Product Review: Finish Line Gear Floss Microfiber Ropes

Gear Floss Microfiber Ropes from Finish Line are a simple but very effective product that makes cleaning those hardest to reach places on your bike a breeze.  If you use a wet lube, ride a lot of gravel, dusty singletrack or just like to keep your bike clean and detailed, this is a must have product.  No more getting out the brush, degreaser and rags to clean your cassette, derailleurs and chain rings.  Using these will keep the mess to a minimum where brushes can splatter and scatter grease and grime all over the place.  They're like dental floss for your bike.

Each package of Gear Floss contains 20 microfiber ropes 20 inches in length with star-shaped grooves that attract and remove dirt, grease and grime.  I put them to the test without using any type of degreaser or cleaner to see how they would perform based on the manufacturers claims.  I was pleasantly surprised at how effective they were.

I started with my cassette which had a little bit of grime, but mostly dirt and gravel dust that gets into all of those little nooks and crannies.  Like its name implies, it's as easy as flossing in and around the sprocket spaces and teeth.  Thread the floss in and slide it back and forth to pick up and remove all that clings to your cassette.

I found Gear Floss extremely effective for getting into the space between the sprockets and cleaning the surface of each tooth on the cassette.  As the Gear Floss carries away more grease and grime they get dirty and become less effective, but luckily I have 19 more to use to get the job done.  How many you end up using to complete a cleaning will depend on how dirty or neglected things have become.  For me, it took four of them to completely clean the rear cassette, deraileurs & cogs, the chain ring and some of the hard to reach places on and around the frame.

When cleaning the rounded sides of the idler and jockey wheels, the Gear Floss was a little less effective at getting all of the stubborn grime off.  A quick scrub of the brush on these loosened it enough where a second pass with the Gear Floss picked it up and removed it.  It was however effective at cleaning all of the surfaces of the derailleur's cage plate.

After a short time of cleaning with Gear Floss my cassette was as shiny as the day it was installed and my chain rings were were looking clean again.  The ends of Gear Floss are just like the ends of a shoelace making them easy to thread into tight fitting areas.  Not only can they be used to clean the above mentioned but also brake cables and calipers, around cable stops, hubs or any other hard to reach areas on your bike.  Finish Line states they are highly tear-resistant and I found this to be true.  They are washable, but reasonably priced so I just threw the dirty ones away. 

In conclusion, I am glad I found this product because I hate cleaning my cassette, derailleurs and chain rings but now that I have used Gear Floss I won't be as reluctant to keep a clean drivetrain.

Disclosure:  Finish Line did not supply the package of Gear Floss Microfiber Ropes for this review, I purchased them on my own and will continue to do so again.


Get the Most Out of Your Nice Ride MN Experience With Spotcycle

Spotcycle is a convenient and useful app created by 8D Technologies for the purpose of  locating bike stations and bike & dock availability of bike share systems for 26 cities in the U.S. and 7 countries.  It can even be used to create and share personalized bike routes or search for routes created by other Spotcycle users.

Here in the Twin Cities the Spotcycle app works great with our own bike share system, Nice Ride MN.   Nice Ride bikes are available for use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from April to November with numerous locations scattered throughout the Twin Cities.  A subscription is required to use Nice Ride and they are available yearly for $65 and daily for $6.  Trip charges do occur if you use the bikes more than a half an hour, but with so many bike stations around town it's easy to stay under thirty minutes and incur no trip fees.  For more details on how Nice Ride MN works, click hereSign up for Nice Ride MN today and get rolling.

Spotcycle is easy to set up, simply select a city and it will show all of the bike stations for your area either on a map or a list.

In the list display, stations can be sorted alphabetically, by number of bikes or docks available or by distance from your location. Select from All, Bike or Dock for for station availability information.  Switch to map view by selecting the map icon.

Search for stations that are nearby and list them alphabetically, by bikes available, docks available or by distance from your current location.  If you know the station name you can search by station.  A map view is available by selecting the map icon.

Frequently used stations can be grouped in Favorites for quick access.

View a favorite in list or map display by selecting that group.

Once you are ready to ride, keep track of your use time using the rental timer.

Track and share your routes via Facebook, Twitter or email.  Keep your routes private if you choose or edit and share them later.  Annotations can be added along the way easily while tracking your route.

Other Spotcycle user routes can be searched by Top Rated, Top Viewed, Browse By Category or Search Routes and bookmarked for later use.  One route I found particularly interesting was the "Minneapolis Original Garage Band" route.

