Riding Tips
Bike Tool Kit

Mechanical problems can and do occur while riding a bike.

The best way to prevent or minimize these is regular bike maintenance and cleaning.  Check your bike before each ride. Give it an inspection after each ride.  If a break down does occur then an emergency tool kit can help deal with most problems when on a ride.

The type of tools you carry will depend on the type of riding and your mechanical skills.  Space, weight and cost will also be issues in choosing the proper tools.  Many riders package these items into small seat bags, frame bags, “Camel back” type backpacks or in the rear pocket of a jersey or jacket.  There are several possibilities for tools and pre-packaged tool kits.  “Multi-tools” are small but versatile.  They may have tool combinations of screwdrivers, hex keys, spoke wrenches, tire levers, and others in a small single compact unit.  You can also put together your own kit.  Some of the following items could be considered for a kit:

  • Spare tire
  • Tire levers
  • Tire patch kit
  • Pump small frame mount type or CO2 cartridge based type
  • Multi tool or screw drivers, hex wrenches, socket wrenches
  • Chain tool
  • Spoke wrench
  • Master chain links/chain pins
  • Tire boot
  • $5.00 bill or some change... you never know when you will need it.
  • Extra brake/shift cables
  • Duct tape… fixes everything and no list is complete without it.

Not all breakdowns will necessarily be addressed with this list of tools but with a little patience and ingenuity you will likely be able to get yourself home.

Simply ride.
Group Riding Tips
There is no more effective way to become a motivated cyclist than finding a good regular group ride. Here are some group riding techniques common around the world.

•    Pacelines, Pacelines, Pacelines. Single or double, rotating quickly or slowly but always smooth and tight. This is the single overriding feature common to every experienced group ride.

•    Accelerate slowly and with an eye to keeping the group together. Attacks, jumps, short-hard pulls and other race-like riding may be fine for certain smaller rides but have no place in a group oriented ride. I'm often surprised that novice riders sometimes think this kind of aggressive riding is better training than a good rotating paceline.

•    A consistent pace is key. Try establishing a pedaling rhythm before reaching the front, and maintain it until just after pulling off. If you're feeling especially strong accelerate and/or take a longer pull but if you do increase the pace do it gradually. Don't forget to pedal harder on descents to make up for the extra aerodynamic resistance.

•    Go hard on the hills (and elsewhere) but don't forget to regroup. This doesn't mean waiting for every last straggler but always make a reasonable effort to regroup after the harder sections.

•    Wheel sitters are always welcome, but please stay at the back. There's nothing more disruptive than someone who rotates to the front only to slow down on hitting the wind. If you're feeling extended, tired, or otherwise not inclined to pull through there's no problem with sitting at the back, just let the riders who are rotating know when they've reached the back of the rotating section
•    Don't open gaps! If you find yourself behind a gap close it slowly. A skilled group will remain in a tight paceline through 95% of an average ride including stops, corners, short climbs, descents, and traffic by closing the inevitable gaps before they become problems.

•    Don't point out every single pothole, oncoming car, or other obstacle. Each rider has to take responsibility for themselves. This means that everyone should be paying attention to the traffic and the road, even at the back. The frontmost riders should point out unusual hazards of course, and steer the group gradually around glass, potholes, slower riders and such but don't ever assume that you can leave it up to the other riders to watch the road ahead.

•    The lead riders are most responsible for the group's behavior and must take this into account at stop signs and lights. Don't accelerate through a yellow light unless you know the back of the group can make it too. If the group does get split ride slow until the rear group has caught back on. If you're at the back please don't run the intersection just to maintain contact unless it is clear that traffic is waiting for the entire group to pass.

•    Don't accommodate elitist attitudes. Perhaps the best thing about good group rides, aside from training, is socializing. Team affiliation, racing experience, helmet use, type of bicycle, etc. are all matters of individual preference and should be left as such. As long as the rider is safe and able to keep up they should be welcome.

Experienced riders should point out mistakes. This must be done diplomatically of course but it is important to make people aware of unsafe riding, hard braking, cutting blind corners, unnecessarily obstructing traffic, etc.

It's also helpful to meet at a popular, central location. Cafes, plazas, and bike shops are all good places to wait and talk before the ride starts.
Slipstreaming and Drafting

Slipstreaming is riding behind another moving object, usually a fellow rider, to save energy. It's a great technique to learn, allows you to keep up with far faster riders, and allows groups who take turns to travel at impressive average speeds.

