Avoiding Flat Tires

Hisssssss……….

Panaracer tire with Tour Guard, a kevlar based material that greatly reduces flats.
Panaracer Pasela tire with ProTex, a kevlar-based material that greatly reduces flats.  I ride these tires (1 flat in over 6000 mi. of riding up and down Grand River Ave!).  We keep a wide selection of these tires and other tires with flat protection in stock.

Most bicyclists are all too familiar with that sinking feeling you get when you hear a hissing sound coming from one of your tires.  A tire or tube puncture might mean anything from an hour delay in your travels to a day or more out of commission.  Fortunately, the MSU Bikes (just under the Bessey Hall Auditorium off the River Trail with a convenient ramp right up to our door) staff are very familiar with this issue in our daily quest to keep the 20,000 plus bicyclists rolling back and forth from home to class.  We regularly stock (but can also special order just about anything!) a selection of anti-puncture solutions that I’d highly recommend you consider BEFORE you get stranded and BEFORE we get busy with spring!  There are three good options (from inexpensive to more expensive):

Pinch-Flat example
Pinch-Flat example – the rim essentially punctures the tube in two places simultaneously when it bottoms out on the pavement, pothole, etc.

FREE Tip:  Keeping your tires properly inflated helps make your ride much more enjoyable (easier to pedal) it reduces your odds of getting the most common type of flat that we see here in our shop known as a pinch flat or “snake bite” (as it puts two holes in your tube).  The proper pressure for your tires is normally written on the sides of your tires.  Use the lower pressure in the winter and slippery conditions, the higher pressure during the dry, warmer months of the year. We have a free 24/7 air station outside our shop plus there are air pumps at almost every front desk of every residence hall on campus.  Our brochure has a map of campus showing where air pumps are located (pg. 3).

–          Thorn resistant tubes ($8 – 10):  these tubes weigh quite a bit more than standard tubes but are about 3-4 times thicker and thus harder for some objects to puncture keeping you rolling.  We have them in all the common sizes and in both standard American Schrader valves and French style presta valves.

Stop Flats tire liners
Stop Flats tire liners, much lighter than thorn resistant tubes and cheaper than new tires.

–       Tire liners:  ($15-17):  these are installed between your tube and tire to give a protective barrier.  These are considerably lighter than thorn resistant tubes, so if your commute is longer these would be more attractive (weight on your wheels makes a dramatic difference in performance; for every ounce you take off your wheels it’s like taking a pound off the rest of the bike!).   We can order these in 20 in., 26 and 700c sizes.

–          Anti-puncture tires:  ($20 on up):  this is the lightest and most expensive option.  Also happens to be my favorite as my commute is a longish 6 mi. each way and I like to go fast!  Most tire companies offer tires that have anti-puncture properties, some are much better than others in terms of how much protection is provided; we stock a few of the lesser expensive in 26 in., 27 in., and 700c sizes.

Fuji Scoops Up U.S. National CX Champion Jonathan Page

(reposted from ASI press release)

Jonathan Page,U.S. National Cyclocross Champion signed with Fuji
Jonathan Page,U.S. National Cyclocross Champion signed with Fuji

Philadelphia, PA (January 30, 2013) – Fuji Bikes is proud to announce that it has reached a sponsorship agreement with U.S. National Cyclocross Champion Jonathan Page, who tallied his fourth national title in commanding fashion earlier this month in Wisconsin – notably crossing the tape without a bike sponsor.

Click here to read the rest of the release….

Still some clearance deals available on 2011 and 20011.5 Altamira CX 1.0s if anyone is in the market for a high-end CX bike!

2011 Altamira CX 1.0
2011 Altamira CX 1.0 – Click for full specs.

Bike Locking Do’s & Don’ts

Example of how NOT to lockup
Example of how NOT to lockup – click to see more examples and how TO lockup properly too.

I was out on campus the other day and saw a pretty nice bike locked up in a particularly bad way which prompted me to take some more pics of other bikes in the same area to show how to both NOT lock up and how to best lock up your bike.  I also included some pics of some helpful anti-theft devices that we sell in our Center to help you avoid becoming a victim out there plus a few examples of what can get your bike impounded by the MSU Police.  Check out the pics here.

