidewalk vs Newly Redesigned River Path” shows off the benefits and real life on the newly updated S. River path; you’ll quickly see the difference between riding on a crowded sidewalk vs. the new path.  With this segment of the S. river pathway completed only one more large segment is left needing the updating to this new, safer design; the path between Farm Ln. and Bogue St.  (More photos, including before and after construction, can be viewed here)

Bicycling in the road vs. sidewalk
Like riding slow and stopping all the time?  Sidewalks are for YOU!  Want to get somewhere faster than walking?  Ride in the road!  Click pic for video.

A companion video features the readily and quickly obvious benefits to riding in a bike lane on the road vs. riding on crowded, disorganized and chaotic sidewalks: Riding in a Bike Lane vs. Sidewalk Bicycling at MSU”.

Bear in mind that the benefits & advantages of riding in the road continue even on roads without bike lane markings.  Bicyclists also have a legal right to ride in the road and a legal responsibility to ride in the road (WITH the direction of traffic, AND obeying the same traffic rules as other legal road users) NOT on the sidewalks on campus.

Yes, we’ve still got plenty of work to do on campus (as this video of pedestrians and bikes mixing it up at Farm Ln. and S. Shaw Ln. shows).  There are some critical roads on campus without bike lanes remaining which abruptly start and stop; they’ll be getting bike lanes, or in some cases, closed to motor vehicle traffic altogether assuming the university’s 20/20 Vision continues to be the guiding document for the coming years.

Read our “Bike Safety Tips” post for a lot more information about this important topic to help greatly reduce your chances of being involved in a crash.

Stay tuned for more progress reports on our ‘Bike Friendliness’.

Winter Cycling Tips & Information

photobucket-3660-1329696094106Cycling in the winter (yes, it’s here!) can be full of challenges and yet also very gratifying if you’re prepared.  Wet and slippery conditions, poor lighting, distracted drivers, and cold temperatures can all make your ride more difficult but they also make your driving more difficult and dangerous as well, right?  You don’t need to put your bike away until spring, however. Read on for tips on how to make winter riding more enjoyable and safer.

If you’re just not interested in riding through the winter, do your bike a big favor and store it indoors where it won’t get all rusted, stolen or vandalized (or accidentally hit by a snow plow).  MSU Surplus offers storage services for bikes (and just about anything else for that matter!).  Click here for more information.  Many residence halls also have indoor bike rooms which are first-come first-serve, so check with your hall’s front desk and see if you can get a key for yours.

Here are some photos of one of our year-round bicyclists, Thomas Baumann, showing off his bike, accessories and related gear.  More tips and information further below.

Tim's winter bike
Tim’s winter bike

Pics of Tim’s latest winter bike, an early ’80s Schwinn Sierra mountain bike, can be seen here.  ’80’s MTBs make perfect winter bikes for many reasons:  they’re quite cheap, they’re made like tanks (that is, to survive brutal treatment and extreme conditions), they have lots of room around the tires to allow for full coverage fenders and studded tires!

Stay Upright, Be Seen and Live

Winter is a hazardous time to be on the roads for everyone, not just bicyclists.  Falling snow, ice on windshields, fogged up windshields, blinding glare,  low lighting etc. will also dramatically affect the ability of motorists to see you.  Drivers may also be distracted by poor road conditions, phones, etc.  Assuming that drivers don’t see you is a good attitude any time of the year no matter whether you ride in the road (with or without bike lanes) or on the sidewalks/ paths.  Here’s a great article w/ more tips for riding safely in snowy conditions (courtesy Bike Arlington).

Be safe, be seen!
Be safe, be seen! Tim wears a safety vest in addition to using lights in case his batteries burn out and for increased visibility from all directions.

So you need to be sure you’re highly visible.  Although lights and bright clothing are recommended year round, they are especially critical during winter months. Use a flashing white light on your handlebar and a flashing red light on your back or seat-post to draw attention to yourself.  Here is a series of articles comparing the brightness and run-time of different headlights and tailights (many of which we stock here; most we can order), and another new article re: updating older taillights with modern LED bulbs (in case you have an older bike using incandescent bulbs). Remember to also ride responsibly and intelligently.  Bicyclists get full legal protection as a vehicle of the road when they’re riding on the road and behaving according to the laws/ rules of the road (e.g., riding your bike through a pedestrian crosswalk is NOT protected).  Assuming that drivers don’t see you is a good attitude any time of the year no matter whether you ride in the road (with or without bike lanes) or on the sidewalks/ paths.  Falling snow, ice on windshields, fogged up windshields, etc. will also dramatically affect the ability of motorists to see you.

Stay Upright with Studded Tires:

Studded tires can be very helpful for keeping you upright on icy roads. They can be expensive however, so handy folks may want to consider making their own. MSU Bikes’ Tim Potter crafted a pair for his own winter commuter:

Notes on DIY studded tires:

Tim's DIY front studded tire
Tim’s DIY front studded tire – click pic for more pics of Tim’s winter bike (2012 version).

I was under the mistaken assumption that as long as I ride in a straight line and make no quick turns that I’ll be OK on ice. Well, recently I crashed on some black ice while going straight ahead. That changed my mind on studded tires immediately. I priced commercially available studded tires and found they were expensive. So, I made some myself in about one-and-a-half hours, and they work great and last longer than I expected despite what is written about non-carbide tipped studs. DIY instructions that I used can be found here.  Note: these instructions only work with tires like the one pictured as you need to have a large knob to screw into, most common on 24″, 26″ or 29’er MTB tires.  So, no, this won’t work for 700c tires as there aren’t any made with such large knobs that I know of.

