Welcome to our new home!

Well as some of you may see I have moved A2 Bikegeek over here to WordPress from Blogspot. I feel that this is going to be a much better platform to work with, WordPress is very dynamic and scalable for any of my needs. I will also be rolling out a new food related blog in the coming weeks two which will also be hosted on WordPress, this is part of the reason why I moved A2 Bikegeek over here too.

In the next few weeks I will be continuing to develop this blog and play with the design and format a little bit, as you can tell this is a pre-made theme, I will need a little time to get my CSS coding done.

In the meantime continue to enjoy reading and this great weather!

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Google Bike Maps rolls out.

Well Google has finally rolled out what many of us have been asking for for a long time now, bike friendly route information in Google Maps.

Google Bike Maps – Ann Arbor

First things first, if you followed the above link you would see the sparse amount of information on bike routes here in Ann Arbor, a large majority of them downtown are not even roads but sidewalks. In fact I didn’t find an actual ‘Mapped’ road route for bicycle, no bike lanes indicated, where or what routes to take to avoid heavy traffic/high speeds. One nice thing they did map out is my favorite route to Ypsilanti from Ann Arbor by traveling the MUP along the Huron river, it is easy for me to remember it even in the dead of night but was always such a pain to try and describe it to people. In regards to Google Maps lack of biking info currently, there is a light on the horizon. According to Google, users will soon be able to contribute bike route information through Google Map Maker.

Oh, and by the way if you have not been out enjoying your bike these past few days i have no clue what could be going through you mind 😛

Happy riding!

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Spring Maintenance Tips

So spring is approaching us and you want to get your bike out of the garage for the season, well that is if you didn’t ride this winter.

First things first, if there was anything wrong with you bike before you put it away get that fixed asap because the sooner you get it fixed the less it will cost you.

Wobbly wheel? Get that wheel to a shop, a wobbly wheel may be due to broken spokes or the wheel being out of true. The longer you hold off on this the more damage it is going to cause.
Local Ann Arbor Bike Shops

If you are adventurous and want to do it yourself here is some info on doing so!
Sheldon Brown
Bike Tutor

Squeaking or crunchy sounding chain? Lube it up, as I’ve stated before there are different types of lube. For an all in one solution i recommend Finish Line 1-Step , if you are looking for something a little nicer I like to use Finish Line Dry Lube with Teflon any of these or equivalents are available at local bike shops.

Is your chain worn out? This is something that you more than likely have to go to a shop to find out, but they should be able to check it for you free of charge, if they don’t, tell them to screw off and never go back. If you want to be able to check on the condition of your chain’s current state at home you can purchase a Parktool Chain Checker PT-CC3C through Nashbar for cheap, around $9. If your chain is worn out or nearing the end of it’s life it can cause some serious damage to your drive train. Chains and the rear cassette/freewheel are commonly replaced at the same time on nicer bikes due to both of them wearing into/with each other. If you have a cheaper bike you usually can feel comfortable just replacing the chain.

Flat tires or ones that won’t hold air overnight? You can of course take it to a shop or do it yourself. Make sure to make note of your tire size and dimensions before purchasing new ones. If you have problems with you tires holding air (in terms of days not months/weeks people) then I would recommend just replacing the tube(s) , tubes cost the same as a patch kit, and for the most part it takes some practice to patch a tube. Patching tubes are usually a last resort done on the side of the road or at home when you have no other options. Here is some advice on fixing your own flats .

Brakes squeaking, squealing or not working well? This can be caused by different things. I’ll start by going from top to bottom on what could be happening and should be checked. First, are your brake cables/housing in good condition? If they are frayed, rusted up, bent, kinked, etc I would recommend on replacing them. Here is a tutorial on replacing your brake cables , replacing your cable housings . Second, are your brake calipers/cantilevers adjusted properly? Here are two links for adjusting side pull calipers and cantilever brakes. Also make note of the state of your brake pads, commonly brake pads will have a line marked in the rubber to show you how much is left before you should replace them. With brake pads that don’t have an indicator line they are commonly worn out after any grooves that are molded into the pads are gone or wearing out.

