A fundamental brake-down

Summertime is here and kids are riding bikes. Bikes give kids a sense of freedom, particularly during the long days of summer. A bike can mean the difference between staying indoors at home or meeting friends at the swimming pool. Bikes allow a kid to strike out on his or her own, go exploring, meet new friends, get an adrenaline rush, or just travel far enough away from home to lie down in the grass, look up at the sky and chill out under the warm summer sun.

Lots of kids don’t tell their parents if something is wrong with their bike unless it’s something that becomes too difficult for even a kid to ignore. What’s more, many parents don’t think about their kids’ bikes because they are diligent about having the bike serviced regularly at a local bike shop. It’s not enough just to take the bike in and turn it back over to your kid and think everything is fine.

A dangerous braking condition caused by use of improper brake pads (installed, in this case, by someone at a brick-and-mortar bike shop).

A dangerous braking condition caused by use of improper brake pads (installed, in this case, by someone at a brick-and-mortar bike shop).

I recently had a parent bring in a kid’s bike after the kid complained that it wasn’t stopping. Not being able to stop is a serious problem that should never be ignored! A quick look at the brakes revealed that the bike shop had completely missed the mark, by setting up the bike with the wrong brake pads. After a few weeks of stopping, the pads wore around the rim, creating a situation in which even the fiercest amount of force applied to the brake levers could not generate enough stopping power on the rims.

Luckily no one was hurt, and luckily the kid’s mom took her bike to Little Jimmy’s Wheelhouse, where attention to detail and quality bicycle repair and maintenance are standard operating procedure. We fixed the brakes and now the bike works fine.

The moral of the story is twofold: If you bring your kid’s bike in for maintenance, pay attention to how your kid is riding it for the first few rides. Listen for unusual noises, steering problems, shifting irregularities or braking issues.

A simple test is to teach your kids the ABC’s of biking:

Before every ride be sure to check

Air (Are the tires properly inflated and are the tires in good shape?)

Braking (Do the brakes stop the bike, and does the lever when pulled remain about an inch away from the handlebar when fully compressed?)

Chain and drive train (is the chain lubricated, not worn, and is the bike shifting properly?)

If your bike isn’t working properly, bring it in to Little Jimmy—before the brake pads morph into the horror show above, or before things start to go wrong. You’ll save headaches, heartbreak, and a lot of time that could be spent enjoying all that summer has to offer!

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Turkey Day Town Tour is Back!

We will do the 2nd Annual Turkey Day Town Tour on Thanksgiving day this year.

Riders enjoy the first Turkey Day Town Tour

The first Turkey Day Town Tour actually occurred in 2012 and it was highly successful. About 30 people went out and rode and every single person enjoyed a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream afterward, despite most saying at the beginning of the ride that they weren’t going to eat any. Turns out the ride was really fun and by the end, spirits and appetites were high! That was the point.

The weather was horrible in 2013, so the ride was canceled. We’re thinking the weather will hold this year and we’ll be able to do it again. See the image below for details on where and when to meet on Thursday, Nov. 27.

The holidays are a wonderful time. But they can be a stressful time, too. The Turkey Day Town Tour started as a way for my wife and I to get out of the house and ride our bikes instead of spending the day indoors worrying about whether the turkey would dry out in the oven. Over the years, we’ve learned that a hands-off approach and the proper cooking utensils yield a fine, juicy turkey. The bike ride allows us the opportunity to silently reflect on all the things for which we are thankful, and this year we have enough things to reflect on to cover a ride twice as long.

The inaugural Turkey Day Town Tour brought together a bunch of people who already knew each other and a bunch of people who didn’t. The sky was clear and bright and every twist and turn in the trail was greeted with a smile. We hope to have as much, if not more, fun this year, too.

We hope you’ll join us!

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Cleaning up your act

Guy walks into a bike shop, hands his bike to the mechanic and says, “I need you to tune up my bike, but when you’re done could you give me the all the dirt back? I need to bury my daughter’s hamster.”

It’s not a very funny joke, unless you happen to be the mechanic who gets a bike that actually has enough dirt on it to bury a hamster. I’m sad to say that I’ve received bikes that were filthy enough that I could have used the dirt on them to build a pump track!

I’m always amazed at how many calls I get from people who say their bike isn’t working properly and when they bring the thing in, it looks like they’re pushing a two-wheeled zombie that had just climbed out of a casket filled with soil from their favorite trail. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your bike, then your bike is probably way overdue. Routine cleaning and maintenance go a long way toward keeping a bike in decent running condition. Not only does a dirty bike function worse on the road or on the trail, but dirt can actually lead to a premature breakdown of parts. Grit and grime sneak into cracks and crevices and slowly scourge components, contaminate crucial lubricants and mask developing problems under a veil of filth.

The best thing a bike rider can do is to take a few moments after every ride to clean up your bike. Take a wire brush and clean the top, bottom and sides of your chain as you slowly move the pedals backwards. Use a soft rag or a toothbrush to clean the pulley wheels on your rear derailleur; clean them well enough that you can read the words stamped into them or written on them in paint script. wipe excess grime off the frame, brake levers and shift levers. Use a soft, clean rag to wipe the excess dirt and dust off of the stanchions of your fork and the one on your shock. Doing so will keep grit from working its way past your wipers and into your suspension components. Never use a power washer or a high-pressure hose to clean your bike. If you do that, you run the risk of washing all the lubrication out of your bike and then you’ll be in for some real trouble.

Five minutes at the end of each ride is all it takes. You can talk about the ride with your friends as you clean. It’s a good way to remember the ride and to keep your bike in good shape.

Even if you do keep your bike in good condition, get a comprehensive tuneup at least once a year. That way you’ll know your bike is in top condition and doesn’t hold any hidden surprises that might lead to misfortune out on the road or the trails.

The pictures below show the drive train of a bike before and after Little Jimmy’s Señor Peppy tuneup. The tuneup process uncovered a couple of extremely serious issues with the customer’s bike. Luckily, everything worked out okay.

Check out Little Jimmy’s Service Page for details about our tuneups and other maintenance procedures, and remember to clean up your act after every ride!

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