Cycling Myths Debunked

Video Transcription:

Jim Dodson: Hey, it's Jim Dodson, the Florida Bike Guy. Have you fallen victim to some of the more common cycling myths? You may be surprised at what you're gonna hear today. We have our friend, Larry Black, who is the owner of Mt. Airy Bikes up in Mount Airy, Maryland. Larry's also part-time resident up in The Villages where we met. Larry's been in the bike business for 40 years. He's a former racer. He's sold 80,000 bikes in his career. He's got a few thoughts. I think you'll find them provocative. Larry's an energetic, high-energy guy, and we're gonna talk about some of the most common bike myths that are out there. Morning, Larry.

Larry Black: Hi, Jim, good morning. How are things in Florida? We've got snow on the ground here.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, I know, we don't.

Larry Black: I'll be there in five days.

Jim Dodson: I’ll look for you. So, Larry, let's get right into some of the most common bike myths. I know one of the things you and I've talked to in the past was about, judging, well let's start off with carbon frames. Everybody believes that carbon frame is the lightest and the fastest. What's your view on that?

Larry Black: Well, when I hear the word everybody, I kind of take a step backward and I say, that's called a universal. A guy named Peter Lowe came up with this thing called universal. The first thing you say when somebody comes in, everyone tells me I should get a carbon bike, and I take a step back and I say everyone? And then all of a sudden, it's like a good attorney, they break that down. It's not everyone, and more importantly than the material of the bicycle frame, and there are everything from wood, carbon fiber, bamboo, aluminum, magnesium, plastic, steel, there have been everything out there. 15 different frame materials that people have experimented with. I think they even make them out of straw somewhere, who knows? The geometry of the bicycle, how it fits you, how it's set up, and tire pressure can make more difference in the ride of a bicycle than the material of which the frame was made. If you talk to 10 men, you're probably gonna get 15 opinions on that. And a 10,000-dollar carbon fiber bike with half the air pressure it should have doesn't ride as efficiently as my 1975 Schwinn steel bike with good tires and wheels on it. The wheels and the tires are one of the hearts of the bicycle. That's the moving material, it's not the stem.

Jim Dodson: So the lesson is you don't have to have carbon to have an efficient ride. I mean it's a wonderful material but you don't have to fall victim to the idea that I can't ride anything that's not a carbon bike.

Larry Black: Oh, heavens, no, because two carbon fiber bikes can be as different from each other than carbon versus steel versus wood. We have steel bikes that are lighter than carbon fiber bikes. We have people that want traditional bikes. They don't want a bike that looks too modern. People that's what they call throwback. Looking at The Villages, they have car shows every month, and people drive 60, 70-year-old cars and they're having a great time with them. What you need to have on a bike is a good time, not carbon.

Jim Dodson: All right. Talk to me about pedals. Talk to me about pedals. I know you have an idea about flat pedals versus clips.

Larry Black: Two years ago, I found myself in Corsica, Italy, which was very hilly. I forgot my bike shoes. What did I do? I had my Rockports or whatever I was wearing at the time. I put a set of flat pedals on. This one is from Pedaling Innovations. And this is an Innovation. It's light, it's low, it's long, and it's grippy. With this pedal, I put them on my bike and I haven't smiled as much since. I haven't gone back to toe clips or clip-less pedals, and I've been using those since 1961. And when you said I've been in the business 40 years, it actually goes back '61. Thanks for making me feel young. That's when I worked for other people in bike shops as a little kid, taking things apart and hopefully, somebody could get them back together, but we've had our own shop here 40. So this is something that's been around for over a hundred years. A light, low, grippy pedal. I can put my foot anywhere I want on this pedal, and I do change often. I can pedal my heel, my arch, the ball of my foot, and for years, I would not let people out of my sight without recommending that they use either a toe clip or a clip-less stepping pedal, which I still use in certain situations, a spin class or a bicycle velodrome or something like that, but I have been known to go hundreds of miles on this pedal.

Jim Dodson: So what do you say to the people who, particularly, the hard-driving cyclist who say you gotta pull as well as push and you have to have clips?

