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Choosing The Right Bike For You
Bike Fit
How to Fix a Flat
Shifting Gears
Five-Step Helmet Fit Test
More Helmet Info


The first, and most important, question to ask yourself is what bike will you be most comfortable riding? On the Ride you will see all different kinds of people riding all different kinds of bikes. Since you will be spending many, many hours in the saddle it is very important that you choose a bike that you'll be comfortable on. The good news is that you don't have to go out and spend a fortune on a slick new road bike -- pretty much any kind of bike will do, as long as it's in good condition. Two of the most important things you'll need to do are to have your bike checked by a reputable mechanic and get your bike fit checked by a bike fit professional.

When you take your bike to a mechanic they should inspect the frame and all the parts to ensure they are in good condition. Be sure you tell them you'll be putting in lots of miles both in training and on the actual Ride.

Equally important is making sure your bike is fitted to your body. You should have your bike fit by a professional -- this might not be the same person who sells you the bike. Most bike shops will do a very basic check, but you'll want someone who will look at the nuances of your body, including your physiology, flexibility, strengths, weaknesses and past injuries. A good bike fit will take at least an hour, probably a bit longer. They will look at the frame size in relation to your body, and your saddle, handlebar and cleat positions. For more detailed information on the importance of bike fit and injury prevention, see the section titled "The Importance of Proper Bike Fit."

The second question you should ask yourself is how much and what kind of riding do you expect to do once the Ride is over? Your answer should help steer you towards the right bike for you. Do you plan to do a lot more road riding? If so, then a road bike might be the best choice for you. Or do you think you might stick to those leisurely weekend rides? You might decide that a hybrid is most practical. Maybe you are more into mountain biking, and once the Ride is over you'll probably be hitting the trail a lot more? If that's you, then it might make sense for you to do the ride on a mountain bike.

The third question is how much money do you want to invest? As a general rule, road bikes will be more expensive than hybrids and most mountain bikes. And the more you spend, the better the quality. So, if you decide to go with a road bike, you might want to look at it as an investment and spend the extra money to buy a mid- or higher-end bike, which will give you better components and better durability. It would be a shame to try and save money now by buying a cheaper bike, only to end up replacing it a year down the road (and spending more money).

Some people prefer road bikes. The lighter weight and narrow tires will help you conserve energy, and the handlebars on road bikes offer a variety of hand positions so you can move your hands around to avoid staying in a static position for hours on end. Road bikes come in a wide range of makes and models, and each will feel a little different. A good road bike will run $750 and up, depending on the make, model and components.

Other people find hybrid bikes more comfortable. They offer a more upright position, which can be helpful if you have back problems. Hybrid bikes tend to be heavier than most road bikes, but many people find that the added weight and upright body position help them feel more stable while riding. A good hybrid bike will run $500 and up.

For those who prefer the trail to the open road, a mountain bike might be the best choice. You can make some modifications to help make a mountain bike more road-friendly, such as putting on slick tires and locking the shocks (if you have adjustable shocks). With the lower gearing on mountain bikes, you might even find some of those big hills more tackleable (and some road bikers might be looking at you enviously)! A good mountain bike will run $500 and up.

For those of you looking for real comfort and especially for those of you who might have back or neck issues, you might find a recumbent bike the ideal choice. They might look different with the low to ground riding style, but those who ride them regularly, wouldn't ride anything else.You won't see these riders complaining about a sore butt or back! This is due to the chair like seat which includes a full back rest. It will take a little time to adjust to this riding style, but the more you ride the more you will adjust to the differences in riding style from a more traditional bike. A good recumbent will run $900 and up. Having your bike fit will be less time consuming than a traditional bike, but it is just as important to have a professional bike tech make the adjustments you will need.

If you're shopping for a new bike, we recommend trying as many different brands and models as possible, so that you get a really good feel for the differences in frame size and geometry (which will affect your position and level of comfort on the bike), the different types of gearing systems and the different frame materials (which will affect how the bike feels and how sensitive it is to road texture). Be sure to ask a lot of questions when you visit the bike shops, and tell them specifically what you'll be using the bike for (and how many hours you'll be spending on it). Finally, buy your bike from a shop where you like the people who work there and where you feel comfortable asking questions. This will make a difference down the road when you return to the store for tune-ups, to buy other accessories, or if you simply have more questions about the bike you've chosen.

