Cycling Merit Badge Answers: A ScoutSmarts Guide


If you’re preparing to earn the Eagle-required Cycling merit badge, you’re in the right place! In this guide, I’ll be providing you with all of the answers that you’ll need to complete your Cycling merit badge worksheet in your own words. In the process, you’ll also you’ll learn how to care for your bike, stay safe on the road, and become a skilled cyclist!

You’ve reached part 2 of my ultimate guide to the Cycling merit badge! If you’re new to ScoutSmarts, you should first check out part 1 for the answers to requirements 1-3 of the Cycling merit badge.

If you’ve just come over from part one, congratulations! You’re halfway done. Once you finish this badge, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge needed to ride your bike safely, even through a wide range of conditions. Give yourself a big pat on the back for making it this far. 🙂

Now, it’s time to get back into it! Take a minute to closely review and think through requirements 3-7 of the Cycling merit badge:

What are The Cycling Merit Badge Answers?

  1. Show your bicycle to your counselor for inspection. Point out the adjustments or repairs you have made. Do the following:
    3a. Show all points that need oiling regularly.
    3b. Show points that should be checked regularly to make sure the bicycle is safe to ride.
    3c. Show how to adjust brakes, seat level and height, and steering tube.
  2. Describe how to brake safely with foot brakes and with hand brakes.
  3. Show how to repair a flat by removing the tire, replacing or patching the tube, and remounting the tire.
  4. Describe your state’s traffic laws for bicycles. Compare them with motor-vehicle laws. Know the bicycle-safety guidelines.
  5. Using the BSA buddy system, complete all of the requirements for ONE of the following options: road biking OR mountain biking.
    • Option 1: Road Biking
      • Take a road test with your counselor and demonstrate the following:
        7a I. Properly mount, pedal, and brake, including emergency stops.
        7a II. On an urban street with light traffic, properly execute a left turn from the center of the street; also demonstrate an alternate left-turn technique used during periods of heavy traffic.
        7a III. Properly execute a right turn.
        7a IV. Demonstrate appropriate actions at a right-turn-only lane when you are continuing straight.
        7a V. Show proper curbside and road-edge riding. Show how to ride safely along a row of parked cars.
        7a VI. Cross railroad tracks properly.
      • 7b. Avoiding main highways, take two rides of 10 miles each, two rides of 15 miles each, and two rides of 25 miles each. You must make a report of the rides taken. List dates for the routes traveled, and interesting things seen.
      • 7c. After completing requirement b for the road biking option, do ONE of the following:
        7c Option 1. Lay out on a road map a 50-mile trip. Stay away from main highways. Using your map, make this ride in eight hours.
        7c option 2. Participate in an organized bike tour of at least 50 miles. Make this ride in eight hours. Afterward, use the tour’s cue sheet to make a map of the ride.
    • Option 2: Mountain Biking
      • Take a trail ride with your counselor and demonstrate the following:
        7a I. Properly mount, pedal, and brake, including emergency stops.
        7a II. Show shifting skills as applicable to climbs and obstacles.
        7a III. Show proper trail etiquette to hikers and other cyclists, including when to yield the right-of-way.
        7a IV. Show proper technique for riding up and down hills.
        7a V. Demonstrate how to correctly cross an obstacle by either going over the obstacle on your bike or dismounting your bike and crossing over or around the obstacle.
        7a VI. Cross rocks, gravel, and roots properly.
      • 7b. Describe the rules of trail riding, including how to know when a trail is unsuitable for riding.
      • 7c. On trails approved by your counselor, take two rides of 2 miles each, two rides of 5 miles each, and two rides of 8 miles each. You must make a report of the rides taken. List dates for the routes traveled, and interesting things seen.
      • 7d. After fulfilling the previous requirement, lay out on a trail map a 22-mile trip. You may include multiple trail systems, if needed. Stay away from main highways. Using your map, make this ride in six hours.
3. Show your bicycle to your counselor for inspection. Point out the adjustments or repairs you have made. Do the following:
3a) Show all points that need oiling regularly.

We already answered requirement 3a) in part 1 of my guide to the Cycling merit badge. To jump to that section and learn the points of your bike that need oiling regularly, click here!

