Best Holiday Gifts for a Cyclist

Not sure what gift would be perfect for that cyclist in your life? Let us help you with a few of our own ideas for holiday gifts.

Bicycle Maintenance Products

Give your cyclist everything they need to take care of their bike and make sure it performs at its peak potential. These products range from bicycle chain lubricants to drivetrain degreasers, from bike washes and polishes to specialty brushes and chain cleaning tools.

Giant Numen + Spark headlight and taillight

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Giant Numen+ Spark is a super bright LED bike light featuring 15 bright LED’s giving 20 Lumens of light with 5 modes offering a maximum 6 hours run time. Micro-USB rechargeable Li-ion battery and a quick and easy rubber mounting system round out a high performance light.

The Bike Rack’s Branded Apparel

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Our Bike Rack branded apparel offers you a unique look combined with high quality apparel wear. Check out our Castelli jerseys and bibshorts, Swiftwick sox, custom caps and American Apparel t-shirts!

Castelli Estremo Cycling Glove

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Gloves like Castelli’s Estremo offer the coverage and weather protection for pedaling through those dark winter months.  Not only do these gloves sport wind- and water-resistant WindStopper X-Fast fabric on the back of the hand, they’re equipped with a fleece liner.  The Estremo Glove delivers with a gripy and durable fabric for the palm and fingers. This offers excellent feedback for control, accurate shifts, and confident braking. The palm is also treated to a vibration dampening palm for reduced fatigue on those longer rides.

Road ID

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For peace of mind and possibly saving a life, Road ID is essential for any cyclist out on the road or trail.

Park Tool Big Blue Book

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Updated with new information, techniques, photos, procedures, and components, the Big Blue Book 3rd Edition is a complete repair manual created to provide both the novice and veteran mechanic the information needed to perform nearly any repair from trailside repairs to complete overhauls. The Big Blue Book is the perfect reference guide and step-by-step repair manual for nearly any bike, including road, mountain, bmx, and single-speed.

Giant Tool Shed Multitool

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With the right tool you can take care of any situation. Giant’s all-new Tool Shed HD1 multi-tool is your solution; your trusted companion no matter where the path leads.

The Bike Rack’s Gift Cards

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Get a gift card for any amount, any item or service and it’s always good!

The Bike Rack comes to Brookland

Brookland, DC

Photo by BeyondDC

Those who know me know that sitting still is a challenge. So it was no surprise to me or anyone else when six years after opening The Bike Rack in Logan Circle, I started looking for my next challenge. Call it coincidence or divine intervention, but at that same time I started talking with my friend Rasheed Jabr, owner of Filter Coffeehouse about the possibility of opening a combination bike and coffee shop.

Rasheed and I met at one The Bike Rack’s weekly rides and immediately hit it off. The bike/coffee shop concept was beginning to take off and it seemed like a natural fit, a marriage of two of my favorites: cycling and coffee. The more Rasheed and I discussed it, the more we took steps to turn an idea into reality.

Rasheed and I put together a business plan and began the process of looking for space and funding. The dilemma in looking for a new space was that every location we liked was too close to the Logan Circle store. It was at that time a friend who works for Bozutto Development informed us of a new space under development in Brookland: Monroe Street Market.

Choosing Brookland

Since The Bike Rack opened in Logan Circle, most of DC’s new bike shops have opened in saturated markets and fight for the same customers. However, when we were looking for new locations there was no bike shop in the entire northeast quadrant of DC. Brookland was evolving into the newest “hot spot” for affordable housing in a nice community. The place had everything to make it happen, inexpensive housing, universities, easy proximity to downtown, its own Metro stop. What the community lacked was much needed and essential services. Monroe Street Market was poised to bring that to Brookland.

If only securing the funding was as easy and finding the location.

When we were planning for the new location, banks were just beginning to losen their grip on the credit markets post-2008 crash. For that reason among other reasons, finding a bank that would take a chance on a new concept was challenging, even though that concept was the marriage of two local and successful businesses. Despite any temporary delays, the belief in our idea and the location kept us moving forward, we would not give up. Our determination and hard work paid off and we are now in the buuildout phase of the project.

