Thursday, April 17, 2014

CLOSED EASTER SUNDAY!

PLEASE NOTE! We will be CLOSED this Sunday, April 20th, for the Easter holiday. We will re-open on our regular schedule next Wednesday. Enjoy the day!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Get Ready for Spring! - From Tim's old Patch Column

 It's been suggested to me that I should "re-print" some of the columns I wrote as the Vienna Pedaler on the Vienna Patch. Here's one from February of 2012, about getting ready for spring. While it seems to never get here, it IS on the way, so here are some thought about it.




Spring will be upon us before you know it, and it’s time to start thinking about riding your bike again. This year, many of you might have kept riding through this unusually warm winter, but I’m guessing most folks have left their bikes in the garage or shed most of this season. Well, it’s time to get ready for the warmer, longer days of spring!

To start with, now is the time to make sure your bike is ready to roll. I can’t tell you how many people walk into their local bike shop on the first warm, sunny weekend in April, asking to get their bikes “tuned up” for the season. Many are surprised and disappointed to learn that they may have to leave their bike with the shop for a week or even more. The simple fact is that when “the season” hits, most bike shops are simply overwhelmed by the sudden influx of bikes in for service.

So how do you avoid this? First and foremost, plan in advance. Sure, it may be several weeks, or even a month or more, before we get consistently nice weather, but if you take care of your bike now, it will be ready at a moment’s notice. So now is the time to pull it out, dust it off, pump up the tires and maybe put a little lube on the chain. Remember though, you should check the tires again when you’re ready to ride, as they lose pressure over time, even if unridden.

If it’s been a year or more since you’ve had your bike looked at by a mechanic, and you don’t have the skills yourself, now is also the time to bring it to your local shop. Trust me, they will be more than happy to help, and will probably be able to get your bike back to you within a couple of days at most. You may even be told the bike doesn’t need any work at all, and you’ll be ready to go, and have the peace of mind of a clean bill of health for your bike. That way, when that sunny weekend arrives, you can just hop on and go!

Well, that is if YOU are ready to ride. Depending on your experience and preferences, you may simply be ready to hop on the bike and go when that lovely day arrives. Some of us, however, might have special clothes, equipment, or other items we like when we ride. 

Now is a good time to dig out your bike clothes and check them over for wear and tear. Gloves in particular lead a hard life, and you might want to consider a fresh pair going into spring. If you wear special bike shorts, these too might need some attention or replacement. Is the padding still holding up and giving enough comfort? If your wear “skin shorts”, make sure they still have enough stretch, and aren’t getting pills or worn spots. Shirts and jerseys and jackets don’t get the same kind of beating, but check them as well. Nylon and other synthetics “age” under sunlight, so check them for any signs of wear and age as well.

It’s also wise to check over any accessories you use when you ride. If you ride with a cyclocomputer or GPS unit, check to see the batteries are still good and that the unit reads when the wheels go around. Check the batteries in your lights as well, so you’re not caught out without lights after dark. Finally, if you carry any sort of bag or have a rack or basket mounted on your bike, make sure they are in good condition and solidly attached to the bike. It’s never fun to have a ride spoiled by a rack or bag coming loose and knocking around.


Well, now that you’ve checked over your bike and gear, all you have to do is wait for that glorious season of warm weather and lots of sunlight. In the meantime, you can start planning and daydreaming about where you will ride.  Next column I’ll throw out some ideas on that. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions in that area, please post them here on the Patch, or email Tim directly.

Obviously, since my Patch column is no longer published, post any comments here, or on Facebook, or email tim@bikesatvienna.com

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cruising with Bromptons!

Tim and the Bromptons, on the docks in Nassau, Bahamas
And by "cruising" I don't mean a casual, local ride around town...  No, I'm talking about taking an ocean cruise, and bringing Bromptons along for use in the ports along the way!

The trip was an eight day adventure, with four days at sea and four each in a different port - Port Canaveral, FL, Nassau, Coco Cay (the cruise line's private island) and Key West. From previous experience on a cruise to Bermuda Christy and I knew that having our Bromptons with us would give us more flexibility and opportunities for exploration than if we had to rely on other forms of transportation in port. And it's just a lot more fun to ride around on a bike than sit on some tour bus or in a taxicab!