3b) Show points that should be checked regularly to make sure the bicycle is safe to ride.

Before setting off on any ride, you should make sure to first inspect three crucial areas of your bike. Otherwise, your safety could be at risk! Luckily, there’s a simple way for you to remember the three main sections of your bike: A-B-C (Source: REI experts). ABC stands for Air, Brakes, and Chain.

  1. Air: Are your tires properly inflated and in good condition? Having too low a tire pressure will make bikes harder to handle and increase one’s likelihood of crashing. So, always ensure your tires are firm and well-secured to your bike’s frame.
  2. Brakes: Do both of your brake pads engage smoothly and halt each wheel? By squeezing your brake levers while rolling your bike forward, you can test the effectiveness of your brake pads. Sometimes, oil can get on your brakes or they can wear out over time, so it’s important to check them regularly and make sure they’re able to halt your momentum.
  3. Chain: Are your chains and gears clean and lubricated enough to run without issues? Watch how your chain moves as you push down on your bike pedal. Make sure it runs through smoothly and doesn’t rub against anything (like your derailleurs).

Now you know, before riding always make sure to check your bike’s air, brakes, and chain. A-B-C! To see how this pre-ride inspection might look when put into action, check out this quick video (2:30):

While the ABC pre-ride inspection is a great way to make sure that most safety hazards are mitigated, I want to remind you that it’s crucial to also service your bike from time to time.

I’m no expert on bikes, and I’m guessing that you aren’t one either (sorry if you are!), so I’d recommend simply taking your bike to your local bike shop for annual checkups. By bringing your bike in once or twice a year (depending on how much you’re using it), you’ll get all of the major issues sorted out so that a simple ABC inspection will be all that’s needed for a safe and fun ride! 🙂

3c) Show how to adjust brakes, seat level and height, and steering tube.

To have the most comfortable ride possible, it’s important to understand how to make adjustments to the fit of your bicycle. The most important areas to examine are your bike’s seat height, hand brakes, and steering tube.

Having a poorly adjusted bike can lead to back strain from poor posture, and make accidents more likely to occur. However, once you figure out the right settings on your bicycle, you’ll rarely ever have to fit it again! Now, let’s begin breaking down how to properly adjust your bike.

How to Adjust Your Bike’s Brakes

Once you’ve clocked a good deal of mileage on your bike, your hand brakes may begin to become less responsive and require a tighter squeeze to activate. The cause of this could either be worn down brake pads or slackened brake cables. Luckily, in either case, there’s a pretty easy solution!

Almost every bike has a brake barrel adjuster (A tube thing that tightens brakes) next to the hand brakes or the brake pads. Simply turn the barrel of the adjuster and test your brakes until you find the right level of tightness. However, if your bike is very old, you might also need to replace your brake pads.

For all you visual learners out there, here’s an informative (and quick!) video (1:34) of someone adjusting their brake pads:

How to Adjust Your Bike’s Seat Level and Height

In my opinion, your bike seat is the #1 setting you should pay attention to! When setting your bike’s seat level and height, you’re ideally trying to put yourself in a biking posture that’s comfortable and won’t result in injury. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Seat Height: Try to make it so that your leg can almost fully extend at the bottom part of where your pedal is rotating.
    • A common mistake is setting up a bike seat too low so that one’s leg can’t fully extend. People do this because a lower seat makes it easier to put your leg down when stopping in traffic.
    • However, if you’ll be biking a long distance, it’s worthwhile to make sure you’ve set your seat to a high enough level!
  • Seat Level: For most riders, it’s best to adjust your seat to be perfectly level. This means having your rear sit flat against the widest part of the seat.
    • If your seat is angled too far up then it can cause lower back, shoulder, and neck pain.
    • If your seat is tipped too far down it can put pressure on your arms, wrists, and hands.
    • If you notice any of these issues, slightly adjust your seat in the opposite direction and it will likely relieve some of the strain!

Hope these tips help! In my opinion, the above points are the most important things to keep in mind when tweaking your seat’s settings. Also, be aware that different types of bikes will need to be adjusted differently. However, most either use a built-in seat tightening mechanism or require an Allen key (Amazon link, usually you’ll use the 4 or 5 mm) to loosen.

