How much do you know about repairing and maintaining your bike? How good of a rider do you think you are? Whether you’re just beginning to become a more avid cyclist (perhaps because you saw all those awesome biking videos), or you’ve been riding for a while, there is a lot to know. Just like there are things you can do to maintain your computer for free, there are things you can do to keep your bike in great shape too, so that when you’re out on a ride, you encounter fewer problems.
The same applies to your own riding skill, and there’s a lot more to cycling than just knowing how to balance yourself. Bicycling, as a means of transportation and recreation, is becoming increasingly popular. Whether you commute, road bike, mountain bike, or simply ride around town, improving your riding skill and knowledge will without a doubt improve your riding experience and make it far more enjoyable.
Sheldon Brown was a very well known bicycle mechanic and advocate. Sadly, he passed away in 2008 at the age of 63 due to medical conditions, but because he shared his abundant expertise of bicycles on his website, his knowledge and passion remains alive. The website appears outdated as if it were stuck in the ’90s, but the content is still relevant and continues to be updated by his successors. You will find a wide range of helpful information and tips from bicycle repairs and DIY, to articles for cyclists who are looking to spend time as a family, or go touring, or who are just beginning. There are a lot of other specific sections including ones that cover bike computers and even a bicycle glossary.
To stay up to date, you can follow the blog and Facebook page.
Jim Langley is a longtime bicycle mechanic, writer, and expert. His site consists of six primary sections — two are where you’ll find the most helpful information. The remaining three are more for entertainment purposes. There is a page titled “Bridge“, consisting of online bicycle resources of all kinds, with a brief description for each site.
Two helpful pages are titled “Wrench” and “Crank“. Wrench, as you might guess, is all things related to bicycle repairs and maintenance. The Crank page is a “tips and tricks” section that includes pages on riding techniques, basic riding skills, general and on-the-road/trail repairs, how to buy a bike (two parts), lock a bike and the importance of fitting your bike (multiple links), as well as others, which are just as important, like bike safety and changing flat tires.
TriNewbies.com is not just about bicycling, but rather triathlons. However, because bicycles are such a significant part of the sport, there is a lot about them here, and it’s mostly geared towards beginners. For the purpose of this article, I’ve linked to the cycling section of the website, which has numerous articles on how to choose your first bicycle, properly fitting your bike, cycling safety, commuting, and many others. There is also a bicycle cleaning and maintenance manual available for free.
Although bicycling is quite safe, not obeying traffic laws when in the city can prove dangerous. A bicycle follows the same rules of the road as any other vehicle does, so if you intend to ride in the city at all, then you should educate and familiarize yourself with the proper techniques and riding etiquette. One of the best resources for this is the short, 46-page book, Bicycling Street Smarts at Bikexpert.com. It features 10 chapters covering topics like riding through intersections, riding at night or in poor conditions, and others.
Bike skills and bike safety go hand in hand, and that is why the League of American Bicycles is an excellent educational resource for bicyclists. They’re focused towards providing educational programs, creating better biking environments, and helping others create bicycle-friendly communities. On the side bar there are several links. Ride Smart contains helpful pages such as Rules of the Road and Smart Cycling Tips. Understanding the rules of the road, bicycling laws, as well as general cycling tips have a direct affect on your own skills.
MadeGood.org is not only about biking — it seems as though their vision is to educate in other areas, like filming. But their goal for MadeGood.bikes is to provide people with the best bicycle related information for free, and this UK-based website does an excellent job of it. The fantastic bicycle repair section on the website has specific guides and sections you can access for specific problems. There is also a forum for you to find additional answers and ask questions.
Bike198.com is a network of dedicated cyclists of all hues, working to provide honest reviews, build a community and raise cycling awareness. The most helpful section I found, was the”Beginners”, covering subjects from essential riding gear, to riding tips for the trail to servicing your bike. Of course, there are several blog posts specifically for mountain biking riding tips and bike maintenance, as well as road biking riding tips and bike maintenance. You can follow Bike198 on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
BicycleTutor.com has actually been featured on MakeUseOf previously by Saikat, however, I couldn’t leave such a helpful website out of an article such as this. Run by Alex Ramon — self proclaimed bicycle geek, the site teaches you how to fix your own bikes. The site features a complete bicycle repair guide which covers general topics, as well many more that go into more depth. The various instructional guides include related links to other reputable websites, some of which have been covered already in this article. If you become a paying subscriber of BicycleTutor (which is still far less than if you were to take your bike to a shop), you can take advantage of their 50+ instructional video tutorials. If you still need help, there is an active forum.
If you love road cycling and racing, you’ll probably find this website far more useful than the average cyclist. However, in some senses, bikes are bikes and no matter what kind of bike or riding you’re doing, some skills do transfer across. For instance, on one page that covers climbing strategies, it states that you should resist the urge to stand up and pedal while climbing due to it being a less efficient use of energy. It is likely the most useful area of the website you’ll find is the Tips section.
CyclingTips is on Twitter.and
If you’re more of the mountain biking kind of cyclist (as I am), MTB Tips might suit you a little better. Note that if you’re just beginning biking, mountain biking is for all skill levels, and you don’t need need mountains around to be able to do it. MTB Tips has it all from advanced to racing. There is also a section focused on control, which is something that pertains to riders of all experience and skill levels.to
When you’re out on the trails and something happens that requires you to fix your bike, it’s crucial that you know how to quickly repair it so you can get back on the trail. MTB Tips also has a section dedicated to maintaining your bike and learning how to do those quick repairs. Note that each of these pages have dropdown menus that may have other links not featured on the pages themselves.
More Resources: Bike Forums And YouTube
There are more and more bicycling resources popping up all the time, so this list doesn’t come close to all of them, but these are some slightly less-known, yet still excellent resources available. Some other places that you want to look could include bike websites forums – some of the websites I mentioned have them. Below is a list of forums that I recommend looking into:
- RoadBikeReview.com — Forums
- Mtbr.com — Forums
- BikeRadar.com — Forums
- TwoSpoke.com — Forums
- Pinkbike.com — Forums
YouTube is also an awesome place to continue to learn more bike riding and mechanic skills. If there’s something specific you’re looking for, search YouTube and you’re bound to find it. Sometimes you may stumble upon a channel specifically for bike riding skills and/or maintenance, but other times it may just be a great instructional video produced by the average person.
Two Practical Tips Learnt from Experience
In this past year, I’ve really become a far more avid bike rider than in the past. This has allowed me to gain more experience, but it wasn’t on my own. There were two significant “problems” that I faced as a newbie to the sport. One was connections and who to ride with. This was closely related with how and where to ride. You can go out and ride by yourself, but I’ve found that when you ride with others, you’re introduced to better, more efficient riding styles and skills. That said, my first recommendation is connect with others in your community and find people to ride with. This can be done through talking to your local bike shop(s) – sometimes they have group rides. You might also search Facebook for a local organization that has a group or page. I’ve even found people on Strava, which itself is a great way to use your smartphone while cycling. This can also help you find those hidden trails so few people know about.
You might be thinking “All these repair tips and websites are great, but how do I get the equipment to begin?”
If it’s a simple repair that won’t take much time, often times a bike shop might let you come in and put it up in a stand to do those. But what if you’re still learning? You’ll probably take longer. My advice is that you look into a community bike shop. These are becoming increasingly popular, especially in more bike-friendly communities. A place like this typically has a membership model where you pay an amount per month to be able to come in and use the tools, and even the expertise of the mechanics there to learn how to fix your bike.
Do you have any additional cycling resources that you’d like to share with your fellow readers? If so, we would love to hear about them as well!