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More About Range and Ratios

On a ride very recently I started yapping about the new gravel bike I built. My conversation partner asked a few questions about the frame and the drivetrain. He then said, “I’m still curious about the pros and cons of 1x and 2x drivetrains. I think you should write a full-nerd blog post on this.”

Obviously, this is not my fault.

I think we should start with the salient points of this post, which are:

  1. Modern 1x drivetrains give you a LOT of range, more than older triple-chainring setups
  2. These 1x drivetrains with all the range DO have bigger steps between the gears

The difference between this post and that one is that this one is going to compare a modern 11-speed road double drivetrain to a modern 11-speed 1x drivetrain, whereas the other was a bit more geared (ha!) toward someone with an old(er) drivetrain considering a 1x upgrade.

Range

It’s probably impossible to work through this stuff without applying a little bit of high-school learnin’, so let’s dive a bit deeper. The range of a cassette is [(teeth on big cog) / (teeth on small cog)]. The range of an 11-32 cassette (and this can be a 9, 10 or 11-speed cassette; the number of gears doesn’t matter in terms of overall range) is 291%.

Cassette Range
Cassette Range
11/28 255%
11/32 291%
11/36 327%
10/42 420%

Likewise, the range of the crank is the number of teeth on the big ring divided by the number of teeth on the small ring. The range of a compact cranks (50/34) is 147%. The range of a single-ring crank is 100%; the big ring and the small ring are the same, so the ratio is one.

Crank Range
Chainrings Range
Standard (53/39) 136%
Compact (50/34) 147%
Cyclocross (46/36) 128%

This, friend, is where the rubber hits the road with respect to drivetrain range. Your drivetrain range is the product of your cassette’s range and your crank’s range. I have an 11-32 cassette with a range of 291%. If I put that cassette on my single-ring cross bike, the range of the entire drivetrain is 291% (2.91 for the cassette multiplied by 1.0 for the crank). If I put that cassette on my road bike with a standard (53/39) crank, the range of the entire drivetrain is 2.91 * 1.36 = 3.95 or 395%. Said another way, the addition of a standard crank gives me 36% more range. If I had a compact crank, the addition would yield 47% more range.

Road Double
Chainrings Cassette Range
53/39 11/32 395%
46/36 11/32 372%
50/34 11/32 428%

To recap: on a single-ring setup, the drivetrain range is the cassette range. On a multi-ring setup, the drivetrain range is the range of the cassette multiplied by the range of the crank. If you look through the above tables, you’ll see that you can get a 10-42 single-ring cassette with 420% range, nearly the same as a compact crank with an 11/32 cassette. Whichever way you elect to get here, 420% range is a lot.

Ratios

I’m giving serious consideration to renaming this section “Steps,” because what I’m really trying to describe here is how much you “feel” the gear change. Does that change feel about right, or does it feel maybe a little too big? I got the “Steps” name from this article which is quite a bit more exhaustive than mine. One thing to keep in mind: while the number of cogs on a cassette doesn’t matter with respect to range, the number does matter with ratios. More gears means smaller steps across the range.

Here’s a bit of data that gets right to the root of this “Step” idea. For a long time, 11-25 was the cassette on darn near every new bike. We’re seeing a lot of 11-32 on bikes these days. 10-42 is the big-range 11-speed cassette that we see this on many single-ring new bikes.

Cassette Ratios and Steps
11-25 11-32 10-42
Cog Step Cog Step Cog Step
11 11 10
12 9% 12 9% 12 20%
13 8% 13 8% 14 17%
14 8% 14 8% 16 14%
15 7% 16 14% 18 13%
16 7% 18 13% 21 17%
17 6% 20 11% 24 14%
19 12% 22 10% 28 17%
21 11% 25 14% 32 14%
23 10% 28 12% 36 13%
25 9% 32 14% 42 17%
Avg. 9% 11% 15%

I think this sort of bears out what many of us have felt in our legs: wider range cassettes definitely have bigger steps between gears. The average step between gears on a 10-42 cassette is 50% bigger than those on a 11-25. Fifty percent is a big number. Too big? Hmmmm.

Big Finish

Let’s go back to the guy I was riding with the other day. I know what he’s doing. He’s trying to figure out how he wants to equip a bike he’s building in the back of his head. And I want to give him good advice for several reasons. I like the guy, and I thus want him to be happy. I also don’t want to get a reputation as the guy who gives people bad bike advice. Regardless, here’s a quick pro/con list on single-ring setups.

Pros:

  • Lighter weight (no front derailleur, no front shifting junk)
  • Simpler
  • No dropped chains or crappy front shifts (= greater confidence)
  • Wide range is still possible

Cons:

  • Might need to swap front rings to optimize the gear range
  • Bigger steps between gears are required to get the same range as a double
  • Switching cost could be high (shifters, derailleurs, etc.). Is this really a con? Maybe it’s just a fact.

Speaking personally, the simplicity of a single-ring setup is great. Perhaps I’m the only person who has thoughts such as, “I need one easier gear right now, but maybe I’ll ultimately need three easier gears, so should I mess around with the front derailleur or just knock out one shift in the back?” See!? Cycling is relaxing!

Also, personally, it seems to me that tight ratios (smaller steps) matter most when you’re riding with a fast group and are not in total control of the pace. In those situations it can indeed be a bummer to find yourself alternating between spinning too fast or pushing too hard at a low cadence.

Perhaps this is a localized conundrum. I happened to speak with a guy from SRAM at Interbike last fall. I asked if maybe a clutch derailleur was coming to eTap so that it could better support a single-ring setup. I mean, why not? SRAM totally popularized 1x. His response, “Oh you Michigan guys and your single-ring setups.” So though SRAM might be fired up about 1x, maybe the thought is that every product doesn’t need to support it. For comparison, it took until about right now for Shimano to come out with a clutch road derailleur.

Lastly, I think everyone needs to put it in context of what you have and what you’re willing to endure. If a single ring just seems too strange, don’t do it. If you’ve got an open mind, give it a whirl. If your life revolves around Shimano drivetrains, you might not enjoy the pleasures of a shift on an agricultural-feeling SRAM drivetrain. Said differently, 1x vs. 2x is one of many considerations in a new bike’s drivetrain.

Was this remotely helpful, John?

Meta-Modern Mechanical Disc Devices

About a year ago, I built myself a pretty fancy cross bike: (very) fancy frame, fancy (aluminum) wheels, fancy drivetrain, fancy carbon-railed saddle. Lost of fancy… combined with really unattractive yet functional yet cheap Shimano flat mount calipers. Why? Back in the storied early days of flat mount brakes, those Shimano calipers were the only things I could get my hands on. I bought them with the idea that I’d put something “better” on when I had a chance.

“Better” was an elusive thing. Despite their homely appearance, those little Shimaos worked well. For sure these are fighting words in some quarters, but I’ve never really cared for the TRP Spyre brakes. Yeah, they’re supposed to be better with the dual-piston design and all that, but they’ve just never been my cup of tea. So the Shimano calipers stayed on the bike.

The day I learned that Paul Components was making their Klamper in a flat mount version, I called ’em up and ordered a pair in polished aluminum. They showed up a few days later. My coworkers oohed and aaahed at their loveliness. Installation would have been a piece of cake IF we (the bike industry) could just get over this idea that every stinking cable has to be internal to something. Suffice to say that flat mount Klampers and internally-routed ENVE forks are not a good combination — at least not for me. I have to laugh that I now have beautiful, functional calipers… and a zip tie holding the front brake housing to the fork.

Aside from the fork issue, installation was very straightforward. The calipers came with good instructions and assertive Kool Stop pads. They work great, noticeably better than the brakes that preceded them.

Conclusion: Great upgrade. Braking is better. Looks are way better. Made in America is cool. Cheap? No. Not cheap. Do it again? Yes.

Multi-Bike Shootout Extravaganza!

The Why

One of the most interesting things — to me — in the shop right now is a trifecta of bikes from Specialized.

The Epic, redesigned for 2018, comes with 100mm of travel front and rear and a 720mm handlebar. This is Specialized’s cross country race bike.

The Epic Evo, new for 2019, is the Epic with four main differences, 120mm of travel up front, a dropper post, a wider handlebar and beefier tires.

The Stumpjumper ST (short travel) 29. This bike is “more” than the Epic. More travel. More tire. More burly. More weight. Built with an emphasis on capability more than outright speed. the Stumpjumper ST looks like a really good fit for that person who wants a dual-suspension bike with great utility and is perhaps not looking to have the “fastest” bike on the planet.

The Bikes

Jonathan’s Trek 2016 Top Fuel 9.8. His bike is bone stock but for a setback seat post and Ergon grips. The Top Fuel allows the rider to adjust the geometry of the bike. J’Son calls this adjustment “Fast or Slow.” I think of more as “Steep or Slack.” One position has a steeper steering head angle and a higher bottom bracket (quicker steering), while the other position make the front end a bit more slack and the BB a tad lower (slower steering, move confident descending). Jonathan’s bike is in low BB position.

My 2018 Specialized Epic Comp Carbon. I’ve messed around with mine a bit, because I cannot help myself. I put on a 750mm bar along with a 12-speed drivetrain and a dropper post from another project.

J’Son’s 2018 S Works Epic has been converted to an Epic Evo. It has the special-offset Fox step cast 34 fork, a dropper and a 750 bar with a shorter stem. J’Son appreciates the finer things in bikes, so of course this thing has really nice Bontrager carbon wheels. Bontrager on a Specialized!!! Get over it.

The Stumpjumber ST 29 is one of our demo bikes, an alloy Comp model with nice Fox components. It’s worth pointing out that the other three bikes are set up tubeless; this one has tubes. And heavy tires.

The Humans

One of my goals was to focus on the bikes, not suspension setup. It was also important that we all be approximately the same height and weight.

Jonathan’s a 40+ dude who’s been riding bikes forever. He has a good sense of what his likes and what he doesn’t, which is why I invited him to be part of this. Jonathan is a good mountain biker.

J’Son’s not quite 40 and is the fastest of our quartet… probably by a lot. I suspect he can detect things that the other three of us cannot.

Katie is (ahem) quite a bit younger than the rest of us. She’s a college athlete and got into cycling just over a year ago, so she brings a open mind and a good bit of athleticism to the party.

Tim (me) is the oldest of the group at 50+. I’m only OK at mountain biking, and shied away from XC bikes because I didn’t think that I possessed the skills to control one.

The Method

This is easy enough. We all got on a bike, rode a section of Custer, and discussed the bike we just rode. Then we switched bikes. I recorded everyone’s comments after each session in order to save time and to keep from writing this mess completely from memory.

Maybe the order in which we rode the bikes counts. In case it does…

J’Son: Epic Evo, Top Fuel, Stumpjumper, Epic

Jonathan: Top Fuel, Epic Evo, Epic, Stumpjumper

Katie: Stumpjumper, Epic, Epic Evo, Top Fuel

Tim: Epic, Stumpjumper, Top Fuel, Epic Evo

The Movie

Hey! If you take video you can make a movie! Even if you have no idea how to use the video editing software and are too impatient to learn.

A Tiny bit of Background

Bike riding is a pretty big part of the Specialized launch, which I attended in the early fall. The course was steeper and way more burly than those around here. It started off with exceedingly steep two-track, then turned into a long, downhill super-rocky trail. A few years ago a guy said “Don’t slow down. Stay on top of the rocks.” I remembered this and tried my best to keep my speed up.

The first bike I rode out there was an Epic a notch or two up from mine with front and rear Brains. And it was a pretty rough ride. Fun in a masochistic way. Next up was a Stumpjumper ST, and boy was it great, sooooo much more plush and easy on the body. At the time I thought, “Man. This thing is dynamite out here. I can’t wait to see how it feels at home.” If you watched all 7 minutes 24 seconds of the poorly recorded and edited movie, you’d notice that everyone was super impressed with the Stumpjumper 29.

What Our Testers Would Buy

Katie would purchase an Epic Evo due to the way it handles. This is pretty funny, because she was all over (and off) the trail for the first quarter mile on that bike, no doubt because she’d ridden the Stumpjumper immediately beforehand. However, once she got used to how much quicker the Epic was, she was super steady and moving fast.

J’Son likes his bike (the Epic Evo) best, but he’s pretty quick to point out that you do not need to have the megabuxx S Works frame to have a pile of fun.

Jonathan liked the Stumpjumper. He totally enjoyed the Epic Evo, but he thought he’d have more fun on the Stumpjumper.

I’ve been chewing this over ever since we finished. I liked all of the bikes, and any of ’em would be a platform upon which I could build a bike that would make me very happy. I remain exceedingly pleased with my Epic. Sure. I lust for carbon wheels. Yes. I might be thinking about a 120mm fork.

Is There a Conclusion?

If I could build a bike that would make me happy out of any of these bikes, which one should you buy? First, I’d think about what you really, deep in your fully-examined heart, want. Is it speed? That’s an Epic or a Top Fuel. Is it a speedy bike that you can ride here, Brown County or Marquette? That’s maybe an Epic Evo. Is it something more plush? Do you want a bike that you can take to the Front Range or just about anywhere else? Man, that Stumpjumper ST is really something. If one of them particularly speaks to you, and the Epic totally spoke to me, that’s probably the right answer. It’s all about fun, right?

Technological Confluence

So what’s this thing all about?

I’ve been thinking about a new road bike for several months. I *loved* my Tarmac, but there are lots of things going on in the road bike space, and I’d like to have more first-hand experience with some of them. What things?

Di2 has been around nearly a decade, but I’ve never had a Di2 bike. I’ve thought about it, but it just never quite launched. Customers who have Di2 cannot rave enough, and I’ve wondered if I was missing out.

Road disc is happening for good reason. It’s super consistent in all weather. The modulation is superb. The amount of hand strength required is very low. Generally speaking, disc bikes allow for greater tire clearance, and bigger tires are another trend.

Lastly, aluminum road has been making a comeback. A decade ago, it was not at all unheard of to purchase a bike with an aluminum frame, a carbon fork and an Ultegra drivetrain. Then one day — poof! — that bike was largely unavailable. You had to get a carbon (or somewhat boutique) frame to get Ultegra-ish (Ultegra, Rival, Force, etc.) components.

I built this bike from a frame and a bunch of parts, many new, some old. It had been my intention to purchase an off the rack bike, but I stumbled upon a hydraulic Di2 kit and couldn’t say no. Such is the way bike budgets are shattered.

This is a Specialized Allez Sprint Disc frame. Why? Why not. It matched up really closely to my Tarmac when I looked at the geometry charts. The Allez Sprint does not have a reputation for being noodly and over-compliant, but I rarely ride my road bike more than 40 miles. I went into this expecting a pretty stiff bike. More on that soon. Also: the Allez Sprint is not the only aluminum road frame on the market. It’t just the one I picked.

I’m gonna flip into old man mode here for just a minute and wonder why anyone thinks we should run hydraulic hoses inside the frame. And fork. Talk about a lot of work for limited gain. And Di2 is not appreciably, if at all, easier to run through a frame than cables. Suffice it to say that the build was more time-consuming than I expected. In the end, despite my whining, I confess that it does have a sleek look now that it’s all together. Thus is this circular discussion complete.

Here we have a hydraulic brake line run through a fork leg (for no good reason! (smiley face)) to a flat mount brake caliper. I’ve been whining and moaning about this flat mount stuff since it appeared on the market, and my experience trying to get this stuff not to rub did nothing to improve my feelings.

I’m gonna veer off on a heckuva tangent here. This bike has a Shimano hydraulic brake system. Look at that thing: fins on the pads and some kinda crazy rotor that looks like part of a fancy turbine. All of this technology exists to keep the rotor cool. Shimano has three types of rotors. One is pain stainless, and it works great. The second type of rotor employs ICE technology, which means that it has an aluminum heat sink sandwiched between two pieces of stainless. This type of rotor runs quite a bit cooler than plain stainless. The third type of rotor is Freeza, which has ICE technology plus more aluminum hanging in the wind and runs cooler still. This is the type of rotor pictured above.

So what’s the deal with all of this? Why is cooling such a big deal, and why don’t other brands have all of these interesting technological options? Well, we start with the fact that Shimano hydraulic systems use mineral oil as the hydraulic fluid. Mineral oil is lighter than water, so if water gets in the system (think Pacific Northwest), it’ll pool at the lowest point in the system, which is probably the caliper. If the caliper is full of (or has a high content of) water, it’ll boil at a relatively low temperature and cause a loss of braking. Keep the rotor/pads/caliper cool, and it won’t boil. Shimano is a proud and technologically advanced company, so they sweat this stuff.

I’m totally not advocating for DOT fluid over mineral oil, or vice versa. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s just that this bike has Shimano brakes, and I thought I’d ramble about ’em for a bit.

Tangent over.

The wheels are Roval CL38, and they’re pretty darn nifty. They’re Roval-branded DT350 hubs (excellent value!) laced to nice 32mm deep, tubeless-ready carbon rims. FTW! At the time of this writing I have 28mm tubed (!!) tires on the bike. Maybe that’ll change. That’ll probably change. But that’s life right now.

Other stuff on this bike includes the Red/Quarq crank from my Tarmac, a Bontrager carbon handlebar, a Specialized Phenom saddle with carbon rails (woah!), Time pedals and a Garmin 520 with a stock mount. Here we are. Finally. What’s this rig weigh? 19lbs, 1 oz. That’s with the bottle cage, the Garmin, pedals and the strap for a Flare R taillight. 19 lbs, 1 oz? Jeepers! Where is all that weight? Trust me, I’ve been looking for it.

Despite the way this post is going, I’m not a weight weenie. I can’t remember what my Tarmac weighed, but I think it was somewhere in the 16 lb range. Why is this bike 3 lbs. heavier? I attribute it to three things, each of which might take an equal share. One is the frame. Our suppliers, smartly IMO, have gotten away from quoting bike weights. But most of them will say, “We’d estimate that a carbon frame is about a pound less than its aluminum counterpart.” So there’s a pound. But wait! We’re also talking a rim brake carbon frame to a disc brake aluminum frame. It’s probably more than a pound. Especially since my Tarmac was one of those fancy S-Works things.

Di2 is only a bit heavier than a mechanical system, something like three ounces. Hydraulic disc is rumored to be about a pound heavier than an equivalent rim brake system. It might be worth noting that we’re comparing Ultegra hydraulic disc to SRAM Red rim brake. It’s probably more than a pound.

Empirical data (the scale in my garage) shows that the CL38 wheels/tires/tubes/rotors/cassette is exactly 14 oz. heavier than the 303s similarly decked out. With that, I think we’ve found the three pounds.

Are we digging in enough?

Interesting enough, most of this excess weight looks like good weight. What? Yeah. Good weight. Weight that doesn’t rotate. And if that weight does rotate, it’s close to the axis of rotation and thus has a small angular momentum. This is the sort of nerdulation (my word) that’s occupied a lot of mindshare in the shops as we discuss gravel bikes, particularly gravel plus (650b with wide tires) vs. a more traditional setup (typically 700c with <40mm tires). Stay tuned on excess weight.

Can we talk about riding the darn thing? We can.

The Allez Sprint was initially marketed as a crit bike — stiff as hell, faster than greased lightning and aluminum so you can crash all day without demolishing your bank account. Guess how much this appealed to yrs trly. Not at all. And yet, some number of years later… here we are.

My first and most worrisome thought was that the handling would be so quick that I’d put myself on the ground before I got out of the driveway. Such is not the case. The handling is indeed quick, but it’s not spooky. FYI: I am a long, long way from the world’s best bike handler.

Stiffness? Yes. Punishment? No. We do live in Michigan and ride on Michigan roads. I found the ride completely acceptable. Like a magic carpet? Probably not, but just fine. Connected. Quick. A bit rough when the road was rough, but such was my expectation. I probably had a bit too much pressure in the tires, but it still wasn’t bad. It’s fun and peppy and I like it. It doesn’t hurt that it looks like Specialized picked the paint colors for Pedal.

The big question is: what do you want? If you’d like to save a few bucks, the new aluminum bikes (this Allez and the various Trek ALRs) with nice drivetrains look super good. If you want to ride more than me, maybe a more distance-oriented geometry would be good. If light weight is important, maybe carbon is good. Maybe rim brakes are a consideration.

I will say this: as you ride stiffer frames, tire quality becomes ever more important. This bike has pretty good tires. I have great confidence that really good tires, especially really good tubeless tires, will provide a significant improvement. Please stay tuned.

Please make mine low friction. Thank you.

Trends We’ve Noticed

Yesterday, a colder, rainy October day, we had a brief window of time (several hours) in the shop in which no customers materialized. As will happen in such circumstances, several of us started talking about bikes and products and whatnot, and ultimately starting naming the trends that we see — not just what’s hot right now, but what appears to have momentum in our bicycling world. These are the things we’ve noticed at Pedal.

  1. E-bikes. No doubt about it, these things are coming on, and there are good reasons for it. The technology has definitely centralized around mid-drive systems. Our suppliers have better figured out what e-bike customers actually want. We are more confident about e-bikes and do a better job of stocking them. The prices came down a bit (but this tariff thing has the cycling world in a bit of a tizzy as I write this).
  2. Gravel. As we go down the list of trends, many of them coalesce at “gravel.” We can get into long conversations about what constitutes a gravel bike, but I think the number one descriptor is a bike on which you don’t have to turn around. Dirt road? No problem. Kal-Haven? No problem. Lap around Custer? Can be done. Aluminum. Steel. Carbon. Ti. All materials are available for these exceedingly versatile and fun bikes.
  3. Fatter tires/lower pressure. This is a huge trend across all cycling disciplines — road, mountain, even triathlon. A few years ago we started having many conversations about the advantages of bigger tires: lower pressure, more traction, more confidence, easier on your body, less rolling resistance (really). Lately the tables have turned and our discussion is often with a customer who wants to know how big a tire can be squeezed in their frame.
  4. Disc road is a more nascent trend, but I think it is the way forward. Why disc? More power, less effort, more tire clearance. I’ve had a hydraulic disc brake gravel bike for a little over a year and just built a hydraulic disc road bike. It’s good stuff. There are downsides. Disc brakes components are heavier than their rim brake counterparts. Hydraulic brakes inject a new system into the mix and do require regular maintenance. Disc can be more expensive, particularly hydraulic disc. Still, it’s great, and it’s available on lots of bikes at many price points.
  5. More travel on mountain bikes. Cross country bikes have up to 120mm forks. Trail bikes start at 130mm these days and go up to 150mm.  Many factors contribute to this trend: lighter frames, lighter wheels, better suspension, better bicycle geometry, a (good, in my opinion) focus on fun instead of outright speed.

A quick word about the image associated with this post. Three of the trends we notice are wrapped up in that Open Upper. It’s a gravel bike with fat tires and hydraulic disc brakes. Folks come into the shop and say, “What the heck is that?” I kinda think that’s the future, or at least one version of the future.

2018 Pedal Cyclocross

We’re gonna host two races this year. One is on September 16 at Markin Glen. The other is October 14th at The Pit in Three Rivers.

Here’s how it works: Registration is $20 USD payable in cash or check on race day. Please note that the race schedule is different from years past:

  • Beginner race starts at 11:00 and lasts 30 minutes
  • Expert race starts at noon and lasts an hour
  • Intermediate race starts at 1:00 and lasts 45 minutes

We’ll burn something on the grill for lunch and will have a big time. Bring the family. Race like crazy. Hang out with like-minded people afterward. Enjoy the beautiful Michigan fall. Big fun.

Impressions of the Epic Carbon Comp

Dave Hauschild has been riding bikes a long time. He knows about half-step gearing. He has a penchant for steel road bikes. His mountain bike, until recently, was a 26″ model with zero suspension. I was surprised and pleased when Dave picked out a carbon Epic for his demo. Here’s what he has to say:

This bike is an eye opener. While it violates a whole ton of my deeply held convictions regarding the KISS principal, I absolutely love riding this thing. The suspension was easily tunable and has improved both comfort and traction. Technical, sketchy sections are simply easier and more fun. I can’t exactly call the bike nimble, but it does gain speed and hold it well. It allows me to bomb log bridges and drops with far less drama to my spine. The bars are a bit wider than I would like, but they do have enough pull back to still not crank the wrists at an uncomfortable angle like so many others do, and I quickly forget that I’m riding bars that wide. I tend to suck a lot of water when I ride and don’t like to have any more weight on my person that is absolutely necessary, so appreciate being able to carry two full size water bottles in the medium size frame; let the bike carry the weight, not me. How many other full suspension bikes can do this? Not only is this bike more fun to ride, it allows a longer day in the saddle before the body gives out. What could be better?


Back to Tim here: I’d been lusting over this bike since our rep brought one into the shop when they first came out. The idea of a slightly burlier, less-twitchy Epic seemed perfect. But unlike almost every other time a feeling like this hits me, I exercised some self control. I kept myself from even riding one of our demo bikes, must less purchasing one for myself.

A few weeks ago I put our demo Epic on top of my car, drove to Custer and had a wonderful time. “Wow!” thought I. “This is really something.” A few days later our demo found its way to the top of my car as I drove to Yankee. Turns out the fun time I had a Custer wasn’t a fluke. I ordered one the next day. In the time since, I’ve had a chance to hit The Maple Hill Trail, Custer (again) and the Trails at Andrews. I’ll write something longer later, but I am 100% impressed with this bike.

Mine’s pink so Dave and I don’t get ’em confused..

How’s Your Sealant?

A couple of weeks ago I thought, “Hmmm. I haven’t put new sealant in my tires since I purchased this bike, almost one year ago.” Sure enough, the interior of each tire was dry as a bone. I found a bottle a sealant and my Flash Charger and made everything awesome in about ten minutes. Confidence restored!

About two miles into my ride this morning I started hearing a rhythmic thump-thump-thump. I thought about it for a few seconds and determined that it was in time with the wheels. After a bit more mental denial, I pulled over and found this.

Bummer!

I picked up the bike and tilted it so that sealant covered the both entry in the tread of the tire and the sidewall exit. Then I crossed my fingers and headed home. I made it with a few PSI to spare.

The moral of this story is that I would have been walking home if I hadn’t slopped more sealant in the tire recently. These days, on the down side of a hot summer, I figure there are LOTS of dry tires around these parts. Everything’s great… until it isn’t.

2018 Specialized CruX Expert X1

Editor’s note: In the continuing series of bike reviews by employees, here’s one from J’Son, the manager of our Romence Road location. When we announced this program, J’Son was very decisive in his choice of bike, something for dirt road racing and cyclocross. J’Son chose to write his review as more of a Q&A than a short story. Here we go:

Why did you choose this one?

I chose the Specialized Crux as it was, at the time, the one bike that I was missing from my collection. A collection consisting of a cross country race bike, a fully capable trail bike, a fat bike and a comfort/endurance road bike. If there was one bike I felt I was missing from my collection, it would have to be one that could tackle both gravel road riding while also being very at home during a cyclocross event.

What do I like about my Crux?

Almost everything. I bought the CruX looking for a bike that was light, fast and responsive. What I ended up with was just that and much more. Is the bike light? Yes, weighing in at 16 lbs. for a disc brake cross bike, I would say that this thing is extremely light. Is the bike fast? Yes, if only my motor were in better shape, I would be able to tell you just how fast this thing could be. Responsive? Yes, I feel like this thing is every bit as responsive as my cross-country race bike. However, being light, fast and responsive is just a small part of it. The Crux is one of the most versatile bikes I have ever owned. I have ridden this bike during a gravel road race, on fast paced group rides, on causal rides with the wife, hammering through some tight twisty single track and soon, I’ll be racing it during cyclocross races. The bike’s personality has the ability to change with something as simple as a tire swap.
Oh… and this bike is beautiful!

What don’t I like about my CruX?

Hummm? If I were to have to pick one thing, I would have to say that the stand over clearance drives me nuts. Having short legs definitely has it disadvantages when it comes to top tube clearance. The CruX definitely doesn’t do me any favors in that department. In fact, the 82.4cm stand over height of my 56cm CruX is 5.7cm taller than my 56cm road bike. Ouch!

What would I change about my CruX?

The stock wheels and handlebar. While the stock wheels are wide and relativity light, I truly prefer a lightweight, aerodynamic wheelset, such as the Roval CL50 wheels that I ended up swapping to. As for the handlebar, I feel that a carbon bar would do wonders for the comfort of the bike. Due to the fact that I often take this bike into some pretty harsh environments, I feel a carbon bar would really help to soften up the front end a little.

In Praise of Yankee

It’s a little bit further away.

It’s a little bit “harder.” There are more roots. The climbs are a little longer and steeper. There’s more sand. It’s an older, burlier, rugged trail. And I love it.

Yesterday morning I took our demo Epic (with which I am completely infatuated) to sort of verify the feelings I got from riding it at Custer a couple of weeks ago.

I saw some friends in the parking lot and shot the shootable for a little while. I did the warm-up loop and adjusted the saddle height. I did the main loop and had a great time. I saw two (big) deer, nearly flattened a chipmunk, lost the front but failed to crash and had a terrific time. I then found another friend in the parking lot and flapped my jaws for a while before starting a second loop… which was also terrific.

After that I spent some time at the pump, trying to get hydrated. I talked to some other folks in the parking lot and darn near crashed at zero miles an hour while trying to ride a bike and access my brain at the same time. We all laughed a lot. Someone offered me a beer.

In all of my human interactions yesterday, everyone was pretty adamant about two things: a loop at Yankee is no shit. It doesn’t matter if you’re an aerobic freak going a zillion miles an hour of if it’s your first time; it’s tough. Many are the times I’ve gone to Yankee with two-loop aspirations only to come home after one. Secondly, it’s gorgeous. Right now it’s impossibly lush. It’s lovely in the autumn. Spring is spectacular. I always see something memorable at Yankee — a bird, a vista, something just off the trail that I hadn’t noticed before.

On the way home a piece of jerky from Sam’s or a quick lunch at the Sand Bar can really top it off.

The Stumpjumper or… How I stopped worrying and learned to love the squish

Editor’s note: We started a new program in early 2018 in which Pedal would fund a new bike for full-time employees. There are very few restrictions. Employees are encouraged to get something they’d really like, but might not purchase themselves. In exchange for the bike, folks were asked to write a longer-term review of their bike, which we’ll start unveiling… now. As many of you know, Matt superbly manages the service department at the downtown shop. Matt knows a TON about suspension and was super intrigued by the new Stumpjumper when it came out a few months ago. He got one as quickly as possible. Here we go.

Long travel suspension. Does anyone need it in SW Michigan? Nope. Does anyone need those sweet blue grips or that carbon fiber handlebar? Also nope. But they sure do add a heaping pile of interest and fun to your ride.

The long travel ( i.e. just “Stumpjumper”) Stumpjumper is a great all around trail bike. The 150mm travel fork paired with 140mm of squish out back sucks up just about everything the trail can offer. The small bumps and chatter are nearly all gobbled up, allowing me to continue pedaling through the choppy sections. Speaking of pedaling, the suspension settles neatly into its midstroke providing a very stable pedal platform. My lockouts often go unused for all but the longest climbs. Honestly, I have never locked it all the way out. It just seems unnecessary.

Alright then, enough about going up. This thing can corner and descend. No big news flash there. It’s what a fine trail bike these days is expected to do; it does it well, without being too much bike. The bike blends into the experience instead of being the focus of the descent.

I like to catch some air from time to time. Fortunately, I think launch control must be in the listed specifications. I’ve accidentally overshot a table top, landing pretty smoothly deep down the backside to my slightly puckered surprise. Just drop the post, get some speed, load up the suspension at the jump base, and let the magic happen.

It is not all unicorns and rainbows however. The tires did have a pretty steep learning curve for me. They have great grip but break traction with little warning when laying the bike down hard in corners. The front tire seems to like being loaded up with more weight in the corners than I’m used to. Perhaps we just need some more time to become used to each other. In the meantime, the accidental two wheel drifts look pretty cool!

Finally, you can occasionally feel the extra couple of pounds a big squishy bike comes with. For the majority of the time, I am blissfully unaware that I’m riding something five pounds heavier than my rigid hardtail. Probably because I spend more time pedaling and less time worrying about front wheel placement and lifting my butt from the saddle at the most opportune time. Every once in a while the weight makes itself known for a brief moment. That moment quickly fades into focus on the upcoming corner or concerns about that sizable breakfast burrito earlier. It’s not a XC race rig and that’s Ok by me.

Squishy and I need some time to get used to each other’s style (How am I faster on climbs and not so much on descents?). Coming from my rigid 29er, I think I have some habits that don’t work in my favor on a full suspension bike. I look forward to learning and improving with the Stumpjumper because it’s so damn fun!

Pictures of Bikes

There was a time when I never took pictures while on a bike ride. Things seem to be changing, and these are some of my favorites from this year to date. I’ve gotten significantly better at balancing my bikes on a water bottle.

New bike at the Maple Hill Trail
Yankee in April. Snow!

 

Schoolcraft

 

Post Stampede beat down

 

One day we rode bikes at our managers meeting. More fun than spreadsheets.

 

Good old Interstate 196

 

Tiger lilies near the lakeshore

 

Mattawan

 

Schoolcraft with water cannon irrigation

 

Just yesterday on a dirt road south of town.

Psychlo-X

This bike. I’ve wanted to write about this bike since before it even showed up late last fall, but it’s taken me a while to, well, get it together.

This bike is constructed around a Moots Psychlo-X RSL frame, ostensibly a cyclocross frame. Like many other bike brands and manufacturers, the Psycho-X is a bit more than a CX bike, particularly in that it has room for 40mm tires, which is super great, because I like to use my cross bikes for more than cross, and I’m on the bigger-tire bandwagon. How is does it differ from a Routt or a Routt 45? For one, this bike is longer and lower, plus it has a higher bottom bracket. I looked long and hard at the Moots bikes and geometry charts before picking this one, and I’m very pleased with the result.

The RSL is Moots-speak for “top shelf.” The RSL bikes are made of special tubing and are all bespoke. There are no RSL frames laying around the Moots shop waiting for a lucky rider. Expect a 5-8 week lead time for one of these puppies. The good thing is that you get to specify lots of stuff. My list of desires was small: white decals, external shift cable routing, a silver headset and no provisions for a front derailleur.

Everything else includes:

  • ZIPP bar and stem.
  • Rival drivetrain.
  • Shimano mechanical disk brakes.
  • Wheels I’ve been dragging around for a few years: HED Belgian rims laced to Chris King hubs.
  • Tires, for now at least, are WTB Riddler 700×32 set up tubeless.
  • A carbon Bontrager seatpost capped with a WTB Silverado saddle.
  • Time ATAC pedals.

I’d hoped to get this thing together in time for a cross race or two last year, but I didn’t get the frame until winter had settled in. It’s taken me until recently to get enough miles on the bike to have nearly meaningful commentary.

It’s great! The ride is smooth as butter. The welds are lovely. It has a very comfortable cockpit. Actually, the cockpit is amazingly comfortable. I might have to try this Zipp stuff on another bike and see how it translates. I’m super happy with this thing and the experiences we’ve had together.

I woke up this morning, downed a few gulps of coffee, grabbed this bike and hit the road. The National Weather Service tells me that it was 72 degrees and 84% humidity. What fun! Pavement. Dirt. Heat. Humidity. Bugs. It’s this type of thing — the going out and being in the summer and sweating so much you spend the rest of the day trying to drink enough water to rehydrate — that warms my soul in the winter.

Lots of people think of bikes as toys, which doesn’t really appeal to me. Some folks think of ’em as machines, which is fair enough. I think of ’em as friends with whom I’m able to look out on the landscape of my community and often as not look inside to figure out what I think and how I might fit into the human experience.

This bike has all the makings of a good friend.

Today’s Stampede

Today was Custer Stampede, and we decided to try something new, the Pedal Motivation Station. We had a tent, a generator, a PA system, some music, a cowbell, a bullhorn and several loud voices. As both motivator and motivated, I thought it was great fun, and I hope you liked it, too.

Racing today was pretty terrific. My fitness isn’t great and excuse, excuse, excuse, but it was great to be in the woods with nice people doing something I enjoy. Really great. Several of my co-workers also raced today, but I think Kalyn had the biggest smile.

I rode a bike I haven’t yet written about, a Specialized Camber. I bought the frame and wheels from J’Son (after he’d already used up all the speed, I think) and either had or purchased everything else. It’s a very fun bike and served me well today. For sure: it was not the weak link in my performance chain.

Last recurring thought: lots of fun. I enjoyed the race itself and had an excellent time in the beer tent afterward, swapping stories and cheering for those still finishing. Good vibes all around. Nice work, SWMMBA. I look forward to more.

 

ShockWiz

No aspect of a modern mountain bike induces confusion and head-scratching like a fork, particularly an air fork, with its bewildering array of valves and knobs. Most people, and I totally get this, want to *ride* their mountain bike. They didn’t buy it so they’d have something to demystify and tune.

About this time last year that Quarq introduced the ShockWiz, a small device that attaches to air-sprung suspension units and provides suspension-tuning suggestions. I immediately ordered one for each shop, and *boy* was I bummed out when I discovered that it was incompatible with the Manitou Magnum on my bike at the time.

2018 brings a new mountain bike, a new front suspension unit and another shot at the ShockWiz. The bike is a Kona Honzo CR Trail DL and the fork is a RockShox Pike. Yesterday looked like a good day for a trip up to Yankee, so I popped into the downtown shop and installed ShockWiz.

Installation consists of three parts: installing the physical ShockWiz to your suspension device (front or rear) in a way that doesn’t induce contact with the frame, installing the ShockWiz app on the Bluetooth LTE device of your choosing and running through a quick setup procedure, guided by the app.

In this case I attached the device to the crown of the fork with zip ties and made double-darn sure that I could spin the fork without the knocking ShockWiz against the frame. Broken ShockWiz and/or broken frame make for a bad day.

Once I pair ShockWis to my phone, the ShockWiz app gave me a lot of direction. I emptied the fork’s air chamber and cycled the fork several times. I then filled it up with air and cycled it again. After this, ShockWiz encouraged me to go for a ride.

ShockWiz gathers quit a bit of data as you ride, and after a time it tells you what you need to do so that it can complete its array of measurements. In my case, I was instructed to hit some jumps and drops, so I might have aimed for more roots and rocks than usual. At the end of 13 miles of Yankee, ShockWiz said that it felt pretty good about its analysis.

And it offered these suggestions:

Which boil down to adding a volume spacer, decreasing my compression damping and adding a couple of clicks of rebound.

True confession at this point. Ken and Matt, our service department managers at the South and Downtown stores, respectively, went to a suspension-tuning class this Winter and brought back a lot of knowledge, knowledge which I lapped up and applied to my bikes. I’d ridden the Honzo once or twice prior to the ShockWiz experiment, and felt like the suspension was pretty darn good.

How do I feel about ShockWiz’s suggestions? Intrigued. I have not messed around with volume spacers on my own bikes, so that presents an opportunity. Rebound damping is possibly the most confusing of all suspension adjustments, so I’m not shocked (pun intended) that a change is suggested. I am super pleased that the recommended change is small, giving me confidence in the setup I’d already done. The suggested change to compression damping is the most interesting, as I rode with bike with the minimum amount of compression available. Is this a byproduct of riding a trail fork in an XC environment? Would a fancier damper in the fork help?

Stay tuned (oh, the puns are flying today!) for more about this. I have another bike in the garage with a Fox 34 and plan to see what ShockWiz has to say about that piece of hardware in a  couple of days.

What does all this have to do with you? We rent ShockWiz. $50 gets you installation, setup and a weekend of suspension analysis. Yep. We have one at each location.

Last thing: I love nerd stuff like this, but nothing beats mountain biking on a lovely Spring day.

A few days later…

I put ShockWiz on the Fox 34 yesterday and rode Andrews. What fun! Here’s the feedback I received.

What’s it mean? It looks like I had this one tuned a little better right out of the gate, but only by a little. High speed compression damping remains a subject in which I have great curiosity. More info as it becomes available.

2018 Pedal Rides

Monday Night Mountain Bike. This typically takes place at the Maple Hill Trail or Fort Custer. Stay tuned to our facebook page for updates.

Wednesday is Ladies Mountain Bike. This typically happens at Al Sabo or the Maple Hill Trail. Facebook is again a good place to look for updates.

Thursday night is road riding from the downtown shop at 6:15. There’s a speedy 27-mile route and a few 22-mile rides depending on the season, weather and the occasional popular vote. Can you come ride with us? Of course! We’d love to have you. As we need to be done by the time it gets dark, things work best if you can hold a 15 mph pace.

Routes we typically take (and from which you can download gps files):

Northern route

Westerly route

Your Transmission: Range and Ratios

In something of a time warp, I found myself in my basement on a bike on a trainer with Coach Troy Jacobson yelling gear ratios at me via a Spinnervals workout that I’ve had for years. I felt like I was 40 again. Sort of. Regardless, this workout predates the widespread use of power meters, so Coach Troy works with gear ratios, heart rate and cadence. The gear ratios are based on a full-size road double (53/39) and a 12-25 cassette. I was riding a bike with a single chainring and 11 gears in the back. I found myself doing lots of (admittedly, pretty straightforward) math in my head, and so it was that I began thinking seriously about range on a modern single-ring setup.

Pease note: as with most things related to this blog-o-rama, this is not an exhaustive treatise. Sure, it may be exhausting to read, but I don’t pretend to cover everything, only the stuff that interests me. In this case, we’re talking about the gear ratios found on a road bike from the era of Spinnervals 2.0 compared to a modern 1x drivetrain with a wide-range cassette.

As we watched mountain biking go from three rings, to two rings, to one ring, the word we heard over and over was “range.” “How much range do I lose when I have fewer front chainrings?” And I’m gonna be honest, our usual answer was “Not much,” but maybe we don’t always do a terrific job of quantifying that answer.

Gear ratio is the number of times the rear wheel turns in one revolution of the crank. So if you’re in the big ring (53) in the front and are about half-way up the cassette (say, 16), you’re looking at a 3.31 ratio. The rear wheel turns 3.31 times per revolution of the crank. Depending on the diameter of the rear wheel and attached tire, one can then figure out how far forward the bike moves with a single rotation of the crank, but that’s a bit divergent from the main thrust of this bunch of words.

A standard road double has rings of 53 teeth on the big ring and 39 teeth on the smaller. In shorthand, this is referred to as 53/39. A triple is 52/39/30. Ten years ago, the cassette paired with these cranks would have been 12-25. Approximately a decade ago, compact cranks entered the scene with 50/34 gearing and, cleverly, an 11-25 cassette.

Data time!

What information is Mr. Data Table divulging? I see three things:

  • A 1x road setup with a 10-42 cassette has TONS of range compared to a standard setup.
  • A 1x road setup with a 10-42 cassette has more range than that of a classic triple.
  • Modern compact setups with big cassettes have range superior to that of a classic triple.

Wow.

This looks OK if you click it.

So. Looks like range is pretty well covered. It is at this point that your good friend with many miles under her belt will declare: gear spacing! Behold:As is very evident, your good friend is correct. (As is also evident, I’m pretty terrible at formatting this spreadsheet junk.) The steps between gears *are* bigger on the wide-range cassette than an old-timey 9-speed 12-25. The big question here is: is this a big deal to you? Speaking oh so personally, it can be a pretty big deal if you find yourself primarily in the smallest cogs of your wide-range cassette. That 20% difference between the 12- and 10-tooth cog is, ummmm, a lot, a big jump. My bike started with a 40-tooth front ring combined with the 10-42 cassette in the back, and I found myself in the 10-tooth cog more than I liked. I replaced the 40 with a 44 and am much happier. A nearly interesting fact is that I’ve run a 40-tooth ring with a closer-ratio (11-28) cassette several times in the past and never minded the fact that I was regularly jumping between the 11- and 12-tooth cog regularly. It goes without saying (but here it is!) that I gave up a TON of range with that 11-28 cassette compared with 10-42.

Shall we wind this up? Let’s try.

Modern thought is that you’re better off with greater range in your cassette and fewer chainrings up front. Sure! It’s lighter and there’s less, “I’m shifting the front. I sure hope this works.” But the gaps between gears are larger. On mountain bike, where chain tension is generally high, I think it’s perfect. On my best day I’m an OK mountain biker, and I’ve never felt like gear ratios were keeping me from more speed/enjoyment/podiums/fame/fortune.

What about road? Personally, I think the 1x movement works on the road, too. If you’re that person with a 12-23 cassette and a 53/39 crank, you might be disappointed by the spacing between gears. I might suggest, after a beer or two, that you’re probably strong enough to deal with it.

Semi-amusing anecdote: two or three years ago I rode a Specialized Diverge on a moderately cryptic route around Specialized HQ. I found myself in a neighborhood on a bike with a 1×11 drivetrain on a road that appeared to be going straight up. It was really hard work. Really. Hard. Work. At the time I blamed the difficulty on the 1x drivetrain. In retrospect, range was not the problem. I was the problem.

Today I own six bikes. One of those bikes has a front derailleur. I can see a day in which there are no front derailleurs in my garage, and that day may well occur in 2018.

Longer-Term Fork Review

Editor's note: Our Man Alex put a Manitou Mattoc on his bike last summer. He loved it then, but has since put some miles on it. Here are his notes.

In the Mattoc fork, Manitou is competing in the high-end trail bike fork market and compete with the likes of the Rockshox Pike and the Fox 34. In this long-term review, I will build on my cursory initial review of the fork from last September and attempt to answer the question of whether this fork is competitive in that context. I will also discuss its applicability for riding here in Southwest Michigan.

I have been riding the Manitou Mattoc fork for approximately nine months now and have had the opportunity to ride it more and in rougher terrain, and I have taken it apart to perform a lowers service. This is an update to address longer term durability and a more in-depth look at the riding characteristics of the fork.

Long-Term Durability

I am pleased to have very little to report as far as issues with durability on this fork, it has worked flawlessly for the duration of my ownership of it, and if anything, the action of the fork has become smoother over continued use. The only issues that I have had is a slightly creaky fork crown which makes a high-pitched ticking noise every once in a while, under hard braking, and the fact that the paint chips fairly easily but neither of these effect on-trail performance.

Spring Performance

The fork which I have was provided with the aftermarket Infinite Rate Tune (IRT) air spring, and not the stock Incremental Volume Adjust (IVA) air spring, so I cannot comment on the performance of the IVA spring. The IRT spring is an air spring with three air chambers, one “negative” chamber which attempts to pull the fork back into it’s travel and exists to oppose the main “positive” spring which holds most of the rider’s weight up. Then there is the third air chamber which acts as a second positive chamber and mainly affects the performance of the fork as it gets about 60% through its stroke. With that out of the way, I can say that I found the IRT spring to perform phenomenally. Through a significant amount of experimenting and some chicken-scratch note taking, I have found that it can be tuned to have a very responsive initial feel, and at the same time resist bottoming out very effectively. It can also be tuned to have a stiffer initial feel and push through its travel more on large hits and pretty much any permutation of those extremes. I found that for my riding, getting two far from a 1:2 ratio of air pressures in the main and IRT chambers felt less ideal, and that window for my 175 lb riding weight ended up being between 60-70 psi in the main chamber and 120-140 psi in the IRT chamber. A riding characteristic that I particularly like about the performance of the IRT spring is that the fork stays high in its travel very well, not using too much travel on smaller bumps, saving it for large hits, this is in contrast to many other forks which tend to dive through their travel too easily for my preference.

 

Damping Performance

I have found the MC2 damper which comes on the Mattoc to be easily tunable and able to provide many different ride qualities. On this damper are four adjustments: a rebound knob in blue at the bottom of the fork leg, A low-speed compression lever in red at the top of the fork leg, a high-speed compression knob atop that, and finally a hydraulic bottom out adjuster in silver inset into the high-speed adjuster. This presents a lot of tuning options for the user, and thankfully Manitou provides a setup guide with the fork with good presets for different riding conditions. For my use, I have tried many different combinations of damper adjustments including all of the presets and found that I could dial the fork performance in for what trail I was riding. In December, I took a trip to North Carolina to ride in the Pisgah National forest. If you are not aware, Pisgah has a well-deserved reputation for very rough, steep, gnarly trails, and this was an excellent test for the performance of this fork. I found pretty quickly that the settings that I used for Michigan trails were not ideal for the trails out there, and with a couple twists of the knobs dialed in less low-speed compression, more high-speed, and more bottom out resistance which corrected the issue I was having. The tune I was using for Michigan was fairly close to the preset which Manitou suggests for “Flow”, and in changing it in that way I was closer to the preset which they suggest for “Enduro” which makes sense when comparing the trails which I was riding. Even within the kalamazoo area, I find myself adjusting my damper settings slightly depending on whether I’m riding the smooth and jumpy Maple Hill trail, or more natural and rougher trails like Yankee Springs and Fort Custer, but for most people that is probably a bit excessive.

Chassis Stiffness

In my initial review, I compared the stiffness of the chassis to several different forks and made judgements based on that. I find now that I need to revise some of those judgements, namely regarding the comparison to the Rockshox Pike. In that initial review I said that the Mattoc was slightly less stiff than the pike, and now with further testing I have to disagree with that assessment. Having ridden the Mattoc in comparison to the Rockshox Lyrik, the Pike’s bigger, burlier brother; I can say that the stiffness of the Mattoc approaches that of the Lyrik and is at least on par with if not stiffer than the Pike which is pretty impressive given the Mattoc’s 34mm stanchions compared to 35mm on the Lyrik and Pike. I cannot compare it to the Fox 36 as I have never ridden that fork, but the Mattoc is definitely stiffer than the Fox 34.

Serviceability

This winter, I performed a lowers service on my Mattoc, and found it to be a very simple task, given that you have the correct tools. The required tools for a lowers service are: a thin walled 8mm socket (from manitou), a 8mm Allen wrench, a 2mm Allen wrench, and a sturdy tire lever, plus new seals and oil. You can buy the tools from Manitou, or it is possible to upcycle other tools to be suitable. Instructions for servicing your fork are easily available on Manitou’s website, and are very easy to follow. For someone who is not a home mechanic, the fork is also easily serviced in the shop.

Suitability for Southwest Michigan Riding

I’ve been riding this fork set at 150mm of travel on my Kona Process 134, a bike which is decidedly too much bike for much of our riding around here. Does this mean that this fork is too much fork for the Kalamazoo area? No, I don’t think so. The 27.5 variant of this fork can be adjusted down to 140mm of travel; which for most people in this area is still probably too much, but the 29er and 29+ variants of this fork can be had down to 100mm and 80mm of travel respectively which are much more common travel numbers around here. The 29+ and 27+ variants of the fork, under the name of the Manitou Magnum (which is essentially the same fork and has been recently absorbed into the Mattoc line) are ridden quite frequently in the Kalamazoo area in 110mm and 120mm settings respectively on the popular Trek Stache and Specialized Fuze/Ruze. The tendency of the air spring to ride high in its travel while remaining sensitive to small bumps makes it an ideal fork to put on a hardtail, it will preserve the geometry of the bike more than a fork which dives through its travel more.

Conclusions

I have found the Manitou Mattoc to be a top performer on the trail, and an excellent fork for riding here in Southwest Michigan. The fork is sensitive to bumps of all sizes without being overly dive-y and is tunable for many preferences as to how a fork should feel. The Mattoc is a standout for its tendency to ride high in its travel and preserve the geometry of the bike which is a valuable trait. I would recommend the Mattoc to a friend without hesitation, over a wide range of riding styles.

Frostbike: Adventures in America’s Monument to Consumerism

Hello Pedal People.

My name is Audrey. I have worked at the Downtown shop as the Inventory Specialist for the past year and a half or so. Last weekend, Quality Bicycle Products hosted it’s dealer trade show and expo event in Bloomington, Minnesota (the location of the Mall of America, for those versed in abnormally large shopping centers). Frostbike occurs in the icier months of every year and QBP has slowly but surely been adding more and more opportunities for education, networking, and recognition each year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The theme park and aquarium which are fully inside the mall. Yeah.)

This year, there was a huge effort from QBP to center discussion on diversity and inclusion in the cycling industry. Frostbike hosted a more gender-diverse crowd than ever before. There were seminars focused on serving and respecting women and LGBTQ people in the shop. There was a women’s networking (read: venting) event. The keynote speaker was Leah Benson, founder of Gladys Bikes, one of the only shops in the country catering specifically to women, transgender people, and femmes. I met so many amazing women sharing so many innovative ideas to move the cycling industry forward. Good feelings.

 

(Leah Benson summing it up nicely. We can get so obsessed with gear and tech, we forget what cycling is really about: people.)

QBP made sure everyone was welcome and well-fed, and I left each portion of the event with practical knowledge I could bring back to Pedal and Kalamazoo.