Larry Black: I was that way, too. I've been teaching a bicycle class for about 40 years now, ever since I started this store. And I would tell people you need a toe clip because it shows you where to put your foot. That's the ball of the foot over the spinning of the pedal. It allows you to pull up and it allows you to not have to concentrate what you're doing, but in this, my favorite bike book now is Just Ride. Chapter number one, it says don't pedal surface. I used to think I was pulling up, a lot of people think they're pulling up. They are not really pulling up as much as they think they are. You do need a certain amount of energy to hold a foot on the pedal. But when you have a grippy pedal, the pull-up part. Try, you're going up a hill sometime and just, it's a hot day, you're tired, try pulling up, see if it makes you feel better. It usually doesn't, so I, this person gives you 30 days to try these pedals. We give you even longer if you need it. And people come back. One out of 240 people has returned this pedal to me.

Jim Dodson: Well, David just joined us and said he's got the same pedal, and Sue joined us a minute ago and said that she was commenting on carbon, saying that carbon breaks easily compared to other materials. I know that when carbon fails, and something fails very suddenly typically, other materials may not.

Larry Black: Very good point on that. One of the things that's happening in the cycling industry, we've got about 40% fewer shops than we did 15 years ago. That people are buying their bicycles through alternative sources. Used to be mail order, now it's online and mobile services, and it's very easy to make a carbon fiber bicycle in an Asian country, let's say, or a third world country. You can make this material very simply, it doesn't take a lot to get started. There's not a lot of oversight, so a carbon fiber frame, like any other frame, is prone to failure. Golf clubs, aircraft landing gear is made of carbon fiber. In its defense, light planes use it as a landing gear material, so it's gotta work there and it's gotta pass regulations, but in the bike industry, there's not as much regulation when you're dealing with Asian sources like Alibaba or something. You don't know what you're getting and there are many, many lawsuits pending on frame failures from that material. One thing about carbon fiber, it's easy to fix. Anybody that can put a piece of fiberglass on a boat or a Corvette can fix a carbon fiber frame, and I've done several myself.

Jim Dodson: All right, so you and I were talking the other day about the issue about bike clothing. Everybody's got to wear the same clothing, everybody looks alike on the bike when the road cyclists take the road. What's you view on bike clothing?

Larry Black: There you go with that everything again, and when I do that, I take a step back and I say, I'd show up on a ride sometime, this happens to be a 40-year-old bike sweater. It's got a pocket in the back but it looks like a regular sweater, and I'll show up on a ride with this or a collared sports shirt or a polo or something like that. I do wear either a cycling liner or a nice pair of bike shorts. I like that either under my baggies or under my tights. I wear a tight in the winter. In fact, the Italian Bible says, bicycle Bible, you gotta cover your knees below 70 degrees. That's imperative. The racers can get by with oils and lubrications during the event, but the knees should be covered below 70. We're not like runners, we're moving at speed, and there's a lubricant, and when you get to be our age, or the people down where you live, the knees get older and that lubricant breaks down. You want to keep the legs covered. I'll show up casually like this and I'll say, aren't you riding with us today? I'll say, yeah, I'm riding with you. They say, you don't have your bike suit on. I said I got my bike suit on, this is what I ride. I feel good, I feel comfortable. I've got my regular shoes, I can hop off the bike, I can go in a museum, or somebody's fine wood floor and I'll feel fine. So you don't have to have all that garb. The shorts make a difference. The jerseys are nice. They have pockets in the back. In fact, we now use a jersey with front pockets. We had these made special because a lot of us can't reach behind there like we did 40 years ago, so if you look at the racing magazines from the 30s, 40s, 50's, they had front pockets and rear pockets. So you don't have to have the clothes but a nice bike jersey, there's no problem with it. I wear one sometime when I'm on the rides down your way, and I keep all my stuff in the back, and sometimes, in the front, but it's nice to have, I wear a baggy bike short these days. I always cover the knees, but you don't have to have that to enjoy a bicycle ride. It's cool.

Jim Dodson: One of the things you're talking about is you want to enjoy your ride, and you don't want to feel like you're locked into a bunch of rules that the biking world has decided for you. It's a big world out there and we have a lot of individuality that we can still express.

Larry Black: Sure, I have no problem with this stuff. I have a carbon fiber bike myself. I use that on a few go fast rides, and sometimes, like taking off lead boots. It's got nice wheels on it and that's the most important thing. It's a 15-year-old bike but it works great. One of the other things that people don't understand when you're on the bike is that you need to smile and have a good time and enjoy the scenery and look around. Sometimes we focus on that wheel in front of us instead of what's surrounding us. So it's very important to enjoy the ride. I don't have a bad bike ride. I've had some rides that I'd rather have more of a tailwind and more of a downhill, but I don't have a bad ride.