The Basic Rules:

  • Use the best lock you can afford (U-shaped locks are generally the strongest when used correctly) if you want to prevent theft of your bike.  We sell a good selection of U-locks and other lesser expensive locks.
  • Lock your bike correctly (see pics in the gallery linked above) to a good bike rack or, lacking a good rack, to something that’s not movable and/or easily cut (on campus the ordinance requires that you lock to bike racks to avoid impoundment).
  • Lock your bike in an area that’s highly visible; more secluded areas tend to have more theft as fewer people can potentially catch them in the act.
  • If your bike is flashy (i.e. newer, bright colors), and expensive it’s best to NOT lock up outside at night ever; use your residence hall bike room if it has one (3/4 of residence halls on campus have them; check at your front desk).
  • Secure any components that have quick-release mechanisms with anti-theft type mechanisms (we sell them in the Center).  Seats and wheels are commonly stolen when they have quick releases.

 

2011-07-26_15-53-49_298
The Right Way to lockup!
Click to see more examples and how TO lockup properly too.

More anti-theft tips:
Ever forget your lock and need to lockup for a quick visit to a store or cafe?  Here are a few quick tips:

  • Take your front wheel inside with you.
  • Release the quick-release on your rear wheel; as soon as the would-be thief tries to ride off the rear wheel will shift in the frame and lockup (only works on bikes without vertical drop-outs).
  • Use your helmet and strap it thru your rear wheel and frame.
  • This one is more complex, only works with certain brakes and requires some forethought: adjust one of your brakes with the release in the open position then close it when necessary to lock your brake.
  • Check out the late Sheldon Brown’s page of clever anti-theft tips.

U-Lock Woes

U-locked bike
Example of a properly U-locked bike (just don’t forget your key!).

You come out to your locked bike and are in a hurry to get to class.  You quickly jam your key in the lock, try to turn it and it just doesn’t want to turn, so you turn harder, and harder til “SNAP” it goes and now you have to walk or take the bus.  ARRGGHHH!

Does this scenario sound familiar?  Well, you’re not alone.  The good news is that this headache is preventable with a little forethought.

According to a bunch of people who work with thousands of bikes on campuses around the country it seems that virtually every U-lock made will eventually develop rust inside the lock.   When you add ice to the rusty mess opening U-locks can become very frustrating not to mention expensive if you break your key.

Thanks to one of those campus bike specialists,  John Brandt, here’s your solution to eliminating your ‘U-lock Woes’:

The simple solution I’ve found is to put an occasional drop of heavy oil on the moving parts of the locking mechanism that engage the u-bar portion of the lock.  Some of the lube may find its way back into the lock tumblers, but in every case I’ve worked on it’s the sliding-locking-bar/pin that was the problem.  Simple lubrication seems to prevent the problem from ever occurring and usually fixes it if it does.

Lubing a U-lock - pic 1
Where to lube your U-lock.

Specifically:

  • take the lock apart into its two parts
  • set the u-portion aside, it’s just an inert piece of metal
  • turn the key to make the lock mechanism move to the locked position
  • as you turn the key, look into the holes where the u-portion fits
  • some u-locks will only lock one side, other will lock at both ends (photo shows a one-sided mechanism)
  • drip several drops of machine oil (or chain lube) onto the part that you see moving when you turn the key; this is the sliding-locking-bar/pin that engages the u-portion (see photo below)
  • work the key back and forth a few times to get the oil between the moving parts
  • once they move smoothly again, the key should no longer bind and you’re good to go

Even with a frozen/stuck u-lock, there is one thing you can try as long as the key isn’t broken off in the lock and unable to be removed.  Squirt copious amounts of a thin penetrating oil (like WD-40) down the tiny seams where the u-portion enters both sides of the bar of the u-lock (see photo below).  Do it on both sides and don’t be shy with the amount; flood it good.  Squirt a tiny bit right into the keyhole, too, just in case.  If you’re willing to wait a few minutes for the oil to penetrate, you may find that the key turns again if you start by gently wiggling it back and forth to help the oil penetrate even further.  That works on better than 90% of the stuck locks I’ve worked on.  I do not use thin oils like WD-40 to lube locks once they’re working again; it washes off too quickly so I use a heavy lube for that.