Derailer not shifting or acting properly? This is something that I don’t recommend a beginner tackling alone necessarily due to the possibility of what may happen if it is improperly adjusted and or setup. Results may include improper shifting, slipping of gears, and or  destruction of your rear wheel and derailer if improperly adjusted.  If you do want to service your rear derailer here is all the info you will ever need. The front can be adjust in a similar way.

Fenders are always handy to have on your bike for spring time too. There are many makes and they all essentially do the same thing. Just make sure that they fit and or will work for your bike.

If you are looking for some beginning of the season deals here are a good few links:
Nashbar
Chain Love
Bonk Town
REI

Information resources:
Sheldon Brown
Bicycle Tutor

Everyday Tires – A2 Bikegeek

General bike chattery and blogs I like:
Bike Forums
Bike Snob NYC
Eco Velo
General Carelessness
The Prairie Peddler

Next blog entry I think I will have a few good weather pics of my setup on my Surly Cross-Check outfitted with new Salsa Bell Lap Bars. Or some info on new and good bikes for this coming cycling season.

Posted in ann arbor, bike shop, cycling, maintenance, spring, tips | Tagged | Leave a comment

Winter Maintenance Tips

Winter can be a harsh time for any bike. Salt, grime, water, ice, snow, etc. can all take life out of your components. Here are a few tips on keeping things rolling smoothly during the winter months.

1.) Store your bike indoors or a garage during the night. I recommend this year round.

2.)Keep your chain lubed and drivetrain rolling smooth. Periodic cleaning of the chain every other or few weeks(depending on how much you ride). I like to use OneStep by Finish Line for cleaning a chain, it cleans and lubes. After drying or later that day i will use a seasonal lube, during the winter and cold nasty months i like WetLube by Finish Line. It is thicker and will stick to the chain better and not get washed off so easily. Handy when snow, slush, etc. is getting all over your drive train. In the warmer weather i will use Dry Teflon Lube by Finish Line, it is a wax base lube good for warmer weather.

3.) Make sure water is not getting into your brake and shifter cables. If you get water into the housings for these cables they may end up freezing together and be unable to move. You can obviously bring your bike inside and it will melt this water in the cable housings but yet it will still be in there. Resulting in it to refreeze again when your bike gets cold. To help reduce the likeliness of this happening is to put a little lube in your cable housing and or a white lithium grease on the cables near where they exit the housing. Some nicer cables will have teflon coatings on the cables and housings and this may be of no help. But for the large majority of bikes ridden a little bit of lube in the cable housings is never a bad thing.

4.) Pressure love. If you are storing your bike in a warm room this time of year the air pressure in your tires are going to be different when you get it out side and cold. Just like how a hot air balloon works a bike tire will act similarly. When the air is warm it will expand and when cold contract. So imagine you pump you tires up to 100psi when they are inside your warm house, take that tire outside and the air will cool down and contract, resulting in lower pressure in your tire. IF you go and fill it up to a 100psi when outside or in a garage, and then later bring that bike inside. The in the tires will warm up and expanded, the pressure will be above 100psi. This can result in tubes exploding while inside. Mind you the specific pressure of 100psi is relative to what pressure your tubes can handle.

5.) Tires. Switching tires can be helpful. Studded tires can be very handy in icy conditions. There is plenty written on them on the web, i’ve never have used one so I will leave that info to people that have. Other tire options consist of larger diameter tires such as cyclocross tires, or mtb tires depending on what type of bike you have. If you can only acquire one extra tire for winter weather use it on the front and not the rear. In the event of slippery conditions you want to have more control over the front to prevent the front washing out on you. If the rear does this you are more likely to just fish tail or be able to catch yourself. There’s nothing wrong with running the same slicks or tires you do all year round.

