“I want an official carbon fiber, dual suspension, XTR mountain bike with a compass on the stem.”
“Kid…. you’ll blow your knees out….”
Christmas as a cyclist. What to ask for? Christmas with a cyclist on your list. What to buy them? It doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to be budget breaking either. Fact is, most of the really useful gift ideas can also be the most affordable. We’ve been around this block more than a few times. Here’s a quick list of good gifts that will be well used and won’t break the bank.
Lights. Probably the most popular gift for obvious reasons. They keep your resident cyclist safe at night. Compared to a decade ago, even the most basic head or tail light is very powerful and energy efficient. Most of them are USB chargeable.
Cycle computers. These easily rival lighting as a popular gift choice. It’s nice to know how far you’ve ridden in a year or how far that favorite ride really is. Need more information? You can also use a GPS made for bicycles. For the person who owns multiple bikes, this is a really good choice since it is dependant on satellites, not wheel diameters.
Gloves and other cold weather gear. As the saying goes, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” Whether you train all year round or prefer to commute by bike instead of car, proper clothing for cold weather cycling really makes the task much much easier. From balaclavas and beanies, to microfleeced jerseys and tights, to gloves, socks and booties. It’s all designed to make undesirable weather more tolerable.
Bike tools. If you ride your bike, eventually it will need to be worked on. One thing about bicycle tools. If you use them, they wear down. Everyone can use a second Y wrench or fresh chain breaker.
Pumps. Flat tires happen. If you need a pump and you don’t have one, it’s time to do the hike a bike. Here’s hoping that you aren’t too deep in the woods. Pumps come in two types. Floor pumps and portable frame pumps. Logic dictates that if you use a floor pump at home before you head out, your tires will be harder and therefore more puncture resistant. Taking a smaller portable pump with you allows you to avoid having to walk at all….
….provided you have one of these or a patch kit with you. There aren’t many cyclists out there that couldn’t use a few of these on the garage shelf. The ultimate stocking stuffer!
Bells. Another great stocking stuffer. They’re handy and they’re actually required by law. This is a great allowance priced gift to give “from the kids”.
Water bottles. These get really old after a time and it’s a good idea to replace them periodically. Just a simple item that every cyclist needs on every ride they do. Fill them with their favorite candy or nuts and tie a ribbon around the neck to add some pizzazz. Easy peasy.
If you have a mountainbiker on your list, Camelbaks carry lots more water as well as food and tools.
Unicycle! It’s on the list of things that you just have to do. We sell quite a few unicycles and everyone does learn to ride them. It’s loads of fun and ups your cycling repertoire to star status!
When all else fails there’s always a gift card. It’s the right size! It’s the right color! It’s sure to get used! It’s better than a can of Simonize!
We’ve carried BMX bikes at the Brantford Cyclepath since day one. Many shops make the decision to not carry BMX bikes for one reason or another. We, on the other hand, can’t imagine our day without them. Many of our staff, both past and present, come from BMX backgrounds. I myself did a quick calculation and figured out that there has been a Haro branded bike in my life, to some degree, whether in a workplace or at home, pretty much EVERY DAY for thirty six years! I’d bet that that’s a longer run than most of the employees that work at Haro.
It would be a safe bet to say that the large majority of our customers, both young and old, once cruised around on a twenty inch BMX bike. Many cyclists who spend their time on the latest carbon road racing bikes and dual suspension mountain bikes have BMX DNA in their blood. It doesn’t take long before a conversation with a customer can potentially turn to “when I was fifteen I had an awesome Redline and we used to have these jumps over behind….”, followed by “man, I miss that bike….”
Enough reminiscing already. It’s 2017 and BMX has stood the test of time. Not bad for a segment of our sport that became sanctioned way back in 1974 with the creation of the National Bicycle League, with the start of BMX agreed to have taken place in California during the early 1970s. So, what’s up with these small wheeled bikes? How have they evolved since the massive BMX explosion of the 1980s? What makes them different than your old Redline?