Lubing a U-lock - pic 2
Where to lube a U-lock for preventative maintenance.

For preventive maintenance:

  • Check your lock whenever you lube your chain
  • If the turning key seems to bind or turn stiffly, re-lube those parts (you already have your lube in your hand)
  • Prevention is key.  If you leave your bicycle outside in the rain a lot, lube the lock more often;  the more it rains, the more often you should re-lube the mechanism
  • I use a non-greasy lube (Poxylube) for my keyholes so my key doesn’t always come out greasy and stain my pockets( http://www.locksmithledger.com/product/10288074/sandstrom-products-poxyluber-cp200 ), but I prefer a heavy lube for the mechanism because it doesn’t wash off as fast.  (MSU Bikes sells Pedro’s Syn Lube which is a great heavier lube for both your lock and your chain)

My bikes don’t live outside 24/7 like many others do, but I lube all my locks once a year and I’ve never had a problem with any of my u-locks in over 20 years.

John Brandt
Safety, Security & Transportation Manager
The Universities at Shady Grove, MD

Local Advocacy & Social Groups

July 27 Ride Around Town - at the new Park Lk. Rd. Burcham round-about
July 27 Ride Around Town – at the new Park Lk. Rd. Burcham round-about under constrution.

Lansing’s Friday Nite Ride Around Town Weekly social ride starting at MSU Beaumont Tower at 5:30 pm (roll-off at 5:45 pm) during warm months of the year.  Destinations vary but are generally within 10 mi. and involve food and drink.  Speeds are low.  Dress brightly and bring lights for the ride home (which is often times getting dark).

Friends of Meridian Township PathwaysWe’re all about promoting, supporting & helping maintain the existing Meridian Township Pathway network as well as doing what we can to see more pathways get built to complete the network both adjacent to roadways and off-road corridors like the Inter-Urban Pathway.

Valet Bike Parking at Great Lakes Folk Festival
One of the MMATC community services, Valet Bike Parking at a Great Lakes Folk Festival in years past.

Mid-Michigan Active Transportation Coalition (MMATC):  This is a diverse group of citizens from Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties.  It is the advocacy group of the TCBA (see below).  We joined together in 2009 to promote policies, programs, and planning which integrate active transportation choices in the Mid-Michigan community.   By doing so, we bring about positive changes in biking, walking, and transit infrastructure and to see an increase in the number of citizens who use these choices as an alternative to strictly automobile use.

Google group discussion group
(where most of the action occurs):   Monthly meetings are the third Wednesday of each month from 6 – 7:300 pm at Gone Wire Cafe, 2021 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing.
Tri-County Bike Assn: The area’s largest bike club who’s members have lots of good group rides about every evening of the week.  Their DALMAC tour from MSU campus to the Mackinac Bridge is their main fundraising event of the year.

MSU Bikes Joins MSU Surplus and Recycling Team

John Bieda (R), Service Supervisor and Taylor Allen (L), student mechanic, work at the MSU Bikes Service Center on Tuesday July 17, 2012.
John Bieda (R), Service Supervisor and Taylor Allen (L), student mechanic, work at the MSU Bikes Service Center on Tuesday July 17, 2012.

EAST LANSING, Mich. — MSU Bikes – Michigan State University’s one-stop shop for all things bicycles – is now part of MSU Surplus/Recycling, a move that will not only streamline its booming business but make it easier for Spartans to find and ride a bike.

The re-organization of MSU Bikes from MSU Physical Plant to Surplus/Recycling makes sense in a lot of ways, said S/R’s Kris Jolley.

“It’s going to streamline the business,” he said, “and, at the same time, allow for more access to bikes.”