6. Keeping the bike stable. Exposing your bike to warm then cold then warm then cold again and again can wreck havoc if it is going on multiple times a day. Some times a lil prep can go a long way. For instance some times I will put my bike in the garage and get it to the same temp as outside. This will help stop condensation building up and snow instantly melting when it hits your bike and less likely to have it ice up. Warm metal getting hit with cold snow means instant melt. If i come back home before i head somewhere else i will leave it outside or in the garage and keep it cold to minimize the snow melting off and causing a watery havoc. This is of course completely relative to the weather. When bringing the bike in for the day i will try and knock off and wipe off the majority of snow from the bike to minimize the amount of water dripping off/on the bike or floor. Same as above warming the tires up back and forth will mess with the pressure also.

7.) Giving your bike a gentle bath once and a while is nice also. Use low pressure water to help ensure that you don’t shoot water into your cable housings. Dish soap and a wash rag are handy. Wipe it dry and let it sit for a bit for the rest of the moisture to evaporate off before taking outside.

Now to different types of drive-trains that work well in winter weather.
In my opinion fixed gear drivetrains work best. Simple and cheap. The chain is the only moving part. Easy to control when it starts to slip. Easy to keep clean.

Internally geared drivetrains are also popular since there is no external moving parts. These are more expensive and seals have been known to be temperamental. Easy to clean the drivetrain since there is no derailer.

Derailer style drive trans(most common on geared bikes road or mtb) can work just fine. These can be temperamental to snow and ice build up and or lubing issues. Properly maintained they will work just fine.

If you have any questions hit me up!

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FALL IS UPON US!!

Well it is officially Fall. Time to have a quick chat on required and recommended clothing and accessories.
LIGHTS, I try to never leave home without them these days even when i head out during the day, never know if i will get delayed and have to ride back in the dark,
specially with the dwindling sunlight.

For me I really like using the Niterider Mini Newt-usb , available at many locations and websites. This front light only has one mode (since its the cheaper model) and that mode is ‘ON!’ , it is a very bright unit, enough light to safely guide multiple riders when riding together, much brighter than a majority of headlights people tend to use. The light can mount onto your helmet or to your handle bars, the batteries are Li-ion and are housing in a separate pack from the light. It comes with an extension cord so that you can mount it in many different places. I like to put mine on the top tube, easy access. One of the really neat things about the light is that you can also charge it off of a USB cable on your PC. The battery has a good amount of run time too.


For my taillight I have been using a Blackburn Mars 3.0, it has multiple light modes and also side markers on it. It can be clipped to anything, messenger bags, pants and even comes with a frame/seatpost mount too.

I also recommend the Bike Planet Super Flash, i know a few people that use them and they are bright with multiple flash modes and ways to affix to you or your bike too.

For clothing.

WOOL WOOL WOOL

I’m a huge fan of wool, it breathes, keeps its thermal properties when it gets wet and unlike synthetic cycling/adventure clothing you don’t have to wash it after every wear. Wool is much more robust of a material than most people think. Even a cheap thrift store wool sweater for $2.80 at Value World/ Salvation Army/etc can be a great investment for cold weather. And wool socks are worth more than their weight in gold! More info on wool.

Next time I will chat a bit on gloves i think, maybe even good winter drive trains for bikes, along with tires for the up-coming season.

Planet Bike

Nite Rider

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Bike Polo

SO! for the uninitiated masses I shall introduce you all to Bike Polo!

Bike Polo is a fairly simple game, it is un-gentrified polo which is played upon bicycles, there are few rules such as the way it was intended centuries ago.

Rules:
1. Your foot may not touch the ground at any time, doing so will put you out of play and you have to quickly remove yourself from the play and tag back in at a common point which is usually a land mark on the sideline at the center of the court, your mallet may be used at any time to ‘tripod’, which means using your mallet to help balance yourself on your bike.
2. In order to score you must hit the ball off the round end of your mallet.

