extra extra part two…

•February 5, 2021 • Leave a Comment

We were interviewed for a Daily Iowan article on the new bike boxes in Iowa City. Below we share our extended answers in the second of 8 posts.

Do you think the bike lanes and the bike boxes will make it safer for bikers, why or why not?

Asa:  I don’t think the bike lanes or boxes alone will necessarily make it safer for cyclists because they add more to “perceived safety” while actually giving cyclists less room for error.  They also add to motorists’ expectation for cyclists only be in the bike lane, even when they can ride at speed with traffic.

Michael: Bike lanes are love-hate items for me. Bike lanes certainly encourage novice cyclists to start riding who otherwise wouldn’t, which hopefully will allow them to get to a point where they understand the short-comings of bike lanes & have the confidence to then ride on streets where there are no bike lanes & in lane positions that maximizes their safety. The bike lane coming down Dodge Street is a prime example of an unsafe bike lane. Dodge Street is two lanes going one way downhill. Bicyclists can easily maintain the speed limit of 25mph. Yet, the City put in a bike lane that gives cyclists less room that is being traveled at higher speed that curves twice & is commonly obscured with debris since the bike lanes are poorly kept clear.

Pete: In the long run, yes. Anything that gets more cyclists on the road helps improve cycling for all. Could they all be better? Yes. Is all the relevant information out there done by cities with high rankings of bicycle friendly streets? Yes. Did Iowa City use that information to faithfully implement the best systems that they could? That answer better not be yes. If this is the best that Iowa City has to offer to cyclists, we are in trouble.

1/14/21 Update from Michael: I have seen more cars stopping on top of the bike boxes than not.

Thank you to Clinton Garlock for originally posing this question. Extra thanks to Pete for taking the time to share his thoughts while taking a break from the shop. Comment your own answers below, we’d love to hear your experiences and insights!

for your knees…

•January 29, 2021 • Leave a Comment
Michael always says if he could tell every cyclist one piece of advice that would benefit the most, it would be “raise your saddle!” Your knee should be ever so slightly bent at the bottom of a pedal stroke with the ball of the foot over the pedal spindle. You should _not_ be able to put your feet flat on the ground while in the saddle.

extra extra…

•December 23, 2020 • 1 Comment

We were recently interviewed for a Daily Iowan article on the new bike boxes in Iowa City. Below we share our extended answers in the first of 8 posts.

Do you feel safe biking in Iowa City, why or why not?

Asa: Yes and no, I grew up in rural Iowa biking on 2 lane highway and gravel roads/shoulders, so Iowa City is way safer than that.  That being said, Iowa City has average-at-best cycling infrastructure, including misplaced bike lanes and sharrows, and driver’s education about how to drive around cyclists and what is expected of cyclists/what rights cyclists have is as poor as anywhere else.

Michael: Iowa City is a fairly safe city to bike in. I feel as though the main reason for this is the sheer number of cyclists that motorists have to interact with. Look no further than how everyone interacts together downtown & around campus versus on the outer parts of town. Iowa City’s bicycle infrastructure is a mixed bag that helps & hinders cyclists. Ill-placed bikelanes & sharrows that are in the doorzones of parked cars are prime examples of the City putting cyclists in harm’s way.

Pete: Yes. I always have. I grew up in a much larger city where riding on the road was always acceptable, and there was a nice blend of dedicated paths. Here in Iowa City, the roads feel safe as long as I ride in a manner that helps ensure my visibility. Riding in the middle/to the left of the lane, bright lights at night, riding quickly with the flow of traffic. I don’t think the same is said for everyone. I don’t think that Iowa City has done much for bicycle ridership, treating it more of an afterthought. I think that Iowa City bike culture has been created and crafted by dedicated riders who have refused to be bullied by their gas guzzling counterparts. I think we would see a dramatic increase in ridership if the city put more of an emphasis on non motorized use of roadways. Better signage, better paint, a more cohesive bike plan, and for that matter, a better flow of car traffic. All of those things would help riders feel more safe on Iowa City roads. But, as in most of America, roads are built and maintained to be used by motor vehicles and everything else is secondary.

Bike lane in doorzone

Debris in bike lane

Awesome sharrows

Thank you to Clinton Garlock for originally posing this question. Extra thanks to Pete for taking the time to share his thoughts while taking a break from the shop. Comment your own answers below, we’d love to hear your experiences and insights!

2020 wrap up…

•December 18, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Happy holidays, folks! We will continue to be open as usual tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then closed for the remainder of the year. January plans soon to be finalized…

relevant for your winter cycling redux…

•November 14, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Time to winterize your bike! We have studded tires, cleaning supplies, fenders, covers, Bar Mitts, and more. You and your bike will both last longer protected from the elements.

relevant for your winter cycling…

•November 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Here’s a thing that I wrote from two years ago for the Little Village!


