The sounds of your bicycle: does it need maintenance, or repair?

The bike whisperer hears the message in the sounds of a bicycle. How can you tell whether your bike is asking for maintenance, or screaming for repair? If you’re at all unsure, just drop in to The Bike Doctor, and we’ll let you know what’s up, free of charge.
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Sometimes it’s straight forward. If you hear a constant chorus of squeaking which stops when you stop pedaling, it’s probably your drive train telling you that it’s time for some oil. Add oil to your chain as you spin the pedal backward, making sure that it is applied to each of the links evenly. After a short ride, or even at the end of the day, wipe all of the excess away. Excess oil will attract dirt and wear down your components, so you’ll want to keep your drivetrain clean. Simple maintenance is that easy, it really doesn’t require much in the way of special tools.

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Sometimes it’s a little more complicated. Does the squeaking continue even as you’re coasting? Perhaps you need new wheel bearings. Is there a creaking, or a clicking sound as you pedal? It sounds like your bottom bracket needs your attention. A loud screech when you apply the brakes is an obvious clue that they need a bit of TLC. It might be as simple as a loose pad or misaligned brake shoe. If you still have rubber on the pads, but the levers touch the grips when you’re trying to stop, just come in and we’ll tighten the cables while you wait for $8. Watch how we do it, and next time you can tackle it yourself.

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Roll the wheels to see if they’re running true. Rubbing sounds could mean a couple of things. A constant rubbing noise might happen when a fender or brake needs a slight adjustment, whereas a short rub per revolution may be signalling that your wheel is out of true. Book an  appointment with us online, and we’ll take care of that for you.

A clicking noise, and a delay or jumping between gears when you shift is a sign that your cables may have stretched – something that happens to all cables and is easily adjusted – or it might be that your derailleur needs an adjustment. If you hear the rear derailleur clicking on the spokes, stop riding immediately and bring your bike in.

Body language speaks volumes; your bike is always talking to you.. Keep it clean, and get used to giving it a once-over, so that you can easily tell when something is out of place. Before you ride, give it a quick check; make sure that the tires are inflated, the brakes are working properly, and everything else is in order. It won’t be long before you’re fully fluent, and the whisper of your bike’s wheels on the road is like music to your ears.

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The wheel deal: easier is better.

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When it comes to bikes, we can all agree that easier is better, right? Bikes are such a brilliant design when it comes to converting energy into distance travelled, and there are a few things you can do to make your machine more efficient. The simplest and easiest way to improve your bike is to look to your wheels. The rotational force of a heavy wheel will slow you down more than would adding a pound or so to your frame. So if you would like to buy a lighter, faster bike but don’t want to invest in an expensive bike, try buying a set of nice, light wheels instead and see what a difference they make!

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And if you’re riding a bike with low pressure tires, you’ll find that simply switching from a bigger, low pressure tire, to a skinnier, high pressure tire will make a noticible difference in the amount of energy it takes you to travel anywhere. Any tire with more than 75 psi will significantly reduce the amount of effort you’ll need to spend. It will cost a little bit more than will a low pressure tire, but you’ll likely save the difference in replacing and repairing tubes lost to puncture, which happens often enough with those low pressure tires. You’ll need to remember to pump the high pressure, skinny tires up regularly, though. They too become prone to puncture if you let the pressure drop below 80 psi, and instead let them get too soft. It’s a bit of a trade-off, really. Letting the tires go a little soft will give you increased traction if you normally ride at the upper end of a high pressure tire, at or over 110 psi. Some people will even intentionally let a little bit of air out of a high pressure tire in a situation where they might want a softer ride and a little bit more grip.

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How low is too low? Well, it helps to have a friend on hand to give you a better perspective. Sit on the bike, and maybe ride in a circle around them. With you on the bike, the tire should be inflated enough to remain at least one third as ‘tall’ as it would be with nobody on the bike. Anything softer than that and you are asking for a pinch flat.

Even a little on the soft side, a high pressure tire is far more efficient than a bigger, low pressure tire – expecially knobbies! The trade off for this efficiency is an increased translation of road vibration through the bike to you, but you can mitigate these vibrations easily enough: you can use a gel saddle or one with springs, and you can also opt to sit in a more natural, upright position, taking the strain off your hands.

Viva la #commuterrevolution.

Most people commute less than 5 km. On a bike, even 10 km is a reasonble  commute.
Most people commute less than 5 km. 10 km is still a reasonble bikecommute.

Active Transportion is a truly utilitarian phrase used to describe the sweetest possible way of life. Bicycling is personal and interactive, it’s face to face. Say hi to neighbours as you walk, paddle, glide or ride. See and smell the city from pleasant side streets and bikeways. You’ve gotta love the bicycle’s built in air conditioning, too, especially during those hot, dry summers! It’s such a beautiful way to enjoy the place you live in.