The next important step is to make sure you get your bike properly fitted.  Return to top.


You should be comfortable on your bike, whether you're on a 20 mile easy ride, or a challenging 100 miles. You should not have; saddle sores, hand or foot numbness, neck or back pain. If you are having any of these symptoms, you need to look at your bike fit. Remember, you will spend many hours in that saddle, and in one position. It's imperative that the fit is correct.

Imagine wearing a pair of bike shorts that were way to tight and at the end of a ride attributing the chafing to weak butt muscles; or shoes that were two sizes to big and attributing the blisters to poor pedaling mechanics or poor gear selection. Of course, you wouldn't think this way. So why don't most of us consider how our bikes fit us when we start to have symptoms such as front knee pain, back knee pain, neck pain, tingling in the hands or feet, low back pain, wrist pain, cramping, various tendonitis (patellar, IT Band, Achilles, tennis/golfers elbow), etc?

The answer is that most people do not realize that so many pains AND INJURIES are associated with a poor bike fit.

Take a moment to ask yourself:

  • How many hours will I spend on my bike this season?
  • How many miles will I ride?

Now, picture the following sample scenario:

You go for a 50-mile bike ride, riding at a pace of 15 mph and keeping a cadence of 85rpm (rotations per minute of your pedals). At the end of that ride:

  • You will have spent 3 hours and 15 minutes in the same position; AND
  • Your knees, ankles and hips have bent and straightened approximately 16,000 times!
  • Now consider at the end of 600 training miles (which you will do getting ready for this ride), those statistics come to 40 hours on the bike and over 200,000 revolutions!
  • Given the amount of time that you will spend on your bike and the number of times your legs will complete a pedal stroke, you absolutely need to be aware of how you fit on your bike (and conversely, how your bikes fits YOU).

Along with comfort, fit has the greatest effect on aerodynamics and pedal stroke efficiency. A saddle height that is 1 inch too high can cause unequal distribution of forces through the pedal stroke. This will lead to an unequal distribution of work on some muscles and give others a free ride. The relative position of the handle bar height to saddle height will change how well you either "cut through" or HIT the wind.

Bike fit is the process of matching a changeable bike into a slowly moldable body. An individual's flexibility (especially hamstring, lower and mid-back muscles) and strength (of the back, abdominals, and gluteal muscles) make a significant difference in how a bike is adjusted even if you have 2 people of the exact same height.

If your bike was adjusted at the local bike shop when you purchased it, don't assume that it's the right fit for you. One reason to be cautious about relying on the bike store fittings is that many times the folks behind the counter are not trained to detect and understand the many nuances that bike fittings involve. They also usually do not understand the biomechanics involved; i.e. flexibility and strength of the body.

This is something that only a trained professional such as a physical therapist, or an experienced cycling coach can fully detect. Make sure you ask your bike store if they have trained bike fit professionals and ask them to do your bike fit or seek out a professional. Often you will need to make an appointment, allow plenty of time to do this. If you're having even the slightest discomfort (which will probably get worse as you start to add on the miles and eventually keep you off the bike for good), we would advise that you seek out such a professional.

Basic Bike Fit Checks include:

  • SADDLE POSITION FORE AND AFT (front and back)

NOTE: If you have chosen to ride a recumbent bike, it will have different types of adjustments to look at. While bike fitting is less involved than a traditional road type bike, it is none the less important to have a professional adjust areas that involve your arm stretch, cleat adjustment (if you using this type of pedal), and any adjustments allowed to ensure you leg stretch is correctly set with your pedals.

There are many books on bike fit, but unless you are comfortable working on your bike, you should seek out a professional and by all means ask questions during your bike fit. Many bike fit technicians will give you much valued advise on your riding technique.  Return to top.


Required Tools

You should carry these items with you on your bike at all times.

  1. A good lightweight air pump.
  2. A set of tire levers, also sometimes called tire "irons" (usually made of plastic).
  3. A patch kit, most preferably one designed for bicycle tires. Periodically check your patch kit (especially if have not used in a few months), they will deteriorate with age.
  4. A spare tube, on longer rides 2 spare tubes are suggested.
  5. If your bike does not have quick releases on the wheels a wrench that fits the axle nuts may be necessary. There are many small, quick tool sets available and most have among other things a tool to fix broken chains which might come in handy.
  6. The tube of glue in your patch kit is sealed with foil inside the plastic cap, so it's a good idea to add a toothpick to your patch kit for this purpose. The toothpick can also serve to mark the location of the hole.

