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Bike Riding in Washington DC

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Cyclist passing the Washington MonumentFor many reasons, Washington, D.C. is the ideal place to ride a bike. For a tourist or a visitor, a bicycle offers an easy way to cover lots of ground, yet still see things up close and in person. It's much more efficient than being on foot and a whole lot easier than trying to drive around in a car. If you're thinking about visiting, you'll benefit from this guide to bike riding in Washington, D.C.

Ride Guide: Getting Around Washington, D.C., on a bike

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What is the Minimum Recommended Tire Width to Use on the Katy Trail?

Monday April 14, 2014

Katy Trail Missouri touring bikeReader Gregg emailed recently with a question about riding the Katy Trail, which is the 237-mile path that goes nearly the whole way across Missouri:

Dave, what would the minimum tire width to use on the Katy Trail?  Trying to decide whether to use our road bikes or hybrids. Like your site! Thanx, Gregg

I've ridden the Katy Trail a number of times, including a cross-state trip on the Katy the entire way across Missouri a couple years back that I wrote up for the site, so I can certainly address this.

While people generally agree that one can ride a road bike on the Katy Trail, its hard-packed surface of limestone chat (called "pug" in old railroader lingo, just in case you were looking for some nearly useless information to keep for a future trivia contest) it's definitely a good idea to run wider tires than you would on pavement.  For instance, a person on a road bike would typically swap out their 23-25 mm tires for 28's or wider.

Wider tires will be better for several reasons. First because the trail can get very soft and squishy if it has rained at all, and plus a wider tire will help carry a load better if you've got any gear. Finally while most of the trail is solid, the little gravel that accumulates in the middle and on the side (what you'll hear sometimes called chat or pea gravel) is better negotiated with a wider tire.

So in answer to Gregg's question, it's not so much the type of bike that you ride as the width of the wheel.  Hope this helps.

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Review: Rain Dog Fenders by Soma Fabrication

Sunday April 13, 2014

Soma Rain Dog FendersIf you ride a bike for utilitarian transport -- to school or work, running errands, just to get around, etc. -- to make it fully functional in all weather, you really need fenders on your bike. I'm still amazed at how few bikes sold in the U.S. come already with fenders mounted. It's idiotic, if you ask me, like selling a backpack with no straps, and I don't understand it but that's where the industry is these days. But that's a rant for another day.

As a part of our continued quest to find products that work well for the practical cyclist, we had the opportunity to try out Soma Fabrication's Rain Dog fenders. These are traditional full coverage chromoplastic fenders with stainless steel stays and rubber mudflaps.  Read our full review to find out what we thought and if you should get a pair for your bike. After all, chances are it didn't come with any when you bought it.

Read more: Review of the Rain Dog Fenders by Soma Fabrication

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Biking Boston - a look at biking in Beantown

Monday March 31, 2014

Boston bike lane painted on the streetIt was on my bike early one morning in Boston, Massachusetts where I first realized what a great city Boston is for riding bikes. I was coming back from Harvard Square and found myself crossing the Charles River, watching the scullers on the water when  the realization hit me that it's one of my favorite places in the world for riding bikes.

That's because the city has at least five things going for it that make it extremely friendly for cyclists: its age, geography, population density, intentional biking infrastructure and the fact that there are so many colleges and universities there.

Want to find out more about what makes Boston such a great city for riding bikes?  Read the whole article here.

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Bicycling is for Lazy People

Sunday March 30, 2014

Portland bridge bus woman bike how bikes make cities cool urbanHere's a great column I wanted to share with you called "Bicycling is for Lazy People."

Author James D. Schwartz has found that when he rides a bike to actually get somewhere, not just for recreation or exercise, people assume it's because he's athletic or brave.  To the contrary, he says, he rides because he's lazy.

Take just a couple examples he uses as proof:

- I step outside my front door and hop on my bike because I'm too lazy to go downstairs in the parking garage to get the car. I pull my bike up to the front door at my destination because I'm too lazy to drive around looking for a parking spot then having to walk from the car to the building.

- Instead of walking 15 minutes to my destination, I ride my bicycle there in 5. Yes, I ride there because I am too lazy to walk.

- I ride my bicycle past dozens of cars at rush hour because I'm too lazy to be stressed out sitting in traffic and too lazy to explain why I'm late all the time.

See more at James' full column, "Bicycling is for Lazy People.

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Presta vs. Schrader Valves - Which One is Better?