Those are really the only rules.
‘like contact’ is allowed, examples ‘bike on bike’ , ‘mallet on mallet’ and ‘body on body’. The caveat to the ‘like contact’ is that you will have to expect the same level of aggression to be returned upon you from the other player or one of their teammates in retaliation to your initial aggression. You can intentionally knock another players mallet, hit their bike with yours, put your shoulder into theirs, you can even stop and back up into their way or path causing them to have to divert their line of attack or otherwise collide with you. You can even run them into a fence or goal if your court has such amenities.

Mallets are commonly made out of ski poles and plastic pipe, the ski pole is obviously used as the pole for the mallet. The plastic pipe is used for the mallet head, the plastics used are usually HDPE (high density polyethylene such as your cutting boards are made of, also knows as gas pipe) or Acetal (polyacetal). These two plastics are the best materials for polo mallet heads, plastics such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is too weak and brittle to be used, these mallet heads quickly shatter, fracture and become dangerous at times. Other materials such as wood from croquet mallet heads is also used at times but is heavier.

Bikes used for bike polo can very widely, fixed gear or freewheeled bikes can be used. Although many veteran players will swear that a fixed gear bike is the best tool for the job, i agree. It allows you to track stand, slow down without having to use your brake (brakes are still highly recommended for maximum effectiveness on the field), fixed gear bikes can also back up, go in backward circles and have a much more simple and robust drive-train. You can use a nice bike if you want(not recommended though), more regular players will tend to build up polo bikes specifically for bike polo, these bikes usually have very low gearing which allows them to accelerate and decelerate very quickly, the large amount of torque these bikes have make them great for muscling through other bikes and also makes them very maneuverable in tight situations, which are very very common. Some players will run a front brake some a rear brake, it’s a matter of preference on which one they run. Suffice to say, a polo bike is one that you are not worried about messing up, because it will happen at some point.

Goals can be made of just about anything, road cones, boxes, street hockey goals, etc. the common theme is that the opening width is approximately the length of the bike, this may very city to city though.

To score your must hit the ball on the circular end of your mallet, shuffling is allowed during play, which consists of using the wider side of your mallet to essentially dribble the ball around the court. A move called ‘ball jointing’ is allowed in some cities, it consists of seating the ball into the hollow end of the mallet and the ground, this allows you to drag the ball around at a very high rate of speed and maneuverability, but you must release the ball and then hit it again in order to score a goal, otherwise this is considered shuffling. At any time if your team puts the ball into your own goal it is considered a goal for the opposing team, no question about it. You can play the ball off other bikes, players and obstacles to score goals.

Cities all have their home court rules, but generally they are just small rules that do not effect the general game play. Some cities play more physically aggressively, some with more finesse and so on and so forth. Who really wants to jack up their buddy then have to play with them the next week? That just tends to put a big target on your back in the general scheme of things.

There is no sanctioning organization or official rule setting party in regards to bike polo. Although the commonly referred and referenced set of rules are the ones used for Cycle Messenger World Championships or the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships. These rules are the ones used at these events, i could link to them but i’m sure your are web savy enough to use google.

The few obviously biased links i will link you too are as follows:
Horse Trading
Twitter – A2 Bike Polo
Myspace – A2 Bike Polo
Photos – A2 Bike Polo

For Ann Arbors bike polo events our twitter is the most effective way to stay up to date on whats going on! SO if you have yet not been frightened away or think people that play such a game are seriously nuts come on out for our Sunday games that start at 4-4:30pm at the Palmer Field in Ann Arbor, google it. We have extra mallets and are always glade to have friendly new faces to come to play, and yes we obviously are much more gentle with new players than the veterans.

Posted in a2, a2 bike polo, ann arbor, bike, bike polo | Tagged | 3 Comments

Living off the back of my bike

So i’m a little behind on updating the blog but i was in the process of moving so i don’t feel so bad.

So while in the process of moving I was homeless so to speak for 10days. Through my network of friends I always had a couch of floor to crash on. The kicker to all of this was I wasn’t and couldn’t use my jeep which was turned into a mobile storage unit. So I loaded up my necessary worldly possessions onto my bike! Two panniers loaded up, a bed roll, and my messenger bag. Each morning i wold load up and roll to work, to where my coworkers always took to the humor when they would see me roll into work with my bike in it’s ‘homeless mode’ .