Why are the patch kit and the spare tube both necessary? It's usually quicker to patch a tube than replace it; however, sometimes a tube can not be patched due to a torn seam, multiple holes, or a damaged valve. Occasionally, you will not be able to find the leak, the glue will have dried up, or rain will prevent the application of a new patch (which must go on dry).

Types of Flats

There are basically four types of flats: punctures, blowouts, pinch and deterioration.

  • Punctures are caused when a foreign material (a piece of glass, a nail, or a piece of wire, etc.) penetrates the tube. This type of flat will go psssssss and just go flat. If this happens you should look for something that caused the flat and remove it from the tire or it will obviously cause another flat after you fix the first one.
  • If your tire goes POW!, you've had a blowout. When this happens, you should find a big hole in the tire someplace-usually in the sidewall-that will need to be booted to allow you to get home. After you get home you should replace the tire as soon as possible. Boots are a layer of material laid inside your tire where the hole is and should be considered a temporary fix until you get home. A folded dollar bill makes a good boot ... a folded nutrition bar wrapper makes an excellent tire boot. Just fold it into about 4-6 layers and it stop debris from working its way into your tire and creating another puncture in your tube.
  • A pinch flat or "snake bite" will always be on the underside of the tube and will generally be two, side by side punctures...like snake fang holes. This is caused by hitting a pothole or possibly a rock. This pinches the tube against the rim, and even though there is foreign material involved, you won't find it stuck in the tire...you just hit it. You'll usually know when you have done something to cause this type of flat...by the THUNK!
  • Deterioration flats can go psssss or POW! Age plays havoc with rubber. It will simply wear out and won't hold air over time. If you haven't ridden in a couple of years and you dust off the old bike and pump up the tires, you may be in for a surprise. You should check your tires regularly at home for wear, weather rot, or foreign material. It's much easier to find the problem at home where you can fix it in the comfort of the indoors than to fix a problem when the heat index is over 100 on the road. Replace any badly worn or rotted tires or tubes to prevent these problems.

Preventative Care Daily Tire Check

  • Check Tread & Sidewalls, worn-out, cuts, cracks, embedded glass, seating on rim
  • Air Pressure, under inflated, over inflated
  • Valve, aligned in rim, bent, leaky

