Yeah, I actually say "howdy", much to the chagrin of my family. I'm from the south, what can I say? It just comes out naturally and always with a smile! It's generally not followed by the word "partner" though, that's Texas. I have limits to, ya' know. Ha!
But that other word, partner....bicycles and partners go together like peanut butter and jelly. Can you go it alone? Absolutely. Bike rides are super fun solo! But riding with a partner (or better yet, partners!), that's the business, and oh so much fun.
Much like the bike biz, can you go it alone? Yeah, sure you can. But partners, that's what it's all about. The life experiences and satisfaction from helping customers, the business partnerships built with companies that you believe in and they believe in your dream, the rides with family and friends, that's what makes this journey so much fun.
So embrace your partners and perfect strangers alike with a good ol' fashioned "howdy" and enjoy the ride. It's gonna be a good one!
I've heard a lot of things about Chicago. Some of it positive, but more recently, much of it negative. Reading about all of the shootings, I wondered if we would feel safe. I also wasn't sure what to expect with the sheer size and density of the population. But I've heard so many positives about the diverse culture, the neighborhood vibes, the great food, and of course Chicago is the newly crowned "most bike friendly city in the US!"
We arrived around 6:30pm on a mid-week day, bracing for a traffic disaster. We were pleasantly surprised with very manageable traffic, and when we got into the city proper, the cars weren't the main traffic, rather it was the pedestrians, walking, running, and cycling of all forms. It was awesome! After finding our hotel, we hit the busy streets, sidewalks and park paths on foot to get our bearings. Quickly getting into the pace we planned for getting out on bikes the next morning.
The next morning was a few mile ride down through parks and the Lakeshore trail to the famed Navy Pier. Using some beater steel coaster brake-singlespeeds we hummed right along and didn't worry when locking them up, because there were bikes everywhere! Something like the Wythe, Franklin single-speed, or Bedford single-speed by Brooklyn Bike Co. would be ideal. All sorts were seen jockeying about the paths and streets though, from high-end carbon wonder bikes to beach cruisers and everything in between.
After getting into the pace of big city life, we started to venture into the numerous bike lanes that run through Chicago. You do have to have a decent idea of where you're heading, because once in traffic, you are best to stay in until at your destination. With great signage, bike lanes, and easy to understand layout, it's pretty easy to navigate. At one point, we were stopping to let a fellow on foot cross in front of us. Instead he stopped, put out his hand, and with a smile said the key is keep the flow going, letting us cross on bike first. I guess he could tell we weren't from 'round there? With that lesson in mind, we began to really get it and flowed with vehicular, foot, and cycling traffic, mixing it up like the locals.
In the end, we saw several neighborhoods all as a pedestrian, a mix of bike and foot. We ate at many great restaurants (some outstanding gluten-free options at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba and Summer House Santa Monica) and saw some famous sites such as Navy Pier and Wrigley Field. I always felt respected as a pedestrian while in Chicago. I think our community could learn a lot from Chicago in this respect. I would love to see our community continue to evolve this way. Keep it flowing, Maryville.
Like me, I bet a lot of you learned to ride a bike by graduating from a big wheel to a trike and then to a bike with training wheels. Then the day came, the day that you first feel freedom. The freedom of wind in your hair, wheels spinning fast enough to comply with physics and voila...you're riding a bike! I imagine you have some fun pictures and fond memories of your first bike. It's a proven way to go to learn to ride a bike, no doubt about it. It's stood the test of time.
However, in my opinion, there is a more natural way to get youngsters riding bikes. They're known as balance bikes or glide bikes. They're very light weight bikes that a child can easily straddle as young as 12-months. Once your little once can stand and straddle the bike, they'll start to scoot around on it. They learn to steer and then gradually they start taking longer strides. They start to glide longer and longer between strides, learning balance in a vary natural way, with no dependence on training wheels. Once they have the idea of balance and steering, the transition to a bike with pedals is much simpler, they only have two things to focus on, pedaling and stopping.
