Smart Bicycling

Bikes & Riding Tips

Why Go to a Bike Shop?

Description of the video:

Adam Rodkey of the BIkesmiths bike shop at 112 S. College Avenue details some of the benefits and services local bike shops provide.
How to Choose a Bike

Description of the video:

Answering these few questions will help you discover what type of bike is best for you:

•Why am I buying a bike?
•How fit am I?
•Where will I ride?
•What kind of terrain will I be riding?
•Will I be carrying anything?
•How much do I want to spend?

Types of bikes:
Road: Dropped handlebars and skinny tires, for racing or touring
Mountain: Flat handlebars with a wide range of gears, large tires and suspension for unpaved terrain
Hybrid/Comfort: Provides an upright position for a more relaxed ride
Recumbent: Have a reclined position and come in a wide variety of styles

Fitting and Adjusting Your Bike

Description of the video:

Steps to Fitting a Bike Frame:

  • Straddle the bike and stand in front of the seat.
  • Lift the front and rear wheels off of the ground until it touches you.
  • If it is a road bike, there should be 1-2 inches between the tires and the ground.
  • For a mountain or hybrid bike, there should s be 3-4 inches.

Another way to test the fit of a frame: When you’re sitting on the bike and one pedal is pushed all the way down, there should be a slight bend in your knee.

Bike Helmets

Description of the video:

Fitting a Helmet:

  • Place it on your head without fastening the straps.
  • There should be a two-fingers width between your eyebrows and helmet.
  • There should be little movement when you shake your head from side to side.
  • You will want to start out with the smallest size– you may have to try on different sizes and brands of helmets until you find one that fits.

Adjusting Your Helmet:

  • The side straps should come to a point just below your ears forming a “Y” shape.
  • When your mouth is closed, there should be about half an inch between the chin strap and your chin.
Basic Bike Check

Description of the video:

An easy way to make sure your bike is in good working order is to do an ABC Quick Check.

Air: Be sure you have enough air in your tires.
Brakes: Look to see that your brake pads are not worn.
Chain and Cranks: Pull on your cranks to see that they are not loose and look to see that the chain is not rusted and it is free of gunk.
Quick Release: Make sure all quick releases are closed.
Check: Take a slow brief ride to check that your bike is working properly.

Starting and Stopping

Description of the video:

Steps to starting your bike:

  • Stand ahead of the seat.
  • Place one pedal in an upright position.
  • Push the pedal down and ease yourself onto the seat.
  • Place the other foot on the opposite pedal.

Steps to stopping your bike:

  • Stop pedaling
  • Shift your weight to the pedal that is in the down position
  • Squeeze both brakes equally
  • Slide off the seat
  • Place one foot on the ground
Shifting Gears

Description of the video:

Most bikes have gears. They help make your pedaling consistent whether you are going uphill or down.

Here’s what you need to know about gears.

  1. When it is getting harder to pedal, shift into an easier, lower gear. Each revolution will propel the bike a short distance, but it will take less effort to push the pedals.
  2. When it’s getting easier to pedal, you’ll want to be in a harder, higher gear. Each revolution will propel the bike a long distance, but the effort is very high.
  3. On flat ground, you’ll want to be in the middle of your range of gears.

For best results, the chain needs to be in a generally straight line. If the chain isn’t in a straight line, you should be able to hear it.


Description of the video:

You may think it’s the handlebars that do the steering on a bike, but your body actually does the majority of the steering. If you turn by just moving your handlebars, you will make turns that are wide and clumsy. The tighter and smoother the turn, the more you have to lean.

Your job is to use small motions to steer the front wheel as little as possible to keep the bike directly under your center of gravity.


Description of the video:

Scanning successfully is a key part of riding anywhere—it’s an easy and safe way to communicate your intentions to others and it also shows you what is happening behind you.

At first, it will be difficult to scan and maintain a straight line. A tip that may keep you from pulling the bike is to remove the hand, from the direction you are scanning, from the handlebars.