Procedures for Fixing Your Flat

  1. When you experience a flat, stop riding as soon as it's safe. If you're riding with friends, let them know you've flatted so they don't run into you as you slow down; and so they don't just keep riding. If it's a rear flat, shift to the smallest cassette cog this will make the chain wrangling easier when you remove the wheel and a reminder of where to place the chain when re-installing. Get off, move off the road, then open your brake quick-release (road bikes) or unhook the cable on V-brakes and cantilevers brakes.
  2. Open the wheel quick-release (QR) and remove the wheel (or unscrew axle nuts if that's what's on yours). For front flats, lift the bike by the handlebar with one hand while removing the wheel with the other. For rear flats, grip the seat with one hand and lift. Remove the wheel with your free hand by pushing down (or forward for horizontal frame dropouts). To keep your hands clean, try to shake the chain off the cog as you remove the wheel. If it resists, lift it off with one finger (it's easy to clean just one finger). Then rest the bike on its left side. On most modern forks, you'll need to hold the round end of the QR mechanism and rotate the other end (where the lever is; or vice-versa) to create enough space to clear little safety nubs on the tips of the fork put there to keep the wheel in the fork should the QR mistakenly open.
  3. Release any air still in the tire. If there's a cap on the valve, remove it so you can release all the air from the tube. With presta valves, unscrew the top and press it with one finger. With Schraders, press the hook on your tire lever or whatever you have into the valve. While doing this, go around the tire with one hand squeezing to get all remaining air out. Also go around the rim and squeeze and work the tire toward the center of the rim because that's the deepest portion. If you can get the tire to sit in the rim's trough, it'll create slack between the tire and rim making it much easier to remove the tire (you'll use the same technique during installation). If you have a threaded presta valve, you may need to remove a nut at its base before you can free the tube. Schrader valves (sometimes spelled "Schraeder") are deflated by pressing on the tip inside.
  4. To remove the tire, insert one tire lever under the tire's edge (called the tire bead) opposite the valve stem. Wiggle it beneath the bead and pull down on the top of the lever to pry a small section of the bead over the rim. Hold the lever in place against the spokes (or attach its hooked end to one spoke if possible). Put another lever under the same tire bead about 4 inches from the first, and pry another section over the rim. Move 4 more inches, pry, and continue until the entire bead is removed. Then reach inside the tire, grasp the tube, and pull it out. To allow the valve stem to be removed, uncover it by pushing the tire away with the heel of your hand. To ease inspection of the tire and rim, remove the other bead (it should come off easily). If you decide to replace the popped tube with your spare, you should stuff the bad tube in your jersey pocket or seat bag to patch later.
  5. Before installing the patched or new tube, it's crucial to check the tire and find and remove whatever it was that gave you the flat. You can check with your hand, but if there's a piece of glass in there, you might cut yourself. So, a safer way to check is to run your glove around the inside of the tire. If there's something sharp in there it'll snag the glove. Be sure to go in both directions, though, in case it's a piece of wire or something lodged at an angle. Also check the tire tread visually. Remove any sharp objects in the tire or tread. If nothing snags the glove and you don't find anything, it's likely that whatever popped the tube has already fallen out of the tire. Also check the wheel to see if the rim strip (it covers the rim holes and/or nipples so they can't cut the tube) has shifted allowing sharp edges to cut the tube. Make sure the strip covers every hole/nipple.
  6. If your choice is to not patch your tube but to use your spare, don't toss your popped tubes! Patch them. They'll keep working even after they've been patched a dozen times or more. But, use regular patches, not the new glueless patches. These are best for mountain bike tubes, which don't hold high pressure. And they're only temporary patches. They can work for getting home. But, if you intend to rely on the patched tube in the future, do a proper patch job.


    To find the hole in the tube, try inflating the tube and listening (if the hole is at the valve's base, or if there's a giant tear in the tube, the tube probably can't be repaired). If you can't find the hole, place the tube in water and look for bubbles. When you've found the leak, mark it, or better, tear it slightly larger. That way, you'll be able to find it (glue can make pen marks disappear). Scuff the spot with the sandpaper in the patch kit and brush off the dust with your hand. Apply a thin layer of glue about the diameter of the patch you'll use. Let the glue dry for at least five minutes. Then, peel the foil off the patch and apply the patch being careful to cover the hole. Leave the cellophane in place on the patch. Knead the repair into the tube by rolling the end of your pump over it a few times. Now the tube is better than new; just reinforced in one spot and a tad heavier!

  7. Inflate new tube. Until it just takes shape.
  8. Install new tube. Poke the valve in the valve hole. Then work the rest of the tube into the tire, making sure there are no folds or bunches.  Rest the wheel on your knee and push down to roll the last difficult section onto the rim.
  9. Reseat bead. Start opposite the valve. Work the bead onto the rim using the heel of your hands (more durable than thumbs). When you can't go any farther, deflate the tube completely and squeeze the beads into the rim center to create the slack you need for the final stretch. DO NOT USE TIRE LEVERS. If you do, you could pinch the new tube and probably puncture it. Levers should be used for removal only.
  10. Inflate tire. Some portable pumps have gauges. If yours doesn't, just pump as much air as you possibly can into a road tire. Inflate a mountain bike tire until it feels about as full as the one you didn't puncture.
  11. Inflate and Release. As you're pumping, stop at about the halfway point then let most of the air out again. This will help work out any kinks where the tube might have been pinched. (A pinched tube will pop as soon as you air it up all the way and sit down on the bike.) There's some debate over whether this really helps, but it certainly can't hurt.
    You can tell if the tube is seated correctly by spinning the wheel in your hands. Watch right above the rim, where you'll see a fine line (the "bead line") molded into the sidewall. If this line bulges up, the tube is under the bead. Let the air out, massage the tire at the bad spot to work the tube into place, then pump again. If the bead line dips below the rim, keep pumping. It should pop into place as you reach higher inflation.
  12. Reinstall wheel. Make sure the chain goes on the smallest cog. Pull back the rear derailleur body to help the rear wheel slip into place. With the weight of the bike on the hub axle and a rearward tug, the wheel should center in the frame. Close the QR levers on the hub and brake. The lever on the hub should be on the left side of the bike and pointed up or back. Don't even think about riding until you're sure the hub QR is tight. It must take firm hand force to close it.
  13. Get ready to roll. Put the valve cap back on. This will help keep the air in if the valve has a slow leak.
  14. Reconnect the brake cable. Don't forget this part. Repack your punctured tube, tire levers, patch kit and tools. Hand pedal and shift into an easy gear before restarting your ride. After all has been completed, but before you get back on the road, check your brakes to make sure that their quick releases or cables have not been loosened, even if you didn't loosen them. A simple trick is to push the bike forward and apply each brake in turn. In fact, it's not a bad idea to have the habit of checking the brakes after every occasion when the bike has been worked on, stored for a period of time, or carried in a vehicle.