For me, the highlight of the educational seminars was Women Unite! a women, trans, and femme networking and capacity building event. We broke out into task groups focusing on various gender issues in the world of cycling. My group had a productive and hopeful discussion on the role of men as allies to the advancement of gender equity (in cycling and in the great wide world). Personally, I feel lucky to work with men who believe in the urgency of this goal, and I feel encouraged when they choose to intervene in less than ideal situations. Many people in my group emphasized how important it is for men to back them up (without white-knighting it). In the cycling industry, men’s voices still carry much louder than others, and men can use that volume to advocate for those others. 

The Women Unite! attendees kept the conversation going at the reception that evening. There, I spoke with a lot of folks about other kinds of diversity. While Frostbike made some strides towards gender diversity, it was still an overwhelmingly white event. Although being a gender minority in any field can be frustrating, it can also be a source of strength. Moving forward, I want to use my understanding of how it feels to be marginalized in the industry to bring people of color, immigrants, and others into the rad world of bikes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QBP has a pretty sweet setup at their Bloomington distribution center. Being located just outside bike friendly Minneapolis probably doesn’t hurt. Saturday’s schedule was full of technical education opportunities. The Frostbike dealer expo hosted big names like Surly, Thule, Sram, and Hammer showcasing their new products and offering tech seminars.

Speaking of bike friendly, did you know Minneapolis has its very own cycling museum? Yes, the museum has no any public hours, and, yes, it is in the basement of a church, but how cool is that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll end with this: if you are a member of any privileged group in any field, how can you step-up on behalf of those who may not be represented on your staff, in your meeting, in your break room? I don’t speak up as often as I would like, but I know the hopeful feeling I got from talking with like-minded folks at Frostbike was pointing at something, and that something could be a diverse, healthy cycling industry.

 

Bummer, Dude.

This morning I took my new bike out for its maiden voyage to the Maple Hill Trail. It’s a beautiful clear day. Temperature is just above freezing. I’d heard that the trail is in perfect shape.

And off I went, excited to see what this bike is all about and to rekindle my relationship with the Maple Hill Trail.

Then I picked up a stick about 100 yards from the top. I heard a bad noise, hit the rear brake hard and heard the distressing sound of air escaping the tire. Sure enough, the stick wedged itself in there pretty good and ripped a spoke out by the nipple. Ugh. For the first time in my (meager) mountain biking career, I’d have to walk a bike out of the woods.

I remembered an article that I’d skimmed recently about how to hike a bike, so I tried what I believe the instructions might have been. The front wheel then swung around and the handlebar hit me in the mouth. Funny.

So far the Honzo seems great, but I think more riding is definitely in order.

Friends

I recall reading the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club’s newsletter in November and learning that Pedal had been nominated as a Friend of Bicycling for the year. “Wow,” said the word bubble above my head. “It’s super nice that someone likes us enough to make a nomination.” A few weeks later I was informed that Pedal won the award. I consider this a high honor and have three things to say about it:

First, an unexpected and fun thing about my job is the degree to which Pedal and I have been integrated into the fabric of this community. My vocation is running a bike shop. My avocation is supporting cycling in Kalamazoo County to the extent that I can from the shops.

Secondly, people make Pedal. I am so very happy to employ many smart, friendly, motivated people. The best I can do is chart a course. I depend on my coworkers to make it happen. I see this award as confirmation of their hard work and dedication. The other critical people in what we do are customers, without whom we would not exist.

Thirdly, I believe we’re all together in this world during our lifetimes, and I am very, VERY happy to be sharing my time with the people of Kalamazoo and this cycling community.

Thank you, KBC. This is very wonderful.

Jack of All Trades?

Just a few short years ago we all raced local gravel races on our cyclocross bikes or perhaps our 29ers. As longer races became a thing across our country, we saw three things occur to create the new and exciting (some snark intended) category of Gravel Bike:

  • Bottom brackets dropped, offering greater stability at the expense of a little bit of “punchiness.”
  • Geometry started looking more like an endurance road bike than a cyclocross bike. This equates to longer head tubes and shorter top tubes.
  • Tires got wider, sometimes a LOT wider.

The UCI (bless them) limits the width of cyclocross tires to 33mm, so many cross-specific frames weren’t ready for customers who wanted to stick wide gravel tires on their rims. At Pedal we experienced a few instances in which a person’s desired tire just wouldn’t fit their frame. Bummer. BUT: those customers had bikes that were optimized (one assumes, right?) for a 700×33 tire. Would the performance be as good with a 700×40 on there? How do we measure “as good?”

On these very pages I have argued against the thin-slicing of bikes vis-a-vis gravel vs. cross vs. adventure (to a lesser extent). Let’s say that I argued that you don’t have to slice stuff too fine. And yet: what of specificity? What of a tool designed to do a singular job? What does it look like?

I recently became involved in a protracted discussion debating gravel wheels: 650b vs 700c. During the conversation I wondered aloud which would be lighter, as that would probably be a significant factor in one’s choice. Once I figured out that my discussion partners weren’t going to take the bait and give me empirical data, I waded into spec sheets.

I put Stan’s Valors on my NRB. Those things are stupid light and dropped the weight of my bike by an appreciable amount. What would I use for 700c wheels? Zipp 303s? Stan’s Valors or Avions? Ardennes? So I made myself a little chart:

700 zipp 303 650 zipp 303 Stan’s Avion 700 700 Valor 650b Valor 700 HED Ardennes 650 HED Ardennes
Wheels 1645 1450 1520 1342 1278 1535 1465
Tires 465 515 465 465 515 465 515
2575 2480 2450 2272 2308 2465 2495

What are the tires? I used a WTB Riddler in 700×37 for the 700 rims and a WTB Horizon 650×47 for the smaller wheels. I chose these tires because they’re in my garage and seem like very reasonable options. I didn’t include rotors, valves, cassettes and all that jive, because they’d be common to all of the systems.

The chart shows that, from a weight perspective, there is little to no penalty for the 650 setup, which was maybe not intuitively obvious, with those super-wide tires. That’s nice. Which one rolls better? I don’t know, but I sort of know how you compute such things, and it’s not impossible that it’ll become a winter project.

Which one handles better? I reckon anything can handle just fine if the bike is designed for it, but what I’m trying to explore (theoretically for sure) is this: given a single frame, what works good in that frame? Let’s start with another chart, for which I took the formula used here: an assumption that tires are round, so the diameter of the wheel and tire system = ISO rim diameter (622 for 700c, 584 for 650b) + 2 x tire width. Radius is half diameter. Circumference is pi times diameter = 2*pi*radius.

Tire Size Radius Circumference
700×30 341 2141.48
650X47 339 2128.92
700X33 344 2160.32
700×37 348 2185.44
700X40 351 2204.28
700×47 358 2248.24

One of the things I’ve heard once or twice is that a 650b x 47 setup has about the same circumference as a 700 x 30 setup. The chart above bears this out. And here’s where things get interesting from an optimization standpoint. If a CX frame is optimized around a 700×33 setup, a a 650 x 47 setup will mean that the bike sits 5mm closer to the ground. If that same bike opts for a 700×40 setup, the bike sits 7mm further from the ground. Are these differences (12mm from smallest to largest radius) significant?

What should a bike company do? Should they make a lot of bikes? Should they make one bike that does all of these things pretty well? Is this latter thing even possible?

Let’s assume that frame designers know more than me, which seems fair. I once again hit the world of specifications for bikes that fit this gravel/adventure/etc. category and fit me. Voila!

 

Bike Stack Reach HT ETT SA BB Drop CS What?
52 Rove LTD 570 383 144.5 546 74 72 435 Gravel/Road
52 Crux 554 375 125 536 74 71 425 CX
52 Psychlo X RSL 558 376 120 535 74 63 423 CX
52 Crockett 547 379 123 531 75.5 70 425 CX
52 Jake 560 385 140.8 546 74 70 425 CX
52 Routt 45 582 361 140 525 74.25 71 450 Gravel
52 Rove 570 383 126 546 74 72 435 Gravel/Road
M Open – UP 551 376 130 549 72.5 70 420 Gravel/Road
M 3T Exploro 546 378 125 550 72.5 70 415 Gravel/Road
52 Domane 561 371 145 530 73.7 80 420 Gravel/Road
52 Diverge 567 367 145 532 74 85 419 Gravel/Road

Yes! I did leave out a lot of geometric data. Mostly I was interested in three things: fit (this is mostly stack and reach), bottom bracket drop and chain stay length. That said…

Generally I see a lot of similarity. Bottom bracket drop is very consistent with the Moots CX bike on the high end and the Domane and Diverge on the low side. Everybody else hovers around a very traditional 7 cm of drop. Similarly, chain stay length is pretty darn consistent. The Routt 45 has the longest at 450 mm and the 3T has the shortest at 415 mm.  Speaking of which, the 3T and OPEN bikes were included in this chart because they’ve come up in conversation in recent weeks, and I was curious how they matched up with bikes that we stock.

From a fit perspective, many of the bikes cluster around what I would call traditional cyclocross fit — bars a bit higher than road race fit, but still pretty athletic. The Domane, Diverge and especially Routt 45 are quite short, while the Konas are a little bit longer. I recently ordered a PsychoX RSL instead of a Routt due to the fit numbers. It’ll be here soon, and we’ll see what this high bottom bracket is all about.

For better or worse, this post has mostly been an exploration with you, dear reader, along for the ride. I’m not sure if my hypothesis was “Bikes are more similar than you might think,” or “Bikes aren’t as similar as you might think.” I didn’t really have a strong opinion, but I sure was curious. After collecting this data, I’d say that they’re pretty similar. Based on conversations in the shop and in this hunk of research, manufacturers aren’t publishing a piece of data that consumers really want: tire clearance.

Other than the charts and hard data contained herein, all I have is anecdotal evidence. When skinny tires were cool, I ran 700×23 tires on my cross bike and (gasp) liked it. I ran 700×40 tires on a different cross bike and (!!!) loved it. I love my NRB, and the tires are an enormous amount of the appeal. I guess I remain convinced that a cyclocross bike is a really versatile piece of hardware, especially if can handle a pretty wide tire.

His Agrippa

The other day I overheard a conversation in the back of the shop in which a couple of employees were talking about mountain bike tires. One of the guys (code name: J’Son) said, “It took some getting used to. It rolled really well, but when you leaned over, it was really squirrelly until you leaned it over more, and then it *really* hooked up.”

Speaking personally, my own testing would never have revealed that last part.

 

The Louisville Trip

I love Iceman, but Iceman causes me a lot of stress (which is exactly the same stress it causes everyone else): am I fit enough? Where will I stay? How badly will my friends kick my butt? How will I get to wherever I’m staying after the pros finish?

Last year some friends and I went to Brown County State Park in Indiana and had a wonderful time. This year there  were only two of us, and we both wanted something a bit more different. DFM is hell on wheels in the department of research, so while I picked the weekend, he did everything else. And it worked like this:

We rode for a couple of hours at Brown County on our way to Louisville. Fun? Exceedingly so. Very, very fun.

Thursday night it rained like crazy, ruining any chance of Friday MTB-ing. So we walked all over the wonderful city of Louisville.

One of my favorite things about downtown Louisville is the art on the side of so many buildings.

Cycling is well represented in Louisville.

I can get you a tow. Or is it a toe? Please: don’t look at the goobers in the reflection.

More bikes at UT Electric Bikes.

One of the neatest back bars ever. Good beer, too.

Look! A miniature version of Vlad the Impaler! And excellent meat.

Saturday we rode O’Bannon Woods. Recommended. Exceedingly highly recommended. Rocks. Roots. Significant elevation change. Everything you want. And incredibly beautiful.

Yeah, it was a tad muddy.

What does this mean?

What are the results of this adventure? Brown County and O’Bannon Woods are closer to Kalamazoo than Marquette. DFM rode his XC-ready Hei Hei Race and I rode my Fuse. Both of us were exceedingly happy.

Bigger Candles

Last summer was a dandy for getting up and out early for a ride. I’ve continued that habit, but the shifting sands of time mean that when once it was a little bit dark, it’s now DARK. As a result, I’ve been trying new things.

In the early summer I purchased a Flare R and have come to believe that it is about the nicest rear light one can use. I have a Flare R City, too. It’s great, but just doesn’t pop like the big guy. Details of this experience are here.

This summer I borrowed the kiddo’s Ion 700 headlight, which worked great. I liked the blinky mode. I liked that it installed easily enough. I did not like the small creaking noise it made nearly all the time. Still, it worked great, charged fast and was conveniently located on the kitchen counter… until the kid went back to school.

Around that time I received Vibe Pro front and rear lights from Light and Motion. They’re motion activated, really small, and pop out of their mounting brackets so you can just put ‘em in your pocket if you stop at the store/bar/whatever. They appear to be designed with a city commuter in mind. The rear in particular works well in all of the situations in which you’d want a rear light and is a valid alternative to the Flare R. At 100 lumens, the front light just isn’t strong enough to punch a big hole in a dark morning or evening, but it has a nice blink and works just fine for riding around the city at a reasonable pace. One thing: the front light has 180-degree visibility, which sounds fantastic. The bad side of this is that it throws too much light back in the rider’s face when it’s really dark. One of Pedal’s employee-craftsmen made a nifty hood out of a piece of inner tube, which completely solved the problem.

Since the kid left with the Ion and the Vibe Pro front wasn’t really strong enough, I unearthed an older Cateye 600-lumen light I bought several years ago. I suspect that the real problem is the effect of age on my eyes, but that Cateye just couldn’t produce enough light for me to comfortably dodge walnuts before dawn. This set of conditions allowed me to feel pretty great about purchasing a light I’ve had my eye on for years: a Light and Motion Taz 1200. L&M calls the Taz a crossover light, meaning that it’s strong enough to use in the woods on your mountain bike, but it’s an all-in-one package, which makes it convenient for commuting. I have but one ride in with the Taz, but it was great. I had it full bore before dawn, then dialed it back to a nice pulse mode once the sun made an appearance.

Yeah, we still have a couple of older lights in the house — those guys that spit out about a billion lumens but have an external battery about the size of a loaf of bread. They work great, but are a bit more of an ordeal to install on the bike, especially if you only need to light the road for 30-45 minutes and are already running late and need to be to work on time. The beauty of something like the Taz or the Ion or the L&M Urban lights is the all-in-oneness. It’s easy to keep track of the one part, and it’s easy to mount the thing to your handlebar or helmet.

Good bike lights have never been less expensive and more effective. It’s a good time to light up the walnuts.

WIDR Week

I love college and community radio. Loved it when I was in college (WRVU). Loved rediscovering it when I lived in Pittsburgh (WPTS). Loved KABF in Little Rock. Love WIDR. Love. It.

My love for WIDR must be complex, because I’m having a difficult time quantifying it for this post. Some of it is nostalgia, remembering when I first heard Julian Hatfield years ago. I think that listening to the young people (mostly) on the station keeps me thinking. Sometimes I hear fantastic music. Sometimes I hear something pretty awful, but it’s often over quickly.

Yesterday I listened to the station on my drive to the Romence shop and learned that this WIDR Week, the time when the station actively solicits money. One of the DJs talked about growing up listening to WIDR with her family and donating during WIDR Week and wearing the t-shirts and all that. She did a great job of painting WIDR as a community asset, which is exactly how I view it. And then she dissed my favorite author, so I called to complain and to give money. It was great.

Maybe WIDR is your thing and maybe it’s not. Maybe you’ve never given it a try, in which case I would suggest that maybe you should: 89.1 on your FM dial, widrfm.org on the internet. If you like it, maybe consider giving them a few bucks. If you don’t like it, maybe try back later. Like Michigan weather, it changes frequently. Also like Michigan weather, it’s (in my opinion) part and parcel of being a Kalamazoo resident.

This is a Handy Thing

I purchased a Bontrager Flash Charger pump about a year ago in hopes that I could handle more tubeless projects at home, without having to drag my stuff to the shop.

It’s a neat concept: the pump has a large internal air chamber that’s filled with high-pressure air (by pumping, believe it or not), which is then released into the tire, typically followed by a pop, bang or boom.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve used it to install tires on my cyclocross and road bikes without issue. This morning, I found a flat front tire on my mountain bike, a notoriously difficult rim/tire combo to seat. I figured, worst case, I’d just haul it down to the shop. Once I slopped some new sealant in the tire, I charged the pump and give it a whirl. Bang! Very nice.

Many are the times at the shop in which we resort to all ilk of tricks to get a difficult system to seat. With that in mind, I’m confident that there are plenty of occasions in which the Flash Charger won’t be enough. That said, I’ve been super pleased with the results I’ve had with this thing.

If This isn’t Nice, What is?

From the man that I often refer to as Uncle Kurt:

And now I want to tell you about my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is. So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

The energy before our impromptu ride to Plainwell a couple of weeks was high, and increased once we reached the brewery. Everyone was laughing and smiling and looking happy. I enjoyed talking to someone I’ve known for years and finding out that he has a masters in English. Who knew?

After the snacking session, we started back. The evening was beautiful. The wind either stopped or was behind us. There were six or seven of us in our little group, and we chugged along down the side of the road. Every now and then, I got excited and started going a little bit too fast. Shortly after that, Lynn would yell, “Carolyn is off,” and we’d back off just a bit. A few seconds later Carolyn would yell, “I’m back!” and off we’d go again. The sun set. It became, if anything, more beautiful, and I thought, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” I have vivid memories of someone cramping, laying down by the side of the road and stretching. People in cars stopped to ask if we were OK. No one actually said, “crazy,” but that might have been the real question. We rode in the pitch black to Parchment, and on into town. The whole evening is surrounded by something of a halo in my memory. What great fun.

I read a poem recently in which the author wrote, “anything can be a  drug if you love it.” I rode my new bike last week. The morning started out pretty chilly, in the mid-40s. Mist clung to the ground in low-lying areas. Out of town I noticed that some corn fields had already been disked. The surrounding air smelled like dirt. The sun came up, and the morning became warmer. I loved it, and thought about the line from the poem.

Last Sunday I raced a bicycle for the first time in maybe ten months. I experienced the usual sensations and emotions in their usual intensity. Afterward I sat in the pavilion with friends new and old, a cold one and a bratwurst. If that wasn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

A very smart man I knew as a much younger me wrote this. Football doesn’t have a whole lot in common with bicycling, but the major themes of his story — Overlay of remembrance, Vividness of immediate experience, Withness of the body — imbue the sport (or pastime or whatever you choose to call it) that I love so much as an adult. Fantastic stuff.

These are some of the things I’ve considered while riding my bike this marvelous summer.

Alex Knows Shocks

We’ve known Alex for a long time, since he was but a kid with big eyes. And we watched as Alex grew older, became a more vigorous mountain biker and, quietly, got pretty good at figuring out how things work and how they feel to the end user.

Alex got a new fork for his Process 134 this summer and agreed to write some words about his experiences. Here they are, completely unedited but for formatting.

First Impressions:

~1 month of use

Compared to: Rockshox Pike RC, Fox 34 Performance GRIP, Rockshox Sektor Silver TK, Manitou Marvel Comp

Stiffness:

Stiff enough. Ever-so-slightly noticeably less stiff than a Pike at same travel, only noticeable under heavy braking and sharp fast berms with excellent traction. similar stiffness to 120mm Fox 34, assume stiffer than 34 at similar travel length. Very noticeably stiffer than 32mm stanchion forks that I’ve ridden.

Air Spring:

Very plush with excellent mid-stroke support and bottom out resistance with current setup. Very adjustable. Plusher than the solo-air spring in the Pike that I demoed (but that may have been the damping). similar in slipperiness to the 34, but much more customizable in feel. Much more responsive off-the-top than my old (2014) Marvel Comp, while also providing more mid-stroke support and less dive under braking.

Damping:

Excellent. Best damping that I have had the pleasure of riding, adjustment range is very usable, each click makes a subtle but noticeable difference in how the fork feels, especially the IPA. I think that there could be perhaps more range to the damping, providing more support towards a stiffer lockout, but that being said I wouldn’t use a lockout, it’s just I’m used to forks having. HBO adjustment is very effective, have had one or two bottom outs according to O-Ring, noticed zero while riding. Compared to Pike RC, much plusher damping, less spikiness on sudden hard hits, and MUCH more adjustment. Similar feel to the 34 Performance GRIP damper, but again, much more adjustable. Much more support than the ABS+ damper tune that I had in my old Marvel Comp while also reacting to harsh bumps faster and absorbing them better. Miles and miles ahead of the Sektor Silver TK that came stock on my Process 134. (As a note, the Marvel Comp also performed miles and miles ahead of the Sektor)

 

Axle:

Hexlock SL axle is effective and not terribly difficult to use, but not as easy as a QR axle. MUCH more durable than SRAM maxle. I don’t have a bike rack on my car, so I take the wheel of frequently to fit it in my car, would probably find use for the quicker removal of the hexlock QR15 axle, but Hexlock SL works excellently.

Durability:

Performance has only gotten better since install as fork has broken in. Paint chips and scratches easily, and decals are not durable in the slightest, less durable than on RS Sektor I’ve had in the past, similar decal and finish durability to Marvel Comp. I’ve noticed a clicking coming from the front of my bike under heavy braking, could be the CSU of the fork or the centerlock rotor, pretty sure it’s the rotor. (I’ve ruled out the headset by replacing it with a new one)

 

Comments:

Absolutely eats up repeated square-edged hits while riding high in travel elsewhere, such as climbing and on smooth sections of trail. Excellent support in berms and preloading lips of jumps, while still retaining a plush feel. Have yet to open up the fork to change semi-bath oil. I need to either buy the mattoc service kit or source a thin walled 8mm socket.

New Road Bike?

When I asked my kiddo to put on these gloves and pose for a picture not completely unlike the one above, I received this response, “No. No one says ‘Hella’ anymore.” Despite the vocabulary of the cool kids of Kalamazoo, my new bike is, if nothing else, Hella Sweet.

But what is this thing? Maybe the coolest bike you can own if you’re looking for something other than ultimate speed. Let’s start with those crazy-looking wheels. They’re 650b rims with 47mm wide tires, which works out to be the same diameter as a 700×30 setup. I run these wide tires with 40 psi of pressure. Smooth? Oh yeah. Like butter, but smoother.

I think it’s important to put this bike in context. It’s not super-light at just under 23 lbs. with pedals and not much else. I’m not going to win races with my friends on race bikes if I’m on this thing. I have a fancy race bike for those occasions which require such a tool, but these days I mostly ride by myself, and when I ride by myself, I don’t really care how fast I’m going, only that I’m going.

Kona makes three bikes like this. In classic Kona style, they’re the Rove NBD, the Rove NRB DL and this bike, the Rove LTD. LTD in Kona-speak is not limited production; it’s more of a dream bike moniker. I find the Rove LTD to be a seriously dreamy bike — Reynolds 853 frame, nice wheels, great hydraulic SRAM Force drivetrain, lusty paint job, the whole package. The base and DL models have aluminum frames, which are just fine; the big tires take up the vast majority of the road noise that might otherwise pass to your body.

I’ve been watching and enjoying this fatter tire thing in both road and mountain bikes, but my jaw hit the floor when Kona released this trio of bikes. “Have they lost their minds? Is this real? What’s it like? Do I want one?” I rode an NRB DL in Squamish and loved it, but when offered the option of a boutique steel frame, I just couldn’t say no.

Who doesn’t want this? If you mostly ride with friends and you’re juuuuuuuuust keeping up, this bike won’t help. This is probably not your perfect gravel bike if the course is packed down.

I’ve had this bike for less than a week and have more than 100 miles on it. I am fully, completely captivated. Today I rode 50 miles on both paved and unpaved roads with plenty of washboard. It was terrific. I sold my favorite bicycle to purchase this thing, and I am totally satisfied with the deal. I think it’s a beautiful bike. The ride is great. I’m pretty in tune with what I’m looking for fit-wise, and this bike fits very well. And I’d like to take just a moment to talk about the smoothness. This bike makes zero noise — no brake noise, no strangeness from the bottom bracket, no drivetrain crunchiness. It just goes: silently, smoothly, gracefully. Wonderfully.

We sell lots of stuff at Pedal: shoes, tubes, gizmos, doodads, bikes, but what we mostly sell is potential, stuff that gives you the potential to enjoy yourself, to experience something nice. This bike is something nice, and riding it through the rural areas around our town on a beautiful summer day is extremely nice on many levels.

New Thru

We’ve sold many Staches, Fuses and Ruzes with Manitou’s QR15 thru axle. The QR15 works just fine, but there is a pretty steep learning curve to figure it out.

I was looking for something one day and came across something called the Hexlock SL, which is a replacement thru axle for the QR15. I figured I’d buy one, install it and give it a whirl. After rattling around inside my work bag for a few weeks, I had a chance to install it yesterday.

Manitou’s QR15. Part thru axle, part quick release, some find it 100% confusing and strange.

 

Innocuous packaging for the Hexlock SL.

 

The best part of the installation was the first part, removing a part stamped with the words, “Do Not Remove.”

Once that law was broken, installation was a piece of cake, just a matter of removing a few things, installing a few more, tightening things down with a pin spanner and applying grease in appropriate locations.

The new system looks sleek and works great. While I personally had no beef with the QR15 system, the Hexlock SL is better — or at least better for me. The Hexlock is much easier to install when you can’t see the axle clearly (think roof rack) and the tightening mechanism is much more intuitive. The bad news is that a 6mm hex wrench is required for installation and removal.

Dreamy Days

This morning I had opportunity to take a ride before work. Having nothing structured on the agenda, I grabbed my fat bike and decided to ride around town.

Immediately outside the garage door I thought, “This is what we dream about during the winter.” It was seventy degrees, pretty humid and overcast. There was no chill in the air.

I rode through Western’s campus, up to and across West Main. I found myself in front of Hillside Middle School and thought, “I’m on a fat bike. Why not tour the grounds?” And I did and BOY is that a nice hunk of yard. Visions of cyclocross racing danced through my head. My little trip ultimately dumped me onto North Street, which I took across downtown to the KRVT.

Riding south there are all kinds of sights. A couple making out overlooking the river. A shopping cart full of treasures, covered with a blanket against the elements. Too much trash strewn all over the place. It’s both beautiful and gross.

Under the East Michigan bridge are lots of sleepers. I try to keep from coasting and bothering them with my loud free hub. Onward through Mayor’s Riverfront Park toward Comstock. I’ve driven to Fort Custer on King Highway about a bazillion times, but I think this morning is the first time I’ve traveled past Angels and not noticed at least one car in the parking lot. What does it mean?

Things are happening at the filling station at the corner of King Highway and River, where I exit the trail and start heading home. It’s a terrific ride. So many times I think — incorrect, I know — that I don’t see the forest for the trees. I look down and see drops of sweat on the top tube.

I look forward to remembering this ride in January.

KB + TMHT = Love

The Maple Hill Trail is something a bit different for the Kalamazoo area. Custer is fun and twisty. Yankee is tough and wild. TMHT (you heard it here first) is jumpy, bermed, machine-built and an unbelievable combination of accessible and challenging.

Kona is a brand we identify with strongly. Their stuff is really good, and sometimes really different. Look at the Unit, the Jakes, the Sutra. Then look at the Processes, the Honzos, the Jakes (again) and the Hei Hei lineup. It’s a compelling combination of quirky, wonderful, special bikes.

Not all of Kona’s bikes work super great in the middle of the country. Kona’s bikes don’t traditionally win the weight wars; they’re heavier, burlier… just *more* than we need around these parts. As such we carry a pretty small sub-set of their entire collection, but the bikes we carry are just killer.

It made a bit of sense that we’d host a demo for a quirky brand at a brand new trail that’s different from what we’re used to. And it was great! Kona brought great bikes: Hei Heis, carbon Honzos, Process 111s and 134s and Hei Hei Trails. TMHT brought jumps, exhilarating descents, table tops and a ton of fun.

We had a lot of fun. Rode some cool bikes. Shot the shit. Lived large.

Good day.

Thanks to Maple Hill Auto Group, Kalamazoo County Parks, SWMMBA and everybody who’s donated time, money and energy to the trail. I know it’s taken longer than expected, and several hurdles had to be cleared, but oh my goodness! This thing is a ripper and a real asset to the community. Thank you again.

Miles from Kona worked tirelessly and with good humor the entire day.
In the PNW (Pacific North West), they like to hang the bikes by the fork. Because that’s how they do it there.
Who doesn’t love a picture of laughing guy with coffee?
Looking for the next chance to send it

 

Sonny

Yes. I know. I, too, have every confidence that I’m the zillionth 50+ white dude to purchase a Crockett and name it “Sonny.” In this regard my lack of originality bothers me not at all. I can’t help that “Miami Vice” was required Friday night viewing for a while during my college years. That kinda thing sticks with you.

This project started with the guy 2nd from the right; the one who doesn’t work at Pedal.

He’s Sven Nys and he’s the Real Deal on a cyclocross bike. Last fall, Trek built him a one-off, single-speed bike to race at the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championship in Portland. Check out the link. That’s a pretty darn spiffy bike. So much so that I quipped to my Trek rep, “Hey. I’ll be the first guy to buy one of those if you build it.”

A couple of months ago Trek introduced the new Crockett, which looks a whole lot like Sven’s bike. Seconds later came an email from my Trek rep reminding me of my message. Sigh.

What really attracted me to this bike were the horizontal dropouts and the ability to run either geared or single speed. My current (at the time) SSCX bike had an eccentric bottom bracket and absolutely no provisions for gears. While this is marvelous from a purity of purpose standpoint, I never really warmed up to the eccentric, not that I’m a guy who changes gearing all the time.

The other thing on my mind is the versatility of cross/gravel/adventure bikes. This piece sums it up pretty well, but it leaves out something a little bit important, cost. I’ve got a fair number of dollars wrapped up in my carbon Jake, so it’s not the bike I reach for to ride in the slop or on roads that might still have salt on ’em. I had kinda hoped that this bike, Sonny, might be a less expensive version of my Jake.

I would have been smartest to purchase a stock Crockett 5 and be done with everything. Boom! Done! Dollars saved! But I opted to build up a frame because I already had “everything else.” I did this full well knowing that a bare frame lends itself to scope creep and unforeseen compatibility issues. In this instance I learned that none of my brakes would fit this frame, that I would have to modify a set of wheels to fit this frame and that I might as well put gears on the bike.

Flat Mount Brakes Stink

This frame is designed around flat mount brakes, which are a new standard or bunch of marketing BS that was started by Shimano and later endorsed by SRAM. Are flat mount brakes functionally different from post or I.S. mount brakes? Nope. They just have a different mounting strategy. This sort of thing gets me a little hot with the bike industry. Change for better is great. Change for the sake of change isn’t just unnecessary, it’s wasteful. In my particular case, I couldn’t run a 140mm rear rotor using a post-mount caliper and a flat-to-post-mount adapter due to frame clearance issues. <tooth grinding sound>

In the end I purchased a set of flat-mount Shimano calipers and got what I wanted. Why Shimano calipers? Because they were the *only* thing I could find. Sure, TRP and others say that they make flat mount calipers, but they’re not actually available for purchase yet. I’m still a little bit bent over this, but I’m happy to have a resolution. I’m also happy that these Shimano calipers appear to work pretty darn well.

Hubs

The above picture illustrates something that I tried to account for, but that proved to be a bigger deal than I expected. Unlike (expletive) flat mount brakes, I think through axles are an improvement over quick-release skewers; they (at least in theory) make for a stiffer bike, and there’s pretty much zero probability of extreme braking forces levering a wheel out of the dropouts.

When I started this project, I’d planned to convert an older set of HED Ardennes+ disk wheels. Alas, the hubs on those wheels predate the concept of thru-axles on cross bikes, so they’re now on the (quick release compatible) Jake and the Jake’s wheels — HED rims and Chris King hubs —  were converted for this bike. It’s hardly the worst thing in the world, but it’s not cheap to convert King hubs.

Gears

I suspected from the start that I’d put gears on this thing, which required the purchase of Rival 1×11 shifters and a derailleur (I had a cassette). Non-nerds should probably skip this next bit. It’s involved and maybe dumb.

Things get weird concerning the front chainring. Parts I had on hand included:

  • An old carbon SRAM GXP crank with a removable 130 BCD spider
  • A new(er) aluminum BB30 crank with a removable 110 BCD spider
  • A Rotor QX1 chainring

I installed the 110 spider on the GXP crank (because I’d always assumed that I’d use the GXP crank and had already purchased and installed a GXP bottom bracket), then installed the chainring. Everything looked OK in the stand.

On the road, things looked less OK. The chainring was all over the place, lots of lateral movement that looked different and more awful than the strange motions of the oval chainring. It took me a while to figure out the problem: the 110 bcd spider did not sit flat on the carbon crank arm. This presented a few options. I could purchase a 1x-compatible chainring to fit my 130 BCD spider, but I wouldn’t be able to try the Q ring. I could purchase a new crank, but that just seemed excessive and expensive. I could purchase a different bottom bracket to make the BB30 crank work, but I was pretty darn keen on the carbon crank. So I got out the dremel tool and a grinding bit, and I went to work. It took a little while and a lot of noise, but the finished product works well.

The End Result

The finished bike is great. The geometry is nearly identical to its predecessor in my stable, so I’m very happy with the fit. The jury is out on the Q ring; time will tell. The new brakes are nice. Rival 1×11, to me, is about as good as it gets — it’s not too expensive, and it works like a champ. Many other aspects, the wheels, the bar, the saddle and seat post, are old friends, and I’m happy to be using them again.

Trek did a lot of good things with this frame. I like the option to run single-speed. I like the clearance for 40mm tires. I like the geometry. I’m not a fan of internal cables; I think they complicate matters quite a lot while offering almost nothing in return. Cabling this bike was fussier than some, but not as awful as others.

The gold frame is contentious. During the bike’s construction phase, my wife came in the house one evening and asked, “What’s that ugly bike in the garage?” Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Your Pedal Bicyclical

Hello!

May was just about fantastic. We went on lots of great rides and met lots of neat people. Thanks for hanging out with us and enjoying the unexpectedly wonderful weather.

We had opportunity to enjoy an escorted ride around the Maple Hill Trail at Markin Glen last week, and I’m here to tell you that we’re going to have a terrific time when it opens — and it hasn’t. So please, please, please don’t make the mountain biking community look like jerks by banditing the trail. It’ll be open soon, and we’ll all have big fun. Thank you for your patience.

Speaking of the Maple Hill Trail at Markin Glen, we are SUPER STOKED to host the Kona demo truck on July 2nd. Please stay tuned to our Events page for details.

Under the threat of rain and overall meh weather, Erin hosted a leisurely ride last Saturday morning from the Romence shop. And a couple of people actually showed up! We’re going to try something similar THIS Saturday, but more toward the downtown shop. Full data is here.

Are you frustrated with your road pedals? I’ve had a pair of Time Expresso (a name I don’t love) on my bike for just over a month, and I’m fairly amazed by the ease of clipping in and out. Time mountain bike pedals have been a favorite for many of us for years. Yeah. We’ve got ’em in the shop. Plus, have you had bike troubles and need to get places faster than normally. I´ve seen these e-scooters all over town and they are actually pretty good and use the best scooter wheels in the market so they’re pretty safe also. I´m surprised that they are fairly economic and they last very long before you have to charge them again. Look for yourself and see they amazing deals.

Remember when there was only Garmin GPS? More are the options these days, and we have a few of ’em. Sure, we still have Garmin. But we also have nifty computers from Lezyne and Wahoo.

When the Quarq Shockwiz came out, we grabbed one for each shop. What’s it do? It connects to your air suspension (fork or shock) and measures the living heck out of it while you’re riding. After it collects a sufficient amount of data, it’ll tell you how to better tune your suspension. Note that Shockwiz does not actually speak, it records the data and communicates its findings through an app on your smartphone. Here’s the deal: we’ll rent you a Shockwiz for $50, and you can assess your suspension tune. Please call the shop of your choice to reserve one.

Recurring Events
Mountain Bike Monday. It’s fun! It’s for everyone!

Tuesday night is the Pedal Women’s Ride from the Romance shop. Riders meet in the parking lot around 5:45 with the ride starting at six. The best way to keep up with this is the KBC Facebook page.

Thursday shop road ride!

Many are the KBC rides.

Fun Adventures on the Horizon
We got letter from reader last month who asked that I say a little something about the Battle Creek Ice Cream Century. Looks like fun, and it involves ice cream.

Holy Smokes! This Sunday is the Race for Wishes! There’s a lot of neat stuff this year, and it’s totally worth a look.

Tour de Taylor is coming up fast. This is a great tour of the roads around Mattawan, with super support and a great cause. June 10th is the day. 8:00 is the time. Fun is the game.

Have you heard the siren song of the open road? Our man Jim Kindle has, and he’d be more than happy to share what he’s learned with any interested parties on the evening of June 13th. More data here.

While I don’t have official artwork, posters, marketing collateral, etc. to share at this moment, I will say that we’re having a “thing” with SWMMBA and Bell’s on Father’s Day. We’re gonna meet at Bell’s, ride to the Maple Hill Trail at Markin Glen, ride around a bit, come back to Bell’s and, as I understand it, have a really great time.

So much is going on the following weekend. We’ve got a repeat of Erin’s social ride from the Romence shop. We’ve got the Gull Lake Triathlon, which is always a good time. And, because I like starting a sentence with a preposition, we’ve got the Kal-Tour the following day.

A Year Gone
It seems unreal — as in not possibly real — that a year has passed since nine of our friends, neighbors and fellow cyclists were run over. Next week there’s a fundraiser at Arcadia on the 6th and a Memorial Ride on the 7th. Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I think about this, and it’s difficult. I’m very sad. Angry. Frustrated. I’m also super impressed by the outpouring of support and love from so many aspects of our community. We live in a good place populated by good people.

Big Finish
After a long herky-jerky spring, it looks like Summer is here. I, for one, am ready. Bring on the sunsreen, the bug spray, the second water bottle. I look forward to seeing you in the shop, on the road, at the trail or at an event. And I wish you the maximum amount of fun.

Sincerely,
Tim

Family Time

Last summer I was trying to put bikes into context for modern families, and I thought, “Hey. Bikes are a terrific alternative to all these dang screens that attract our time and attention.” I talked to the folks who turn many of my strange ideas into something tangible, and they asked for someone to film. Immediately I thought of my friend Megan.

Megan is incredible, and I hope she won’t kill me for gushing about her a bit. She swam for a Division I school in college. She’s very smart and is an engineer for Stryker. She remains a ferocious athlete — and she does this alongside being mom to a couple of cool kids and wife to neat dude.

This is the “commercial” we made, and I smile every time I watch it.

Time

We received a big box of Time pedals today, about which I’m very stoked.

I went through both Shimano and Crank Brothers mountain bike pedals before I ended up with Time. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but I recall a friend of mine (who continues to use SPDs) suggesting that Time were good at clearing mud. So I bought a pair ten years ago and still own them. Looking around my garage the other day, I found no less than four pair of Time ATAC pedals, some really old, some newer and more fancy.

When you’ve ridden a set of pedals for a really long time, you tend to forget what it is that you like. You just know that they’re better than the last thing you tried, and that’s probably good enough. I do know that they clear mud pretty well. They’re easy to get in and out. They have a decent-sized body, so that you can still pedal the bike if you don’t get clipped in quickly. My experience is that they’re exceedingly durable. If they’d broken, I’d have probably switched to something else. If you’re looking for a solid mountain pedal that’s maybe a tad off the beaten path a bit, I recommend Time ATAC without reservation.

I’ve been aware of Time road pedals for some time. RXS were pretty popular a few years ago, but I saw a couple of failures and decided to steer clear. Later came the iclic system, renowned for easy entry and exit. Those two systems have been merged into the Expresso, just like the mispronounced caffeinated beverage. My Time rep told me that the breakage issues of the RXS were in the rearview mirror, so I bought a pair of Expresso 10 for myself and another pair for Ryan. I’d been using Speedplay Zeros and Ryan had been using Shimano SPD-SL.

The first thing we both said was, “Holy smokes. These things are light!” Admittedly, the Expresso 10 is a pretty expensive pedal at $250, but they’re not even 20g lighter than the Expresso 2 at $75. Dang.

Expresso pedals use the iclic system, so they’re SUPER easy to get in and out of. These ease of ingress and egress doesn’t mean that they don’t feel secure. They feel, and are, quite secure. But if you swing your heel out, the pedal unclips, smoothly and without drama.

We’re not in long-term-test-ville at this point, but the early prognosis is good. I’m totally digging the Expressos on my bike, and Ryan has similar feelings. Please stay tuned.

Post Script: I’ve been practically dying to write this post, in no small part because my college friends Todd and Mike played The Time constantly while we were in our sophomore year at college.

Auburn, Day 2

Today started earlier (didn’t have to pick up the bike; merely had to wheel it out of the hotel room) and went longer. I started with something new, and was about two miles down the road when I realized I forgot my trail map. Engaging a total guy cliche, I did not turn around.  Luckily they had this great map at the trailhead, and I just took a picture of the area I needed to navigate. Go technology!

 

This particular trail was different from yesterday — more meadows and woods, less scrub and creosote.

 

Still plenty of elevation change.

 

That red clay leaves a nice coating.

 

Feeling oddly good, I decided to re-ride yesterday’s trail. It was as I remembered, but I looked at the map less. Because I didn’t have it. At the very zenith of all the climbing, I met a couple of nice older ladies, out for a stroll. We bid each other good day, and one of the ladies said, “What a nice day. The flowers are beautiful.” And they were. Sometimes we can’t see the flowers for the trail.

 

After artistically capturing the beautiful flowers, I put my phone in my pocket and rode downhill for three miles. It was an exhilarating end to a couple of marvelous days in Auburn.

Many thanks to the nice folks at Victory Velo for renting me a great bike and for being, you know, groovy.

Auburn California

I attend meetings twice a year for a performance group of which I am (perhaps obviously) a part. Though I start going crazy when I’m away from the shop, it’s fantastic to hear what other shops across the country are doing and the things they’re trying to be successful.

This time around I’m in California, near Sacramento. It takes a whole day to get here and another to get home, so I decided to take a couple of extra days and ride bikes. I poked around on the internet and starting thinking that the area east of Sacramento looked pretty good, I even did some hiking the day after and take the best spotting scope with me so I could observe the view and appreciate the nature even more. I began fixating on Auburn. I flew in last night, asked for a car big enough to haul a bike and tried to get some sleep.

 

My hotel has several TV channels. 

 

Saw this in the coffee shop this morning. Looks like I’m a day late.

 

Since there are no good breakfast places in town, I ate here. It was great. And, truthfully, there might be a million good breakfast places, but the name drew me in.

 

Boom! There it is, the trusty steed. This is a Specialized Stumpjumper 29 with a Pike on the front a fancy Fox on the rear and a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain. Fun bike.

 

A nice guy took my picture.

 

I got the guy’s grandson to get in a picture, too. Super nice people.

 

The roar of all this water striking the rocks at the bottom was incredible. Zillions of gallons of water. Turns out that I read the map wrong (again) and went to the dam, which was a dead end. But the sound was great.

 

Several minutes and a bazillion feet of climbing later, the reservoir looked like this. My breathing was almost as loud as the spillage had been earlier.

 

It’s called Culvert Trail for a reason. You ride through this. Traveling through the inside was, as my dad used to say, as dark as the inside of a cow.

 

It was no less philosopher/poet than Cosmo Kramer who suggested that good manners are the glue of society.

 

 

This scene of a stump with a shrine to the tree it once was reminded me instantly of The Lorax.

Brighter, Better

I’ve been clinging to old ways a little bit too tightly as of late. I know I’m using an old fashioned rear light, but I almost feel married to the darn thing. In fact, I have (technically, had) a fleet of Planet Bike Superflash lights in the garage with mounts on many a seatpost and/or seat bag. It’s super easy to grab a bike, slap a light on there and hit the road. And yet I’ve known for a while that this is not the best solution. Initially I tried to blame it on the fact that I’m not good at keeping USB devices charged (all the best lights are USB; the batteries pack a bigger punch), but we turned the desk in the kitchen into a very modern charging station.

Last week I got up early and hit the road before work. The bike I rode doesn’t show a lot of seatpost for a short guy like me, so I clipped my light to the seat bag. Sure enough, I hit a pothole and launched the light. I heard it hit the road, but decided that this would be an event that would change my behavior and rode on.

This post has two parts: demonstrating a better light and demonstrating how to make it happen.

Here’s a video of my bike (the bike I was riding last week) with a Superflash mounted to the loop on the back of the seat bag.

Here’s a video of my bike with a Flare R mounted to the seatpost in daytime mode.

Here’s a video of my bike with a Flare R mounted to the seatpost in friend/night mode.

 

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to see that the Flare R is better. But why? There are three good reasons: it puts out more light (lumens, candlepower, foot-candles, whatever) than the Superflash. It has a better reflector than the Superflash; a light that emits a lot of light is great, but if it isn’t focused, then it doesn’t do a whole lot of good. The third reason is that the Flare R is mounted to the seatpost and is pointed where it should be. The Superflash was mounted to my very nice seat bag, and was pointed haphazardly, at best.

“So, Mr. Smarty Pants,” you say, “I see that you have a pretty nice light there, but I need the stuff in my seatbag.” Buddy, I need my stuff too. In fact, here’s my stuff:

This is pretty typical for me: a spare tube, a CO2 device, two cartridges, a tire lever and a tool. Generally speaking, I’d either ditch the 2nd CO2 or I’d have a patch kit. Whatever.

This is the thing Specialized makes called the Spool. There are road and mountain versions. This one is road.

The spool has a tire lever and a CO2 device built into a nifty, er, spool. That’s the CO2 cartridge from my bag clipped into the spool. And what happens next? You spool on the tube, in this case a 700×28/32 presta tube.

So now I’ve got this blob of stuff and a stanky old tool that I can pop in my jersey pocket (and here’s the big deal) leaving my seatpost free to house a really nice light pointed in the right direction. And that’s safer.

Couch Chat 1.0

“Everybody knows a cyclist,” is an idea that’s been banging around in my head for a year or so. It’s loosely based on the People for Bikes billboards that can be seen around town, but more local. My thought is that LOTS of people ride bikes, and if the population at large considers cyclists in the context of someone they know, it could engender a little more empathy. But I had no idea how to effectively execute this idea.

Recently a guy came into the shop talking about radio ads, and I thought, “Hmmm. This might be a pretty good way for me to spread the message I have in mind.” I called the place that does Pedal’s creative work and hit them with the idea. In true ad-guy fashion, they exploded the scope of the project. Instead of just recording a radio bit, why not video tape (is that terminology remotely current in this digital age?) a chat on the couch and put it on the YouTube? So we went forward with the plan and recorded conversations with a few folks.

This is first of several that we’ll share over time.

 

More Involved than Initially Projected

I’m working on a super top secret project, part of which entails converting a set of hubs from quick release to 12mm thru axle. The hubs in question are Chris King R45 disks which I purchased a couple of years ago for the Wonder Jake.

Let’s talk about Chris King hubs. They’re very expensive. They’re very light. They’re built to tight tolerances. I’m trying to equate them to something, and I think that something is a Porsche. My experience with those cars that they’re very excellent, but a tad strange, navigating a fine line between exhilarating and arduous. Such is the case with King hubs. They’re great, but they’re fussy.

My project is a great case in point. For many (many!) hubs in the word, a conversion between QR and thru axle would cost me about fifteen bucks and fifteen minutes of time. Not this. Both hubs had to be rebuilt with new axles at no small cost. OK. Fine. Order it up. (It’s only fair to note that I’m reworking these wheels because my other (older) favorite wheels just will not convert to 12mm thru axle. So while I might be complaining about it, at least it’s possible.) The parts arrived, and I went to my garage for a quick swap. But it wasn’t. For the front wheel, my old preload adjuster wouldn’t fit the new axle. For the rear: ugh.

I’m working with a series one R45 disk hub, which is something of a PITA to take apart. However, I prevailed and it all came apart as it should, but for a bearing stuck to the QR axle. No problem, except the bearing needed to be installed on the new thru axle. I threw all the (pitiful) muscle I could at the bearing, but it wouldn’t move. Maybe I need to use muscle building products for muscle strength. I took it to the shop with me the next morning and found a socket that fit the ID pretty well. I smote the contraption with a hammer and things blew apart. A nearby mechanic yelped as little ball bearings few everywhere.

And, yeah, I found all of the balls but one. Ugh. I called King later in the day. Turns out that:

  • They didn’t include the correct preload adjuster for the new front hub
  • Lost of people make the same mistake as I did when confronted with the old “bearing stuck on the axle” gag
  • The cost of a new Chris King bearing is staggering
  • I probably ought to order the R45 hub tool, as it is significantly different than the old tool (which still works great on mountain bike hubs)

So I bought a bearing, an adjuster and a tool, which arrived today. I carted it home after work and got down to business.

Here we see, from left to right, some bags of parts, an appropriate social lubricant, a vessel for same, the new hub tool and the patient waiting patiently in the background.

Here’s a collection of lubricants: waterproof grease I’ve had for years, spray Tri-Flow, Chris King Ring Drive Lube and a container of Dumonde Tech MR Grease. Why not?

OMG! That little bearing just popped right out of there! It felt great, so I left it alone.

Boy! That looks expensive! It’s the big bearing, the inner seal, the driven ring, the drive ring, the spring and the spring retainer, all in one tidy package.

This is the guts of the hub, from drive side to non-drive side: drive shell (as King refers to a free hub body), the big bearing, the ring drive, the spring, the spring retainer, the seal and the little bearing. Was I marginally anxious to get all of this buttoned back up before the missus saw it on the kitchen counter? I was. Did I? No. I did not.

The big bearing felt kind of crappy, so I rebuilt it. Herein lies the King Conundrum. The bearings are made really, really well to be really, really great, but they require a good amount of service. Getting this single bearing to this stage of operation was some slow, tedious work. And there are three major bearings in the rear hub. Of the other two, one felt fine and the other (as close readers may recall) was (somewhat tempestuously) destroyed early in the process and was replaced with a new item. Jeepers!

But it all went together just fine, and I’m happy. This is a wheel set that I love. Love the hubs. Love the rims. Love the spokes. Gonna put ’em on a (top secret project) bike and ride ’em a few more years. Nice. But it was not without expenses in the time and money departments.

When it was all back together and the bad language was put away for the evening, I apologized to my wife for having a bunch of greasy stuff strewn all over the kitchen when she came home. “Oh. I don’t really care,” she said. “It looked like you were having fun.”

Indeed.

Your Bike Month Bicyclical

Hi!
Gird yourself! Lots of data this time around.
First thing, I’d like to ask a favor. Go out to the garage and check out the blinky light on the back of your road bike. Is it bright? Does it point behind you, or at your rear tire? Does it need new batteries? I’ve been on a few group rides lately, and it’s AMAZING how much easier it is to notice a bike with a bright, well-positioned rear light.
I love this review of one of our favorite bikes. If you’re not the link-clicking type, you might miss this bit of videoreferenced in said review. Very fun.
Perhaps May should be renamed Bicycle. It’s National Bicycle Month. Friday the 19th is National Bike to Work day. The week of the 13th through 21st is Kalamazoo Bike Week. There’s a TON going on, and I’d like to recap some of it. When you want to know different types of electric bikes, visit http://www.hobbynitro.net/ for more info.
Recurring Events
This Month
  • The Fort Custer Stampede is this Sunday, May 7th. I write this newsletter prior to the expected Big Deluge of 2017, but the trails have been in fantastic shape. Should be a very nice race weekend.
  • Bike week kicks off with the Trailblazer, a ride of many stripes which benefits the Friends of the KRVT. Good stuff.
  • Bike Camp begins with classroom instruction on May 11th with rides on subsequent Saturday mornings.
  • We’re holding a nifty event on Monday the 15th — a ride from Texas Corners Brewery. There are three routes of varying lengths and speeds, so surely there’s something right up your alley.
  • Tuesday the 16th is movie night at Bell’s. Always a good time.
  • Wednesday the 17th is the Ride of Silence. We’re very proud to sponsor this event and welcome all interested parties.
  • We’re doing something different for the Pedal ride on the 18th. Let’s ride up to Plainwell, relax for a minute or two and ride home. We did this last summer and it was pretty darn fun. Note: bring your front and rear lights.
  • National Bike to Work day is the 19th. Should you bike to work that day, stop by either Pedal location to spin the wheel for a prize.
  • These and other Kalamazoo Bike Week event details can conveniently be found at kalamazoobikeweek.com
A Little Further in the Future
  • Tour de Taylor is June 10th. This is an exceedingly well done local tour (tour = not a race. Most folks ride road bikes, often with friends new and old. It can be purely social. It can be a challenge. Make of it what you will.) that benefits Michigan Make a Wish. We’re super happy to be involved with this event and encourage you to give it a go.
  • June 24th brings the Gull Lake Triathlon. This year it’s sprint-distance only, but will feature a tri, a du and aquabike. Boom!
  • One day later (that’s June 25th) is Kal Tour, another outstanding, well-supported trip through the local countryside.

