Fat Bikes, Gravel Bikes and More from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show 2014

Since the 2014 edition of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show was right down the road from our home office, as it was held only a few hours away in Charlotte, NC, we couldn’t miss out on the chance to see what this creative array of small and custom bike builders have been dreaming up. While many of their designs aren’t for everyone, that’s precisely the point! Having a small and nimble design and build team (of sometimes just one person) means that they can cater to niche markets and often anticipate new trends in the cycling industry.

So what did we notice while we perused the convention hall – well, quite a bit of creativity! But one of the big trends (pardon the pun) was the growing number of fat bikes on display, in a wide array of sizes, colors, suspension and utility:

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Gravel bikes were also on display from many builders, again in a variety of shapes and sizes. The line gets kind of fuzzy between gravel and cyclocross bikes, but the idea for a gravel bike is one that you can ride any where – on road, off road, and everything in between. Wide tires, lots of clearance, and disc brakes were common factors on these do-anything “road” bikes.

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But a lot of the fun of the Handmade Bicycle Show is just taking a look at the creative and sometimes wacky designs on display – all a direct reflection of the builder and the person that the bike was designed for.

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And finally, while we didn’t catch them all, we also loved checking out the headbadges that each bike builder used on their bikes – one last bit of personality to finish off a frame!

Road Bike Party 2 Video

Martyn Ashton Road Bike Party 2

This doesn’t even look possible!

If you have yet to see the new Road Bike Party 2, featuring the amazing skills of trials-riding impresario Martyn Ashton and friends Danny MacAskill and Chris Akrigg, then you need to stop what you’re doing and watch it now! Even if you have already watched it, do yourself a favor and watch it again:

Despite suffering a serious accident in a trials-riding demonstration earlier this year that left him paralyzed from the waist down (covered in a very good article in Bike Magazine), Ashton was determined to finish this amazing movie as a testament to his will to recover and carry on with his life. His good friends, and equally talented riders, MacAskill and Akrigg, ably filled in for the injured Ashton to complete his vision. After you’ve watched the sequel, don’t forget to check out the original Road Bike Party:

And don’t miss the outtakes reel too, just to show that these guys are human, sometimes:

Wordless Wednesday

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Our Take: 10-Speed vs. 11-Speed

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In the last few years, Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM have moved to 11-speed and the technology is becoming more main stream. Lately when we’ve discussed 11-speed bikes, many of you have had some questions and concerns about the new systems. To answer some of them, we found one of our employees who has been riding both 10- and 11-speed groupsets for a while. Here’s his take on things.

I’ve been riding both 11-speed Campagnolo and 10-speed SRAM  for several years now, and I switch between the two often enough to be able to tell you there are some definite differences between 10- and 11-speed drivetrains. Generally, adding an extra cog means you have more gear ratios to choose from which can make your riding more efficient. But I’ve been asked to address the 6 most common questions we get about 11-speed, so here it goes. (And please remember, this isn’t a Campy vs. SRAM article– it’s 10-speed vs. 11-speed).

Is 11-speed less durable?

Answer: There’s not really much difference. I currently have about 2500+ miles on an 11-speed cassette and chain, and neither is worn out yet. I also have yet to break an 11-speed chain while riding. So far my Campagnolo chains and cassettes have lasted about as long as my SRAM 10-speed ones. I guess the thinner cogs and chains make people nervous, but I haven’t had any issues so far. I haven’t ridden the new Shimano stuff, but I’ve read that their new PTFE chain technology actually makes the chains stronger than their 10-speed chains.

Isn’t the shifting compromised?

Answer: Shifting performance isn’t really  affected by the addition of another cog. Aside from the different shifter designs, I have noticed very little, if any, difference in performance between 10 and 11. If anything the 11-speed shifting feels smoother and crisper than 10-speed. My 11-speed bikes do need to be put into the stand a little more often (about once every two weeks) for some basic rear derailleur adjustments, especially after high mileage weeks, but it’s a quick 2-minute cable tension adjustment, and that’s it.

Do you need new wheels?