Read full article here…

Minneapolis trip highlights – soul of the US bike industry

Test riding a Salsa Mukluk, one of the newer "fat tire" bikes in the market w/ tires that are 4" wide.
Test riding a Salsa Mukluk, one of the newer “fat tire” bikes in the market w/ tires that are 4″ wide. These monster tires just float over the snow or rough stuff with no need for suspension.
Melissa and John posing with a new Campagnolo Super Record EPS (electronic shifting) equipped bike.
Melissa and John posing with a new Campagnolo Super Record EPS (electronic shifting) equipped bike.

I just realized that I hadn’t shared these photos from a trip from this past winter which gave me an incredible look into the behind-the-scenes action of the USA bike industry.  Three of us from MSU Bikes (myself, Melissa Kwiatkowski, Asst. Mgr. and John Bieda, Service Mgr.) went to two industry conferences in the Minneapolis area in February:  Quality Bike Products’ Frost Bike and Park Tool’s Tech Summit.  QBP is the largest bike parts/ accessories distributor in the USA, and Park Tools is, as most in the bike shop business know, is the leading manufacturer of bike shop tools:
http://s794.photobucket.com/albums/yy225/msubikes/FrostBike-ParkToolSummit2012/

I’ll post more pics from the very cool bike shops and other bike facilities we saw while in Minneapolis soon.

Frame Straightening at MSU Bikes

John and Jordan setting up the frame straightening tool.
John and Jordan setting up the frame straightening tool.
Example of badly bent frame
Example of badly bent frame

Do you have a steel frame bike that was run into a brick wall? MSU Bikes has a tool designed and made after the Park Tools classic tool by a very skilled machinist that we’re able to use to salvage some frames that others might scrap.  Bent forks can be straightened by a very skilled and experienced mechanic with the right tools (assuming the fork is made of steel) but are best replaced.  We don’t currently have such fork straightening tools but stock lots of forks and can order most anything we don’t have.  If you have a steel bike (sorry, aluminum frames are not repairable once bent) with a bent frame bring it on by and we’ll give you a free estimate.  Click here or the pics to see more examples.  This longer article/ discussion about the original Park Tool HTS-1 will give you a LOT more info. about what we can do with this tool for a bent steel frame.

Here’s a couple videos of a repair in progress.  The first one I took while our mechanics were starting the straightening:  http://youtu.be/2ce-mn_HI78  |  After straightening:  http://youtu.be/iyhvYvi-rXU

Comparing Bike Lubes

Oiling-a-rusty-chain-on-a-bike
This is the way you should apply your oil NOT with a spray can. Spray-on oils can get overspray all over your rear rim which causes brake failure. Photo courtesy http://www.123rf.com/

Because wet winter roads covered with salt are really harsh on chains and the rest of your bike, one of the most common questions we get in the bike shop is what type of lube is best to use. The short anwer is that dry lubes are for dry conditions and wet lubes are for wet conditions.

Dry lubricants go on wet but dry to a wax. The wax is resistant to dust or dirt and therefore works good in conditions when there is a lot of dust and dirt present. Off-road riders especially will benefit from a wax lube when the ground is dry and dusty.  These types of lubes do not hold up to  wet conditions and will wash off with prolonged exposure to water.

We sell the following dry lubricants:

  • Tri-Flow Superior Dry Lubricant – affordable and easy to use. Apply and go.
  • Boeshield’s T-9 -higher performance dry lube that will also protect better in wet conditions. However, this lube should be allowed to set up for a couple hours after application. It is a bit more expensive.

Wet lubricants go on wet and stay wet after application. They are great for rainy and wet conditions and won’t wash away(as quickly) but attract dirt and debris and therefore should be avoided in dry, dusty conditions.

We sell the following wet lubricants:

  • Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant – thin, wet lubricant for average conditions. Penetrates easily and quickly. Good for most types of riding during summer and fall months.
  • Tri-Flow Soy Lubricant – used for same conditions as the Superior Lubricant. This is an environmentally friendly lube that is formulated with natural soy oil and  biodegrades rapidly. It does require more frequent application.
  • Pedro’s SynLube – thick, wet lubricant. Great for extremely wet and sloppy conditions. Our number one choice for winter riding, as it doesn’t wash off as quickly as other wet lubes. The higher viscosity means it takes a little longer to penetrate into tight places.