Now, here’s a fantastic video (3:56) that’ll guide you through the entire seat-setting process:

How to Adjust Your Bike’s Steering Tube

A bicycle steering tube, better known as a headset, is the part of your bike where your handlebars connect to your bike’s frame. Often, this can loosen and begin rattling around, so it’s important to know how to tighten it back up again.

I’m not gonna even try to explain this one in words because a video reference will be so much more useful 😛 . Basically, to do this for most bikes, you’ll just need to re-tighten two areas with an Allen key. This will stop your headset from rocking around on your bike.

Here’s a helpful video (4:47) that’ll walk you through the entire process of adjusting your bike’s steering tube:

Once you understand how to make these three types of adjustments, you’ll be able to customize almost any bicycle to fit your body perfectly! Isn’t that awesome? Again, I’d recommend you pay special attention to seat height, as this will really affect your soreness the next day.

Congrats, we’ve made it more than halfway through the remaining knowledge requirements! Now that your bike is all adjusted and you know how to be safe on the road, it’s time to start requirement 4 and get ridin’. 🙂

4) Describe how to brake safely with foot brakes and with hand brakes.

You’ll know you’re becoming an advanced cyclist once you’re able to brake while still in full control of your bike. I can’t overstate how important a skill braking is to practice! Trust me, being able to quickly brake will make you much safer on the road (and allow you to have more fun out there as well!).

 Braking Using Foot Brakes

Slowing yourself down with a foot brake is pretty self-explanatory. However, most riders will notice that foot brakes offer less control than hand brakes. To engage your foot brakes, apply light pressure while pushing back on your pedal (in the opposite direction you pedal). This will engage your brake pads and gradually slow your momentum.

However, most advanced cyclists don’t use bicycles with foot brakes, as it’s possible to brake unintentionally and injure yourself. A much better option, if you’re comfortable on a bike, is to use handbrakes. This gives you a lot more precise control over the braking going on in each wheel.

 Braking Using Hand Brakes

To stop yourself using hand brakes, slowly squeeze the levers on the handlebars. Each handbrake corresponds with a brake pad on either your front or back wheel. For your safety, make sure you know which handbrake activates which wheel’s brake pad!

It’s important to lean back and distribute your weight over the rear tire as you’re slowing down to prevent yourself from flipping over the handlebars! This applies to both hand and foot brakes.  

Now, take a minute to watch this informative video (1:40) that’ll show you the basics for using your hand brakes effectively:

To recap, it’s best to use both of your hand brakes once you’ve gained some cycling experience. A beginner’s mistake is using your back brake exclusively. However, not using your front brake will wear out your back wheel quickly and could cause skidding in wet conditions.

Ideally, you should begin to slow down by using your back brake. Then, once you’re in control (usually in about 2-3 seconds), slowly squeeze your front brake while bringing your weight back so that it’s not over your front tire. There you have it. You’re now on the right path to becoming a braking expert! 😉

5) Show how to repair a flat by removing the tire, replacing or patching the tube, and remounting the tire.

At some point in your cycling career, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to find yourself with a flat tire. Maybe you ran over a thorn, or your inner tube got too old and began to leak. Whatever the case is, don’t worry! In this section, I’ll be teaching you how to quickly and easily fix almost any type of flat.

The first step is identifying you even have a flat. Some punctures are small and cause the air to leak out slowly, so it’s important to always be aware of how your bike travels. If you feel your bike is becoming bumpier, especially when your wheel rotates past a certain area, that’s a telltale sign of a tire leak! The bumpiness is your rims contacting the pavement. 🙁

Riding with a flat tire will destroy your rims and is incredibly dangerous, as you’ll have less control over your bike. Your tire could even come off the rim entirely, which is a recipe for disaster if you’re cycling near traffic or pedestrians. If you notice a tire is squishy, dismount immediately and try to repair it, or walk your bike to a nearby cycling shop.

Now that you know how to identify a flat tire and understand why it’s crucial that you repair any flats ASAP, it’s time to learn how to actually fix a flat tire of your own!