Answer: Yes*. Contrary to what you read on many bike message boards, you do need a new rear wheel; the reason being that the new wider cassettes require a wider axle than a 9/10-speed wheel. If you look at an 11-speed wheel, the drive-side spokes are nearly in-line with the hub flange. I have converted a set of Mavic and a set of Reynolds wheels from 10- to 11-speed Campagnolo, but it was a pretty involved process and each conversion required the wheel to be re-dished and trued. And, of course, the manufacturer cannot guarantee how a wheel will perform with a converted freehub. Your best bet is to get a new wheel.

 *with the exception of Mavic wheels with an M10 freehub body, which technically should work with Shimano 11-speed if you leave off the Mavic spacer

Are 11-speed wheels less durable?

Answer: Maybe, but that kind of thing really depends on your riding style. For folks who really beat up on their wheels, you might notice a difference. I’m not very tough on wheels, and rarely need to have them trued, but I do have a set of 11-speed wheels that need to be trued more often than their 10-speed counterparts. However, I also have another set that has gone almost 2 years without needing to see the truing stand, so it’s hard to tell.

Is it worth it?

Answer: That all depends. In my experience, I love having the extra 11th gear. And yes, I definitely do notice that it’s not there when I switch back to a 10-speed bike. The biggest benefit to me is that the shifting is smoother and more progressive, since there are fewer big jumps in cog size. I don’t have to keep two different cassettes around anymore (one for the usual riding, one for climbing), since I can still have an 11-25 cassette, but with a 27t or 29t cog tacked on that makes it perfect for climbing as well. 11-speed cassettes also offer a bigger range of gearing options that make it easier to find that comfortable cadence in any variety of conditions, whereas when I switch back to a 10-speed bike, I sometimes struggle to find the right gear.

Why upgrade? Won’t they just go to 12-speeds soon?

Answer: Don’t quote me on this, but no, I don’t think they will go to 12-speeds any time soon. I know Tiso has a 12-speed gruppo out there, but they had to scrounge up some breathtakingly expensive stuff to make it work (i.e. all titanium cassettes), so I doubt it’s ready for mass market appeal. As you read above about wheels, it seems to me like 11 cogs are about as many gears as they’ll be able to cram into the standard 130mm rear spacing. To fit in any more gears without sacrificing wheel durability, I believe that road bikes would need to adopt the MTB standard 135mm rear spacing, and I don’t see that happening any time soon. But then, nobody really saw disc brakes for the road coming either, so anything is possible.

Real Advice: 5 Reasons to Join a Group Ride

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Like most cyclists, when I first started riding, I rode alone. Since I wasn’t competing, racing or part of a club or anything, I would simply get on the bike when I felt like it and ride for as long as I wanted to. I would push the distances when I felt strong, and over the years, I developed a certain meditative joy in these long solo excursions. The freedom to let my thoughts wander, to let my legs dictate the pace, to go in which ever direction I wanted.

But as time went on I also became conscious of the fact that I wasn’t developing much as a cyclist, because, in short, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

My introduction to riding with a group came one summer evening when I timidly decided to join a well-known ride in my area. As much as I enjoyed my solo adventures, I wanted to start connecting with other cyclists. The entire day I worried about it. Was I fast enough? Were there some secret rules I didn’t know? Was my bike good enough? Did I have the right gear?

I worried I would be secretly judged, or dropped, or worse. In some ways, it felt like the first day at a new school. I almost backed out at the 11th hour, but I made myself go through with it, and in retrospect I’m glad I did. When I showed up, there were guys with much more expensive bikes, flashier kits, and legs that looked like they could dish out some serious hurt. But of course, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Everyone was pretty nice and I didn’t get dropped; nobody said anything about my bike or my kit or my helmet.

I showed up again the next week, and the week after, and had soon become a regular at the ride. And a funny thing happened. I began to develop more as a cyclist. Not only did I get faster, and develop more endurance, but I learned more about cycling. And, most importantly, I made some good friends that I started riding with outside of our group.