Here are some top-secret tweaks to those instructions: I screwed #6 x 3/8” sheet metal screws (a box of 100 costs $5 from a good hardware store) from the outside in, just like in the instructions, and then used an old tire carcass (after cutting off the beads — use a smooth tread tire) to line the inside of the tire to cover up the protruding tips to protect the tube (be sure and overlap the tire liner by 1/2″ at least to cover all the sharp points).  While this modification makes the wheels quite a bit heavier, it provides another great benefit: the tires are now effectively “run-flats.” Since there’s so much rubber inside the tire, you can keep riding if you get a flat. If you can find #4 x 1/4” screws, you probably won’t need a liner.

Another option for even better traction consider Kold Kutter ice screws, which motorcycle ice racers have used for years; they come in a small 3/8″ size for only $20 and change through College Bike Shop, Lansing or any good motorcycle shop I’m sure.  Remember: In the winter, you’re not trying to break speed records as much as stay alive!

Bar Mitts keep your hands toasty warm but allow you to use thinner gloves to work your controls better.
Bar Mitts keep your hands toasty warm but allow you to use thinner gloves to work your controls better. 
‘Borealis’ lobster gloves from Planet Bike

Stay Comfortable

It’s cold out there. Winter air stings eyes and turns fingers into meat popsicles. Sloppy road slush tends to end up all over pantlegs and backsides.

Don’t arrive at your destination soaking wet and half frozen. Fenders come in full coverage models and easy to attach clip-on models. Some rear fenders are designed with quick-release attachments that don’t require tools for installation. For your hands, try a pair of “lobster” gloves or mittens.  The three or four fingered design helps retain body heat and keep your digits warm. Many cyclists also find ski or chem-lab goggles helpful in keeping the cold air out of their eyes.

Keep Your Equipment in Working Order

A properly locked U-lock
Keep the opening to the lock mechanism facing down to reduce rusting and freezing of the lock.

Rusted and frozen parts are one of the most common issues we see in the shop during the winter. Moisture inside cable housing can cause freezing and corrosion, which results in poor brake and shift performance. Water in locks can cause them to freeze shut resulting in locks that can’t be opened or keys snapping off.

Tri-flow oil - great for chains and lubricating many other parts of a bike
Tri-flow oil – great for chains and lubricating many other parts of a bike. Pedros Syn-Lube - excellent for wet,freezing conditions of winterPedros Syn-Lube – excellent for wet,freezing conditions of winter

Pick up a bottle of wet lubricant that’s designed for bicycles. (WD-40 is not a lubricant. Try TriFlow or better yet, Pedro’s Synlube which stays on longer in wet, cold conditions). Chains need to be lubed frequently during wet months. You can also drip the lube down inside cable housing to restore functionality to frozen brake and shift systems.

When locking your bike, point the keyhole of your lock toward the ground to prevent to prevent rust and ice forming inside.  A squirt of chain lube into the lock cylinder will help prevent freezing and result in smoother operation.  If you find your lock frozen use some hot water, coffee or tea and pour it slowly over the lock mechanism to thaw it enough to open it up, then be sure and dry it out with a hair dryer and then lube it to prevent it from freezing or rusting in the future.

Covered Enhanced Security Indoor Bike Parking/ Storage Options

Bike Garage @ Trowbridge Parking Ramp
Bike Garage @ Trowbridge Parking Ramp. Holds up to 23 bikes and features a DIY repair station.

Looking for a place to lock up your bike out of the rain and snow? We’ve now got two enhanced security bike parking facilities on campus called “MSU Bike Garages”; one on the north side of campus (Grand River Parking Ramp) and one on the south side (Trowbridge Parking Ramp).  Click here to learn more about the Bike Garages.  Additionally, covered bike parking options around campus most of them inside our car parking garages. Click here to see them all.

Additionally, many of the residence halls on campus have indoor bike rooms: Holden, Wonders, Wilson, Holmes, McDonel, Akers, Hubbard, Mason/Abbot, Snyder/Phillips, Campbell, Landon, Yakeley/Gilchrist all have bike rooms (as of Nov. 2010). Inquire at your hall reception desk about using the bike rooms.  Note that the rooms use a common key so be sure and lock your bike even in these rooms.

Further Resources

More winter cycling tips and links to other sites can be found on our notes from our winter cycling class in 2010.   If you’d like to receive an email when we announce our classes this winter consider subscribing to our MSU Bikes e-newsletter here.

MSU’s Snow Removal Information

Many in the MSU community will comment on how great the sidewalks, paths and roads are in comparison to other area roads during the storms of winter.  The MSU road crew is out 24/7 to keep campus safe for everyone.  However, if you do see something on campus that needs immediate attention call the 24-hour IPF Dispatch number (517/353-1760) or email the supervisor of the snow crew: snowplan@ipf.msu.edu
If you’d like to learn more about MSU’s official snow removal policies check this page.  Here’s a short video on the topic by IPF.


What winter riding tips do you have to share?  Pls. comment on this blog with your thoughts/ tips/ advice!

(Updated and reposted by Tim Potter, 11/19/14)