Big Finish

Hey! Thanks. Thanks for your business and your support. We’re super stoked to serve you. If there’s something we need to do or need to do better, please let me know.
I wish you much great riding.
Sincerely,
Tim

Small Batch Pedal Bicyclical

Hello!

Wanna hear something crazy? We’re 25% of the way through 2017. The good news is that the remaining 75% is the good stuff. There’s a lot to talk about this month, so I’ll try to keep my loquacious self in check.

Never is a word that’ll often cause problems. When I started Pedal I swore up, down and sideways that we’d never engage in e-commerce. And today I’m happy (if a tad sheepish) to introduce http://shop.pedalbicycle.com Why? Because I now think people — local people, you — expect to see inventory online. And now you can. I wanna be super clear about this part of things: we’re dipping our toe in the online world to be a better LOCAL bike shop. And we’ve just started this: the site went live on Thursday evening. If you see anything flaky, please let me know.

Ryan recently became aware of a nifty wheel company out of South Carolina. Boyd, the namesake of the company, does the design and his wife runs the operational end of things. These wheels ring all the bells: road, mountain, carbon, aluminum, tubeless-compatible, colorful decals, hub options. We have a few pair in stock and, of course, access to everything else.

Maybe a chilly, damp April day isn’t the best time to bring this up, but we’re renting bikes at the downtown shop. Got a friend in town and you’d like to cruise the KRVT or hit up some brew pubs or whatever? Give us a cal: 269-567-3325.

It had been my intention to wait until we had hardware to show, but since I only post this fish wrap once a month and the stuff should be here imminently, I’ll announce that we’re Kalamazoo’s new Moots dealer. We are S U P E R stoked to offer the finest titanium bikes in the world.

So the good news about the, ahem, variable weather we’ve had the past few weeks is that our service departments are not yet bursting at the seams. If you’re thinking about servicing your bike, now is the time. If you’re remembering that thing that wasn’t working quite right in the fall and you meant to get your bike in but didn’t quite make it to the shop, now is the time. Make no mistake, we’re always happy to work on your bike, but right now the turnaround time is about as short as it’s gonna be all year. Questions? Give us a call. Downtown: 269-567-3325. Romence Road: 269-324-5555. Appointments are definitely an option.

Is it the April showers? Maybe May flower anticipation? Whatever the reason (likely: good sense) there aren’t too many cycling events on the calendar for April. An outlier is the Yankee Springs Time Trial on April 23rd. It’s a fun challenging event, a good fundraiser for WMMBA and a nice test of your (ummmm) early season fitness, although if you what you want is actually just to burn fat, an ultrasonic cavitation machine could be a better solution for specific parts of the body.

Kalamazoo Bike Club road rides are happening now. Note that rides start at 6:00 in April.

Moving into May, things heat up a lot.

I can’t say enough good things about Bike Camp. If you’re new to road riding or coming back after several years away from the bike, Kalamazoo Bicycle Club’s Bike Camp is a great primer on the ways and mores of riding on the road. Maybe it’s just what you need. Maybe a friend would like to know more. Regardless, the 411 is here.

Bike week! Get your Kalamazoo Bike Week!

During bike week Pedal is pleased and honored to host the area’s Ride of Silence. Wednesday nights in May are full of alternate activities, but if you can spring free, it would be great to see and ride with you. The event is at 6:30 on May 17th.

The Stampede is the biggest fundraiser for our local mountain bike organization, SWMMBA. And! It’s fun! You can have fun stampeding! On your mountain bike! At Ft. Custer! So many exclamation points! And fun!

What about the Pedal ride? We’re good to go if the weather cooperates. Thursdays, 6:15 start at the downtown shop. Based on the current weather outlook, this week does not look good. Look at The Book or call us if you have questions.

There was this one time I participated in the Zoo de Mack with my family and friends, and it was lots of fun. Perhaps this is just the thing you’ve been thinking of, but didn’t know existed.

And that, friends, is enough for this installment. Thank you. We’re happy to know you. We’re happy to serve you. We’re super happy when we can ride with you. Please be safe and have fun.

Sincerely,

Tim

A Bike Beginning

Our Gal Cassie, who keeps track of inventory at the South shop, writes her first entry for this... thing. -- ed.

Hello friends! New voice here, coming at ya from the inventory desk at Pedal in Portage. I am rather new to Pedal and, you could say, to the cycling community in general. Not to say I am new to riding bikes.

Growing up in rural America, I had my trusty Magna, procured from the local(ish) Walmart. I crashed it into a lot of things and rode it all over the county. It followed me from Illinois to Michigan and then to WMU, where I met people who were members of the cycling community. I went through all the steps of coming to terms with their feedback. Primarily the fact that this bike I had loved for so long was most definitely the wrong size for me, too heavy, and unsafe as it was impossible to repair. I remember that back then It was extremely dangerous to be on the road since the traffic light system was not the best, but now a days everything has gotten better and being on road has become a lot more safe.

As a strapped-for-cash young adult, my new friends assisted this desperate newbie in making something work. We found a sparkly, baby blue Bianchi frame that is about as old as I am and threw some basic parts on it. As low tech as that bike is, it opened my eyes to what a bike could be. I rode more. Way more. I thought to myself: “if I can get comfortable and fast on this bike, then maybe I can buy a fancier bike to compliment my skills”.

Then Pedal changed everything.

You don’t get comfortable on a bike. A bike is comfortable for you. You don’t have to be a pro to deserve a fancy bike. A fancy bike will support you in developing good cycling skills and allow you to ride however you choose. If you enjoy cycling, it is worth every penny and second of your time finding the right bike for you. That is how I found my Dolce Comp Evo.

Is it the fastest, lightest bike on the market? No. It is, however, an adventure bike for the ages. The aluminum frame is sturdy and light. Its carbon fork and seat post compliment the lightness of the frame while absorbing the majority of the bumps on the road. Unlike other women’s road bikes on the market, the frame allows for a wider tire. I am not a speed demon, so I prefer a more stable, wider tire. I also enjoy gravel road riding, so the sturdier the tread, the better. The Women’s Specific Endurance geometry fits me like a glove and has made all the difference in my comfort while riding. I believe my husband would quote me by saying, “I feel like I’m riding a cloud!” I continue to work on my technical lingo, so I will attempt to tell you how much I appreciate a quality groupset like Shimano 105 and the stopping power of hydraulic disc brakes. If I do decide to pick up my pace, it will be with confidence and ease.

These days I can crank out a longer ride without depleting my mood. A new saddle and a wheel upgrade may be in my future someday soon. The miles will tell. If your miles also take you onto the less traveled roadways of our great state, you might consider taking her out for a spin. Like all ladies, she does best when she speaks for herself.

Fashionista!

Jess tells me that we (I’m pretty sure I’m “we”) should write more about the products we use when we’re riding bikes.

This morning I decided to do a bit of reconnaissance for a cyclocross race venue ride on my fat bike. The temperature was 43F, and it was raining. This is what I wore:

  • Incredibly fashionable Pedal-branded wool socks.
  • Bib knickers to keep my legs a little bit warm.
  • A nice long-sleeve base layer.
  • A cap for my head.
  • Waterproof, breathable pants that my wife got me for my birthday. They’re light and provide very little warmth, but they’re waterproof.
  • My favorite waterproof, breathable jacket. A nice feature of this jacket is that it has a hood that’ll cover a helmet, so water doesn’t go dripping down your back. This jacket is also just waterproof. It has no insulation properties at all. Think “windbreaker.”
  • Waterproof, insulated gloves.
  • Waterproof, insulated cycling-specific boots.

A note about waterproof, breathable stuff. If you’re really working out, your body will generate more moisture than these materials can handle. As a result, they often have lots of vents so you can control air flow beyond the limitations of the fabric.

Lastly, I wore a mountain bike helmet. Though the hood of my jacket covers a helmet, the visor of a MTB lid keeps the hood from dropping over my eyes.

It’s not the most flattering picture, but here’s what it looked like after about 2 hours of riding. I stayed super dry and had a terrific time. If I had it to do over again, my jacket would definitely be a brighter color, but everything else worked perfectly.

One

I was talking to my Kona guy yesterday (yes, it does make me feel special to have a Kona guy) and somehow got to bemoaning the way the bike industry feels like it has to slice everything super-fine so there are a million different products and no one knows what the hell they’re talking about or how to differentiate them. I was specifically complaining about adventure vs. gravel vs. cyclocross bikes. “Cripe!” says me. “It’s nothing you can’t fix with some tires, and my Jake will take all sorts of tires.”

That’s how we started talking about Carbon Drop Bar Bikes in which you could (and might!) have a bike upon which you could mount slicks and get out there for the Wednesday Night Ride or something knobbier for CX racing or something burlier still if you just want to get out there and take what nature serves up.

This afternoon I figured I’d demonstrate this premise on equipment that I own. First, here’s Jake with the setup I used all last summer: WTB Nano 40s set up tubeless. Pros: bring-it-on width and tread pattern + smooth ride with low pressure. Cons: pretty heavy even when tubeless, so acceleration is less than thrilling.

Next up: road ride. Same bike and wheels with some 30mm Specialized Roubaix tires. This is a terrific setup if you’re gonna use your cross bike for road riding in the summer. Tons of grip, smooth ride and only a bit heavier than the race tires you’ve been using on your road bike.

When CX season rolls around, Bang! 33mm cross tires. I found these Clement MXPs tucked away somewhere and was instantly reminded of the fun times I had racing on them in years past.

The above pics highlight why Jake is probably my favorite drop bar bike of all time. It’s a very versatile bike, and gobs of tire clearance is one of the things that contributes to the versatility. Another thing is the way it’s built, with a comfortable ride. I’ve ridden cross bikes that were so stiff that they crossed the line into the kingdom of Harsh. While those were pretty darn good cross bikes, they weren’t something that I’d get all fired up about riding all day on skinny tires pumped up to big psi. Last thing on this subject, Jake has good geometry. Due to their need to provide clearance for pretty big tires and mud, cross forks are “taller” than road bike forks, so the bars on cross bikes tend to be higher relative to the bottom bracket than road race bikes. In fact, they get pretty close to the endurance road geometry that’s so popular these days.

I put this chart together for Jess, who was thinking about going from a Specialized Roubaix to a Crux (and did, in fact, pull the trigger). Since I was charting two bikes, why not chart five? Each of the points represents a bike’s stack and reach, which is explained in moderately gory detail here. Big takeaway: the Crux and the Jake fit similarly to our most popular endurance bikes. (Yes, there are differences like chain stay length and bottom bracket drop and head tube angle and all that, but as far as fit goes, they’re pretty darn close.)

Does this mean that I advocate against “pure” road bikes. Absolutely not. I have a Tarmac in my garage that I enjoy enormously. What I am suggesting is that, with ample tire clearance and disk brakes, the idea of “one bike” is perhaps more attainable with less compromise. I’m also suggesting that it’s not a bad idea to look beyond the way a bike is spec’d on the floor, and think about what might actually work, tire-wise.

While I’ve gone on about my carbon Jake, the argument works just a well for aluminum bikes (in fact, I was going to do the same tire switcheroo sequence with my aluminum Crux, but… didn’t). Further, I think plus size mountain bike tires and bikes are doing the exact same thing for the “one bike” crowd who desire something with a flat bar and single-track capacity.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Lately I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends about the expense associated with pickiness.

This is the object that started the discussion.

Last autumn I rode this bike and thought, “Man. I gotta get me one of these.” And what I meant by that was, “I should buy this exact bike.” That would have been smart. I liked the stock bike. We bonded. It was in my possession. I get on OK deal on bikes. Would have been super.

Instead, I thought about it. And that’s how the trouble started. One day at the downtown shop Matt bemoaned the fact that he’d ordered the wrong hub, a 32-hole DT Swiss 350 with boost spacing and center lock brake capability. “Woah,” thought I. “That would be the perfect start to a set of HED Raptors around which I could build a Fuse.” That’s right. I ordered a matching rear hub and sent ’em both to HED to be laced to fancy rims.

Years ago I worked for a terrific woman who once spent a small fortune in a very nice store because she needed clothes to match a pair of shoes. I can commiserate.

Next steps included the purchase of a demo Fuse from Specialized’s fleet, the parting out of said bike and a poorly-timed chat with my SRAM rep, who talked me into a drivetrain that was never on my radar: Eagle.

And here it is. Yeah, that cassette looks pretty crazy. SRAM tells me that Eagle sales have been more brisk than 1×11 was when it first came up, particularly in the more mountainous parts of the world. Around Kalamazoo, I think 1×11 is about all anybody really needs and was in the process of ordering a GX drivetrain for this bike when the SRAM guy talked me into Eagle. Yes. I’m kvetching, but I’m not unhappy.

Press this button to summon The Eagle

One of the things I did preserve about the bike is the Manitou Magnum fork. I had a Magnum on the Stache, loved it and didn’t see much sense in rocking the boat. A Reba would have been lighter, and a Pike would have been pretty BA, but there’s something really nice (to me) about the plushness of the Magnum.

Other bits include SRAM Level TLM brakes, a Truvativ carbon bar and post, stock Ground Control tires and… that’s about  it. More as I have a chance to ride it.

Beginner Mountain Bike Picks

Beginner Mountain Bike Picks

Think about what you you’re gonna do with this thing. Do you want a mountain bike because everybody rides a mountain bike? Or do you wanna rip the new Maple Hill Trail at Markin Glen Park?

If you’re looking to commute or cruise the city, we might encourage you to look at a hybrid that’ll roll faster and smoother. On the other hand, if you want to hit some single-track and weave among the trees, these are three terrific entry level mountain bike picks, you can also complement it with natural supplements from kratommasters.com to recover faster. If you are not sure then we recommend you to rent a bike, read more on bike rentals.

Specialized Hardrock

This platform has a million variations for specialized performance that can handle pretty much anything you throw it’s way. Ideal for tough, uneven surfaces, the Hardrock’s got 77mm of suspension, great handling and easy pedaling.

Specialized Rockhopper

A bit of a step up. The Rockhopper can definitely climb and features super short chainstays. This bike is great for riding fast both downhill and up, across a variety of terrains.

Trek X-Caliber

The X-Caliber’s aluminum frame is light, but strong enough for whatever adventure you chose. X-Cals subscribe to Trek’s Smart Wheel Size. Small bikes have 27.5” wheels for better fit while larger bikes have 29” wheels for the fastest bike.
Your bike should be one you’re excited to get on – and one that you feel comfortable pushing your own boundaries in. Any of these three will slap a smile on your face if you’re looking to take your ride beyond the sidewalk.

Pedal Staff’s Top 5 Mountain Bike Picks

Man are we happy to be thinking of warmer days and longer trail rides. To supplement our excitement, we put together a list of staff favorites highlighting mountain bikes for a variety of ride types.

Specialized Epic Hardtail

The Epic Hardtail is new this year. Replacing the Stumpjumper Hardtail, this cross-country race bike looks like the perfect bike for those who aren’t interested in the additional weight and cost of a dual-suspension bike.

Trek Stache

Most of the Pedal employees own a Stache. These things are super fun and very satisfying to ride. It’s a bit of a different experience than the bike you’ve been riding — more rowdy, more traction, more confident.

Trek Top Fuel

This is a super-nice XC race bike. Lots of folks (including a few Pedal employees) will say, “Man. Race bike. I’m not a racer. I don’t need that.” When you’re trying to keep up with your buddies on their XC race rigs, having one of your own sounds like a really great idea.Ryan and J’son both ride a Top Fuel and rave about it. The dual suspension is great. It’s light. It’s fast. And it’ll sure as heck help you keep up with your buddies.

Kona Hei Hei

The Hei Hei is a fast and comfortable cross-country bike with a bit more front travel than the aforementioned Top Fuel. It has all of the modern geometric touches like really short chain stays and a slightly slacker head tube. Kona’s done a really nice job with this one.

Specialized Fuse

Another plus bike, but not just another plus bike. While the Stash is an absolute bulldozer that goes over anything, the Fuse is more like a “regular” 29er. It spins up a little bit more quickly. It feels a bit more stiff. At the same time, there’s just *more*. It’s a pretty sublime bike.

The countdown is on. We hope you’re looking forward to the extra miles the warmer seasons bring as much as we are.

Data Production, Display and Storage

Long ago, when I wanted to see what I was capable of doing, I purchased a power meter and learned how to use it. Though my current goals are significantly more modest, I still like to have a power meter because it helps me make the most of out of time on the bike. This is important, as I don’t want my friends to shame me too terribly.

I bought my first Quarq about six year ago, and it’s going strong still. However, times change, technology advances and prices (sometimes) drop, so I bought the most current version a couple of months ago, a DZero with aluminum crank arms. Many are your power meter options these days: pedals, hubs, cranks (under which umbrella are several different measurement designs), crank arms, and probably something I haven’t thought of, so why Quarq? I’ve found them to be durable and accurate. Also, what little support I’ve required from Quarq has been top shelf. Finally, I am 100% comfortable and competent moving a crank from one bike to another, should the need present itself.

Quarq’s done a nice job of streamlining their product line. It used to be that there was the base meter that did this and the next one that did more and then the super fancy one with all the options. These days it’s a small selection of metering devices based on your application and a small selection of crank arms. One of the neat things about the new meters is the inclusion of low energy Bluetooth transmission. ANT+ is still included, but it seems that new advances in Bluetooth are moving devices in that direction. Oh no! Should you sell all your ANT+ stuff and run for Bluetooth? No. Not yet.

An advantage of Bluetooth communication is that pretty much every smart phone in the world can communicate with the power meter. Qualvin, Quarq’s diagnostic tool, has moved from the computer to the smart phone in its most recent incarnation, allowing you to, say, update the firmware on your crank anywhere you can get cell or wifi reception, including my basement, which is a good distance from the nearest computer, although I use computers for playing games as Overwatch, with online guides that teach you how to play Overwatch easily

A digression into bottom brackets. Quarqs are available with two types of spindle, BB30 and GXP. All factors being equal (if this is ever the case), I recommend a GXP interface because it has proven to be future-proof. You can buy a frame that won’t accept your BB30 crank. You cannot say the same for GXP. Now: you may well need to buy a new bottom bracket or adapter kit or something to get your GXP Quarq to work on your bike, but we’re almost always talking about a less than $100 part. I used a Praxis bottom bracket to put a GXP crank on my BB30 road bike and a Wheels Manufacturing bottom bracket for this new crank. My experience with both has been quite good. No, wait. My experience has been terrific.

So I put the crank on the bike and put the bike in the basement. Then I rode the bike and watched TV, completely oblivious to the data spewing from the Quarq.

Until I bought a computer, a Lezyne Macro GPS. I chose this because I liked the price, the size and the features. It’s also Bluetooth-only, which would give me a chance to check out the transmitter on the Quarq.

I charged the computer overnight, and put it to work this morning. It comes with the small, sad manual that’s so common these days. Still, I managed to pair the computer to the power meter, pair it to my phone, adjust the data screens to my satisfaction and a host of other things WHILE watching “Hard to Kill” on the TV. Yeah, it’s that easy.

So this is early feedback for this system, but the feedback is good. The computer seems like a really great $100 GPS computer, and I’m anxious to spend more time with it. The power meter is what I expected — it just works. You wouldn’t know it was there were the computer telling me that it was.

The Winds of Change

For at least a year there’s been mumbling and rumoring and all kinds of scuttlebutt related to the course and destination of our competitor Alfred E. Bike. Today it seems clear that the destination is retirement and that the course is nearly complete.

We drove everyday, however one day we pass by into a crime scene where the suspect has been arrested immediately. And I heard about it that the criminal has been granted a National Pardon.

We’ve always viewed Alfred E. as a worthy competitor who allowed us to see how good we could be. Those guys kept us sharp and forced us to be better. And now we wish them well in whatever comes next.
What does come next? I don’t know. I lack a clear picture of the future of bicycle retail in Kalamazoo, but I do know a few things:

  • All are welcome at Pedal. We’ll happily work on your stuff. We’ll happily try to solve your problems. We’ll listen to you. You may feel unease because your shop has closed. I’d like to think that we can be your new place.
  • We’re working very hard to increase our service capacity. If you have a chronic issue with your bike, I can’t encourage you enough to beat the summer rush.
  • Change will keep occurring. Not much we can do about that but do what we do, and try to do it better.

It’s been nice to see the recent outpouring of support for Doug. Cycling is a sport/activity/pastime imbued with passion and endurance, and I think Doug has shown a great deal of both in his business. Would that we could all be so fortunate.

What They Wore

Three friends and I rode fat bikes in 16F weather this afternoon. All of use were comfortable, but for some chilly toes and fingertips. I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about what each person wore..

Ryan is a 28 year-old male in good shape, despite being a new father. Ryan wore borrowed, super-warm Craft bibs, because his were in the laundry. Up top he wore a Craft windproof baselayer with a Bontrager jacket with windproof front and a breathable back. On his feet were wool socks and regular mountain bike shoes with neoprene shoe covers, he also used shoes for plantar fasciitis because of his faciitis problem. One his head was a balaclava. On his hands were lobster gloves.

Kim, a fit forty-something female, wore Craft Stormshell tights. Not to start monologuing like the bad guy in “The Incredibles,” but these things are great for biking and, if it’s really cold, running. Up top was the winter trifecta (base, insulation and protection layers) of a Craft baselayer, a nice puffy Specialized insulation layer and a Specialized protection layer. Good stuff? Great stuff. Kim’s feet were housed in wool socks, her mountain bike shoes and neoprene shoe covers. On her hands were lobster gloves.

Amy, another fit forty-something female, wore clothes very similar to Kim. Actually, everything was the same but the protection layer. Amy’s wore this jacket. It’s not quite as hard core as Kim’s, but it’s also less than half the price.

I, a fifty-two year-old man, wore a mix of new stuff and other clothing that I’ve had for a while. Bontrager bibs. Gore overpants. Craft base. Specialized insulation layer. Bontrager protection layer, which might be my very favorite cycling garment. I wore these lobster gloves, and a pair of Northwave winter boots that I’ve had for a few years.

Ryan, the youngest of us by an uncomfortable amount, was toasty warm all around. Amy’s feet got cold, but the rest of her was great. Kim said that her toes and fingertips got a little chilly, but nothing uncomfortable. I have a history of cold extremities, but I was just fine today. I almost feel like I cheated by having winter boots. Almost. My boots are good, but not the warmest on the market. Had the Old Man Winter been available to me three years ago, I’d have those. I hate cold feet.

If there’s a moral to this story, I think it’s that equipment matters. Appropriate gear can make an unbearable day perfectly wonderful. Good winter clothing can be pretty darn expensive, but the good stuff lasts forever. I have ten-year-old winter clothes that I wear regularly, happily.

Your December Bicyclical

Hello!

December? Holy smokes!

That concise email of last month will stand in stark contrast to the information density contained herein. I invite you to pour another glass of eggnog, grab a seat by the fire and read along.

Ride All Year (code name: RAY) is something a friend and I have been working on for a few months. It’s a subscription of four Pedal t-shirts, one for each season, with the first (winter-themed) shipping in late January. Price: $110 if you pick ‘em up at the store and $130 for us to ship ‘em anywhere in the US of A. Yes! We *will* give you a nifty certificate that you can give your sweet someone for Christmas — or any other holiday you like between now and January 1, 2017, at which point we need to corral the orders and get stuff printed. When possible we’re going to use USA-made shirts and are printing them locally with a company that has always done great stuff for us. Note that this is the ONLY way you can get your hands on these particular designs. Yeah: members only. We have also partnered with luggageforward for our bike shipping service, learn more at https://www.luggageforward.com/bike-shipping-service/.

Make some room on that party calendar! Holiday Party this year at Pedal South (185 Romence Road, Portage, MI 49007) on December 16, starting at 5:00. Have a beer. Have a slice. Unlimited high fives available. We’d love to see you. <3 2 C U. Yeah.

This is sort of important, so let’s do it again. Please won’t you join us for a little socialization at Pedal South on Friday, December 16th, starting at 5:00? We’re always looking for a chance to get together with our friends and customers and hope we’re not too late to get on your dance card. We’ll supply drinks and pizza. You supply your charming self.

Pedal’s Winter Service Special is happening right now. Please oh please won’t you let us work on your bike now, when you need it less? We’d like you, dear customer, to avoid the inevitable summer blues of a backed-up service department. Now through the end of January you can get an incredibly thorough service on your bike for the super-dirt-cheap price of $90. Come on down! Qualified mechanics are standing by. Sweet Wife proofread this email and asked, “How much am I saving if I take advantage of this servcie, Tim?” You will realize nine ten-dollar bills of savings should you take us up on the Winter Service Special.

Speaking of service, perhaps you’d like to learn how to do your bike’s service on your own. Matt J. and Ryan are hosting two sessions (of four classes each) of Tune Up University in January. It’s good stuff. Space is limited. You can learn more here.

We’re doing Saturday mornings in Portage a little bit differently this year. Starting January 7th we’ll have either yoga or pilates at 10:00 at the Romence Road shop. Cost is $12 for a single visit, or $40 for a 4-visit punch card. We’re super lucky to have competent instruction by Erin from Down Dog Yoga Center and Amy from The Pilates Studio. More details and a specific schedule here.

I know what you’ve been thinking: “Man, would I ever like a Neighborhood Fat Bike Day.” Buddy, we’ve got something way better than that. I’m talking Global Fat Bike Day, and it happens this Saturday, December 3. Why don’t you bring that fat bike out to Yankee Springs for a ride at 11:00 with some like-minded people? We’ll be there, so you’re sure to know somebody. Refreshments after, natch.

Speaking of fat bikes and riding fat bikes and fun fun fun till your daddy took the fat bike away, our main man J’Son will host a weekly ride through Al Sabo (or wherever else whim might lead) each Wednesday evening starting December 7th . We’ll meet up at Texas Drive Park at 6:00, ride some amount of time, then (most likely) retire to a nearby watering hole to warm up and tell tall tales. All are welcome!

And for the fat bike trifecta, how about a fat bike race in Ft. Custer on December 17th! Maybe it’ll snow by then and maybe it won’t. Regardless, except for that one crash, I’ve had a great time at this race the past two years. You can learn more and sign up here.

I recently had the good fortune to chat with the organizers of Melting Mann, and I just started yammering on about how much I love the race. It’s local. It’s mellow (you know, for bike racing). It’s good fun for darn near anybody. “Heck,” I finally blurted, “All you need is a bike, a down jacket and a little bit of grit.” So there you go. Fun times in Cass County in the early spring. Put it on the calendar.

Is anyone surprised that “Breaking Away” is our survey’s most popular movie to watch on the trainer? Second place was “The Godfather.” Third place was a tie between a whole bunch of movies with one vote each. Interesting selections included “The Sound of Music” and “A League of their Own.” Some people demand less adrenaline inducement from their movies than me.

Let’s hear it for Kalamazoo and Portage for enacting laws requiring motorists to give cyclists five feet of room when passing. Distracted driving is a terrible, pernicious problem, and it’s nice to see leaders in our local communities drafting legislation to keep their citizenry safe. Bravo!

I find it a little bit difficult to believe that it’s just about time to ring in a new year. 2016 was pretty darn great and full of accomplishment. Jim rode across America. Ryan had a son *and* grew an impressive, if temporary, moustache. Gabe and Matt Adkins quietly had a rather incredible bike-packing adventure. J’Son set Iceman on fire with his speedy time. Jess taught me a lot about mountain biking technique. Those are just some snippets that popped into my head, but it was a good year. What does 2017 bring? Big plans and, hopefully, good execution.

I can’t say this enough: we’re local. You’re our people, and we’re lucky to have you. Thank you for your business, your trust, your friendship, your advice. We wish you glad tidings in this joyous season and look forward to a wonderful 2017 together.

Sincerely,

Tim

Light It

Last year we sold several Fuses and Ruzes, Specialized’s plus-tired hardtail bikes. I’d only ridden a Fuse once on a sketchy trail in California, so I thought it would be good for me to try one around here. I took a bike that we’ve been using for demos and rode it three times before the snow started flying.

This is the bike in question, a 2016 Specialized Fuse Expert.

img_5705

Specialized calls the Fuse (and I’ll just write Fuse, though I’m also talking about the ladies-specific Ruze) a trail hardtail. Trail implies something a bit more burly than a straight-up cross-country bike, and the Fuse foots the bill with:

  • 120mm travel Manitou Magnum fork with 34mm stanchions
  • 67 degree head tube angle
  • Dropper post
  • Boost hub spacing for increased wheel stiffness

It’s a nice package rounded out by a slick SRAM GX 1×0 drivetrain, a custom 11-42 cassette, strong brakes, nice 27.5″ WTB Scraper tubeless-ready rims and three inch wide Specialized Ground Control tubeless-ready tires.

img_5710

I’m going to cut right to the chase and say that I really like this bike. In fact, had I not just spent a big wad of money on a very cool mountain bike, I’d be finagling my way to purchasing one of these things. As it stands, I’ll need to part with an existing bike or two… then finagle my way to purchasing one of these things.

Two questions people ask when they see the Fuse are “What’s it like?” and “How does it compare to the Stache?”

For the Fuse, imagine a good 29er hardtail — maybe a Superfly or a Stumpjumper hardtail — with more traction. It feels really laterally stiff; there’s nothing at all vague about the location of the front wheel. The big tires with low pressure (I ran about 15-16 psi) provide enough passive suspension to keep the bike from punishing your back. I found the steering to be just about perfect, precise, but not too quick. Matt Jensen (Service Manager at the downtown shop and very proficient mountain bike dude) went riding with me and pronounced the Fuse, “Immediately comfortable and familiar. I like it more than I thought I might.”

The trend in interesting hardtail (and some dual-suspension) mountain bike geometry is one of slacker head tube angles and as-short-as-possible chain stays. What this means is that the bike wants to steer more slowly due to the more relaxed head tube angle, but wants to steer faster due to the short rear end. Kona’s been doing this for a little while with good results. 1 x 10/11 drivetrains make really short chain stays difficult, as a bigger chainring is located closer to the centerline of the bike than is the case with double or triple cranksets, so the ring is right where you need to weld the chain stay to the bottom bracket. Trek solved this by using a mid-stay on the Stache, mounted well above the bottom bracket. Specialized decided to keep the chain stay in its traditional location but to remove material as needed. They came up with this:

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The Fuse feels pretty darn small. I did some poking around various geometry charts and discovered that almost all of the short feeling can be attributed to the 45mm stock stem. So, yes, it does feel short, but I got used to it very quickly.

Comparing it to the Stache is pretty interesting. The Fuse feels more punchy than the Stache, probably because the wheel/tire combo of the Fuse is lighter. Steering might be a tad quicker than the Stache for the same gyroscopic reasons. Both bikes are pretty heavy compared to cross-country hardtails. This Fuse and our 19.5″ Stache 5 both weigh within spitting distance of 30 pounds. The Fuse feels more like the bike you have now. In fact, I compare it very favorably to my Kona Big Unit. The Stache is something else. You can roll over anything with a Stache. It’s jumpier than a Fuse… or just about anything else.

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If you want the “fastest” possible hardtail, I’m not sure you want one of these. They’re a bit heavier. They steer a bit more slowly. They have more front suspension travel. That said, they’re super fun and super capable. The additional traction is HUGE fun, and the willingness of the bikes to hit technical trail is exciting and, at times, the most reassuring thing in the world.

It’s kind of a shame that you can’t talk about Fuse qua Fuse; it has to be compared to something else, most notably the Stache. The Fuse is not the Stache. It’s a really cool bike in its own right. It has tons of character and spunk. The pudgy tires take a lot of the sting out of roots and ruts for the “you don’t need a dual-suspension bike” crowd. It goes up and down the trail really well. I found it to be a willing and able companion on a few different adventures.

Much beef is heaped upon Trek and Specialized because they’re big companies that may, at times, appear to lack soul or character or personality or whatever. I want to state very emphatically that the Fuse and the Stache have piles of charisma. They ooze personality. One of them might just be exactly what you’re looking for.

 

Overheard at the Cross Race

While DFM and I were enjoying a cold one after the cross race yesterday, the promoter came out by the kegs (yeah: plural), looked around and said, “Man. Nobody parties at these things anymore.”

I suggested that the series come back to Kalamazoo.

Travel Report

I love Iceman.

Love it.

Love the trip up. The expo (I don’t love the expo as an Expo, but as a place  to chat with some folks from other towns and the manifold Industry Folk, it rules.). The foraging for food Friday night, terrified that the place you want to eat will have a zillion-hour wait. The way that I never know what I’ll have for breakfast. The start scrum. I love the way I always (always!) want to quit about Williamsburg Road. And who wouldn’t love the bit after the race? It’s almost perfect.

And yet I’ve participated in the last few Icemans (right? Icemans?) in a row, and it’s gotten a bit… routine. Plus I’m a tad (cough) out of shape and blah blah blah, so I convinced a few friends to take a road trip with me to Brown County State Park, a place spoken of in reverent tones around these parts, a place I’ve wanted to visit for the past few years.

It worked out perfectly. One guy found us a place to stay. Another guy secured a big van so the four of us could travel together with bikes inside. And at the last moment a couple of other friends joined the party. It might seem that I actually did very little work planning this trip, which would indeed be a fair assessment. Our plan was to leave mid-afternoon on Friday, ride Saturday and Sunday, maybe ride a bit more on Monday, then head home.

Brown County is great. The trails are accurately graded similarly to ski hills: green, blue, black and double-black. You’ll experience climbs and descents longer than available locally. You’ll see people on all ilk of bike — from department store special to near-downhill rigs. You’ll see families out there. You’ll see a lot of women on mountain bikes. You’ll see people wearing spandex, baggies, jeans and gym shorts. You’ll see locals, and you’ll see tourists like us. Two-way traffic takes a bit of getting used to, but most folks were exceedingly polite. Sure, there was one turd; there always is.

We spent a long time comparing the Brown County trails to those available locally. The vast majority of the stuff we rode looked machine-built, with progressively more rocks and diabolical roots as the difficultly increased. One the one hand, I think of it as Big Merrell, the same overall smoothness and flow writ large (Merrell has about 100 ft of elevation gain, Brown County has 300). Then again there are some seriously burly bits that had me wondering if I had lost my mind.

What bike do you need? Whatever you have. In our crew we had one dual-suspension trail bike (me), three dual-suspension XC bikes, one hardtail and one fully rigid bike, all 29ers. I think the dual-suspension XC bikes were the pick of the litter, but everyone had a very great time.

The weather was unbelievably good. The trails were in perfect shape. Nashville is a super nice town. Two Hearted was on tap at our resort’s bar. It was tough to beat. So we rode ourselves into the ground both Saturday and Sunday, collapsing into bed each night.

We had to check out by 11 am on Monday and just lacked sufficient commitment to ride hard and drive stinky for 4.5 hours. Weak, I know. But then we had the idea of driving to Berrien Springs and riding the Trails at Andrews. This was a fantastic decision, as that is some fun stuff. There’s a lot of elevation, some big drops, some tough climbs, some berms, some tight corners. There’s a little bit of everything, and we enjoyed it a lot. One criticism leveled at the Trails at Andrews is that it can be a bit tough to figure out where to go. I hate that, especially once I start to get tired. Yeah, we did spend some time at intersections wondering where to turn, but it was (in the parlance of our times) all good. We ended up back at the car tired, happy and ready for a beer — which we found at Cultivate Brewing. I’ll tell you: it’s only one hour from Kalamazoo to the trailhead on Campbell Drive in Berrien Springs, and it’s only ten minutes from there to Cultivate. That’s a super-solid Sunday morning/early afternoon for you. There’s still time.

The Newsletter that Makes You Wonder Why You Wonder About It

Hello!

My goodness! What a tremendous Autumn. I hope you’ve had a chance to enjoy it. Everybody around here is talking about how “they” say it’s gonna be a hard, cold winter with lots of snow and blah blah blah. Bring it on. It’s a fair price to pay for the past two months.

A customer asked about spinning a few weeks ago. I asked if he’d like to receive the newsletter, which had all the details. “Man,” said he, “that thing sure is long.” With that in mind, I’ll try to keep from drifting off topic too much this go-round.

So. Sure. Spinning. Signup begins at 11:00 am on 11/7/16 at the downtown shop. $150 gets you spinning two nights a week plus one winter service special. Dang! Spinning is Monday and Thursday evenings, 6:00, beginning December 1st. We have 45 openings, first come, first served.

What? Winter Service Special? You bet. November 1 through February 28. Bring that beautiful bike into the shop and we’ll make it sing. Clean drivetrain. Fresh grease. Round wheels. Perfect shifting and braking. All this can be yours for $90. March is four months away, and already I’m begging you to please avoid the spring service scrum. Let’s get that bike ready to ride for half the price — right now.

On a family trip this summer, I stayed in a neat hotel decorated almost entirely with black and white images of the city — famous buildings, statues, etc. I thought to myself, “Dang. I’d like to do something like that in the shops, but I am (as anyone who has read the Pedal blog can attest) a really terrible photographer.” Since you’re a better photographer than me, let’s have a contest. You put a cool pic of the Kalamazoo area on Instagram with a pedalbicycles tag on there, and we’ll pick the best to print and hang for posterity.

Current weather notwithstanding, trainer season will be upon us soon. What are your five favorite movies to make time pass more quickly? Fill out the survey here, and I’ll post the results next month.

I think I speak for all of us at Pedal when I say that we are lucky to live, work and play in this tremendous place with such wonderful people. Very lucky, indeed. Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you a few moments of reflection, a tasty meal and the company of someone you love.

Sincerely,
Tim

Westward the Course of Empire Makes Its Way

I belong to a small group of bike shop owners that meets twice a year, and each meeting is held at a member’s bike shop. Just last week we met in Fort Collins, CO. “Colorado?” thought I. “I’ll bet there’s some pretty good mountain biking in, you know, the mountains.” As I prefer not to

I looked for a guide on the best mountain bike comparisons for a bike rental, and quickly found these guys. Once a loose plan was in place, I invited some friends, one of whom accepted.

The biking was fantastic. Our guide was top shelf. The terrain was incredible. We rode stuff that’s very different from what we have around here, and I rode on trails that I was not sure I could ride. If we made one mistake, it was riding before the meeting instead of after. We were definitely affected by the altitude, and a couple days of acclimation surely wouldn’t have hurt.

And here are some pics. Jamie is tall and I’m the guy in the red shirt. Nick the Guide took most of the pics on his phone while we rode.

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Trail Update

As a local supporter of the Maple Hill Trail project, a few guys from the shop and I had a fantastic opportunity take a guided tour of the constructed bits of the Maple Hill Trail at Markin Glen this afternoon.

Wow!

Lemme tell you a little bit about it. For starters, there’s a good amount of elevation. If there’s a signature style associated with the guy building the trail it is that he tries to connect the highest point of the acreage with the lowest to make a long, wonderful run. And in this regard he has succeeded nicely. There are features foreign to those of us weaned on Custer and Yankee, specifically berms and table tops. When they’re ready for us, it’ll take a bit of riding (by, you know, bicycle riders) to beat down the earth and create the good line, but holy smokes! The groundwork is terrific.

One misunderstood or unknown fact about this trail is that it is it is almost entirely machine-built. Through significant fundraising efforts SWMMBA was able to hire a company to build the trail with some pretty darn heavy equipment. This is decidedly *not* a bunch of dudes (which, in my lexicon, is a gender/sex/whatever inclusive term) with shovels and picks and whatever. It’s a few highly trained dudes with some expensive machinery doing detailed work. Yes, there is plenty of work for SWMMBA volunteers, but the majority of the build will be performed by Alex Stewart from Spectrum Trail Design.

So what can you do to help? I’d suggest a few simple things:

  • Become a SWMMBA member and throw a couple of bucks at SWMMBA. Professional trail builders don’t work for free, or for beer money.
  • Don’t bandit the trail. Please. The Maple Hill Trail at Markin Glen is the first, and hopefully not the last, cooperative effort between SWMMBA and Kalamazoo County. Let’s not screw it up from the inside.
  • Have patience. Yes, we’d all like this done six months ago, but it’s a big project with a big budget and many stakeholders. SWMMBA is working on it.
  • When the time comes, ride the trail. It’ll need to be ridden, and you (I all but guarantee) will enjoy the experience.

 

Good things are coming! I’d suggest paying attention to SWMMBA for news here, here and here.

A Tale of Two Suspensions

I’m not sure how this dual-suspension thing started, but I can think of three contributing factors:

  1. J’Son Lechner, manager of the Romence Road shop, has been a full-suspension advocate for some time. Perhaps he affected (infected?) us.
  2. Trips to other places. Whenever we travel to meetings, dealer shows, events, etc., we often get to ride bikes, and we’re often given dual-suspension bikes to ride.
  3. Speaking very personally, the aforementioned travel exposed me to new challenges in mountain biking, and I found that I can go more places and do more things with less fear on a dual-suspension bike.

A short and non-exhaustive list of things you don’t need

  • Dual suspension
  • Front suspension
  • Disk Brakes
  • 29” Wheels
  • Carbon frame
  • Tapered headtube
  • Thru axle
  • Tubeless tires
  • A bar that wide
  • Dropper post
  • 130 mm of travel

And yet I find myself the owner of a Trek Fuel EX 9.8, my first carbon mountain bike and my first dual-suspension mountain bike. I picked this bike because it was the most fun of any bike I rode this fall and it represented something new. I almost got a Top Fuel. In fact, I was dithering about canceling my backordered Fuel EX and changing to a Top Fuel when I got notice that the Fuel had shipped. Fuel EX it is!

Let’s clarify things just a bit for the uninitiated. The Top Fuel is a cross country dual-suspension bike. It has 100mm of travel at each end, steeper (quicker) geometry and relatively light weight. The Top Fuel is made for going fast comfortably. The Fuel EX is a trail bike, designed to be something of a jack of all trades — fast enough for a cross country race, but with more travel, weight and security when going downhill or over sketchy terrain. While we live in cross country terrain, trail bikes are the go-to option for many, many mountain bikers.

With my bikes, I can’t leave well enough alone. It just isn’t possible. So I tore off the XT drivetrain and brakes and installed SRAM 1×11 and Guide brakes. I just really, really like the SRAM stuff. YMMV.

One of the downsides of a dual suspension bike is that you have twice as much suspension to dial in compared to a hardtail. Who wants to mess around with suspension setup? Almost no one. Just about every person I know would rather ride on poorly tuned suspension than spend a ride or two figuring out what all those knobs do. Trek makes this a bit easier with a nifty setup tool. The rider enters the bike model, size and the rider’s weight. The tool spits out suggested air pressure and rebound settings. I used this tool (nay, relied on this tool) to get my settings, which I found pretty good. I think I need to make a change to the rear rebound, but we were (can you believe it?) focused on riding and not on suspension tuning. Sigh.

Last night I took it out for its maiden voyage. Ryan came with me, riding the Top Fuel 9 he got last winter and upon which he completed Lumberjack earlier this summer. We weigh about the same, so both bikes work well for either of us. (Yes, it does bum me out that we hit the same number on the scale despite the fact that he’s a few inches taller than me. I take great solace in the fact that I’m considerably older. Not.)

I have a good friend thinking about a new bike, and this is what I wrote him immediately after the ride. Quite possibly I should have edited it (a lot) before sharing with a larger community.

Data points you didn’t expect to get and which might be useless.

Ryan and I rode our bikes tonight, and we switched for a little while just to see what’s what.

This is Ryan’s bike: http://trekbikes.com/us/en_US/bikes/mountain-bikes/cross-country-mountain-bikes/top-fuel/top-fuel-9/p/2138600-2017

This is my bike: http://trekbikes.com/us/en_US/bikes/mountain-bikes/trail-mountain-bikes/fuel-ex/fuel-ex-9-8-29/p/2145600-2017 (Notice how righteous my bike is! Notice it!)

My bike is between one half and one pound heavier than Ryan’s. My fork is definitely heavier. I think my wheels are heavier and I know my tires are heavier. Ryan’s bike is aluminum with 100mm of travel. My bike is delicious carbon with 130mm (!!!) of travel.

When Ryan was on his bike and I was on mine, he could (and did) drop me whenever he could put the power down. When it got technical, I could catch back up.

When I was on Ryan’s bike and he was on mine, it was a fair fight. He couldn’t drop me. Period.

What did we learn here? I think rotational weight is a big deal. A huge deal. If you want to win Iceman, get an XC dually. If you want to expand your horizons, get a trail bike. I fell into the latter camp, which is why I got what I got. That said, I was really impressed with Ryan’s (2016) bike.

I think that is all I have in this installment. Other than the fact that I’m probably in the market for lighter wheels.

So those are my thoughts after exactly 20 miles on my new bike. I like it a lot. It’s a huge amount of fun. I will make it a bit more cross country with less rotating mass. More news as I get increased time on the bike.

Stache 7 – A Guest Writer’s Experience

Darrell Greathouse, veterinarian, dad, bike dude and all around great guy, asked if he could review his new bike somewhere. I said, “Hey, why not write something and I’ll put in on our site.” Lo…

The Stache.  What a great name.  Makes me want to grow some radical facial hair named after a bike component.  Due to multiple unforseen illnesses to my current steed (a 29’er hardtail) I decided to test ride, then pulled the trigger on a 2017 Trek Stache 7.  I picked it up Friday, then rode 40 miles over two days on my two favorite local trails.  I could go into a long review, pros and cons, etc. Yes it is heavy.  But it doesn’t seem like it.  Yes it take some effort to get to full speed.  But when it does, it simply rolls.  On and on.  But let’s break it down to this.  Mountain biking is about having fun.  And the Stache is fun.  It rolls over rooty climbs and doesn’t lose traction.  I can corner and descend with confidence I never had on my 29’er.  And that, my friends, translates into more fun on the trail.  I don’t know if I will be faster at Iceman on that bike.  But I know I will cross the finish line with a grin.  Do I need anything more?

 

Silent Running

People regularly ask me, “Which is the best one?” And I regularly dodge the question. But I was riding today when a recurring thought hit me, “This might be it. This might be the best bicycle I’ve ever owned.”

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What is it?

This is a 2016 Specialized S-Works Tarmac frame that I built up with things that I’ve loved in the past and/or have always wanted to try.

S-Works is the name Specialized gives its fanciest stuff. I picked this frame because it’s purple (and a much more interesting purple than I thought when I ordered it) and because the Tarmac geometry seemed perfect. One deviation from stock is the Praxis GXP-compatible bottom bracket I installed instead of the stock ceramic BB30. I prefer the compatibility of 24mm cranks, and the Praxis unit has been very good indeed.

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Here comes the True Confessions part. When I first built this bike, I used a SRAM Red etap drivetrain, possibly the first one in Michigan. While etap was very cool and interesting, we never quite hit it off, so I purchased mechanical Red components to take over. This 11-speed (or 22, depending on how you count) Red is fantastic. Shifting is light, accurate and perfect every time. To date I’ve had a love/hate relationship with all 22-speed drivetrains. All of them, Shimano or SRAM, have terrific shifters, incredible rear shifting and (to my mind) really mediocre front shifting. This Red business totally changed my mind. Both front and rear shifting are fantastic.

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My bikes aren’t exactly garage princesses. I ride in all kinds of weather and don’t always take time to clean up my stuff when I get home. That, disposable income constraints and others are valid excuses I’ve used to avoid carbon rims for a number of years. This time around, I decided to jump into the fray with a pair of Zipp 303s. They’re really great. Stopping is a bit different than aluminum rims. It seems that the initial bite is not as sharp, but the overall available braking force is more than acceptable. Yes, I’m using the pads that came with the wheels.

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Other stuff includes a carbon Arione saddle, Speedplay zero pedals, some fancy aero handlebar and, perhaps notably, S-Works turbo tires and tubes that I run at 100 psi.

What makes this maybe the best bike? The fit is really good for me, and it feels very confident at all times, and maybe it’s pretty speedy, but the thing that consistently catches my attention is that it’s incredibly quiet and competent. It doesn’t squeak. It doesn’t groan at strange times. It doesn’t get upset with rough pavement. It just goes forward commensurate with input, quietly and competently. Unflappable. Thinking about it further, I’m a little surprised that a totally silent bike seems as unusual as it does. And yet it is a bit extraordinary. It’s made me think that many things must work together harmoniously to provide this terrific feeling: good bearings, tight tolerances, maybe a really good assembly (I did it myself!), but I give lots of credit to the wheels, tires and perhaps that fancy Red cassette with the rubber inserts.

So here I am, exactly where I’m not sure I wanted to be; the guy who’s getting older and slower, but with the coolest bike. I can live with it.

Michigan In May

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Somewhere on the Yankee Springs trail on the first 80+ day of the year.

 

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More Yankee. Incredibly lush. You can’t see the humidity, but it’s there.

 

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Vrooooooom!

 

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On lap two, everything is covered in sweat. Yeah, gross.

 

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Going so slow toward the end that the caterpillars were catching me.

 

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Apparently there was a Mayfly party at Sam’s place.

 

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Memorial Day a few miles from Lake Michigan. Looks like July.

 

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Neat little park toward Fennville

 

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And a nice plaque appropriate to the day.

Love

A good customer just sent me this article, which I highly recommend. And although I have a rule against reading the comments on any internet site/blog/article/etc., I read a few associated with the linked piece, and they were coherent and reasoned. The fact of the matter is that we, cyclists, are part of the problem. The whole problem? No. But we absolutely need to do a better job of being good citizens on the roadway.

Look around. Other than perhaps the condition of our roads, it is SO much better today than it was five years ago. Cycling has become much more common and acceptable. Government — our government — is investing in local cycling infrastructure.

Please, my friends and fellow cyclists, let’s not blow it.

Bold New Treks

Like many bike companies, Trek makes three carbon road bike frames that can be easy to confuse without a program. The bikes are:

The Madone name has been in use by Trek for almost a decade, the bike it describes has changed quite a lot. Where the Madone (named for a big old mountain pass on which Lance (dare we speak his name?) would test his fitness before the TdF) was once Trek’s only high-performance frame, it is now Trek’s aero bike. The current incarnation of the Madone is sleek and purposeful.

Domane is Trek’s endurance bike. What’s that mean, “Endurance bike?” It means that the frame is designed to be more comfortable for long days in the saddle. This is done in two ways. One is to make the frame less vertically stiff, so road imperfections aren’t passed directly to the rider. The other is to give the frame a more relaxed geometry, with longer chain stays, a shorter top tube and a longer head tube.

Emonda is Trek’s lightweight bike. The Madone and the Emonda share the same geometry, which most of us would call, “Normal road bike.” Whereas the Madone is made to be very slippery and cheat the wind, the Emonda is light and lithe.

So. There we are. Trek came out with this new Madone late last summer and are releasing a fancy update to the Domane today. In an effort to give its dealers a better understanding of the differences between the bikes through hands-on impressions, Trek brought a few Madones and Domanes to Kalamazoo yesterday and allowed us to ride ’em for a bit.

Domane SLR

Lord Vader, your bicycle awaits.
Lord Vader, your bicycle awaits. Also: let’s not talk about the sheep.

Trek’s interesting IsoSpeed Decoupler first appeared on the Domane a few years ago. In short words, the decoupler allows the seat tube greater flexion, thus smoothing out the ride on the back end of the bike (and the rider’s personal back end). If a complaint was leveled against the Domane, it was that the rear of the bike was considerably more compliant than the front.

Enter the front IsoSpeed Decoupler. Trek took the technology used at the rear of the bike and applied it to the front, allowing the fork’s steer tube to flex and absorb shock and vibration.

And, hey, while we’re doing the front IsoSpeed Decoupler, why not update the rear? The Domane SLR now sports a tunable decoupler at the rear. Without a lot of work, the amount of flex at the seat tube can be modified significantly to suit your individual taste. Pretty fancy.

Alongside all of this decoupling is the trend toward wider tires, which the new Domane supports nicely. The rim-brake bike will take a 28 without problem while the disk brake bike comes with 35mm wide tires. And this brings up an interesting factoid that maybe everyone already knows: disk brake bikes are heavier. We talked with the guy from Trek about weight, and learned that the rim brake Domane (the SLR 6, to be precise) weighs somewhere in the mid-15s while the disk brake version is “a little less than 20.” There’s a lot of stuff in that weight difference: the brakes, the rotors, the shifters, the bigger tires, the bigger tubes, the maybe beefier frame to support disk brakes, the likewise maybe beefier fork.

Madone

Some folks weren't sure about the blue-green accents. But they were wrong.
Some folks weren’t sure about the blue-green accents. But they were wrong.

