A novice's guide to bikes

JAHNA PELOQUIN | Updated 5/16/2013

Intimidated by bikes? Angry Catfish owner Josh Klauck offers pro tips for getting started.

Nick Valdes, left, salesperson at Angry Catfish Bike Shop in Minneapolis, fitted a new Parlee racing bike to customer Mark Stephany.

Spring is in the air, and for many Twin Citians, that means one thing — bike season. But for those of us who may not consider ourselves “bike people,” getting on a bicycle can be daunting. So we asked resident bike guru Josh Klauck, owner of Angry Catfish Bicycle Shop & Coffee Bar (4208 28th Av. S., Mpls.), for pro tips tailored to the regular Joe and Jane.

Klauck got his start like many of us do: biking around as a kid in his hometown of Brainerd. But it wasn’t until he got his first job at a bike shop as a teenager that he began to real­ly fall in love with bikes. “I realized there was more to bikes than I ever knew,” the slim, bearded Klauck told us this week in the Angry Catfish office.

In 2005 Klauck moved to Minneapolis, where he picked up a job at Freewheel Bike Shop. Five years later he founded Angry Catfish. Some quick math reveals that Klauck, 28, has been in the bike game half his life.

But despite his years in the business, Klauck and his staff at Angry Catfish take an open-arms approach, avoiding the geek-out snobbery often associated with shops.

“We try to work with anyone and any budget,” Klauck says. “We have a very specialized approach to bicycles. We’re interested in customizing bicycles that fit people’s wants and needs rather than selling them something straight off the rack.”

He adds: “The most important thing to us is that people are riding them.”

Rehabbing your old ride

If you already own a bike, getting it into riding condition after a long winter of disuse is easier than you’d think. Klauck offers some tips:

Fill those tires. “A lot of people don’t realize that the tires they have are made of porous materials that lose air.” He suggests getting a good home pump, and keeping your tires correctly inflated. “Underinflated tires are the biggest cause of flats.”

Regardless, flats happen, so be prepared. Klauck recommends carrying a spare tube, a tire lever and a pump or CO2 inflation device, because “It’s not a lot of fun walking your bike.”

Drop some cash on good tires. “If you spend $100 on tires, they’ll go a long way.”

Oil your chain at least once a week. “It always makes me cringe when I bike by someone on the Greenway that’s squeaking.”

A tune-up isn’t always necessary. “Bring your bike to a reputable shop and have someone check it over and make recommendations from there,” Klauck offers. That could mean getting your brake cables tightened, your chain oiled or your seat adjusted if necessary.

Be sure to have lights for both the front and back. “With spring, the road is really messed up right now, so being able to see, watching out for potholes and stuff, is really important.”

Buy a U-lock. “I see a lot of cable locks out there, and I could cut one of those with a knife.”

Buy a helmet. “I’m a firm believer in the importance of wearing a helmet,” he says, noting Angry Catfish carries some “less aerospacey” designs.

Stock up on products that blend function and style. Such as: denim jeans with just a hint of Spandex; wool underwear, which absorbs odor and sweat; and bike-specific shoes. “We sell shoes that could definitely pass as daily walking-around shoes,” he says. “We don’t stock any products we haven’t used. We’re fans of design but also function and reliability.”

Finally, don’t be intimidated by bike maintenance. “It’s not rocket science,” he says.

Buying a bike

Buy new if you can. “Bike design has come a long, long way. New bikes are so much more comfortable, reliable and lightweight than old or vintage bikes,” Klauck says. “A fast and efficient bike to me is always the best option.”

Get a fitting for your bike. During a bike fitting, alignment and position are optimized, increasing your riding enjoyment, comfort, safety, handling and efficiency. Klauck walked us through the fitting process, which included foot, height and shoulder measurements to gauge things like seatpost height, handlebar extension length and frame height. “You want your seat as high as it will go so that you have almost full leg extension with a slight bend in the knees.”

Riding in The City

Use bike maps and pick appropriate routes. “There’s a lot of busy streets that I see people riding on and I question that, because we have so many comfortable streets to ride on.” Waterproof maps are available at any bike shop in town.

Ride with a more experienced friend if you’re new to biking. “Feeling safe and comfortable are key.”