It’s not to say I don’t still love riding alone. I do. In fact, I eagerly wake up early on Sunday mornings for my long, solo ride into the country. But I still regularly show up to group rides to make some friends, push myself, and test my mettle.

For a quick guide to joining your first group ride, check out our article on Group Rides.

As a cyclist, whether recreational or competitive, riding with a group has a lot of benefits.

1.    You’ll Get Stronger: It’s almost a guarantee that many, if not most, of the riders in the group will be stronger, and you’ll have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. This leads to big improvements in your fitness.
2.    You’ll Learn More: Are you pushing too big of a gear? Not shifting in the right spots? Every group ride is full of riders who are eager to share what they know. Just try not to take offense, they’re just trying to help.
3.    You’ll Feel More Confident: You never know what you’re capable of until you try. Riding with a group will help you quickly master many of the complexities of cycling and be a stronger, more confident rider over all.
4.    You’ll Make Friends: Unless you’re that guy (and you don’t want to be that guy) that attacks when someone flats, you’ll probably make some pretty good friends on your group ride.
5.    It’s Fun: Sometimes riding can become a chore, especially if you always ride alone. Instead of always doing the same routes and struggling in the same spots, riding with a group can help spice up your riding life and give some variety to your cycling.

To find a ride in your area, contact your local Performance Bicycle store. All Performance stores have a Great Ride Series group ride at 8AM every Saturday morning, or they can help you find a ride suited to your skill and riding level.

Want more Real Advice? Click here to see more tips and tricks from cyclists just like you.

Ask Performance Answers – 10/4/13

Last week on the Performance Bike Facebook page we asked folks to post questions about bikes or cycling that they wanted an answer to, in a segment we called #AskPerformance. Today we’re going to answer some of your questions below, but if you’ve got other vexing cycling queries, please post them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to find you an answer!

Ron S.: Is it too much to have more than 5 bikes? ;-) #AskPerformance

Ah, the age-old question – the most quoted saying is that the “correct number of bikes to own is ‘n+1′, where ‘n’ is the number of bikes currently owned”. Of course there is an important corollary to this rule, which is ‘s-1′, “where ‘s’ is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your significant other”.

Michael S.: #AskPerformance Has the industry established a lifespan projection for carbon fiber frames and components?

There is no standardized lifespan for carbon fiber, as it will depend on how the frame or component is used. That said, there’s no reason carbon fiber can’t last for a very long time – the key is to take care of it properly, only tighten bolts to their recommended torque settings, and inspect it for wear or damage from time to time. We’ve got a great article of tips on our Learning Center: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bikes-and-frames/taking-good-care-of-your-carbon-bike-frame

scattante_cfr_black_rearDarrell M.: When you shift gears, and the chain moves more than one gear, what is the typical cause and solution?

One main culprit could be a rear derailleur hanger that has come out of alignment – if that is bent (say from setting the bike down on its drive side), then no amount of derailleur adjustment will result in perfect shifting. Another issue could be incorrect routing of the cable to the derailleur bolt – if you’ve changed your cable lately take a look at the instructions for your derailleur to make sure you’ve got that right. If you’ve ruled out a bent hanger and poor cable routing, then you should next take a look at your rear derailleur itself – we’ve got a video in our Learning Center that covers adjusting your rear derailleur: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bike-parts-and-components/how-to-adjust-a-rear-derailleur

Daisy L.: How many miles before a chain needs to be replaced??

A good rule of thumb is somewhere around 1,500 to 2,000 miles for a road bike, and somewhere around 5-6 months for a mountain bike (assuming that you are riding a fair amount). But these are just general guidelines – to really understand when you should replace your chain you’ll need to measure chain stretch. Chains may be metal, but over time they can actually stretch out quite a bit – we’ve got a handy video that gives you the details of what to look for: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bike-parts-and-components/how-to-measure-bike-chain-wear

Lidia L.: What is the best way to clean your cogs ? And with what would u clean them with ? Thx ‘s

Cleaning your whole bike is one of the most important things that you can do to prolong the life of your bike and keep it running in tip-top condition (just ask any pro team mechanic). Luckily it’s not that difficult if you follow the how-to on our Learning Center, which covers everything from cleaning your rear cassette to lubing your shifters and brake levers: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bikes-and-frames/basic-maintenance-how-to-clean-your-bike For the rear cassette, the basic technique is to spray some degreaser onto a cog brush, then wipe down each of the cogs to get the gunk off.