    Tri-Flow lubes
    We stock both wet and dry Tri-Flow lubes shown here.

For the best results of any lubricant it is important to start with a clean chain. With any lube you should give it a minute to penetrate after application and then wipe off the excess so it doesn’t get all over the rim of your bike (which can cause your rear brakes to stop working), your pants, your carpeting, etc.  A dripping-wet chain also attracts more grime leading to a real nasty chain that wears out your whole drivetrain much faster than a clean one.

A lighter lube like the Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant, is excellent for keeping other components of your bike lubricated and help prevent them from seizing up.  We recommend a drop of this lube on the pivots or hinges of your derailleurs (the things that shift your gears) and your brake pivot bolts (NOT your brake pads!) to keep them moving smoothly.  Salt water can and will get inside your brake and shift cables and cause them to get  sticky or completely seize from rust and ice, so a little Tri-Flow inside the cable housing will help keep them sliding smoothly.

Finally, Tri-Flow is excellent for bringing a rusty or sticky lock mechanism back to life.  It’ll also help keep it from freezing up by chasing out water.
Stop by the shop any time and we’ll look your bike over for no charge and give you more specific recommendations and estimates for getting it back in shape for spring!

New life for an older bike

In its original condition and configuration
In its original condition and configuration

Take a look at our most recent restoration of an older (mid-80s) Fuji Espree that we (kudos to our mechanic Jordan for his work on this one) did for a customer.  They wanted to ride it again, in comfort of course.  So, the before and after pics here will show you how an older drop-handlebar style bike can be reconfigured into what is commonly called a “hybrid” or a city bike:

http://s794.photobucket.com/albums/yy225/msubikes/Larry%20Metzger%20Fuji%20Espree/

After it's refurbishing - reconfiguring as a city bike.
After it’s refurbishing – reconfiguring as a city bike.

The only thing I’d do to make it a perfect city/ commuter bike would be to add fenders, kickstand, lights and a rack.  Anyways, if you’ve got one of these older road bikes hanging in your basement or garage imagine riding it again and relive the old days instead of just assuming you need a new bike (which we’d be happy to sell you as well!).

MSU Bike’s Commuter Challenge 2011 results

Thanks for your generous patience; the results are in!  

Commuter near MSU campus heading home.The first MSU Bike’s Commuter Challenge, held during National Bike to Work Week (May 16 – 20th, 2011) saw 24 participants (plus 2 who were interested in trying it but were unable to participate).  We collected some interesting statistics and compelling commentary about their commute routes/ experiences (Here’s a link to a PDF file with that commentary and some other data from the Challenge that you might enjoy reading).

Approx. ¾ of them were experienced commuters with the remaining being beginners.  The average mileage for the week was 36 miles and for the year to date 320 miles.

The winning individual commuter in the Experienced category was Laura Carter, who works at the Main Library, who logged 90 miles for the week.  There’s a tie for 2nd place between Mike Weigand (Plant Pathology & MSU Bikes) and Layne Cameron (University Relations) with 70 mi. each.  3rd place goes to me, your illustrious organizer with 55 miles.

In the Beginner category Leslie Galvez wins with 60 miles, then Jane Meland (Libraries) with 27 miles followed by Hollyce Balentine in 3rd place with 21 miles.

The winning campus department was the Library with 4 participants, 2nd place goes to MSU Bikes (yay) with 3 participants and a 2-way tie for 2nd place with the Cyclotron, Fisheries and Wildlife (CANR) with 2 each.

So, now you’re wondering when do we have the awards ceremony?

That will be on June 29th, Wed., at noon here at MSU Bikes on our deck or inside the shop if it’s raining.  We’ll give out some cool awards for the folks named above (except myself) and some certificates for the departments.  Hope to see you here!

To those of you who did, thanks for participating!  We’ll plan on doing it again next May during National Bike to Work Week, but in the meantime keep commuting by bike to save $$, for your health and for the fun of it!