All the features of the Spotcycle app can be accessed by computer by registering and signing in to your Spotcycle account.  Route creation and editing can also be done from your computer.

If you are a current Nice Ride subscriber or are thinking about becoming one, the Spotcycle app will definitely be a handy companion to enhance your Nice Ride experience.  Spotcycle is a free app and is available for Android, iPhone and Blackberry.  For questions about using the Spotcycle app, visit the Spotcycle FAQ page

Stay up-to-date with Spotcycle by reading the Spotcycle Blog, following on Twitter or "Like" on Facebook.

*Note:  All app screenshots in this post are from the Android app.  


Second Open Streets Minneapolis Heads to Central Ave. N.E.

Open Streets MPLS continues this Sunday with their second Open Streets event on Central Ave. N.E. July  28th.  Open Streets MPLS is an initiative of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and is based on the weekly CiclovĂ­a of Bogotá, Colombia where city streets are closed to automobile traffic in favor of cyclists, pedestrians, skaters and any other form of non-motorized transportation.  This is a free event that will have a variety of activities for the whole family including Zumba, yoga, games, music and shopping at local businesses.  With the success of two Open Streets events last year, 2013 will bring the fun to four Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Open Streets MPLS-Central Ave. N.E.

View Open Streets - Central Avenue NE in a larger map  

Get out the bikes and bring the whole family for a day of fun free from automobile traffic.  The festivities start at 10:00 am and last until 4:00 pm on Central Ave N.E. from 26th Ave. to 18 ½ Ave. N.E. in Northeast Minneapolis.   

Open Streets Lyndale Ave.-2013
Open Streets Lyndale Ave.-2013
Open Streets Lyndale Ave.-2013

If you would like to help make this event a success and volunteer your time, visit the Open Streets Volunteering-Central Ave. page and sign up.  Any additional questions can be answered by contacting the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition at 612-868-8743.

Keep up-to-date on Open Streets Minneapolis by following on Twitter @OpenStreetsMPLS and on Facebook.  Use the hashtag on Twitter to comment on and post your photos from Open Streets MPLS-Central Ave. N.E.

Other Open Streets Minneapolis Dates
  • Minnehaha Avenue-Sunday, August 11, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., approximately E Lake Street to Godfrey Parkway  
  • Lowry Avenue North-Saturday, September 21, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., approximately Washburn Ave N to Lyndale Ave N


Explore Minnesota's State Forests by Mountain Bike With Resources From the MN DNR

Image Credit:  MN DNR
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has recently put up a new page on their website that directs cyclists to more information about the great mountain biking opportunities in Minnesota's State Forests.  These include over 2000 miles of forest roads and thousands of logging trails to explore.  The Mountain Biking in Minnesota State Forests page has information about what you need to know before you go, including links to Temporary State Forest Road Closures (updated weekly on Thursday after 2 p.m.), safety information, trail and road usage rules and State Forest Camping

At the bottom of the Mountain Biking in Minnesota State Forest page is a list of  State Forests that allow mountain biking, broken down by region.  Clicking on any of these links will take you to that State Forest's page and provide more details about location, trails, facilities and there is a link to a printable State Forest map showing trails and forest roads.

The Minnesota DNR reminds you, when biking in State Forests:
  • Mountain biking is permitted on all state forest roads and trails unless posted closed with the exception of Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State forest, where mountain bikes are permitted only on designated trails.
  • State forest roads can range from asphalt to gravel, maintained to minimal maintenance road surfaces.
  • Forest roads are used by cars, logging trucks, and other forest users (hikers, hunters, horseback riders, ATVs, and off-highway motorcycles).
  • All laws for public road use must be followed on state forest roads.
  • Watch out for logging trucks and heavy equipment in a state forest.
  • Check the state forest maps and Web site for road and trail closures.
  • Share the trail with others.
  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Keep right so others can pass.
  • Keep all pets on leash.
  • Obey traffic signs and rules.
  • Pack out all garbage and litter.
  • Respect adjoining landowners’ rights and privacy.
  • Warn other trail users when passing by giving an audible signal.
  • Let horses know you are passing. Some may be spooked by quiet bikers or inline skaters.
  • Overnight camping and campfires are permitted only on designated campsites.
  • Do not leave campfires unattended.
  • Enjoy the beauty of wild plants and animals, but leave them undisturbed for all to enjoy.

Thanks to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for making this information easily accessible so we may explore the beauty of our State Forests by bike.

Click here for a complete printable listing of  Minnesota State Forest mountain biking opportunities.  To order a State Forest map, contact the Minnesota DNR Information Center.

