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Quality gear can save your neck, shop owners say

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — You wanna kick flip and ollie like the professional bikers and skaters at the X Trials? Maybe even take a crack at competing someday?
To make sure you don’t break your neck doing it, you’ll need some safety gear. Wondering where to get it and how to know what to buy?
Relax — there are plenty of bike shops in Connecticut that stock enough safety equipment to pad an army.
Biker’s Edge in Bristol is a full service bicycle shop, said manager Ed Bogun. He said the shop carries anything bike-related, including extreme sports equipment.
“We don’t recommend anybody to ride without a helmet,” said Bogun. He said it is the store’s top selling piece of safety gear.
Steve Cole, who owns Renaissance Cyclery in Plainville, stocks shin guards, gloves, elbow pads, and chest protectors.
Cole recommended that kids who want to someday compete in the X Trials wear all safety equipment and padding.
But if you won’t listen to him, he said, safety equipment is required for the X Trials anyway.
James Parrott owns CT Bike, another place in Bristol. Not only is it the oldest indoor skate park, according to Parrott, it also carries a wide variety of equipment. Helmets, elbow guards, knee guards, wrist guards, ankle guards, and gloves are all available there, Parrott said.
David Hangen, manager of Southington Bicycle and Repair, said the shop just sells biking equipment.
They carry helmets, shin guards, and gloves, but no elbow or kneepads.
Well, now you’ve seen what there is, what should you buy?
Most customers buy helmets with their bikes, Hangen said.
State law requires kids under 12 to wear helmets when they’re biking, said Matt Macko, who also works at the Southington bike shop.
Helmets and other safety equipment are made of plastic, Styrofoam, and Velcro, Parrott said.
Cole said their safety equipment is made of a variety of cavelar — a type of plastic — leather, and heavy cloth.
So, you’re convinced about the safety equipment. But wait, there’s more.
Cole said that a proper bicycle is just as important as pads and other safety equipment. He said he’s seen a lot of bikes that weren’t properly assembled or were made of shoddy materials.
Bogun said, “I’ve seen bikes at discount stores I wouldn’t let a dog ride.”
Parrott said he’s seen bikes with wobbly wheels, loose steering, and brakes that don’t work.
“We don’t have any cheap skates,” Parrott said. He said his shop only sells aggressive skates, the kind that would be used in the X Trials.
All right, the quality of your bike is important, too.

So, what is a really good quality bike?
Cole said good materials are key.
Bogun said they use high carbon steel, crom-moly, and titanium in their bikes, because the materials are both strong and lightweight. He also said their bikes have good grip tires to prevent skidding.
At CT Bike, bikes are made of crom-moly alloy or aluminum, and the tires are rubber, Parrott said.
At the Southington shop, Macko said, they’re made of crom-moly or aluminum as well. Not only are those materials light and strong, he said, they also are easy to shape.
Okay, now you’ve got good safety gear and a good bike.
But don’t think that’s all there is to it.
No matter how much equipment you’ve got, Cole said, you still have to practice and be good to do well in the X Trials or anywhere else.

Katie Jordan is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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