Howard H.: How often should I rotate my tires?

Rotating your tires front to rear is a great idea to increase the longevity of the pair, but keep in mind that most steering control, both off-road and on, comes from the front tire, while more tire wear happens with the drive forces on the rear.  So putting a road tire worn flat or a MTB tire with worn lugs on the front will lessen traction when cornering hard. To prolong the life of your tires, save some money and keep high performance traction, ride your tires until the rear is worn out, move the front tire to the rear, and put a grippy new tire on the front. Need some tips on changing tires? We can help with that: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/tires-tubes-and-wheels/how-to-change-a-road-bike-tire

_131008_dressing_for_coldEnrique L.: Just started riding my bike again like a month ago. but now that the cold weather is upon us what is the best gear for weather of around 40° which is probably the average temp he in the bay area.

The key to riding in changeable fall and winter riding conditions is dressing in layers. You want to keep your core and extremities warm when you get started, but then have the ability to remove and change layers s you get warmed up or if the temperature changes. We call this the 15 minute rule… if after 15 minutes of riding, if you’re still cold, you need more layers or warmer clothing. If you’re uncomfortably hot after 15 minutes, remove layers or wear cooler clothing. We recommend: a medium weight short sleeve base layer, bib shorts, long sleeve jersey, leg warmers, a windproof vest or jacket, windproof full-finger gloves, an ear band or beanie, and toe warmers. You can find all of our cold-weather recommendations here: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/cycling-clothing/dressing-for-the-season-essential-cycling-layering-tips

Maureen K.: A few yrs ago, I switched from riding a hybrid bike to a road bike. On the hybrid, had no problem standing up,out of saddle to get up hills. I’ve had bike fit done on road bike – it fits me sooo much better now, but I am still not comfortable standing to climb up a hill – it’s too scary for some reason! What else should I be doing to get more comfortable standing to pedal up a hill?? Thanks for any suggestions

It is quite a change going from a flat-bar road bike to a drop-bar racing bike – losing the control and leverage you got from keeping your hands in the same position on the handlebars can be disconcerting. But when you stand up to climb on a drop bar road bike, you’ll need to move your hands to your brake hoods to have the most amount of control. Once you practice riding in this position and then smoothly getting up from your saddle, you’ll become more comfortable when you really need it. If you’re looking for other tips on climbing, our Real Advice column has you covered:  http://blog.performancebike.com/2013/07/11/real-advice-an-intro-to-climbing/

Reuben C: Is there a recommended pressure for a tire(as in replacing my 120psi) with the weight of the rider and load in mind. Or are there other factors such as wheel height/length? Sorry im new to riding and it feels like i am running low on psi after bumps or a day of riding (30 miles)

Road tire pressure is definitely critical to a safe and comfortable ride – almost every tire will have a range of recommended tire pressures noted directly on its sidewall. You have flexibility within this range of pressures, so if you feel like the tire is ‘bottoming out’, or compressing so much that it hits the rim, definitely put more air in if it is within the recommendations of the manufacturer. If you are still having issues, you may need to move up to a slightly wider tire (assuming that it fits within your bike’s frame), as this will help give your ride more stability. Or you could install puncture resistant tubes to reduce the chance of pinch flats and slightly increase the load capacity of the bike. If you need help finding the tire inflation range, check out this video: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/tires-tubes-and-wheels/the-right-tire-pressure-for-a-road-bike

Donald H: Help! I tried replacing the cleats on my shoes yesterday. One bolt came out fine, but the other one ended up with the head rounded out to the point the hex wrench has nothing to grip. Any suggestions?