And here's Christy with the bikes... the smile says it all!
On this trip we found that Nassau and Key West were the most sensible places to use the bikes.  Coco Cay is basically one endless beach, and Port Canaveral just isn't very bike friendly... heavy traffic on highways, essentially. Nassau was a bit challenging, due to some heavy traffic and the fact that they drive on the left there, but we did find it a lot easier to see the things we wanted to see by bike rather than walking. KeyWest, on the other hand, seems to be just about perfect for exploring by bike... the streets really encourage drivers to go slow, and there are lots of folks getting around by bike. I was pleasantly surprised by just how many bikes we saw, both on the streets and parked all over town.

Nassau, near the Queen's Staircase
Sunny, warm days, beautiful scenery, interesting towns... and all so much better by bike! I highly recommend adding some cycling to any cruise you might take, and especially if you can bring a folding bike. You'll want to check with the cruise line you book with, and I recommend getting their policy in writing, just in case. Keep that with you when you get on and off the ship, just in case someone questions you about the bikes. And be prepared to be the center of attention as you get off a fully loaded cruise ship, surrounded by other passengers and folks on the dock, as you unfold your bike and ride off on your day's adventure. We found ourselves with an audience pretty much everywhere we went.





Monday, January 27, 2014

More on Winter Riding from Tim's Patch Column

Here's the followup to the previous posting... a column from the Vienna Patch, January 2011 with some winter riding tips.

The photo below was taken of my Miyata commuter bike, out on the trail.
 
 

Getting Out on the Bike In Winter

At this time of year, even I'll admit it can be tough to work up the enthusiasm for a long ride in the cold “for the fun of it”. Some folks do it... I see hardy souls out on long rides in the coldest of weather. But for most of us, the thought of being out for a couple of hours on a bike in sub-freezing temperatures just isn't appealing.

What to do? Well, my last column told you how to prepare yourself and your bike for winter riding, now I'm going to give you some suggestions on how to simply work riding into your life in the cold.

The first tip is to not set big, unrealistic goals... don't tell yourself “tomorrow, I'm going to get on all my winter gear and ride out to Purcellville in the bracing weather!”  Chances are good you'll either look outside at the grey and cold and change your mind, or get out to Leesburg and be cursing your foolishness that put you so far from home in the freezing cold.

I find one good way to get out and ride in winter is to run errands on my bike. Stay within the town boundaries, and do some local shopping, banking, or visiting by bike. That way you can dress warmly without having to worry about special “technical fabrics” and cycling specific winter clothing.  If you're just tootling around town a mile or two here, a mile or two there, you really don't need to “suit up”... you can wear more or less “street” clothes as long as they are warm. And you still get some exercise and fresh air!

If you're visiting friends or banking or running to the post office by bike, there's no special equipment you need.  However, if you want to try doing some of your shopping by bike, like me, you'll probably need to come up with a way to carry things.  The simplest choice, for small loads, is to toss a small backpack on your back, but that can be limiting and tiring.  A better choice is some sort of carrying system on your bike. This can be as simple has having a rear rack mounted, with a milk crate bungeed on top, or you can buy special bags or baskets to hang on your bike. My “grocery getter” is set up with a smallish wire basket up front, which handles the minor shopping trips, and a rack with folding wire basket on the back, for when the front alone isn't enough.  I also have a Brompton folding bicycle, which allows me to bring the bike right into the store, partly folded, and roll it around as my shopping cart, putting items in the front bag as I shop.  Other options are special “grocery panniers”, cloth bags that hang on either side of the rear rack and are perfect for a bag of groceries each.  The truly dedicated bicycle shopper might consider something like a bicycle cargo trailer for the truly huge load of groceries, but the point is to just get out and give it a try. 

You might be surprised how running errands and visiting on your bike can be both practical AND fun. And your friends will smile when they realize you've come “all that way in this weather” by bike to see them!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Biking - from my old Vienna Patch column...

 It's been suggested to me that I should "re-print" some of the columns I wrote as the Vienna Pedaler on the Vienna Patch, so I thought I'd start out with one from a few winters ago, with thoughts about riding in winter.  Timely, given the snow falling as I write this... not that I'm urging everyone to leap on their bikes in the snow... but give winter riding some thought... you might like it more than you think!

