Tips & Tricks

Tech Tips From The Experts

Here are some basic cycling tips that we hope can help. ps. You have a Tech Tip to share? eMail it for publication. Thank You.​

Cycling Tips

Cyclist meeting horse on road/trails


by: Shelley Porter, VCB Cycling Ambassador. Last October, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine and bought a horse. He is mostly for my daughter to ride and show, but I get to ride him, too. When I was a child, I lived in Shubenacadie, which is the "Kentucky" of Nova Scotia, at least at that time and for Standardbred horses. The racetrack in Truro supported many horse breeders, and it was still common practice to use horses to haul out firewood and even pulpwood in small lots from the forest. Both of my grandfathers farmed with horses, and my maternal grandfather even went to France in 1915 as a teamster in the Canadian infantry. So horses were all around me, even though I never had one of my own. I learned to ride bareback on a mixed breed yard horse that spent her summers in the field across from our house, and I got rudimentary lessons in basic cattle-working and stadium jumping from a friend who had three horses of her own. One of the things we did as kids was ride the horses from one place to another on the side of the road. I remember going for miles on the dirt roads (these were public roads, not trails) outside of the village. I also recall one epic ride, two of us on my friend's mare, into town and out to Maitland and back, a distance of 42 km plus some jigging about with friends who had ponies on the clearing that would become the new 102 highway. I don't know why that poor horse didn't stomp us to death and run for the hills - she must have been exhausted! Another time we took my friend's two just-broke young horses out to the village and back, just so we could tie them in front of the convenience store and pop in for some candy and ride back home (also a distance of over 30 km). At one time and in many places in Nova Scotia, it was not at all unusual to encounter someone either riding or driving (often with not a cart but a piece of farm machinery attached) a horse on a public, paved road. Cape Breton has a thriving Western riding community and several horse breeding farms - the equine market in Cape Breton has grown by 200% in the last decade. It stands to reason that one of these days, out riding your bike on a road or more likely on a trail, you are going to encounter a horse and rider. So, as a cyclist, how should you react when you have to share the road or trail with an 1100 lb animal that can deliver a kick equivalent to being struck by a small car at 40 km/h and may panic at flapping plastic bags? First of all, be aware of how you may be seen by a horse. Horses do not have binocular vision, they are a prey animal with their eyes spaced wide on either side of their head. They have quite good vision, they can see well in the dark but they can't see behind them. This makes it important for you to make a horse aware of your presence, and that you are not a threat, when you come up behind it. The majority of horses you may encounter on a public road will be very used to people and probably have been deemed "traffic safe" by their rider. Horses are very alert to unusual movement, however, and a lot of horses that won't blink when a tractor roars by them will freak out when a bicycle passes. Large wild cats are the main predator of horses in the wild - a cyclist, hunched over the handlebars and silently moving up behind them will look an awful lot like a stalking cougar to a horse. Neither you nor the rider want the horse to get this impression. So - when you approach a horse from behind, try to find some way to make the horse and rider aware of your presence. Say hello in a friendly voice. Be aware that this still may startle the horse. Pass wide and slowly - a spooked horse will often dance out into the road, trying to get a better look at whatever frightened it and preparing to run at the same time. If necessary, stop and let the rider regain calm and control before you proceed. When you approach a horse from the front, again greet the rider and give the horse a good look at you and lots of room. In this case, it's a good idea to have some idea of horse body language. An alert horse will have its ears pricked forward and head up. An upset horse will put its ears back, swish its tail, and maybe lower its head. An angry horse will have its ears pinned back, sometimes swish its tail hard and lash out in front, neck snakelike, and charge you and bite or stomp you. You so don't want to experience this. They will also swing their hind end around at you and kick, preferably (this is the horse's preference, definitely not yours) with both feet. I've watched an angry horse break a 2X4 in half with one swing of one leg - being on the wrong end of this is not recommended. Under saddle, if they can't run or aren't fearful enough of you to run, the most likely defensive/offensive response is to kick. The best way to avoid this is to give the horse and rider fair warning (not yelling, not ringing your bike bell, and definitely not sounding an air horn!) by saying Hello or similar in a calm and friendly voice and giving the animal opportunity to see you and lots of room. Horses' main defense mechanism is to run like heck, and they like to have a lot of space around them just in case they need to do that. Keep the horse comfortable by giving it space. Think of the kind of consideration and respect cyclists want from motorists, and extend it to the equestrian. They will no doubt return the favour when they, as a motorist, encounter you on the road. And you thought cyclists had problems with motorists! Happy trails!