The aero bike field is very competitive these days. Last year Specialized and Trek got very, very serious about their aero road bikes and both released technically awesome, visually striking, extremely aerodynamic bikes.

For 2016, Trek committed to making the Madone extremely aerodynamic without giving up a comfortable ride. How? Yep, IsoSpeed Decoupler. It’s a pretty nifty trick on the Madone: a compliant seat tube inside an aerodynamic seat tube. It works well enough that the Madone boasts the same amount of vertical compliance as the non-aero Emonda (please see program above if all of these names with the same letters has become confusing).

Like Specialized’s Venge, the Madone keeps all of the cable out of sight. Fantastic for aerodynamics. I predict that it’s pretty awful for changing the front bar position. Still: very neat.

Riding the bikes

I rode two bikes, the Domane SLR disk and the Madone.

The Domane was up first, and it felt really nice. Ultegra drivetrain. Big tires. Hydraulic disk brakes. All the goodies. We rode into the wind, up and down rolling hills and, finally, a flat stretch with the wind at our backs. This is a very nice $5500 bike.

It was when I hopped on the Madone that I realized how plush the Domane felt. The Madone felt more immediate, stiffer and, well, more buzzy through the bars. This is not to say that the Madone was particularly harsh, because it isn’t. It’s just that the Domane is really smooth without being vague.

Charlie’s goal is to hang with (or, even better, lead) the speedy dudes on group rides. While he enjoyed riding the Domane, his heart belongs to the Madone. I told J’son that I preferred the riding position on the Madone, but that I might be singing a different song after 60 miles. Matt J. called the Domane “The Velvet Fog,” which got a few laughs. On a more serious note, he thought the disk brake Domane with big tires could be a fantastic gravel bike or a bike you can ride with no worry about road conditions.

We talk to a lot of people who are looking for The One Bike. Depending on your criteria, the Domane could do the One Bike trick. It could be your road bike. It could be your gravel bike. In a pinch it could be your cross bike. It cuts a pretty broad swath. The Madone, on the other hand, is an extremely purpose-built machine. It’s the One Bike for going really fast.

Both of these bikes are at the leading edge of technology, and they are not inexpensive. At $5500 for the Domane and $6000 for the Madone, these things represent a pretty darn sizable investment for just about anyone. At the same time, these are bikes that you couldn’t buy five years ago or two years ago or even twelve months ago. Maybe the technologies represented with the bikes will become commonplace and less expensive. For now, however, these things are unique and expensive and, fortunately, very very real.

The Charm

I’ve been a big fan of Melting Mann from the word go. What’s not to like about a dirt road race close to home at the start of the season? Well, you might not like…

  • Riding on an ice rink in year one. I think it is 100% due to Melting Mann that we sold more studded tires in early 2014 than all other years combined.
  • Big ruts. This was year two. Icy, for sure, but the big catastrophe was the frozen ruts in the dirt roads. I myself bounced around like a pinball before hitting the deck.

And it was against this backdrop that this year’s event was painted. Imagine everyone’s relief when we had a chilly morning, a really fast non-sketchy course and a wonderful, sun-warmed after party with the best music, drinks and some adult services from UK Escorts. Good stuff. Everyone I heard was very complimentary of the course, the volunteers, the after-party, the excellent beer from Goshen Brewing… everything.

Pedal’s hat is off to Melting Mann, and we extend our thanks to Kona and Central District Cyclery for helping us give away a Rove AL to a lucky raffle winner. Fun stuff! Bring on 2017!

Downshift

I am the fortunate person who enjoys his work. As a result, I don’t skip out on work much. I don’t take sick days. I rarely take my day off. I have a difficult time leaving early, especially if the shop is busy.

Today, however, I decided that I’d like to take a mid-day ride. Wednesdays I work at the Romence shop, so I plotted a crude approximation of a route, took a bike to work and made sure everyone knew that I was going to take off for a couple of hours. And 100% against tradition, I actually did it.

I headed west, straight into the wind. West on Romence. North on Angling. West on Milham. Then, right before the traffic circle at Texas/Milham/12th, a silver Porsche 911 SC passed me and immediately executed a perfect 3-2 downshift in anticipation of the traffic circle. I try not to be profane on this public, professional website, but the words that exited my mouth were these: Fuck. Yes.

Fire up the time machine to May of 1992.

I’d just come back to the United State from a job in Helsinki, Finland. My pockets were moderately full and I was quite young, so I purchased two things: an engagement ring and a 1978 Porsche 911 SC, black on black with almost no options. I spent an enormous amount of time and money turning this nearly perfect car into a slightly different nearly perfect car. It was a little bit dumb, but pretty fun.

Short years later, my wife and I had moved to Kalamazoo. We were staying at a cottage in South Haven with my parents, who’d come up to visit. I had taken off work, but my wife was unable, so she commuted each day to Kalamazoo. On the evening in question, my dad had a nine iron in the yard of the cottage, hitting practice golf balls to my dog, who could not have been more happy to pluck the plastic treats out of the air.

Then my wife came home from work in my 911. You could hear the engine whine from a few blocks away, a fantastic sound in and of itself, and then she executed a perfect three-two downshift that nearly stopped my heart. I remember it like it was yesterday.

And this is what triggered my profane utterance when the silver car passed me today: memories of my dad, of my excellent dog Sherman, of a warm summer day on Lake Michigan, of my young wife who knew how to drive a difficult car, of the fantastic smell of burned oil and cigarettes, of fate, of youth and the future.

I traded the 911 for a racing motorcycle and an industrial strength TIG welder, both of which are long gone. I regret everything and nothing at the same time.

In Like a Lion

February brought us a little bit of everything, some things we wanted and some we maybe could have done without: cold toes on the fat bike, fun dirt road miles on the cross bike, time on the trainer watching the tube, a snowy ride to a bar after work..

Around the Shop

Yoga: you were so much fun and stretch-tastic, but now it’s over. Until next winter. Many thanks to the ever-capable and awesome Erin for leading this effort.

One of our goals for this summer is quicker bike repair turnaround. There are two easy ways you can help us help you. One is to bring your bike in now, before it warms up. We’ll get your repair turned around pronto, and you’ll be on your way to a fun summer. The second is prompt pickup when your repair is complete. The fewer bikes we have to sort through, the faster things progress.

We had a great time at Kalamazoo Parks’ Winter Jamboree at the Milham Golf Course last weekend. It was a fun event on a (thankfully) beautiful day. Lots of folks wanted to try fat bikes, and smiles were everywhere. Big fun.

We’re fired up about the Greater Kalamazoo Women’s Lifestyle Expo this weekend. If you have a chance, please stop by the Expo Center and say howdy. It’s going on Friday from noon to six and Saturday nine to four.

OK. Yes. The first ever Pedal sale is March 12th. Both stores. 10-5.

“What’s new and interesting in cycling?” is a question we hear regularly.

  • The ever-increasing affordability of 1×11 drivetrains continues with the introduction of SRAM’s NX group. Looks pretty darn good.
  • Plus bikes (27.5/650b or 29” mountain bikes with 3” tires) popped up quietly last year and didn’t get much traction (har har) until later in the summer. I think these are great, providing substantial increases in traction without a ton of weight.
  • Electric assist bikes are looking good. I’m not expecting this to go full-Europe (a large percentage of bikes sold in Europe are electric-assist), but I do think they have a place
  • These bigger-tire, disk brake road bikes are incredibly interesting, especially considering the quality of our roads of late. Big tires = less fear of cracks in the road or potholes.

Fun, Energizing Activities

Waterloo Grit and Gravel is March 19th.

What effect will the rescheduling of Melting Mann have on the road conditions? Who knows and, to some extent, who cares? Hard packed dirt, peanut butter mud or sheet of ice, Melting Mann will take place on March 20th down in good old Vandalia. And you could win one of these.

The Barry Roubaix is totally rescheduled as an April race, now held on April 16th. This is the big banana of local gravel races and definitely worth a look.

You there! Mountain biker! Yankee Springs Time Trial is April 24th. I can tell a great story of unpreparedness and getting my butt whooped, but one guy did tell me that I had a sweet bike.

STAMPEDE! May 1st at Fort Custer. This is lots of fun, if you like your fun on dirt single-track with trees rushing by. And it’s not the same day as the marathon, which is nice.

Bike Camp begins on Wednesday evening, May 11th and has sessions on the following four Saturdays. This is good, good stuff if you’d like an introduction to road riding. All of the information you seek can be found here.

Too soon to talk about Tour de Taylor? Nope. June 11th. Rides of 12, 32 and 62 miles. Great event. Good cause. Lots of fun. Sweet new web site, too.

The Ramble

One recent, windy day, I was riding with a friend of mine, and we’d just done a big stretch with the wind at our backs. We had gone really, really fast. “Boy!” exclaimed my friend. “Wouldn’t you like to be able to go 25 mph all the time?”

Another friend of mine and I talk often of balance. Of how you can’t have one thing without giving up another. David Foster Wallace wrote a beautiful essay on Tracy Austin, about how she was so completely, totally focused on professional tennis that she had practically no personality.

Would I like to go 25 mph all the time? I don’t know. Would my friends still like riding with me? Would I notice the hawk in the fields, the combine spraying whatever that is in the bed of a big truck, the flock of turkeys in the woods? Would I notice (not see, notice) the change of seaon?

Whatever the speed, on a bike we are able to see things. We are able to feel things. We are able to have experiences with friends that are oh so temporal, but sometimes so incredibly memorable.

Big Finish

Here we are, right on the cusp of Spring (oddly, I write this in near white-out conditions). We’ve been working hard this winter, and we’re anxious for cycling season to get here so we can share it with you.

Got a thought? A comment? Wanna tell me about something? We’re doing what we think is the right thing. If we’re missing the boat in some fashion, we’d sure like to know about it and correct the situation. Email me if you wish.

Finally, and as alluded to above, we hope very much to earn the title of *your* bike shop.

Sincerely,

Tim

America’s Fourth Best Bike Shop Newsletter

Just like that, a month is gone!

Pedal’s managers and I meet once a week for breakfast and work talk. As I was driving to our meeting/feast last week, WIDR was on the radio, and the DJ was talking about the weather and said something like, “This winter that just won’t end!” Hmmm.

Around the Shop

Thanks to everyone that showed up to demo fat bikes at Boatyard during beer week. It turned out to be a great day for such an activity. We had lots of fun and raised a total of $304 for the Markin Glen trail project.

People with really good memories might recall that the December Bicyclical included a brief survey. I look at these survey results much like I remember looking at letters from companies to which I had applied for jobs in college: very spooked, with potential for both great and awful outcomes. I address some of the survey results here.

We’re taking our act on the road and will be present at the Greater Kalamazoo Women’s Lifestyle Expo on March 4th and 5th. If you have a chance, please stop by the Expo Center and say howdy.

We’re going to try something new (for Pedal, at any rate), and you’re invited: a one-day sale for our customers on March 12th that we’ll advertise only in the Bicyclical. Sure, you can bring a friend or tell your coworker or whatever, but it’s for you. We have some products that need good homes, and on the 12th we’ll see what we can do. So: customer sale on 3/12/16. Both stores. Hope to see you there.

Stuff To Do

These gravel races are popping up like crazy. The latest one to get my attention is the Waterloo Grit and Gravel event on March 19th. More dirt (har har) here.

And the very next day brings us the THIRD Melting Mann race down in good old Vandalia, MI. Yepper, on the 20th of March you can zoom around lots o’ lakes just south of here. It’s been a fun race in years past, and I think the later start date will bring only good things. Check it out! What’s that? You need some sort of inducement? In conjunction with our good buddies at Kona and Central District Cyclery in GR, a Kona Rove AL will be raffled off to some lucky racer.

And now we’re into April, and April 16th brings the Barry Roubaix, which is now so big and cool that the route is marked with special MDOT-approved signage. Sweet! Anyway, good times abound at the BR, regardless of the distance you pick or the pace you race. Just remember: fast dudes and dames like to pass on the left, so good practice is to stay on the right.

Just a few short days afterward is the Yankee Springs Time Trial. Pull out those knobbies and hit the trail!

If we look just a tad further into the future, May 1st is the Custer Stampede. All you folks that’ve spent the last few years missing the stampede because of Borgess Run obligations: you’re unshackled!  Come on out and enjoy a fun day in the woods.

And then it starts to happen in a fast and furious fashion: triathlon, bike tours, bike camp, bike week. Bikey bike bike bike. Fun.

Ramble

Last Saturday night I went to the Kalamazoo Bike Club’s Recovery Party. Fun time. Lovely people. KBC is a very good organization. People in that club do the hard work of talking to politicians and administrators in our community. They speak at community meetings. The work they do with Bike Camp, a very nice, organized introduction to road cycling, is without peer in the area. What I’m suggesting is that KBC has great community value beyond the organized rides on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Please consider joining. It’s good stuff. PLUS, membership is dirt cheap at $15/year.

Big Finish

Thank you! We are pleased and honored to serve you.

Sincerely,

Tim

Lately

1 x 11

SRAM’s 11-speed drivetrains continue to become significantly more affordable without losing much, if any, of their awesomeness. I’ve had an XX1 bike. Super great. I have an X1 bike. Love it. I’ve installed a GX drivetrain on my wife’s bike and recently purchased a bike of my own with that very same drivetrain. Two thumbs up. While retail price is around $1500 for an XX1 group and just over $550 for GX, the similarities are incredible. Provided you stick wth 1×11*, components from all SRAM 11-speed groups are interchangeable; you can mix and match cassettes, cranks, shifters and derailleurs to your heart’s content. Here’s a nice review from Pinkbike, selected because their conclusions mirror my own.

Fat Bikes

Boy have fat bikes come a long way in a short amount of time. Weight is coming down. Frame design is starting to look like standards may well exist. Competition and economies of scale are driving down price. I recently rode a Specialized FatBoy Comp all over Portage, and could not have been happier. It steers well. It goes great in the snow. It looks cool. It shifts very nicely. Brakes are strong. Nothing wrong here.  A couple of days later I rode a Trek Farley 7  at night in Al Sabo with some friends. Let me set it up: full moon, great snow, not miserably cold, not too fast, not too slow. I rode sweep, turned off my light and just followed everyone else. I experienced low-grade euphoria the entire ride, and continue to get happy just thinking about it.

The Skinny on Light Fat

Before tearing into this next bit, I’d like to state that light weight is not required to have fun. Light weight can (well, typically, DOES) increase the zestiness of a bike. However, it isn’t required. You don’t need hundreds of dollars of wheels to have fun on a fat bike. Seriously. However, if you’re into that sort of thing, this next part is for you.

One of the things about fat bikes is that a good chunk of weight lives in the wheels and tires, and getting that weight down pays back twice: once in that the bike as a whole is lighter and again because the rotational weight goes down, making the bike accelerate more quickly. The problem is that options were few and the good stuff consisted of very high-priced carbon rims that cost more than two kilobucks and… nut much else.

Enter the Mulefut  rim. It’s relatively light single-wall aluminum rim that makes tubeless easy and retails for a little north of $150. Assuming you can use your existing hubs (and why not?) you could get two rims, a bunch of spokes and the labor to put it all together for something close to $500, depending on the spokes, nipples, etc. Not cheap, but perhaps a nice upgrade.

Somewhere between the Mulefut and the carbon HED fat rim lies the BAD, the aluminum HED fat wheel. We got a couple pair at the downtown shop and installed a pair on a bike. We found ‘em to be quite a bit lighter than the stock wheels (with Mulefut rims, no less) and super duper easy to set up tubeless. $1200 for a complete wheel set is pretty darn good, relatively speaking.

Last bit on fat bike weight: tires. Skinnier fat tires (did not see that phrase occurring when I started this) are lighter than fatter fat tires. The Kenda Juggernaut is a really happening tire for the fat bike racer crowd.  Want to lose some weight without spending a bundle? Think about your tires.

Winter Riding

Winter riding makes a person think about their wardrobe A LOT. Lately I’m riding a bit more recreationally and a bit less fitness-y, and I’m changing my wardrobe to match. Where I once wore a base layer and a good jacket, I now subscribe to the full three-layer system: base, thermal and protection layers. I’ve found that swapping out the insulation layer works pretty well for different temperatures, and an excellent protection layer is a wonderful thing. For insulation layers I’ve used a long-sleeve jersey and various fleece jackets, while my family members use fleece and loftier jackets with either down or some synthetic equivalent. Protection layers have been ski jackets, running jackets and bike-specific items. I’ve also been messing around with chemical hand- and foot warmers. These aren’t quite magic, but they certainly help.

OK. That’s the brain dump. Worth almost what you paid for it.

 

* It is possible to run GX in 2×10 and 2×11 formats, but a different derailleur is required.

Survey Says!

At the end of Pedal’s December 2015 newsletter, I included a link to a brief survey. I know the results are skewed as we would first need your email address, then you would have to open it AND read to the bottom of the darn thing to find the link. I’d suggest that not many folks have that kind of persistence, especially if they don’t particularly care for the source of the email. In short, responses are almost assuredly more positive than the world at large might think.

The survey asked four things:

  • Did we make you happy?
  • What are we doing well?
  • Where do we come up short?
  • What other comments do you have?

I’d like to address our shortcomings in this post.

More than one person mentioned inventory problems, specifically clothing, more specifically women’s clothing, especially for larger folks. In short words, I know. Over the past few years we have totally yo-yo’d our clothing inventory. We had WAAAAY too much a couple of years ago, so I cut way back, particularly on ladies’ stuff, and now we find ourselves with too little. That said, I’ll commit to having better depth of clothing. It just might take a couple of months to make itself known.

Compared to huge retailers, we are small, particularly at the downtown location. Even though our South store has a lot of square footage, it’s a fraction of what you’d see in a big box store. The upshot is the we cannot realistically carry everything. Instead, we’ve taken an approach that I call “curated.” We’ll carry the stuff that make the most sense to us. It is not without peril, as the stuff that makes the most sense to us might not make the most sense to you. Still, in lieu of going broke trying to carry everything, this is our path.

And the last (boring) thing I’ll say about inventory is this: we’re investing heavily in software to help us better manage inventory.

One respondent suggested that we should be more in tune with commuters, and I agree. We’ve lost a bit of our mojo in this regard and are looking to get it back.

Another person suggested that we should have an online store for those times when you need to order something in the middle of the night. Right now, today, an online store just isn’t in the cards for Pedal. That said, I get it, and I’d like to help you get the stuff that you want when we’re not open. May I recommend an email? People you might want to contact are me (tim@pedalbicycle.com), Ryan at the downtown store (ryan@pedalbicycle.com), and J’son at the Romence store (jasonl@pedalbicycle.com). We’d love to help!

We were called to task by one person for not being as product-knowledgable as we should. That’s good feedback. 2015 was a year of great transition for us, and I hope that we’re now a bit more stable and educated about our products and trends within the marketplace.

Is that all? No, but those are the high points.

Many, many thanks to everyone who took the time to provide feedback. We want to be the shop you want, and your comments help enormously.

House Brand

A few of us who’d been with Pedal for a little while had an interesting chat at the downtown shop not long ago. We’d ridden on Vittoria tires and wore Bell helmets and had clothing from Sugoi and wore mostly Giro shoes. And the conversation turned to the fact that most of us were now wearing clothing and using equipment from Bontrager and Specialized. And to a person we all said, “I had no idea that this stuff was so good.”

Since we became a dealer of Trek and Specialized bicycles, we’ve also become a dealer in those companies’ parts, accessories and clothing. Some of my friends and customers recently asked me, “Is that stuff good? Can I trust that house brand stuff?”

In short words, yes, for two reasons.

One is that Trek and Specialized are proud companies. They don’t want their name on jankity stuff. They hire smart people and, lemme tell you, they hear about it from their constituent dealers if the stuff is not of high quality. And while it might take a product cycle or two (or maybe more) to really figure out, say, cross country mountain bike tires or bib shorts or any number of things, that learning curve has become flatter over time. These companies are now experts at saddles and chamois and most other things related to riding your bike.

Two is that we want you to be happy. This is the case with all things: we want to know about it if you don’t like something you purchased from Pedal. We want to make it right for you and, if it’s really a dud product and not a fluke, we don’t want to sell it to anyone else.

Here’s a quick rundown of some things I’ve purchased myself and some brief words about each:

  • Bontrager RXL bib shorts. This is exactly what you expect a $160 pair of bib shorts to be. The chamois is great. The material is top shelf. These things disappear from your mind once donned. High praise indeed.
  • Specialized Prevail helmet. Generally speaking, I’m not that fussy about saddles but am very picky about the fit of my helmets. Few things surprised me more than the perfect way Specialized helmets fit my noggin. The Prevail is a really light, pretty expensive road lid with which I could not be more happy. I’m serious: best fit ever.
  • Bontrager Cambion mountain shoes, in no small part because they’re blue. I like the fact that the lugs on the soles of this shoe are more grippy than many other shoes I’ve owned. I’m not convinced that the BOA system is the end-all and be-all of fastening systems, but it works just fine. The upper took a couple of rides to break in, but now they’re quite comfortable.
  • Bontrager Lithos Stormshell Jacket. I just purchased this, but my initial feelings are very good. I’d been thinking about a pure protection layer for some time, and thought this looked pretty fantastic — cycling-specific with mythical waterproof + breathable properties, provided in large part by 37.5 technology. Bontrager says this garment is semi-fitted, but it’s more fitted than semi. There are plenty of pockets and vents, sealed tight with waterproof zippers. My only complaint thus far is that the hood doesn’t detach. I rode in the snow wearing this jacket the other day and loved it. It was totally windproof and totally without that feeling of riding in a trash bag you can get from many other allegedly breathable garments. It looks like I’ll have plenty more opportunity to test the jacket in the near future. Stay tuned.

One year ago, I would not have thought it possible that I’d be wearing shoes, shorts, a helmet and a jacket from Trek and Specialized. That is to say that I knew they made the stuff, but thought that surely bike companies could not make products as good as Giro or Sugoi or whomever. Well, they can. And they do. And I’m a happier, more comfortable rider as a result

Demystifying Mountain Bikes

This whatever-it-is is about options. You, discerning mountain biker, have a lot of choices.

The genesis of this jumble is my wife, a reluctant mountain biker if ever there was one. I bought her a really cool race bike many years ago, but she never got into it, largely because she thought both the bike and the sport were trying to kill her. Ever so slowly, as I started to ride more and more bikes, it occurred to me that my wife’s bike was waaaaaay too racy for her: too quick in the steering department and perhaps too aggressive in the riding position. Several weeks ago I built her a fat bike, and it fundamentally changed her relationship with off-road cycling. Heck, we were recently riding on a dirt road somewhere, and I looked back to see her riding without hands. Such a feat seemed beyond reality.

Against my better judgement, let’s sort out some mountain bike terminology:

  • 29er = big wheel = the same diameter as a road bike but generally wider. Increased diameter makes it easier to roll over stuff. 29ers have a bigger contact patch for greater traction.
  • 27.5 = bigger than a traditional 26” bike but smaller than a 29. Purported to be “the one diameter” by some folks, 27.5 has pretty much forced 26” bikes (with two exceptions; hold on) out of the market.
  • Fat bikes incorporate a tire not less than 3.7” wide, or at least that’s the low limit for most races. Fat bikes are traditionally built on 26” rims, but 27.5” rims are happening. The vast majority of fat bikes are rigid at both ends, but suspension is an option.
  • Plus bikes are relatively new things with tires 3” wide. Popular rims for plus bikes are 27.5” and 29” in diameter.

 

And now for a quick decoder ring on mountain bike geometry lingo:

  • Cross Country or XC bikes are light and fast. Steering is generally pretty quick. Suspension can go from zero to not terribly much, like 100mm (4”) of travel. Cross country is what most folks call our trails around here — lots of curves, not too much extended climbing or descending.
  • Trail and/or All Mountain bikes are generally a little more relaxed in the steering department than an XC bike. They’ll have another inch or so of travel and will weigh a bit more, dollar for dollar. Most companies include Fat and Plus bikes in their Trail bike lineup.
  • Enduro is probably next, and the emphasis definitely turns toward downhill riding and jump-ability. Enduro bikes are relatively heavy for these parts and typically have a pretty large amount of travel.
  • Last there are Downhill or Gravity bikes. I’ve seen exactly one honest-to-goodness downhill bike in Kalamazoo, owned by a customer who wanted to ride steep stuff out west. It seems odd to a midwesterner that a bike can cost $5,000 and still weigh about 40 lbs., but such is the stuff of downhill.

 

Back to the point of all this: many are the options. The advances of modern bikes are pretty darn great. Dang near every change in tire dimension has given mountain bikes a little more traction and made ‘em a little less nervous. Click here to find all the uses. The big meats on fat bikes are amazing, and the plus bikes strike a nice compromise between traction and weight. Geometry differences between a full-on XC race bike and a trail bike can have a massive effect on rider confidence.

And that’s what it’s all about, right? Fun. Zooming around the woods with friends. If you’ve thought that mountain biking was just not for you, I’d encourage you to give it another try on one of these new-fangled things. You might find something you like.

Your Pedal Bicyclical

Hello, and happy November,

I don’t want to get anyone in trouble or incite unrest, but you really ought to talk to your employer about taking tomorrow afternoon off to ride at Custer. SWMMBA has done a marvelous job with the trails recently and the weather — holy smokes! I worked out a deal with my boss this afternoon and had a marvelous ride during which both body and mind were, well, straightened out. I recommend the experience highly.

There is a LOT going on around the shop.
We’re aware that sometimes you have to experience something in its true environment before you know if it’ll work for you, so we’re stocking up on demo mountain bikes. We have several from both Kona and Trek. Thinking about a new mountain bike? Come see us.

A few years ago, electric bikes were a total gong show: technology was all over the place, there was no commonality, legislation didn’t exist, and a lot of the stuff was just not that good. Pedal sat on the sidelines, unwilling to commit to a line of products in such incredible flux. This fall Trek came out with a line of electric assist bikes that look really appealing, and we’re going to get serious about this stuff. Maybe you’d like to get to work without sweating too much. Maybe you need a little boost on the hills. Whatever your need, we received several in Portage on Friday and will have ‘em assembled and ready to go shortly.

We’re very much trying to figure out how we can cut down on the repair backlog during the summer. Some of this means hiring more salespeople so we put less stress on the service department. Some of this means becoming more efficient. Some means asking our customers to schedule their service work during off-peak times. Like, for instance, now.

  • If your bike is less than a year old and you’d like us to make adjustments, we’d love to do it now.
  • If you’d like a major service for your bike, now is the time. Overhauls are half-priced ($90) in both shops from November 1st through January 31st. Be ready to hit the road when Spring rolls around!

Just last week we endured a software conversion that put both stores on the same inventory and sales software. We’re still reeling a bit, but the future looks quite bright. There will be, alas, some loss of historical data which we believe will be offset by greater intercommunication between the two stores.

Continuing the Breakaway tradition, our Romence location carries top-shelf fitness equipment. If you’d rather use a treadmill, an elliptical or a stationary bike in the comfort of your own home, we can help. We have great equipment, free delivery and a trained, qualified service staff.

Concerned about the Holiday Five? You know what I’m talking about: that extra snugness in the waistline from seconds on the stuffing. Please join us for the Gravel Gobbler on Saturday November 28th at 10:00am in the parking lot at Texas Corners Park. We’ll have a longer (30ish) and a shorter (considerably less than 30ish) route consisting of pavement and dirt roads. It’s a ride, not a race. Well, technically it’s a fundraiser for the Markin Glen mountain bike trail proejct. Look for the donation can! Afterward we plan to take advantage of the nearby brewery and eateries for socialization.

Schedule of Pedal Winter Events:
* Downtown Spinning – Signup is November 10th, beginning at 10:00. Space is limited to the first 45 people. It’ll be $150 bucks, which includes spinning plus one (1) overhaul.
* Saturday Yoga – Starting in December (December 5th, to be exact) we’ll have drop-in yoga at the Portage location with a bona-fide yoga instructor. Bring a yoga mat and your flexibility! Cost is $7/visit or you can get a five-visit punch card for $30. Proceeds go to charity. Which charity? Yoga attendees vote on it each month. Yoga starts promptly at 10:00am.
* Fat Wednesday – Jason Lechner (Pedal South Sales Manager and Fast Dude) is still ruminating about the ultimate configuration of this whole thing, but we’re gonna do *something* on Wednesday evenings in the winter. You’ll need a bike (probably a fat bike once the snow flies), a powerful headlight and some warm clothes. We’ll fire this up on December 2nd.

Giving Thanks
I love Thanksgiving, getting together with family and friends for a few hours and thinking about how good we have it. My family groans when I ask everyone around the table to name something for which they are thankful, but they generally play along.

2015 has been a wild ride for Pedal. We have a new location, new business partners, new customers, new software… a long list of new things. We could not have weathered this amount of change without a great staff. A wise man told me that what you need is something to do and good people with which to do it. I am lucky to work with good people and grateful for the opportunity.

Thank YOU, Pedal customer. You’re the reason we’re here. Please let me know if there’s something we can do, or perhaps do better.

Sincerely,
Tim

Marquette Trip, Day 3 – Still Here

Last night a special guest blew into town to join me for riding today. We ate, drank and were merry longer into the evening than is my way. That, combined with yesterday’s exertions, led to some rubbery legs. Big deal.

We started the day riding the North Trails. They aren’t as “Wow! Holy heck!” as yesterday’s South Trails, but they are cool and different. We began along the Dead River. No marketing guy named that body of water, but it is very lovely.

special_guest

We rode various chunks of single-track until we came to a dam way up somewhere.

Dam

I failed to take a picture of perhaps the most interesting thing about this dam: a wooden pipe running from the dam to I don’t know where. It was an amazing thing with very interesting leaks. Regardless, mountain biking became a bit more intense once we departed the dam. We found ourselves on unimproved trail that led to more than a small bit of hike-a-bike.

rockyrepose

Very rocky, tough terrain.

Ultimately we got back down to the river and biked/climbed up a huge rock outcrop.

cbThis is Casey with the Dead River in the background. Climbing up a little higher (so fun in carbon-soled bike shoes!), yielded a shot with Lake Superior in the background.

vista

Today was another incredible day, a bit cooler than yesterday and just about perfect. We’d been biking for a few hours at this point, and headed for lunch. I drank this (and liked it) while I scarfed down some food in preparation for more fun on the South Trails.

snack

While we were eating, the wind kicked up and clouds started rolling in. The contrast became wonderful.

clouds

big_lake

And the trails? Fantastic. I rode for another two hours and saw only three other riders. It was a perfect confluence of weather and location.

trail

And to really just cap off the day, I stopped at a local bookstore while riding from the trail to my lodgings. I was recommended a book (which I purchased) and two or three places to consider for dinner this evening.

What’s next? I’ll leave early in the morning. If it isn’t raining, maybe I’ll take a shot at the Glacial Hills Trails in Bellaire. If it is raining, I’ll be happy to be home a bit earlier to see my wife and kiddo.

What a great trip this has been. Toward the end of the day I kept having thoughts like, “I need to get my family up here. I need to get my friends up here. I should rent a bus and bring customers up here.” And those things may happen in the future. Right now I’m tired, a little hungry and incredibly happy.

Marquette Trip, Day 2 – Being Here

I’m a guy who usually gets up with or before the sun, which had a great coming out party this morning. I walked around looking for a cup of coffee to get me going and saw this thing:

thing1

And I walked around a bit more and saw it again.

thing2After a wonderful breakfast and a caffeinated beverage, I got back to my home away from home and did some serious research, indicative of the five years I spent in higher learning institutions.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 9.34.40 AM

An ore dock. Incredible. Makes me think that everything I know will be obsolete soon.

So let’s go mountain biking!

so_helpful

Have you ever seen more helpful signage in your life?

blurrrrrA blurry picture of a bicycle. Proof that:

  1. this picture was legitimately taken by me
  2. technology cannot cure everything

One is also supposed to notice that the foliage is a very lovely color.

Here’s a feature that did not feature in today’s riding. I looked at it and thought, “I guess I am curious to see what 51 looks like.” Deep in my stupid heart, I think I can do it. I also think my wife would be very very very upset with me and understandably suspicious of my judgement in general if it didn’t work out.

feature

 

thumb

That’s my thumb on the lower right. Most people don’t get caught doing that any more, but I do. Lovely colors. Significant elevation. I’d been riding for about three hours when I took this, and was exceedingly grateful for a break in the action.

Did I mention the heat? Cuz it was a bit on the toasty side. 86F. October 11th. In Marquette, Michigan. Crazy days, indeed.

heatTomorrow a friend joins the party.

 

Marquette Trip, Day 1 – Getting There

After a hard summer of not really riding enough, I set out for Marquette, Michigan in hopes of a couple of days of mountain bike riding. I loaded my junk in the car and went to work.

Trip_Start

 

Nothing was going on at work, which — c’mon, beautiful sunny Saturday? So I got restless and couldn’t take the idea of driving half the night and hit the road. The view of the road looked a lot like this:

View_For_Miles

That beautiful, flat, low-sun Michigan fall. The above does zero justice to the fantastic colors in the trees. I’ll work on this in future pictures. Not that you should get your hopes up, because I pretty much stink at photography.

As part of the trip I went over the Mackinac bridge for the second time in my life. Here it is represented as a thin line in a world of blue. This does not seem inaccurate.

Bridge

And then I was in Canada!

Not_Canada

Just kidding. Still in Michigan.

It was hella windy. Am I too old to say hella windy? Do the kids still talk like that? Am I behind? Have I failed my daughter and every other cool young person who tried to coach me? Whatever, the wind was blowing like crazy, and Lake Michigan looked like a very inhospitable place.

Lake_Michigan

And then I drove for a billion more miles and BANG, there was Lake Superior.

Lake_Superior

Look how much less pissed-off Lake Superior looks compared to (hostile) Lake Michigan. What does it mean?

Then I got to Marquette and got my junk unloaded. I walked all over town looking for just the right bar/restaurant/thing. While walking, the sun set.

Sunset

I walked on and eventually ended up in a place about one block from my bed. They had Two Hearted on tap and a fantastic pizza with really good service.

Finally

And now I’m ready for the sand man. “They” say the phone service is crappy and the trails aren’t all that well marked and I’ll probably get lost. Sounds like the beginnings of an adventure.

Staff Favorites

With no real idea what I’d do with the data, I recently asked everyone at Pedal to share their favorite thing in the shop. Now that I have it, why not share?

Amber likes Michigan and bicycles, and her favorite thing is the Michigan Rides T Shirt.

Bailey Mosher, a high school swimming who’s always hungry, likes the Honey Stinger waffles.

Charlie Eaton likes his new shoes.

Dave Hauschild like the Specialized Diverge and thinks he might like the Trek 720 if one were to arrive in the shop.

David Bernard likes the new flannel shirts, as does Matt Jensen.

Emily Renton is wild about her bike shorts and the Pedal baseball caps.

Gabe Lagina is a sucker for wool socks.

Gevin Molloy likes the Flare R and Ion 700 lights.

Young Jack Sosville has exquisite taste and is intrigued by the Stache.

Jason (J’son) Lechner likes fat and plus bikes. He rides little lightweight stuff, but he likes the big iron.

Jason Rutgers likes the fact that the WeeHoo iGo allows his family to bike together.

Jess likes her coworkers, which is very nice. For the record, Jess’s coworkers are not for sale. Not officially.

Jim Kindle, who owns a titanium Kona Rove, thinks the Rove AL is a beautiful, relatively inexpensive bike.

Jonah Koski, a young man of simple yet sublime taste, likes the coffee maker and Olive the dog.

In addition to the flannel shirts, Matt Jensen likes the Kona Rove in steel.

Richard Neumann is very fond of lights this time of year, both the blinky things on the back and the bright things on the front of your bike. He’s fond of riding trails backward at night and getting home safely.

Rick Stubbs likes to point out area trails and sights on the big map on the wall.

Ryan is FIRED UP about the new jackets.

Since the Trifecta Tour I’d been thinking that all of my sunglasses were too dark for the woods, so I splurged and got a pair of Oakleys with Prism Trail lenses. They’re fantastic, incredible definition without the kertwang of a lens that lets in too much light. I’m very impressed. I would also recommend that everyone try a Stache. Mine makes my face hurt from smiling.

Shake Hands with October

Hello!

Indian Summer, I love you. It has been just a wonderful late summer/early autumn around here. The weather is terrific. The roads are less traveled. The kids are alright. Tough to beat.

Goodness! We had a spectacular time at the Ramona Park cyclocross race last Sunday. Wonderful weather. Lots of racers. Tons of enthusiastic spectators. Great fun. Our friend Mike took some really nice pictures you can see here. Thanks to RunUp for their help with the course and to the city of Portage for allowing us to use its park.

We have one more local race at Kindleberger Park on October 18th. I’m not sure I’ve been to a better CX venue than Kindleberger, and I hope to see you there. You can find more local-ish cyclocross here and here.

Don’t forget the Founder’s Fall Fondo on October 10th. Fun for everyone!

Alas, the days have become too short for us to safely host the Thursday night shop ride. Likewise, it’s getting dark in the woods quickly, so Monday Night Mountain Bike also draws to a seasonal end. It was a wonderful summer of riding with you folks, and I very much look forward to another great summer in 2016.

While there is a melancholy feeling surrounding these shorter days, we have a LOT going on during the cooler months:

  • We’ll have spinning downtown two nights a week. $150 gets you three months of spinning AND an overhaul of your bike. Signup for this will start on November 10th and will be first come, first served. Space is limited to the first 45 folks, and we’ll start the first Monday in December.
  • We’ll have Wednesday fat bike rides from Portage starting in December.
  • We’ll have Saturday morning Yoga at the Portage shop starting in December. We’ll have a bona fide yoga instructor, and cost will be around $7/visit. More details next month.
  • We’ll have half-price overhauls in both shops from November through January. How much is half price? It’s $90 for an incredibly thorough cleaning, lubrication and adjustment of your machine.
  • More? Yeah, there might be more.

We’ve begun a moderately substantial remodel of our Portage store. As signs in hotels and airports across this great country read, please excuse our mess. I think it’ll be great when we’re done, but it’ll take a few minutes/hours/days/weeks to get there. Thanks for your understanding.

These ever-shrinking days make for ever-lengthening dawns and evenings. If you’re a commuter or early morning rider, we’ve got the lights you need. Look into your immediate future with a brighter bulb.

Cooler-weather clothing is arriving in the shop every day. Some smarty-pants somewhere allegedly said that there is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices. I suppose that’s close enough. There is bad weather, but it can be overcome with proper clothing. I once wrote a really long and boring article on the subject.

A little nip in the air and a few falling leaves, it’s easy to be bummed that summer left town so quickly. But there’s still plenty of accessible fun. It’s a great experience to rip through the colorful forest on a clear fall day. It’s very satisfying to see your breath when you stop at an intersection while riding with your friends. Great things abound, and I hope you find them.

Hey! I appreciate you and thank you for your patronage. Please let me know how we can help.

Sincerely,
Tim

In the Wild

Jake in repose
Jake in repose

 

Hidden in the concord grape arbors on the outskirts of town we spotted a member of the species Jakus Superificus, more commonly known by its genus: Carbon Jake. A beautiful animal, Carbon Jake is lithe and powerful, ready to mow down miles on the road, take on the grit of a gravel ride or serve up punishment on a cyclocross course.

What will this Carbon Jake do when it springs from the arbor on a beautiful late summer day? No one can say for sure. The only certainty is that we love Carbon Jake. It’s the animal we want to be.

Ladies Specific

Women are some of our favorite customers. We think everybody should ride a bike — or at least have the opportunity to ride a bike — regardless of they way they’re plumbed or whatnot. Many (all?) forward-thinking bike companies have embraced female riders to one extent or another. Speaking as a person who spends a lot of time making sure people are on bikes that fit, I think some femme bikes hit the spot very nicely, while others just muddy the water.

Warning: my number one proofreader says that this article is dry as toast and that it would be OK to skip to the bottom.

Generally speaking, fit becomes more critical as a person occupies a single position on a bike for longer periods of time. For instance, triathletes and time trialists get into an aero position and don’t move around much. Mountain bikers, on the other hand, are often bucked out of the saddle or are otherwise moving about to put English into the bike. Triathlon bikes are extremely fit intensive, while mountain and cross are perhaps less so. This is not to say that you can’t get it completely wrong, only that fit tends to be a little bit less fussy. The things that matter a lot in bike fit are the frame and those parts that we refer to as the “touch points,” primarily the saddle and bars.

Touch points are easy for us. We stock terrific ladies saddles. We stock lots of handlebars. These are easy changes provided the geometry of the frame works… and we’re pretty good at figuring out the proper frame size.

Lately we’ve had discussion about ladies’ bikes, specifically ladies cross bikes. More specifically a lady said that she might be more inclined to purchase a ladies-specific cross bike, which is something that Pedal does not carry. So I did what nerds do; I started looking at geometery charts and putting data in a spreadsheet and the next thing you know, I had a scatter plot.

This chart may require a little bit of unpacking for those not used to modern bike geometry terminology. I use two dimensions to clarify the fit — not the handling characteristics, just the fit — of a bike, stack and reach. Stack and Reach are the Y and X coordinates of the top of the head tube with respect to the bottom bracket. Here’s a terrible picture that might illustrate these numbers.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 8.53.17 PM

The two crossing yellow lines represent the center of the bottom bracket of this bike. The intersection of the two magenta (?) lines represents the center of the top of the head tube. So: the distance between the horizontal yellow line and the horizontal magenta line is this bike’s Stack. The distance between the vertical yellow line and the vertical magenta line is this bike’s Reach. For the sake of completeness, this bike has a Reach of 421mm and a Stack of 630mm.

While I was doing an interview for one of the top biker dating sites around on ladies cross bikes, the cross bikes I examined included some that we sell and one in particular that we don’t. Since we’re talking ladies cross bikes, I looked at the smaller end of the scale. Frankly, this has been the historical challenge — getting a woman under about 5’5” on a cross bike in an appropriate, comfortable position.

Here’s the data. Each bike occupies two columns of data. Reach data is under the bike’s name and stack data is labeled to the immediate right. Rows represent different sizes. A sense of perspective is also important. Note that the difference in reach between the shortest bike (the smallest Dolce) and the longest (the largest Brava) is 23mm, just under an inch.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 8.50.58 PM

What are these bikes? The Dolce is the Dolce Evo, the ladies version of the Specialized Diverge, which is more of a gravel bike or a bigger-tired road bike than a cross bike, but it is appropriate for many of our customers. The Jake is Kona’s cross bike, with which we have had great success fitting petite women. The Liv Brava is a ladies-specific cross bike, and is basically the bike that spawned this research. The Crux is Specialized’s cross bike.

Here’s the graph:

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 8.51.13 PM

OK. Beautiful chart! What does it mean? The small Crux is very appropriate for small ladies. The reach is quite short (shorter still than the ladies-specific Liv Brava) and the stack is just fine. Our traditional go-to bike for petite ladies, the Jake, also has a very short reach, but is a bit taller than the smallest Brava. The Dolce Evo, while not technically a cross bike, has a very short reach coupled with a very low stack height. This bike might be perfect for a petite lady looking for a more aggressive position.

Stack and reach data suggests that the ladies-specific frame is very similar to the “unisex” frames from Kona and Specialized. Add a ladies-specific saddle (and BOY are companies spending a lot of money trying go get that right) and perhaps a narrower bar to a Jake or Crux, and I’d contend that the result would be every bit as compelling as the ladies-specific cross bike.

Some folks would like to say, “It’s ladies-specific, so it’s better!” Others might like to say that it doesn’t matter. Both are at least partially correct, at least as far as this selection of cross bikes goes. The ladies-specific cross bike is nice, but there’s nothing intrinsic to the fit that cannot be accomplished with other unisex frames. That said, touch points are important, and the addition of a ladies saddle and an appropriate-width bar can make the difference between pleasure and pain.

Monday at the Township Hall

Monday evening I attended a joint meeting of the Texas Township Trustees and the Kalamazoo County Road Commission.

The citizens of Texas Township have concerns that traffic speeds on Q Avenue (Centre Street) are too high, and asked the Kalamazoo County Road Commission (hereafter referred to KCRC, the legal entity responsible for the road) to check it out and do something about it.

KCRC commissioned a speed study from the state, performed by the Michigan State Police. A speed study works like this: laser speed detection is set up on the piece of road to be tested, not too close to intersections and not during rush hour, when traffic would be irregularly high. The speed of every car is noted for some period of time, until a reasonable sample size is achieved, maybe fifteen to thirty minutes. Once the data is collected, it is analyzed and the 85th percentile speed of all traffic is determined. The State Police informed us that this 85th percentile speed is the safest number to put on the sign. It keeps speed variance low and takes a lot of hostility out of driving.

For me, the big takeaway from the meeting was this: the safest speed on a road is the 85th percentile speed of all traffic. We were informed that the number on the speed limit sign has nothing to do with the speeds actually driven and that prevailing conditions — roundabouts, road width, number of houses and intersections, etc. — determine traffic speed. Speed limits are set at prevailing traffic speeds in an effort to keep everyone moving the same speed and keep things safe.

This news, that the speed limits along Q Avenue was essentially correct, caused consternation from many attendees. Many in the audience simply could not believe that the number on the sign did not influence the speed of traffic. Many felt that the state and the KCRC and maybe even the township didn’t care, and I have to say that I can see their point, but maybe not in the exact same way. Here’s the way I see it:
– Citizens were (and are) concerned about high speed and asked the Township to do something about it.
– The Township asked KCRC to do something about speeds on Q Avenue

At this point, in my very humble and largely uninformed opinion, KCRC should have known enough to tell the township, “We can do a speed study, but the odds are that traffic speeds will not change. If you want to slow things down, we need to talk about infrastructure changes. Infrastructure is very expensive and it sure as heck doesn’t happen overnight.” In short, slowing down traffic is a long, expensive process.

Instead, it appears that KCRC commissioned a speed study from the State, and the State looked like the bad guy in the meeting because the officers talked about statistics and human behavior. Township residents wanted to hear about their safety and security.

But maybe it all worked out in the end. I felt like a lot of attendees came away with the same conclusion as me, that infrastructure changes were required and that it was a long, slow road. If I’m right and everybody got the basic gist, it wasn’t a particularly attractive process, but perhaps it worked.

A friend and I talked after the meeting and decided that maybe communities and high traffic flow aren’t good bedfellows. Or maybe they aren’t easy bedfellows.

New Bike! New Bike!

A thing, but not the most important thing, that I like about my new bike is that the colors and graphics remind me of the 80s, when I was young and had flowing locks of hair. I know. Hard to believe.

bike

When I was a young corporate stooge (not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, there is a lot good with that.) I took a class called “Consulting Skills,” the main thrust of which concerned hidden agendas, the situation in which normal people say they want one (typically business-oriented) thing but have other goals, typically of a more personal nature. The idea was that if you could spot your client’s hidden agenda, it might make negotiations quite a bit easier. Or at least make your client seem less crazy.

I went on my dealer trips with a small hidden agenda: find out what dual-suspension mountain bike I would purchase. When all the dust and jet lag cleared, I bought a Trek Stache because I had more fun on it than any other bike I rode. Faster? I dunno. Funner? Yes. We’ll talk about what that means.

My bike arrived on Wednesday, and I had it built in time to ride it all over my yard and make my dog crazy. Here, where I live, the bike seemed like it might be as much fun as I remembered, but it’s hard to be sure when you’re just riding it around the yard, aggravating the dog.

Last Sunday I went to Custer and tried it out. Fun. Fun on a sesame seed bun. This is what I liked:

  • Traction like crazy. Unreal traction. Traction going uphill over roots and rocks. Traction when you need to Stop Right Now. Traction in the corners to the extent that I need to rethink how I use the brakes.
  • Speaking of brakes, XT brakes and rotors. Dang.
  • Frisky. I jumped things I cannot normally jump. I laughed and laughed and one time scared myself pretty thoroughly. Then I laughed again.
  • The sand factor. This is different from traction. This is floating over the sand. This is actually being able to steer in deep sand. The good news is that it’s very confidence inspiring. The bad news is that it does not help me prepare to ride a cyclocross bike through sand.
  • Neat fork. I set the fork up based on the supplied information (which, hey!, how often does a fork company actually include some thoughts about how to set the dang thing up? Not often enough, in this man’s opinion.). I didn’t quite use all the travel, so I probably need to make some small changes, but it has a very nice balance of plushness when you smack something, without too much squish when going uphill. I cannot understand why Manitou went against the red=rebound/blue=compression standard for their knobs. Maybe I’ll make some calls and find out and maybe someone will be interested.
  • Tubeless. The shop experienced great success with Sun Ringle’s Mule Fut fat bike rim, and these are the same but narrower. They seem pretty light, and the stock Chupacabra tires were easy to set up.

 

The dropper post is cool, but for me, around here, it’s a pretty meh feature. I totally impressed my wife, child and dog by demonstrating it in the garage. At Custer, well, I never used it. It’s plenty easy to get your butt behind the saddle if needed, and I just don’t think we have crazy downhills that merit a dropper post. I’ll probably swap it out.

At an advertised price of $3700, this is not an inexpensive hard tail. Oh it has nice things: a v. nice 1×11 drivetrain, the aforementioned XT brakes, DT Swiss 350 hubs, dropper post and more, but that’s still a lot of money. The Stache 7 looses the dropper post and goes down a click on drivetrain, brakes and fork, but knocks $1200 off the price tag in the process. That might be a better answer for some folks. Or if you prefer your bike without suspension (something not unpleasant with these big tires), the rigid Stache 5 looks like a really good deal.

I confess that I experienced a small bout of buyer’s remorse immediately after I signed on the dotted line. What if I was just having my best day ever at the demo and this bike isn’t all that? What if I don’t find this appreciably different from my 29er? What if I burned up my dual-suspension bike fund on a lark? Those thoughts are now distant in the rear-view mirror. This bike is fun. Fun, fun, fun.

lotsofadjustments
Many Adjustments
goesto11
A Cog for Every Season
boost
Nice hubs. Boost makes 29ers as laterally stiff as a 27.5. Nice.
friend
Take a friend mountain biking.

Demos Across the Nation

We’ve been all over the place recently, meeting with vendors and riding bikes. I love writing about this sort of thing and thought I’d share my experiences of the bikes I rode.

Specialized Tarmac Disk: This was a super nice road race bike with all the fixins: Ultegra drivetrain, Ultegra hydraulic brakes, carbon clinchers. Very nice . The really great road bike feeling you love combined with the oh so strong and predictable strength of Shimano’s great road hydraulic brakes. This bike is physical proof that I way underestimated the speed with which we’d be presented very nice road bikes. And it’s just a great bike. Super ride. Great handling. The whole package.

Specialized Venge ViAS: One of the two new aero road wonderbikes of late. This thing is really cool. I didn’t have a speedometer when I rode the bike, nor did I ride with other people who might say things like, “Dude! You’re so fast!” so I cannot say that it transformed me from dud to stud. It was neat to ride a bike and see zero cables. The brakes were more than acceptable. Di2 is always fun. I confess that I am not super-obsessed with going as fast as possible, but I can say that I felt like nothing was compromised with this bike. It was no less comfortable than the Tarmac, and I think that’s quite a statement to make about a very aerodynamic bike.

Specialized Diverge: I loved this bike. Fatter tires and a compliant frame make for a really great ride. The bike I rode had hydraulic Red shifters, and though I love SRAM drivetrains, I’m not a monstrous fan of the hydro road shifters. I think they look strange, and I don’t care for the ergonomics. So there. Everything else was super great. It was a 1 x 11 drivetrain, and going up super-steep hills (of which there are a few in that part of the world) required a non-zero amount of fortitude. I rode it up hills. I rode it down hills. I rode it on pavement. I rode it on dirt roads. I smiled a lot. This is a very good bike, one that I think might be perfect for our (cough) imperfect (cough) Michigan roads.

I rode three mountain bikes while I was in California. The ride went like this: You ride straight up for a while on a switchback trail. Then you ride down a switchback trail strewn with good-sized (like a volleyball, maybe?) rocks. The hairpin turns on the switchbacks were a tad dusty/sandy, and the drop off was significant for a flatlander like me. I was out of my element. My guides did a good job of instruction, but my personal pucker-factor was high. This is no doubt worth knowing as I describe my experiences.

Specialized Camber 29er. Nice bike. This is pretty much the bike I rode in North Carolina last fall, and I liked it quite a lot. “Do not slow down,” was suggested. “Stay on top of the rocks. If you slow down and get in amongst them, it’ll be bad.” The Camber is plenty predictable and an all-around cool bike. It’s less intense/quick than an Epic, but with 20% more travel (120mm) at each end. Very nice. I was probably too freaked to do it justice, and by “probably” I mean “certainly.”