The ‪#‎commuterevolution‬ is well underway. Lots of people are choosing to park their cars and ride a bike around instead. Why? Lot of reasons, but most importantly, IT’S FUN! Riding feels good and it makes you look better, which makes you feel even better. It’s one of those positive cycles of escalation you sometimes hear about. The ripple effects  are enormous. That a large and ever increasing number of people are choosing an active lifestyle over the more sedentary motoring and transit options is wonderful news for our already overburdened health care system. It’s a good news story everyone can see with their own eyes. Everything about switching to active transportation creates positive gains and benefits for everyone (Except perhaps for big oil and gas). If and when you do have to drive there are less cars using the roads. Our cities are cleaner, quieter, safer. People feel better. Healthier.

“After 24 years of travelling to work at Bike Doctor it is dramatic seeing how quickly the change in commuter patterns in our city is now happening! More than half of commuter trips into downtown are by people using transit and walking and riding and this shift away from motoring is increasing,” says Bike Dr.

People riding bicycles use local shops and services in town as opposed to outlying big box retailers. This is huge! It has been proven time and time again that separated bike lanes boost business everywhere they go. Build them and they will ride and we all benefit. They will ride to health, to happiness, to wealth and well being. What’s not to love about that? Viva la #commuterevolution. It’s our saving grace.

Pumping it up right: selecting the best valve doesn’t have to be a tiresome endeavour.

Arguably the most important aspect of any bicycle is its wheels, because they have such a tremendous impact on how it rides, handles, stops, and starts. Your wheels really matter, and how you fill them counts, too, but don’t feel pressured when it comes to choosing the best valve for your bike.

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Don’t go hopping from shop to shop. Just examine the facts.

Over the years there have been several types of valves used to put air in bicycle tires, but before you go hopping about, shopping for the best valve, consider the benefits of each. There are three types in use today: the Woods, or Dunlop valve, the Presta, and the Schrader valve, though of the three, the Presta and Schrader are the only two you will find here in North America, so let’s consider their advantages.

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Presta valve, closed.

The Presta valve is what you’ll always find on the skinny tires of a high end road bike, since the narrower hole needed for this valve won’t compromise the structural integrety of the narrow wheel’s rim.

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Presta valve, open.

Presta valves are slightly more cumbersome to use, since you have to loosen the lock nut before pumping the tire, and the same locking system ensures that a roadbike’s high air pressure stays contained within the tube, and ensures that dust, dirt and debris doesn’t get trapped inside the valve mechanism. These valves are associated with high performance tires, but don’t feel pressured to use them. There really isn’t any great benefit associated with their higher price.

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Presta with a Schrader adapter.

If you have Presta valves, it’s a good idea to pick up an adapter, so that you can pump your tires at a gas station, something you can always do with the universal Schrader valve. Any small weight savings associated with the Presta valve are quickly diminished when you have to carry an adaptor, but it’s strongly recommended that you do.

060The Schrader valve is used on cars and many bicycle tires, and so with it, you can easily inflate your tire almost anywhere. It is easy, and simple to use, too, because the removable, spring locked mechanism is hidden inside the valve.

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You will want to keep the cap on your valve to ensure that dust and debris doesn’t get trapped inside, but this robust mechanism is easy to use, and efficient, too. You don’t have to remember to tighten the nut to lock air into the tire, because the spring loaded system does that as a matter of course. The benefits of the Schrader valve are easy to see: it’s a simple design, which is easy to use, and Schrader pumps are everywhere. Replacing your Schrader tube is less expensive, too. The Doctor strongly recommends that you choose Schrader valves over Presta, but if your tires are cut for Presta, just come in to the shop and we will drill the hole a little wider for you to accomodate the bigger Schrader valve.

Hesitation will get you nowhere: freedom has two wheels.

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You’ve heard it before: He who hesitates is lost.

Don’t spend months wondering which bike is best for you, just pick up a low cost starter bike and jump on. You will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of components you’ll find in and around the five hundred dollar mark. You don’t have to ride the latest, lightest carbon fiber bike to benefit from riding. Worse, if you do purchase a high end bike before you’ve been riding for a while, you might not do it with the full understanding of what type of bike suits you best. Worse, you will worry about leaving it locked up outside while you get on with your day. Be practical. Spend a little bit extra on fenders, lights and racks so that you can easily do what you need to do in complete comfort, but don’t go overboard. If you go out today and pick up a simple, relatively inexpensive bike, you can start pedaling your way around town, going to work and social events, running errands and doing all of the things you need to do just like that. Freedom. While you’re at it, you’ll quickly learn bike handling skills, and you’ll see a dramatic improvement in your fitness levels, too. Better yet, the more you ride, the less you’ll drive, so that as time goes on, you’ll have more money in your pocket to spend on the things you love most in life.