Phone:  651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367
Email:   info.dnr@state.mn.us
Address:  500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4040


Bike Fun Finder: An Easy Way to Share, Find & Join Bike Events in Your Area

Are you leading a group ride, attending an upcoming bike event or looking to join a ride in your area?  There is a new app for that, it's called Bike Fun Finder.  This is a free app that is available for both Android and iPhone.  It started as an idea among friends Lance Poehler, Nathan Frost and Tim Neuwerth in Portland to help cyclists keep track of all of the "bike fun" in their area.  The app makes it easy to create, publicize, find and even track bike events in your area once they've started so you can join in on the fun.

Software engineer, Lance Pohler came up with the idea on a trip to San Francisco, "I really wanted to go on a bike ride. I was aware of a ride called the Butterlap, but not much more. I ended up not getting out for any bike fun solely because I wasn't 'in the know'. I figured there had to be a better way."  When he got home, he started working on his idea and later partnered up with his friends.  To learn more about how this app turned from an idea into a useful tool for cyclists, listen to this episode of the Sprocket Podcast.  E132 – Lance Poehler, Nathan Frost & Tim Neuwerth: Bike Fun Finder

The Bike Fun Finder will show a calendar of rides in your area.


Use it to create and update your own rides and get the word out.



Search for rides by keyword, type and city.



If you missed the start of a ride and one of the ride participants is tracking it, you can "live" track it and find out where the group is and join in.


While word about Bike Fun Finder is just starting to spread, there are not a lot of listings for the Twin Cities area and around Minnesota yet, that should soon change.  They know about it in Portland, cyclists there use if often and listings of rides are being updated daily.  Minnesota being the "Bike Friendly State" is sure to soon follow suit.

The Bike Fun Finder app can be downloaded for free on the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Follow Bike Fun Finder on Twitter @BikeFunFinder and "Like" on Facebook for updates and new release details.


Product Review: Camelbak Podium Water Bottles

I've tried all kinds of water bottles over the last few years and after using the Camelbak Podium water bottle, I've learned that not all water bottles are created equally.  The complaints I've had about the standard cycling water bottle are that they leak, they affect the taste of the water and the minor inconvenience of opening and closing the valve cap.  Camelbak's Podium water bottle line eliminates all of these problems.

The Podium line of water bottles comes in two sizes, a 21 ounce and a 24 ounce and fits in any bike water bottle cage.  For me, the 21 ounce bottle is a perfect fit and provides plenty of clearance for easy access due to the tight front triangle of my mountain bike frame.  If you prefer an insulated bottle to keep your water cold longer on those hot days, there is the Podium Chill (21 oz.) and the Podium Big Chill (25 oz.).  Each bottle is made from a proprietary blend of  BPA-free polypropylene and lined with CamelBak's HydroGuard to prevent bacteria buildup.  No more plastic taste or odor to affect the quality of your water or sports drink.

Besides taste not being affected by these bottles, my favorite feature of the Podium is the self-sealing Jet Valve.  With this valve there is no more opening, closing or leaking like on the pop-top style bottles when hydrating on-the-fly.  With a simple squeeze of the bottle, the Jet Valve opens and provides a high flow of water and immediately closes when you are finished.  Simply place the nozzle between your lips, open your mouth and give it a squeeze.  No more dripping down the front of your jersey or shirt.  For storage there is a rotary valve under the nozzle that can be used as a secondary lock out.  Keep it in the closed position to prevent leaks and spills in your bike bag, cooler, etc.

Twist the rotary valve to lock for storage.

The Camelbak Podium is easy to clean, each bottle is top-rack dishwasher safe.  Or if you prefer to wash it by hand, simply put a drop of dish soap in it and fill with hot water, give it a shake and squeeze.

When it comes to price on the Camelbak Podium bottles, they're going to cost a little more than the standard pop-top water bottle, but the design and convenience of the Jet Valve cap and the taste-free polypropylene construction more than make up for it.  The 21 oz. bottle usually runs around $9 and the 24 oz, $10.  The insulated Chill versions cost a little more with the 21 oz. at $12 and the 25 oz. at $14.

In conclusion, the Camelbak Podium water bottle line is a welcome change from the old.  These bottles, in my opinion, are the best I've used.  Since buying a couple of them, I have a cupboard full of old water bottles that I no longer use because they just don't compare.  I highly recommend them for anyone from the casual cyclist to the serious racer, they're just that good.

Disclosure:  Camelbak did not supply these bottles, I purchased them on my own to try them out and had no intention of writing a review, but I was so impressed by how they performed I decided to.
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