Jim Dodson: Tell me about handlebars.

Larry Black: Wonderful.

Jim Dodson: So many of the bikes that most of the people in club rides are using have drop bars, and so few people ever put their hands in the drop bars. What's your view on that?

Larry Black: Those have gotten better over the years. This is, I don't know if you can see that or not.

Jim Dodson: I can.

Larry Black: This is a new innovation in drop bars. The drop is shallower and it's more curved, flatter, so you have that notches going that we had 20 years ago when everybody thought they had to lean way over. A drop bar that's raised up a little bit gives you several positions on which to ride. Unfortunately, most people that get a drop bar never hold on down below. It's the old adage, cool over comfort. It's a cool-looking part, it's racy, they hold on on the brake lever. So instead of that, a lot of people have chosen a cow horn bar. This puts the hand in the same position as it would be on the brake lever of the drop bar. You've also got your position on the middle and on the side. I have gone, on most of my bikes, to a sweeper bar, okay? It's an upright bar like this but it sweeps back. Many people that think they have to convert to an upright handlebar, get a flat mountain bike bar. One of the most uncomfortable things in the world. This puts a real bad kink in the wrist and it gives you what's called a non-wrist-neutral position. If you see people riding this kind of bar, and the thumb is on top, you know they want a bar that gives them more wrist neutral. Same in the paddling industry. Pedals and paddles, compare things. Wrist neutral keeps the arm from getting numb. There's even a little button you can get now that allow you to pedal with the thumb over it. It's called a TOG, thumb over grip system. When you cross into the higher bar, like this, for people that want to sit upright more. This one I specially bent the sweep back to allow more of a wrist neutral position, very important. Then you can get what the Europeans use. They use a mustache handle bar. Very, very comfortable. Very few European commuting bikes, people spend a lot of time in their saddle, don't use these straight bars. This looks like a flat track motorcycle, and it's got the cool look. Once again, cool usually comes over comfort and that's unfortunate. The drop bar is the one that gives you the widest variety of positions, but it doesn't mean you have to have it. More and more people are showing up on the rides down where you are in The Villages, and I guess people know we get 300 people on a good weekday, with straight bars. And many of them have an antler on the end. I don't have one pictured here, but it's a hook on the end to hold the hand even higher. That makes a lot of sense. I've had a lot of medical issues with my wrist from using a bar like that, just as I'd have with a bent neck. You squeeze the discs into the spinal chord, you get numb arms, you have a bad ride. So getting yourself up a little bit will help a lot. The third point of human contact is the saddle. Many newcomers think they need something that's, I would call more of a love seat. This looks like it would hold two people.

Jim Dodson: Yes, sir.

Larry Black: One of the problems with this wide saddle is because it's so wide, you get chafing if you're leaning over, okay? The leaning over myth, it may be a little bit more aerodynamic, but it's not necessarily good for the spinal cord. If you can do it, absolutely do it. If you can ride drop bars, great. It's fast, it cuts the wind, I've been using them for 50 years. If you do get a wide seat, make sure it's skinny in the front, so that when you lean down, you don't chafe yourself. If you sit up with a higher bar, and I recommend wrist neutral, of course, then the wider seat is more conducive to comfort.

Jim Dodson: So Larry would you find, would the average person walk into most bike shops and have a variety of bars like that?

Larry Black: Most shops don't pay much attention, especially the manufacturers. The manufacturers will put the very, in Europe, it's different. In Europe, bars are built around comfort, less for cool because people use them for utility. In this country, unfortunately, 80 billion dollars was spent last year on looking cool outside the bike industry. So most shops don't understand. I get people coming in three or four times a week in the summer to have their bars converted to wrist neutral.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, well you make a good point. I think that one of the things you were talking about is the looking cool industry over the being comfortable industry.