    After riding away, watch your repaired tire carefully for a while. Two problems are likely:

    1) the just-mentioned rubbing of the tire, and
    2) the tire becoming flat. In the case of the second, do not immediately assume that the leak was not patched correctly. Sometimes air is trapped between the tire and tube, and this air leaks out after you begin riding, giving you a flat tire again. Instead, stop and pump up the tire one more time, and then proceed. It would be nice to be able to say that a successful patch is possible 100% of the time, but alas! This is not true. However, with a little care, a success rate above 90% is readily obtainable. Return to top.



If you are new to cycling, or if it's been a while since you've been on a bike, you may be wondering how you could possibly use so many gears. You'll probably be surprised to find just how useful all those gears are, particularly when you are riding on different kinds of terrain. Different bikes have different types of gear shifters -- it's a good idea to practice shifting on a nice flat road so you can get a feel for the way the shifters work, and which gears make it easier to pedal vs. which make it harder. Once you're comfortable shifting on the flats, you can start tackling hills.

When exploring your gears, You'll want to find the one that allows you to pedal easily while still generating enough power to move you forward. On a hill, You'll want to be in a lower, or easier gear, allowing you to spin easily without having to force the pedals. You won't be going as fast as you do on a flat road, but spinning at a high cadence (cadence is the speed at which you turn the pedals around) with low resistance will help you conserve energy and prevent injuries. On flat roads You'll want moderate resistance -- You'll still want to be able to pedal easily and quickly, but using a higher gear will allow you to put more power into the pedal stroke. As you gain momentum, you can shift into a harder gear, which produces more power and enables you to go faster. On downhills, you can use the most resistance since You'll already have momentum and gravity pulling you forward.

While the actual shifting levers can be different from one bike to the next, method of shifting gears is generally the same. The chainrings are the big metal rings with teeth near the front of the bike that the chain moves around. Most bikes have either two or three chainrings. By shifting down into the smallest chainring in front, or the one that is closest to the bike, you will find you can pedal most easily. This is the best ring to use for climbing hills.

The middle chainring in the front gives you moderate resistance, and this is the ring used most often on flat roads.

The large chainring in the front, or the one that's furthest from your bike, gives you the most resistance and will be the most difficult for pedaling. This is a good ring to be in when you are going downhill, or if you're on a flat road with lots of tailwind.

The cogs are the group of teethed rings attached to the back wheel that the chain moves around. Most bikes have anywhere from five to nine cogs. Shifting to the largest cog, or the one that's closest to the bike, will make it easier to pedal. Shifting to the smaller cogs, or away from the bike, will make it harder. You'll find that the difference in gears is much subtler in the back, enabling you to really fine tune your shifting.

A rule of thumb that many people find helpful, is that shifting the chain closer to the bike (on the front or the back) will make it easier to pedal, and shifting the chain away from the bike will make it harder.

An important part of selecting your gears is anticipating what's ahead of you. If you see a hill up ahead, You'll want to shift into an easier gear before you start climbing. As the resistance gets harder, or as you find it harder to pedal, You'll want to downshift to an easier gear, which will make it easier to pedal. it's important to shift to the easier gears (this is called downshifting) while you still have momentum on your side. If you wait to shift until it gets really hard to pedal, You'll end up putting too much strain on your shifter (not to mention your knees!) and when you try to shift the chain will probably come off the ring.

it's also a good idea to shift into a slightly easier gear when approaching a stoplight or stop sign -- this will make it easier to start pedaling again, and once you've built up your momentum you can shift back into a harder gear.