If you are not handy with tools, your best bet is to take the shoe to your local Performance Bicycle to have a mechanic take a look at it. If you want to try yourself (with the caveat that you might damage the sole of your shoe if you aren’t careful) use a Dremel tool with a cut-off wheel to cut a slot in the top of the cleat bolt and used a slotted-head screwdriver to remove the bolt. Be careful not to cut so deep that the bolt head breaks off. It also helps if the shaft of the screwdriver is hex-shaped, so that you can use a wrench to apply more torque to the screwdriver when removing the cleat bolt. And remember to grease your cleat bolts before installing them next time :)

Boone_Road-878Eric Q: #AskPerformance How does one determine how tight/loose to adjust one’s threadless-steerer headset?

Threadless headsets are pretty easy to get set up once you get the hang of it – the key is to tighten the top cap so that you don’t feel any movement fore and aft at the junction of the headset and the head tube, but not so tight that it hinders your turning ability. Then you tighten down the stem pinch bolts to their recommended pressure to lock the stem in place. We’ve got a very clear video that walks you through each step: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bike-parts-and-components/how-to-adjust-a-bicycle-headset

Greg C: I have my first race coming up next week. Should I shave my legs? Does it make a difference? Will I look like a FRED if I don’t shave?

Another dilemma – shaving your legs is an age-old tradition in the cycling community. Cyclists can give you a litany of rationalizations as to why they shave (such as shaved legs make cleaning up road rash easier and quicker and promote faster healing), but when it comes down to it, shaving your legs is mainly a way to identify yourself as part of the cycling club. Think of it as an initiation into the world of bike racing – you definitely don’t have to shave, but if you don’t, you’d better be fast! We’ve got tips for taking care of your skin here: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/riding-tips/general-cycling-tips/basic-guide-skincare-for-cyclists

Chris D: The big question. … I am 6’2 and ride cross country, all mountain and a small amount of DH. 26, 27.5 or a 29er??? It seems so hard to choose a new size with my wide range of riding styles. What is the advantage of a 27.5 vrs a 29er? Also any 2014 recommendations? I hope #askperformance can help! Sincerely a #teamperformance member.

Wow, it sounds like you’re looking for that one bike that can do it all! As a taller guy, you can definitely handle a 29er, which will give you an improved angle of attack to roll over obstacles, and more momentum to smooth out any trail. But the new 27.5″ standard might also be a great option for you – these bikes have a bit more agility than a 29er, but still have a greater ability to roll over obstacles than a classic 26″ bike. We’re pretty excited about the 27.5″ format and think that it might be a great fit for what you want to ride – we’ll have great options soon from GT (the 130mm travel Sensor and 150mm travel Force) as well as Devinci (their all-new 140mm travel Troy). Check out our Learning Center for more info about 29ers: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/buyers-guides/bikes-and-frames/basic-guide-to-29er-mountain-bikes and 27.5″ mountain bikes: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/buyers-guides/bikes-and-frames/basic-guide-to-275-mountain-bikes

_131003_Boone_Rky_Knob_MTB-340Dawn G.: How do I stop squeaky disc brakes? I’ve cleaned and adjusted them and they still squeak.

There are 2 main things that might be going on if you’ve got everything adjusted right – when you first install new disc brake pads, it’s essential that you go through the ‘break-in’ period for the pads. This will help improve performance and lessen annoying noise – just follow our tips here: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bike-parts-and-components/breaking-in-your-bike-disc-brakes Of course it could just be the case that the pads have become contaminated with oil or dirt – disc brakes pads a difficult to fully clean once this happens, so often the only alternative is simply to replace the pads all together: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bike-parts-and-components/how-to-replace-disc-brake-pads

Greg E: I am very interested in getting into cyclocross racing. What is the best way to get started racing for a mature beginner ? I already have a fuji cyclocross bike.

