Advice for tuning up your bike

Now that the spring weather is finally here, if you are getting on your bike for the first few times, you may be noticing that your bike isn’t working completely as it should. Yes, it is still getting you someplace, but maybe the way the gears switch isn’t right. Or you have to really squeeze the brakes hard to get your bike to stop. Maybe your bike makes irritating noises while you ride it?  In all of these situations, you’ll find that a good bike tune up will really go far in making your bike riding more enjoyable. So how to go about it?

Find a good bike shop.

The number of independently owned bicycle shops in NYC has, unfortunately, shrunk over the past 5 years. But these small shops can sometimes offer the best customer service, particularly when the person working on your bike is also the owner. So it’s often worthwhile to go a little out of your way if you are looking for a real thorough tune-up or overhaul.  In my case, I had a bike that had gone 2 years without a major overhaul with many miles ridden. So I made the trip from the Bronx down to Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Kween Kargo, a shop that specializes in cargo bikes and wheelbuilding. I was lured by their Instagram posts that focused on the quality of their repair work, so I decided to give them a try. The level of service I received from Camille and Chris, the owners of the shop, was unparalleled, and the bike worked flawlessly when I picked it up. Chris also told me that he test-rode the bike to make sure it was perfect. And he said that I had 10 days to bring the bike back for further adjustments. So if it’s service like this that you are after, please support local bike shops!

Do it yourself!  (or at least understand more about your bike before you bring it in).

If you have the time available – and the inclination – working on your bike yourself is very rewarding. Even if it’s just the periodic changing of your chain, or occasionally making your own adjustments to  your brakes or gearing, any work you do yourself will help you learn more about your bicycle. There are many great books you can buy that provide a good reference for your own repairs. And, of course there are also YouTube videos.

If you are thinking about doing your own tune-up, or if you just want to understand how your bike works a little better, check out Nick Legan’s piece from this month’s Adventure Cycling Magazine  “The Unbearable Lightness of Cleaning”. It’s a thoughtful article that will help you identify which parts of your bike may need the most work.

Spring 2019 Bike Path Update

Now that it’s April, many cyclists are dusting off their bikes and heading out for their first ride of the season. And off-road bicycle paths are often the first places cyclists look to for those early season warm-up rides. The good news is that there are a lot of exciting bike path improvement projects heading to our region for 2019. Check out our updates below. And if you know of any other bike path improvement projects in the pipeline for this year, email us and we’ll update this posting again with the new information.

Don’t forget that there are great websites out there that catalog all the bike paths and bike routes in our region. These websites are great resources if you are looking to ride someplace new. Here are a few to check out:

http://bikehudsonvalley.com/

http://bikelongisland.com/

https://www.facebook.com/njbikemap/

 

OK, on to the updates:

North County Trailway – Westchester County

The North County Trailway is one of three trailway segments that was constructed on the abandoned Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad. Because the North County Trailway was also one of the first segments to be constructed on this rail line, some portions of the trail are now more than 20 years old and are in disrepair. However, the entire length of this trailway segment, between the Putnam County line and Old Saw Mill River Road in Tarrytown, will be resurfaced and repaired during 2019.  If you ride the trail this year, be prepared for trail closures to occur anywhere along the trail. It may be worth checking the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation Facebook page to see if they have information about trail closures before you head out for your ride. This trail is the prominent feature of our Hudson Valley Craft Brewery Bike Tour. If you do our tour, we can give you advance information of trail closures and we can shuttle you around them if they are impassible.

Harlem Valley Rail Trail – Dutchess and Columbia Counties

If you’ve ever taken the Metro-North Harlem Line train all the way to the end, you’ll notice that the Harlem Valley Rail Trail begins where the train tracks end. That’s because this rail trail was constructed atop the railroad abandonment, which constitutes all of the rail right-of-way north of the Wassaic station. This is one of the region’s most beautiful rail trails and it is a highlight of both our Hudson Valley Bike Tour and the Harlem Valley Rail Ride and Festival.

Over the years, it has been a challenge to construct a rail trail on top of the entire former rail line. An 8-mile segment has always been missing in between the Village of Millerton and Under Mountain Road in the Town of Ancram, which has necessitated that riders go on hilly (but beautiful) back roads to ride the whole trail.