Larry Black: Yeah, you can blend the two. If you feel better wearing a nice suit and a all-matching kit, I never got used to that word. I thought it was for drums, but when you feel better using it, absolutely, it makes you feel better, but don't fool yourself. Don't fool yourself when you're on a bicycle. Make sure that you're smiling. I'm smiling more than ever than I have in 55 years on bicycles. And I started off with a 10-speed in 1961 when I was 11 years old. So I've been in and out of this thing for a long time, and I wanted to be so cool back then. For years, I had my handlebars five inches lowered by, and I've raced on the bicycle tracks before, and that's where you need it. You've got to be way over on the bike track because you need your nose on that man's wheel in front of you, if you want to compete bike track, but you don't need that to enjoy a ride, even if it's a hundred miles.

Jim Dodson: You have a comment you made to me the other day. It's like judge by what you ride, not by what you read. What do you mean by that?

Larry Black: Yeah, that's very important. A lot of people, the spoken, written, or electronic part is easier than ever. I used to say, remember the old expression, talk is cheap? Today, it's free. Today, you can get on that screen and that screen in front of you, the characters on that thing, the black and white letters, look the same as if they came from a guy that's had two bikes in his life or he works for a magazine that refuse them, or somebody like me that's had thousands of bikes and sold nearly 80,000. The characters look the same, so it's hard to tell the wheat from the chaff, and I like to say it's more important to judge by what you ride than what you read, and unlike a lot of places, I encourage people to take full day, week-long, weekend test rides with their bicycles rather than just reading something, rushing right out, going into the store and say, I gotta have carbon fiber bike, this and that, on the back end, and this and that on the front end, and that's what I want, and I say, have you ridden one of those yet? No, but I read about it. Conversation changes right there.

Jim Dodson: Sue wants to give a shout-out. We were talking about bike seats earlier and I'll go back to that. Sue wants to give a shout-out to Cloud 9 seats. I'm not sure if you play with them.

Larry Black: That's a great seat. They come out of Florida, of course. They come by way of Florida from overseas, but Cloud 9 seats, any store that carries that brand has a variety. They make a narrow seat, they make seats with cutouts in it, and I don't recommend this if you're on the front of a tandem bicycle, because the stoker, that's the person in the back, if she doesn't like what you're doing, she can put a pencil in the wrong place. But yeah, great brand of seats, and make sure, when you get your seat, that that store gives you the ability to exchange the seat because what feels good to the thumb and the eyes don't always feel good to what's down below, so make sure they'll exchange it with you, and we let people have seats up to 90 days. There's one brand called Surface. The company gives you 90-day. We give you that on every seat including the Cloud 9. Good shout-out.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, and we've got another manufacturer here. ISM Saddles over in north of Tampa. They have a tremendously, I rode their saddle, I love it.

Larry Black: That's a great great saddle but I encourage people, we sell very few of those. We have a couple here. We've let people use them and it's so personal. As I say, you talk to 10 people, you'll get 20 opinions this time on my saddle. There was an ad once that says if you'd only sit on this page, and it was a picture of the saddle, and basically, that's what people do. They're sitting on the page. They just go by what they read, not what they ride. Not good.

Jim Dodson: Yeah and Rita's asking a question. So Rita, in this part of our interview here starting out, and yes, it'll be on our Facebook program. I mean our Facebook page, so as soon as this, we end today, it'll be posted on our Facebook and you can watch it there's, anytime you want. So Sue's asking about e-bikes. I've done separate programs on e-bikes. You and I haven't talked about it. What do you think about e-bikes?

Larry Black: It's still in the wild, wild west. My first one was about 45 years ago called Palmer Engines. It was an automobile starter motor and it rubbed on a stone on the front wheel. We've come a long way since then. Three years ago on Mother's Day, I took a my wife's bike, she rides a recumbent bike. That's gonna be another program. She rides a recumbent bike and those are only for people that don't like pain. I wouldn't recommend a recumbent to anybody else except those that don't like pain. Neck, back, shoulders, arms, butt, the whole thing. Took the bike in the store. Mother's afternoon, I had a little motor. Here's one, I'll come off-camera for a second. I put one of these things in her bottom bracket. Weighs about 12 pounds. The battery weighs about eight, and she's ridden her bicycle more, she's gotten more exercise since putting that motor on than when she rode it before that. What she says is that she gets to the top of the hill, when her legs give out, she pushes the button. She knows that when she goes out on the bicycle, she can make it home, and that's a big fear of people, that, getting home.

