“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.
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!