Wednesday March 26, 2014

Presta valve smIt's not exactly up there with the great debates of our time (something like the Van Halen question - Sammy Hagar vs David Lee Roth), but the issue of which type of bike tube valve is best is one that many cyclists feel strongly about.

If you aren't familiar with them, the two main types of valves used with bike inner tubes are Presta valves (found on a lot of higher end road and mountain bikes) and Schrader valves, which are the type used in car tires and more mainstream models of bikes. Ultimately Schraders are probably more common than Prestas in bikes.

Though the type of valve/inner tube you use is largely determined by the rims on your bike (holes drilled specifically for Presta valves will be too small to accommodate Schrader valves, you can find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of each here: Presta vs Schrader - which one is best? as well as to weigh in on which type you use and prefer.


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Study shows fewer, more expensive bikes sold in US last year

Monday March 24, 2014

bike buying photo - man in bike shopA recently-released report from market research firm Gluskin Townley Group shows that fewer bikes, but more expensive ones, were sold in the U.S. in 2013. Calling it a "turbulent" market, the firm highlights potential difficulty in the industry's ability to sustain sales of increasingly expensive bikes.

In large part, this trend of declining bike sales tracks the aging of the Baby Boom generation, the largest segment of the U.S. population, says Elliot Gluskin, managing partner of the group.

"Once people get past age 50, they buy fewer things," says Gluskin. "That's where the Boomers are. They just don't need that sixth or seventh bike in the basement."

Though the Gen-Xers are now moving in to replace the Boomers in the most active purchasing segement of the market, ages 29-48, it's not going to be enough says Gluskin. "The problem is that Generation X is 12% smaller than the Boomers. Though you've still got people buying bikes, the numbers aren't there to sustain sales volume from previous years."

The increasingly expensive bikes should be another concern for those in the bike industry, notes Gluskin. "For the past 5-10 years, rising product costs, primarily materials and labor have simply been passed along to the consumer, and they've been swallowing it." he says.  "However, we're soon going to reach the point that these costs will be simply too great and consumers will push back, causing lost sales."

Smart manufacturers are looking for ways to reach people who want to ride with affordable, well-made bikes.  Giant's announcement this past week that it is cutting prices on its bikes in the $500 and below range is a good example of that.

"Giant is doing this because they want to meet a price point that entices these consumers back into the bike shops and away from the big-box stores. It'll be interesting to see if the others follow suit," Gluskin says.  "It is vital for the industry to offer people a high-quality bike that doesn't give them sticker shock."

About the Gluskin Townley Group:

The firm, located in Allentown, Penn., offers special market research reports which provide detailed commentary and data tables on these topics and more:

  • The Cycling Consumer
  • The Retail Landscape
  • The Metro Urban Cyclist
  • The Used Bicycle Market in the U.S.

The 19-page report for 2013 discussed in this post covers all U.S. bicycle imports plus detail on bike exports and includes 14-year histories and trends.

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Practicing Mindfulness in Eating

Sunday March 23, 2014

Pasta IngredientsDo you ever find yourself on the coach, gobbling your way through a bag of chips just cause you're famished and it's the closest thing at hand? Mindful eating -- being intentional about what and how we nourish ourselves -- can be a great way to counter these situations.  Contributor Tera Liescheidt brings us this article, the most recent in our series on mindfulness that includes a basic introduction to the concept of mindfulness as well as how we as cyclists can incorporate mindfulness into our rides for increased effectiveness and enjoyment of the total experience.

Question: Do you practice 'mindfulness' in eating, or in life generally? How about specific mindfulness in your cycling? Comment below.

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Coming Soon: Cycling's Spring Classics

Monday March 17, 2014

Paris Roubaix - Hell of the North

Each spring a series of one-day historic bike races help shape the field and define the leaders for the coming season of professional cycling. In rain, on cobblestones, in the mud, in the mountains, with spectators screaming all the way. These are the Spring Classics -- legendary races that have been run in some cases a hundred years or more.

Check out these profiles of the best bike racing coming your way over the next few weeks.

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Stage Routes and Teams Released for 2014 Amgen Tour of California

Friday March 14, 2014

Organizers of the Amgen Tour of California have announced the stages for this year's editionAmgen Tour of California of the highest UCI-ranked race in the United States. The event, which takes place May 11-18 also features two days of women's racing: a circuit race on May 11 in Sacramento, and a 12.5 mile time trial on May 12 in Folsom held in conjunction with the men's event on the same course.

Follow this link to see the list of this year's stages, plus a complete list of teams invited to the event.

Related: Ride review - biking in Sonoma and Napa Valley

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