One thing to avoid is crosschaining. This is when you are in your smallest chainring in front (the one closest to the bike, and the easiest to pedal) and the smallest cog in the back (the one farthest from the bike, and the hardest to pedal), or vice versa. crosschaining puts unwanted stress on your chain by pulling it at an angle, which stretches the chain and will eventually cause it to break. It also puts stress on your derailleurs (the parts that move the chain between gears) because the chain rubs against the derailleur cages. You can actually see this if you get off of your bike and look. You will also be able to hear the chain rubbing against the derailleur cage. There is no reason you should have to crosschain -- You'll be able to find the equivalent gear by shifting to your middle ring in front, and shifting to an easier or harder gear in the back.

As we said before, the best way to learn how your gears work is to practice. With so many gears to choose from, you should be able to find a comfortable gear no matter what kind of terrain you are riding on.  Return to top.

(Make sure to check out the links listed at the bottom of the page!)

  1. With one hand, gently lift the front of the helmet up and back.

    If helmet moves back to uncover the forehead: Tighten front strap to junction. Also adjust padding thickness and/or position, especially in back. Make sure chin strap is snug. If this doesn't work, the helmet may be too big.
  2. With one hand, gently lift the back of the helmet up and forward.

    If helmet moves forward to cover the eyes: Tighten back strap. Make sure chin strap is snug. Also, adjust padding thickness and/or position, especially in front.
  3. Put a hand on each side of the helmet and rock from side to side. Shake your head "no" as hard as possible.

    If helmet slips from side to side: Check padding on sides and make sure straps are evenly adjusted.
  4. Open your mouth (lower jaw) as wide as possible, without moving your head. The top of your helmet should pull down.

    If helmet does not pull down when opening your mouth: Tighten chin strap. Make sure the front and back strap junction is under each ear.
  5. Check to see if the front edge of helmet covers your forehead. The front edge of the helmet should not be more than 1 to 2 finger-widths from your eyebrow.

    If helmet does not cover the forehead: Position helmet no more than 1 to 2 finger-widths above eyebrows. tighten any loose straps. Make adjustments so the helmet stays over the forehead.

Have someone else test your helmet fit by doing the 5-Step Test outlined above. Hold your head still during the test. Your helmet should pass each of the 5 steps.

Replace any helmet that has been involved in a crash regardless if the shell is dented or not! It is recommended that you replace your helmet approximately every 2-3 years regardless if it has been involved in an accident. Helmets are made of high impact foam under the shell. Over time this foam will degrade and weaken.

It is not recommended that you buy a used helmet. If you do choose to do this, buy from someone you know and trust. Find out how old the helmet is and if it has ever been involved in an accident. If the helmet has been in an accident and/or more than 2 years old, you should NOT buy it.

Note: Not all helmets involved in an accident will show external damage, but the helmet under the cover will have been compromised and most likely won't handle another accident to the best of its ability.

This is one of those safety issues that most likely will dictate buying a new helmet. Helmets range in price from reasonable to expensive. As long as you are buying a helmet that has the approved safety standards mentioned above you will have a safe design. Cost is not relative to a better made helmet. The rule of thumb: the more vents the more expensive. More vents allow the air to cool your head more efficiently. The cost to produce a helmet with more vents is reflected in the price you pay. No matter how many vents your helmet has it will protect your head in the same manner.

Helmet Fit

Helmets, http://www.helmets.org/helmet09.htm
Consumers Guide to Bicycle Helmets, http://www.helmets.org/guide.htm
Quick Answers to Helmet Questions, http://www.helmets.org/quick.htm
How to Fit a Helmet, http://www.helmets.org/fit.htm
Types of Helmets, http://www.helmets.org/types.htm
Helmet Sizes, http://www.helmets.org/sizing.htm
Standards for Helmets, http://www.helmets.org/standard.htm
Helmet Laws, http://www.helmets.org/helmlaws.htm
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, http://www.helmets.org/

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