The photo below was taken of my Miyata commuter bike, shortly after arriving at the shop... in December of 2009, after the first of those big snows that year. My Patch column from December of 2010 follows.



About this time of year, most folks have parked their bike in their garage or shed for the winter, waiting for the warm days of Spring to ride again. But I'm here to tell you that you don't have to give up enjoying your bike just because it is winter. There's still fun to be had, errands to be run. I know, because I've done it every one of the eight winters I've lived here.

To begin with, stop and think about it... how many truly wintry days do we get here?  Sure, we're having a heck of a cold snap right now, but let's be honest, it's not going to last that long, and what follows probably won't be all that brutal. And it's very likely that we'll have days of relative warmth and sunshine sprinkled through the entire winter season. So if you pick and choose your days, you can at least get in a few nice rides.

But that's not all... with a little forethought, preparation, and yes, determination, you can ride in truly cold weather, even in snow. And it can actually be fun, with the right attitude.

First and foremost, you need to dress appropriately. Any number of people will tell you what that means, so to some extent you have to find out what works best for you, through trial and error. Take some shorter rides first, testing out different clothing options. For me, I've learned that thin layers of wool and/or silk work best on my upper body, with a cycling specific rain jacket on top if it's wet. For my lower body, depending on the nature of the ride, I will wear cycling tights or regular wool pants, most often from a surplus store. On my hands, I like thick wool gloves down to about 40 degrees, and “lobster claw” gloves (available at bike stores) for colder weather. Likewise, to about 40 I generally just rely on my helmet for a warm head, but use a silk balaclava under it when it's colder.

But what about the bike?  Well, any bike can be ridden year round, but if you're planning to ride a lot in all conditions, you might consider setting up a bike specifically for winter. Lights are absolutely essential, as the days are shorter, and often cloudy, and visibility is reduced. There are a wide variety of lights available in bike shops, including simple ones powered by disposable batteries, more elaborate rechargeable systems, and generator systems that use the rotation of your wheel to produce electricity. Whichever you choose, make sure you have multiple lights, just in case one should fail, and to increase your chances of being seen.

Fenders are your friend in wet weather, and really don't make any significant impact on your speed. They protect both you and your bike from the water picked up by your wheels as you ride. You'll be surprised what a difference they make to your enjoyment and the condition of your bike. In fact, I'm such a fan of fenders that of the many bikes I own, the majority wear fenders year-round. I'd rather be ready for anything, any time, than be stuck out on a ride getting soaking wet.

Finally, for the truly dedicated winter rider, consider studded tires for your bike. These have anywhere from 100 to 300 metal studs embedded in the tread to provide traction on ice and snow, and it's amazing what a difference they make. On smoother frozen surfaces it's almost like riding clear pavement. However, when you are riding on a bumpy, rough surface, such as that created by tires or footsteps in snow frozen over, you have to be a bit careful, as your front wheel may get knocked around by ruts and such. Even so, you'd be amazed just how “stuck” to the surface a studded tire is. And it's good practice for your bike-handling skills. Just try not to tense up, relax and be attentive and enjoy the ride.

Which brings me to riding technique. While it's lots of fun to ride in winter, once you get out there you do have to be a bit more cautious than in warmer weather. It's always possible to be surprised by a patch of ice, and if you ride on roads, motorists are a lot less likely to be expecting you out there this time of year. In addition, the angle of sunlight is shallower, so it's more likely you and those you share the road with have the sun in your eyes. So take it a bit slower, be alert and just enjoy being out there. You'll find it's nice to have the trails to yourself, and that your familiar rides are now new and different with the faded colors and cooler light and sharper air of winter.

I'll see you out there!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Closing for inventory 1/13 - 1/17.

ATTENTION!  We will be CLOSED for inventory from Monday, January 13th through Friday, January 17th.  We will re-open on the 18th and return to our regular "winter hours" at that time.  We apologize for any inconvenience.

You can see Daniel is getting ready... clipboard and pen in hand!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Holiday Hours!

We are open Thursday and Friday 10 - 7, Saturday 10- 6, and Sunday Noon - 5.

We will be closed our normal Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
Happy Holidays to all of us here at bikes@vienna!