The bikes are very light, so the kids can handle them, also teaching independence. The tires are a solid soft rubber, no pumping or punctured tubes! The Yuba Flip Flop is a super versatile version and features a rear rack with optional panniers and even a small mountable front rack so your little one can be like Mommy and Daddy and tote along their favorite stuffed animal, toy, and of course snacks!
The name Flip Flop has a reversible frame that can be run in the convex mode, for lower standover and suitable for the young or short inseam kiddos. When they are big enough, flip that frame over for more standover and it can work for kids up to 6-years old.
The Flip Flop comes in cow, giraffe and lime green. The saddle bags and front rack are nice little touches to personalize. I've got these little guys in stock so your little one can take one for a test glide! It's a great way to see how naturally kids pick up the concepts on them. I get pretty stocked about any bike, but these little guys hold a special place in my heart because they get kids hooked on riding. What's better than that?
Get those young'uns gliding, and soon they'll be riding!
I saw this sunflower bloom on a ride recently. It was the lone sunflower blooming in a vast field of green stalks. It got my attention and I find it to not only be a stunning picture, but an example that rang true as I pondered it more. Sometimes going your own way means being the first, sometimes it means standing out in a crowd, but at it's core, it's just you being you. That's a lot to get from a picture of a flower isn't it? Yes. And, no.
~more miles, more smiles
There are so many places to explore in and around East, TN. Erwin, TN is just a couple hours drive northeast of Maryville on I-81. There is a great greenway to ride in town. For a small town, around 6,000 population, it's amazing to me that they have bike lanes, a greenway through town, and a number of beautiful road bike routes (with signage) in and around the area.
Just down the road, in the small outlying community of Flag Pond, there is a beautiful state park that is relatively new, by the name of Rocky Fork. It has some great hiking trails along picturesque rivers and creeks. The rivers seem to be quite the fishery and we saw a lot of great water to fish, may pullouts for quick parking and access, and quite a number of fly fisherman. A number of the trails are also bike accessible. They were mainly logging roads, but the opportunity for adventure on your bike is always a win. There were a number of trail opportunities and several went outside of the park as well, so the opportunity for bikepacking and exploration loops is worth a look for sure.
Rocky fork and Erwin are just one of many places. We plan to explore many more of what this beautiful area has to offer in the near future. Get a map, find a new place and do some research, and get out there and explore. No time like the present to go make some memories!
There are lots of different things that make a trail great. The technical features, roots, rocks, berms jumps, hero dirt, views, climbs, descents, and the list goes on. But sometimes what makes a trail great isn't the trail itself, it's the funky vibe that resonates.
The picture above is on a trail used to connect one great section to another. That short section of trail itself while purposeful, workman like even, is not something that you would really even notice and certainly not remember. But the Little Free Library kiosk where you take a book, leave a book is something that I just can't erase from my memory bank. I've ridden by it many, many times and it always catches my attention. I peak in every time. I'm drawn to it. There are always books and I feel pretty sure the titles are different every ride, or maybe I just want them to be different. one things for sure, you never know what you'll find. Sometimes there is a single glove inside, or some other misfit article of clothing or piece of kit that was inadvertently lost on the trail. I always wonder if the lonely glove or abandoned tire lever ever finds it's rightful owner, or maybe a new caretaker wearing mix-matched gloves.
It's a piece of trail that will forever be etched in my memory, not because of the trail itself, rather, the quirk factor. I've never left or taken anything from the little trail shrine, but it intrigues me that others do, I think I will pay homage to the trail gnomes and leave a book next time I'm out. It seems the right thing to do.
If there is one part of your bike that you want to keep happy, it's your drivetrain, in particular, your chain. A clean chain is a happy chain! This is basic maintenance item, so you can absolutely do it yourself and I highly recommend that you do.
How often you perform this is dependent upon how much you ride and in what conditions, but for most folks riding in good weather, cleaning and lubing your chain once ever 2-3 rides should be adequate. If you ride in harsh conditions or for longer distances, every other ride or even every ride is probably best.