We can easily split the modern BMX bike into at least two camps. Just as not every bike with a drop handlebar is a road bike, the same holds true for BMX bikes. Those that are made for racing are incredibly light and stiff with nimble geometries for fast handling and efficient use of power. (Sound familiar, roadies?) Their compact carbon or aluminium frames use a very long top tube and rear triangle to keep the front end pinned down. Tall, wide handlebars allow for a powerful pull and increased leverage against the bike. Carbon wheels and cranks offer maximum stiffness and weight reduction, just like their road racing brethren. And just like road and mountain bikes, clipless pedal systems are used. If you’ve never seen an advanced level BMX race, these bikes are incredibly fast.
The other category is a bit loose in it’s definition. Street. Park. Dirt. (Flatland freestyle is an entirely different discipline with a unique bike all it’s own.) Ideally, it can come down to tire choice determining which of the three a bike might fall under. The common traits when compared to a 1980’s bike are shared regardless of the terrain being ridden.
The seat tube length of a modern frame is smaller, making the frame lower in it’s overall height. This allows tricks such as tail whips (Google it) to be done without the danger of having your toes hook up on the rotating top tube. This is also the reason why seats are run as low to the frame as possible. (Yes, you can ride sitting down. You simply have to learn to tilt your pelvis forwards.) Top tube lengths vary and are usually decided by personal preference and usage despite a general guideline for rider height. A longer top tube length gives you more room to move yourself around between the bars and seat. A shorter top tube length allows the bike to rotate faster around the center axis, minimising any outward gyroscopic effect that a spinning trick might produce. As with modern mountain bikes and unlike BMX race bikes, shorter rear triangles are used here to allow the front end to come up easily. The more money you spend, the more 4130 cromoly steel is used as a material, creating a lighter, stronger frame. As with race bikes, taller wider handlebars with taller top loaded stems enable greater pull on the bike.
Tires are considerably wider than before. This was done for several reasons. A larger tire provides more grip due to increased surface area. The greater air volume, coupled with softer handlebar grips, allows more shock absorption which helps to decrease the chance of wrist fractures due to the increased stiffness that a compact frame creates. Higher air pressures allow the tire to roll faster and deflect less. Wider rims open up the carcass of the tire, creating a larger tire profile that has even more contact with the ground.
More expensive bikes use sealed cartridge bearings in the wheel hubs and headsets, reducing the chance of impacting a bearing due to, once again, the increased stiffness of a more compact frame. Most frames of this level use what is called an integrated headset, wherein the head tube of the frame acts as a bearing race, rather than having traditional upper and lower bearing cups pressed into the frame. This provides a lighter, stronger setup and eliminates the possibility of a frame tube deforming due to loose bearing cups.
If you’re an old school BMXer, you’ll no doubt have noticed that the sprockets on modern BMX bikes are really small. This is what designates a bike as street, park or dirt rather than race. For the most part, race bikes still use traditionally sized larger chain rings due to the fact that gearing ratios must still be changed according to the track and climate conditions on race day. The other bikes use smaller sprockets so that the front chain ring doesn’t come into contact with street ledges or the lip of a skatepark bowl, and makes it more difficult to “case” a dirt jump when misjudgement makes a rider come up short on a landing. The rear sprocket had to naturally be made smaller to retain a useful gear ratio, and is now a component of the hub, rather than the traditional threaded on freewheel of the past.
In the end it really doesn’t matter what type of BMX bike you have, whether it be modern or vintage. Most bikes easily cross over to multiple uses without changing anything. The main thing is to get out there on one and use your creativity to have a blast while getting a physically demanding workout. We’ll see you down at the park!
Dreams eventually become reality. They really do. Ask any one of Brantford’s older local BMXers. I’m referring to the guys from the 80’s and 90’s, now a little soft around the middle, most of them dads. Guys who used to eat, sleep and breath BMX. Guys who used to dream about getting rad. BMX Action. BMX Plus! All of the time. I happen to be one of them.
If you skateboarded you dreamed about the remote possibility of a local skateboard park. (Decades later, our city received one.) If you were into BMX you could only wish that you’d wake up one day and a genuine sanctioned BMX facility would appear. That’s all it ever came to be. Dreams and wishes.
Until now! What seems like eons later, dream time is over. This fair city of ours now has what many of us have waited a good majority of our lives for. A state of the art bike park. It’s been a very long time coming.