Ride through the winter with these tips from Broken Spoke owner Michael Chamberlain.


Generally, a skinnier tire with knobby tread works best for riding in a city that salts and plows its streets. This will make it easier to keep the front end straight and heading where you want when the front wheel cuts through the snow and gets down to the hard surface.

A wider tire tends to get directed by the terrain, which causes the front wheel to go all over the place. Studded tires work especially well when it is icy and slick out. They have a knobby tread with metal studs to help dig in and provide grip on slick ice.

I personally use a 32mm studded tire on the front of my bike where traction is paramount for steering and control. I use a 35mm knobby cyclocross tire on the rear since it is lighter and cheaper than a second studded tire. If cost and weight are less of a concern than the utmost in traction, then double up on the widest set of studded tires that will fit your bike. Studded tires start at around $65-70 each.


A set of full fenders will protect the bike from most of the sloppy slush and snow. Even though fenders will keep the nastiness from spraying onto your back and legs, the bicycle is the bigger benefactor from fenders.

Your drivetrain will remain cleaner and your headset, bottom bracket, and seatpost will remain mostly healthy throughout the winter. Everyone wins with a set of full fenders! Expect to pay about $45-50 for a good set.


Your bicycle will require more regular cleaning when riding in the winter. Sand and salt is a terrible combination for your drivetrain. There are chain cleaners (about $30) that allow you to very easily clean it without removing anything from your bicycle. They simply snap onto your chain, after which you can pedal your bike backwards with your hand to start the process. Use some degreaser, and allow the cleaner’s small, rotating brushes to thoroughly remove the gunk and grit from each chain link. This should be done every week or two during the winter months depending on how much snow and slush we’ve had.


It has been said many times that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. A windproof shell is worth more than its weight in gold since it will keep the cold air out and your body warmth in.

Layers are usually key and wool definitely helps, allowing you to adapt to the temperature changes throughout the day. A cold morning commute might turn into a much warmer trip back home, for example. Generally, for rides less than a mile, it is best to overdress so you will be warm. For rides over two or three miles, it is best to dress so you are a little cold during the first few minutes of your ride, as you will be at an ideal temperature once you are warmed up.

If you find yourself colder than you would like to be, ride faster! This will create more body heat and warm you up surprisingly quickly. For those of us with cold hands and feet, a nice pair of insulated boots and wool socks are wonderful to prevent those toes from freezing.

Handlebar mittens are also fantastic for shielding your hands from the cold and keeping your hand warmth from escaping. These attach to the handlebar of the bicycle and are pretty much windproof.

The Right Attitude

Finally, no amount of gear will do you any good if you do not have a can-do attitude! My biggest tip for people is to just keep riding everyday into the colder months. By doing this, you will have a day to day experience of what works and what doesn’t as the temperatures gradually decrease.  Figure out what was too hot or too cold today and adjust accordingly for tomorrow.  It is amazingly easy to ride in the winter if you prepare and adjust and keep on riding when the weather gets cold!

Michael Chamberlain is the owner of The Broken Spoke (602 South Dubuque Street) and will be riding his 11th consecutive winter in Iowa City.

montague fit full-size folding bike…

•May 1, 2014 • 2 Comments

Here is the first update of many that I need to catch up on!
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This is a custom frame up build of a Montague FIT full-size folding frame. It basically has a quick release lever that allows the bike to fold in half horizontally along the seat tube.

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A nice look at the front end.

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An Avid BB7 disk brake makes thing stop in a hurry up front.

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A pair of sweet Paul brake levers; always made in the USA!

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Portland Designs Whiskey leather grips add style & comfort.

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Broken bike! A hint at its fold-ability.

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A close-up of the business end.

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A Brooks leather saddle: the standard for leathery comfort!

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The Shimano Alfine internal 11 speed hub has a great gear range with the easiness of a simply maintained internal hub!

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A look at the custom hand-built wheels. The Alfine rear & Paul front.

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you can ring my bell…

•October 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Just look at all of this Japanese brass, copper, & stainless steel goodness!

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There’s even _one & only one_ hand-painted maple themed one that was done by a kung-fu master(maybe)!

tenth anniversary of the broken spoke…!

•September 3, 2013 • 2 Comments

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Ok, so this is a little late, but better late than never, right?

2013 marks the tenth year that The Broken Spoke has been in business & to celebrate, all Broken Spoke merchandise is ten to twenty percent off! We’ve got t-shirts, hats, & water bottles with your favourite bike shop’s logo on them!

Thank you & here’s to another ten years!

redline conquest 24…

•July 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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It’s hard to beat the awesomeness of a cyclocross bike. But one way to do it is to have it be a kid’s version! This little guy has 24″ wheels & a wee frame for those budding cyclocrossers in our lives.

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