Some Rules For Safe Cycling

Some Rules For Safe Cycling Cautious cyclists seldom crash. Use common sense while riding your bicycle. Follow these safe cycling rules to reduce crashes. Do not assume that you will be given the right-of-way. The other person may not be willing to grant it. Cyclists must ride on the right side of the road with the flow of traffic. Use as much of the lane as required to be safe from roadside hazards. Pass other cyclist(s) only where you can safely complete the pass. If you are being passed, keep riding a straight line. Give way to the other cyclist by hugging a little more the right side of the road. Ride a straight course. Don’t weave between parked cars. Stay at least one metre from parked cars to avoid opening doors. When stopping is necessary, see that you and your bicycle are at least one metre clear of the paved surface or the curb. Always exit your bicycle on the right hand side. Know and obey all traffic signs and use hand signals to indicate a turn or a stop. When approaching an intersection, slow down and check in all directions for hazards. Vehicular left turn. Signal and look behind you. When there’s an opening, move into the left lane and turn from near the centre line. Pedestrian left turn. When traffic is heavy and it feels unsafe to change into the left lane, ride straight through the intersection, stop at the corner and walk your bike across the intersection. When leaving a parked position, check oncoming traffic and signal. You must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk or in an unmarked crosswalk at the end of a block. Do not tailgate a motor vehicle. Always cross railroad tracks at a right angle (perpendicularly) with the tracks. Good cyclists do more than comply with the law. Be considerate of the other user of the road to your mutual advantage. The life you save may be your own!

Choosing your bicycle

Choosing your bicycle CASE STUDY
I have two bicycles in the basement. One is a 10-speed road bike, some 30 years old and the other one is my son's mountain bike that he replaced with a full-suspension expensive bicycle last year. Which one should I use? Do I need to buy a new bicycle for myself to ride with Velo Cape Breton?
Good question and not easy to answer. Take the "Old 10-speed" for example. Although a road bike is preferable to a mountain bike for distance riding, one needs to look at other considerations before comitting to a definite answer. This "Old 10-speed" could be anything from a well maintained custom frame with good quality components to an old "clunker" which is in dire need of maintenance, and is probably unsafe to ride due to a rust-weakened frame, or a size not fit to your body size. Thinking the "newer" Mountain Bike is more suited to ride with Velo Cape Breton is probably wrong too. To tell you frankly, the answer to this question is in the rider... YOU. Only YOU can answer this question. Ultimately, you should investigate your goals, needs, abilities, the methods of properly fitting a bicycle, and frame & component quality before arriving at a final decision. Your primary travel routes, terrain and riding habits may require more than one type of bicycle. For example: * A hybrid may suit your commuting needs, while a road racing bike matches your fitness routine. * A sport touring bike may suit your transportation and fitness purposes. * A hardtail mountain bike may satisfy your commuting and recreational needs. * A single-speed may be the only bike you need, etc. The possible combinations are only limited by your imagination, your needs and your pocketbook. The size of your bank account should not be an impediment however, with the ready availability of quality, used bicycles. Don't be tempted to go overboard either, like buying an $80,000. SUV to do errands.... Or do silly things like getting a nice pair of expensive brand name trekking boots if your objective is to do a bit of jogging around the block in the Spring... More at:

Choosing a Saddle

Choosing a Saddle It Hurts My Butt! The saddle that is confortable on long rides is the right saddle for you. Obvious isn't it? A really bad saddle can be detected immediately or on a short ride. Cheap bicycles generally have painful saddles, not so much because they are badly made as because they are badly designed. As with shoes, some people are comfortable with one shape while others prefer a different shape. The softness of the seat is almost irrelevant to comfort. The size, shape, and position are far more important to comfort than softness. Firmer more supportive seats are often more comfortable for the long haul. One day a reporter asked Lance Armstrong, five times winner of the Tour de France, if he has pain sitting on his bike. His reply was: "Why do you think I wear padded shorts?" Seat position and adjustment is also important.