However, construction has begun on this missing piece of trail and it is expected to be complete by October 2020. This will be a major undertaking requiring 4,100 feet of elevated boardwalks and the rehabilitation of six bridges. But when it is completed, it will surely be an amazing bike path. Read the whole story here.

Ocean Parkway Shared Use Path Extension – Long Island

If you are familiar with Jones Beach State Park, you might know about the Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway, which is a great bike path that follows Ocean Parkway. Later this year construction will begin to extend this bike path for an additional 10 miles between its current terminus at Tobay Beach and Captree State Park. This bike path will greatly increase the amount of shoreline that is accessible by bikes in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The bike path is expected to be completed by the summer of 2020.

Verrazzano Bridge Summer Streets – Brooklyn and Staten Island

Have you ever done Summer Streets in Manhattan?  It’s great. For three Saturdays every August, the City shuts down Park Avenue just for bikes.

It appears that support may be building to do the same thing on the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge. https://www.bikesbk.org/verrazzano-summer-streets/

The lack of a bike path or sidewalk on the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge has long been an issue for people looking to bike between the two heavily populated boroughs. The MTA has attempted to address this by providing bicycle racks on the S53 and S93 buses, but there is still a push to allow cyclists to simply ride across the bridge. This may be accomplished this summer if the Verrazzano Bridge Summer Streets intiative moves forward.

George Washington Bridge

A large number of cyclists (3700 per weekend day)  routinely cross the George Washington Bridge, which was built in 1931 with narrow 7-foot wide sidewalks. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is currently undertaking a construction project to “Restore the George” which is anticipated to be completed in 2025.  Because construction may impact the ability for cyclists to access the bridge sidewalks, the Port Authority recommends cyclists sign up for text or email alerts about sidewalk closures. Find out more at: https://www.panynj.gov/bridges-tunnels/gwb-pedestian-bicycle-info.html

However, it is important to note that the Port Authority’s “Restoring the George” project will not do much to improve bicycle mobility across this bridge, since the project is more or less only considering “replacement in-kind” of the existing sidewalks. To advocate for better improvements, all non-motorized users of the George Washington Bridge are strongly encouraged to go to https://completegeorge.org/ to learn more about how you can advocate for a better plan.

Mario Cuomo (Tappan Zee) Bridge

And finally, as this blog reported back in October of 2018, the long-awaited “shared use path” on the new Mario Cuomo Bridge is set to arrive later this year. This will be a major, major improvement for cyclists and pedestrians in the Hudson Valley.  Check it out!

Staying Visible While Cycling

By Rachel Gaffney,

 Cycling is one of the healthiest ways to get from A to B, but unfortunately it’s sometimes impossible to avoid motorists during your daily commute. One of the best ways to avoid any incidents with motorists is to stay visible at all hours of day. Here are some top ways you can increase your visibility and ensure everyone on the road sees you.

 1. Dress Accordingly

 You don’t have to string a bunch of Christmas tree lights to your bicycle, but it’s also not a great idea to dress all in black either. You can adjust your attire depending on what time of day you’re going for a ride. In the daylight, florescent colors are most important. Think bright green, yellow, and orange here. At night it doesn’t really matter what you wear because nobody can see you anyway. What’s more important is wearing something reflective so you’ll stand out against a car’s headlights.

 2. Don’t Pass on the Right!

 While it’s very tempting to creep alongside a bunch of idling cars and get to the head of the line, it’s usually safest to just wait directly between cars at an intersection. When you pass on the right you set yourself for the right hook, one of the most dangerous crash scenarios for cyclists. If you really want to get to the head of the pack, consider passing a car or two on the left. You’ll run the risk of getting stuck between two lines of traffic of course, so pay attention to the lights and be prepared to immediately merge into your lane!

 3. Ride Loud in Proud in the Center

 You’ll usually want to stay to the right-hand side of the road if there’s a wide shoulder or bike lane, but what if the bike lane is obstructed or there’s parked cars next to the shoulder (setting you up for getting doored)? You’re never obligated to ride in a bicycle lane if it’s not safe to do so, and if you’re as fast as other cars it’s much safer to ride smack in the middle of the lane.