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 650B. Holy smokes. Fat tires. Lots of travel. What a crazy bike. This is exactly what I needed to chase some of the fears away. I had a great time on this bike and kinda wish we had need for something like it around these parts. Make no mistake: I was still not fast. But I wasn’t thinking about purchasing additional life insurance, either.

Specialized Fuze 6Fattie. Despite the rather curious name, this thing was great. I confess that I didn’t ride it down some of the sketchier hills, but I had a super-fun time. It got me thinking again that this whole plus-sized thing might be something cool.

I rode three mountain bikes on Trek’s trails in Wisconsin. Trek’s trails are something else, something that you might expect to ride in heaven. Kinda flow-y like Merrell. Kinda intense like the dump. Kinda curvy like Custer. These trails were a lot more like like we have around here, and my comfort level was significantly higher than it was in California.

Trek Top Fuel. Trek’s new dual-suspension race bike was a very hot ticket during the demo period. This was the first bike I rode, and I was impressed by two things. It felt very comfortable and exceedingly fast — as though it had the efficiency and weight of a hard-tail. The Top Fuel also has very quick steering. I honestly did not know that a dual-suspension bike could feel like this. I also honestly know that this is too much bike for me. If my mind wandered during a ride (which has happened more than once), this thing would throw me on the ground and take my lunch money. Very fun, but realistically too hard-edged for a wannabe like me.

Trek Fuel EX 29. More travel than the TopFuel with a little slacker head tube and burlier tires and wheels. Fun. It didn’t feel as roaringly fast and quick as the Top Fuel, but it also felt like it my buddy and not some wild animal I was trying to tame, not unlike the comparison between Specialized’s Epic and Camber. I had a great time on this bike and was singing wonderful songs to myself the whole time I rode it.

Trek Stache. I’d intended to ride the new Madone and contrast it with the Venge, but lots of people were practically chanting, “Stache. Stache. Stache.” So I had to try it out. What a crazy bike. 29×3” tires with a 110mm fork. The way it worked at the Trek demo was this: you’d grab the bike you wanted. A Trek guy would install your pedals and get the seat height figured out, then you’d cruise down to the tent of the appropriate suspension company and get everything dialed. So I’m getting the Manitou fork adjusted and the tech dude (from Michigan!) said, “This is actually a pretty rowdy bike, very playful.” Rowdy? Hmmm. Turns out that I like rowdy. This thing was an absolute hoot. I am a man who prefers to be planted on terra firma. I’m talking both wheels on the ground. And yet I was trying to jump this thing. And then I was trying and succeeding. And then I’m riding the Stache on some of the features that I’d opted against on the other two bikes. I got back to the Trek tent and asked, “What is this thing? I was absolutely riding stuff that I cannot ride.” The Trek guy said, “Yeah. The Stache absolutely levels you up one.” I’m going to be honest: I kinda went to these demos to figure out what dual-suspension mountain bike to purchase for myself. And now I’m thinking a whole lot about the Stache.

And that’s what I know. I wanted to get these thoughts down before they fade, and I’ll see if I can collect a bit of commentary from my cohorts at the Trek demo and from Ryan, who went to Bellingham to ride Konas.

Demos Across the Nation

We’ve been all over the place recently, meeting with vendors and riding bikes. I love writing about this sort of thing and thought I’d share my experiences of the bikes I rode.

Specialized Tarmac Disk: This was a super nice road race bike with all the fixins: Ultegra drivetrain, Ultegra hydraulic brakes, carbon clinchers. Very nice . The really great road bike feeling you love combined with the oh so strong and predictable strength of Shimano’s great road hydraulic brakes. This bike is physical proof that I way underestimated the speed with which we’d be presented very nice road bikes. And it’s just a great bike. Super ride. Great handling. The whole package.

Specialized Venge ViAS: One of the two new aero road wonderbikes of late. This thing is really cool. I didn’t have a speedometer when I rode the bike, nor did I ride with other people who might say things like, “Dude! You’re so fast!” so I cannot say that it transformed me from dud to stud. It was neat to ride a bike and see zero cables. The brakes were more than acceptable. Di2 is always fun. I confess that I am not super-obsessed with going as fast as possible, but I can say that I felt like nothing was compromised with this bike. It was no less comfortable than the Tarmac, and I think that’s quite a statement to make about a very aerodynamic bike.

Specialized Diverge: I loved this bike. Fatter tires and a compliant frame make for a really great ride. The bike I rode had hydraulic Red shifters, and though I love SRAM drivetrains, I’m not a monstrous fan of the hydro road shifters. I think they look strange, and I don’t care for the ergonomics. So there. Everything else was super great. It was a 1 x 11 drivetrain, and going up super-steep hills (of which there are a few in that part of the world) required a non-zero amount of fortitude. I rode it up hills. I rode it down hills. I rode it on pavement. I rode it on dirt roads. I smiled a lot. This is a very good bike, one that I think might be perfect for our (cough) imperfect (cough) Michigan roads.

I rode three mountain bikes while I was in California. The ride went like this: You ride straight up for a while on a switchback trail. Then you ride down a switchback trail strewn with good-sized (like a volleyball, maybe?) rocks. The hairpin turns on the switchbacks were a tad dusty/sandy, and the drop off was significant for a flatlander like me. I was out of my element. My guides did a good job of instruction, but my personal pucker-factor was high. This is no doubt worth knowing as I describe my experiences.

Specialized Camber 29er. Nice bike. This is pretty much the bike I rode in North Carolina last fall, and I liked it quite a lot. “Do not slow down,” was suggested. “Stay on top of the rocks. If you slow down and get in amongst them, it’ll be bad.” The Camber is plenty predictable and an all-around cool bike. It’s less intense/quick than an Epic, but with 20% more travel (120mm) at each end. Very nice. I was probably too freaked to do it justice, and by “probably” I mean “certainly.”

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 650B. Holy smokes. Fat tires. Lots of travel. What a crazy bike. This is exactly what I needed to chase some of the fears away. I had a great time on this bike and kinda wish we had need for something like it around these parts. Make no mistake: I was still not fast. But I wasn’t thinking about purchasing additional life insurance, either.

Specialized Fuze 6Fattie. Despite the rather curious name, this thing was great. I confess that I didn’t ride it down some of the sketchier hills, but I had a super-fun time. It got me thinking again that this whole plus-sized thing might be something cool.

I rode three mountain bikes on Trek’s trails in Wisconsin. Trek’s trails are something else, something that you might expect to ride in heaven. Kinda flow-y like Merrell. Kinda intense like the dump. Kinda curvy like Custer. These trails were a lot more like like we have around here, and my comfort level was significantly higher than it was in California.

Trek Top Fuel. Trek’s new dual-suspension race bike was a very hot ticket during the demo period. This was the first bike I rode, and I was impressed by two things. It felt very comfortable and exceedingly fast — as though it had the efficiency and weight of a hard-tail. The Top Fuel also has very quick steering. I honestly did not know that a dual-suspension bike could feel like this. I also honestly know that this is too much bike for me. If my mind wandered during a ride (which has happened more than once), this thing would throw me on the ground and take my lunch money. Very fun, but realistically too hard-edged for a wannabe like me.

Trek Fuel EX 29. More travel than the TopFuel with a little slacker head tube and burlier tires and wheels. Fun. It didn’t feel as roaringly fast and quick as the Top Fuel, but it also felt like it my buddy and not some wild animal I was trying to tame, not unlike the comparison between Specialized’s Epic and Camber. I had a great time on this bike and was singing wonderful songs to myself the whole time I rode it.

Trek Stache. I’d intended to ride the new Madone and contrast it with the Venge, but lots of people were practically chanting, “Stache. Stache. Stache.” So I had to try it out. What a crazy bike. 29×3” tires with a 110mm fork. The way it worked at the Trek demo was this: you’d grab the bike you wanted. A Trek guy would install your pedals and get the seat height figured out, then you’d cruise down to the tent of the appropriate suspension company and get everything dialed. So I’m getting the Manitou fork adjusted and the tech dude (from Michigan!) said, “This is actually a pretty rowdy bike, very playful.” Rowdy? Hmmm. Turns out that I like rowdy. This thing was an absolute hoot. I am a man who prefers to be planted on terra firma. I’m talking both wheels on the ground. And yet I was trying to jump this thing. And then I was trying and succeeding. And then I’m riding the Stache on some of the features that I’d opted against on the other two bikes. I got back to the Trek tent and asked, “What is this thing? I was absolutely riding stuff that I cannot ride.” The Trek guy said, “Yeah. The Stache absolutely levels you up one.” I’m going to be honest: I kinda went to these demos to figure out what dual-suspension mountain bike to purchase for myself. And now I’m thinking a whole lot about the Stache.

And that’s what I know. I wanted to get these thoughts down before they fade, and I’ll see if I can collect a bit of commentary from my cohorts at the Trek demo and from Ryan, who went to Bellingham to ride Konas.

Big Red S

What should I be doing? Either writing the Bicyclical or packing to go home. What am I doing? Sitting in a sushi restaurant trying to remember the salient points of my visit to Specialized.

I rode a few bikes: a Tarmac disk (yum), the new Venge ViAS (so fast), a very nice Diverge, a 29” Camber, a 6Fattie Stumpjumper and a Fuse. I think the Diverge is and will continue to be a marvelous bike for Michigan. I also think the 6Fat (which is terminology for a 3” wide 650b/27.5” tire) is a glimpse into the future — rollover is almost identical to a 29er, but with increased grip and passive suspension from the wider tires.

Specialized does a lot of things. I toured the very impressive water bottle printing facility. I toured their very impressive and full nerd wind tunnel. I managed a brief tour of their clothing lab, in which they can pattern, sew, test and repair prototype clothing. Interesting fact: mens and ladies clothing is prototyped to a medium (a perfect medium, said the head of the department). When that medium pattern is finalized, it is then scaled up and down from XS to XXL.

The last item on my trip was a tour of Specialized’s test lab in which they test the heck out of many things, though the primary fixtures are set up to bike frames and wheels for impact and cyclic fatigue. An insidious problem in the industry these days is counterfeit frames — frames that look, perhaps exactly, like the real deal, but aren’t. Our host showed us a counterfeit S-Works Tarmac frame, which looked and felt like one might expect. Then he handed us a real frame, which weighed easily half to a third as much as the phony. Crazy.

Good trip. Impressive company. Super fun products.

Big Red S

What should I be doing? Either writing the Bicyclical or packing to go home. What am I doing? Sitting in a sushi restaurant trying to remember the salient points of my visit to Specialized.

I rode a few bikes: a Tarmac disk (yum), the new Venge ViAS (so fast), a very nice Diverge, a 29” Camber, a 6Fattie Stumpjumper and a Fuse. I think the Diverge is and will continue to be a marvelous bike for Michigan. I also think the 6Fat (which is terminology for a 3” wide 650b/27.5” tire) is a glimpse into the future — rollover is almost identical to a 29er, but with increased grip and passive suspension from the wider tires.

Specialized does a lot of things. I toured the very impressive water bottle printing facility. I toured their very impressive and full nerd wind tunnel. I managed a brief tour of their clothing lab, in which they can pattern, sew, test and repair prototype clothing. Interesting fact: mens and ladies clothing is prototyped to a medium (a perfect medium, said the head of the department). When that medium pattern is finalized, it is then scaled up and down from XS to XXL.

The last item on my trip was a tour of Specialized’s test lab in which they test the heck out of many things, though the primary fixtures are set up to bike frames and wheels for impact and cyclic fatigue. An insidious problem in the industry these days is counterfeit frames — frames that look, perhaps exactly, like the real deal, but aren’t. Our host showed us a counterfeit S-Works Tarmac frame, which looked and felt like one might expect. Then he handed us a real frame, which weighed easily half to a third as much as the phony. Crazy.

Good trip. Impressive company. Super fun products.

Tiger, tiger

Yesterday I ran through the woods with a man who suggested that tiger lilies are a harbinger of winter. I suppose, if you take a long enough view, everything is a harbinger of winter. Or death. Or the end of the world.

But I could not disagree more about tiger lilies.

Tiger lilies remind me of the heat of summer, of sweat running into my eye sockets, of asking strangers if I might fill my water bottles from their hose, of the ceiling fan above my bed spinning as fast as possible, of sunburn.

Of right now. Here. In Michigan.

It is plain that the author was more intent on his bike ride than on taking a decent picture of flowers.
It is plain that the author was more intent on his bike ride than on taking a decent picture of flowers.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – July

Hello!

Well. That was an incredibly rainy June, but fun nonetheless.

Ongoing Fun:

Despite the fact that wet trails forced us to cancel fully 75% of all Monday Night Mountain Bike rides in June, the ride last Monday was great. Super bunch of folks hustling through the lush countryside on bikes. Come join us. We try to get started at 5:45, but loop back to the parking lot for a 6:00 pickup. Two effects of all the recent rain: mosquitos & bountiful poison ivy crop.

Shop buddy and all around great gal Teri Olbrot started a road ride from the Romence Road shop on Tuesday evenings. It’s a women’s fitness ride averaging 12-15 mph. Meet at the shop at 5:30 and start rolling no later than six. Fun!

Shop ride Thursday night at 6:15. Is it time to change the route and go up 6th St. hill? Probably.

July is Full of Activity:

Miller Energy BTR Crit on July 11th. 10th year! Holy smokes. Something must be going right.

Race for Wishes is the next day, July 12th, in beautiful downtown Lawton. In the event that you aren’t into racing the thing, it might be (read: is) pretty fun to ride out there and watch other people turn themselves inside out on a bike, then ride home.

The following weekend brings the Holland Hundred in, you guessed it, Holland, MI. This event is known for a beautiful route, great organization and very nice amenities.

Once upon a time there were two semi-local XTERRA races, but now there are none. Sigh. However, you can travel just a little way and participate in the Ionia XTERRA on July 26th. Tri and Du options available and more data here.

Around the Shop:

Some people look at a fat bike and say, “Yeah. That looks like fun.” Others say, “Nope. Please remove it from my sight.” Regardless, these things have spawned quite a bit of fresh thinking in the mountain bike world. In the Portage shop we have two “plus” bikes: the Trek Stache is 29+ while the Specialized Fuse 6Fattie (I could not make up this name) is a 650b/27.5+. Both of those things have (as you might guess) fatter than usual tires, but not as monstrous as a fat bike. These bikes have lots of traction and a bit of passive suspension without the weight penalty of a bona fide fat bike. Is this exactly what you’ve been looking for? I cannot say, but they are neat and different, and each represents original thinking.

Knowledge is power! Let’s talk about flat fixing and bike maintenance at the Portage location on Saturday, July 18th. Space is a little bit limited, so please RSVP at 269-324-5555.

We’ll be closed on Independence Day. We don’t observe that many holidays — especially holidays on a Saturday in summer — but this is a big one. Thanks for your understanding.

Our website received a massive facelift a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s pretty fun, and I hope you find it informative. We’re also making changes to Facebook, Google + and other social media in an effort to bring everything under one big happy Pedal umbrella.

Big Finish:

July doesn’t need a ramble. July is the pearl, the brass ring, the thing we Michiganders crave all winter long. I hope you can punch a hole in your schedule/calendar to enjoy it, to live in the moment and soak up the experience. And I hope you’ll stop by the shop and share it with us.

We thank and appreciate you.

Hail summer!

Tim

Nearly Solstice Ride

Nearly Solstice Ride

7:00 pm 6/20/15

Meet at the corner of Court and Church in Hastings
24 MIle BR Course

Socializing and refreshments afterward at Waldorf
Self-supported; bring what you need

Front and Rear Lights Required

solsticeride

 

As Seen Behind Old Dog

While demonstrating the Thule EasyFold 9032 to complete strangers in the Old Dog parking lot I thought, “Hmmm. Maybe I should write about this.”

The things that make this rack different from many others are its high weight capacity (122 lbs!), ability to fit either a 1 1/4” or 2” receiver and distinctive good looks. The EasyFold was designed to haul heavy E-bikes (v. popular in Europe, dontcha know), a feat which I recently attempted with great success.

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The jury is out on the looks. My wife doesn’t like it at all and says snide, hurtful things about poor EasyFold. I, on the other hand, think it looks sleek and modern. I also don’t spend lots of time looking at my car in traffic, so who cares?

So you start with this thing that looks like a Zero Halliburton briefcase on a platform behind the car/truck/thing. First thing you do is fold down the two sides so it begins to resemble a bike rack.

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Would you like to step on this inviting platform?
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Such action is forbidden! No step!

Now that it’s unfolded, you can put bike number one on the rack. The bike is secured with the shorter of the two arms-with-claws, and the wheels are strapped down nice and tight.

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First bike is secured.

Here comes the cool and different part. You now remove the longer arm-with-claw from the rack and position it as required. Super sweet.

Once the arm is positioned as needed, securing the second bike is very easy. Technically the shorter arm may also be repositioning if needed, though it’s typically the longer guy that requires more fiddling. Once you have a system for your bike(s), it goes very quickly, though there could be a small but satisfying bit of problem solving the first time the rack is used.

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Tubes are not being crushed. They are being gently held.

Those claws aren’t used to squeeze the heck out of the tubes. Instead, they just keep the bike in the vertical plane. Bikes ride VERY securely on this rack and bike-to-bike contact is small, bordering on nonexistent. I appreciate that the entire rack sits quite a bit above the receiver on the car, which makes it very unlikely that this thing will drag on the ground, even when attached to smaller, lower cars.

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Folds down for easy access!

Does it fold down so you can put the stuff you forgot to pack into the back of the car even after you’ve loaded the bikes? Yes! EasyFold has a very slick tilt mechanism, designed to work fully loaded. The pivot point is in just the right spot, so it never feels like you’re lifting a lot of weight.

Though I have yet to use this feature, I cannot help but keep one of the extra parts in the car with me all of the time. I’m speaking of the ramp. Yup. Not everyone wants to lift a 66 lb. (max, thank heaven) bike up onto a car rack, so Thule integrated a cool extendable aluminum ramp.

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Ramptastic

 

We have never sold one of these, perhaps because I haven’t been able to bring myself to stock a rack that carries two bikes and retails for $700 and, hey, the T2 is one heck of a rack. And yet… I like this thing, and though I have not personally used the ramp, I think the EasyFold could be just the ticket for people who have a hard time lifting their bike, regardless of style.

Testing will continue, with any breakthroughs reported here.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – National Bike Month

Hello!

Real quickly, let’s talk about the Trek recall. You are affected if you have a Trek or Gary Fisher with a front disc brake and a quick-release skewer that opens past 180 degrees. If you are unsure if your bike qualifies, please bring it to us and we will happily check it out. We have replacement skewers in stock and are ready to take action. Here’s a bit more information: http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/support/safety_and_recalls/

May is National Bike Month, and there’s a pile of stuff coming up quickly:

  • Shop rides on Thursdays are happening, despite the spotty weather. 6:15 from our downtown location.
  • Lotsa road rides just about every evening after work. KBC keeps a nice schedule here. Note: KBC rides start at 6:15 from now through the end of August. Don’t be late!
  • The Fort Custer Stampede is this weekend and you can still register online until 11:45 tonight, just in case you’re dragging your feet. Like me.
  • Mountain bike Monday starts next Monday. Wheels start rolling at 5:45 at the Fort Custer trailhead. Do you need to be a Titan of Trail or a Duchess of Dirt to participate in the fun? Heck no! Is inspiration what you need? Here’s part one of five.
  • Yes. OK. I know I’ve been rattling on for the last few months about Bike Week. I’m into it for a couple of reasons. One, I like the idea of raising the awareness of bikes and cyclists in our community. Secondly, heck, there are fun things to do. Art filmLocal celebritiesStuff for kidsBeer. It all starts next weekend.
  • Bike CampBike CampBike Camp. If you’re new to road riding and want a very good primer, might I recommend Bike Camp? Starts real soon.
  • We’re involved with local triathlon. We’ve got Double Time, a couple of kids’events and the Gull Lake Tri. Woah. Grass roots racing. Lots of fun.
  • Tour de Taylor is June 13th.
  • Skinny tire racing is back in town on July 11th with the 10th annual (can you believe it?) Miller Energy BTR Crit. Lots of state championship racing right here in Kalamazoo.
  • And as per usual the next day is road racing in Lawton. If the turns and close racing of a crit aren’t quite your bag, maybe road racing is. This is a great local race that benefits Michigan Make a Wish. If racing isn’t your thing, it’s pretty fun to ride out to Lawton, watch a little racing and head back home.

The Ramble

I love riding a bike for many reasons: exercise, competition, comaraderie, utility. But one thing I enjoy over the longer term is watching the seasons change. Watching the famers plow the fields and the corn grow and the combines coming through in the fall when the long-sleeve jersesys reappear from the backs of closets. It’s hard for me to say what my favorite scene might be, but on the ride through the country last night, all of the plants looked ready to burst into bloom. It was a picture of anticipation; as though everything is waiting for just the right moment to happen. What fun.

Many folks ask, “How’s it going?” I just want to take a hot second and say thanks for the interest and that it’s going great. We have a good amount of work to do in the near and far terms, but we are (I think) pointed in the right direction and moving foward. That said, I’m always interested in your feedback.

And we’re off! Have a fantastic riding season.

Sincerely,

Tim

Speedy

Innovative, made in America Speedplay recently introduced several updates and new products.

First up is the near-mythical SYZR, a mountain bike pedal that’s been in the works for a number of years. You can read all about it here, but the main takeaways are the famous Speedplay float and the fact that the pedal interface doesn’t get sloppy as the shoe wears. Nice stuff. Bonus: spooky looking cleat, like something out of Star Trek.

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The Zero Pave looks a whole lot like a regular Zero with all the plastic knocked out. The minimalist Pave is not a mountain bike pedal, but it does shed dirt better than the lollypop pedals. And some people totally dig the looks.

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While I’ve liked Speedplay pedals for a long time, I’ve never liked the fact that it’s a sketchy deal to walk/run in the metallic cleat, and that the cleat is easily jammed with dirt, necessitating that the well-prepared rider carry around some ilk of cleat cover. The new cleat does a lot to mitigate both of my issues.

Check it out: a new cleat with a replaceable, grippy, aero cover. Nice! And available for both Zero and Light Action pedals.

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But wait! There’s more! What about a nifty little cover for the delicate parts. And what if the left and right cover joined together to make it less likely that you’ll drop one by the side of the road? It would be heaven, indeed.

 

 

 

 

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And the whole package looks like this when they’re installed

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Way to go Speedplay! Nice new stuff and some extremely well-considered upgrades to existing products.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – No Fooling

Happy April!
One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, said that when he wrote he felt, “Like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” I’m feeling similarly capable of organizing my thoughts for this month’s Bicyclical. Let’s see how it turns out.
The Past:
The ice and frozen ruts in the roads of Melting Mann gave many of us cause to remember that cycling is and can be a little bit dangerous. People who use the term, “I’ve never felt more alive,” are seldom talking about sitting in a comfortable chair, watching TV. When you ask out the pretty girl, she might say no. When you race on the rough roads, you might get to know them more intimately than you wish.
I bring this up not to encourage risky behavior for the sake of risky behavior. Nor am I suggesting that you shouldn’t ride a bike — you should. But you should be aware of the risks. And the rewards.
The Present:
We’re changing Breakaway in Portage to Pedal. The change in signage is underway and will continue for some time. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons. One is that we’re no longer affiliated with the Breakaway stores in Muskegon and Grand Haven, and I’d like to end confusion on that front. Another is that, well, Pedal is my heart, and I want a piece of my heart at 185 Romence Road.
On April 6th we’re changing the hours in Portage to match those downtown — 10-7 Monday and Wednesday; 10-6 on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 10-5 on Saturday. I’ve worried this change to death, and my reasoning boils down to a consistent experience — consistent between stores and consistent each time you visit the store. I would rather us be open fewer hours but be better staffed, more consistently staffed and better able to serve you.
Lots of new spring and summer clothing in both stores. Of particular interest is the New Road collection of clothing from Giro at our downtown spot. I’ve been interested in the trend toward cycling gear that looks more like clothing and less like sausage casing for a while now. Seems like it started happening with mountain biking a few years ago and is now coming to road bike apparel. I’ve been using some wool, made in America Giro stuff for a while, and I’m very pleased. Fernando famously declared that it’s better to look good than to feel good. Do both!
Shop ride! Let’s start April 9th. 6:15 at the downtown location. Routes will be oh so slightly different, as Old Douglas is in terrible shape and is not worthy of us. Also, this year our plan is to emphasize the Group in group ride. How will that pan out? Let’s see.
The trails just aren’t quite ready for us, so Mountain Bike Monday will start in May.
New faces are everywhere. Liz and Quinn are customer-facing in Portage, while Jack and David hide in the service department. Jess is a terrific new salesperson downtown.
Learn how to change a flat and enact road-side repairs. Ladies only class on 4/11, co-ed on 4/25. Let’s do it at the Romence Road location, since there’s (substantially) more room. Please call 269/324-5555 to sign up. Limit 15 to class. Knowledge is power. The class is free. Free power!
KBC rides are happening now.
The Future:
Something new this year is the Bike Swap put together by SWMMBA, our local mountain bike organization. It’s Sunday, April 12th at Holiday Inn West. Buy some stuff. Sell some stuff. Check out some stuff. We’ll be there, and hope you’ll stop by and say hello. More info here. http://bikefortcuster.com/index.php/bike-swap
The EZ 5K is a great 5K run/walk, the proceeds of which help fund the EZ Memorial Foundation, which offers scholarships and community contributions in honor of Eric Zapata. It’s Saturday, April 18th and very worthy of your consideration.
The following day (April 19th) is the Yankee Springs Time Trial. If I could recommend one thing, it would be that you not race expert when you’re out of shape, riding a bike that you built the day before. Seriously: fun.
More Local Mountain Bike Race! Fort Custer Stampede is May 3rd. I’ve done this the last two years and had a great time crashing all over the place. Seriously: low key, fun time.
Bike Camp! It’s not about camping, but is about learning skills and rules for safer road riding.
The Kal-Haven Trail Blazer is May 9th this year. Proceeds benefit the Kal-Haven Trail.
Bike Week! May 9th – 17th. Lots of good stuff going on that week.
Right smack in the middle of Bike Week (5/13) is the Ride of Silence. Our area ride begins at Milham park and is open to anyone willing to wear a helmet. We’ll ride a slow, short loop of town. If you’d like to raise cycling awareness in the community, this is an event that could use your participation. More details next month.
We have a secret fun event in the planning stages for Friday the 15th. Once corporate approves this thing, details will be revealed!
Make the pilgrimage up north for the Zoo-de-Mackinac on May 16th.
Multisport more your thing? Races for adults and kids here. Of particular note: DoubleTime on May 30 and Gull Lake June 27th.
Tour de Taylor is June 13th.
The Ramble:
Spring is here. We’re dusting off bikes and getting them ready for another season on the roads and trails. Cycling is happening in our community. Look at the Township adopting a complete streets program. Look at the plans from KATS. Look at the really cool plan that MDOT put together for a major downtown corridor. Notice how funding has moved away from trails and toward pavement infrastructure. Wow! Who saw this happening five years ago? Not me.
So here’s the deal: public money is being spent on cycling infrastructure. Some folks are going to get bent out of shape about this, and we need to make sure that we’re always putting our best foot forward. When you’re riding — dare I say especially when you’re riding with a group — I ask you to remember that the motoring public will judge all of us and our worthiness to enjoy public money based on your actions. I sincerely appreciate your consideration.
My wife attended a fancy-pants business meeting this month, the keynote speaker of which formerly led the Blue Angels. Talk about stress! In his speech, this gentleman discussed studies demonstrating that happy people share one common trait — they are grateful.
Curiosity, Grit, Gusto and Gratitude. This is us. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Ping me any time.
Sincerely,
Tim

Stacy, Meta-Stacy

This has nothing to do with bikes. This has everything to do with experiences.

Taking Stacy Duckett to see Bruce Springsteen in Memphis remains one of the most memorable of my college-age experiences. I believe it was my sophomore year, and Bruce was touring in support of his Born in the USA album.

Were I to think of a single term to describe Stacy Duckett, it would be poised. To me, she was terribly together. Very pretty. Cool hair. Clothes matched. Really great voice. A year older than me. Honestly, I thought she was completely out of my league, but I had tickets to see Springsteen and I wasn’t going to waste that kind of capital on anyone that wasn’t a stretch.

I can’t remember how we got to Memphis. I’m sure we drove, but my crappy VW Scirocco was an absolute pile. If we drove that, Stacy was brave on top of everything else. We stayed with the parents of my friend Dave Ford, which was pretty cool; we didn’t have to drive back to Little Rock in the middle of the night.

It was a fantastic concert, and just a perfect evening. I remember being very, very happy.

Stacy and I went out a few more times, but it just didn’t take. As poised as Stacy was, I was not, and there just wasn’t enough between us to make it work. I don’t recall a lot of heartbreak and anguish; it just didn’t happen.

I saw Stacy once after college, at the Oyster Bar on Markham in Little Rock. I think she was in law school at the time, and I was working for the man (the man named Systematics). I remember having such incredible self-confidence that I introduced myself all over again when I said hello. She was great, and obviously on her way to something.

Monday I found out that Stacy died, and I became totally, completely sad. I teared up telling my mom and brother about her passing. They were nice in their support, but I didn’t think that they totally got where I was coming from, so I called my friend Bob, who’s always been good at rooting out the cause of my problems. In the course of our conversation, I told Bob that one of my parents’ friends died few years ago, a friend who meant a great deal to me and who taught me a lot and a guy with whom I’d meant to share his importance. But I didn’t. Since then, I’ve been much more determined to tell people who matter to me that they do. Bob said, “If you start that shit with me, I’ll hang up. But we’ve always talked to each other like that.”

I am sad that Stacy is gone. I’m sad that I didn’t take the time to contact her. I’m sad that my generation is dying. I’m as sad as I’ve been since my dad died. But I am very, very happy that I have a great memory of a perfect evening in 1984.

Cool Around the Shop

We’ve had some interesting Konas in the shop recently and managed to take a few typically blurry pictures.

First up is a customer’s Hei Hei Deluxe. Carbon frame. Carbon rear triangle. Fox CTD suspension. 120mm of travel up front, 100mm out back. Tubeless rims and tires. SLX drivetrain. This is a splendid bike, one that I try to snag when I’m at Kona’s HQ each year. This is a very confidence-inspiring, capable bike. Mucho fun.

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Fantastic graphics this year.
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Carbon rear triangle. Tubeless ready.
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Fox shock and geometry data.
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Swoopy carbon. Good colors.
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View from the front.

Next up is a Big Unit, Kona’s aluminum 29er hard tail frame set. Nice bits include a SRAM X1 drivetrain, Reba fork, Roam 40 wheels, Syncros cockpit and Maxxis tires. Very nice.

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Very black bike.
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Kona’s digging the decal on the down tube this year. The chrome on black works really well to these eyes, eyes that belong to a human that wore a KISS t-shirt is sixth grade.
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X1 isn’t as light as its brothers, but it’s more black! And more affordable. Nice stuff, for sure. Also note sliding dropouts for single-speeding.
IMG_3605
SRAM Roam wheels are quite nice. The 30 pictured here is UST compatible.

The Kapu caught my eye immediately. Reynolds 853 frame. Wonderful paint. Steel fork. 700×28 tires. It’s not as oddly light as the Eclipse was, but a steel frame with fatter tires sure makes sense for our frost-heaved roads.

IMG_3608
Classic look. Terrific graphics.

 

IMG_3612
View from the front. Note the wider tire and 853 sticker.
IMG_3611
105 drivetrain. Mavic wheels.
IMG_3610
Very attractive steel fork.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – Great Expectations

Hello!

Bad news: My driveway does not shovel itself.
Good news: Longer days.
Does it even out? Hmmmmmm.
My wife, true love and proofreader is of the opinion that this issue of the Bicyclical should come with a minor warning: much information is contained herein.
February is definitely a time of great anticipation. People are signing up for races, making plans, working out, getting ready. Some folks are very upfront with their goals while some of us hide them like state secrets. It’s all just fantastic.
Please please please don’t get caught up in the first-warm-day-of-spring-and-my-bike-needs-a-tuneup frenzy. Please! Go ahead and bring that sucker in right now! We’ll get you ready to go for spring with no dreadful waiting around.
The Big News
Pedal will purchase Breakaway Bicycles on Romence Road in early March. This is a very big, thrilling development for Pedal.  It is my goal and good fortune to continue the traditions of excellent workmanship and service that Paul and Co. have earned over the years.
Related to this announcement, people approximately my age with experience in Corporate America might wonder if I’ll use the term synergy. I cannot deny the temptation.
Help!
Over the past few years our shop ride has grown more than I could have imagined. What fun! We’ve recently come to the conclusion that we could use a few good ride leaders — folks who can show up every week, reinforce our emphasis on politeness and safety and, frankly, keep the group in group cycling. If this sounds like something that might appeal to you, please let me know. Yes: Pedal will compensate you for your work.
Pedal needs people! If you or someone you know would be a great bike mechanic, salesperson or back office clerk for Pedal this spring/summer/beyond, we’d like to talk. Our employment application can be found here. The three things we look for most: timeliness, hustle, coachability.
KATS (Kalamazoo Area Transportation Study), the planning group for the urban Kalamazoo area, has asked for public input on their Metro Transportation Plan for the next five and twenty years. Should you wish to provide such input, here’s a handy link. Curious about KATS? Find out more here.
Fun Things
Wow. First of February and we already get to start thinking about fun things to do on bicycles.
This fat bike race series is still underway. It is my considered opinion that this is substantially more fun than time on the trainer.
March 8th is Melting Mann! It’s back and badder than ever. This year the races are slightly longer at 21 and 32 miles, and the start/finish area moved out of the field and into Vandalia. Race details are here, and a nice map of this year’s course is here. But wait! There’s more! Our friends at Kona, in conjunction with our other friends at Central District Cyclery in GR, donated a sweet 2015 Kona Rove AL that’ll be raffled off at MM.
And just twenty short days later is Barry Roubaix. You and 2,999 of your best friends can do this. It’s a fun, challenging event suitable for the hard-core racer and the person just looking to get on the bike and have some fun early in the season. Bang!
Kalamazoo Bike Week is May 9th through the 17th and features such fun things as:
– The Kal-Haven Trail Blazer on the 9th. Wanna ride out to South Haven? Or back? Or both? This is a great opportunity.
– The Kalamazoo Bicycle Film Festival is the 12th.
– Bike Camp, a marvelous introduction to road biking put on by our friends at the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club, begins with orientation on May 13th and a first ride on the 16th. Maybe you’re road bike curious. Maybe your friend is. It doesn’t matter: this stuff is good.
Bike Week is still in the planning stages, and a full calendar will be available shortly. Many will be the opportunities to ride your bike and have some fun.
May 16th is the Zoo-de-Mackinac. Some folks do this ride every year, and it’s not hard to see why: it’s an absolutely lovely tour from Boyne Highlands to Mackinaw City. Not a race! There are also instances in which not a whole lot of road bike etiquette is on display from many participants. Still, it’s beautiful. Trillium everywhere.
More? Sure. There’s so very much more. Tour de Taylor on June 13th. Lots of triathlon and multisport all summer.
Big Finish
2015 promises to be very interesting for Pedal. We step into this new year with much on our plate and big plans, but you, our customer, remain our highest and foremost priority. I invite you on this journey with us and hope you like what you see. As always, I welcome your feedback.
Away we go!
Sincerely,
Tim

Your Pedal Bicyclical – Wintry Mix

Hello!
If ever there was a meteorological term that strikes crud into the heart of a cyclist, it has to be “wintry mix,” the perfect storm of wet skin and slick roads. Yuck.
Wintry mix aside, welcome to 2015!
Beer Week! Let’s kick off Kalamazoo Beer Week at Boatyard Brewing with a fundraiser for Open Roads. Check out the syntactical density of that sentence! Let’s break it down: From 4-7 on Saturday January 10th, we’ll have beer, fun and (!!!!!) fat bike drag races at Boatyard Brewing. Come on down with your friends and toss a couple of shekels into the kitty for Open Roads. Fun!
Looks like this fat bike thing is taking off. If you have one and are looking for something to do, check out the Michigan Fat Bike Racing Series. I did the first race and lived. Truthfully, I lived and had fun.
Dirt/Gravel/Unimproved Road Racing:
  • Fun? Yes.
  • Accessible? Yes.
  • Expensive? No.
  • Cold? Sometimes.
  • Fun? Still fun.
We’re lucky to have two really good races nearby, Melting Mann and Barry Roubaix. Both are open for registration and are worth a look. Hey! We’re happy to answer any questions you might have w/r/t these races. Information is power!
Short and sweet, that’ll be this month’s Bicyclical, and perhaps it’ll be 2015’s winter. Believe it or not, this January marks Pedal’s fourth anniversary. How time flies! Oh! how much we’ve enjoyed getting to know you and, hopefully, helping you with whatever it is that you need from your bike shop. I can’t thank you enough for your support and patronage. Please let me know what we can do better.
Happy New Year!
Sincerely,
Tim

Fluffy

Right around Thanksgiving we brought in a new fat bike from KHS, largely because it looked like Kona might have underestimated demand for the 2015 Wo. Things we like about the KHS 3000 include:

  • The price: $2200.
  • The spec: 2×10 SRAM drivetrain with hydraulic brakes
  • The bigness: 100mm wide rims and 4.8″ tires

fatty

People come into the shop, see a fat bike and ask, “What are these things for?” They’re for anything. Snow. Sand. A quick trip to the bank. I like the way KHS calls their fat bikes Four Season Bikes. You can do everything you’ve always done on a bike (perhaps more slowly, perhaps with more panache) plus ride in deep snow in the winter and sand in the summer.

fourseason

Watching fat bikes evolve over the last few years has been interesting. Gone (one can only hope) are the days of trying to make a cobbled-together frame/drivetrain/fat tire combo work acceptably. Now we have symmetrical frames, lots of cogs in the back and really wide bottom brackets and rear hub spacing, all of which combine to make the whole bike more refined and functionally better.

rdbigrim

A rather recent development is the tubeless fat bike rim. Removing the big tube from a fat bike wheel/tire combo saves you about a pound of rotating mass — per wheel. That’s a big deal. We tried to make the KHS tubeless, but the stock rim just isn’t designed for such a thing; it would burp a little sealant every time we rode it with vigor. We could probably make it work, but doing so represents a return of the kludgy fat bike and would likely negate the weight savings we sought. All of this brings out the double-edged sword of fat bike tubeless: the tubeless ready rim that allows you to save weight also makes it very difficult (sometimes hugely difficult) to remove the tire from the rim.

trunk

On a lark I decided to race the KHS 3000 last Saturday at Ft. Custer for the first race of the 2015 Michigan Fat Bike Series. I quickly discovered that the bike will, in fact, fit in the back of a modern hatchback/dogmobile. Barely. Race day morning I installed pedals, guessed at the saddle height and put some air in the tires, enough to get the front tire to steer and to keep the rear tire from being too bouncy.

fattire

And then I’m racing a completely unfamiliar bike. What fun!

It’s like mountain biking, but different. The traction is incredible. I was constantly yelling (internally and externally) at myself to stay off the brakes. To the surprise of no one, there is a lot of inertia in those big wheels and tires. Keep ‘em spinning and things go pretty well. Let ‘em slow down (going up a hill, for instance) and you’ll pay for it later. Such is the way of things with wheels, but fat bikes exaggerate the extremes quite a lot.

I tried to talk a buddy of mine into doing the race with me. He said, “Racing fat bikes is dumb!” Though it may be kinda silly to ride a bike made for snow on frozen dirt, it sure as heck beats riding the trainer for an hour. I’m pretty anxious to try another one once the snow arrives.

A Trip to the Armory

Few would argue that Zipp is regarded as the premier brand of aerodynamic wheel. They’re *everywhere*: on many pro cyclocross bikes, many pro tour road bikes and of course the #1 brand of wheel at the Ironman Championship in Kona, year in and year out.

WH-808-CC-V2-700-SR-11S-BLK

I was recently invited to tour Zipp’s Indianapolis manufacturing facility, which is located alongside parent company SRAM’s worldwide distribution center. Also residing in this building are engineers, marketing personnel, support persons and SRAM’s dealer support people. The latter answer the phone when dealers like Pedal need assistance figuring out what might be wrong with a fork/brake/component. It’s a rather new building and looks hip and efficient inside and out. The best parts that you will get is all at auto dealership brooklyn ny.

More than one person told the story of Zipp’s inception. In 1988 Leigh Sargent saw a Mavic disc wheel, an aluminum beast that weighed about six pounds. Sargent was a race car composites fabricator and immediately built a 1400 gram wheel of carbon fiber with a Nomex honeycomb core. He took his creation to Interbike, the North American bicycle trade show, where he was told that they looked too fragile. The story I heard was that he laid one wheel flat across two chairs, stood on it for the duration of the show and talked about his wheel. Since then, Zipp has done a lot of neat things: the disk, a tri spoke front wheel, a carbon beam bike, carbon cranks and of course deep section spoked wheels.

Zipp carbon wheels are still produced in the USA. Layup occurs in Indianapolis and hubs are made in nearby Marysville. Carbon is from Hitachi, travels to California where it in impregnated with resin and then makes its way to Indy. The resin cures — sometimes quickly, sometimes over the course of days — at room temperature, so the carbon sheets are kept in a huge freezer in the factory. Many, many dollars worth of carbon are in the fridge, prepaid in cash well in advance of delivery. Can you say capital intensive?

Sheets of carbon are cut on a huge table by a computer-guided Xacto knife with a small footprint. At this point, the process forks: disks are made one way, and deep-section spoked wheels another. Zipp and SRAM would no doubt spank my bottom if I divulged too much information, but suffice to say that there is a LOT of human interaction with a carbon Zipp wheel. Layup is manual. Cleaning up the rim at various stages of the process is manual. Cleaning the molds is manual. Lacing the wheels is 100% manual. All of the quality control is manual. Hours — tens of hours — of human interaction are imbedded in each wheel. Why do they cost so much? Because the material is expensive, the human expense is high, the R&D is expensive, etc.

Every carbon Zipp wheel has interaction with “the drill bit,” which is the culmination of years and years worth of research and constant improvement. Drilling carbon is a tricky business: there’s the nasty dust, the possibility of heating the carbon matrix and ruining it, the possibility of weak, broken carbon fibers. Zipp’s fancy bit has what they call a world patent; it is Zipp’s and Zipp’s alone, and is a tool that they credit in part for their superior product. Cool stuff, and indicative of Zipp’s dedication to (I almost wrote excellence, but what a bullshit corporate-speak term “excellence” has become. Instead, I’ll say that Zipp is dedicated to) awesomeness — to really solving the heck out of a problem.

I saw the test lab and can confirm that the quality is also very high. How long must the hubs last on the fatigue machine? 60,000 miles. How high are test tires inflated? 300 psi for 30 seconds. Many are the pretty incredible tests that random wheels plucked from the line must endure. Competitors’ wheels are also tested. My hosts tactfully avoided smearing anyone, but I did learn that Zipps wheels endure quite a bit more than some others.

During the tour I saw a few wheels marked as blems and asked what happened to them (thinking, perhaps, I might have stumbled onto an inexpensive source for hightest-quality carbon wheels). Alas (for a sometime tightwad such as myself), those make up many of the wheels you see on pro tour bikes. However this blem conversation did bring up a good point. When you examine a carbon Zipp wheel, you’re looking at the carbon — not the carbon and a clear coat and certainly not carbon with a little black bondo to cover any pinholes — the real deal.

Value is such a personal assessment, the weighing of cost versus benefit. The high price of Zipp’s offerings can be off-putting, but the high price of a Mercedes-Benz or of Stihl electric chainsaws can also seem crazy to those not interested in high-end German cars or lumberjacking, respectively. I came away from my factory tour with a much greater appreciation for the hand-built nature of the product, the hight cost of materials and the technical superiority of Zipp’s wheels. In the past I always thought of Zipp’s wheels as high quality, but not a particularly good value. Now…well, now I think I could possibly see a pair of these things on one of my bikes.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – Festivus Edition

Winter is here, and I already feel a bit wistful for 2014. So let’s pull a chair by the fireplace, grab a good book and hunker down for a few months of cycle-unfriendly weather. This is a great time to recharge the batteries, to perhaps catch up on some projects around the house that were put off during the warm months, to maybe get a little more sleep during these long nights, to certainly reminisce about the wonderful year we had. What a bittersweet time of year.

A sage FOTS (friend of the shop) said that a seventy year old man who lived his whole life in southern California has a very different mindset than a seventy year old man who lived his whole life in Michigan. I’m sure this is true, and while I’m sure there is a lot to say for CA, give me this. Give me change. Give me the joy of summer.

In my humble opinion, fall went out with a bang. Iceman was nothing if not an experience. Oh! the stories told around the shop. Fantastic. In the event you haven’t seen it, I present a beautiful photo-montage of Iceman. My fingers and toes get cold just looking at it.

The local cyclocross scene just ended, and our Markin Glen race was very close to perfect. Cold. Snow. Mud. Sand. Friends. I’ll probably beat this drum to my dying day, but cyclocross is for everyone. Many, many thanks to our friends who help make Kalamazoo cyclocross possible. In particular ParchmentKalamazoo County ParksRunUp Cylcocross and KissCross have been wonderful partners in our endeavors.

Around the Shop

Yes! Yes, yes, yes. We have all kinds of doodads for your cycling friend/lover/spouse/boss/penpal. Things like a bottle opener for your work stand (increases productivity -20%), actual work stands (from which you can also hang helmets and laundry), a really neat long-sleeve flannel emblazoned with your favorite shop’s name (increases productivity by +/- 5%), clothing (increases warmth and/or hip factor), bikes (woah!), sunglasses that are actually (not) too cool for (grad) school. All ilk of things to support the tree or stuff the stocking.

Yeah. We’re working on the fat bike ride. At night. In the cold, cold air. Our trail day at Blanche Hull was quite successful, despite the fact that the city guys were understandably redirected to work on snow removal. We have but a few logs to cut and we’re all set. A don’t think anyone would be mad if I mentioned that a good number of people ride their fat bikes on Tuesday evenings at Al Sabo. Also: trail grooming at Yankee. Good, good stuff.

Holiday fiesta! Let’s get together at the shop from 5-7 on Friday, December 12th. We’ll have a cooler of beer and soft drinks, some foodstuffs and conversation out the wazoo. I know it’s short notice, but we’d love to see your smiling face and wish you a wonderful time of year.

Signal to Noise
I once enjoyed (?) huge amounts of unstructured time in front of a computer monitor playing kiwi pokies and some shooter games, and I would occasionally fill that time looking at the internet looking to find how the ranking system works in csgo.

I know: crazy. While I spend a whole lot less time on the https://www.boomtownbingo.com/bet365-sports-review these days, here are some sites that I sometimes use to while away the cold winter hours:

  • All Hail the Black Market. What a strange name. What does it mean? Am I too old for this? Does that guy have a job? Who cares? It’s pretty darn fun and the author is a groovy guy with an interesting take on life.
  • Red Kite Prayer. Road bikey at its heart but with a pretty awesome MTB article on occasion, I’ve found this site to have good writing and good purpose, if perhaps a bit advertorial at times. Regardless, I kinda keep an eye on this one.
  • Some people love Fat Cyclist. I am not one of those people. I keep trying, but it doesn’t take. Maybe it’s for you.
  • The Radavist – this popular mobile casino portal is pretty cool. I’m actually not sure if I like this site or not, but there is absolutely no denying this piece of apres-garde filmmaking, which I found on The Radavist.
  • Bike Snob NYC is indeed a cultural touchpoint. Pretty funny much of the time, too.
  • Lovely Bicycle! is focused on light touring (classic!) and handmade bikes. I kinda like it, though it can sound like an echo chamber at times. Not unlike this very newsletter.
  • Bicycle Graphic Design is right up my alley. So is Eleanor.
Things to Do on Your Bike

It does seem crazy to start talking about spring races, but why not? Things kick off in 2015 with Melting Mannon March 8th. It was a cold, icy, crazy mess last year. I’m curious to see what happens this time around. Registration is open.

Registration is also open for Barry Roubaix. Cross bike, mountain bike or fat bike, there’s a category and distance for you. Great, great experiences are available at the BR.

For those wishing to spend a good deal of quality time on a mountain bike saddle, the Lumberjack 100 is just what the doctor ordered. Registration for that beast opens on January 3.

Big Finish

As I was bumbling around looking up links for some of the above, I happened across this wry cartoon. The cartoon resonated (woah! corporate marketing word alert!) with me because I often tell people in the shop that the bikes we sell aren’t the end-game. The thing we hope you achieve on your bike is a wonderful experience, be it with your friends, alone in the woods, during a race or as the result of an unexpected incident on an otherwise normal ride.

As we look toward 2015 with memories of a fantastic year and high hopes for the future, I wish you a  holiday season of  wonderful, memorable experiences with family and friends.

Sincerely,

Tim

The Light Fantastic

A really long time ago a customer suggested that we round up some bike lights and do some sort of laboratory-controlled comparison thing worthy of a car magazine. Today we had a nice confluence of events: a reasonable number of lights in stock, a short day and a fairly wide open (inside) place where we could shine lights and take pictures.

bikeolights

There’s a nice basket of lights. From Cateye we have a Volt 300 and a Volt 1200. From Light & Motion we have an Urban 650, an Urban 800, a Stella 500, a Taz 1500 and a Seca 2000. All of these lights feature USB rechargeable batteries.

TestRig

Here’s our test rig, Ryan. He pulls a light out of the basket and shines it on a garage door approximately 40 feet away. Once that happens, I turn out the lights and take a picture. Teamwork? Yeah, we’re eat up with teamwork around here.

Volt1200
Cateye Volt 1200

At $200, the volt 1200 is pretty tough to beat. It’s a nice little all-in-one handlebar unit that pumps out a good amount of light. What I notice looking at this is that the light is a spot, very concentrated on the door a few feet off the ground.

Volt300
Cateye Volt 300

The Volt 300 is a nice package — less than $100 with two batteries. This is a great setup for a commuter who mostly rides in the city with the aid of street lights. Like the Volt 1200, the 300 has a tight spot, good for looking down the road but maybe not as awesome for seeing something right in front of you.

Urban800
Light & Motion Urban 800

This is the Light & Motion Urban 800, which will set you back a smooth $150. Notice how this guy puts more light on the ground than either Cateye while still providing a nice tight spot on the door.

Urban650
Light & Motion Urban 650

The Urban 650 costs $130 has a very similar beam to the 800, with perhaps just a bit less punch.

Taz
Light & Motion Taz 1500

The Light & Motion Taz 1500 is a brute, lots of light on the ground while the spot tries to burn a hole in the door. Cheap? No. The Taz is a $300 light. Still, the all-in-one design (as opposed to separate battery pack as seen on the Stella and Seca models) and light weight make this one tops on my wish list.

Stella500
Light & Motion Stella 500

We love the Stella, long a favorite of night-time mountain bikers. Note the nice broad beam pattern. This is a very sweet $200 light.

Seca2000
Light & Motion Seca 2000

For those times when excessive is almost enough, I present the Light & Motion Seca 2000, which throws out just an incredible amount of light. Were I asked to repeatedly ride my bike through the woods at night, the Seca 2000 would perhaps make sense. However, most of us would not exploit the good things one receives from a $500 light.

In closing, it’s hard to believe how good modern bike lights have become, largely due to LED technology and its associated lower power requirements. Any of these lights is a nice chunk of technology that’ll last a good long time. All of the pictures in this post were taken of each light at its highest setting. Yeah, that’s the brightest, but it’s the setting that drains the battery most quickly. If you’re going to be out in the dark for hours, it may make sense to buy a more expensive light, but run it at a lower setting. We can help sort through this stuff.

Markin Glen 2014

mgmud

You know, it’s pretty easy when it’s 60 degrees and sunny. People want to set up the course. People what to get outside on a beautiful day and have a few UV rays hit their bodies. People are understandably less worried about frostbite.

For the first time in four years, Markin Glen today was not 60 degrees and sunny. It was, at best, 32 and barely snowing. It was muddy. It was not exactly a day that begged you to come outside and play. Yet 75 people did, and we had a very interesting time. As a result of the snow and mud, the course was maybe a little bit harder than we intended, but it was harder for everyone.

On this site and in our shop we talk often of the shared experience. The race may be great. The race may stink. But if you do the race with friends, reliving it is always fantastic. The race as community builder — that’s what we think. This race was a good, hard race on a pretty sketchy day. We had a good time. We cheered for the other racers and many of us met at a local brewery to eat and drink and talk afterward.