Tim Potter & Crew @ MSU Bikes

PS:  If you’re not subscribed to the MSU Bikes eNewsletter (a Yahoo group), please hit that link and consider subscribing to stay informed of bike events and other bike-related info. on campus and in the community.  Also, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and our newer blog here.

Use Caution When Buying a Used Bike

Used bikes can look to be in good shape, but hide expensive problems.

Buying a used bike seems like a great, affordable option to many people. However, this is often not the case. I’ve seen many people purchase a used bike for $5 and be very disappointed when they learned that the cost to make the bike safe and rideable was over $100.

If you are considering buying a used bike that needs work, you should be informed on what to look for. Recognize what repairs will be needed and what brands to avoid. Many used bikes are simply not worth fixing up.

Recognizing Problems

All bikes will eventually require maintenance. Most used bikes will need the following repairs:

Chain: Replacing the chain is unavoidable for any bike that has enough miles on it. If during a test ride the chain seems to slip or lurch forward while pedaling, the chain and freewheel need to be replaced.

Brake and Shift Adjustments: These systems fall out of adjustment with use and require occasional tuning. Rusted or corroded cables and worn brake pads are another common problem. The cable should slide smoothly and the brake arms and derailleurs should move freely. Cable replacements require a readjustment of the system.

Wheel truing: Wheels with uneven spoke tension require a ‘true’. Untrue wheels will spin asymmetrically and can interfere with braking.

Bearing adjustments: On many bikes it is common for the bearings of the headset, the hubs, and the bottom bracket to become loose. If you can rock the wheels or crankarms side to side, or the headset inside the frame, the bearings are loose and need adjustment. Very loose bearings on cheap wheels often don’t hold adjustments, and require a wheel replacement.

Some used bikes will have additional problems you should be on the lookout for.

Missing or Bent Wheels: Severely bent wheels cannot be repaired and require replacement. If the wheel is damaged, the tire, tube, and freewheel can be moved to a new wheel.  If the wheel is missing completely, all those items will have to be purchased in addition to the wheel.

Missing or Loose Crankarms: Crankarms must be tightened onto the bottom bracket with the appropriate torque. If they are installed too loosely, they can begin to rock, spin, or fall off. This movement often damages the crankarm and a new one must be installed.

Bent Forks and Frames: While bent frames and forks can be difficult to spot, you should be aware of the possibility of this damage on used bikes. Depending on the severity, a bent frame or fork can make the bike unsafe to ride.

Choosing A Bike

The above repairs are very common and ones I see on almost all recently purchased used bikes. If you are considering buying a used bike, budget between $100 and $130 for necessary repairs and maintenance to make your bike safe and rideable.

When it comes to department store bikes (Huffy, Pacific, Magna), it’s often cheaper to buy the same model new than it is to repair a used one. This isn’t necessarily a better option however, because cheap department store bikes will eventually require these repairs anyway. (Sometimes immediately, as these bikes are not assembled by trained mechanics and often require tune-ups when brand new.) Even after a full tune up, a department store bike is still made of cheap materials that break and come out of adjustment easily. My advice is to avoid purchasing department store bikes, new or used.

Bike shop brand bikes (Fuji, Trek, Specialized, Giant, ect.) can be worth fixing up, depending on the amount of repairs needed. Remember to look the bike over thoroughly and estimate what all will need to be done. These brands hold adjustments longer and do not break as easily.

It can be overwhelming to diagnose what repairs a bike needs. A simpler option is to purchase an already tuned used bike. While this may seem more expensive up front, all the additional repairs have been done for you. You can ride assured that the bike is safe and should last many years.

Shifting and Gear Use

Bicycle gears are intended to make the cyclist’s ride more comfortable, but many riders are unfamiliar with or intimidated by their gears. I’ve heard many novice riders exclaim that their gears are too confusing, and so they always ride in the same gear combination.

Bicycle gears are much easier to use than many people think. Learning to shift can make your rides more enjoyable and help you get the best use out of your bike. In this post I will define the parts of the drivetrain, describe how the gears work, and explain how and when to use them.