Thanks to the vision of another Brantford son, Jay Hoots, and his team of hard working park builders, we at the Brantford Cyclepath are beyond stoked to announce the arrival of The Brantford Rotary Bike Park. This dirt playground features pump tracks, many levels of dirt jumps and rhythm sections as well as a wooden trials style area. The beautiful feature of our new park is that everyone, from the smallest rider on a tiny run bike to the seasoned dirt jumper, will be able to adopt this slice of heaven as their new home.
We’re looking forward to watching the talents of the local riders increase as they work their way up through the various levels of the park’s features. It’s a fantastic way for parents to support their kids and help them to attain more advanced skill sets as time goes forward. It really is a family affair. Mom and dad can drop the kids off at the park and ride their own mountain bikes around the various trails that surround the area or try their hand at riding the wooden trail features within the park. It’s fun for everyone.
We’d like to give a heartfelt THANKYOU to Jay Hoots and his team of builders, the Brantford Cycling Club, the city officials that helped to make it happen, the local businesses that generously donated monies and building materials, and the local volunteers that helped with the construction. Lastly we’d like to give a huge high five to the enthusiasm of everyone who has waited patiently for this park to become a reality.
Grab your helmet and your bike and explore everything the park has to offer. We’ll see you down there! (thanks to Philip for the use of his park photos)
I’d bet that there is more than one past conversation that went like this. “What’s he do for a living?”
“He’s a mechanic.”
“Oh, nice! Cars? Trucks?”
“Aircraft? Heavy equipment?”
“Nope, he’s a mechanic in a bicycle shop.”
What’s the matter? You thought he was something “greater”? One of those “important” mechanics? Sorry to burst your bubble.
Bicycle shop mechanic. The world inside of the doors of a bike shop such as the Brantford Cyclepath is a strange one, familiar to some and yet alien to others. It’s a place where you have to walk the talk. A place where the ability to think on the fly and problem solve creatively become valuable traits.
In bike shops of yesteryear the repair menu wasn’t too deep. Keep wheels rolling true, make sure that the various nuts and bolts were properly tightened (we don’t need no steenkin’ torque wrench!), and repair punctured tires. More advanced shops may have gotten into hub and bottom bracket maintenance. There wasn’t really much to do in the way of a “tune up”. Fairly straight forward stuff.
By the 1970’s your typical shop mechanic was dealing with cable actuated caliper brakes and multiple geared derailleur systems on a daily basis. Since the drive train was still friction shifted and not yet indexed, adjusting gears was still an easy thing to do. However, for the average ten speed owner, it was all starting to become a mystery, and the local bike mechanics were starting to gain notoriety. Add in all of the other jobs such as tire repair, component replacement, wheel maintenance, hub and headset and bottom bracket servicing (yes, you did that back in those days… none of this throw away stuff) and the average day in a bike shop became just a bit more busy.
By the time the mid 1980’s rolled around we were adding plenty of dirt riding in the form of BMX biking and early mountain biking. It’s only natural that if you ride a bicycle off road with a heavy hand, you’re going to break parts. It’s safe to say that before this era, breaking a bicycle wasn’t too common an occurrence. Frame failures used to be a rarity. With the popularity of BMX and MTB riding, the service areas of bike shops everywhere got really busy with mechanics replacing broken parts. When Paul Turner invented the RockShox suspension fork in 1989, you know what happened. Bike shop mechanics had a whole other component to dissect, figure out and memorise. In the same year, Shimano introduced Rapidfire index shifting for mountain bikes. Complex braking systems such as the roller cam and delta brake were born during this time. This was the beginning of the end of simplicity for the shop service department.
The 1990’s blew everything wide open. In 1990 Shimano introduced the road version of index shifting, the STI lever system. Mountain bikes continued to evolve, bringing rear suspension into the mix. Early hydraulic disc brakes arrived on the scene. There was plenty of component innovation all across the board. Bicycle mechanics were no longer faced with a simple day of replacing inner tubes and adjusting the limit screws of derailleurs. They were becoming familiar with complex hydraulic systems and air and oil damping systems. Two more feathers to add to a busy cap.
Welcome to the new millennia and beyond! As the saying goes “you’ve come a long way baby!” Bike mechanic? Yeah, right. How about Service Technician? These days, the title is far more appropriate for the guys and gals that spin wrenches in your local bike shop. The required knowledge base in order to “fix bikes” at a bicycle shop is now staggering. It isn’t lessening any time soon, either. Yearly advances in technology require both hands-on and online tech classes to be attended. We’ve now added fat bike technology (try figuring out how to build fat wheels from scratch), carbon frames and components that require an experienced touch, electronic shifting with servos, e-bike technology, many new bottom bracket standards, advanced suspension systems, disc brake systems with unique methods of working on each one, the job list goes on and on.