The Bike Rack and Filter Coffeehouse in Brookland is expected to open in January 2015. Stay tuned and join our email list for up-to-date news about the new shop!

 
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Progress has begun at our new Brookland location. Photo by author.

Winterize your Bicycle…and your Body!

winter_cycling2Winter is here, so get out and ride! We are all very good at using the weather as an excuse not to ride. Biking in the snow, ice, and rain can be rough on your bike. Mother Nature’s elements can damage a frame and components. Winterizing your bike will help protect it and allow for relatively comfortable and safe riding throughout these dark, cold months. Here are some tips to prepare your ride for the cold weather and keep you riding safely through the winter.

Clean it and Lube it!

Your bike is going to be exposed to not just the normal mix of road grimes, but ice, slush and road salt as well. If left on exposed metal – such as nicks in your frame’s paint or a suspension fork with magnesium sliders — these salts will cause the components to quickly rust. It’s imperative to keep your bike as clean and salt-free as possible.

Start by giving your bike a good cleaning. Wipe the frame down with a mild soap and water mix (Simple Green works well). Use rubbing alcohol to remove road grime from the wheel rims and brake pads, and rinse everything well. If you want, you can apply a thin veneer of car wax to the frame to help protect the paint and shrug off dirt.

Clean your chain at least once a week with a good chain cleaner. Apply the chain lube and allow it to ‘set’ for a bit and then wipe off the residue with a cloth. Do NOT use WD-40 on your components! It breaks down oils and creates a very sticky coating that loves to attract dirt, sand and gravel. Also squirt a few drops of chain lube on the front and rear derailleur pivot points each time you lube the chain. An occasional squirt at each end of the brake and derailleur cables, followed by working the brake and gear mechanisms back and forth to get the lubricant set will help keep your cables working well throughout the winter. Find a good synthetic chain lube: Tri-Flow, NSF, Pedro’s, and Pro Link are some popular ones.

Wheels & Tires

snow bike2Fat tires have better traction. Understanding the conditions you will be riding in will help determine what tires will be best. If you try to ride with skinny tires, having them slightly under-inflated in wet conditions will allow for better traction.

If you’ll be riding in snow, ice, and roads with a lot of debris, consider wider tires with deeper treads. This will help alleviate flat tires, because changing a flat tire in cold weather is not fun!

There’s no real need to buy rims just for your winter riding. Selecting the proper tires will help protect your rims. However, wipe down your rims regularly to remove any buildup of grime and other damaging debris.

Brakes & Fenders

Inspect your brake pads regularly! Wipe them down after each ride, especially when riding on messy/wet roads. Grime and other debris may build up on them and scratch your rims.

If you will be riding through wet conditions regularly, consider investing in fenders. Plastic fenders are inexpensive and light and are the best option to keep you dry and your office chair clean.

Lights

Winter conditions can drastically limit a driver’s visibility. If you’re going to skimp on spending money winterizing your bike, don’t skimp here! Use a powerful front light and a good flashing tail light. Make sure this tail light is visible and not hidden by your jackets and/or gear bags. You can find very capable lights that are not going to break the bank. One of the big differences in the lights by price are in their battery life – so if you can remember to re-charge yours each night (or in the office), you may be able to get away with a more inexpensive model.

Clothing

Ensure your clothing enhances your visibility so wear something bright with reflective strips. Do not just throw a parka on over a t-shirt for your morning commute. Dress in layers, sweat-wicking gear on the inside, insulating layers in the middle, and waterproof stuff on the outside. Full-finger riding gloves are a must as well. To avoid getting frostbite on your lower extremities during the ride, wear thick socks and protect your feet from puddles and freezing spray either by tying a plastic bag over your shoes (free, though it doesn’t work with clip pedals) or by investing in some neoprene booties that fit over your shoes.