Jim Dodson: Well, that brings up, that's could be an entire program and we've done a separate interview with Phil down in Punta Gorda Cadillac, has a store down there. All electric bikes, so go back on our Facebook page and you'll see that interview with Phil, and he breaks down exactly how the two different methods of propulsion on those bikes work, what to look for, why you want a high end over a low end, what the advantages are, so I think we get those questions answered in that interview.

Larry Black: That was a good show, I saw that.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, well thank you. Tire pressure, you've mentioned tire pressure here a minute ago. I think one of the myths would be more pressure, faster ride. What do you say to that?

Larry Black: If I could say it online, Americans have the most expensive urine on the planet, because we take extra vitamins, thinking it's going to make us go faster and perform better. Dunlop invented the pneumatic tire in the, hundred years ago because his wife got headaches from riding bicycles with hard tires. They used the solid tire back then. Well, these days, there are fanatics that get up every morning and put 120 to 130 pounds in their tires. They're not uncomfortable on their bicycle and they're not any faster. I did an experiment with a student at a science fair. She rode a bicycle down the hill out here. No other factors, no pedaling. From 20 pounds to 140 pounds. The sweet spot was between 90 and 100 pounds, the recommended pressure on the tire. Her conclusion was that the vibration on the average road was doing a little more to keep the bike from going faster, and less comfortable, too. So tire pressure, a little bit overrated. In fact, the science is now saying that a little bit wider tire and not having over-pressure in your tire is a better way to ride a bicycle, good point.

Jim Dodson: So a higher pressure equals greater vibration, not necessarily higher speed, but a lot more bump, bump, bump.

Larry Black: If you're on a glass-smooth road in a time trial, I've been known to put 160 to 180 pounds tire. Comfort didn't matter, smooth road, time trial course, 40k. What I'd recommend to people is to take your average bicycle, the first thing to do is put more air in your tires or the proper amount of tires, if it's low. The second thing is to get a better tire. The third thing is to get a better set of wheels and after that, maybe another bicycle. If you want to increase performance, and of course, eat well and train right.

Jim Dodson: All right, so we've talked about this, and I don't know what your opinion is, when you talk about a better set of wheels, are you talking carbon wheels or what type of wheels are you saying that the average person could get to really substantially increase their enjoyment of the ride?

Larry Black: It used to be, when I was teaching these classes in the old days, we talked about the higher pressure tire going thin as possible. Now it's about 23 to 28 millimeters, the sweet spot. A lighter set of wheels, meaning aluminum or carbon fiber. What is highly overrated is the aerodynamic wheel. That's a wheel with a deep section in it, a deep, give me that one, Cannondale wheel. The deep section of it. What people don't realize with aerodynamics, flat bikes, is that if the wind is not between 3:59 or 59 minutes and one minute and one second, if the wind is not coming straight at you there, then the aerodynamic effect, the shear of that deep-dish wheel, is negligible. I particularly don't like to show up with stuff that feels too racy. 'Cause when I blow by people half my age, they'll think it's the bike and not me, so I'd rather use a wheel that looks a little bit more normal, but I do use a very high pressure tire. I'm gonna show you one off-camera here.

Jim Dodson: So I first met Larry up at The Villages. He did a program for Sumter Landing Bike Club up there, and he talked about, this isn't even the topic that he talked about, but he was extremely animated about all the ways you could take care of yourself on the road. Larry's been on SAG nationally and internationally. He's an expert on how to make do when you get out there on the road. We'll do a separate program on that sometime.

Larry Black: We call that thin air repairs. How to get back when people tell you you can't.

Jim Dodson: Right. You can't get that wheel?

Larry Black: No, I can't get the wheel.

Jim Dodson: Okay, you're saying the disadvantage of the deep dish is going to be, aerodynamically, you're getting wind from the side. It's buffering against you unless the wind is coming head-on.

Larry Black: That's what the science says. A lot of people don't believe in science. From Washington to Florida, they don't believe in science.

Jim Dodson: Well, because they definitely look cool.

Larry Black: Oh, they do, no problem, and as they say, if the wind is not blowing sideways, they're great. In fact, on the velodrome, we used to use a solid disk wheel and they banded those in the front of the bicycle because they were too unstable in the wind.

Jim Dodson: Okay. I think one of the things the, you preach, and you've talked to me about, is just enjoy your ride.