In the life of a bicycle shop mechanic, hydraulic brake bleeds are now a daily occurrence. A few short years ago, they were a rarity with only the head mechanic needing to know how to perform one. Ditto with suspension servicing. Bottom bracket replacement is now almost a mundane repair, rather than a major one. The ability to remember and recall a large mental list of component compatibility is a vital skill. A working knowledge of all systems old and modern is essential. That 1978 Pinarello with Campagnolo Super Record requires the same respect and attention as the latest super bike. Modern bicycles are incredibly advanced machines, requiring more and more time to work on them. Let’s not forget that the stream of basic repairs to the more simple bikes has not decreased due to the rise in cycling’s popularity. Add in the new consumer mantra of wanting it yesterday and it’s no wonder that the face of your favorite shop mechanic can appear weary during the height of the season!
Bicycle mechanics are the unsung heroes of the industry. The racers seem to get all of the attention, but where would they be without their tech support? Average cyclists are now able to purchase very advanced bicycles and the local shop mechanic is the partner that will keep the bike performing well, year after year.
If I had to categorize the intended usage for each and every bike that the Brantford Cyclepath sells in a year, I’m fairly certain that I would file the majority of them under the heading “Recreational”. This would include everything from a sub $500 city bike all the way up to and including a multi thousand dollar carbon road racer. It doesn’t really seem to matter what the type or value of the bike is. The majority of these bikes will be ridden if and when we can find a break in our busy daily routines. Most often, these routines will include basic errands such as trips to the drugstore, the bank and the grocery store for whatever items we’ve run out of.
When you consider the fact that many customers complain that they simply don’t have enough time to ride their bikes, and when you also take into consideration the fact that errands also take time to do, it really wouldn’t be a bad idea to combine your riding with accomplishing your errands. It isn’t hard to do. Just ask one of your neighbourhood bike commuters. These cyclists blend the two all year round!
Tackle the jobs that aren’t feasible by bicycle with your car. Once you get home, grab your bike, and plan a ride based around your errand destinations. It’s all about getting those small tasks done while sneaking in some saddle time.
While any bike will do, an older spare bike can be reconfigured into a fantastically suitable errand bike. Consider adding a carrier rack and pannier bags. It’s far easier on your back than using a backpack. On a mountain bike, try adding smoother multi-surface tires and an upright stem and riser handlebars. BMX platform pedals offer enhanced grip and durability, and the ability to wear running shoes which are better for walking around on the smooth tile floors at the grocery store. There are also some really great wire baskets available that require no tools in order to add or remove them from your bike. They don’t look like your aunt Hazel’s old bike basket from yesteryear either.
If you’re going to park a semi laden bicycle outside of a second destination, a kickstand will make life a lot easier. We can understand complaining about adding a kickstand to your lightweight road bike, but kickstands do make sense on a build such as this. Cannondale makes some of the sturdiest models we’ve seen. It also goes without saying that a tough lock is a necessary requirement. When locking a bike up outside of a store, the best choice is still usually a heavy U-lock. Most “grab and ride” thieves won’t bother trying to wrestle with one. It isn’t worth the effort that it takes.
If you haven’t given commuting or shopping by bike a try, give it a test run one day. You’ll save gas and accomplish saddle time. Not only that, but it does feel really good to use your bike in a utilitarian way. Just think of it as having your investment earn it’s keep!
Happy Canada Day! 150 years young! The staff at The Brantford Cyclepath want to wish everybody a happy and safe Canada Day. In celebration, Julian researched and wrote this celebration blog about Cycling in Canada! Read on……..
Oh Canada. One hundred and fifty candles on your birthday cake. As far as countries go, you aren’t exactly an old gal yet. There’s still plenty of time for us to explore all of your highways and by ways from the saddles of our bicycles. And what a country to pedal through! From the rugged west coast, over the Rockies, across the endless prairies, and through the east to the Maritimes, she’s a big country with inspiring vistas. She also has a sizeable connection to the sport of cycling. If you look to the world stage when considering this activity of ours you’ll find that Canada has contributed plenty to it.