Eyewear is extremely important. Consider clear lenses for the dark rides. Just because the sun is not up doesn’t mean you don’t need eye protection from the wind and from debris flying off cars.

The Ride

Ride with the conditions – ride slower, more steadily, and smoother and be aware of your surroundings. Know the angle of the sun and how it affects drivers and your visibility to them. Be cautious of black ice, snow banks, potholes, etc. Wet conditions mean reduced stopping power and extended braking distances.

What is in the meaning of a flag?

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A flag can mean many different things, it can be a symbol of nationalism or other allegiance and it can be used for identification or ornamentation.  The flag displayed in our store front window has different meanings for different people. For example, it can symbolize the LGBT community, diversity, equal rights, etc. For us it has all of those meanings plus the most important of all: inclusivity.

Our belief in inclusivity for all, which we also consider as part of our operational code, is a top-down belief from the owner to the newest hire. It is a horrible feeling to walk into any establishment and feel like you are not welcome or receive a cold reception, to be made to feel less then or not smart enough. I have experienced some of that when walking into certain bike shops, as well as other businesses and I swore that would never happen at The Bike Rack…ever!

Inclusivity for all

We have upheld that policy during our 8 years in business. Inclusivity for all is a staff-wide belief and it means that all are welcome in our store and all are treated equally. All customers are welcomed when they walk through our door and offered any help that they might need. Nobody is looked down upon because they lack knowledge or experience in cycling.

It is important for us to remember that the majority of our customers are coming to us not only for bicycles or related accessories or service, but they are also coming to us seeking knowledge and eager to gain experience.

A flag can mean many things to many people. Our flag has one very important meaning and always will: All are welcome!

 

 

The Art of Descending Hills

gran fondo3Going downhill is one of the hardest things for new cyclists to get used to. Why? The reason is simple: Speed scares people. There are even some pros who don’t descend correctly, because they’re either nervous or don’t practice it enough. 

 To start, familiarize yourself with the condition of the road surface by riding up the hill. Look for loose gravel on the shoulders, potholes or cracks on the pavement. Look also at the radius of the turns–do they follow a continuous arc, or do they become sharper during the middle of the turn? Are there sections that suddenly become steeper? As you gain experience, you will be able to analyze on the fly, at speed. When you’re ready to head down, follow these simple rules: 

Ride in the drops

With your hands on the lower part of the handlebar, your center of gravity is closer to the ground, like a racecar. Also, your weight will be more evenly distributed between the front and rear wheels, which helps maintain traction, especially during braking and turning.

Scan ahead

Look for danger signs so you have time to react. In turns, keep your eyes on the exit, which will help you carve a smooth, steady line all the way through.

Stay relaxed

Start at the top of your body and let go of tension. Keep breathing, open your mouth to unclench your jaw, drop your shoulders, bend your elbows, release your death grip on the bar, uncurl your toes and let your feet lie flat on the bottoms of your shoes.

Use subtlety to slow

Always anticipate what you’ll need to do next. This will help you avoid sudden braking. For controlled slowing, gently squeeze both levers equally with two- to three-second pulses. Constantly riding the brakes on big descents can make rims overheat–and possibly cause a blowout.

Corner smart

The biggest mistake people make descending: They wait until they’re in the middle of a turn to brake. Instead, scrub speed before the turn. If you have to brake in the turn, you didn’t slow enough to begin with. Then, push your outside pedal down (right turn, left foot down) with pressure on that foot. To initiate the turn, lean the bike–not your body–into the turn (right turn, lean bike right). The faster and sharper the turn, the more you’ll lean the bike. This action is similar to downhill skiing: The lower body angulates into the turn while the upper body remains upright. To exit the turn, gently straighten the bike.

The Short of It

Some cyclists agonize over saddle choice but put little thought into cycling shorts. Really, the two things work as a unit to keep your backside comfortable. Generally, higher-end shorts have a more advanced pad, or chamois, and can be worth the added expense–and, just like saddles, they’re gender specific. My rule of thumb: Once I find a chamois I like, I make sure all my shorts have the same version.