Thanks to http://simplybike.wordpress.com/ for use of this image.

Let’s start with some basic terminology. Clicking on the image to the left will bring up a larger view.

The front derailleur moves the chain across the chainrings. In this image, there are only 2 chainrings. However, many bikes have 3, and some only have 1. (A bike with only one chainring will not have a front derailleur.)

The rear derailleur moves the chain across the cogs of the freewheel. (Sometimes called a cassette, but for the purposes of this article, I will use the term freewheel.) The number of cogs on freewheels vary, but 7 or 8 are common. A ’21 speed’ bike has 3 chainrings and 7 cogs.

A cable connects each shifter to its derailleur. Tension on the cable pulls the derailleur one direction, and a spring in the derailleur pulls it in the other direction.

Now that you’re familiar with the parts of the drivetrain, let’s look at each system more closely. We’ll use a 21 speed bike as an example.

The Front Shifter & Derailleur

The front derailleur is controlled by the left shifter. Many shifters are marked in some way, often numbered or with an ‘H’ for the high gear and an ‘L’ for the low gear.

The ‘1’ or ‘L’ refers to the innermost chainring (closest to the bike). This chainring delivers the least resistance and is useful for very steep inclines or soft terrain. The ‘3’ or ‘H’ refers to the outermost chainring (closest to the pedal). This chainring produces the most resistance and is useful for maintaining speed.

For mostly flat areas, like MSU’s campus, many riders find the 2nd (middle) chainring to be the most comfortable. Beginner riders may find it simpler to leave the chain on this chainring and only worry about shifting the rear derailleur.

The Rear Shifter & Derailleur

The rear derailleur is controlled by the right shifter. On a 7 speed shifter, ‘1’ or ‘L’ refers to the innermost cog. This cog gives the least resistance. ‘7’ or ‘H’ refers to the outermost cog, which produces the most resistance.

It can be confusing for some people that the highest gears correspond to the physically largest chainring but the physically smallest cog. It is better to ignore the size of the gears and remember that the inner gears are lower and the outer gears are higher in both front and back.

If your shifters are not marked, I recommend experimenting with shifting to see where the chain goes. You can them mark your shifters appropriately with a marker or tape.

When & How to Use Your Gears

So what gears should you use, and when? The main thing to remember is that the lower gears produce the least resistance and the higher gears produce the most resistance. Lower gears will give you the advantage in climbing hills and riding on loose terrain like sand. Higher gears will help you gain speed and power and prevent you from needing to pedal as fast. If you feel that the gear you are in is too hard, you should shift to a lower gear. If you are spinning your legs around a mile a minute and feel like you are not getting anywhere, you’ll want to shift to a higher gear. Remember to continue pedaling during shifting.

Shifting bicycle gears is much less complicated than shifting a manual transmission car. It is not necessary to always begin and end in the first gear. However, to make it easy on yourself, you should start in an easy gear and shift to higher gears as you gain speed. Shifting to lower gears as you slow down will ensure the bike is in an easy gear when you start again.

There are a few gear combinations to avoid. Riding with the chain in the innermost chainring and outermost cog (or the outermost chainring and innermost cog) puts a lot of stress on the chain because it is stretched sideways. Riding in these combinations will wear the chain prematurely.

Putting it to Use

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different gear combinations. The ‘right’ gear combo will depend on the terrain, the rider, and their speed, so the best way to learn is to play around and discover what works best for you. As you get familiar with the feel of the gears, you can begin to anticipate what gear combination will be best for upcoming terrain and obstacles. If you are approaching a hill, you’ll know whether or not you’ll need to downshift. It’s a good idea to shift a little earlier than when the gear is needed. That way you can carry your momentum instead of running out of steam.

Hopefully you are less intimidated by your bike’s gears and are now ready to try them out. If you’re still confused, bring your bike in to MSU Bikes (or take it to your local shop) and ask for a demonstration.