This post is Pedal’s invitation to you to come and race with us. Cyclocross is great for people of any ability. I encourage you to stretch your envelope just a little bit and give it a try. It’s very hard, but very rewarding and very supportive. I’d say the same of dirt road races like Melting Mann and Barry Roubaix — accessible, welcoming, hard, fun.

I’ll close by thanking Kalamazoo County, KissCross and the wonderful folks who help us design, set up and tear down the course. Big, big fun.

Pads

En route to the garbage can this morning, I took a quick picture of my brake pads:

pads

From the top we have a pad from my rear caliper, removed immediately after Iceman (aka IceMudMan). In the middle is a pad from my front caliper, removed immediately after IceMudMan. The bottom bad is brand spanking new, ready to install. It might not be easy to tell from this angle, but the top pad is worn down to the backing plate. The middle pad has a good amount of wear, and the material that’s left is probably gunk-infused. I replaced both sets.

This photo is a good representation of just about every customer bike we’ve seen this week: completely dead rear pads and if-not-completely-then-mostly dead front pads. Conservatively I’d say we’ve ordered more pads in the last three days than we have the previous two years. What did this? Mud. Grit is thrown up between the rotor and pad and eats away the pad material in record time. Globs of mud settle between the pad backing plates and the caliper body when brakes are applied and prohibit the pads from retracting when the brake lever is released. Pads that would last years were devoured in less than three hours.

The other component that got really munched: chains. Yuck.

Next year maybe it’ll just be cold.

Kalamazoo Cyclocross 2014

2014cross

Check it out! Cyclocross returns to Kalamazoo at our two favorite locations, Kindleberger (home of The Hill) and Markin Glen. Races are $25 each (what a bargain!) and work as follows:

  • C race is at 11:00 and will last approximately 30 minutes. This is a terrific way to test the waters. Kids: welcome. Adults: welcome. Sandbaggers: not as welcome.
  • B race is at noon and will last approximately 45 minutes. Fun on a bun.
  • A race is at 1:00 and will last about an hour. Masochists only.

Cyclocross is a sport everyone can enjoy. Please come out and shake that cowbell.

The Full Cleveland

The white saddle, pedals and bar tape of this bike made me think of “style” in the leisure-suited seventies. If you’re too young to recall the period, this link might help decode the post’s title.

Every now and then someone comes into the shop and says, “Argh! You guys are terrible. You’re always showing me sweet new stuff and it’s just too much for my defenses!” Let me assure you: the exact same thing happens to us all the time. In fact, it might even be more cruel: we must (test) ride and be around cool bikes every day. (I know. Sucks to be us.)

I’ve been grinding along on a single-speed cross bike for about a year now, and recently started thinking that I should have something with gears. My thought process was that a geared bike might allow me to consider gravel rides and races that would be just too much on the uni-gear.

Thus I began looking at available cross frames. Frames? Frames. During the bizarre period in which I was without a road bike, I kinda (completely) freaked out and purchased a complete bike and a drivetrain at the same time. Not the most logical process to which I have been part, but sometimes you have to roll with it.

For pure cross bikes, it’s tough to beat the Kona Jake series. There are several schools of thought regarding “proper” cyclocross geometry, but Kona seems to have gone its own wonderful way. They aren’t set up in the traditional style (short top tube, tall head tube, high bottom bracket), nor are they road bikes with fat tires. As far as carbon cross bikes go, I like the fact that the Jakes are a bit more compliant than some. There are those who believe cross bikes should be mega-stiff in the rear triangle. I’ve owned and enjoyed such bikes, yet I remember the fist time I rode a carbon Jake and thought, “Hmmmmm. Delicious.”

superjakeSo I built this bike. It’s a Kona Super Jake frame, a Rival 22 drivetrain and a set of Stan’s Iron Cross wheels. Other semi-interesting bits are the TRP Spyre brakes, Fizik saddle, Ritchey bar, Time pedals. Slightly less than 18 lbs. as you see it. Pretty awesome.

super

The frame is deluxe. It’s very light, has a smooth ride and looks very sharp. The included fork is also full carbon and very light. Kona is very funny with the frame thing. If you buy a frame, you get a frame, not a frame and headset. Not a frame and a few doo-dads. You get a frame. A frame and fork yields two parts: frame, fork. They figure that if you’re going to build up a bike of your very own, you’ll likely be picky about the headset and seat post clamp. Are they right? I don’t know, but after building up bikes from Kona frames, at least I’m used to it. For the record, I’ve been using a Cane Creek 40 on a few bikes, and it seems like a very good blend of price and function.

spyre

Oh how I once resisted disk brakes. As a guy who owns/owned a pile of rim brake wheels, disk brakes looked like another monetary black hole. And so they are, but by now I’m used to it. Rim brake users know that the best braking happens about the first time you squeeze the lever. With disk brakes, particularly mechanical disks, braking performance actually improves over a period of time. Why do I bring this up? I dunno. PSA I guess.

Traditional mechanical disk brakes are of single piston design. This means that you pull the lever and one piston (typically on the outboard size of the bike) pushes against the brake rotor, which bends until it hits the (fixed) pad on the other side of the caliper, at which point braking starts to occur. It works, but it’s not 100% great.

For this bike I thought I’d try a dual piston brake, the TRP Spyre. In this design, pistons push from both sides of the caliper to squeeze the rotor in the middle. It’s a nice design because bending the rotor is not part of the equation, and expectations are pretty high. I went this route despite the fact that I’ve had terrific luck with Avid BB7s on other bikes. As of this writing, I don’t have enough miles on the bike to properly rate the braking quality. I hope to remedy this situation soon. Sorry for the letdown.

Rival22

Twenty-two speed drivetrain! Who can’t get fired up about that? Luddites, that’s who. For the rest of us, the future looks bright. I put Rival 22 on this bike for the following reasons:

  • I had it handy
  • I was running out of money, fast
  • I can be something of a crasher in CX and am not made out of dollar bills
  • I had it handy

I have no beef with Shimano drivetrains, but I kinda like SRAM on my CX bikes. I treat my cross bikes rather unpleasantly and tend to think that SRAM stuff holds a tune a little longer. Is this bunk? Maybe, but such is my experience.

I’m not sure that I’m 100% on board with yaw front derailleurs. Sometimes they work great with minimal setup hassles. Sometimes there are significant setup hassles. On this bike it worked pretty great from the start. Rear shifting is typical SRAM: bang, bang, bang through the gears. Very nice.

ironcross

If I have a weakness, it is for wheels. Drivetrains stir my tactile feelings. Frames are beautiful or not. However wheels make my little heart go pitter pat. You can make whatever wheels you want. You can go for super-light; you can go for super-durable. You can spend a fortune. You can spend considerably less. You can try to hit some idyllic middle ground, which is the place I typically seek.

I already own two sets of disk cross wheels: HED Ardennes +, which are almost unreal in their awesomeness, and Velocity A23s, which represent a very nice value. For this bike I thought I’d get something pretty cross oriented, but not as spendy as the HEDs. Thus I have the Stan’s Iron Cross which was developed to provide superior tubeless burp resistance, maximum strength and light weight. No, you can’t run ’em at high pressure for road tubeless, but who cares? That’s not the point of this bike.

heartKona loves cyclocross and so do I. I first rode this bike on the Barry Roubaix course with a good friend. As we rolled out I began kvetching about the fiscal questionability of building a carbon cross bike when I have a nice steel bike in the garage. “What are you talking about?” asked my friend. “This is your favorite thing.”

Yes. It is. And this promises to be an excellent companion.

 

Your Pedal Bicyclical – And now: Autumn

Hello!
I cannot believe that we’re staring October in the face. Wow.

Around the Shop

Cool bikes are coming in. Of special note are some very nice cyclocross and gravel road bikes. Delicious.
We have some sweet long-sleeve shirts that you could stylishly wear while:
– Riding
– Drinking a beer
– Being cool
Quantities are limited. Limited to what? To what we have. Dive in, and be prepared to ward off the paparazzi.
Winter gear? Heck yes! We have tights and jackets and warmers and gloves and hats and STUFF TO KEEP YOU WARM. Do you want to be warm? Yes? Let’s talk.

Politically Speaking

Important stuff is going on. I’m specifically speaking of the Stadium Drive and Michigan Avenue Corridor Study If you, like me, long for a more bike friendly Kalamazoo, it’s happening. I very much encourage you to use the tool here and attend the meetings and make of the city what you will. You. We need *you* to make this happen.
While visiting a friend this summer I shared how impressed I was by bike friendly Missoula. He said, “You can’t believe how hard it was. People were sure that road diets would ruin the city center and stop traffic forever. Yeah, it looks fantastic now, but it was an ordeal.” To this I would tell my fellow Kalamazooters: many hands make light work. Please contribute what you can to this very worthy effort.
I’d also remind everyone that change is difficult. Though it may seem intuitive to those of us who often ride, please be kind to your friends and neighbors who might have difficulty understanding the value of a bike friendly community.

Fun Things to Do

All good things must end, and so it is with the Thursday evening Pedal ride. The sun just sets too darn early these days. Thanks for a fantastic run this summer. I can’t wait for next year.
There are two (2) local cyclocross races this fall:
– October 12th at lovely Kindleberger park in Parchment
– November 16th at Markin Glen
We’ll have practice at noon the Saturday before each event at the race site. Cyclocross is fun. Please come enjoy!
More CX here and here!
The Colorburst in Lowell is this Saturday, and has always looked appealing.
Since the Grand Rapids XTERRA was cancelled (Boo! Hiss!), I guess we’ll all race CX at Manhattan Park and maybe dine as Rose’s after. This is always a good plan.
Iceman registrations are trading hands like hotcakes. Want to race? We can maybe hook you up with someone who can’t go. Want to get rid of your entry? Perhaps we can help. Shoot us an email or call.

The Ramble

Remember when you were younger, maybe eight, and you looked forward to your birthday SO MUCH. The anticipation was incredible. Maybe you knew exactly what you wanted or maybe you didn’t, but were excited by the prospect of being one year older. Then it was your birthday!
And then it was the day after your birthday.
I’m having trouble with the end of Best Summer Ever. I’ve used the term over the past few months, and I’ve believed it. It hasn’t been too hot. It hasn’t been too cold — not too much rain, not too dry. Yes, it’s been a good year at Pedal, but I write of something greater. Our clientele has been so uniformly happy. Rides I attended were full of camaraderie and joy. It’s been so fantastic that I want to give everybody a loud, stinging high-five… and now it’s fall.
Don’t get me wrong. I love autumn in Michigan with brisk weather and grape smells and beautiful trees and cyclocross and apples, but what a marvelous summer.
Big Finish
I went to a wedding this past weekend, a wedding of two people that I love enormously. One of them, a highly educated special ed teacher, told me about the drills she did with her students to train them to better fit into larger society. The drill topics distilled down to four things: curiosity, grit, zest and gratitude. On the cold, dark winter morning when she shared this with me, I thought, “Holy heck. Those are the exact things I want from my employees. Those are the exact things I want to demonstrate to our customers.”
Every day at Pedal we wonder how things work. We solve problems. Sometimes we solve difficult or unusual problems that take a whole lot longer than we think they should. Sometimes there are high fives. Sometimes there is harsh language. Do you care? I don’t know that you do, or that you should.
The thing I really, sincerely want to express in the Bicyclical is gratitude. I thank you for your business. I thank you for your consideration. I thank you for making Pedal part of your life.
I thank you for Best Summer Ever.
Sincerely,
Tim

CX Tires

It’s that time of year, and maybe a bit past that time of year, when we’re asked about cross tires. I thought I’d talk about what we like around the shop and go from there.

Should I go Tubular?

No, unless you’ve lost your mind or need another challenge in your life. Yes you can run silly low pressure. Yes the feel is sublime. But you have to deal with a bunch of foul glue (or pay someone else to do it, and we’ve learned (slowly) to charge for this nasty service) and buy new wheels and blah blah blah and let’s not even talk about the living shame of rolling a tire off the rim while attempting to mount the bike on an off-camber corner. Terrible. Speaking personally, my only DNFs occurred when I had tubular tires on my bike.

What about Tubeless?

I find this less stressful than tubular, but it is more work than plain old tubes. I’ve always gone the hard way and used non-tubless-ready tires, about which I’ll talk about later. I’ve learned through painful experience that the only setup I’ll do for a customer will involve tubeless-ready tires on tubeless-ready rims. There you go.

Tubes

Piece of cake. You should feel like you’ll pinch flat once or twice a lap. Run much lower pressure than you think you should. Have fun. Crash a time or two. Have more fun. Attempt to eat more post-race bratwurst than Ryan. Call in sick the next day. Yeah. That’s it.

So What Tires Should I Purchase?

All of them. Seriously, I once had a garage full of tires, something for every possible condition. These days I try to pick one awesome tire and hope that it’ll do me for everything. And I still have a few odds and ends in my garage.

Michelin Mud2. I’ve used this tire for a long time.with tubes and tubeless on a NoTubes Alpha 340 rim. They say it’s a 700×30, but it feels (and looks) fatter than that. This tire exudes confidence and sticks better than anything I’ve used in my lame-o career. It is not a fast tire. I once switched from a Vittoria XG to a Mud2 in the middle of a race (don’t ask) and could immediately feel the difference. However, in mud or a wet grassy corner, the Mud2 will not be denied. A similar tire is the Vittoria XM. Very grippy.

Vittoria XG. This is a fast tire with a nice, supple sidewall. It is very fast, but is not nearly as confidence-inspiring as the Mud2. To be fair, it might stick as well, but it just doesn’t feel like it sticks as well. What does this mean? I don’t know. However, I would very seriously consider a TNT (tubed or no tubes) version of this tire for my tire this season if I didn’t always want to try something new. Note: excellent gravel tire. Killer for Barry Roubaix. There: secret’s out of the bag.

Schwalbe Racing Ralph. I ran these in tubular form for a while. As I recall, I ran a Racing Ralph in the front and an XG in the back for a really nice combo. This tire is seriously Not Cheap, but it is nice. A contender in tubeless format for this year along with a WTB tire to be named later.

Vittoria XN. I love this tire for dry days. Typical Vittoria suppleness with a fast ride. Another great tire like this comes from Challenge (XS). If you’re doing a mix of mostly road and dry dirt, these file tread tires are tough to beat.

Ritchey SpeedMax. Another good dry tire, but I don’t think it has enough mustard for a wet or snowy day. Inexpensive.

Clement MXP. Not terribly different from the Vittoria XG, but fatter and maybe more grippy in the corners. I used this in tubeless fashion last year and loved it. Loved it. This is also the tire that I blew off a rim and threw sealant all over the shop and hurt my hand and forced the policy of only tubeless tires and rims.

WTB Cross Wolf. We found this tire after the debacle described above and have been very impressed indeed. My west coast friends (not as pretentious as it sounds) think this might be the tire of 2014/15. I have a pair set aside for this year, but the Racing Ralphs also look good.

Other things I have not Personally Tried include the Fango and X’Plor from Clement, the cool-looking tires from Maxxis and others from Continental and Hutchinson. Many are the good options; finite is the amount of time/money I have to invest trying them.

And We’re Done

If you’re a dude or dudette who loves the idea of switching around tires the night before a race, you probably want a dry tire, an intermediate tire and a mud tire. Tubes are a good way to go if you don’t want to mess with sealant, an air compressor and all that stuff.

If you’re a carbon based life form with less time and/or willingness to switch stuff around, you want to pick the killshot tire. Here I think you should look for a tire that plays to your weakness and use your strength to overcome its shortcomings.

They’re Real, and They’re Spectacular

While not exactly under the cover of a darkness, I haven’t been terribly forthcoming about the fact that I’ve been scratching an itch, an itch to which few men are prepared to admit an obsession, a problem, an addiction. I’m not necessarily proud, but nor am I ashamed about my recent infatuation with: steel bikes.

IMG_3159

Exhibit One, The Unit

In the late spring of this year it came to pass that I could no longer mute the siren song of a single-speed, steel mountain bike. I thought about buying a 27.5 frame, but that just didn’t make sense. We’d sold a few Kona Units, and that bike started looking really great — everything you need and nothing you don’t for a very attractive price. Let’s discuss: Reynolds 520 frame, steel fork, oversized headset so you can fit a modern suspension fork if you wish, very nice sliding dropouts that can be configured for 10×135 or 12×142 in either geared or single speed — just like on my Explosif. So I ordered one in my size, threw some tubeless tires on it and signed up for the Expert (hah!) single speed class in the Yankee Springs Time Trial.

I have a beautiful friend from a far away land who used the term “throwing my name away” to describe an evening in which she once drank too much and did foolish things. Though alcohol played no part, I threw my name away the instant I signed up for that race and backed it up the minute I hit the trail. I have many minutes of comedic material about this race, but suffice to say that I’ve never set my self up for failure — and achieved it — quite so thoroughly. And it left me wondering what the hell I’d done by purchasing a single speed steel mountain bike.

I rode it to work and back one day and really really liked it. I took it to The Dump and really, really liked it. I put hydraulic brakes on it and like it even more. It’s turned into the bike I typically haul to Mountain Bike Monday. This is a very fantastic platform.

IMG_3161

What’s it like? It’s neat. I had not ridden a modern rigid-front mountain bike before this, and I’m still pretty impressed by how well it works. It is (of course) much more efficient going uphill and is very confidence-inspiring going hard into corners. I think this is because the geometry doesn’t change in the corner as it does when a fork compresses, but I could be wrong. Regardless, it sticks in there very nicely. Related to the steel fork, I was pretty impressed by my sore wrists after the YSTT, but there’s a little bit more to the story. I had, like many of our customers, been over inflating my tires. I used the same pressure as my 27.5 tires, but the fat 29er front tire has much more air volume, allowing for sill lower pressure. Getting the front tire at the right pressure (close to 20 for me) took a lot of the sting out of the rigid fork.

IMG_3160

The rest of the bike is a hoot. I love riding it. I also spend way too much time thinking about it. Maybe I should put a suspension fork on that bike. Maybe carbon doodads. Maybe really light cool wheels. I actually had thoughts of putting an RS-1 fork on the bike with compatible wheels until I realized that I’d quickly multiply my initial investment and possibly ruin one of the things I like most about it: simplicity. I ride the bike. I smile. I wash the bike. I lube the chain. I repeat.

IMG_3164

It comes in purple for 2015. How’s that for a kicker? Please don’t tell my wife that I’m thinking about another one with smooth tires for a commuter.

Exhibit Two: The Eclipse

I’ve been thinking about an Eclipse for a long time. I worked with a guy a few years ago who showed up on an Eclipse frame with a fancy Campy drivetrain, and I thought, “That’s pretty cool.” I rode a Jamis steel mountain bike for a couple of years and thought, “A road bike like this would be pretty cool,” but I loved my Xenith Elite and stayed the course.

In the span of three weeks I sold both of my road bikes and found myself doing everything pavement-oriented on my (single speed) cyclocross bike, which is hardly a terribly situation, but perhaps not optimum. So I started looking at vendor availability and thinking about what I wanted and generally doing everything I could to make myself crazy. Ultimately I bought an Eclipse just to silence the voices in my head. And it’s cool. Facts: Reynolds 853 steel, carbon fork, Ritchey wheels and cockpit, Ultegra 6700 drivetrain.

IMG_3165

I vacillate on the bike weight thing. I think there are more important attributes to a bike than weight, but I also appreciate a svelte machine. I was curious that Jamis’s literature claimed the Eclipse weighed 17 pounds. That’s pretty light for a steel bike, and seemed perhaps a bit of marketing hyperbole. Upon arrival, I ripped my bike out of the box, put it on the scale and saw 17 lbs, 1 oz. Wow.

IMG_3167

Delivery of the Eclipse has forced me to admit that I have gotten sloppy with my own, personal road bike fit. There was a time when I would get a level, a ruler maybe a laser and some other fancy tools to set up each new road bike exactly like the old one. Because I was anxious to get this thing on the road, I didn’t go through that process and it’s taken me a little while to adjust my way to a good position on the bike. While every mile has been nice, the last few have been terrific. I think this is going to work out very nicely.

IMG_3166

I’m occasionally asked what a modern steel road bike is like. Mostly it’s like a really good modern bike regardless of material. This bike has great handling. This bike has geometry that works for me. This bike is zesty. This one is smooth like butter. Maybe (probably) it’s not as efficient as a modern carbon thingy with a huge bottom bracket, but I’m not sure I can tell. Thinking about it a bit more, I’d say this bike is almost the epitome, the acme of a road bike. It is a very tight, zippy bike that files the edges off the really, really awesome roads around these parts.

The not terrific news is that the Eclipse ended its production run. I learned this information between the time I ordered my bike and its delivery. It was not altogether shocking — the Eclipse has never been a strong seller for Jamis — but still sad. I think well done, mass produced steel bikes are a hallmark of Jamis, and the 853 bikes are just fantastic. Still, they are expensive and business is business. I cannot help but note that Kona might have recovered the Jamis fumble with the Kapu. We’ll see.

Trying to Wrap it All Up

So what do we have here? A single-speed sledgehammer of a mountain bike and a lithe little road bike. As I’ve massaged and mangled this post over the last few weeks, it occurs to me that I didn’t buy these bikes because they’re steel. I bought them because they spoke to me in some subtle way. It’s not that I don’t like carbon bikes (watch this space!), it’s just that a couple of steel bikes happened to meet the needs I had. And they’re good bikes. Really neat. Really fun.

In the end, I took two bikes that had one thing in common and tried to shoehorn them into one post with a tired Sinefeld reference. Regrettably, you might be getting what you paid for from this blog.

I Had a Blast

While visiting friends in Missoula, Montana, I very much wanted to check out the mountain bike scene. I searched the internet and found a bike shop from which to rent a bike and a weekly mountain bike group ride.

I admit that I picked the shop, Missoula Bicycle Works, because they sell Konas and might have a bike with which I had some familiarity. Sure enough, I rented a Blast, Kona’s 2014 entry-level 27.5” hard tail.

You might ask, “You’re rather used to nice stuff. Did it bother you that you rented an entry-level bike?” Good question. I’d thought that maybe they’d hook me up with a Process or a Hei Hei or a dual-suspension something, but such was not the case. I wasn’t unhappy about the Blast per se, but I did wonder if I was going to be in trouble on a hard tail. (short answer: No. Not at all.)

Blast!
Blast!

I rode the bike from the shop to my friends’ house and immediately saw that Missoula is maybe five or so years ahead of Kalamazoo in bike friendliness. Road diets have been undertaken. Bike lanes are numerous. Traffic is bike-aware. I couldn’t believe how safe and fun it was to ride through and around downtown. My buddy assured me that Missoula was recently much like Kalamazoo — multi-lane, fast moving roads with very little consideration to non-motorized traffic. This news gave me great hope for the efforts underway in my city.

A huge difference between mountain biking in Missoula and Kalamazoo is that the trailhead was a stunning 2.1 miles from my friends’ house. Google predicted that the ride would take me 23 minutes by bike, which brings me to the second major difference: significant elevation change. It was straight uphill to the trailhead.

At the trailhead I met up with very nice folks from the Thursday Night Mountain Bike Group in Missoula. I explained that I was a stranger from a very flat land and that it was OK if they had to kill and eat me if I fell behind. And up we went.

Photography makes it appear as though we are not going up a steep slope. Which we are.
Photography makes it appear as though we are not going up a steep slope. Which we are.

And up and up and up and up. It was an amazing experience to just plonk the bike into its lowest gear and follow the guy or gal in front up the hill, grinding away. The Blast was pretty interesting in this regard as it is light in the front, and I had to take care to put enough pressure on the bars to keep wheelies at bay.

While we were climbing, a lady asked me what was different about mountain biking in Michigan. I said (though how I was able to speak remains a mystery) that where I live it’s much flatter and faster. As soon as we started to descend, I ate those words. Holy cow these guys scream down the mountain. Much of what Missoula locals refer to as two track is not the improved dirt road that we experience locally. It’s two single-track rocky trails with a narrow prairie in between. Amazing. And again I will say that the Blast was a good friend. There are times when I may have questioned the judgement of going warp ten down an unfamiliar trail, but I never worried about the bike. Fun. Super mega awesome lung-busting fun.

Most of the nice folks on the ride. Those not pictured are picking huckleberries in the woods. Get this: no poison ivy.
Most of the nice folks on the ride. Those not pictured are picking huckleberries in the woods. Get this: no poison ivy.

I returned home just in time for dinner, 3.5 hours after I left. I was very tired, very hungry and filled with the good feelings of a big effort. I’d like to thank the Blast for being a great companion and the Thursday Night Mountain Bike Group for their unsurpassed hospitality.

The author attempts amateur dentistry.
The author attempts amateur dentistry.

Meet The Scott Solace 30

(Our Man Randy borrowed a Scott Solace for the Race for Wishes road race in Lawton earlier this month. I asked Randy if he’d be willing to write a few words about his experience, and here they are. – Tim)

Many of our customers here at Pedal are familiar with Scott road bikes, especially the CR1, the Foil, and the Addict, bikes that are notoriously awesome. But far fewer are familiar with the new Solace. Maybe we (and by we I really mean me) were even a bit unsure about it. Was it a European classics inspired race bike? A gran fondo machine? A comfort road bike? It was time to put an end to all this confusion and mystery. When Tim asked me if I wanted to race the state championship road race on a Solace 30, I took him up on it.

Moving out. The Solace has tall, relaxed geometry. To get the four inches of saddle-to-bar drop I wanted for my race set up, we put the stem as low as it could go on the steerer. (Then sent photos to slamthatstem.com.) With my long femurs, we slammed the saddle all the way back on the rails. In spite of a tall head tube, set up this way, the bike cut a mean profile. Though the bike comes with a solid Shimano WH-RS11 wheelset, to give me an advantage at the race, we set it up with Stan’s 340s laced to Chris King hubs. I forgot to weigh it (oops), but it was impressively light, maybe 10 pounds. (Okay, maybe 16 or 17).

Smelling the roses. I warmed up for a good forty minutes to get used to the new bike. While Ryan and the Pedal train pushed the pace even during the warm up (Ryan actually doesn’t know how to go slow, if you didn’t know), I sat up to take in the vineyard aromas and sun-lit vistas along the course. I hardly noticed the Solace beneath me as I soft-pedaled along. The Shimano 105 drivetrain was silent and smooth and would remain so through the race. The bike’s silky-smoothness is immediately apparent to the rider.

Handling. Going into the race, I was not at all familiar with the 15-mile course. Luckily, we would use the first lap to get a feel for things before making our move on the second. I was only caught off-guard once on the first lap by one of the course’s many 90-degree turns. (Why weren’t the original architects of this fair state more creative?) About seven miles in, I came into a sharp left-hander at the bottom of a hill with too much speed and had to take it wide. Even as the rear wheel drifted across the pavement as I tried to avoid going off into the gravel shoulder, I felt totally in control of the Solace, steering clear of the gravel, then tucking back in on the front of the pack. With respect to the bike’s handling, then, what stood out to me was that it was totally intuitive and predictable. Again, it’s as if the bike isn’t even there.

Hammering down. After getting fed up with some yo-yo action over a roller section about 3/4ths of the way into the first lap, the Pedal train took control as Ryan, Charlie, and myself moved to the front of the race. We would stay there until the start of the second lap pulling through a long flat section of the course. The Solace excels at hammering down on the flats. I am not naturally a power rider who can pull hard on straight flat sections, but I felt comfortable pushing big gears and being in the wind on the Solace. I suspect the bike’s massive downtube-bottom brakcet junction has something to do with this.

Climbing. In the second lap, it was expected that one of us would attack on the course’s only real climb. A natural climber, this would be my moment to shine and push the limits of the Solace. Giving it everything I had, the Solace and I moved past several riders as I tried to take some of the pack with me and get back on the front of the race after falling asleep in the peloton. Just like that I was back at the front. (I wish I could say this happened effortlessly, but I can’t. The legs were starting to give up!) Though it doesn’t have the get-up-and-go of, say, a Foil, the Solace tears up our Michigan hills at least as well as most other carbon road bikes.

From then on, the Pedal train would be at the front, poised well for the big sprint finish. Pedal would capture first and third, while I had nothing left for a sprint, finishing three or so seconds off in lucky number 13th place. I didn’t mind; after all, I did get to ride around a carbon wunder bike for the day.

Concluding thoughts. I love Scott road bikes. In each of Scott’s road offerings, the rider can appreciate perceptible differences in frame design achieved with specific carbon layups for different riding conditions or styles. Like the Addict, the Solace is buttery smooth, but probably holds a line a little better when the going gets tough as a result of the shock-absorbing qualities built into the seat stays, seat tube, and seat post (the Solace uses a narrower 27.2 carbon Syncros post for a more forgiving ride). And like all Scott HMF Carbon bikes, it’s super light.

And who’s it for? The Solace, I think, is for anyone. It will do anything. Do a 30 mile road race with it. Do a gran fondo. Or go on wine tours in the Leelanau country. Ultimately, I think it will be most appreciated by those who pile on the miles and those who can really put the power down on the flats. And if you want to experience just how smooth carbon fiber frames can be, check out Scott’s latest offering in the Solace. Check it out at Pedal today!

Your Pedal Bicyclical – The Joy Edition

Gracious! What a positively magnificent summer. I write this on my back porch after today’s Kal-Tour, a beautiful ride through the county sponsored by the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club. A buddy of mine and I hooked up with other friends for a brisk (cough) ride with a little rain, a little sun, a little wind and a little heat: the Full Michigan. June was a wonderful month to be on a bike, and I have high hopes for July.

Around the Shop

Garmin has upped the high-end computer ante with its new Edge 1000, which offers maps, routes and connectivity to your smart phone. Cheap? No. Feature-rich? You bet. Check it out.

Our Scott rep is going to bring a few sweet bikes to Fort Custer for Mountain Bike Monday on the 30th (that’s tomorrow if this goes out on time). It’s not the full demo experience, but it is a good chance to maybe try something new if you’re interested. 5:45 at the trailhead.

Our clever friends at Swiftwick are having a nifty July promotion: Tour de Fours. Buy three four-inch-cuff socks and get a fourth for the impossibly low price of free. Woah.

Man, our shop rides have exploded this summer. I know it wears people out when I go into Full Preacher Mode before the ride and talk about good manners and ambassadorship and legal stuff and just on and on. I’d like to take just a quick moment to thank everyone for putting a nice face on group road riding. Thank you.

We’re working our tails off to keep service wait times as short as possible.

Fun Things to Do

Mountain Bike Monday

Shop Rides

Lots of weekly area group rides

It’s my perception that many folks will be traveling for the extended Independence Day weekend, so we’re not planning to ride on the 3rd. My apologies if this bums you out.

Racin’ racin’ racin’ in Kalamazoo the weekend of July 12th and 13th. The 12th is the Miller Energy BTR Crit here in town and the 13th is the Race for Wishes in (you guessed it) Lawton.

July 19th is the Holland Hundred, which ALWAYS gets a rave review.

Lots of bike rides here and lots of triathlon here.

Our friends at the Dream Center have their Kalamazoo Dream Ride on August 9th. This is a big fund raiser for an organization that helps the very needy in our community. Please give it a look and your consideration.

Big Finish

Joy is the emotion we hear expressed most around the shop. The brutal winter is still pretty vivid in most folks’ minds and almost everyone is just as happy as can be to experience this beautiful summer. What fun! On the shop ride last week I rode by the location of this incident and couldn’t stop laughing.

Viva summer and thanks to you, PEDAL customer!

Sincerely,
Tim

Slowing!

Last week the men from SRAM showed up at the shop to wow us with some of their new wares. And wowed we were.

First up was the new RS-1, RockShox new “upside down” fork. As a former motorcycle guy, I’ve often wondered why high-end bicycle suspension forks look like old technology motorcycle suspension forks. I’m sure it has to do with varying priorities on weight, rigidity and performance. Here’s a thing you may or may not know: each leg of a motorcycle fork contains both spring and damping functions, so both legs are pretty much doing the same thing. On a bicycle suspension fork, one leg typically has the spring function and the other takes care of the damping.

RS1

While inverted forks feature less unsprung weight (that is, the weight of all parts of the machine not suspended), on a bike such a fork would require a very strong connection between the two fork legs. Rockshoxs says that this has been a real challenge — a challenge answered by the RS-1 and its integrated hub and new thru axle.

Holding the RS-1, I can attest to its light weight. The hub is very nifty with very wide flanges and a thru-axle that seems miles better than the maxle lite on my SID. All of this said, it’s an expensive little mess ($1865!), so I don’t know that I’ll be trying it soon.

The other part up for discussion involved Guide brakes, which supersede the Elixir brakes we’ve all known and partially loved for the past several years. Gone is the taperbore technology, which had a lot to do with the way Elixirs grabbed “right now,” with no large dead band. Guides go back to a more traditional master cylinder + reservoir setup, but employ new methods to close off the reservoir port quickly to eliminate the dead spot. On the RSC (which stands for Reach Adjust, Swing Link, Contact Adjust), the technology is swing link, essentially a cam that initially moves the master cylinder very quickly, then slows to allow greater modulation. Pretty sweet. Reach Adjust is, to this guy, something that’s pretty much part and parcel of any decent hydraulic brake, but thanks for including it. Contact Adjust allows you to easily get both brake levers to “hit” in the same spot.

GuideBox

One thing anyone will quickly notice about the Guides is the new rotor look. SRAM was apparently sick and tired of people complaining about the noise of their brakes (sounds like Thanksgiving!) and hired some sort of sonic witch doctor (an audiologist?) to work on the issue. Thus: bold new look.

GuideRotor

And then, much to my surprise, the brakes were installed on my Explosif, and I was asked to try them out. Can you guess what I’ve been doing today (hint: trying out brakes)?

Before the Guides, I had Magura MT6 brakes on the bike. It took me a little while to perfect the setup, largely due to the fact that I’d gone Full Cheap and tried to use the brakes with old Avid rotors that I’d had for a while. Once I got Magura rotors, pads and brakes, the system worked beautifully. I was quite pleased.

One thing that has nothing to do with braking that I liked immediately was the integration between the Guides and my shifter. While not awful, I never thought that the Magura brakes and SRAM shifters fit all that well together. Such was not the case with the Guides. The brakes and shifter looked and worked perfectly together.

MaguraRight
The old setup.
Bold new look.
Bold new look.

The first thing I noticed when riding the bike around the parking lot is how hard they hit, which I somewhat consider an Avid trait. Touch the lever: engage the brakes. Just like that. The second thing I noticed was the silence, no noise at all, almost eerie.

Before we hit the trail today I showed my buddy the new setup. His response: “You’re going over the bars.” Not at all. I was immediately comfortable and confident with the Guides. They come on very quickly, but then are very progressive and easy to modulate. One-finger braking all the way. Quiet? Oh, very. How do they stack up to the Maguras? I’d say the performance is equal, with maybe a nod to the quick bite of the Guides. The Maguras weigh less — 310 g vs. 375 g. each — but the Guides are more nicely integrated (with my SRAM stuff). One thing perhaps worth mentioning is that SRAM/Avid brakes are pretty ubiquitous in bike shops across this great land. Odds are you can get parts pretty easily. Magura, while gaining ground, is more of an odd duck, with the odds of in-stock parts and pads significantly lower.

RotorInstalled

Lastly: price. A Guide RSC will set you back $200 at each end, a long way from cheap, but not as hard to digest as (cough) $270 for the MT6. Anybody paying the least bit of attention knows that SRAM/Avid brakes have taken a few shots lately, so I didn’t really consider them when I built this bike. Still, my first ride on the Guides was great, and I look forward to having them on the bike for a long time to come.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – Warm at Last

Hello!
Over the most glorious Memorial Day I can remember in some time, I heard someone around me — maybe even someone I didn’t know — say, “Yeah. That winter was horrible, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more happy about summer.” Too true. And so it is that I find myself finishing the Bicyclical on my back porch on a fantastic late Spring evening.

Fun Things to Do

One day I looked up and found a poster in the shop door advertising Mountain Bike 101, put on by our own Southwest Michigan Mountain Bike Association. If you’re curious about this super-fun cycling genre, this looks like a great way to start. June 8th (that’s this Sunday) from 11-1 at the Al Sabo land preserve. Register here.

I’ve been talking about it for months, but June is time for Tour de Taylor. Grab your bike, your friends and go for a very nice supported bike ride. All proceeds benefit the Michigan Make a Wish Foundation.

An oldie but a goodie, the Kal Tour, unleashes 100 miles of hillier ride than you might have believed possible in this glacier-scraped area. Well-supported and always popular, Kal-Tour is a great way to spend a Sunday with friends new and old. Sunday June 29th. Note: many (more sane) options other than 100 miles.

The weekend of July 12th and 13th brings us the Miller Energy BTR Crit and the Lawton Race for Wishes. Get your road bike racing on!

And there’s the Dream Ride on August 9th. Good, good stuff.

Around the Shop

Our theme this month is that you can take it with you… to a point;

  • Our cool Scandinavian friends at Thule have created some really cool bike accessories, very interesting racks, clever bags and gizmos you might not have imagined. We have a few in the shop and they’ve been very well received.
  • Touring tough? You want gear tough enough for your long-haul tour? We’ve got you covered with very nice things from Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Ortlieb. Waterproof, well-considered handlebar bags and panniers for your rack. This super nice equipment will get your stuff to your destination safe, sound and dry. Nice.
  • I well remember when my family went from a big car to something smaller, and we bought a box top gizmo to make up the difference. What a revelation! For a fraction of the price difference between a large and smaller car we darn near made up the cargo capacity. If you’re planning a big road trip this summer and are worried about your ability to carry it all, please give us a holler.

Rides, rides, rides. Mountain Bike Monday continues. 5:00 at the shop or 5:45 at the Fort Custer trailhead. Experience bona fide Michigan mosquitoes and poison ivy just minutes from your home! Seriously, many folks abandon the trails in the warm months due to fear of itch. I understand. However, there’s nothing like being up close and personal with the lush countryside on a bike. It’s very beautiful. Bonus: nature. We saw five (5!) snapping turtles laying eggs last time out.

Shop rides are Thursday at 6:15 from, you guessed it, the shop.

Ramble

Speaking of rides, did you notice that our very own Kalamazoo Bicycle Club won an award from the League of Michigan Bicyclists for Bike Camp? Did you notice that our very own Paul Selden won the Advocate of the Year award for his work with Bike Friendly Kalamazoo? These awards are terrific things, signs that two-wheeled life is alive and well in our lovely community. And I’m happy that Bike Camp and Paul received the recognition they deserve and happy that they’re ours, yours and mine. We’re fortunate to live among these powerful advocates for cycling.

How can we — those of us with limited time and resources and connections and whatever — contribute vastly to the cause of Riding A Bike? By being a good ambassador for cycling. By signaling our intentions. By not riding more than two abreast. By obeying the law. By sharing the road. Almost every cyclist can tell a harrowing story about a bad experience with a car, but many drivers can share stories of entitled behavior on the part of someone riding a bike, stories that are poison to the broader acceptance of cycling. And (I think) the broader acceptance of cycling is required to make it easier/safer/better to ride to work, ride with our kids, ride for fitness and run errands on a bike.

So: I wish you a wonderful summer. I hope you achieve the cycling-related goals you’ve set for yourself. And I hope that all of us can represent the joy of cycling to our greater community.

Big Finish

We’re here to help, and we sincerely, strongly appreciate our wonderful customers.

Sincerely,
Tim

Friend Team

Not very long ago a really cool customer asked about our race team. “Do you guys have tryouts or need a resume or anything?” While we’re thrilled that someone might think our results could indicate that such might be the case, it isn’t. What we have is a concept that we call the Friend Team.

I think this all started our first summer when a bunch of us decided to do the Lawton road race. We all wore Pedal jerseys because it seemed fun and we thought we looked cool and organized. In truth, we were as unorganized as about anything I’ve ever seen. But it was a laugh and we all had a cold one and some food at the Old Hat (oh, how I miss thee) when it was done.

Why not a bona-fide race team? Our logic, twisted though it may be, works something like this: we’re a shop for everyone. While we’re pleased when someone wins while wearing a Pedal jersey, we also smile when we see a family pedaling around town on our bikes. I guess it comes down to two things:

  • We feel like a team by its very nature is exclusionary. Are you on the team? Did you make the team? No. That ain’t us. You’ve got a bike and you want to race and you want someone to hang out with? We’re your people. Look for us in the beer tent.
  • While we don’t want to be exclusionary, we would like to exclude assholes. I’m not sure that those folks enjoy hanging out with us anyway.

We’re all about community. We have some friends who are smoking fast. We have friends who aren’t. Our fast friends are friends with our not as fast friends. We’d like to introduce you to our friends. We’d like to hang out. We’ll cheer for you or heckle you as the situation merits. Do you have to wear a Pedal jersey? No, but it would help us pick you out. Can you wear a jersey from another shop and still be on the friend team? Sure, I guess, as long as you’re willing to buy the beer. ALL the beer. Heh.

Your Bicyclical – It’s Happening

Holy crud bucket! Can you believe it’s May, the fifth month of the year? Me neither. And look at me: late with the newsletter. Stuff is happening.

Please allow me to say this first and foremost: Way to go Ryan. 19 credit hours and a full time job is a hard way to finish up college, but the deal is done and we’re just as happy and proud as can be. Nice work.

My wife just said, ‘You should say something in that thing of yours about how much women’s clothing you have.” Her wish is my command.

We have a wonderful customer who’s been asking me to stock Swiftwick socks for longer than I would like to admit. Turns out that all I needed to do was try a pair and, lo, we started stocking them shortly thereafter. Fancy cuffs with cool designs aren’t really Swiftwick’s thing. Instead they make super comfortable, supportive socks. Check ‘em out!

Just today we inked a deal to sell Sarma carbon fat bikes, rims and forks. Why? Fat bikes are exploding. While we are totally happy with Kona and 616, there definitely is a place in Kalamazoo for carbon fat bikes. So that’s the bikes. The neat-o carbon rims and forks allow us to zestify (new word, look for it in the 2015 OED) your existent fat bike for less than a grocery bag of dollars. We have wheels and forks now, with bikes and frames expected before Labor Day.

A few shop folk and several friends raced (term used loosely in some cases) the Ft. Custer Stampede mountain bike race last Sunday, which is *the* major fundraiser for our local mountain bike chapter, SWMMBA. I could write lots of words about the wonder of riding in the woods. I could write about the fun of adding an element of adrenaline (or fear or something) to the already nifty sport of cycling. We’re very lucky to have the trails at Fort Custer in our back yard, but I’ll tell you this: those trails didn’t build themselves. If you have a mountain bike or want to mountain bike or maybe even build trails on the odd Saturday, I very much encourage you to join the Southwest Michigan Mountain Bike Association. They’re good folks doing good work and could use your support.

Speaking of riding mountain bikes, Mountain Bike Monday is happening. All are welcome. The last three Mondays have been terrific.

Shop rides. Get your shop rides here. Actually, get a pile of road riding here.

What would May be without Kalamazoo Bike Week? Less awesome. Cool things to note are:

  • The Trail Blazer is this Saturday the 10th. Some years ago the TB was my first century, and I have fond memories of the event. It’s a good event benefitting the Kal-Haven Trail.
  • Also on Saturday is the Mayors’ City to City Ride. Join Mayors Hopewell and Strazdas at 9:00 at the Portage Creek Bicentennial Park. Yeah, mayors on bikes. Spring is happening.
  • More? You need more on Saturday? How about the Spring into Summer Family Bike Fest at Mayors Riverfront Park at 10:00.
  • Ward off evil at the Blessing of the Bikes at 10:30 at the Climax/Scotts Jr./Sr. High School, sponsored by the Climax United Methodist Church.
  • The Kalamazoo Bicycle Film Festival featuring short movies on May 13 at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe. Shows are at 6:00 for all ages and 8:15 for those over 21. Admission is a paltry five clams.
  • Our community Ride of Silence takes place on Wednesday, May 14th. The Ride of Silence honors those cyclists who have been injured or killed, raises awareness and asks that we all share the road. Good stuff.
  • Lots of cool stuff including the Bells to Bells ride on Saturday the 17th can be found on the Kalamazoo Bike Week web site.

Look at all this fun stuff. Three years ago there were relatively few activities during Bike Week. Now: lots. I think this is nothing but terrific.

Speaking of advocacy, our state Advocacy Day is in Lansing on May 21st, and you can read all of the detail on LMB’s very informative web site. I did something incredibly similar to this on a national level in March, and was really impressed.

I know what you want. Fun things to do.

“They” changed the date of the Yankee Springs Time Trial at almost exactly the moment last month’s Bicyclical hit the presses. It’s now May 18th and would be a perfect way to wind down (hah!) from Bike Week. Srsly: whip out that mountain bike and (ahem) redeem yourself from that Stampede fiasco.

Bike Camp starts on May 14th. Think you might like to road ride but are nervous about the whole thing? Bike Camp is opportunity knocking. Hear that? It’s opportunity.

If Tour de Taylor were an indie rock band I would own all their albums (which begs the question, how much does usage of the word album date a person? I suspect the answer is: significantly). Anywho, TdT is June 14th.

Kal Tour is June 29th and is a heckuva local thing. There are routes of 13, 15, 31, 62 and 100 miles. We’ve been kicking it around the shop and think it would be fun for all of us to ride bikes together. More details next month, but slap an X on June 29th to save the date. One note: register before June 15th for the good deal.

The weekend of July 12th and 13th is a monster. The Miller Energy BTR Crit happens on Saturday and the Race for Wishes in Lawton occurs on Sunday. Good fun all around.

I love riding bikes. I love bicycling machines. But, as I told my buddy recently, I really love being a part of the Kalamazoo bicycling community. Part of being from Kalamazoo, in my opinion, means that we acknowledge the fantastic philanthropic tradition of our community. Another part is acknowledging that there are many — too many — poor among Kalamazoo’s citizens. The Kalamazoo Dream Center exists to help the truly needy among Kalamazoo’s population, and they have a bike ride to help them raise funds toward that end. The Kalamazoo Dream Ride takes place on August 9th. I’ll tell you right now that it’s not your typical $20 century. It’s a ride to benefit a mission. If that sounds like the kind of thing that you can get behind, please do so. I’m not in the business of vetting nonprofit organizations, but I like the people I’ve met from this place.

Big Finish

As mentioned earlier, the cycling season is happening, and I’d like to get out of the way and allow you to enjoy it. If we can help, say the word. Otherwise I wish you many fun, untroubled miles.

Sincerely,
Tim

Explosif Revisited

ExplosifLately

I’ve had the new bike for a while and thought I’d share some thoughts and experiences.

 Fork: I bought the SID largely because I was trying to build a light bike. It took me a while to get the thing dialed, and I have come to believe that RockShox’s air recommendations are a tad on the high side and that this particular shock came with too much compression damping. I’ve rectified both of these issues and am very, very happy with this item.

Drivetrain: XX1= Blammo. I’ll confess that I had some reservations about this move as I’d been very happy with my former Shimano stuff, but XX1 has far exceeded my expectations. It works perfectly. My only complaint might be that it’s a bit pricey, a complaint that appears to have been addressed with X01.

Brakes: I did the Magura thing largely just to try something new. I was happy with the Avid brakes on my previous mountain bike and have been very impressed with Shimano’s latest stuff. Instead of going with equipment that I knew would work, I tried Magura’s MT6 setup… and there were issues, some of which were setup issues (don’t cheap out and try to use your old Avid rotors; the Magura rotors are thicker and work better) and some of which were process issues (learning to get them bled correctly). Somewhere along the line I contaminated the pads, either from the old rotors or a bleeding mishap. I installed new pads and bed them in the night before a race and BANG! Everything clicked, and the brakes worked marvelously. Like really freaking good. I confess that there were dark moments when I thought about chucking this system and bolting on some SLX brakes, but I’m now very satisfied and can recommend Magura brakes with confidence. Looking for something really light and maybe a tad off the beaten path? Here you go.

Wheels/Tires: I’ve had this setup for a while, so nothing shocking here. Stan’s are probably the best deal in tubeless wheels and Schwalbe makes mighty fine tubeless ready tires. I remain very satisfied.

The Whole Package: I’m not the best setup artist on my own stuff. I tend to go out and ride with my friends, think about what I might change, do nothing, go ride with my friends again and think about the same changes. This time I actually took a shock pump and an assortment of stems on a ride or two and slowly got the bike where I wanted.

As I ride more and more bikes I have a greater feeling for what feels right and what does not. However, I lack the technical chops to articulate what it is about one bike that makes it feel better or worse than another. I also think my thoughts should be taken in context — I’m not a gifted mountain biker. When I first rode a stock steel Explosif outside of Bellingham last year, I thought, “This is the most confident I’ve ever felt on a mountain bike.” That same feeling is strong when I ride this bike. Confident and frisky. Those are the two words I’d use to describe this bike.

It’s a keeper.

Mountain Bike Monday

VanOBikes

Some while ago — last summer? summer before last? — Our Gal Kim started getting a few friends together to hit the area trails on Monday evenings. Sometimes ten people would show, sometimes three. You could go as fast or not as you wished and it was consistently a really great time.

I asked Kim if Pedal could co-opt Mountain Bike Monday, and she said that it was cool with her, provided that mountain bikes were ridden on Mondays. So we’ll start tomorrow, April 21st. You can meet at the shop at 5:00 (sharp! no one likes to wait) for car pool opportunities or be ready to ride at 5:45 at the Fort Custer trailhead.

What is this like? It’s not terribly structured and is a work in process. It’s for anyone who wants to come, beginner to expert. It’s not a race. It’s not a skills clinic. It’s friends and acquaintances riding mountain bikes together. If this sounds fun, you are more than welcome. If it doesn’t, you’re still welcome.

I’ll update this post when and if things change, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

A Barry Nice Day

A good friend is hard to find.
A good friend is hard to find.

Immediately after yesterday’s Barry Roubaix race many of our friends were clustered at the end of the finish chute, coughing, having used parts of our lungs that hadn’t seen much action in a while. “There’s no way a big effort like this is good for your body,” opined one guy. “It’s not,” said another, who then provided science to buttress his argument. After we’d put on dry warm clothes the conversation continued in the beer tent.

This body isn’t what it once was (and it was never all that much), but it seems like a good idea to test the system every now and then. Whether or not it’s good for my body, I know stuff like this is good for my soul. I feel so darn good after a race like this. Why?

  • One reason is the big effort itself. It feels good to take on a project, do the work, finish the darn thing AND receive immediate feedback. In this hyper-efficient global economy it’s tough to find this sort of immediacy in work and social life. I’ve wondered if this isn’t part of the reason for the recent popularity of sport.
  • Competition is good, and by competition I mean the process of figuring out how good we can be, for which we need a course, competitors and a clock. Lemme say this differently: a course, some competitors and a clock allow me to determine how well I can do. In the act of competing I’m forced to acknowledge my shortcomings and deal with them. I know I’m not going to win, but I do wonder what my best might be.
  • I feel a wonderful bond with my competitors on the course. Yes, OK, I would like to finish ahead of you, but I also want you to finish better than you thought. I want you to make me earn it, and I want you to earn it.
  • A big race empties me. Assuming I can get myself psyched up to perform, there typically isn’t an iota of energy or emotion left in my body when the race is done. I feel very pure, as though I’ve sweated and exhaled all of the bad stuff out of my body.
  • What goes into this empty vessel? The companionship and love and camaraderie of my friends and competitors in the beer tent. An hour after the race I am a new man, stripped clean of my stresses and filled only with good feelings.

These are my ruminations. I might be right. I might be as wrong as I’ve ever been. Regardless, I’m still basking in the warm glow that follows a good, hard race. I tip my hat to the Barry-Roubaix crew for providing me the opportunity to feel the feeling.

Pedal goes Political

Over the past three years, I’ve almost become used to the extent that bike shop owners are hit up to be part of many different things. There are industry conferences, trade shows of all stripe, this, that and the other. Until recently, I’ve been too busy and Pedal has been too lean-staffed for me to consider many forays into the wild.

A few weeks ago I submitted a scholarship application to attend the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC, provided by the NBDA. The Summit is presented by The League (which is how the League of American Bicyclists was known throughout this summit) and consists of two main parts, learning more about cycling advocacy in various discussions and then actually advocating by lobbying your state’s elected federal officials with other interested parties from your state. I was awarded the scholarship largely, I think, on the strength of my answer to “What else should we know about you?” — I look really good in a suit. A photo submission was not required.

Why go? Bicycling has been good to me physically, mentally and financially, though my wife might argue the last point. I would like bicycling to continue its upward trajectory in the  consciousnesses of both my community and my country. Though important work on behalf of bicycling exists here at home, I thought that it might make good long-term sense to broaden my experience in the wide world of advocacy. So I bought a plane ticket, made hotel reservations, attended two preparatory webinars and transported myself to our nation’s capital.