What kind of lube? If you like to analyze, this choice can be as complex as you want. There are a lot of choices and many manufacturer claims. To simplify, it really comes down to two types, wet lube and dry lube (the latter being a bit of an oxymoron!). Wet lube is the more traditional, and more universal of the two. It is what you should use for certain in wet riding climates. When in doubt go with this lube, it generally lasts longer, and as long as you apply in the method I describe below, in large part you can avoid it's only real disadvantage, which is that it can build-up and attract dirt. Dry lube is a waxed base lubricant and is intended for dry weather. It tends to be lighter and repels dirt better, but it doesn't take a lot of water to wear it off. It also will generally demand more frequent lubing and can leave your drivetrain a little noisier. Some folks will run wet lube in fall/winter and dry lube in the spring/summer. Changing is fine too, but a good degreasing of the chain when switching is likely best. We'll tackle degreasing in another post.
I'm a fan of ProGold. They even make a cool lube pen which is excellent for getting into precise spots such as pivots, cables, spoke nipples when truing wheels, etc. I use both for both personal and shop use. I highly recommend. I've also had good luck with Finish Line products (love their bike wash) including their wax lube as well as White Lighting clean ride lube.
Okay, so you know what to buy and how often to apply, but how do you do it?! To start, you really want to do this when you return from a ride, not before you go. You want to lube to penetrate...and doing this will make it more likely that you won't skip a ride because of maintenance.
If you forget to do this when you return and you need to lube the chain, it's not the end of the world to do so before you go ride, but give it as much time to sit as you can to have the most impact. If you rode in the rain, in really dusty conditions, or any other harsh climate, I would definitely plan for 10-15 minutes after the ride to get the drivetrain cleaned up and lubed. Remember, the basics...always clean the chain first, then lube, then wipe off excess. It's as simple as that.
Keep it clean, folks!
Measure your distance in smiles, not miles. There is no better example of this then a good old fashioned family ride. It doesn't need to be a high mileage road ride or a technical trail or big mountain mileage on a bike of the fat tire variety to bring out the kid in all of us. This is a picture of a multi-generational ride on a family friendly multi-use path over Easter weekend. Grandparents, kids, and grand kids out for a spin together along a beautiful river in the mountains. The Gatlinburg Trail is short in the mileage department at just under 2-miles one way, but it is an opportunity to get out on your bike and spin the pedals near a beautiful river on family friendly terrain.
You will see plenty of people and a lot of dogs as well, so speed isn't an option nor the focus here. This is a place to embrace your inner zen and take breaks often, listen to the sounds of the river, look for trout hunting food, and just soak in the beauty of your environment. Sure it's just a hop, skip and a jump from the tourist zone that is Gatlinburg, and it terminates at an equally busy Sugarlands Visitor Center, but there is some beautiful scenery sandwiched in between. It's also an opportunity to ride a bike in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, who can pass that up? If you're come in from the Maryville/Townsend side, access isn't bad from Wear's Valley coming in via Line Springs Road which hits Metcalf Bottoms.
Go ride. Talk to all of the folks out walking, pet their dogs. Put your feet in the river and maybe skip some rocks. Take plenty of pictures. Let the time drift by while you soak up the memories with your family. It's the biking version of stop and smell the roses I suppose.
~More miles, more smiles
The latest and greatest certainly has it's place. I'll be the first to admit I drool over some of the new technology and love new bikes, parts, accessories, etc. But let's not miss the point, it's not about what you ride, it's about the ride.
Not to get all philosophical, but it really is about the act of riding. The clearing of your head, the release of energy, the places you go and what you see and who you interact with. The journey itself is what I'm after. The bike is a tool to get us over yonder.
Old school is cool! Don't get caught up in not having all of the gear. Or the latest carbon frame, wheels, or otherwise. Just go ride. Savor the good it brings into your life and soak it all up when you're out there.
Bikes are cool. People riding bikes are cool. Go get some. Run what you brung....don't miss experiences and rides.
Rider or is it writer?
My name is Adam Harris. I'm a lifelong cyclist. I love bikes. All types of bikes. I hope I can relay the joy that cycling provides me through glimpses into my thoughts and some of my mini adventures.