So much so that this particular blog entry could become a fairly lengthy book if left to it’s own devices. There’s that much good stuff that can be covered. The question is, what might we write about when it comes to bicycles and Canada?
We could definitely list all of the great cyclists that Canada has produced. There are so many that it would take some doing to list them all. Some of the names, like Clara Hughes (Olympic medal winning cyclist and speed skater with medals in both the summer and winter Olympics), are household words. Others, like Tory Nyhaug (two time member of Canadas Olympic BMX team, BMX Worlds silver medalist and gold medalist at the 2015 Pan Am games), are a little less familiar. Let’s introduce you to a few from each discipline.
On the BMX scene, there’s the previously mentioned Tory Nyhaug. Samantha Cools (thirteen time Canadian National BMX champion and five time world junior champion). Jay Miron (legendary nine time X-Games medalist with the first ever gold in dirt competition. Invented a large majority of the sports tricks). Andrew Faris (legendary Canadian flatland rider. Two time Flatland World Champion).
On the mountain bike front we have, among many, many notable Canadian riders, Catherine Pendrel (Canadian National Team member. Two time World XC champion, 2007 Pan Am Games champion, reigning Commonwealth Games champion, 2010 and 2016 World Cup champion, 2012 UCI champion). Cindy Devine (first official World Downhill champion, numerous World Championship medals, three time Kamikaze Downhill titlist, five time Canadian National Downhill champion. Rode across both Canada and Europe at a young age). Alison Sydor (three time World Champion, multiple medal finishes in mountain and also one in road, Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame inductee, Canadian Sports Hall Of fame inductee). Geoff Kabush (charismatic Canadian mountain bike racer, competed in several Summer Olympics). This is all very impressive when you consider that mountain biking itself is a relatively young sport!
Canada has produced a very large roster of talented road cyclists. Athletes such as Linda Jackson (six national championship titles, medals in the ’96 Road Worlds and ’94 and ’98 Commonwealth Games, won the ’97 Tour de l’Aude Feminin and ’98 Womens Challenge, two second place finishes in the Giro d’Italia Femminile and a third in the Tour de France Feminin). Christian Meier (many solid performances, winner of the 2007 National Under 23 Road Race Championships and 2008 National Road Race Championships). Steve Bauer (won Canadas first Olympic road cycling medal, competed in eleven Tour de Frances, finished fourth in the ’98 Tour, winner of five Canadian Championships). Alex Stieda (first North American to lead the Tour de France by winning the yellow, polka dot, multicolored, red and the white jerseys on the second day of the ’86 Tour).
Once you start looking into our cycling heritage, one thing becomes clear. We’re well known for velodrome track cycling. Just a few of the great names include Gord Singleton (an incredible number of titles, including first Canadian to win a world championship and the only rider in history to hold world records in all three sprint distances at the same time). Jocelyn Lovell (Canadian Sports Hall Of Fame, numerous victories in road and track cycling, gold medal winner in both the Commonwealth Games, with three golds, and Pan Am Games, silver medalist in the ’78 world championships). Tanya Dubnicoff (four time gold medal winner at the Pan Am Games, represented Canada at three Summer Olympics). Curt Harnett (triple medal winner in both the Commonwealth Games and Pan Am Games, held the world record for the 200 meter time trial for eleven years, Canada Sports Hall Of Fame inductee). Lori-Ann Muenzer (winner of Canadas first ever Olympic gold medal in track cycling)
Canada has most certainly produced its share of bicycles over the years. There have been just as many obscure brands as have been more well known ones. Massey Harris once manufactured bicycles. Brantford was home to the Goold Bicycle Co Ltd. They eventually went on to become a component of Canada Cycle & Motor Co. Ltd. (CCM). How many people have ridden bikes with branding such as Norco, Rocky Mountain, Steve Bauer, Miele, Velo Sport, Cervelo, BRC, Argon, Guru, Raleigh, Supercycle, DeVinci, Louis Garneau, or Sekine? How about our Canadian custom frame builders? Bicycles such as Marinoni, Mariposa, True North, Cyclops, DeKerf, Gardin, Thin Blue Line, Proctor (Proctor-Townsend), Legge, Edwins, Moulden, Giro, Bailey, Brodie, Cove, Cycles Bertrand, Runout, Steelwood, Talbot and Cycles Golem. Rest assured that there are others. What a fantastic collection you would have if you owned one of each!