I’m not sure why this surprised me, but the percentage of bike shop folk was rather small. Most folks were “advocates,” and there are all kinds of advocates. I met a lady from Tulsa who runs a place not terribly dissimilar to our own Open Roads. I met a lady from Minnesota who arranges multi-day supported bike rides with a built-in evening lecture series. I met the database czar of People for Bikes. I met bona-fide lobbyists. Within the Michigan delegation there were two shop owners and eight advocates who were there to talk about bicycling in general and perhaps a personal cycling-related project in particular.

Monday was a day of travel. Monday was also the day that a good amount of snow fell on Washington D.C., a city not completely prepared to deal with such an event. Compared to many, mine was not a grueling journey, but it did present opportunities for resourceful thinking and problem solving.

Tuesday was a day of learning in big meetings with famous politicians and advocates and in smaller break-out sessions. Snippets…

  • It’s not enough to get the mayor’s support. You must also have support from a “champion in the weeds,” a person in government who can do the mayor’s heavy lifting.
  • It’s crucial to gather metrics for your advocacy projects, especially if government funding is part of the financing picture.
  • I tend to think of cycling as an important component of our community to attract talented young people which will make companies want to locate here which will fuel the area’s economic engine. That said, society’s dispossessed probably need safe bicycle transportation more than a guy like me who owns a car.
  • If we are going to be successful in our advocacy, we must stand together and not apart. I believe it was Oregon Representative Blumenthal who said that “One Less Car” is not an effective slogan. We need to be pro-bike, not anti-anything.
  • Pittsburgh’s Mayor Peduto spoke about the need to build partnerships in advocacy and that a welcoming and open stance is much more effective than one of confrontation or pugnaciousness.
  • Good work is never wasted.

Wednesday began early; our first meeting was with Senator Debbie Stabenow at 8:00. We talked with some of her staff folk for a bit, then the senator appeared and spoke with us for what seemed like a very long time for such a very busy person. What can I say about Ms. Stabenow? Impressive.

On the way to our meeting with Senator Levin, we passed him walking the opposite direction with a bunch of well-dressed people to ostensibly attend a more important meeting. We met with his assistant Alison, a beautiful no-nonsense lady who (to me) looks like she does not take any shit and is probably quite a bit smarter than you (and by you I mean me). Alison was a gracious host and incredibly informed and exactly what you might expect a federal staff person to be like based on all the TV and cinema you’ve seen.

In the afternoon a quartet of us met with our own Fred Upton (“I go by Fred”) and his assistant, Nick. This was my favorite time of the day, not just because I like Fred but because I got to sit down with Nick, a Paw Paw native and K College graduate, and go over the three League asks in some detail and in my own circuitous way.

The three asks were: Safe Streets, The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act and New Opportunities. Want more detail? They’re House Resolutions 2468, 3494 and 3978, respectively.

While I very, very much enjoyed participating in our federal government, I don’t think I’m a good lobbyist. Two or three of the folks in our contingent had their sound bites polished and assertively (aggressively?) controlled the conversation. I just can’t do that. What would Mom say if I didn’t take time to mind my manners before digging into business?

Many times were we reminded that our dress on Wednesday needed to bridge the line between fashion and comfort as we’d be doing a LOT of walking and standing around. Did I heed this advice? No. I wrote that I looked good in a suit, so I brought out the Johnston-Murphy wingtips that have occupied space in my closet since I was a cubicle denizen and shined those suckers to a mirror finish. And those traitorous shoes absolutely destroyed me. I have a blister the size of neptune to attest to the fact that advocacy is hard work.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – The Anticipation Edition

Hello!

I once worked for a company that provided lunch for its employees. After a really tasty meal, one of my coworkers would often say, “Enough is never enough, but too much is too much!” Such are my feelings about the current season. Yesterday as I was putting on my long johns, I thought about a hot summer day in which the sun comes up early and I steal a ride before work. After the ride I hustle to take a shower but it’s So Stinking Hot and Humid that I can’t cool off before heading to the shop. This day will be here soon enough. And someone will complain about it. Heh.

I’ve been singing the praises of 650b/27.5″ mountain bikes for a few years now, and it looks like 2014 might be a breakout year, largely because one of the Big Guys (ok, it’s Giant) threw their hat in the ring. We’re fortunate that our brands were early adopters — Jamis has been making 650b for five years, Scott’s won two cross country world championships on 650b hard tails and Kona’s been doing their thing for a couple of years now. Neat stuff, proven designs and pretty darn exciting.

One of the recent trends in cycling that I like quite a lot is the movement toward not-skin-tight clothing. We started carrying baggy mountain bike shorts last year, and I’m a huge fan. I like being able to pop my car keys in a zippered pocket and I LOVE the fact that mosquitos have yet to pierce my baggy shorts — unlike thin lycra. This spring and summer will also see us experimenting with jerseys that look more like a shirt yet behave like a proper jersey made from performance material. Functonal? Yes. Stylish? I think so. Come see!

A hot topic around the shop these days is “What in the heck kinda tires are we going to use for Melting Mann and perhaps even Barry Roubaix?” Weather and road conditions being what they are lately, I’m going to say that studded looks like a good choice, despite the greater weight and rolling resistance. “What?” you say, “Those things are really expensive!” While they’re not dirt cheap, I think it’s fair to expect several years of use from a pair of studded tires. Plus fewer falls.

I recently wrote a long piece about dressing for cold weather that I thought would be great for next year, but maybe now is OK too.

The more things change, the more they change. We have several new faces around the shop. Charlie, Matt, Violet and Kira all work at Pedal part time while matriculating at various local institutions. They’re all super-nice and are acclimating to Pedal. I hope you’ll welcome them to our little world.

Over the past three years I’d like to think that we’ve built our business on service, particularly prompt, professional service for your bikes. It’s always our goal — and very often our realized goal — to get your bike done in a week during the busy season. I’ll be honest and say that this year’s longer, colder winter has me a bit spooked. I fear that there’s a glut of repair work sitting in garages and basements around town that’ll suddenly arrive at our door on the first warm day of the year and that it’ll take us a fair amount of time to work through that gob of labor. You, the people who receive this missive, are our customers. You’re the lovely people who’ve secured our success. If you know your bike needs a little attention, I really, really encourage you to get that sweet thing down to us before the hoards arrive. Thanks in advance.

One of my favorite programs from the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club is Bike Camp, a wonderful introduction (or perhaps reintroduction if you’ve been away from the sport for a while) to road cycling. If you are or know someone who might benefit from such a thing, I very much encourage you to check out http://kalamazoobicycleclub.org/club/bikeCamp.php It all starts on May 13th, so you’ve got a little time yet.

Fun Things to Do:

As always and with great sincerity PEDAL thanks you for being our customer. Please let me know how we can better serve you.
Sincerely,
Tim

The Clothing Treatise

One of the significant barriers to cold weather athletics, biking in particular, is dress. How do you dress for an adventure on a really cold day? Folks in the know speak of three clothing layers: Base, Insulation and Protection. I’ll write a little bit about what these layers are, what I use, why I use it and what you might want to consider. (Quick aside: I’m going to talk about a lot of stuff, and it’ll look like I’m talking about thousands of dollars of clothing. Heck, maybe I am, but no one expects anyone to develop an entire full-year cycling wardrobe in one shot. My own has developed over many years and I’m still adding and subtracting items all the time.)

Base Layer. This can be helpful in the warmer months, but is critical once it gets cold. Likely you’ll start to sweat a little bit once you get going, and it’s your base layer’s job to get that moisture off your skin. Modern base layers fit snugly and give you a nice warm feeling, too. A base layer is the foundation of any cool (or cold) weather dressing strategy.

Insulation Layer. This is rather like the pink stuff in the walls of your home. It creates a dead air space to buffer your body from the cold. Modern layers aren’t very bulky and work with the base layer to move moisture away from your body. Personally, I only use an insulation layer on the very coldest days. Long-sleeve jerseys and maybe that old fleece thing in your closet make good insulation layers.

IMG_2862
A long-sleeve jersey is nice when it’s cool and is a good insulation layer when it’s quite cold.

Protection Layer. On a bike in the winter this layer needs to be pretty darn windproof and perhaps waterproof as well. Breathability is also very important, otherwise everything inside the jacket turns into a soggy mess once you get going. It is the combination of these things (windproof, waterproof, breathable) and the degree to which a protection layer takes on attributes of the insulation layer that differentiate various garments. I’m a sucker for a good protection garment and (as mentioned above) typically just wear a base layer and a protection layer unless is it some kinda cold. A jacket that you wear to work out is slightly different than a jacket you wear for commuting. A commuting jacket tends to have a more relaxed fit to provide room for a greater variety of clothes underneath. A workout jacket may have less windproof material on the back, while a commuting jacket should be completely wind and waterproof. If your commute *is* your workout, there are garments that fit right in the middle.

A fully wind- and waterproof jacket with a trim fit. It’s tough to see all of the ventilation zippers, but there are many.
A waterproof commuting style jacket. The cut is more relaxed and the vibrant colors are good for being noticed.
A waterproof commuting style jacket. The cut is more relaxed and the vibrant colors are good for being noticed. Ventilation zippers abound on this guy, too.

That’s the theory — and good theory it is. When riding a bike, the three-layer system works perfectly for your upper body. Things that I have in my personal arsenal of upper-body riding attire include:

  • Base layers of various weights, both long- and short-sleeve. Historically one of my favorite things has been a nice base layer with a windproof chest panel. Lately I’ve modified my thinking such that I wear more of a base + protection combo.
  • Arm warmers are perfect for a cool day, perhaps a cold race if you’re working hard or a day in which the temperature might fluctuate a great deal. They’re easy to remove and store in a pocket.
  • A long sleeve jersey or two is nice to have on a cool day or for an insulation layer on a cold day.
  • I have three cycling jackets, but only one is my favorite. It has a windproof chest and arms, but not the back. It’s just the right amount of snug; it doesn’t flap in the breeze, but it has enough room so that I don’t look too much like a selection of sausage links if I have a long sleeve jersey under it on a really cold day. It’s cut rather long in the rear so it doesn’t ride up when I’m in the drops. All in all, a superior piece of clothing. One of my not-quite-as-favorite jacket is wool with a windproof chest. It’s very nice and terribly well cut, but it doesn’t work in as broad a temperature range as my favorite. My other is very similar to my favorite with an important exception — it’s not snug enough around the waist, allowing cold, nasty wind to blow up my back and make me miserable. I give this third jacket the stink eye sometimes.

On your lower body, things get more interesting. Because a pretty high range of motion is required and fabric bunching is a serious no-no, the three layers are typically combined to one degree or another in a single garment. Cycling tights are pretty much a de-facto base layer. Thick tights are a base layer and insulation layer. Windproof tights… You get the picture. Garments that I have, use and enjoy include:

  • Knee warmers. Combined with the cycling shorts you wear year round, knee warmers keep me going well into the 50s. My personal philosophy is to keep my knees covered when it’s under 70 degrees. Overkill? Maybe, but I’d like these knees to last me a lifetime.
  • Leg Warmers. Knee warmers’ big brother. If I had to pick between one pair of warmers, knee or leg, I’d take leg, as they often have big zippers toward the foot and can be rolled up if you get a tad warm, but not warm enough to warrant removal. Leg warmers can be windproof, which is pretty darn nice.
  • Windproof underpants. While I typically argue against underwear when cycling (bunching is bad!), snug windproof undies can make life bearable. I’ll say no more.
  • Tights. Tights are great, and the big question is whether to buy tights with a pad (cycling-specific) or buy tights without a pad and wear ’em over your bike shorts. I have both, but prefer to bike in tights with a pad. I like to have two pair of tights, winter tights and really serious winter tights. Some years I never wear my serious tights. This winter they’re gotten quite a bit of use. I have had my serious tights for eight years, so although they were rather expensive, the investment has actually been quite good.
  • Knickers. I am a full-on sucker for knickers. Yes, it’s like shorts and knee warmers, but you never have to worry about your warmers slipping down. Knickers are usually constructed of a more weatherproof fabric than the stuff I wear in the summer, and can thus be worn in cooler temperatures than a shorts/warmer combo.
  • If you’re more into commuting or mountain biking, windproof, waterproof pants are available to wear over your lycra short or over your regular clothes. I don’t have these personally, but a couple of guys in the shop like them quite a bit.

I hate a cold head, cold hands and cold feet. Each of these areas requires something specific.

I have a lot of hats. Two of my favorites are a merino wool cycling cap with fold-down ears and a similar cycling cap with a windproof forehead. The merino cap is good for all but the coldest days. In addition to these, I have a skullcaps of various weights and windproofness, a balaclava and some crazy neoprene thing I bought for snowboarding that covers my face below the nose.

Merino cycling cap with fold-down ear flaps.
Merino cycling cap with fold-down ear flaps.

Hands can be a challenge to keep warm. I like a pair of windproof gloves for the fall and early winter season. When racing hard, these work down to very close to freezing. The next thing would be an insulated glove. It probably goes without saying that the insulation makes these a bit more bulky than a merely windproof glove, but they are certainly warmer. The warmest thing is windproof, probably waterproof and very well insulated. “Lobster claw” gloves can be quite warm — sometimes too warm. It can be rather unpleasant to have your sweaty hands slowly become colder and colder.

Windproof gloves are an important part of any cycling wardrobe.
Windproof gloves are an important part of any cycling wardrobe.

Feet can also be tough — and potentially quite expensive — to keep warm. Start with good socks that wick away sweat and provide a nice level of insulation. Wool is considered the benchmark. Don’t get them so thick that it cuts off circulation; you need blood flowing to keep you warm. After socks you have essentially three options: toe covers, shoe covers and bona-fide winter riding boots.

  • Toe covers are great when it’s cool. They’re typically windproof, often neoprene and work great until, for me, around fifty degrees. I went through a period in which I didn’t have toe covers, but would apply duct tape to the toes of my cycling shoes. Hobo chic aside, duct tape is not as effective as a good pair of toe warmers.
  • Shoe covers are available in various thicknesses and materials. These work great down to Pretty Ding Dang Cold, and I haven friends who cycle happily on the coldest days with shoe covers. However, it’s not enough for some people, which brings us to…
  • Boots are pretty serious and typically expensive. They can also be difficult to locate. If bicycling is a specialty item, boots for cycling in really cold weather represent something quite niche indeed. I’ve personally purchased two pair of boots. One just wasn’t warm enough and frustrated the heck out of me, while the other is pretty amazing in its ability to keep my toes warm.

Other little tips that might help:

  • Those chemical hand- and toe-warmers that you often see at hunting and fishing stores can be lifesavers. Use as directed.
  • Winter insoles for your cycling shoes can help a lot. High-performance shoes are often designed to help keep your feet cool, so a better-insulating insole can be very helpful.
  • If you’re going to get wet, either via perspiration or the elements, embrocation can be very helpful.
  • Dryer sheets are bad news for performance clothing, as are most liquid detergents. Those things have additives that’ll clog the pores of performance fabrics and make your expensive stuff perform in a substandard fashion.

And that’s just about everything I know about clothing. I’d encourage you to work with some of the stuff you already own (that old fleece in the closet for an insulation layer, running tights for a bike ride) and add garments as you need them and as your willingness to go out in ever colder temperatures increases. I’ve heard people say that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. I don’t know about that, but appropriate clothing can certainly extend your cycling season and allow you get enjoy a bit more Pure Michigan.

Base layers under long-sleeve jerseys. Tights or knickers. Warm shoe covers. Windproof gloves in front, lobsters in rear. Cap on the guy in front, hair on the stoker.
A day around freezing temperatures. Base layers under long-sleeve jerseys. Tights or knickers. Warm shoe covers. Windproof gloves in front, lobsters in rear. Cap on the guy in front, hair on the stoker.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – Kill the Groundhog Edition

Holy Guacamole! What a winter wonderland we have here.

Very quick thoughts:

  • If I could have back all the time I’ve spent maintaining my driveway this past month, I could have written six Bicyclicals.
  • Very Much is the amount that I regret wasting Snowpocalypse on last month’s issue.
  • The days are getting longer, right? Right?

Before anything else: thanks to everyone who participated in last month’s survey. Feedback was positive with good bits of very constructive criticism thrown in for good measure, some of which mirrored my own thinking and some that did not. Food for thought. Food for action.

There are but a few things cycling-related that we can talk about when it’s so cold and snowy. One of those things is fat bikes, a “segment” of the biking world that has picked up substantial steam in the last two years. It’s been interesting to watch the changes. A couple years ago there were only two or three bikes, and now there are all sorts of brands and models. Frame and component standards have changed and perhaps coalesced. More tires are becoming available, as are rim and hub options. All of this is good, and all of it makes these interesting things more accessible. One thing I would mention: if you like the look of a fat bike but think, “I don’t want to ride in the snow. I don’t like to be cold. I would never use one of these,” I would say “Au contraire!” They’re actually very fun to ride on mountain bike trails and on city streets. In all instances, those big tires don’t mind a lot of the things that bother their skinnier cousins — things like roots, rocks and potholes. Come in and give one a spin. I think there’s every chance that you’ll like it. And here’s the funniest movie ever created. Here’s an article you might like. And this has a quote in which I sound like I have some command of the English language. I know. Weird.

What’s new in the shop?

Our 2014 design short sleeve jerseys arrived along with a healthy assortment of Pedal bibs and shorts for everyone. Look good and feel good, like when you´re taking aging supplements, The only brand of pterostilbene I take is here. Not like this guy.

Thinking about a road trip but don’t know how to fit it all in your ride? We’ve doubled-down on Thule cargo boxes for 2014. In fact, we stock a complete size run of Force boxes, which represent a fantastic blend of price and function. Imagine four people, a dog and four bikes on a 1500 mile road trip in a small SUV. Cozy? You bet. But we couldn’t have done it without the Thule box on top.

It’s time. Come get yourself a good deal on winter clothing. What! Good deal on winter clothing when it’s still cold outside? Yup. Right here. Right now.

Things to which we can look forward with increasing anticipation:

Melting Mann. Will it be a race, an adventure or something else? Who knows, but I all but guarantee that it’ll be memorable. Come on down and win yourself a Kona Rove thanks to our friends at Kona, our other friends at Central District Cyclery in GR and, well, us.

Barry Roubaix, you make me fearful, but I’ve always had a wonderful experience. March 22nd in lovely Hastings, MI. Tough race and one heckuva party immediately after.

I’ve said it before and I might just say it again in 2014, but these gravelly races are for anyone. If you have a bike that’ll traverse a gravel road, you can do these races. Yes, there will be people going really fast. Yes, the conditions might well and truly suck. Yes, you should know and exhibit proper race etiquette. Yes, it’ll be hard. Any time you put a number on your body or your bike it’ll be hard, but that’s kinda the point, right? The experience. Hurt a little bit. Maybe get a little bit outside your comfort zone. C’mon. Pick the right right length route for you and give it a shot. Even in the unlikely event that you have the worst day of your life, you know what? You’ll have done a bike race.

One of the few non-cycling events I’d like to talk about is the EZ 5K on April 19th. This is a foot race or walk to benefit the Eric Zapata Memorial Foundation. As you may recall, Officer Zapata passed away just less than three years ago while in the line of duty. The foundation was created to honor his legacy as a Kalamazoo Public Safety Officer and hopes to perpetuate his memory by maintaining a memorial scholarship and making contributions to the community he served. That’s about as nice a thing as I’ve ever heard, and I encourage you to check it out.

Let’s all hold hands and imagine — imagine that the snow will be gone by May 4th. What’ll we do without the snow? How will we exist? I’d suggest that we race the Fort Custer Stampede! It doesn’t take as long as a marathon and last year there was a frosty BEvERage at the end. Nice.

One of our customers came in and said, “You should say something about Bike the Drive in Chicago. I did it last year and it was really cool.” On May 25th Chicago closes Lake Shore Drive to vehicular traffic for five hours. I have to admit that I knew a whole lot of nothing about this event until Ken told me about it, but it looks like a good time for a good cause. Check it out here.

Let’s think about a warmer month, such as June. Is your June calendar already filled up with stuff? Good stuff? Stuff that benefits a great cause, is done by fun people and is itself a good time? Really? You’re already doing this? Good for you. See you there.

Big Finish

Winter is what makes us grateful for summer.

PEDAL loves its customers.

Sincerely,
Tim

Your Pedal Bicyclical – Snowpocalypse Edition

January, the month of introspection, of resolutions kept and abandoned. This issue of the Bicyclical is generally addressed to those subjects. One word of warning. Remember last month’s issue that was so short and sweet and quickly readable? This month won’t be like that, so you might want to grab a cup of coffee in the morning or perhaps something more fortified in the evening. Or hit delete now.
I occasionally use this organ to discuss the health of Pedal. I think our customers show great faith in us, and it’s only fair that we let ’em know that — thus far — their faith has yielded a successful bike shop. We’re just a few weeks away from our third birthday, and I think we’ve come a very long way since our first few days and we have helped many people to achieve their health goals, even people with diseases as diabetes that make them take medicines as vedda blood sugar remedy. This medication works best when started at the first sign of an outbreak, as directed by your doctor. It may not work as well if you delay treatment. For shingles or chickenpox, start taking valtrex at the first symptom or as soon as possible after the rash appears. For cold sores or genital herpes, start taking this advice medication at the first sign or as soon as you feel tingling, itching, or burning.
So things have changed a lot. We’ve increased our inventory. We expanded our service area. We’ve hired good people. We are better equipped to serve a greater variety of needs than we were a while back. It’s good stuff. And in that time we’ve also never had a sale. Why? I don’t like them. I don’t like charging one thing one day and another the next. I don’t like the idea that item X has this value on Tuesday but a different value on Friday. I like to take a different approach, one that is more value- than price-oriented. I want you, Pedal’s customer, to know that you can come into the shop any day at all and we’ll give you a fair price and excellent service. That is our deal, and I don’t think it’ll change anytime soon.
However, we make purchasing mistakes. Our vendors change things around and phase out old models and, yes, that stuff has to go. We have things that fall into that Gotta Go category and you are welcome to take advantage of these changing times. Right now we have a good number of really great Easton wheels that need good homes. You may recall (or more likely not) that Thule purchased Chariot a couple of years ago. Thule decided to rebrand Chariot as Thule for 2014, so our existing child transportation system floor models are, well, no longer current and are in need of good homes. Note: this Chariot stuff is as good as it gets. Primo. Deluxe. Don’t miss out on a good deal.
Help! Our queen of back office affairs inexplicably took another job, and we need a sharp cookie to fill her shoes. If you are or know someone who can handle tasks related to inventory in a friendly, efficient manner, we’d like to talk. The Pedal application is here. Why am I bothering you with this? Odd fact: 100% of Pedal employees were Pedal customers first.

New Stuff:

HED makes great aerodynamic wheels and really, really terrific aluminum race wheels. New this year are wider rims, disk brake compatibility and insanely light carbon fat bike rims. I’ll admit that I’m something of a wheel junkie and I go to buy junk car indianapolis all the time, but one of my favorite recent purchases was a pair of HED Ardenne Plus for my cross bike. They are extraordinarily well considered and constructed.
No doubt the biggest name in aerodynamic wheels, Zipp continues to innovate and improve. We’ve had enough customers hassle (er, ask) us about Zipp that we just can’t say no. Clincher or tubular, all Zipp aero wheels are totally carbon, very strong, very light. We have an 808/404 combo hanging on the wall, about which Ryan said, “Those black Zipps look bad.” Indeed they do. Fast, too.
I’ve always been a little bit mystified by these guys with cameras on top of their helmets or on their handlebars. Even so, when Garmin recently released the VIRB we snapped up a couple and have been putting one through its paces. I’ll admit: it’s fun. It didn’t take too long for us to load up a Micro-SD card, charge the battery and start filming. Once we had actual footage, we used Garmin’s downloadable app (PC or Mac) to transfer the data to a computer and then on to Facebook. Minutes later, we’d interfaced the VIRB to both an iPhone and an Edge 510, such that either device could control the camera. Pretty darn cool. Available now. Here. At Pedal. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnLGejV4e0o

Things to Do:

I’ve been pimping, er, promoting this Melting Mann race because — hey — it’s the kind of race I like. Over the past little bit, things have gotten more interesting. In conjunction with our friends at Central District Cycling in GR and Kona, we’re giving away a Rove at the race. You know, just in case you need another reason to sign up. Hurry! I’m not sure where we are on the 500 limit, but the buzz has been high and I’m afraid it’ll sell out soon.
Two weeks after is the fastest growing hootenanny in Michigan cycling: the Barry Roubaix. I could write a 1000 word essay on the number and intensity of emotions I’ve experienced surrounding this race the last couple of years, but I like you guys, so I won’t. Here’s the dirt: if you have a bike with reasonably chunky tires and some smattering of desire and/or competitive nature, you will have a memorable experience. I’m not talking about something you post on Facebook and forget; I’m talking about the kind of thing that lives in your heart and puts a smile on your face from time to time.
For people who’d like to get especially intimate with their mountain bike saddle, may I recommend the Lumberjack 100? The gold standard for 100 mile MTB whoopins around these parts, it occurs on the solstice this year for your druid pleasure.

Big Finish

Let’s come back around to resolutions. I’d like to lose some weight. I could swear less. I think Pedal could be more… tight, more precise. Yet I worry that I see what I want to see and not what I should see. I worry that our customers (that’s you) are kind people and won’t tell me what they want or how we should improve. In an effort to avoid that potentially unpleasant moment when you have to break it down for me face to face, I’ve created a short survey you can take if you have the time and inclination. If you don’t, that’s totally cool. I know I’ve turned down about 100,000 survey opportunities from AT&T. If you do have a few moments and an opinion or two, I hope you’ll participate in this, the first ever Pedal customer survey.
And it is with high hopes and good intentions that we march into 2014, trying to be a better bike shop  to serve you, our wonderful customers. Thank you.
Sincerely,
Tim

Early Christmas

Brittany wanted a mountain bike, and we ultimately decided that I owned the exact bike she wanted, so I sold her my Dragon. Which left me in a bit of a hole.

I purchased bikes from bike shops before I opened Pedal. Sometimes I said, “I have this amount of money and I want this kind of bike. Please maximize it for me.”  Sometimes I rode a lot of bikes and picked the one I liked best. Sometimes (tri bike) I went with the bike the fitter recommended. Sometimes I pointed to a picture in a catalog and said, “That one.” Sometimes I obsessed over everything and put together exactly what I wanted. This bike falls into the last category.

I started riding a couple of our demo bikes. Yeah, hard work. I rode the Kona Explosif during the bike portion of an XTERRA duathlon and the Big Kahuna for a long, winding day of road and trail. In the end, I’m a 650b kinda guy. The slightly smaller wheels just work better for me. So I called Kona to tell them I wanted an Explosif. I’m still not entirely clear on what words were said during the course of that conversation, but the next thing I knew I had a titanium Explosif frame on backorder and way too much time to think about parts. After reading this article on WSG, I’m going to have our water tested.

A word about the ti frame. It has the exactly same geometry as the Reynolds 520 frame I’d been riding, but is made in Tennessee by the fine folks at Lynskey Performance of 3-2.5 titanium. It has all of the attributes you’d expect from a hand-built ti frame: superb welds, beautiful finish. It’s really, really top shelf.

What to do about a drivetrain? I’ve been nothing but pleased with the SLX/Deore combo on the Dragon. It worked flawlessly and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. While I had zero problems with the Avid Elixir brakes on the Dragon, I’ve been mightily impressed with Shimano’s brakes lately. So it naturally follows that I have XX1 and Magura brakes on this bike.

Last year SRAM expected to sell 5,000 XX1 drivetrains. They sold 15,000. I don’t know if it’s weight, looks, simplicity or what, but single-ring drivetrains are a big deal these days, and I’ll admit that they work particularly well around these parts. Standout features of XX1 (and now little brother X01) include really cool chainrings that eliminate the need for a chain guide and a super-big (10-42) range of gears in the back. Good or bad, right or wrong, I like to personally try the technologies that interest our customers, so XX1 it is. Initial impressions: setup is a bit fussy, but it looks fantastic and shifts super great.

Thinking about that sampling new technologies thing, we have several demo bikes with SLX brakes. You, dear customer, are welcome to give ’em a shot. They are superlative; I recommend them without hesitation, but there’s no new ground to tread. I rode a bike with Magura brakes recently and liked a few things — mineral oil for brake fluid, easy to bleed, good (and still improving) access to spare parts, excellent tech support — beyond the overall performance. Plus: oh my goodness are they light. So a pair of MT-6 brakes grace the bike. I’ll write more about these as I have a chance to get to know ’em, but they look very promising.

Fork. Fork fork fork. What to get? Another Loop (which I loved)? Rockshox? Fox? X-Fusion? Are these not good times when I can look to more than one suspension company for a 650b fork? I swear that I am not a weight freak (look at me, for heaven’s sake), but I was a bit conscious about keeping the pounds off of this thing. Important factors were 120mm of travel, a tapered steerer and no remote lockout. Many options were available, but the Darth Vader dark side SID was too much to resist.

Wheels I have: Stan’s Crest in a comp build. Tubeless. Nobby Nick in the front and Racing Ralph in the rear.

So: you put all this stuff in a bowl, stir it up, place in a preheated 350 degree oven and a few hours later: Voila! A new bike!

This is where we started. A little over 4 lbs. of Tennessee titanium.FrameWeight

 

 

Pretty welds.Welds Ugh. The stress of riding a bike made to go fast.Tennessee Nice dropouts, convertible from 10mm QR to thru-axle to single speed. And a fancy derailleur.RearDer Head tube, oversized to fit a tapered steerer.Headtube The fancy ring.Crank More beautiful welding and ISG tabs.BBShell Fork!SID And here’s the final number, with pedals. Pretty great.FinishedWeight

Done! Yes. I will trim the front brake line so it looks less like a lasso.final

 

Man oh Mann

Heard of this Melting Mann gravel road race happening on March 9th, 2014? We have. We signed up. We wondered what we’d gotten ourselves into. And so it was that Special Pedal Operational Recon Team (SPORT) found ourselves at Swiss Valley ski area in the middle of a rain squall on a sixty degree November Sunday.

We found mud. We found hills. We found a couple of nice looking swine farms. We found an incredibly strong headwind at times. We found a gang (or rafter) of turkeys. We had a really great time and somehow managed to do all of this within a brief period of unrain on this very damp day.

How does it compare to the mothership (Barry Roubaix)? Faster, would be my guess. The presumptive uphill finish looks like a crusher, but the course on the whole is a dandy — some big climbs typically followed by a bit of recovery. What kind of bike? We saw folks on mountain and fat bikes, but I’d say a cross bike would be the ticket for a fast ride.

In the event that you’re looking for something more… involved than sitting around in your underpants on March 9th, Melting Mann looks pretty darn good. Only 500 entries this first year, so don’t sit around thinking that you should maybe get to this maybe next month if not the month after. Who knows what the weather will bring, but course conditions are part of the fun.

intense

Trainer Movies

I confess: in this time-compressed world we inhabit, I’ve been forced onto the trainer before I would have liked. However, the combination of a fan, an Apple TV and a Netflix account have made the experience not as bad as it could be. A few of the movies I’ve recently viewed from the saddle include:

Haywire

I loved this. Fast-paced. Lots of action. Pretty good plot. If you were really picky maybe you could guess some things, but since you’re watching it on your trainer and you don’t have a ton of oxygen in your brain, you’ll be fine. Seriously: I liked this a lot.

The Boondock Saints

Netflix told me that I should watch this. I wasn’t sure how this one was going to go, but it was great. Sufficient action to make it trainer-worthy tied to a good, thought-provoking story. Added bonus: Willem Dafoe is terrific. This baby is rated R, and maybe the R should be in bold if only for the carpet f-bombing.

The Avengers

Perhaps you’ve heard of this art house flick. Enjoyed it in the theatre; enjoyed it on the trainer. Nothing new to add.

Stay tuned. I suspect trainer season is just beginning.

November’s Bicyclical

Hello!

Regrettably this issue of the Bicyclical is a rather more jumbled mess than usual. Still, perhaps one might be able to find a pearl in this ocean of words.

Hey! It’s Iceman weekend. Of course, if you didn’t sign up a few hundred months ago it’s too late to race, but the party is pretty good when the pros cross the line.

Of course there is still some sweet cyclocross action in 2013. The ever-popular Markin Glen race right here in Kalamazoo is on the 10th. RunUpCX is at Bendix Woods on the 17th, and we pretty much finish up the local season inHolland on the 24th. Yes. It does get colder as we progress, but it’s still fun as heck.

People come into this fine establishment and ask, “Hey, are you gonna spin again this winter?” And I say, “Spin? What? Are you talking about David Mitchell’s House of Pain? Heck yes!” And I am now pleased to offer you some specifics on this. First off, this winter we’ll be training to win (that’s right: win) a March gravel road race. What sort of cycling fitness do you need for this race? You need high-end strength to power up the hills and the endurance to last the race. We will have our workouts on Monday and Thursday evenings at six o’clock beginning December 2. The workouts will last between sixty and seventy-five minutes. They will devour you in that special way in which you would prefer to be devoured. Participants need to provide a few essentials: a bike, a trainer, a bike computer that measures cadence and either a heart rate monitor or a power meter. Without those tools, you are unlikely to receive the maximum training benefit. We’ll take the first forty-five people that put down a whopping $25 US to reserve a spot. And that’s a fact. One last thing, and I fear that it will sound critical instead of welcoming: we don’t do spinning as an active form of bicycle storage. We do this to get/stay in shape and to do it with friends new and old. While I know that life gets in the way and can lay waste to our best laid plans, we’re looking for people to suffer with us often this winter.

Around my house at this time of year we like to curl up in front of the fire and read when we have a bit of down time. I like to read bicycling magazines from time to time (read: pretty much all the time) and lately I’ve been enjoying Singletrack, which you can find at Michigan News or the internet. Good writing. Good pictures. Maybe you’ll like it. Maybe not. Afraid to commit? A few back issues are on the coffee table at the shop. Check it out.

New faces abound at Pedal. Katy is finishing up her degree in Spanish at Western this semester, sampled her first cyclocross race and is quickly becoming a competent mechanic. Lily (not my daughter) came in one night looking at handlebar tape and somehow left with employment. Both ladies bring a good work ethic and a cheerful demeanor to the job, and I hope that you’ll make them feel welcome.

Change goes both ways, and it pains me to say that Jordan will be leaving us in the middle of November. Way back when, Jordan was the third Pedal employee, right after Ryan and me. He’s been a rock of stability around the shop for a long time. We’ll miss him greatly and wish him only the best of luck with whatever comes next.

What time is it? Yep. I saw snow the other day so it must be time for the Half Priced Overhaul. From November 1, 2013 through January 31, 2014 we will overhaul the living heck out of your bike for a paltry $90. What’s it include?
– True the wheels
– Disassemble the hub, bottom bracket and headset bearings, relube and reassemble
– Tune the braking system
– Tune the shifting system
– Clean the bike
This is a very fantastic deal, and I hope you’ll take advantage of it. We’d like our customers riding their finely-tuned bicycles as soon as the weather breaks next spring instead of waiting in the inevitable line for service. Who wants to wait in line? No one. Especially you. So let us help you by getting that bike in here, serviced and ready to go.

The time of year is coming when we Americans traditionally take stock of our situation and, hopefully, profess thanks for our good fortune. Many of our customers and friends ask, “How’s it going?” I’m happy to say that it’s going great. Really, really super, in fact. And I am grateful. I’m grateful for the customers that place such faith in Pedal. I’m grateful for Pedal’s employees who work so hard to make us a better bike shop. I’m grateful for the  suppliers who have been such tremendous partners and have supported our efforts so well.

Thank you. We’re nothing without our wonderful customers.

Sincerely,
Tim

Tools of the Trade

IMG_2653
Bearing press? Yeah, we’ve got a bearing press and a heaping helping of adapters for different bearing sizes.
IMG_2657
Gratuitous picture of an honest-to-goodness cigar box that once housed cigars. Now it contains other stuff.
IMG_2656
Excruciatingly expensive digital torque wrench used to attain proper torque on many a fastener.
IMG_2655
A nice assortment of headset and fork tools and adapters with the digital Mititoyo caliper Dad gave me many years ago.
IMG_2654
Sometimes it’s nice to know how much something weighs. To the gram.

The Animal You Were Born to Be

I saw this ad this morning and can’t resist sharing.

2K14_CX-masterIn case it’s too small to read, “The pain and the rain. Nothing hurts better. Quick and strong, able to jump the barriers in a single bound, and really put the hammer down. This is the animal you were born to be.”

 

A Tale of Two Konas

There are many ways I can attempt to justify Tuesday’s actions. Here are three:

  1. I needed a hard workout
  2. I needed a bike to race on Sunday, and was torn between two options.
  3. Why not?

I took a couple of our demo bikes to Yankee Springs to get a hard workout, figure out which bike I’d ride on Sunday and mess around a little bit. Like a fool, I figured I’d ride each bike on an 11-mile loop of Yankee and compare lap times. Lemme cut to the chase: bonk city on lap two, so let’s not worry about that mess.

The first contestant was an 18″ Kona Big Kahuna, a carbon 29er with a 2×10 mostly-SLX drivetrain, a 100mm Fox fork, tubeless-ready wheels, Maxxis Icon tires and all the trimmings. I’d taken this bike for a spin before, and found it very groovy. Today it felt great. Familiar. Fun. Fast.

Recommended daily dose of carbon 29er
Recommended daily dose of carbon 29er

Next up was a 17″ Kona Explosif, a steel 650b with a 120mm Rockshox Recon fork, a 2×10 mostly-SLX drivetrain, tubeless-ready wheels, Maxxis Ardent tires and all the trimmings. The Explosif impressed me to no end when I rode it in Washington state, and I was anxious to see if it felt as excellent on my home turf. It did.

Wheel reflectors for additional trail safety
Wheel reflectors for additional trail safety

Notes:

  • Almost identical drivetrains.
  • Similar forks.
  • The same wheels but for the size.
  • The Explosif is a tad bit smaller, but not by more than 1cm in any meaningful dimension.
  • Big Kahuna: 25 lbs. Explosif: 29 lbs.

Before I give my opinions on these guys, it’s worth mentioning that I’m not a great mountain biker. I have friends who can ride rings around me. I have other friends who can ride incredibly complex  three-dimensional shapes around me. So there.

The bikes are more similar than different. I put 25 psi in all the tires and found plenty of grip and a decent amount of rear-end compliance. Handling-wise, both of these bikes occupy that nice middle ground between twitchy and lazy. They go where you want. They don’t go before you want them to go, nor do you need to force them to do your bidding; they inspire great confidence. Due no doubt to the smaller gyroscopic force of its wheels, the Explosif was a bit easier to turn, still without feeling the least bit twitchy.

The brakes on both bikes were fantastic. I have nothing to add.

Newer 10-speed mountain bike drivetrains have super-big cog spreads in the rear (11-36!) which dictate really long derailleur cages to support all of the possible ratios. All that chain and a long derailleur cage typically mean a good amount of chain slap going over bumps. Shimano Plus and SRAM Type 2 rear derailleurs have mechanisms to keep the cage tight in place when not shifting, eliminating chain slap. The Explosif has an XT-Plus rear derailleur and it worked great! It was a serene experience to bounce down the trail without the clank clank clank of chain on bike. Very nice.

What about the (ahem) rather significant weight difference? Because I’d put them both on top of the car, I figured the steel bike was a bit heavier, but I was surprised at the difference when I put ’em on the shop scale. Wow. I’ll tell you this: you’d never know it by riding them. Seriously.

What’s left? Ergonomics — extremely similar. Looks — I think they’re both beautiful. The shapes and colors of the Big Kahuna are terrific in an understated, purposeful way. To my eyes, the Explosif looks a little more brutal, more like a tool, something you might find in a machine shop.

What’ll I ride on Sunday? Probably the Explosif. I think, deep in my black little heart, I’m just happier on a 650b. This day was supposed to empirically prove which bike was faster for me, but poor nutrition, sporadic training and an over-ambitious plan laid waste to that goal. Still, what could be better than riding sweet bikes all afternoon, watching Michigan grudgingly accept that fall is here?

New Brand, New Bike. Introducing 616.

A Michigan-made single-speed steel cyclocross bike. What’s not to like about this?

IMG_2628

I’d known about 616 Fabrication for a little while, largely due to their fat bike frames and significant Barry Roubaix sponsorship, and was very pleased when one of the owners came into the shop, showed off the product and asked if we’d like to represent their bikes in Kalamazoo.

The timing of all this was just about perfect. I’ve been psyching myself up for a single-speed cyclocross bike, but none of my major manufacturers make anything of the sort. I’d all but decided that I’d have to wait another year or two when the guy from 616 arrived. Will we sell your frames? Yes! Will you also make me a cyclocross bike? Please?

paint

And away we went. This is a stock frame size with single-speed, belt-drive Paragon dropouts that can be converted to multi-speed with a different (included) drive-side hanger. I confess that I’m a curmudgeon and initially asked for cantilever brakes, but no. Caliper brakes were an option, but not cantilever. So I hauled myself into the 2010s and ordered up a disk brake bike. I picked out the color of the bike and the logo color (paint! not a decal) and waited a very reasonable amount of time for the frame.

dropout

In the meantime, I had to do something about wheels. After a zero-failure experience with a tubeless setup last year, I figured I’d go that route again. I thought about building a set of wheels with fancy hubs and was driving myself crazy making decisions along that route when I found myself on the HED site. Woah! What is this Ardennes + thing? The Ardennes has been a fantastic wheel for us. It uses the same rim as HED’s Jet series of aero wheels with the same high-quality spokes and excellent hubs. The + refers to increased width, from 23 to 25 mm. It’s also tubeless-ready. Hey, why not?

tire

Brakes are Avid BB7. Tires are Clement MXP. The fork is from Whisky. The crank is some old thing I found in my box of stuff. Same with the seat post and handlebars. Chainring, spacer kit and cog are all Surly.

I put it all together Friday, participated in a crazy foot race on Saturday and raced the new bike on Sunday. Fun! I experienced none of the teething problems one might expect from such a rushed project. The ride is very nice. The wheel/tire combination was really great on the dry, grassy course and provided a ton of grip. It goes where it’s pointed, stops when it should and was in the wrong gear 100% of the time.

This should be fun.

Test Ride

I’m doing a race or ride or tour or something this Sunday, and hadn’t ridden a mile of the course, so I decided to take a day off and check it out. With 18 hours notice, I asked a few of my buddies if they’d like to ditch their jobs and come along, and had one taker. I was sure we’d have fun, especially since it was only going to get to 95 degrees.

Here’s how it went down:

Morning Sun Flare

We left my house at 9:00, stopped by the shop for some Hammer Bars and asked my wife if she’d rather work or mountain bike. Not surprisingly, we continued without my wife and drove to Cannonsburg Ski Area.

Cannonsburg

It’s easy to find the Ski Area, maybe not as easy to figure out what to do if you’ve never ridden your mountain bike there before. Not bad, mind you, just maybe not as spelled out as I needed. Still, it was fun. I felt like it had the loosest trail of the three and possibly the most elevation change. The terrain park (er, skills area) scared the crap out of this old body, but it was neat to see. We had a very fun and sweaty time here and spoke with nice people in the parking lot. Hard to beat.

Off to the much-heralded Merrell trail, just east of 131 on 10 Mile Road. If you get to the Rockford transfer station, you’ve gone too far. We circled the bowl (and took a very nice tour of said transfer station) while looking for the trailhead, and laughed at ourselves when we found it merely yards away… across a Long Fence.

Ready for Merrell

Did we like it? Yes. Quite a lot. The guy we talked to in the parking lot said that clockwise days are best, and it seemed pretty darn good to us. Just to note: all traffic — biking, walking, running — goes the same direction, clockwise (yellow arrows on trail) on some days and counter-clockwise (red arrows on trail) on others. The rules and days are clearly posted on the trailhead.

I’ve heard people suggest that Merrell is “dangerous,” that it has features that can hurt you. Cripe! Life can hurt you. In fact, life will ultimately kill all of us, but that’s beside the point. There are things that can hurt you on the Merrell trail, but I found them to be well-marked, and I felt like I had an opportunity to consider a “dangerous” feature before I attempted it, or not. All in all, I liked the trail enormously and felt like it had enough stuff to keep a rider coming back time and again. One word: berms.

Lunch time!

Lunch!

Rockford Brewing had a very nice IPA (confession: I’m not all that fussy about my IPA) and a good sandwich. The waitress/bartendress was nice and the owner was friendly without being overly solicitous. Mucho like.

And then it was time for Luton. And then we found a heaping helping of road construction, so we parked behind a big old construction sign and rode into the park.

Embarking for Luton

Luton was not particularly well marked for this first-timer, who was perhaps initially confused because he’d gone clockwise at Merrell and was instructed to go anti-clockwise at Luton. Suffice to say that it took a minute or two for me to get it together, but once I had my head screwed on straight, I had a fantastic time. Really freaking terrific. Luton is not “hard,” but it is really fun and fast with piles of flowing corners. I’d like very much to go back. And I will. On Sunday.

Meet the Nemesis

Our Gal Kim wanted a new mountain bike to replace her dated, pretty heavy 26″ bike with mechanical disks and a reasonably clunky fork. She did, however, have a really nice set of Crank Brothers Cobalt wheels that she loved mightily. As a result of those wheels, it took a little bit of talk to convince her that she should perhaps try a more modern wheel size. At 5’5″ Kim is about the perfect size lady to benefit from a 650b — she’s petite, but wants more roll-over than one can expect from a 26″ bike. At the same time, she doesn’t need the weight and inertia of a 29er. After a few discussions we decided on a custom 650b Nemesis.

Why a Nemesis? It’s a nice, light, zippy frame that comes with a super-neat fork, the X-Fusion Velvet, with 100mm of travel. We went with a custom bike because Kim wanted cooler-than-stock wheels and a Shimano drivetrain; the dual-thumb SRAM just did not appeal. Since we didn’t want a terribly expensive bike we decided on SLX, the performance of which I find very close to XT at a much nicer price. Deore is pretty darn good, but I think SLX is better. And we did the whole thing: drivetrain and brakes. Nice.

Wheels are Velocity Blunt SL with DT Swiss Competition spokes and Velocity rims. I’ve been riding similar wheels for a while now and have nothing but good things to say about them. Tires Ritchey Shield, which are very light and really great for fast, dry conditions. If Kim finds herself riding in looser terrain, we may reevaluate tires. The whole system is tubeless and went together very nicely.

Other bits include a Thomson seat post, a WTB saddle, a Ritchey stem and an Easton bar.

Pics of the finished product after a break-in ride or two:

bike

The usual partly-focused picture with a finger dangerously close to the lens. Still, it’s a good-looking bike. The frame is tough. The colors are good. Purple wall.

brakes

Is there anyone who doesn’t think that the latest generation of Shimano brakes doesn’t just kick butt? They’re great. You might glaze some pads over time, but the system itself is very solid. Here we have a pic of the rear caliper and pads complete with heat sinks. Also a Velocity hub.

velvet

X-Fusion Velvet fork with a 15mm through-axle. The skewer is a nice Syntace piece with a tapered bore similar to White Brothers. It is a bit odd to have the business end of the axle on the right-hand side of the bike.

rimtire

Nice wheels. Blunt SL rims, 28 spokes, Velocity hubs. Very nice performance at a reasonable price. Tubeless? Yes. Very much so.

RDRear derailleur and a nice 11-36 cassette. Around these parts you should be able to get pretty much anything done in the middle ring with that cassette.

I nearly posted this without asking the obvious question: does she like it? Indeed she does.

 

The September Bicyclical

Wow! What spectacular cycling weather. Lately I’ve had the opportunity to ride with friends new and old, and I’ve been continually impressed by how just unbelievably beautiful it is and by how fun it is to ride a bike (relatively) quickly. Lucky!

Fun Things To Do

Yes! Cyclocross starts in September. Let’s practice! Practice sessions will begin this (9/3) and each Tuesday evening at 6:30 until it becomes too dark to mess with it. We’ll meet at Texas Drive Park, which has a nice flat area to practice skills and close proximity to Al Sabo so we can get used to riding on a variety of surfaces at different speeds. ALL ages, abilities and whatever are welcome. Cyclocross is a super-fun way to either make use of all that fitness you gained this summer or simply race around on a fall day. Regardless, fun is the name of the game.
Need I mention our two (2!) local cyclocross events this year? October 20th is the race in Kindleberger Park. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect cyclocross venue — lots of elevation change, mucho spectating opportunity, trees, grass, dirt — all of it. A mere three weeks later ( November 10th) we’re back in Markin Glen county park. This has been a very fun, very well-attended race the past two years. Put ’em on the calendar! Additionally, you might wish to check out KissCross and RunUpCX, the two organizations that help us put on our races AND offer many other race opportunities in the area.
If you look here, you’ll see a pile of neat tours throughout the month of September. Many of us see the school buses on the roads and think that cycling season is over. No! I rode in a short-sleeve jersey and short, er, shorts in the last weekend of November last year and had the time of my life. Cycling season, like youth, is a state of mind. Shoot, my high-tech phone tells me that daylight savings is in effect until November.
Are you a Kalamazoo Bicycle Club member? Do you ride on club rides? If so, please remember that evening club rides start earlier in September — 5:45. Not so with our shop ride. It remains at 6:15 until we just can’t take it anymore. You might, however, consider a blinky light.

In the Shop

Yeah. We have those fancy Vector pedals in stock and on display. You power nerds are most welcome to come check ’em out. They’re drool-proof.

We’re located in downtown Kalamazoo and we love mountain biking. We know it’s tough for customers to ride a sweet 29er or 650b around the parking lot and say, “Holy heck! I’m going to slay my foes on race weekend!” To that end, we’re making a big effort to have more mountain bikes available for demo purposes. Jamis, Kona and Scott all support us in this effort. Some demo bikes are here and more will arrive soon. Curious? Give us a holler and we’ll spill the beans.

2014 Bikes have started to arrive, particularly the new Kona cross bikes. Yum.

As alluded to above, the days are getting shorter. There. It’s out in the open now. Days are getting shorter and it might be worth thinking about a light source for your ride. We have a nice supply of rechargeable headlights — from something just right for riding in town to something that’ll embarrass a car headlight. Blinky lights for the back of your bike? Yeah, we have those, too. Armed with a good headlight on these warm, sultry mornings I’ve had a great time looking at fog in the fields, the beautiful full moon and wonderful sunrises.

The Ramble

On the shorter of our shop rides we’ve begun riding back into town on Ravine. It’s a nice gradual downhill to Douglas and is really fun to ride briskly. On a couple of occasions recently I’ve had folks in cars enthusiastically share unsolicited advice and legal counsel. One of the things I like about the folks I ride with is that they don’t get all up in arms over this kinda stuff. There are no fingers or unpleasant gestures; they (we) continue to ride legally and safely. One of my buddies even said something to the effect of, “More and more people are cycling on these roads all the time. Pretty soon people in cars are going to get used to us.” I do like this longer view.

Big Finish

This Bicyclical is about praising this summer, not burying it. We’ve had a wonderful time sharing the season with you, and look forward to some fall fun before the very cold sets in. Thank you for your patronage, support and patience as we continue to make improvements to our shop. We appreciate you very much.
Sincerely,
Tim, Ryan, Jordan, Dave, Jim, Randy and Megan

Reflections on the 2014 Kona Launch

There are folks who believe that there is no life as charmed as that of the bike shop owner. Sometimes that notion is correct.

Last week Kona held their 2014 dealer launch in Bellingham, WA, were I learned about the 2014 bikes, rode the 2014 bikes and met many of the people responsible for the 2014 bikes. Did this suck? Absolutely not.

First off, though Bellingham is a difficult destination, it is more than worth the hassle. Situated on the Strait of Georgia approximately midway between Seattle and Vancouver, Bellingham is approximately the size of Kalamazoo with easy access to myriad outdoor activities, mountain biking not the least among them.

Kona is quite a company, half American and half Canadian, but bound by a love for mountain biking. The company has a rich history in mountain bikes, cross bikes and somewhat oddball bikes like the Paddy Wagon, the Sutra and, more recently, the Rove. What other bike company has had a successful bike named Stinky? I can think of none.

The biggest Kona news for 2014, the Process series of bikes, does not much apply to the lower peninsula of Michigan. Why? Whereas the LP is largely XC country, the Process bikes are more All Mountain and Trail. In the event that you’re not hip to the latest mtgb segmentation, the Process bikes have more travel and are heavier than this wonderful environment might require. That said, the Process bikes shed significant light on Kona, both its ethos and its employees.