Spin your wheels

Spin your wheels Sadly, unless we are looping around in a velodrome, we need our brakes to be working in order to enjoy a safe efficient bike ride. Personally, for all the effort it takes me to climb a hill, I begrudge every touch I have to make on the brakes. When I check my brakes, there are two things I want to discover. Of course, the brakes need to stop me, but it’s almost as important that they don’t slow me down when I’m not using them. Basically, before a ride, I want to give my wheels a spin to see and hear if there are any problems. I think most of us have done this and it’s pretty simple, but there are a lot of things that you can hear and see when you do this. Also, there is a little technique involved, and there are some things that cannot be diagnosed from this test. I don’t want this to be an entire chapter of a book, so I won’t give every little detail of what you might find when your wheel is spinning. Like the “drop test,” if you make a regular habit of doing this test, you will notice if something is wrong. It is essential to do this immediately after replacing a wheel, and a good idea to do it before every ride. This test is great for all types of brakes, but if you have disc brakes, the diagnostics and adjustments won’t match my explanations. First squeeze and release your brake levers. That will put your brakes into their normal position. If your brake lever goes all the way in to the handlebar when you squeeze it, your cable is disconnected, broken or too loose, you’re missing a brake pad or someone stole your wheel. Fix that before you go any further. Now, lift your wheel and give it a very slow spin. How slow? Let’s say enough to turn only about three to five revolutions. It is much easier to detect a problem when the wheel is spinning very slowly, but you need to see and hear at least two full revolutions. If you spin the wheel too fast, it will spin right through any "minor" problems and you might not notice anything wrong. The front wheel should make almost no noise at all when it is spinning and it should continue to spin down in speed gradually and smoothly. If you hear anything “rubbing” or “bumping” or if the wheel suddenly slows or stops, you may have a problem with the brake hitting the rim or tire. While you are listening, you should be staring at the rim as it passes by the brake pad on one side, concentrating on the small gap between the rim and the brake pad. You might see that you have a warped wheel, a tire not seated properly, a dreaded “flat spot” or your brake pad or tire is worn out. Look carefully at both brake pads to see if they are hitting the rim or tire at any point in the revolution. If the brake is rubbing on both sides at the same time, the cable needs to be adjusted, or something is stuck or seized. If the brake is constantly rubbing on one side and not the other, your brake or wheel is probably not centered. All brakes can be adjusted so they spring out evenly on both sides. There are a wide variety of methods for this adjustment, so I cannot explain it here, but it is usually very simple. The only thing that is the same for all brake types is that you cannot simply move the brake with your hand and expect it to stay centered. This will only work if you never use your brake again. Before you try to center your brakes, take a look at the position of the wheel. It should be centered in the fork. I usually look at the center of the tire at the top to see if it is lined up with the hole in the center of the fork. Most road bikes have the brake mounted in this hole, and you can easily check the alignment. Also, you can look at the tire to see if it is centered equally between the fork blades. If the wheel is not warped, centering it will usually solve the problem and anyone who has quick releases should be able to center their wheel. When you try this test on the back wheel, there are a couple of obstacles that are not a problem on the front. First, you must spin the wheel forward to prevent the crank from moving along with the wheel. Just lift the back wheel and give the crank a forward turn to get the wheel moving, then let go. (If the crank keeps moving forward with the wheel, you have a completely different problem) Second, the freehub, or freewheel is going to be making some noise. It should be a steady clicking noise. As long as it’s smooth and steady, try to ignore it and listen for other noises, especially rubbing, scraping and grinding sounds. There is a lot more going on in the back wheel, so a problem may be more difficult to pin down. The idea is to learn how to notice a problem. Fixing it is another story. The simple way to fix a problem is to take the bike to the shop and tell the tech what you are hearing. Hopefully, when you come back to get your bike the noise will be gone. I want to make it clear that the spin test will not give you any indication of how well your brakes work. For the most part, spinning your wheel will help you find problems that will slow you down when you are not using your brakes. These types of problems are usually simple to fix, but cause premature wear if they are not addressed quickly. by: Bill Goldston, Framework Fitness and Bikes, Sydney