Over the years there have been many reasons to pedal a bicycle in Canada. In times gone by you could have joined the Montreal Bicycle Club, which was our first club, formed in 1876. Incidentally, that’s the same year that the first bicycle showed up in Canada. The Canadian Wheelmen’s Association of 1882 was formed to promote cycling and advocate for cyclists rights. They later became the Canadian Cycling Association. For competitive cyclists there were many events to be entered. The Dunlop Trophy Race, six day races and cycling championships both Canadian and World took place during the early years. During the later years, Canadian cyclists competed successfully for medals in events such as the Commonwealth Games, National and World Championships and the Olympics.
A growing number of Canadians have also signed up to participate in various charity cycling events. The list of available rides grows by a large number each and every year. Some popular ones have been the Ride For Sight, The MS Bike Tour and The Ride To Conquer Cancer. Whether it be a small local event or a large national one, each one does it’s part to unite cyclists for a worthy cause. The reasons that we ride might change, but the fact that Canadians love to ride their bikes remains a constant.
On July 1st, why not celebrate Canada’s cycling heritage from the saddle of a bicycle? Set out on an all day ride or an afternoon pedal to feed the ducks at the park. Whichever route you choose, it’s a fantastic way to become connected to this wonderful country of ours. Happy birthday, Canada!
Here at the Brantford Cyclepath, we quite often get asked whether or not we sell used bikes. As consumers ourselves, we get it. There aren’t very many people that don’t like the idea of paying the lowest price for a given item. When it comes to buying previously owned things, you’re usually fairly safe when it comes to stuff like furniture or swing sets. Once you start looking at products that have a mechanical component to them, such as appliances, cars and bikes, then the entire venture becomes a pretty good example of buyer beware.
Of course, there are some good bargains to be had by buying a used bike, but it seems that as of late the instances of people discovering that their used purchase was not quite “as advertised” is on the increase. This might begin when a customer brings in a new-to-them purchase for a minor adjustment or two. Our radar usually goes off the moment we hear the words “The guy hardly rode it and so I got it for a really good deal….”. Let’s face it. Bicycles get ridden. Even the most casual of recreational cyclists will eventually wear out drive train components, tires and brake shoes. Which all leads to why our Spidey sense starts tingling….
Here’s how it often goes with the events leading up to the transaction. The previous owner rides the bike on a regular basis. Normal wear takes place on components such as the chain, freewheel, tires, cables and brake pads. The bike is taken to a shop to be tuned up. The repair bill is usually more than the owner wants to spend, taking into account the number of parts that now need replacing. A new bike is not that far off of the repair price, they were toying with the idea anyways, and so the decision is made to put the old bike up for sale.
This is where you come in.
You find a great used bike and arrange to buy it. While out on your first few rides you decide that the bike seems to need a few adjustments here and there and so into the local bike shop it goes. This is where you discover that it needs a list of replacement parts in order to get it into shape again. The news that the original owner was given has now been passed on to you.
Don’t get me wrong. Used bikes need to go somewhere. I’d much rather see them enjoyed or put to a new purpose instead of taking up space in a landfill or quietly rusting away in the corner of some garage. Just be aware that in most cases a used bike will need a new chain and rear freewheel along with one or two cables, at the very least. It would be conservative to factor in another $150 to $300 on top of what you are paying for the bike. For this reason, it might be wise to find out whether you could take the bike in to your local shop for an assessment before committing to the deal.
There are a couple of other things to bear in mind when buying a used bicycle. When it comes time for any adjustments on your bike, you pay for the work since any shop service plan is usually not transferable from owner to owner. The same thing holds true for any warranty on the bike. Factory warranties are never transferable. This is an important thing to consider. Manufacturers require more and more documented proof of original ownership when handling warranties concerning frame failures. We’ve seen several instances where someone has been left with the proposition of buying a new bike due to a denied warranty claim on a used purchase.
If you know what you’re buying, the price is reasonable for the amount of wear on the bike and the owner is being up front about the history, then it might be safe to proceed. If not, then a new bike purchase could possibly be the least expensive route in the long run. As was previously stated, in the end it all comes down to buyer beware.