How To Repair A Flat Tire

Your typical bike tire actually consists of 2 parts: An outer rubber tire and an inner tube. Often, flats occur because an object pokes through the outer rubber tire and leaves a small hole in your inner tube. Luckily, flat tires are pretty easy to repair. All you need to do is patch that inner tube and you’re good to go!

Just an FYI, you’ll need a few inexpensive tools to repair a flat tire such as patches, glue, and tire removal tools. I’d recommend getting the RocRide 16-Piece Bike Puncture Repair Kit as it’s a very good price, has great reviews, and comes with all the repair tools you’ll need (Amazon link).

The first thing you’ll need to do to repair a flat tire is remove the punctured wheel. Front wheels are simpler to remove than back ones, but you’ll get the hang of removing both fairly quickly! I’d recommend using gloves if your bike is particularly grimy, and changing out of any nice clothes. This might get a little messy!

The video (6:02) below provides a great visual explanation of how to remove and replace different types of bike tires. I’d recommend giving it a quick watch if you’re new to changing bike tires:

Got your punctured tire detached yet? Great! In a few minutes I’ll be giving you some key tips so that you can be a puncture repair expert!

First though, watch the video (5:22) below for a full walkthrough of how to quickly repair an inner tube tire puncture:

When you get that great of an explanation, changing a tire doesn’t seem too tough, right? Here are a few other tip that you should keep in mind when repairing a puncture of your own:

  • Always check the inside of your rubber (outer) tire before replacing the tube. The sharp object that caused the puncture might still be there, which would cause all of your hard work to be wasted. Be careful not to cut yourself though!
  • Make sure you allow your patch glue to fully dry before placing your tube back into the wheel. Otherwise, the glue might stick your tube to the tire.
  • If you’re having trouble locating an extra small puncture, place your tube underwater and look for where the bubbles are escaping.
  • Try to spread the glue as thinly as possible and get it to cover exactly the same area as your patch. This will give it the best chances of sticking. Too much glue will leave space between your patch and tube, which could cause a leak.

In some cases, it might be best to simply purchase another tube. Large slashes often can’t be repaired using patches. Additionally, if your tube is old and cracking, instead of patching it up I’d recommend you replace it. Riding with a damaged or very old inner tube is dangerous, as it could lead to tire blowouts.

And, that’s really all there is to it. I was pretty intimidated too, the first time I had to change a tire, but you’ll get the hang of it fairly quickly! I’m hoping you feel like a more confident cyclist now that you know how to repair your bike’s tires, should they ever go flat! PS: If you need it, here’s another link to the Puncture Repair Kit. 🙂

6) Describe your state’s traffic laws for bicycles. Compare them with motor-vehicle laws. Know the bicycle-safety guidelines.

As we talked about in requirement 2, different states have different traffic laws that cyclists must abide by. The same is also true for vehicles. Once you’ve taken drivers-ed and learned the details of your state’s specific traffic laws, you should be able to answer this question in much more detail.

However, right now I’ll be telling you some general traffic laws that will very likely be applicable to your state. Using what you learned about bike laws in requirement 2, you’ll be able to compare these two sets of road guidelines with your merit badge counselor! Here are some general traffic laws for both bikes and cars:

Traffic Laws for Motor-vehicles

  • Go with the flow of traffic while being careful not to exceed the posted speed limit.
  • Always signal with your blinker when turning or changing lanes
  • It’s illegal in most states to operate a cellphone while driving.
  • Always drive on the right side of the road.
  • Stop at red traffic lights and slow down on yellow.
  • At an intersection, you must yield if you do not have the right of way.
  • Yield to existing vehicles and bikes when changing lanes.

Traffic Laws for Cyclists

  • It is illegal and very dangerous for cyclists to ride on interstates, freeways, and major parkways.
  • Always use hand signals when turning or switching lanes.
  • Stay off of cellular devices while cycling.
  • When in a bike lane, always be moving in the same direction as the other cars and bikers.
  • Stop at red traffic lights and slow down on yellow.
  • At an intersection, you must yield if you don’t have the right of way.
  • Yield to existing vehicles and bikes when changing lanes.