As the bicyclist moves through the air,  he produces a turbulent wake behind himself. It makes vortices. The vortices actually make a low pressure area behind the bicyclist and an area of wind that moves along with the bicyclist. If you're a following a bicyclist and can move into the wind behind the front bicyclist, you can gain an advantage. The low pressure moves you forward and the eddies push you forward.

How Much Energy Does it Save?
Drafting typically saves about a third of a following rider's energy. If three or more riders are in single file, the riding gets easier the farther you go back. What is less known is that the lead rider, or pacemaker, saves about 5% of his effort by having someone behind him because of the way air closes in from behind.
On hills, however, you may have trouble keeping up with riders going even a single km/h faster. Formations often separate on hills and recombine at the top.

How Close Do I Need to Be?
The closer you draft, the better the wind shadow. While theoreticly there is a good windbreak several bike lengths back, crosswinds on even calm days move it around too much to find it unless you are close.
You shouldn't try to draft closer than is safe for the skill level of both you and your companions, but stay as close as is safe and no farther. Novices should leave about three feet, and good riders like to take it in to 12 to 18 inches. When I ride competitively with a bunch of expert roadies at the local cycling club, I tend to stick between 6 to 12 inches over flat, uneventful pavement, and we temporarily stretch out when cornering to about two feet.
The distance to keep is determined by how stably you can ride. When riding at the front and looking well ahead, it's pretty easy to make your course very stable. When using aerobars, riding with your head tucked down, and staring at someone's rear wheel instead of well up the road, it is considerably harder to stay put. The idea is to get as close as you can without the chance of touching wheels.

Touching Wheels
This is really bad news. If you're the one in front, all you'll notice is a dull thud on your back tire and maybe a short buzzing sound, and you'll probably be safe. If you're in behind, you'll probably crash. Your front wheel will be pushed out from underneath you faster than you can react. Try to dodge and ride with your wheels are side by side if you are about to touch wheels, and slowly move back into position directly behind.

Pay Attention
Paying attention to your surroundings is doubly important when slipstreaming. A mistake on your part can cause a big pileup, injuring many others. Inattention can let the gap between bikes grow (or shrink!), and you may end up spending a quarter mile sprinting at top effort to get back on.
And further, you have to pay attention to more than the back wheel of the rider in front to notice stop signs, approaching hills, traffic, a busy intersection, or on the other hand a smooth downhill, upshifting derailleur, the leader ankling heavily or riding out of the saddle, will all impact the speed and distance you should be maintaining.

When slipstreaming down a hill, you'll probably have to pedal very little to keep formation, if at all. It is thus a good chance to rest, and if you are applying only a little force on your pedals, shift into a higher gear. You'll still have only a little force to apply, and you'll waste less energy moving your leg mass around.

Cross Winds
If the wind is coming from the side, the low pressure region is shifted to the other side and you have to adjust your riding position accordingly. The echlon formation, or a diagonal paceline, is best for crosswinds, but its size is limited by the width of the road. When the lead rider tires, he slows and moves behind the other riders to the end of the paceline.
Also, it is tempting to get too close to someone when riding diagonally behind them, with your front wheel nearly grazing their rear axle. Given the greater importance of dodging than deceleration in pack riding, it's good to leave at least as much margin to each side as you do when riding directly behind.

Drafting in Mountain Biking
Given the irregular turns, climbs, and abrupt speed changes of trails, the minimum reasonable distance is too much to be very useful for aerodynamics. U.S. cross-country champion Ruthie Matthes adds, "In mountain biking, drafting doesn't tend to be a factor. The speeds are slower (than on road bikes) and the rolling resistance is greater. It helps to draft for the mental aspect, for keeping pace with someone ahead of you. But as far as using less energy, it's not really a big factor."

Slipstreaming Motor Vehicles
While cars and busses are very effective wind blocks, keep in mind that cars have better brakes than you do. While it is unusual for a driver to apply full brakes, if you are behind him, it's hard to anticipate when they will. If they do, expect a nasty spill, and at higher speeds than a bike can typically cruise at.
Some ride in the slipstream of school busses, which works better than with cars if you know the route, as busses can't stop as quickly. Listen for the sound of the engine cutting to idle; that would be a good time to back off. But don't try it on roads with frequent stop lights or crossings!
Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 March 2010 00:09