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Tag Archives: bike guides

  • Rigid Bike Forks 101

    Bikewagon - BWCC

    The front fork is an important component of your bicycle, as it connects your steering to the road. Because of this, the fork can have a big impact on riding performance and feel.

    These days, rigid front forks sometimes seem to be a dying breed. Many people who buy a new bike just want to know, "How good are the shocks?" and leave their purchase decisions at that. However, old-school rigid front forks are still a good option for some mountain bikes, and just about every road cyclist to be found uses a rigid fork.

    This article will go over some of the basic reasons why people would choose a rigid fork and explain some of the price and feature options among rigid forks on the market today.

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Cycling Computers 101

    Bikewagon - BWCC

    Most of us had the experience of learning how to ride a bike at a young age and racing down the street at top speed, imaging how fast we were going. Well, for riders who want to gather speed and other information about their ride, a cycle computer (or cyclometer) is just the ticket. Cycling computers are small devices that normally mount on the handlebars of the bike and use various sensors to measure -- at the very least -- speed, trip distance, trip length and time. Some advanced cycling computers provide advanced features as well.

    This guide will explain the basic functionality of cycling computers, go over the features and price range on the market, and share some tips about how to use a cycle computer.

    Setting up the sensors

    Speed sensor

    Most cycling computers operate by means of a pair of sensors. The first sensor is a small, passive device that screws onto the spokes of your bike wheel. The second sensor is a slightly larger device, sometimes battery powered, which mounts onto the fork or rear stays of your bike.

    These sensors should be lined up, so that when you ride your bike, the sensor on the wheel rotates directly past the sensor on the frame. When programmed with the diameter of your wheel, this allows the cycling computer to calculate your speed based on the RPMs of the wheel.

    The cycle computer itself is a small device, usually rectangular, which mounts on the top of the handlebars and connects to the sensors most often via a wireless connection. A small liquid crystal display allows the cycle computer to display information at a glance. Cycling computers usually feature a single button that is used to toggle through the different functions, set clocks and set preference for imperial or metric measurements.

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  • Shedding some light on bike lights

    This time of the year, at least here in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting longer (hurrah!). So you may be asking why we would be writing about bike lights. You see, this time change (who's idea was this, anyway?) happens right when people in the snowy parts of the country are finally starting to thing about commuting to work by bike again. But suddenly, it's dark again at 7:30 a.m.! And that's one more reason to drive or take the bus.

    Well don't let the dark mornings be an excuse! All you'll need is a light or two or three, and you'll be sitting pretty.

    Since the sun is making it's way up, you probably don't need a ton of light on the path in front of you. Rather, the most important light you need is a safety light. Or even better, two or three safety lights. These affordable little bike lights make you visible to motorists and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.


    Bike headlight-taillight combo

    Probably the most important safety light you can get is a big, bright bike taillight. These usually mount to the seatpost and feature multiple modes (steady, flashing, alternating, etc.). There are tons of great options out there, and a decent light can be purchased for around $20.


    On the front of the bike, a nice little handlebar-mount bike headlight is perfect for early mornings. When it's still mostly dark, it can work as a headlight, lighting the path in front of you. Then, as it gets lighter, you can put it on flashing mode to make drivers notice. These are very affordable and go for months on one set of batteries.

    If you want to save yourself some time, just get a headlight-taillight combo.

    To top it off, throw one or two flashing safety lights -- picture a Knog light -- around the frame. When it comes to riding in limited light, you can never be too careful!

    Check out our bike lights guide over at Bikewagon Community College for more information on choosing the best lights for your situation!

  • Have you attended a class at BWCC lately?

    One of our goals here at Bikewagon is to create helpful, useful content that can give our customers a bike education. A bikucation, if you will. That's why we established Bikewagon Community College a year or so ago.

    bwcc-headWe had big plans, but it took us a while to get them moving. Well now we're happy to announce that those plans are being realized! Our selection of handy bike buying guides and bike tutorials is growing weekly.

    That means our expert faculty can teach you about all kinds of bike components and accessories, as well as how to ride and work on your bike! Cool, huh? Here are some highlights:

    If a topic you're interested in isn't there at the moment, check back regularly; we'll probably have something up soon.

    Our format continues to improve, and we'll keep adding new resources (video, anyone?), so make BWCC the place you visit to learn about bikes!

    We had big plans, but it took us a while to get them moving. Well now we">
  • Bikes 101

    Bikewagon - BWCC

    Familiarize yourself with today's bike types

    A bike isn't just a bike anymore. You may have noticed that fact while shopping for a new bike or looking for parts for your old bike. Sure, they still have two wheels, but bikes have come a long way in the last 20 years. They can't be defined by just "road," "mountain" or "BMX" anymore. Those categories still exist, but they've spawned offspring.

    So to help you get to know your bikes and be able to digest the alphabet soup (MTB, TT, FR: it's not quite a government bureaucracy yet, but it's getting there), here's a brief overview of what differentiates the main types.

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  • Bike Stems 101

    Bikewagon - BWCC

    Your bike's stem will affect the way your bicycle handles and the way your upper body feels the road. While being one of the most important bike parts for comfort and handling, it is also very customizable and upgradeable.

    When purchasing a stem, you should consider several factors. First you must look at the steerer type (threaded or not). Then you must match it to a steerer tube diameter and a handlebar diameter. Finally, you must decide what length and how much rise or drop you want your stem to give you. Once you have decided on those characteristics, you must decide on the material you'd like and consider its price.

    Stem type

    The two main types of bike stems are "threadless" and "quill." The type of stem required is determined by the headset and fork installed on your bicycle--either threaded or threadless (the vast majority of today's forks use a threadless steerer tube). Once you have determined which headset style your bicycle requires, you must determine the different compatibility factors: steerer tube diameter and handlebar diameter.

    Steerer tube diameter

    Stems attach to the bike via the steerer tube. Threadless stems clamp around the steerer, while quill stems use compression to attach to the inside of the steerer.


    Threadless steerer tubes come in four standard diameters: 1-inch, 1-1/8-inch and 1-1/2-inch. These sizes correspond to matching stem sizes. 1-1/8-inch headsets are currently the most common. However, with new trends always surfacing and old trends always resurging, this could change in the future.


    Threaded steerers typically come in 1-inch and 1-1/8-inch diameters with corresponding quill stems sized down for the internal diameter of the tube. 1-inch threaded steerers were the industry standard for decades and remain very popular in the vintage and retro bike world. They remain the most widely used and readily available.

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