We’re huge fans of cross racing here in the home office – you could even say that we’re obsessed! But really what’s not to love? It’s an all-out effort for 30 minutes to an hour through grass, mud, or sand, with some barriers thrown in just for kicks. Of course this means that some different skills are needed than a regular road ride – you’re already on the right track with a dedicated cyclocross bike, but your next step is to practice cross-specific skills like quick dismounts and remounts, proper technique to carry and run with your bike, and short, hard sprinting efforts to stay in the mix at a race. We’ve got some tips you can follow on our Learning Center, but your best option to learn more is to find a local cyclocross club or training group – cross racers are a friendly bunch, and they’re usually happy to show a beginner the ropes and get him or her just as addicted to cross racing as they are: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/riding-tips/road-cycling/cyclocross-basics

If you’ve got a cycling question that you need an answer to right away, feel free to get in touch with our Spin Doctor product technical support team – they are our team of in-house technical experts with decades of combined industry experience, ready to get you the info you need.

Call: 800-553-TECH (8324)
Email: spindoctor@performanceinc.com
Chat: Live Help at PerformanceBike.com

Wordless Wednesday

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Wordless Wednesday

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Eurobike Wrap-Up

We’ve finally recovered from the jetlag after Eurobike, the cycling industry’s biggest international trade show. A 3 day festival of anything and everything bike-related, Eurobike takes place every year near the idyllic shores of Lake Constance in the southwest corner of Germany. While the show is really too big to sum up in just a few paragraphs, we’ll hit a few highlights and trends below – before we head out to the biggest US cycling show, Interbike in Las Vegas.

The scenery around Eurobike is slightly different than at Interbike in Las Vegas.

The scenery around Eurobike is slightly different than at Interbike in Las Vegas.

1. 27.5″ (or 650B) wheels for mountain bikes are here to stay. This in-between wheel size (although it is closer in size to 26″ wheels than 29″ wheels) was on full display at Eurobike, with every major manufacturer offering a trail bike in this ‘tweener format. Mostly these bikes are being pitched as “all-mountain” or “enduro” bikes – but in reality that’s what most of us ride every day! We ride up, down and over whatever the trail throws at us, and want a bike that makes any trail more fun, so 27.5″ bikes should be a great fit. The continued rise of 27.5″ bikes also mean that more tires, wheels and suspension are also becoming available for upgrades later on. We’re especially excited about the new GT Force and Sensor bikes, and Joe Breeze’s very first full-suspension bike, the Breezer Repack.

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2. Hydraulic disc brakes for road/cyclocross bikes were also highly evident throughout the show. While we know that not everyone is going to be interested, many manufacturers have incorporated at least one road bike with hydraulic stoppers into their lineup, and definitely on a cyclocross bike if they have one. Both SRAM and Shimano offer hydraulic options on their newest high-end road components, and Campagnolo has partnered with Formula to offer a system. With the promise of increased braking power and consistency plus more freedom for the design of road bike wheels, it will be interesting to see how this trend develops over time.

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3. E-bikes, or electronic-pedal assist bikes, also had a huge presence in the halls of Eurobike. From city bikes to road bikes to full-suspension mountain bikes, manufacturers have jammed electric motors into just about any type of bike you can imagine. While e-bikes have not made inroads in the US so far, in Europe they already have a huge presence, even with costs of over $4,000 per bike (e-bikes account for 10% of all bike sales in Germany). We actually test-rode quite a few models of e-bikes at the show, including one rated at an assist level of up to 45km/h (or almost 30mph), and they are fun to ride, even if it does feel like you are cheating a bit.

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4. On the fashion front, Eurobike was awash in bright and highly visible colors, from safety orange, to brilliant blues, to fluorescents yellows and greens – although we noticed some camo patterns making a comeback as well. There were still plenty of traditional colors being used, but in our books these bright colors are good news – we’re in favor of anything that makes us more visible while we’re riding our bikes!

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5. Finally, Eurobike was exciting simply for it’s proliferation of creative and, sometimes, wacky ideas for bikes and gear. The energy and enthusiasm for anything bike-related was great to see – the world of people who love bikes and see great opportunities in this market is vast. Not all of these ideas might make it, but we love seeing what people dream up for the future of cycling.

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You can find all of our photos from Eurobike in a gallery on our Facebook page.

