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The Wagon: Bikewagon Community College & Blog

  • 5 DIY Solutions for Cyclists

    DIY fender

    Many cyclists take pride in their ability to improvise solutions to various problems on the road. One of the best we've ever heard of was a touring duo who experienced too many flat tires on a remote stretch of agricultural land in the Midwest. Their solution? Take out the tube and stuff the tire with hay to preserve the rims and make it to the next town. It sounds bumpy, but it worked.

    Many cyclists have stories like this: times when they've had to think on the fly about how to get home or keep a bike limping along much further than its natural life. It's a great skill for cyclists to have, and in this article we're diving into some similar DIY solutions for non-emergencies. We're talking about creative things that can be both functional and easy to do. Sound fun? Let's jump into it.

    1. DIY fenders

    This is a trick that has been known to bike messengers and other urban cyclists for a long time, and it's used by the folks who don't want to break the smooth lines and cool style of their bike with fenders. Instead, do the DIY option: grab a piece of cardboard and cut or rip it into a strip about 8 or 9 inches wide and a couple of feet long. Take this piece and bend it down the middle, slotting it into the frame above the brakes on your rear wheel to intercept the water flicked off your rear wheel. It might not last long, but it will get you to your job or your date looking clean, all for the low price of free. Not bad!

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  • Drop/Road Handlebars: The Basics

    Bikewagon - BWCC

    Handlebars are one of the most important parts of the bicycle, as they are the part that interfaces with your hands and allows you to steer. They also provide a convenient location to mount brakes, shifters, and accessories such as cycling computers or front lights for riding at night.

    Road bikes are generally optimized for speed, which is why most use a drop handlebar (often called 'road bars'). We've all seen this style: the flat top bar that extends to either side of the bike, and then curls forward, down, and back toward the rider.

    Choosing the right drop bar is generally pretty straightforward; however, there are some important things you should know before you go ahead and make a purchase. This guide will go over some of those basic points, so you are prepared to make the right decision.

    Why a drop handlebar?

    Drop road handlebar

    Drop handlebars were developed to facilitate aerodynamic riding positions while also allowing for more relaxed positions if the rider desires them.

    On a typical drop handlebar, you can have your hands on the drop-portion (lower section) of the bar for maximum aerodynamic speed while maintaining minimal access to braking and shifting, on the top of the flat portion of the bar for maximum comfort and a more upright position, or on the brake hoods for a good balance between the two and the easiest access to braking and shifting.

    Classic racing-style road handlebars use a neutral geometry to allow a wide variety of comfortable riding styles. The variety of hand positions available make long rides more comfortable with drop handlebars, since the rider can move around. Drop handlebars also provide excellent leverage for sprinting and climbing hills when the rider is likely to stand up and hold on to the brake hoods to achieve maximum pushing power from the legs.

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  • 5 Awesome Bike-related Pranks

    As is evident from the email we sent out to subscribers this morning, we like to have a little fun on April Fools' Day.

    To keep it going and give you some ideas for next year, here's a list of some of the best bike pranks on the Web.

    1. Bike stuck on a pole

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  • How to ruin a ride before it even starts

    My CamelBak with my keys in my locked car. My CamelBak with my keys in my locked car.

    Recently I went on a mountain bike ride on a trail I am not familiar with. Every time I go for a ride I keep my main set of keys in the car because I keep an extra car key in my CamelBak. As I was getting ready to start on the trail, I got my bike off the rack, my phone all ready to pump out some jams and track my ride, and I put my shoes and my helmet on. I was unprepared for the cold weather at the trail, but I figured I was good to go, so I locked my car and shut the doors. As soon as I shut the last door I got that feeling. You know the feeling you get when you've just done something really bad and you'd do anything to take it back? The almost doomsday expression of, "Oh no!" muttered under your breath? That's what happened to me. I realized I forgot to grab my CamelBak and, therefore, my keys.

    I proceeded to ride anyway because I was already there, but as you can imagine without water and the added stress of no keys, I didn't last very long at all. On the way back, I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to get back in my car. Back at the parking lot, I asked everyone there to see if anyone knew how to break into a car. No luck.

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  • Eight upgrades for your mountain bike


    There are a hundred different things you can do to get your mountain bike back faster and stronger than ever, but here we focus on eight basic, relatively inexpensive upgrades that will show big improvements. This list is in no particular order, but is meant to give you some ideas on getting the most out of your rides.

    1. Tires

    New tires can dramatically change your riding experience instantly. As your bike sits in the corners of the garage or shed, cold temperatures crack and dry out the rubber tread and sidewalls. This leaves your tires with less-than-stellar grip, puncture protection and sidewall stability. Getting good tires can give you the grip needed to conquer any trail and terrain you encounter.

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  • Six upgrades for your road bike

    Road bike

    Believe it or not, it's that time of year again. The snow is melting, the temperatures are rising, and your bike is calling your name. Each year you make upgrades to your bike to shake off the dust and get back to doing what you love.

    There are a hundred different things you can do to get your road bike back faster and stronger than ever, but here we focus on six basic, relatively inexpensive upgrades that will show big improvements. This list is in no particular order of importance, but is meant to give you some ideas on getting the most out of your rides.

    1. Tires

    New bike tires can dramatically change your riding experience instantly. As your bike sits in the cold corners of the garage or shed, cold temperatures crack and dry out the rubber tread and sidewalls. This leaves your tires with less-than-stellar grip, puncture protection and sidewall stability. Getting good tires can fix all of that as soon as you mount them on your wheels.