This makes it easier for oncoming and approaching traffic to see you, but it also prevents motorists from unsafely attempting to pass you in a single lane. As far as preventing any door crashes, a good rule of thumb to follow is if you can reach out and touch a car’s side mirror, you’re too close.  

4. Buy a Better Bell

 This isn’t necessarily about staying visible, but if you cycle in an area with a lot of pedestrians you’ll likely run into situations where they tend to cross in front of you. Pedestrians often look for just cars, and if they don’t see any they could step directly in your path. A loud bell does wonders for alerting pedestrians to your approach. BikePacking wrote a great article on the pros and cons of some of the most popular bells available today.

 While some of these tips are inconvenient, they’ll go a long way in helping you stay safe on the road!

 

This article was created by www.personalinjury-law.com, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only. Be sure to review your local cycling ordinances to ensure you ride safe and legally.

 

Bike Hack: Crossing the Bronx-Whitestone and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges by Bike

Getting between the various NYC Boroughs can be enormously frustrating if you are traveling by bicycle, thanks to bridges that were only designed for cars.  While most of the bridges owned and maintained by NYC DOT have now been retrofitted with bike lanes or sidewalks, MTA-controlled bridges are another story.

Unfortunately for cyclists, MTA bridges are the only link for people traveling between Queens and the Bronx, or between Brooklyn and Staten Island.  Ever since the sidewalks were removed from the Bronx-Whitestone bridge in 1943, cyclists have been out of luck, forced to detour to the Triborough Bridge.  The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge never even had a sidewalk in the first place, meaning that you could never ride a bike between Brooklyn and Staten Island (except for the one day a year when they do the 5-boro bike tour). You’d have to ride into Manhattan first, then take the ferry with your bike.

Forcing cyclists to take such long detours is beyond ridiculous in today’s world, where cycling is more popular than ever. Thankfully, the MTA has finally understood this and has implemented a bike rack program for local buses that go across both the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, to help cyclists use bridges that should have been open to them in the first place.

Unlike virtually every other public bus system in America, New York City Transit has never had bicycle racks on any of their buses. This new policy changes this – finally! – at least for 4 bus routes, 3 of which cross bridges.  You can read all about the new bike rack service here: http://www.mta.info/press-release/nyc-transit/mta-running-bus-routes-new-bike-racks-summer

And if you are unsure of how to use a bus bike rack, there is a dull instructional video you can link to from the MTA’s press release.  Or, for a more entertaining tutorial, click here!

Bike Hack: The Little Green Signs

A “little green sign” for Route 23

Source: By Fwgoebel – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10054106

Have you ever been driving (or biking) along somewhere in New York State and wondered about the little green signs that you keep seeing over and over on the side of the road? These little signs are actually reference markers put up by the NYS Department of Transportation after the Highway Safety Act of 1966 required that “each state shall have a highway safety program….(that) shall include, but not be limited to, provisions for….surveillance of traffic for detection and correction of high or potentially high accident locations”.

In short, in a pre-computer and pre-GPS world, each state needed to figure out their own way to reference every segment of state-owned roadway for traffic, maintenance and crash reporting purposes.

And, of course, New York State being what it is, came up with an ingeniously confusing, complicated, yet workable solution, which culminated in these little green signs that show an almost nonsensical jumble of numbers and letters.

But these signs are a great resource if you are ever lost on your bike and you need to figure out what road you are on. The top row of these signs is (almost) always the route number for the state road on which you are traveling. So in the absence of other signage, these little green markers can at least help you figure out what road you are on. On most 2 lane roads, they are every 0.2 mile, so you don’t have to bike far to figure it out. If you are riding on a 4-lane road, you’ll see them every 0.1 mile.

If you are interested in the real nitty-gritty about how these little green signs work, check out the NYSDOT Reference Marker Manual. It’s fascinating. It will make you appreciate the lengths that people had to go to to code highway segments before computers and GPS could just assign everything a coordinate.

And keep in mind, you will only see these signs in New York State. Other states have their own signs, which may or may not make sense.