Through my 10day journey some things were clearly illustrated to me that before were not much of an issue. How much stuff do I really need in my life, turns out in reality very few possessions are truly needed, I had really wished that i didn’t have as much weight on my bike as I did, around 40lbs. When i get to do my cross country tour I will definitely not carry this much weight, let alone that much on the back of the bike.

One of the other things that came up for me was that between getting out of work and finding my next place for the night/waiting for the host to get home I didn’t have really many places to go. I could swing by the coffee shop and loiter (Comet Coffee was helpful with that) , go to a park for a few hours, I even went to the diag for a few times but it got a little strange at times, homeless and or panhandles started thinking i was one of them and their buddy, pedestrians would also start thinking that I was also of that click. So that was interesting being viewed in that way.

The other big issue was eating right or enough, without refrigeration i had to rely on dried goods and fresh fruit between meals or stopping at the burrito shop, etc. I was hungry 24/7 and started lusting after food, eating where ever I could get a free meal, or trade food for bike work. Oh yeah, i forgot to add, for a majority of this whole time I was nearly broke too, which added to the conundrum.

BUT now! All is well, I’m moved into my new home for nearly a week now, still getting settled in, I will soon have my bike shop setup in my basement too!!! Exciting! Well for me anyways.
In other exciting news I have returned to my studies at the university, and also just got a new sweet job a couple nights a week, and get this I will be getting paid to ride a bike….. welllll a Pedi-cab actually! So for those late nights at the bar I’ll be able to give you a lovely bike ride home on the back!

Attached are a few pics of my sturdy and trust steed loaded up with my belongings.
I’ll try and get some pics of my adventures on the pedicab tomorrow night to share with you all, i’m sure it is going to be crazy and fun!

Posted in ann arbor, loaded, pedi-cab, pedicab, surly, touring | Tagged | Leave a comment

Hello to all! Cycling fun in Ann Arbor!

Hello! This is my first post, I plan to blog about all kinds of things bike related, bikes, life, work, industry, rants, raves, etc.

First an introduction to myself, I am a bike geek, love to talk about and ride bikes 24/7. I am a local mechanic here in Ann Arbor, MI. I am also a college student with aspirations of one day using what i have learned in school and in life to one day open my own shop and also build frames, but lets take it in baby steps people.

So what kinds of bikes am I into? Well i have a few flavors of the two wheeled persuasion that i’m into. My bread and butter cycling is urban commuting/riding , i find it to be the best way to get around the city and surrounding area, so for a large part i ride my Surly Cross Check outfitted with full fenders and rack. I also enjoy riding light and fast fixed gear bikes, I have a Miyata 310 that i considered my ‘first real bike’ that helped get me hooked on cycling. The second fixed gear i ride is my Nishiki polo bike, which is also utilitarian with fenders and a rack. You never know when you might get caught in the rain and or need to haul something back from the farmers market after tearing up the polo court!

Currently I am between moving into my new house and my old house and am living off the back of my bike, two panniers and a bedroll loaded up on the back. People keeps asking me where I’m heading or going camping and i just tell them that i’m just couch surfing and living off the back of my bike. I’m going to snap off some photos of my loaded up rig in the next few days to show you how I’m rolling.

I’m going to wrap up this post with some referrals!
Best bike shop in town – Ann Arbor Cyclery
Weekly bike related fun – A2 Bike Polo – Sundays@4PM & Wednesdays @6pm – Palmer Field/Court (times are in bike people time so give of take a half hour) http://twitter.com/a2bikepolo
Eco Velo – my fav commuting blog
Bike forum and info – Bikeforums
Bike snobbery – Bike Snob NYC
Bike comic – Yehuda Moon

Alrighty everyone, till next time keep the rubber side down and have fun riding!

Posted in a2, ann arbor, bike, bike polo, bike shop, polo | Tagged | Leave a comment