    2. Saddle

    There are only three contact points from your body to your bike, and your rear end is the most significant one. Having an under-performing saddle can really limit your riding ability and stamina. Good, quality saddles these days are made and designed to enable cyclists at all levels to get the most comfort for rides, whether you're spending one hour in the saddle or all day.

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  • Road bike caliper brakes: The basics

    Bikewagon - BWCC

    Most modern road bikes use road brakes, or caliper brakes, which are a sub-category of rim brakes -- designs that slow and stop your bicycle by forcing rubber pads against the rim of your bike to create friction.

    Caliper brakes function as a single unit, mounted to your frame by a lone bolt, that pivots when the brake levers are pulled. These designs are useful for road bikes because they provide a great balance between stopping power and delicate modulation of the amount of power you can apply.

    How do they work?

    Front road brake

    In the most common design, called dual-pivot side-pull caliper brakes, the braking cable enters the calipers from the top of one side of the mechanism. When the brakes are pulled, one arm pivots from the center and the other pivots from the side, forcing the brake pads into contact with the rim of the tire.

    Caliper brakes provide good stopping power, low weight and simple operation. While they can be knocked out of alignment, adjustment is easy and straightforward. Overall, they make a great choice for road cyclists looking for a good set of brakes. Caliper brakes are generally not used on mountain bikes because the length of the arms that would be necessary to reach around the large, knobby tires would compromise the stiffness of the braking action.

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  • How to true a bike wheel at home or on the trail

    Bikewagon - BWCC

    Do you feel a bit of wobbling in your bike, do your brakes rub at one spot on your wheel, or are you having trouble tracking straight while you ride? Your wheel may be out of true. This tutorial will explain the basic procedure to true a wheel yourself using a minimum of tools.

    What's required:

    • Spoked wheel
    • Spoke wrench to match your spokes
    • Your bike
    • Rag to clean wheel

    spoke wrench

    Step 1: Flip your bike upside down, and balance it on its handlebars and seat (use a soft surface like grass or carpet to avoid damaging your bike). This will give you easy access to the wheels. Give your wheel a quick wipe down with a damp rag to remove grease and dirt.

    Step 2: Sight along the wheel so you only see a thin slice of it. Begin to spin the wheel gently with your hand, and observe the wheel. Watch for side-to-side wobbling. If you see none, switch to the other wheel and repeat.

    Step 3: Make sure that the wheel is well-seated in the fork dropouts. This could be the cause of any wobbling, so release your quick releases or unscrew any bolts that hold your wheels in place. Make sure they are seated correctly, and re-tighten them.

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  • Compact vs. Standard Cranksets

    Bikewagon - BWCC

    Compact or standard? That is the question.

    The difference between these two types of road cranksets comes down to gearing. There are advantages and disadvantages to both along with obvious reasons why you should consider one or the other.

    The basics

    Standard cranks are often called racing cranksets because they offer the fastest common gearing (bigger chainrings are available but must be bought separately). Standard cranks have 53/39 gearing, meaning they have a 39-tooth small ring and a 53-tooth big ring. Ring is short for chainring, which is what the front gears are called that are bolted to the cranks. The bolt circle diameter (BCD) of standard cranksets is 130mm.


    Compact cranks have a smaller BCD, 110mm, which allows for smaller chainrings. Compacts have a 50/34 gearing, so losing three teeth on the big ring and five teeth on the little ring compared to a standard. Compact cranksets are preferred for climbing races or for people who like to ride fast but not race. There are many people that race compacts, but for most people it's not the preferred crankset for flatter races or any with limited climbing.

    Combined with a wide-range rear cassette, like an 11-28, compact cranksets offer a wider range of gearing and -- as mentioned earlier -- are really designed to maximize one's efficiency to climb or travel at lower speeds. More recently, long-caged rear derailleurs have been more common in use with compact cranksets and 11-32 cassettes, such as SRAM's WiFLi system. This wide range of gearing means a wider range of comfortable speeds and decreases the gearing overlap (when different combinations of front gearing and rear gearing have the same gearing ratio such as a 50/25 and 34/17, both of which are 2:1 gear ratios).

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  • Bike Tires and Tubes 101

    Bikewagon - BWCC

    Tires are one of the most important parts of your bike, as they provide your contact for steering, stopping and accelerating. Good tires make life smooth and easy. Bad tires make for a bad day. Even the best tires wear out over time and need replacing, so whether your old set is falling apart or you are building a new bike, this guide will go over the different types of tires and tubes for different riding styles.


    Road bike tire

    The main rule of tire and tube sizing is this: the tire must match the wheel, and the tube must match the tire. If you don’t know the size of your wheels, check your current tire. There should be a series of numbers on the sidewall, for example "700 x 20c" or "26 x 4.8." These designate the size of the tires.

    There are two parts of tire size: width and diameter. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of tire standards. Some are measured in inches, some in millimeters. This can all be a bit confusing, but luckily more and more tires are marked with a standard: the ETRTO (European Tire and Rim Technical Organization) system, which consists of two numbers (for example, 20-622). The first number is the tire width, and the second number is the diameter of the bead (the part of the tire that seats into the rim to lock in place). If the second number matches on the tire and the wheel, it will almost always fit. In the ETRTO system, a 20-622 tire is equivalent to a standard 700 x 20c road tire.

    The outer diameter of your tires is not so important for fit, but it does influence traction and speed. Skinny tires are faster and bumpier, while wide tires give softer rides.

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