Larry Black: I like to enjoy a bike ride. I have so little opportunity. I like to say that I put fun between 100,000 legs. We've put fun between people's legs for over 40 years in this store and 20 years before that, and a lot of people take it a little too seriously. I've identified a few psychoses, as I call them. There's the perfectionist that says everything on that bike must be perfect. They get close enough that they can almost lick the frame and look for little flaws, a little nick or a scratch or something like that's gonna ruin their ride. Other people, I consider the extreme preppers. They prepare for everything. Their bike is so loaded with stuff, it looks like they owned a bike store or stock in all the companies. The preppers, and then there's the person that must be, must be the fastest one, the most elegant in the group. That person wants to outdo everybody. If a guy gets passed by, let's say, a woman on the bike, he's immediately frustrated. He's got to do what he can to get up there and be fast. That's not always the most fun part. The most fun part is getting the wind in your face, knowing that you can get from point A to B under your own power, and it's nice to know that you did that on a bicycle that fits you well and that you take care of yourself, if you can take care of some of these things. A lot of our comrades in this industry, and colleagues, ask me why I teach bike classes and why I share so much of the information on repairs. Isn't that going to kill my business? I say no, if I never did another bike repair and I could go out and ride instead of fixing other people's bikes, that'd be great. So I could say vicariously, I've got more miles than anybody else in the world, but I don't. I used to ride a lot more and I asked a good friend of mine, how come you never went into the bike business? He said, "Cause I like riding bicycles." And when you're in the business, you're making other people good, and you don't always get to ride yourself.

Jim Dodson: All right, so just a little programming note, I hope you're enjoying the program with Larry here today. He's a fascinating guy, he's a wealth of information. One of the reasons we bring these things to you is just to enhance the cycling experience in Florida. I've been a cycling safety advocate and insurance advocate for many years. I represent cyclists across Florida, regardless of where they live, with any type of cycling, or other type of an injury. If you have a question related to a cycling injury or crash or some problem you're having, I welcome you to call me. I'll do my best. I've got a passion for helping cyclists, and if you need us, we'll put our 25 years of experience to work, helping you, whatever the situation might be. There's a logo just showing some of the places where we represented cyclists over the past years or so. So Larry, you mentioned a moment ago that the cycling industry's changed a lot. I think in what you said in 2003, there was 6,200 dealers, and now there's--

Larry Black: Yeah, something close to that, and now we have about 3,660 and that's going down by 61. Performance closes their chain, most of the chain stores next month.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, so, yeah, Sue's got a good observation here, if it's not in my pack, you don't need it.

Larry Black: Good, I have to get her onstage with me next time I'm down there.

Jim Dodson: Harris is applauding you by saying, hey, man, that guy loves the journey.

Larry Black: Yeah, yeah, the journey is good.

Jim Dodson: So, I got a question from Bob. What's Larry's thought on tandem bicycle, the captain and the stoker wear matching jerseys?

Larry Black: Yeah, our good friend, Dr. Merkin down in Florida, we showed up once without matching jerseys, and by the time we came back to Maryland, we not only had matching jerseys but we had matching jackets and gave them to us, and he let us keep them. I mean never--

Jim Dodson: Unusual tandem bike I've ever seen.

Larry Black: A tandem bicycle can help a relationship go the way it's going. I think I got that from Bob at one time, and he's also the guy that says two wrongs don't make a right, three lefts do, and on the average, all bike rides are flat.

Jim Dodson: Well, then, I guess you're right. My son-in-law in California would disagree some days.

Larry Black: Oh, yeah, yeah, if you start in one place and end up in another, it may not be, but in Florida, everything's flat anyway. I think I was in an overpass there once that had a 4% grade.

Jim Dodson: So what do you see the industry doing with the decrease in number of dealers? Obviously, the industry trend, I was talking to some people the other day that needed new bikes and they were talking about buying bikes online and working with a local guy that puts them together for them, puts the wheel sets on. Where do you see this going and what do we need to look out for?

Larry Black: Well, there's no doubt that people are shopping 24 hours a day. They might roll over in bed and decide they want a widget. They'll push the button on their phone and the widget will be at their house in a day or two. Well that happens with bicycles. Unfortunately, bicycles have to fit well. The reason most shops are suffering is because they're doing what's called showrooming. It's been going on for 4,000 years where people would go shop for something and not buy it from them. They'll get the information, same with the legal profession. I'm sure you can mail order a CD and tell you how to be a lawyer. Maybe brain surgery one day.