It’s a hard thing to stomach when you realise that your bike has been stolen. Pacing around after the fact, searching the area, sure that a friend has played a practical joke. You locked it up and it still disappeared! How do we prevent this misfortune from happening again?
The first thing to understand is that all locks are not created equal. Most people buy a cable lock, mainly because they cost the least. They can be highly effective when used in the right situation. Use these locks for that trip to the coffee shop, where your bike can be seen from the window. A quick dash into the local variety store will be okay. Cable locks are also extremely useful as a secondary lock. Security? We’ve cut a low quality department store lock with a pair of bicycle gear cable cutters. If you choose this type of lock, go to a bike shop and get the stronger 12mm thick cable. For added strength, look for one that also has a mesh outer layer.
Chains are a better choice. The links are made of hardened steel and although they are heavier, they are easy to carry around. They also tend to be longer, giving more options for locking. Most chains offer medium security. Some of the heavier chains go well beyond this. The Hip Lock, pictured above, can be worn around the waist as a belt, further simplifying the method of bringing it with you.
A new type of very portable lock uses hardened steel flat plates that are pinned together to form a type of flexible chain. These tough locks are difficult to defeat because they tend to move around when tampered with. The plates fold in on each other, creating a very small lock to stow. This lock seems to offer the highest amount of strength for it’s ease of transport. Security is mid to high, depending on the size of the plates.
A decently priced, good quality U-lock still offers the best general security. Although heavy and cumbersome, if you have to leave your bike unguarded, it will usually still be there when you return. These locks are available with many different lengths of shackles and styles of key cylinders. Some, like the Bike Guard lock above, come with a secondary cable for a completely thorough way to secure your bike.
Which ever lock you choose, use the lock through the rear wheel and around the seat tube of the frame, then around the parking rack. If your front wheel is not nutted to the fork, remove it and lock it beside the rear wheel. Consider using a cable lock for the front wheel in conjunction with a heavier lock for the rear of the bike. Another option for removable wheels is to add theft proof axle skewers.
Reduce the opportunity for theft by locking in a well lit, trafficked area. Finally, use your lock, no matter how brief your stop, and keep your bike yours.
There’s a bike shop saying that goes like this. “Everyone rides for their own reasons.” It’s more than true. Who can’t remember those fledgling days of learning to ride as children? Red Bull gives us wings? I beg to differ. A bicycle gave us wings. It broadened our world to include far away places such as the corner store and the park. We had a new form of liberation. At least until the street lights came on. Didn’t those summer days seem to last forever?
As teens, bikes were our wheels. We formed social lives with them. Rode to each others houses. Went on two wheeled adventures together. Checked out the river, the woods, the neighborhoods on the other side of town. They allowed us to begin our first jobs, which brought us a new kind of freedom. Financial independence! A bike took the strain off of not affording a car. Ever been on a date via bike?
Into our twenties, many made the switch to the automobile, pushing bikes to the back of the garage. Plenty of us still weren’t ready for cars, or enjoyed the exercise component of cycling, and continued to commute by bicycle. This is where we earned hero status. “You ride your bike all year ’round?!” Or lunatic status. “You ride your bike all year ’round?!” We felt as if we belonged to a unique fraternity of people. Cyclists. Again, ever been on a date via bike?
Some of us really got into the exercise side of biking and started to train and compete against each other, furthering the hero and lunatic statuses. Many people became triathletes, who are a tougher brand of cyclist altogether, with hero and lunatic statuses cranked to the maximum. Our machines became expensive works of titanium, aluminum and carbon fiber. No matter, it’s what we did. It’s who we were.
Then there remains the bulk of us. For most, life got busy. Forty hour work weeks, children and mortgages. The activity that we once cherished in our past was set aside in favor of other pursuits. Children grew as did our waistlines. We morphed out of our lean, fit shapes into a more aerodynamic one, round. Interestingly enough, our bikes sat in the basement, retaining the original shape that they were manufactured in.
It doesn’t matter why you started riding a bike. It doesn’t matter why you stopped. The greatest thing about bicycling is that our bikes will be waiting for us when we decide to return to them. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It doesn’t matter how old we become. The only thing that matters is the question “why not ride?”