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And the odds are that you’ll find you love your bike. It doesn’t take long to discover the secret that keep so many people coming back to their bikes year after year after year: it’s so much fun! The many benefits of cycling are well documented and incontrovertable. but you’ll never begin to realize them if you’re too busy humming and hawing over which (probably expensive) bike you’d like to buy. Keep it simple, and get started right away. That way, if one day you finally do decide to spend some of that money you’re saving on a high end ‘dream bike,’ you will still have a ‘ bar bike’ you can comfortably lock up outside a pub in a dodgy neighbourhood whilst you go to town. A low-cost end bike isn’t exactly a theft deterrent in itself, but it doesn’t present the same temptation for thieves that a high end bike inevitably does, either. And if ever your bike is stolen, you won’t be gutted the way you would be if you had instead invested thousands of dollars in your ride. So don’t hesitate. Make the most of your precious time, and get started today.

The power of a spin: on cadence and choosing the best gear.

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Vanvouver is a gorgeous city, where mountain meets sea, and because it is so very liveable, its cycling culture has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Suddenly the bike paths are full of riders from every walk of life.

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The bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation known to man, requiring only 35  calories for every mile traveled, though it can certainly feel like hard work if you’re not riding efficiently.

Riding is supposed to be an aerobic activity, so for comfort’s sake, it’s important to ensure that you’re not using too hard a gear ratio. Cadence is crucial to your comfort on the bike. It’s measured in RPM, or revolutions per minute. You would never dream of starting your car from a stop in fifth gear, and yet a lot of novice riders do just that on the bike, and then stay in the big ring almost all of the time.  Aim for 70-100 rpm as you’re riding, though 90 is often considered ideal. Unless you’re moving quite quickly, or travelling downhill, it’s best to avoid the biggest front chainring. Try to remember to shift down as you’re coming to a stop, too, so that starting is easier and more efficient.

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Cycling is quite comfortable when you maintain a high cadence, so that your legs are spinning easily and consistently, and exerting the same intensity of effort as you would do if you were walking. The trick to doing this is to ensure that you gear down into an easier gear as you slow down, (easier is a bigger ring in the back cluster, and the smaller ring in the front)  and then gradually increase your gearing as your speed increases, much the same way you would do if you were driving your car. When you’re riding your bike, the engine is you, and you don’t want to place strain on your joints by trying to push too hard a gear. Your bike will shift more efficiently, too, if you’re in an appropriate gear.

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If you see another rider pedaling much faster than you, try and match their cadence. Almost all of the experienced cyclists you see will be spinning effectively at between 80-100 rpm, and you should try it, too! Practice what you see, and before you know it, you will find yourself travelling farther and faster than you have ever done before. It takes much less effort than you’d think.

Security done right: your bike locked up tight.

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You love your bike. It’s your transport, fitness, recreation and fun all rolled into one. Long gone are the days of old, when you could leave your bicycle unlocked and unattended outside whichever place you happen to have stopped for the time being. A customer survey published by Kryptonite found that 82% of stolen bikes weren’t locked at the time, so even if you store it in your garage, lock it up tight.

A sad yet familiar sight at bike racks the world over is a single, solitary wheel, locked to a bike rack, with no bike left in sight.

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Equally prevalent is a bike without a saddle, or missing one or both wheels. There are no absolutes in this world, though there are a few things you can do to ensure that your bike is ready and waiting, whole and complete, ready to go whenever you want to continue your day’s journey.

Both wheels and the frame are secure.
Both wheels and the frame are secured.

The first rule of thumb is to ensure that your frame is locked to a sturdy rack, or to something equally secure. Don’t lock it to a chain link fence, because the fence is easy to cut, and don’t lock it to a small tree, either, or to a post that’s short enough that the bike could be lifted over the top of it.

Quick elease makes easy work for a thief.
Quick release makes easy work for a thief.

Many bikes these days are sold with quick release skewers, and while they make it a simple affair to change a tire on the fly, they also make it simple for thieves to walk away with your prized components.

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saddled with security

So think about switching to security skewers first of all. If you still want quick release skewers, you’ll want to lock your wheel and your frame to the rack, and you might want to use an extra cable, too, to ensure that the second tire stays put. But that’s the only place for a cable lock. They aren’t a great choice for your primary lock, because they are too easy to cut through with a good set of bolt cutters.

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Yours for the keeping: Kryptonite around the frame, front wheel and rack, and a cable securing the second wheel.
You’ll always have your lock on hand if it’s mounted to your bike. Just keep it oiled regularly so that it’s always in good working condition, and you’ll never have cause for concern. It’s not rocket science, but it’s easy enough to forget to do it right. Lock it up tight, and your bike should always be right where you left it.

If you love it, lock it.
If you love it, lock it.