Pre-Ride Checks - Part 1

Pre-Ride Checks - Part 1 There are a number of things you should do before every ride. We have a five minute quick checkup that should be done, but I thought it better to tell it in pieces, to keep it simple. When the club starts riding as a group, we can review the entire list and make it into a routine. Here are two important things to check before a ride... Air pressure in both tires...most flats are caused by pinching on the rim from underinfated tires. The air somehow leaks out over time, even if there are no punctures. If you stored your bike all winter, you will notice you have almost flat tires. That is normal. Some tubes hold air better than others, but none will hold high pressure for an entire season. Check them before every ride. As with cars, air is free and fully inflated tires save energy. Since, it's not a car, pushing harder on the throttle is an option that can be quite tiring. Faster riders always will have very high pressure in their tires. The only way to keep up, is to do the same. Quick releases closed and locked. Obviously this convenience makes tire changes quicker, but they can be opened quite easily by accident. I have seen cases where the QR was hooked in a seatbelt, so when the bike was pulled out of the back seat, it was opened. That is an irony we should try to avoid. I simply make a little tug on each QR with about 1/2 the force needed to open it. If it stays put, I just push it back into position and it is safe. If it pops open, or was already open I have just avoided a nasty accident. If you have quick releases on your wheels, it is absolutely vital that you know how they work. Don't be shy to ask for help if you are not sure. We see lots of QR's every year that are not properly closed. It's very scary. by: Bill Goldston, Framework Fitness and Bikes, Sydney

Pre-Ride Checks - Part 2

Pre-Ride Checks - Part 2 Here is another tip, to go with the pre-ride check up. It's a little wordy, but I think it is very important. No tools required. The last thing to do before getting on the bike... The Drop Test Simply lift your bike about 5cm (2 inches) off the ground and drop it on its tires. You should keep at least one hand in light contact with the bike when it lands. Try to have both wheels hit at the same time. Listen carefully. If there are any loose parts on the bike, you will either hear the rattling or even feel the excess vibration when the bike hits the ground. There is a distinct difference between the thud of inflated rubber tires, and the pinging sound of a loose part. If you do this before every ride, you will easily notice when something doesn't sound right. Before you start your ride, you must identify and correct the problem. To get the feel for this, do a drop test…then, open your quick release (or loosen your front wheel nuts) and do it again. You will notice a very nasty sounding rattle that will tell you something is wrong. (Now close the QR or tighten your wheel nuts, before you forget.) The vibration of a loose part is transmitted and amplified through the entire bike when you are not on it. During a ride, the compression of your weight on the bike will suppress most of the vibration and you might not realize that your wheel or some other important/expensive part is about to fall off. If you have presta valves with those little locknuts, you should be able to hear them rattle if they are loose, but it won’t be as loud and obvious as having a loose quick release. Try it. Listen carefully. Your bike is screaming for attention. Here are a few other things I hear or feel when I do a drop test…loose headset, loose hubs, broken spoke, sore toe, loose brake shoe, exploding tube, loose reflectors, lights and computers not completely seated in their brackets, loose bolts on racks and other accessories, broken parts, even cracks in the frame. by: Bill Goldston, Framework Fitness and Bikes, Sydney

Lube for Winter Riding

Lube for Winter Riding Here is a tech tip for winter riding. The cold temperatures we are having cause everything to get stiff on your bike. To keep things moving, switch to transmission fluid as a lube for things other than your chain. Just a drop on each derailleur pivot and brake pivot. Rub some on your cables where they run through the housing. Regular chain lubes and wax lubes are too thin and wear off quickly in cold conditions. Transmission fluid is much better than motor oil because it is meant to work in cooler temperatures. For the chain, it is better to switch to a wet lube that is meant for bicycle chain such as White Lightning Wet, or Pedros Syn Lube. Once again, dry lubes just don't cut it in the winter. It's a little messier, but better protection for your valuable components. by: Bill Goldston, Framework Fitness and Bikes, Sydney