Basically, cyclists are treated the same way as other drivers. As such, practically all of the rules of the road that apply to motor-vehicles apply to people on bikes as well. Therefore, as a cyclist, you should also follow all posted road signs and traffic signals you encounter.

One difference between driving and cycling, however, applies to sharing lanes. Obviously, two cars can’t drive in the same lane. But, if a lane is longer than 14 feet across, a driver and a cyclist can be in the same lane. If it’s shorter than 14 feet though, the cyclist should move to the center of the lane so that they aren’t accidentally clipped by a vehicle.

While there are a few legal differences between the road rules that cars and cyclists must follow, for the most part, cyclists are treated as vehicles. Therefore, whether you’re driving or cycling, knowing the rules of the road is essential for keeping yourself and those around you safe! 🙂

7) Using the BSA buddy system, complete all of the requirements for ONE of the following options: road biking OR mountain biking.

Option 1: Road Biking

Take a road test with your counselor and demonstrate the following:
7a I) Properly mount, pedal, and brake, including emergency stops.
7a II) On an urban street with light traffic, properly execute a left turn from the center of the street; also demonstrate an alternate left-turn technique used during periods of heavy traffic.
7a III) Properly execute a right turn.
7a IV) Demonstrate appropriate actions at a right-turn-only lane when you are continuing straight.
7a V) Show proper curbside and road-edge riding. Show how to ride safely along a row of parked cars.
7a VI) Cross railroad tracks properly.


7b) Avoiding main highways, take two rides of 10 miles each, two rides of 15 miles each, and two rides of 25 miles each. You must make a report of the rides taken. List dates for the routes traveled, and interesting things seen.

7c) After completing requirement b for the road biking option, do ONE of the following:
7c Option 1) Lay out on a road map a 50-mile trip. Stay away from main highways. Using your map, make this ride in eight hours.
7c option 2) Participate in an organized bike tour of at least 50 miles. Make this ride in eight hours. Afterward, use the tour’s cue sheet to make a map of the ride.

Option 2: Mountain Biking

Take a trail ride with your counselor and demonstrate the following:
7a I) Properly mount, pedal, and brake, including emergency stops.
7a II) Show shifting skills as applicable to climbs and obstacles.
7a III) Show proper trail etiquette to hikers and other cyclists, including when to yield the right-of-way.
7a IV) Show proper technique for riding up and down hills.
7a V) Demonstrate how to correctly cross an obstacle by either going over the obstacle on your bike or dismounting your bike and crossing over or around the obstacle.
7a VI) Cross rocks, gravel, and roots properly.


7b) Describe the rules of trail riding, including how to know when a trail is unsuitable for riding.

7c) On trails approved by your counselor, take two rides of 2 miles each, two rides of 5 miles each, and two rides of 8 miles each. You must make a report of the rides taken. List dates for the routes traveled, and interesting things seen.

7d) After fulfilling the previous requirement, lay out on a trail map a 22-mile trip. You may include multiple trail systems, if needed. Stay away from main highways. Using your map, make this ride in six hours.

Even though both the road and mountain biking requirements seem like hard work, trust me when I say that this is the fun part. You get to head out on your bike, your friends alongside you, and truly push your limits! Now that you know how to safely ride and repair your bike, you’re prepared to complete the rest of the Cycling merit badge on your own. 🙂

Conclusion

Wow, it might have been a long ride but congratulations, you’ve made it! At this point, you should know how to care for your bicycle, ride safely, and be prepared to have some cycling adventures of your own. Great work! Be sure to use your knowledge to help less-experienced riders too, as a huge part of cycling is its friendly community. 😉

If you found this post helpful, I’ve also written guides to many of the other Eagle-required merit badges. I’d definitely recommend checking out my comprehensive difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge if you haven’t seen it already! 

Hope this resource helped you to answer every requirement of your merit badge worksheet in your own words! I’m looking forward to having you back at ScoutSmarts soon because I’m constantly uploading new articles to support scouts like yourself. Until next time, best of luck on your Scouting journey!

(Click here to return to part 1 of my guide to the Cycling merit badge!)

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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