Description of the video:

Communicating your intentions not only makes your ride safer, but it is also required by law in the United States.

Left Turn: Fully extend your left arm out to the side
Right Turn: Fully extend your right arm out to the side or bend your left arm up at a right angle with your hand flat.
Slowing or Stopping: Extend your left arm out at a right angle with your hand open.

Better Bicycling

Lane Changing

Description of the video:

Changing lanes in traffic can be challenging. Here’s how you can change lanes with confidence:

  • Plan ahead, anticipate where you are going to need to be on the road.
  • Look behind you, possibly several times.
  • Signal where you are going.
  • Act carefully, smoothly and deliberately.
Intersection Positioning

Description of the video:

Since most crashes happen at intersections, be sure to reduce your risk by being visible, positioning yourself clearly on the road, and making eye contact with other drivers.

When you are coming up to a multi-lane intersection, you will want to be in the right-most lane that is traveling in the direction you are going. Where you are within the lane depends on the intersection.

Bike Lanes

Description of the video:

A bike lane is a striped and signed lane that provides a dedicated space on the road for people on bikes. They should be used the same as any other travel lane, so follow the same rules of the road.

Things to look out for:

  • Parked cars. Be sure you ride far enough over to stay clear of an opening car door
  • Vehicles that are turning right without a signal

Even if your community has a law that says you have to ride in a bike lane, there are exceptions:

  • Making a left turn
  • Passing another bicyclist
  • Going around hazards

As with any other lane changes, be sure to first scan, signal and yield.

Traffic Laws

Description of the video:

In all 50 states, people on bikes are required to follow the same laws as other drivers.

Here are a few key principles that underpin all US traffic laws:

First Come, First Served:
Everyone on the road is entitled to the lane width they need. This includes the space behind, to each side and the space in front. If you want to use someone else’s space you must yield to whoever is using it.

Ride on the Right:
In the United States, everyone must drive on the right-hand side of the roadway.

Yielding to Crossing Traffic:
When you come to an intersection, if you don’t have the right of way, you must yield.

Yielding when Changing Lanes:
If you want to change lanes, you must yield to traffic that is in your new lane of travel.

Speed Positioning:
The slowest vehicles on the road should be the furthest to the right. Where you position yourself on the road depends on the location of any parked cars, your speed, and your destination. Always pass on the left.

Lane Positioning:
Bikes can share the same lane with other drivers. If a lane is wide enough to share with another vehicle (about 14 feet), ride three feet to the right of traffic. If the lane is not wide enough to share, “take the lane” by riding in the middle.

Intersection positioning:
When there is a lane that is used for more than one direction, use the rightmost lane going in the direction you are traveling.

Follow all street signs, signals, and markings.

Riding on the Sidewalk

Description of the video:

When you are riding on the sidewalk, you also have to deal with many hazards: pedestrians, street furniture, signs, newspaper boxes, etc… These items don’t just make riding inconvenient; they also can make you invisible to drivers.

Sharing the Trail

Description of the video:

Since the path can be congested it’s important to follow the same rules as everyone else in order to have a safe and enjoyable time.

  • Be courteous
  • Know the rules of the trail you are using
  • Give a clear signal when passing
  • Be cautious and yield to crossing traffic
  • Always be predictable by riding in a straight line
  • If you are riding while it is dark, be sure to use lights
  • Only use half the width of the trail
  • Keep it clean
Where Should I Ride?

Description of the video:

The law states that people on bikes should ride as far right as practicable, but what exactly does that mean?

It does not mean that you have to ride in the gutter -- never ride there. If you’re on a road that is too narrow to share with another vehicle, you should be in the middle of the lane. You do not want to give motorists the opportunity to try to squeeze past you. When the lane is wide enough to share (around 14 feet), you should place yourself three feet away from traffic.

Videos courtesy of The League of American Bicyclists.
"Why Go to a Bike Shop?" video produced by ABS Media with special thanks to Bikesmiths.