Bike Styles

No matter what your motivation for riding, there’s a style of bike best suited to it. Bicycles all share the same general design, however, specializations in geometry, componentry, and materials prescribe certain bikes for specific types of riding. If you’re thinking of buying a bike, you’ll want to consider these differences before making your final choice.

The following guide has been written to help new cyclists differentiate between the many bike styles and choose the one that’s right for them. In each category you’ll find a description of the style’s features, a rundown of its main uses, and an example from one of our manufacturers.

Road – Manufacturers: Fuji, Kestrel

Fuji Roubaix 1.0

Road bikes are built to cover long distances with speed and minimal effort. Racing models are fast, lightweight, and aerodynamic, while touring models have a more relaxed riding position and can accommodate racks for carrying cargo. Both styles have drop handlebars that give the rider multiple hand positions.

Best for: Road and criterium racing, touring, triathlons, club rides.

 

 

Triathlon – Manufacturers: Fuji, Kestrel

Kestrel 4000 Pro SL

Aggressive geometry and unconventional tubing make tri bikes extremely aerodynamic. Like road bikes, tri bikes are engineered for speed. They are the least versatile bike, built exclusively for racing.

Best for: Triathlons, time trials.

 

 

 

Fixed/Track/Single Speed – Manufacturers: Fuji, SE

SE Lager

Designed for track riding, fixed gear bikes lack the freewheeling mechanism that lets other bikes coast. Like spin bikes at the gym, if the wheels are moving, the crankarms are spinning. Because they only have one speed, derailleurs are not necessary. Many fixed-gear bikes also lack brakes. ‘Fixies’ have become popular off the track with riders who enjoy their simple construction and minimal maintenance requirements. Single speed bikes with freewheeling capabilities and brakes are also available.

Best for: Track racing, city riding, and commuting.

 

Cyclocross – Manufacturers: Fuji

Fuji Cross 3.0

Cross bikes are superficially similar to road bikes but the relaxed geometry of the frame results in smoother handling. Greater clearance between the wheels and the frame permits wider, knobby tires. These features help make cross bikes one of the most versatile bike styles. With their original knobby tires, they maintain traction on gravel roads, grass, and hard packed dirt while not sacrificing speed. With slick tires installed, cross bikes can perform many of the functions of road bikes.

Uses: Cyclocross racing, commuting, touring, and road riding.

 

Mountain – Manufactuers: Fuji, Breezer

Fuji Nevada 4.0

Wide tires, low gearing, and suspension assist mountain bikes in going where other bikes cannot. Available features include rear suspension which increases traction over rough terrain, and disc brakes, which aid in persistent speed control on steep hills and in wet conditions.

Best for: Trail and downhill riding, rocky and loose terrain.

 

 

Comfort – Manufactuers: Fuji

Fuji Sagres 3.0

Recreational riders and people with back problems appreciate the relaxed riding position of comfort bikes. Unlike most other bike styles, they are equipped with adjustable handlebars and suspension seatposts. The upright position is both comfortable and practical as it allows the rider to easily see what’s happening around them. Both 26” and 700C models are available.

Best for: Recreational riding and short distance commuting.

 

 

Fitness – Manufacturers: Fuji

Fuji Absolute 4.0 Lowstep

Also called hybrids, flat-bar road bikes, and a variety of other names, fitness bikes have 700C wheels and a straight handlebar. They usually come with thin tires but can accommodate wider ones. They have a more aggressive riding position than comfort bikes. The gearing ranges from that of mountain bikes to that of road bikes.

Best for: Commuting, road and path riding, and exercise.

 

 

City – Manufacturers: Breezer

Breezer Uptown 7 Lowstep

City bikes are set up for commuting. They have upright riding positions, full fenders, chainguards, and racks for carrying cargo. To minimize wear and tear from poor weather conditions, many of them have internal shifting systems. Some models come with generator powered front and rear lights.

Best for: Commuting, running errands, and recreational riding.

 

 

Multiple models in each of the styles above are all available from our suppliers. Visit our shop for pricelists and catalogs for more detailed information on each model. If you’re still unclear on which bike is right for you, contact one of our staff and we will be happy to help you.