Jim Dodson: Pretty well.

Larry Black: But in bicycle, people will come in and get sized, they'll get all the advice and then they'll go shop for another 50 or 60-dollar savings, and if they do that, if they do that, I have decided that we would embrace those people. We will work with them to get their bikes set up properly, we'll ship a bike for them. If they sold it on eBay, we'll put one together. If they want one anyway. Any way we can get business and embrace a customer, and show them what we can do for them is good for us. Many shops will scorn people that don't buy something from them. I will welcome it. I give trade-ins on bicycles that come from other shops that don't care as much. Number one reason people buy or what they don't buy and where they buy is does that place care about you? Customer service is number two. It's far behind. Price is number five. If you look at the magazines and internet, price seems like it's number one. It's number five. The sweetness of that low price, as Franklin said, wears off before the bitterness of poor quality which lingers on, and I say you don't want to be happy twice when you buy it and when you call Goodwill. That's not good.

Jim Dodson: No, I agree. So Neil's giving us a big heads up. He appreciates the program today. I didn't want, I cut you off for a second ago, but I know one of the things you wanted to talk about is the issue of safety, and some thoughts you had on safety for cyclists.

Larry Black: Yeah, I usually, people like to gloss over the safety part but it's a necessary evil. Biking is better than ever. It's the largest participatory sport in the world, has been for 50 years. Bicycling, largest particip-- More people ride bicycles than play soccer, and the infrastructure is better than ever. We've got more bike paths down in The Villages. There's 120 miles of 20-foot wide paths with tunnels and circles and maybe an occasional jogger, no strollers. They're not allowed, and I mean the kids aren't allowed.

Jim Dodson: Nobody's young enough to have them down there.

Larry Black: Nobody's saying, yeah, yeah, what is it you have to be? You have to be 55 in your wife has to be at least 19, but I won't get into that. And the golf carts are regulated to 20 miles an hour. It's a great place to ride a bike. We've got these bike lanes that pass all over the world. Unfortunately, the infrastructure of our planet today is still built around the automobile lobby. We're built around cars. Huge parking lots, faster highways, and with gas prices unbelievably and unfortunately low, cars are getting bigger again. SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks, they're all higher. They make visibility in a bicycle much tougher. The high SUV, pickup, and minivan, that's the average car now, and it's hard to see. Bicyclists are reduced to a small wedge instead of a periphery of vision. Now with all the infrastructure comes that sad part and distraction is at an all-time high. So what we can do as bicyclists is be a little more defensive. I use that daylight light as bright as I can get it. The daylight is when most of the accidents occur. You're competing with a huge world of light out there. So you've got to attract that motorist's attention because they might not be looking at the road ahead. Another trick I've come up with is the wiggle. When I, I use the rear view mirror. To me, the rear view mirror is as important or important as the helmet. Okay, I see there's an helmet behind you. We need to get a mirror on that that says Jim Dodson Law on it. Okay, so we need to wiggle. I wiggle my bicycle like an idiot, so the motorists coming, I can hear that engine noise go down immediately, and in my mirror, I can see the car slow down. When I do that stupid wiggle, they think there's an idiot ahead. I don't want to get blood on my fender. So the mirror is very important. Another thing I do is carry an ID. See that? On the back of my phone, Jim Dodson Law. One of the best thing I ever got. I keep it on my phone all the time, and I--

Jim Dodson: Nice promo.

Larry Black: Right, and I got my credit card so if I have to go to a bicycle store, I can buy some goodies, but safety, it can't be stressed enough, and one of the things I see a lot of people do on those group rides in Florida and elsewhere, I see them, when they're coming a hundred, 200 feet from a stop, they'll click their foot out of the pedal and dangle the foot on the ground, like coming in for a landing. That's like opening your car door a block before you stop. There's even one lady and I keep a big distance from her. She un-clips her foot through the roundabouts, and lets the foot off the pedal. If something happens to your bicycle, and only one foot is secure in the pedal, you're in trouble, so I discourage people from taking that foot out of the pedal until they stop. If your a clip-less pedal, if your clip-less pedal is not functioning so that you can un-clip when you stop, then you need to get that adjusted, but that's a big infraction I see. Gonna kill somebody one day.