Real Advice: How to Lock Your Bike

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week we hear again from Brian, a member of our content team, with some advice on how to lock up your bike. Brian lived in Chicago for about 10 years, and had more than a few run-ins with bike thieves.

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In the years I lived in Chicago, I had the following bikes— listed in no particular order—stolen: a black GT Pulse track bike, a beautiful emerald green Ciocc Enemy track bike, and a chromed-out Bianchi Pista track bike. I won’t even go into how many seat posts, saddles, and wheels I’ve replaced. Some may have said I got what I deserved for riding those bikes in a big city with a notorious bike theft problem. But after the tears dried, I came to realize that I was actually being taught the very valuable (and expensive) lesson that there is a right way and many, many, many wrong ways to do everything. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and haven’t had a bike stolen since.

So let me spare you some heartache by passing on a few tips you can learn at my expense. This is mostly advice for those of you in urban/suburban areas, college campuses and anywhere else that bike theft is a real issue.

1. Nail it down: So you’ve got your lock, but do you know how to use it? Here, I’ll lay out my Program of Bike Locking Excellence for you to follow:

  • Buy a strong u-lock, as well as both a thick and a thin lock cable (usually a 4-6 ft. cable is good). The basic idea is to lock anything that can be easily removed, such as the wheels, saddle and frame.

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  • First, route the thinner cable through the rails of your saddle by passing one end of the cable through one of the eyelets and cinching it down around the rails, leaving plenty of cable and an eyelet hanging down.

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  • Next, run your thicker lock cable through the rear wheel, and again pass one end of the cable through the eyelet, so the cable cinches around the wheel rim and the seat tube.

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  • Now, pass the thicker cable through the eyelet of the thinner cable.

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  • Position the u-lock shackle so as to lock the front wheel to the frame, and pass the shackle through the cable eyelet.

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  • Pass the u-lock shackle around the object you are locking to, replace the cross bar, and turn the key.

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  • When all this is done, double check that everything is actually secure.

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2. If you live in NYC or San Francisco: Disregard all of the above advice and buy the biggest, beefiest chain lock you can find on Performancebike.com.

3. Make it solid: Knowing how to lock your bike is only half the battle. To make sure your bike is still there when you get back, you’ll want to find the most solid, immovable thing you can (city bike racks, street lamps, parking meters) and lock your bike to it as securely as possible. To do this right, you have to think like a thief, which means you have to evaluate every potential locking location for ways it can be defeated. To wit, when my Ciocc was stolen, it was locked to a street sign pole outside of a bar. At the end of the night, my friends and I found the actual street sign on the ground and my bike nowhere in sight. The thief had somehow gotten up the pole, unbolted the sign, and then slid my bike—lock and all—up and over. That was a long walk home…

4. There are no quick errands: This seems obvious, but too many people just lean their bike up against a wall while they “quickly run into the coffee shop”. No matter how quick the errand, no matter how visible you think your bike is, or how many people are around, lock it up. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s worth taking the extra 20 seconds to properly lock up your bike. Because it takes even less time than that for someone to just hop on it and pedal away.

5. Safety in numbers: When possible, park your bike in an area where there are lots of other bikes. This won’t necessarily deter a thief in and of itself, but it waters down the chances of a thief targeting your bike. If possible, also try to find a bike that looks more desirable than yours and lock up next to that one. It may seem callous, but remember, you don’t have to be faster than the bear—you just have to be faster than the other guy.

6. Write it down: Let’s be honest here: there is no lock on earth that’s going to stop a very determined or experienced thief. If at all possible, bring your bike inside—especially overnight. Write down your bike’s serial number (usually found on the underside of the bottom bracket shell), and keep a detailed list and photos of your bike and components (take a new photo when you upgrade any parts). Most renters and home owner’s insurance policies will cover bike theft, so it’s a good idea to have proof of what kind of components were on your bike if you need to make a claim. Most lock companies like Kryptonite and OnGuard also offer a reimbursement program to help you buy a new bike if yours was stolen while using their product; inside your lock packaging will be instructions on how to sign up for this protection.

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