Jim Dodson: So Larry, I know that your view of, talking about biking and its use across the world, and their recognition of the big stars in the sports world, but to you, the heroes are the everyday customers that come in, ride bikes, and use it for transportation and a means for enjoying life, and if you want to talk about that for a second.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, it is. My wife told me to go out and ride my bike one brisk March day about 35 years ago, and on this ride, I had this little thought. I was thinking about something I had just seen where they'll bring up a football star or a baseball star or a bicycling star into the shop as a meet and greet, and I said, let me do something different. Let me come up with a demo day, a customer and cyclist recognition day. We do it now on January 1st every year, and it's called the I've Ridden Every Day This Year Ride. On January 1st, you can go home that night and say I've ridden every day this year, so we have this recognition ride every January 1st. Been doing it for 30 years. Make the customers the heroes, and they like it. They feel like they're special. Everybody wants to feel special. You can wear a fancy logo jersey or kit or whatever. That makes you feel special and that's good. We like to dress brightly and we like to do that but a customer is the hero. They're the ones growing the sport. In Europe, there are people that ride 15,000 miles a year. They don't consider themselves cyclists. Look at the infrastructure in Copenhagen and Helsinki and places like that where it's cold. Not like Florida where it's warm. Where it's cold, those people ride their bikes every day. They don't call themselves cyclists. Some of us will ride a thousand miles a year, if we're lucky, and we're cyclists. Whatever, it's all perception, but these everyday people, I want to get more people on bicycles as a form of transportation, recreation--

Jim Dodson: I had one, Rob just sent a message out, saying, what about the a properly-fitting helmet, so that it does its job? Arthur, I'm sorry.

Larry Black: Arthur, that's a really good point. I have fallen twice off of penny-farthing bicycles. My head's about eight feet high in the air, and there's a helmet. And I have fallen, and I have hit right here on my forehead. So people that wear their helmet back like this, and I still see them down on the on the group rides and nobody says anything. I vowed that if I lived through that crash from eight feet hitting my forehead, I could see the ground coming. My forehead hit the ground, bloody face, but my forehead. I said if I ever see anybody with a helmet like this again, can you see it there, Jim? I'm gonna go out and at the expense of embarrassing myself, put their helmets down so there's just a little bit of distance between the eyeglasses or eyebrows and the helmet. I like a visor on my helmet. Proper fit is this way. The neck strap and the front strap should cover the ear. The helmet should roll and it should rock. That's okay to roll and rock. You should not be able to get a finger in the side or the back. So you don't want the helmet to be loose this way. Roll and rock is fine, and if you talk to 10 people about helmets, you'll probably get 10 or 15 opinions. There's a good friend of ours called Randy Swart Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. I put everything that comes across my desk or my screen to Randy at the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. He has done more research than all others combined. So listen, thanks for that question.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, great question. So this has been a great interview, just like when I met you the first time. I appreciate you taking the time, Larry, to talk to us this morning. If you're ever up in Mount Airy or College Park, Maryland, you need to stop by Larry's shop. You live up in The Villages, look him up. You'll be on a group ride up there in five days apparently.

Larry Black: I'll be riding Monday through Friday next week. Now Monday, I heard you're getting a cold snap. It's gonna go down into the 50s.

Jim Dodson: Supposed to be, yeah, I know, very cold. Not cold here in the mornings. Supposed to be nasty on Sunday, too. So our call to action today is if you, I'd love to have you sign up for our newsletter. I think Katie is gonna put a copy of the newsletter up on the screen. We do a monthly newsletter. I think you'll find it interesting. We write about things that are interesting in the cycling world, alerts you to what's going on, safety tips, information, so there's a bit.ly link, and I think she's got a copy of that coming up there. There's our newsletter we did last month. This is one I just did last month having to do with dog cases, which we've had a real rash of dogs getting in front of cyclists around here. Got a very unusual legal situation about those in Florida. So sign up for our newsletter. You'll enjoy it and we'll keep you part of our Jim Dodson Law family. Larry, thank you so much for coming. It's been a great interview. I’ll look for you when you're here.

Larry Black: Let's get warm, ride a bike. Yeah, I'll see you in about a week down there, folks.

Jim Dodson: All right, thank you so much. Everybody, have a great safe day, take care. Take care, Larry.

Have You Been Injured In A Bicycle Accident?

If you've been hurt in a Florida bicycle accident you should speak with an experienced bicycle injury lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.

Jim Dodson
Connect with me
A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.