Kona takes great pride in its independence and its mountain biking purpose. When introducing the Process bikes, Kona’s engineers took pains to describe the geometrical and kinematic attributes of the bikes and the benefits thereof. For instance, Kona uses a single-pivot, progressive rear suspension. While the design team tested many possible and several more complicated options, they settled on this one because it is simple, proven and predictable. While other designs may offer certain benefits in certain rarified situations, Kona’s people believe that their design works better over a broader range of travel.

2K14_Process134DL

Things about Kona bikes that bear mention: longer top tubes, shorter stems, slacker head tube angles and really short seat stays. Longer TT plus a shorter stem actually puts your handlebar in exactly the same place (I said “approximately” to a design guy and he said, “No. Exactly.”), but allows the rider greater freedom of movement without “over riding” the front end. The short chain stays promote quicker turning. While the Kona geometry may feel a bit vague riding around the Pedal parking lot, it feels quite normal in a corner at speed. Neat stuff.

I rode a few bikes during my stay and thought I’d comment on them.

The Wo is Kona’s foray into the emerging Fat Bike market. I liked the Wo. The drivetrain and brakes are good.. The frame is wide as is the rear hub, which has no offset. It’s aluminum so salty roads are not an issue. The semi-moustache handlebar seems fine to me, but others found it ugly. If you want a Wo, we’ll put a different bar on there for you. Regardless, I think it’ll be a cool bike.

2K14_Wo

The Super Jake is Kona’s highest-end cyclocross bike with a very supple carbon frame, hydraulic disk brakes and a SRAM Red 22-speed drivetrain. I found nothing not to like about this bike. It went forward well, stopped incredibly well and was very, very comfortable. I’m tempted.

2K14_SuperJake

I rode a series of Hei Heis (dual-suspension 29er) in carbon and aluminum, sweet bikes all. I’m not exactly a dual-suspension 29er expert, but I noticed that there was a pile of traction, good maneuverability and good comfort. The Hei Heis are very nice. I rode one up and down things that were well outside of my comfort zone and enjoyed doing so. Expect to find at least one demo at your Kalamazoo Kona dealer soon.

2K14_HeiHeiDeluxe I just loved the Explosif. Steel frame. 650B. 120mm travel fork. SLX drivetrain. Could it displace the Dragon in my garage? Maybe. I sure did like it.

2K14_Explosif

What does all of this mean for you, the discriminating west-Michigan bike connoisseur? It means that we know more about the stuff we carry. It means that we’ll have more demo mountain bikes in the shop.

Thing is: people come into the shop and say, “Doesn’t everyone make a pretty damn good hardtail 29er?” Yes. They do. Everyone also makes a pretty damn good full-suspension bike. That said, Kona makes a considered bike. Watch that Process video. While the Kona designers are fully aware of the technologies historically used by the company, they also tested the living heck out of other ideas, notably multi-link rear suspension, before settling on a progressive single-pivot design. Cool stuff. Cool people. Cool bikes. For you.

Scott Demo

PrintYes, we know it’s last minute. Sorry. It took us and the good folk at Fort Custer a little bit to work out all the details, but we’re happy to host a demo event tomorrow (6/19) afternoon at the trailhead. That’s right: dual-suspension Scotts –both Genius and Spark — and nifty road bikes are yours to try from 3:00 until it gets too darn dark.

Here’s the place. Call us at 269/567-3325 if you need information. You should bring your riding gear including a helmet, shoes and your pedals. You should also bring some ID for the waiver and all that.

I again apologize for the late notice. Hope to see you there.

 

Dualies

12_dakar650bpro

Maybe it’s a result of my introduction to mountain biking. Maybe it’s our local terrain. Maybe it’s just the status quo around these parts. Regardless, I’ve always been a hard tail kinda guy, be it 26, 29 or 27.5 wheels. Dual suspension bikes always seemed heavy and complicated to me. Traditions like this die hard.

Our biggest bike brand, Jamis, has a very passionate cult following (I’m sure both Jamis and I wish that this following were more than cult) for their 650b/27.5 bikes, particularly their dual-suspension Dakar 650b. Seriously: look at the back issues of Mountain Bike Action and Bike. Those guys cannot shut up about the awesomeness of this bike. Reviews can be found here.

Ryan and I have talked about this many times: we cannot expand our own and our customers’ horizons without bikes for them to see and ride. Thus, we’ve thought about demo dual-suspension 650b bikes for some time. 2013 is the year we finally got around to it.

About two weeks ago our cargo arrived: a 17 and a 19 Dakar with all the trimmings — White Brothers Loop fork, SRAM X.0 drivetrain, American Classic wheels… all of it. We got these things for one reason: demo fever. We want our customers to try these things. Maybe you’ll want one and maybe you won’t, but you’ll never find out without riding one.

The Dakar is a pretty serious bike — five inches of travel at both ends. Yes, that means a 130mm travel fork. It sounds like overkill to most of us with West Michigan roots, but the bike has serious cross-country geometry. It’s made for trails like we use and is not a pure trail bike like, for instance, the Scott Genius.

So of course I built one of them (just happened to be in my size) one morning and went riding with friends at Fort Custer later that evening. Keep in mind that I had zero experience with a suspended rear-end before this ride and spent almost no time setting it up. Still, I liked it. I felt like I had to work too hard going uphill, but the descents were fantastic. Cornering was a little slower than expected, but still pretty interesting. I took me almost no time at all to get used to sitting down the entire ride. Fun.

I thought about the things I didn’t like, mainly the slow turn-in, and considered remedies. The next time out I put a little more air in the shock and let a little air out of the fork. Bang on. All of the sudden this thing steered like my hard tail while still absorbing bumps like crazy. After a couple of laps on a very technical course, I’m pretty darn hooked.

I have a few takeaways from this experience:

  • A dual-suspension bike is heavier than a similar hard tail. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that heavy, at some point, is almost a state of mind.
  • A dual-suspension bike is a bit more complicated than a hard tail. That said, even someone with my limited know-how and resources can make it work. This stuff is not rocket science.
  • A dual-suspension bike is easier on your body. This should not be a surprise.
  • A dual-suspension bike is also easier on your mind. You don’t need to be quite as obsessive about your line on a dual-suspension bike. If you hit that root with the rear tire, it won’t spring you up in the air and screw up your flow. Instead, the suspension will absorb the hit and away you go. I found it rather surprising the first few times.

Am I a convert? I dunno about that. I got back on Old Green last Friday and once again enjoyed myself enormously. The thing I haven’t done is back to back loops with my normal bike and one of these demo things. Frankly, I’m not sure I’m in good enough shape for that sort of test to be valid. Still, it would be pretty fun to try…

Zoo de Mack, a first timer’s perspective

I have not participated in many bicycle tours. I hit the Kal-Tour pretty regularly, but not much else. I honestly don’t know why except that I tend to work in the summer and race cyclocross in the fall. There’s not a whole lot of time left over for organized stuff.

Earlier this year my brother and sister-in-law asked us if we’d like to take a road trip with them to do Zoo De Mack. I didn’t know a darn thing about it, but agreed, largely because I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a weekend — riding bikes with the people I love.

Later, I looked at the website and saw that it appeared to be a bike ride wrapped around something that looked like a cross between Key West and a frat party. I immediately called my brother who assured me that the ride was cool and that we’d pass on all of the other stuff.

And so we did. We stayed at the very excellent Birchwood Inn (dog friendly, btw) just outside of Harbor Springs. Because we got a late start (hello, life of a small business owner), we shuttled a car to the end point in the morning. We did this so we could be on our own schedule and so that the day could warm up a bit.

How was it? Crazy. It was 50 miles of a helluva lot of people. Some were on super-light carbon fiber Italian bikes with deep dish carbon wheels. Other folks appeared to have purchased their bikes from Target yesterday. Or twenty years ago and they had been stored outside ever since. There were awesome bikes and total pieces of crap. The continuous sound of unlubricated chains made me very sad. There were so many people on bikes that the general rules of riding (e.g., two abreast, stay to the right) were thrown out the window. I will say this: the route was breathtaking, with beautiful views the whole time.

I know. OK. I know. It’s a tour, not a race. However, The Kid and I were on our tandem and The Kid does not like to loiter. She likes to go. So, largely, we went. I was shocked by the number of folks wearing headphones with the music (apparently) cranked up to eleven. I was shocked by the number of folks riding in the wrong lane. I was at least a little shocked by the number of people who in no way considered that they were riding in the middle of a large number of people. Dangerous? I wold say no. Did you need to be on your toes? Yeah, especially if you were going moderately fast.

I conclusion, it was absolutely fantastic seeing so many people on bikes. Really: it was great, really refreshing. Yes, I was a bit unnerved by the lawlessness, but that’s probably more a reflection on me than anything else. I would not mind riding that route again, but I’m not sure I’ll do it as part of that particular tour. You mileage may indeed vary.

That Bike Week Commuting Thing

IMG_2277As you may know, we’re doing something a bit different during Bike Week. We’re making it more convenient to commute to work — provided you work in downtown Kalamazoo. How? Showers and bike storage. We provide a place to shower and a spot to keep your bike during the work day. You just need to show up at the shop after about 7:00. We’ll provide a hot shower, but you’ll want to bring your toiletries. If you’d like, we’ll store your bike (and gear, if you wish) for you during the work day. You just need to pick it up before we close for the day.

Should you have questions/comments/concerns, please email or call the shop at 269/567-3325.

 

Happy to Be Here

scottwnr

Our Scott rep called a few weeks ago and said, “I’d like to bring my boss to your shop on May first. Any chance we could get in an evening ride?” Ummmm… heck yes.

Brad and Chris showed up just a tad later than planned, so we missed the start of the bike club‘s Wednesday night ride. Still, we went to the Kal-Haven trailhead and set out on our own, which was super nice as we were able to ride and chat for a while. As we pedaled down 2nd Street, just north of D Ave., Chris said, “This is fantastic. It’s beautiful. I am so happy to be here.”

I’ve been thinking about his comment a lot. During the long winter, it’s easy to forget Michigan in the spring. We live in a special place, and there’s hardly a better way to take it in than on a bicycle. Sometimes it takes a bit more effort than I’d like to get out of the shop, out of the house, out of the car and ride my bike just for the sake of riding my bike, but by golly there are days, there are rides, there are experiences that are almost too delicious to talk about. Don’t miss out.

Also: don’t listen to those Scott sandbaggers. They’re strong as heck and will put the whoopin on you in your own backyard, but nice enough to pull your shattered carcass back to the parking lot.

Your April 2013 Bicyclical

Hello!

Is there stuff to do on a bike in this town? Yes. There is.

  • The Ft. Custer Stampede is this weekend. What’s that? Your sweetie is running the marathon or half marathon? If you race Sport, you don’t start until a very civilized 12:30, so you can cheer on your beloved AND get some of that sweet mountain bike action. It’s all here.
  • Sometimes I have to think that the best thing to happen to cycling in Kalamazoo is the KRVT. The friends of the KalHaven and Kalamazoo River Valley Trails sponsor the Trailblazer on May 11th. You can ride on the trail. You can ride on the road. You can ride darn near anywhere between 25 and 100 miles. Data is here.
  • Kalamazoo Bike Week is May 13-19. More below.
  • The Kalamazoo Bicycle Club’s Bike Camp starts Tuesday, May 14th. This is a fantastic introduction to road cycling and the sport. Tell your friends and neighbors.
  • I have XTERRA fever and there’s only one way to get rid of it: Last Stand XTERRA. Lots of options for your triathlete, your duathlete and your trail runner. Check it out.
  • Now that some warm weather is here, you’ll be totally tuned up for Tour de Taylor on June 15th. 12, 31 and 62-mile routes await you and let’s not forget: all proceeds benefit the Make A Wish Foundation of Michigan.
  • Is it too early to think about the Kal-Tour on June 30th? I think not.

Bike Week

It’s almost here, and it looks just great. Note the updated website. Note the fun things to do. Seminars. Rides. Movies. More rides. Oh, and there’s that ride to work thing we’re doing.

If you’d like to try commuting during bike week, we’ve come up with a plan that might help. We’ll provide showers and toilets ( courtesy of Toiletable.com ) Bike storage and a valet (that’s right) will be at the shop at 7:00 each morning to assist folks in finding their way. You’re welcome to a shower. You can leave your bike and gear. You will need to pick up your bike and related accouterments by 6:00. This will be super fun. I hope you have a chance to take advantage. Questions? Concerns? Call 269/56-PEDAL or write.

Shop Rides

 ‘Tis the season. We get a lot of calls about our shop rides, so I thought it might be a good idea to clarify what we’re doing and what you can expect. Here it is.

 Mountain Biking

 Mountain biking is fun, and this is a good time of year to hit the trails. I’ve been to Fort Custer the last few Sundays with friends and enjoyed myself enormously. The grip on the trail is fantastic (for a wuss like me).  The sights are great. One day we saw a huge hawk on the ground not ten feet from the trail. Another day we looked up at a great horned owl in a tree.

SWMMBA (Southwest Michigan Mountain Bike Association) is our local mountain bike club/chapter/thing. For years, SWMMBA’s primary focus has been Ft. Custer, but the times they are a-changing. Many are the opportunities for new trails in our area, and SWMMBA is exploring and acting on these opportunities. If you like to ride through the woods, I would vey much encourage you to join SWMMBA. Your $30 dues goes to trail building and maintenance. Additionally, your membership allows SWMMBA to demonstrate that mountain biking has demand in our area.

What’s New in the Shop?

Koki. Cool panniers, seat bags, front bags and more. I’d been thinking about Koki since the first time I saw it at Interbike (bicycle trade show), but never pulled the trigger. A customer asked if I’d order panniers for her, giving me the push I (apparently) needed. Now that the product is in the shop, I’m impressed with its style and versatility. Check it out.

The bike generating the most interest as of late is the Kona Rove, a steel, disk-brake cyclocross/gravel road bike. It’s still quite new and a bit scarce, but it sure is pretty and the ride is so smooth. Fat tires with a steel frame is a tough combo to beat. If you click on the link, be sure to watch the movie.

100% of our mountain bike brands — Jamis, Kona and Scott — now have 650b hard tails. Cool. Here’s a fun movie.

We have a bit of change going on, personnel-wise. We bid Brittany fond farewell and good luck as she takes a new role with her “other” company. Megan is a groovy young person who is working very hard to figure out how Brittany kept me organized over the past year. Also joining Team Pedal is Randy, a grad student with time on his hands this summer and some serious bicycle mojo. Megan and Randy are both super nice and welcome additions to our posse.

Here’s another fun movie.

And another about shorts. Yes. In fact we did pay extra for the movie star.

Big Finish

You might not believe it, but I actually deleted a bunch of words from this missive. I didn’t intend for it to be so long, and my hat is off to everyne who made it to the end. Now that something approximating seasonal weather is here, next month’s post might be three or four sentences long. If you’re lucky.
Thank you. Pedal is nothing without its customers, and we sincerely appreciate your business.
Until next month,
Tim, Ryan, Jordan, Dave, Jim, Megan and Randy

Pedal Rides

Warm weather is here, and it’s time to talk about shop rides.

Why do we do shop rides? We do them so that we, people who work at Pedal, can ride our bikes. We do it so we can mingle with our customers. We do it so we can make new friends. We do it because we like to ride bikes.

Our rides are challenging, but hardly impossible. There are hills, as will always be the case when you start your ride near the Kalamazoo River. It won’t take long for you to dominate the hills and make them your personal lackey.

Rides start promptly at 6:15. If you need to buy a Clif bar or a Hammer gel or whatever beforehand, please be early so the shop folk can don their cycling gear for a timely departure.

We have two routes at Pedal. One is a 27-mile speedy adventure. You should know the route and be able to take care of yourself if you have trouble, e.g., flat. You need to be able to ride in a group at a speed of at least 20 MPH. You should have good group riding skills and be a good ambassador for cycling while on the ride. This is the route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/40432728

We have a shorter (20-22 miles) ride that might be one of these three routes:

The shorter ride typically breaks up into two or more groups, one of which is as fast as it wants to be and the other is as fast as the slowest person, which we expect to be around a 15 mph average. The shorter route is about learning group riding techniques such as drafting, riding close and keeping a steady pace. We’ll also work on the rules of the road, such as a maximum of two abreast. It’s a no drop ride; participants are expected to help one another out in the case of a mechanical. It’s a good idea to know the route or to ride with someone who does. Getting all hopped up on adrenaline and going off course kinda defeats the no-drop policy. Some personal responsibility is required.

Speaking of personal responsibility, Pedal believes in it. If you ride with us you understand that cycling is inherently dangerous and that you may be hurt or killed. This is the tough truth of life, of cycling and of Pedal rides.

That scary stuff said, our rides are about fun and joy and a good group experience. I hope you’ll join us.

Well. That’s Over.

I pimped the living heck out of the Barry Roubaix race this year. Now that it’s over, perhaps a few comments and perspectives are in order.

One of the reasons I like the BR is that I think it’s a race for anyone. This is not to say that it’s easy. The course — any of them, 24, 36 or 62 miles — is challenging.  And — hey! — it’s a race, not a charity ride or a leisurely bike ride through the countryside. Still, if you’re willing to give it a shot, the race is yours for the taking.

In the weeks and days leading up to the race, I became increasingly nervous as a result of the weather, in no small part because I planned to race my tandem with my friend Megan, a ferocious athlete with a disposition that I thought might pair well with mine. Megan has two young kids and a full season of racing planned. I did not want to be the guy that crashed the bike and ruined her summer, so I whined a lot. Megan, nicely, suggested that I shut my yap and prepare myself for, at the worst, an adventure. It didn’t occur to me until much later how much faith she put in my ability to pilot the bike.

We had an exceptional day. The course was very frozen, super-fast on the dirt and super-spooky on the icy parts. While we saw a lot of crashing, we participated in none. Megan says that she closed her eyes and kept pedaling when she got nervous. We yelled at the people we knew and tried to thank all of the volunteers. Again, it was great.

This race was my brother’s first. He had a couple of issues, the most interesting of which was that his brakes froze while partially engaged. He was more than a little frustrated and sent me a text when he finished, “The most dreadful thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Later that evening after some time, some pizza and maybe a beer or two he said, “I’m glad I did that.” I LOVE the fact that he and his wife both took a swing at this thing and finished strong. Very excellent. Proud? Yes. Also.

Degrees of Separation: a friend went to see (as in spectate) the race and was asked to ferry an injured racer to the hospital. Sure enough, the injured dude was a customer and Shop Friend. I wish him a speedy recovery from his broken elbow.

As part of sponsoring the race, we agreed to give away two pair of Scott mountain bike shoes. Our Scott rep Brad was instrumental in this regard and drove up from Louisville to check out the scene and give the race a go. I was quite envious of the tires he chose — 700×40 semi-slicks — and am actively looking for something similar. Regardless, Brad is a Secret Stud and had so much fun that he rode the 62 mile course instead of the 36. Then drove back home to Louisville.

Ryan had a great race, though he used his typical tactics: Always Be Pulling. Ah, youth! Megan and I passed him on the pavement doing about 30 and told him to fall in behind us and rest. This seemed to make him mad, so he passed us back and was gone, not to be seen until after the finish.

I contend that it’s one thing (and a big one) to nail your pride to the wall and sign up for a race, another to do the darn thing and yet one more to bask in the glow afterward. If there’s one thing that Rick Plite (BR’s promoter) does well, it’s provide a good environment for basking. Many were the smiles and stories in the beer tent after the race. Some fell. Some fell hard. Some were kissed by fortune. Some had to work harder than expected. All were just happy as heck to have cooked their lungs and legs and done the deal and to have friends with which to share their stories. It was beautiful. And then Brad told me that he locked the keys in the van.

Adventure? Sign us up.

Treads

cxtires

One of my favorite past times these days is listening to everyone worry about the right tires and tire pressure for the Barry Roubaix. With that in mind, I took a picture of our current inventory and will share a little information about each.

Bottom left is a Vittoria XN. This is a very fast “file tread” tire. If the dirt roads are hard-packed and dry or your bike handling is top-notch, these would be great. Conditions seem a bit damp and messy for the XN to be the perfect tire for this year’s race. That said, a lot can change in 10 days.

Middle left is the Vittoria XG, which is a terrific all-around tire. New this year is the tubeless-ready TNT model, with which some of our customers have had great success. It’s also the reason we put the little bottle of Stan’s on the box. The XG rolls very quickly and has a good amount of grip.

Top left is a Vittoria XM, which is a high-traction mud tire. You’ll give up a little bit of rolling resistance to the other guys, but you’ll have terrific grip. This might be a good choice if it keeps raining, but… I’d probably go with something a tad less aggressive if I had a garage full of tires from which to choose. (Also: I could be way wrong.)

To the right is a Schwalbe Rocket Ron. This is a very light, fast rolling tire with a good amount of traction. The Rocket Ron is just a tad wider than the VIttorias, but not really enough to write home about.

The tire we stock that’s missing from this picture is the Michelin Mud2, which is a very high traction tire similar to the XM. Listed as a mere 700×30, the Mud2 seems and performs wider. It’s a fantastic tire, but not as fast as the Rocket Ron or the XG.

What do I recommend? For this race, probably the XG or the Rocket Ron unless it’s really soupy, in which case I’d look at the Mud or the XM. That said: you don’t need new tires to have a good time at the race. Yes, many of us like to race with our friends and frenimies, and maybe special tires might give us an advantage maybe real and maybe mental and maybe both. And maybe that’s part of the fun.

The Bicyclical – March 2013

Hello!
Look at the lovely winter. Hmmmm.

Lots of interesting stuff on the local calendar, such as…

  • Barry Roubaix on March 23rd. This race is now officially a Big Deal. I’m stoked about the Hastings start/finish this year. Should be a hoot. Darn near full. Sign up quickly if you want summathat gravel road race action.
  • Crazy people who like to time trial in questionable weather will be thrilled to know that the Fisk Knob Time Trial is April 14th. Do we have a lot of customers itching to do this? I have no idea, but for those of you into it: have fun!
  • There’s a first time, low-stress ride at the Kal-Haven trail head on April 20th at 10:00. Breaking the Cycle of Addiction is the event, and it starts at 10:00. We’ll be there for tech support at the start.
  • May 5th is the Ft. Custer Stampede mountain bike race. I know there’s a lovely foot race going on in Kalamazoo that very day, but the Stampede is pretty stinking sweet. Elite racer to first-timer, there’s a race for you. Give it a go. Oh. Bonus: all proceeds go toward trail development and maintenance, so your entry fee is totally win/win.
  • Kalamazoo Bike Week is May 13-19. We’ve been thinking (seriously) about something we can do to further cycling that maybe we can’t do all the time. This is the long intro before I deliver the goods. I figure there are approximately one gajillion things that keep folks from commuting to work, some of which I can’t control (like the weather) and some maybe I can. Two commuting obstacles that occur to me are a place to shower and a safe place for your bike. With this in mind, Pedal will rent a shower trailer that week. If you commute to work downtown, we’ll give you a place to shower and, if you wish, we’ll house your bike for you during the day. Cost to the bicycle commuter: $0.00. I think it’ll be fun and hope you can be part of it. I’ll have more details next month. If you have suggestions, comments or concerns, please  let me know.
  • May 19th is the Last Stand XTERRA. Fun on a bun. Off-road triathlon, duathlon and a trail run. Hard to beat.
  • Tour de Taylor is back for 2013 on Saturday June 15th. This is a great 12, 31 and 62-mile event benefitting the Make A Wish Foundation of Michigan. Last year’s ride received rave reviews, and I’d expect nothing less this year. Good people, good cause, good fun.

What’s new at the shop?

Finally, we have dog bike trailers. If you, like me, have been forced to drive to work every day because your dog wants to come with you, we have an answer: the Croozer Dog. Yes. I did buy the first one in the shop. FYI, we also have sweet Croozer and Chariot systems for young humans.
I’ve gone crazy with the Pedal logo. We have socks, seat packs and (gasp!) long-sleeve jerseys in stock and ready to go. If not for you, perhaps for your brother-in-law’s birthday.
Ladies, let’s wrench. Saturday March 16th at 1:00 we’ll have a ladies-only bike fixit thing. We’ll talk about flat repair. We’ll talk about the stuff you should have in your bike bag. We’ll talk about whatever you want to talk about. If you don’t mind, please give us a holler if you’d like to attend. Don’t worry about bringing your bike. We have plenty.
Have you seen the mega-cool PEdALED bicycle caps? We have, BECAUSE THEY’RE HERE. Japanese cotton and printing combined with Italian construction mean that these babies have seen more transit that some ocean liners. Plus: awesome. Still wearing some dull sweat band gizmo under your helmet? Say hello to a cap and get the sweat out of your eyes.
Fizik (with or without a bunch of punctuation marks) has new handlebar tape colors and styles this year, and we have (oh yes) an updated Wheel O’ Tape, which is actually TWO wheels ‘o tape. Check out all your options or go for broke: close your eyes, spin the wheel and grab a tape sample at random. Remember: your handlebar tape reflects your cycling aura.

Cycling in Kalamazoo

I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in much discussion related to cycling in our community, and I’m happy to report that there is definitely good work afoot. Good people and groups are talking about ways to make Kalamazoo a more bicycle-friendly place. I find it very energizing for cycling and for our town. However…
There are a lot of folks in our world who don’t ride a bike. There are lots of folks who don’t know the laws related to cycling, e.g. that riding two abreast is very legal. To enact meaningful change, we will need the help of these non-cycling citizens. To that end I’d like to remind everyone that we are ambassadors for cycling every time we ride. Wether you signal for a turn or run a stop sign or brandish your middle digit or smile and wave or whatever behavior, folks draw conclusions about the type of people who ride bikes and, thus, the relative importance of biking in the community. I would ask that you please be aware of your ambassador status.

Big Finish

Spring is coming. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not next week. But it’s headed our way and I, for one, am incredibly excited. I have visions of roads clear of ice and salt, of the need for sunscreen, of leaves on the trees. These things will be here soon enough, and hopefully I’ll have the presence of mind to appreciate them. Such is one of my favorite things about living here: the opportunity to look forward to and fully recognize the joy of a beautiful spring day.

But I’ll be honest: I’ve about had my fill of anticipation and am ready for some recognition and appreciation.

Until next month,
Tim, Ryan, Jordan, Dave, Brittany and Jim

Southern Cross

Customer, triathlete, landscaper, bike stud and all around great guy Jake Grevenstuk traveled to Georgia to try his hand at a “hilly” 50-mile dirt road ride last weekend. He lived to tell the tale, and gave us permission to reprint here.

The 10am race start time is always a good thing.  Triathlons start at sun up and I always have get up early, which leads to haste.  Getting up at 7 is much better than the gun going off at 7!  We stayed at a little cabin on the outskirts of Dahlonega, GA.  Which happened to be on the opposite side of town from the race so we had about a 25 minute commute to Monteluce Winery. The winery was really cool.  Just as hilly as everything is in northern Georgia, grapes love hillsides so this makes good sense.  The soil is red clay and rocky which also lends itself to a great terroir.  They constructed the buildings and homes to be reminiscent of beautiful Mexican winerys and villas, learn more on it at https://www.exceptionalvillas.com/mexico.  They definitely had a theme going and it seemed to be working.  The first part of our 51 mile ride would start in this setting with a legit cyclocross course. Temps hovered around freezing all morning and during warm-ups so I wore an extra thin layer over my PEDAL garb that I had anticipated wearing.  At 9:50 I made my way with the other 250-300 masochists to the starting line.  I never get to the line on time for a good spot and this was no exception.  I had hoped to be close enough in the beginning to see the leaders and judge my position accordingly as the race progressed.  This didn’t happen either.  At 10:01 the race began and I filed my way along sluggishly for ½ mile to the first run-up.  This ain’t no Michigan run-up either!  Muddy red clay and grass for a 100’ vertical gain.  I later heard ONE of the pros rode it (of course he would). Serpentine roads wound up some more then down and back out of the winery to 4 miles of paved roads.  I started working with several other dudes to keep the peloton in sight ¼ mile up. We turned onto a gravel road over some rollers and made our way onto the forest service road and up we went.  Up, up and up some more.  About 7 miles total with steady grades that became steadily became steeper toward the top.  I huffed and I puffed and I… took my jacket off.  At this point I was damn hot and needed to catch my breath.  With no end in sight, I had to concede to the mountain that it was more than I could muster.  I hike-a-biked up the steep 16%+ pitches to get my heartrate down and rode the meager 10-12%’s. Finally the top and the first aid station which I blew off knowing I gave up spots while walking and talking off gear.  Descending, ahhh yes, descending.  I flew down passing when I could and riding pretty aggressively considering the loose gravel road and break-neck speeds.  I was having fun once again and not cursing as often when we hit the pavement for a bit and managed to make up some more time before ascending once again.  I knew I needed to eat something or bonk city would be the next place I came to.  It is very difficult to take in nutrition on this course.  No group to hide in, no casual flat section, just up or down.  So I sucked down a hammer gel and ate a hammer bar while gasping for breath at the beginning of the next climb. This side of the mountain was a quaffable 7-8% pitch and much more scenic with a creek flowing just off the road and rhododendrons litter throughout the hillsides.  In a few weeks this would be gorgeous when those rhodys all bloom!  After chatting with a 62 year old single speeder on the way up (seriously?!) I hit the aid station to take some Enduralytes before the final 1/3 of the race. How this course kept going up continued to astound this flatlander.  I was getting along though and the climbs were reciprocated by descents of less than equal measure giving my legs a chance to spin if only momentarily.  As we started the, what I thought was, the final descent; I gassed it.  I rode hard and fast again taking advantage my quick rolling hoops.  These roads though, are cut from rocky soil and some the rocks are pretty good sized but partially buried.  I took a chance riding clinchers knowing I might flat in these conditions.  I had brought multiple tubes and co2s just in case I needed them.  I needed them, but luckily just one.  My front bottomed out on one of said jutty rocks in the roads and that was all she wrote.  Literally deflated on the side of the road, 15-20 folks rode by.  Most understood my plight and wished me well offering help if needed.  Declining their service I made the change and took off again.  A little dejected, I made peace with my position and didn’t push too hard after that.  This made the rest a bit more enjoyable as I took my foot off the accelerator.  Not wanting to flat again I eased my through the next long descent keeping my eyes peeled for tire grabbing rocks.  We flew off the gravel and onto pavement and I hammered as best I could with what was left.  There were a few other riders around but for the most part there hadn’t been anyone working together around me for 20 miles.  After a hard left back onto the ‘main road’ we had started on, we wound the 4 miles back to the winery steadily eating the grade to the top of the hill where the entrance lay.  While the cats were away the mice in charge of the race had re-worked the ‘cross course to let us enjoy it once again.  Folks cheering and offering beer-ups greeted the now second and steeper run-up section.  I graciously grabbed the delicious beverage, downed it and trudged upward.  Mounted again we rode down, then back up, then up some more only on pavement this time, then around, then down through woods, then across the road, through the creek, up through the pasture and with only ¼ mile left I had to dismount again.  Too…much…fatigue… Descending again and back aboard my steed I veered through the remaining taped ‘cross course and onto the pavement.  I pedaled hard, right on through the inflated Maxxis tire finish line.  Boom, DONE! 4:12, 51 miles, 6000’ vertical and one flat tire later my Southern Cross race was in the books.  Overall, a pretty ‘fun’ race.  I’m sure I’ll do it again sometime because, of course, there’s always room for improvement.  I can rest assured knowing this was awesome training for my favorite race, Barry-Roubaix coming up in a few weeks.

Just Chill

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A customer recently lent me a book, “Just Ride, a Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike,” by Grant Peterson. I read it last week and have since spent a good amount of time thinking about the book’s content and tone. This is not a traditional book review.

The premise of the book is that modern cycling is largely led by bike racers: we buy the bikes that professional racers buy and we wear the things that racers wear and in the process we make it too darn expensive, too darn uncomfortable, too darn silly (e.g., the clothes), too darn exclusive. The author paints a picture (very well, I might add) of a more relaxed style of cycling with comfortable bikes, normal clothes and lower speeds — cycling as lifestyle or activity or mode of transportation as opposed to cycling as capital-s Sport. I am 100% in agreement. Cycling can be for anyone with any budget and any (or no) aspirations. Cycling should be inclusive.

The thing that sticks in my craw is that the author portrays bicycle racing as the villain, the thing to be avoided, The Devil. Maybe he didn’t intend for his book to have an us-vs.-them feel to it, but it does. C’mon, dude! Different strokes for different folks. I have raced my bike and worn silly-looking clothes, but that’s the equipment appropriate to the task at hand. When I ride the shop’s lunch-getter bike to (yup) get lunch, I wear whatever I’m wearing: jeans or shorts, normal (non-cycling) shoes, a T-shirt and my shop shirt. I ride a bike and wear clothing appropriate to the task at hand. Guess what: I have experienced great joy in both circumstances.

I appreciate Mr. Peterson’s advocation of a comfortable, less competitive brand of cycling, but I am not impressed with his divisive tone. Strike that: I find his tone gratuitous at best, irresponsible at worst. We, as cyclists, face some pretty significant challenges with regard to urban and suburban infrastructure, distracted driving, trail usage and sometimes public perception. We cyclists will stand up to these challenges best if we stand together. There just aren’t enough cyclists in the country — much less our small city — for us to get bogged down in arguments about racer vs. commuter, gears vs. fixie, road vs. mountain, etc.

Instead, let’s just ride.

The Bicyclical – February 2013

Hello!

Since winter appears to have arrived and this note is from a bike shop, I wouldn’t expect it to be terribly long.

Thanks to everyone who came to our birthday celebration. Great to see you. To those of you who couldn’t’ make it, I wish you had. There was just too much cake, and I feel as though I ate all of the excess. Ugh.

I don’t wish to belabor the point, but our Half Price Overhaul Special ends Thursday. If your bike needs a fair amount of service, please don’t miss the good deal. If your bike needs a less intense level of care and feeding, I’d still encourage you to bring your machine in while the weather is inhospitable. I really, seriously don’t want you to miss the excellent riding weather we’re sure to have in 2013.

Speaking of this splendid still-new year, there are events that I’d like to bring to your attention. The first is this weekend. Cyclocross Worlds (as in World Championships) are in Louisville, KY this Saturday and Sunday. This is a very exciting development for cyclocross in our country. Tickets are on sale and hotel rooms are still available. Check it out here.

Next up is Custer’s Last Stand, the XTERRA at Ft. Custer on May 19th. In case you don’t know, XTERRA is off-road triathlon/duathlon, and this local event is great. Two words come to mind when I think about this race: Low Key. Yes, folks race hard, but it is 100% welcoming to the beginner. The swim is in a clear lake. The bike course is a combination of red and blue trails. The run is mostly on the green trail. We’re very fortunate to have an event like this in our area, and I’d encourage you to consider participating, spectating or volunteering. Loads of fun. More info here.

The last thing I’d like to mention occurs the week prior to the XTERRA, Kalamazoo Bike Week. With regard to this event: I’d like your help. I’d be very interested to know what we — Pedal in particular and Kalamazoo Bike Week in general — can do during this time. What would *you* like to see? What events? What support? I have a couple of ideas, but I’d sure be interested in yours. Call or drop me a line. Note: the right people are aware that the Bike Week site contains outdated information, and they’re on the case.

Seen our updated web site?

Believe it or not, that wraps it up for this month. We’re hunkered down overhauling bikes and thinking of an early Spring. As always, thanks a ton for your patronage and support. I’m always open to comments and suggestions.

Hope to see you soon,

Tim, Ryan, Jordan, Dave, Brittany and Jim

Pretty Pictures

One day our friend Amber came by with a metric ton of camera equipment, some sheets and a husband/helper to take pictures of a few of our bikes. I thought it might be a nice change from the typical blurry iPhone photos for which this site is infamous. Like El Guapo.

Speaking of El Guapo, we’ll start with the Guru CR.901, Guru’s top o’ the line triathlon bike. Dressed up with Chorus 11 and some HED aero wheels, it’s a beautiful bike that shifts extremely well and rides like a race car.

Guru's finest tri bike, the CR.901
Guru’s finest tri bike, the CR.901
Custom geometry. Custom paint.
Custom geometry. Custom paint.
Campy Chorus 11, just because.
Campy Chorus 11, just because.
Lovely bike. Very purpose-built.
Lovely bike. Very purpose-built.

The Scale 930 is Scott’s “entry” carbon hard tail 29er. Things are very nice for 2013 — Schwalbe tires, SRAM 2×10 drivetrain and a Fox fork compliment proven frame geometry and carbon manufacturing techniques.

Scale 930, Scott's entry carbon 29er
Scale 930, Scott’s entry carbon 29er
SRAM 2x10 drivetrain
SRAM 2×10 drivetrain
Just another day at the office.
Just another day at the office.
Very light. Very crisp. Terrific place from which to observe nature.
Very light. Very crisp. Terrific place from which to observe nature.

The Scale’s dual-suspension brother, the Spark 950. This guy has an XT/SLX drivetrain, a lightweight aluminum frame, a Fox fork and the innovative Twinloc lever that adjusts the fork and shock lockout simultaneously. Very clever. Very fun.

Scott Spark 950
Scott Spark 950
Aluminum frame, Shimano drivetrain. Fox fork.
Aluminum frame, Shimano drivetrain. Fox fork.
The base of the shock is attached to an eccentric which allows the BB height of the bike to be adjusted.
The base of the shock is attached to an eccentric which allows the BB height of the bike to be adjusted.
This lever partially and fully locks out the fork and short.
This lever partially and fully locks out the fork and short.

The Jamis Nemesis, an aluminum-framed 650B mountain bike. When a 29 is too much and a 26 is not quite enough. This is a cool bike: SRAM drivetrain, X-Fusion Velvet fork, good tires and sharp handling.

The Jamis Nemesis.
The Jamis Nemesis.
650B fun in aluminum with a SRAM drivetrain.
650B fun in aluminum with a SRAM drivetrain.
Nice cockpit with Ritchey comonents.
Nice cockpit with Ritchey comonents.
A X-Fusion Velvet fork. It's as much fun to ride as it is to say.
A X-Fusion Velvet fork. It’s as much fun to ride as it is to say.

The Scott CR-1 Pro has a lot to offer. Very light and comfortable with good looks to boot. While an actual racing bike, the CR-1 was designed to take some of the “oh my goodness this bike is far too stiff” -ness out of the equation. Great geometry. Smooth ride.

The very nice Scott CR-1 Pro.
The very nice Scott CR-1 Pro.
Ultegra drivetrain. Yum.
Ultegra drivetrain. Yum.
The Ultegra crank provides fantastic front shifting.
The Ultegra crank provides fantastic front shifting.
The rear triangle featuring Scotts SDS -- shock damping system. -- for a smooth ride.
The rear triangle featuring Scotts SDS — shock damping system. — for a smooth ride.

R&D

Toward the tail end of a day at Interbike, the bicycle industry trade show, I was wandering about the Jamis booth, looking for a chair so that I might give my feet a break Through circumstances I cannot really recall, I found myself seated at a table with Greg Webber, the Jamis VP of Product Development. Greg has been with Jamis for a lot of years and is a very interesting guy, thoughtful and spare with his words. I was a little bit intimidated, but very much enjoying a chance to chat with the man.

At some point I asked about 650B. He said that Kirk Pacenti (pretty much the motive force behind the current resurgence in 650B mountain bikes) called him several years ago in an effort to get Jamis to build one or more 650B bikes. To that end, Kirk sent Greg some 650B wheels, tubes and tires for a little experimentation. Greg and Jamis tried to fit the wheels to then-existent 26″ bikes. When the wheels fit, it was test ride fiesta. People loved the way the bikes felt with these new wheels and soon frames were soon built around the 650B wheel size. Fast forward to today, and Jamis is a leader in 650B bikes, having both hard tail and dual-suspension models.

 Recently, we’ve tried similar experimentation. First was a lady with a very small, very neat 26″ titanium frame with a Fox fork. Just for fun we grabbed a set of 650B wheels and tried the fit. They did fit, but it was close. She rode the bike and was pleased with the results. We then got her Velocity hubs laced to Blunt SL rims. Nice! However, the Velocity rims were wider than those we had originally tried, and tire rub on the chain stays became a problem. We searched for a more narrow tire with trepidation. While there are LOTS of new 650B tires available for 2013, not all of them are available now. Combined with the current trend toward wider tires run with lower pressure, I thought I was going to get a nice wheel set out of this deal (No way I’d let a customer eat a set of wheels that didn’t work.) Fortunately, Ritchey Design had something a bit more narrow and really nifty-looking. It worked perfectly. This customer: very pleased. Like this:

Next up was a customer with a steel 26er equipped with a Fox fork. For this one we tried Stan’s rims laced to American Classic hubs with a Schwalbe up front and a Ritchey in the rear, both tubeless. Absolutely no fit issues. Plenty of room all around. And the results? I quote: “Love, love, love it.” We later chatted in greater detail. He (perhaps obviously) loved the change from the wheels, but went on to say that, “You know, I think there’s something to this tubeless thing. I almost came by your house to get your damn digital pressure gauge because everything felt perfect.” Nice to hear.

Is this change/upgrade/test for everyone? Probably not. Though we’ve had a terrific success rate so far, I’m confident that there are bikes upon which the bigger wheels just won’t fit. There are likely people who won’t like or notice the change to a bigger wheel. That said, if you’d like to try it out, give us a call. We like to experiment.

Gratitude

What a premium day we had yesterday during the cyclocross race at Markin Glen. Thanks to all who raced, watched and helped. What a happy time.

Our race would not have been possible without the support of the Kalamazoo County Parks. In particular, David Rachowicz is a major advocate of our race and helps us in any number of ways.

KissCross does a great job and has been quite generous by allowing us to host a race so far from its core market.

The Trikats, as always, provided fun, friendly volunteers. I love the Trikats and love working with them.

Chad VanDerwall and his fellow WMU Exercise Science students were instrumental in setting up the course Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

Several friends of mine and of the shop (lots of overlap there) would be embarrassed if I called them out by name. I won’t, but I thank them all the same.

If you liked it, more cyclocross fun can still be had this year. Please look at the RunUp and KissCross schedules.

Under Pressure

And so it was that we found ourselves wielding pumps and fancy-pants digital pressure gauges in the freezing cold pre-Iceman parking lot when our neighbor, a guy approximately my age on a very nice, very expensive bike with good tires, joined in the conversation. “I run mine about 50,” he said. “Or I’ll just put ’em right in the middle of the numbers on the tire, so that if it says 30-70, I put in 50.”

Wow.

When customers come into the shop to talk about mountain bikes, we discuss many things: geometry, forks, drivetrain, brakes, but I fear that we very rarely talk about tire pressure, and shame on us for not doing so. You are absolutely not getting the most out of your mountain bike if you’re not dialing in your tire pressure.

In general, there’s been a gentle movement toward lower tire pressure. Lower pressure allows the tire to deform and track over small imperfections in the trail. Conversely, the same tire with higher pressure will tend to bounce over these same small bumps. While higher pressure might feel faster — all loose and bouncy and really hell-yeah-we-are-getting-it-on — the opposite is generally true. The lower limit on trie pressure is controlled by three things: pinch flats, dented rims and personal preference.

Pinch flats occur when the tire is pressed hard against the rim, cutting the tube. Dented rims are obviously a more severe and expensive outcome of the same situation, not enough air to keep the tire off the rim. If you’re running tubes, a dented rim will almost surely have a pinch-flat component. Should you suffer from either, raise your pressure a few psi. (Through interesting decision making (read: tubeless cyclocross setup), I’ve been put in a position in which I need to monitor tire pressure closely. In doing so, I’ve noticed that pumps can vary W I D E L Y in reported pressure. Thus I’d recommend using the same pump or, if you travel with friends or consistently mooch a pump, you might want to purchase a small gauge.)

Personal preference can take many forms. Some folks get a queasy feeling when they bottom out. Personally, I don’t like to “feel flat,” that bouncy feeling you get, particularly from the rear tire, when the air is going out but before it’s riding on the rim. Regardless, you won’t know what you personally like and don’t like without a bit of experimentation.

Where should you start on your pressure journey? Well, that’s tricky, and it depends on a few things: how much you weigh, the size of your tire and wether you’re using tubes or a tubeless system. Here’s good data from Mountain Bike Action, Stan’s No-Tubes and Schwalbe. Remember: all of these are starting points. If you’re serious about this stuff (and, by the way, it is 100% totally cool if you’re not. I get that just a nice ride through the woods is its own reward. But if you do want to nerd out…) you’ll need to do some testing. Maybe even (gasp!) make notes. Regardless, the number is probably less than 50.

Music for your tire pressure journey. Get it? Huh? Yeah. I know.

Product Research and Testing — of a sort

For the first time in several years, I signed up for Iceman. Truthfully, I’ve never been a huge fan of the race — I never perform as well as I’d like, it wrecks me physically, the sign-up is a disaster, etc. — but I signed up for something to do with my then kinda-new mountain bike.

About Iceman

Sign-up was once again a complete fiasco. I spent a loooong time on the bleeping internet trying got get myself into the race. Turns out that I actually signed up seven times. Fun! I watched the Iceman Facebook page to amuse myself with everyone else’s hostility, and Boy! were some folks angry. I know that the organizers do not wish for a screaming disaster every year, but it seems that there are many strategies that one might employ to smooth out the registration path. Then again, perhaps all publicity is good. Regardless, I got in with only minor indigestion.

Since the days of yore, or when I last participated in the race, they’ve gone to a new format. If you’re new to the race, you go with your age group. If you’ve done it before, you can be seeded in an earlier (and one assumes less-congested) wave based on your previous times. “They” say that they look back five years for your times. In my case they did not. However, the organizer did respond promptly and nicely to my email and had everything fixed up when I picked up my packet. Very nice.

As far as execution goes, I’d say the whole race went up two or three pegs on my ratings scale. Packet pickup was better than I recall, as were the expo and the typically very confusing finish area. Things were better explained. Signage was better. Everything seemed smoother. I salute race promotion and direction for kicking it up a notch.

About the Products

My bike was perfect and I think this race completely forged our bond. Though I know of at least two others at the race, mine was the only 650B/27.5″ bike that I saw. I kinda felt like it was my secret weapon. And what I’m talking about here is feeling good and confident on the bike. An example:  there are a couple of descents in which I previously feared for my life (not really, but you get the idea). This year, the only thing making me touch the brakes was the dude in front of me.

I was very pleased with my drivetrain, 3×10 Shimano SLX. The 32-tooth middle ring combined with an 11-34 cassette gives mortals like me an incredibly broad range of gearing with no front shifting required. Yes, it got a little sandy/icy/crunchy at the end, but it continued to work without fail. I’m of the opinion that the Dumonde Tech chain lube I’ve been using had a positive effect on the situation.

Nearly funny story. I HATE cold hands, and took two pair of gloves to the race start. A pair of uninsulated, windproof gloves and a pair of lobster claws with an inner liner. I went with the latter and quickly discovered that I’d never ridden my bike in gloves like this and that I typically brake with only one finger. At first I was totally freaked out about changing my hand position for the entire race. Turns out that it wasn’t as bad as I initially feared, but it does reinforce the fact that one should be familiar with one’s gear.

Other things that performed well include the Velocity Blunt SL wheels and Schwalbe tires. I ran ’em tubeless and was very pleased with the package. I don’t think tubeless is for the faint of heart, but it does help make a low-weight, low-pressure, puncture resistant setup.

Roundup

Holy crap have a lot of people purchased 29ers in the last three years. They were coming on strong three years ago when I last raced this thing, but they were *everywhere* last Saturday, many with rigid front suspensions. My very informal looking around poll says that a hard tail 29er is the most popular bike by a good margin, followed by dual-suspension bikes in both 29 and 26. Hardtail 26″ bikes are on the decline, but I doubt that this is much of a surprise to anyone. Fat bikes? A few. More power to the hardy souls who raced them.

What’s it all mean? As much as some would have you believe otherwise, it’s more than marketing dollars that have made 29ers so popular. They’re fun to ride. Very fun. I think 27.5/650B will provide a similar “fun-ness” upgrade to those folks who feel like a 29er is just too big  in some way — wheelbase, perceived size, wheel/tire weight, geometry. Scott does a good job of organizing things here. Are Scott, Jamis and I trying to convince you that you should buy a 27.5″ bike? No. Instead, we suggest that it is an innovation worthy of consideration. There is fun to be had, and more than one way to find it.

Kindleberger

Man. That was a hoot.

Thanks to everyone involved in the cyclocross race at Kindleberger Park yesterday, especially including but not limited to:

  • The city of Parchment
  • RunupCX, who did a fantastic job of setting up the course, putting on a good show and being such awesome partners in this exercise
  • The racers
  • The wonderful spectators

Kalamazoo Bicycle Club president and cycling enthusiast Zolton Cohen took awesome photos which you can find here. Jack Kunnen’s always excellent work can be found here. Amber Hutson took some really good shots and placed them here.

I hope you’ll enjoy more local CX action with KissCross comes to Markin Glen on November 11th.

New Jersey Gran Fondo

Our Man Dave writes (and eloquently so) about his trip to the Garden State and participation in the New Jersey Gran Fondo.

Sometimes we go to great distances just to take a little step. In the grand scheme of things, even within the short weeks of a summer season, one day on a bicycle has little impact on our personal sense of who we are on two wheels. However, some days, though they contain the same number of hours and, possibly, the same two wheels, are more transcendent than others.

In early September, Ryan and I travelled to the Garden State to participate in the Gran Fondo New Jersey, sponsored in part by Jamis Bicycles. What was set to be a weekend of epic bike riding was beset almost from the beginning with red flags that came one after another, promising to tarnish the sparkly ideal of a perfect trip. Travel was delayed by hours due to tornadoes in the vicinity of our destination, causing our bike drop rendezvous with the Jamis rep (one lovely Katie Mulvey) to be pushed back, which led to us getting food at proteinpromo at a wholly indecent hour, and trying to get some amount of rest before being at registration for packet pick-up at 5:45am. And that thing about not riding a well-fitting new bike for more than thirty miles? We forgot to bring a tape measure to adjust our borrowed Jamis Xenith Team and Xenith Pro (both with Dura Ace Di2!!!!!), so we resorted to eyeballing each other’s pedal stroke as we held onto the dresser in the hotel room. Both of us required longer seatposts, but hadn’t thought to bring any: I learned that minimum insertion marks are reference points, not a rule. Pro fit, indeed.

As I laid my head to the pillow – my last-ditch, diner-supplied, freezer-burnt veggie burger and fries roiling in my stomach – I realized how ill-fated our trip had been up to this point, and wondered if all 107 miles of the Gran Fondo would be equally beset with hardship. The alarm went off the moment I closed my eyes, and I kitted up. My tube of DZ Nutz didn’t make it past security, and we were up too early for the hotel’s free breakfast, so we resigned ourselves to pedaling the short distance in the numbing predawn mist to packet pick-up, hoping to score some Power Bars. As the sun rose, tents began rising in the plaza where vendors set up displays, sponsors handed out swag, and I found some hot coffee. Across the way I spied five or six members of the Jamis – Sutter Home racing team who would be leading us out. The day was looking up already.

As the sun rose over the tall buildings of downtown Morristown, I began to realize how big this thing was. Thousands of riders liveried in fantastic colors from all over the eastern seaboard were massing behind the start line, eager to get on with it. Though we were in no hurry to get pressed into the thick of it (we were on the curb, couldn’t even get into the road) the mass of excited riders began moving ever so slowly through town. I finally clipped in around the first corner, and slow-pedaled in the enormous group of cyclists, trying to prepare myself for what I had heard were some big hills.

Morristown was the headquarters of then-General George Washington’s Revolutionary Army during the dawn of our country’s existence. Strategically located north of the Delaware River and on a large plateau, it afforded Washington safety and a commanding view of the valleys and gorges surrounding it. Getting out of town, we descended first. It was terrifying. Nothing I have ridden in Michigan could have prepared me for this: white-knuckled, thirty-five to forty-miles-per-hour descents in a close peloton on a very narrow two-lane mountain drive, strewn with pine cones, branches, and fallen debris from the previous night’s freak windstorm. At the bottom of this death-road was a ninety degree left turn, a barrier with no run-off area, and a downed rider with what looked like a collarbone injury. Our St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer will request the truck’s black box data that may prove what occurred just prior to your accident. Ryan and I were still riding together at this point and realized the gravity of this ride: it was going to be a blast, but it was also very dangerous.

Luckily, the rest of the ride stretched out the riders, and I began to experience physical demands that had never been previously asked of my body. At mile twenty-one, the first timed hill climb began, and seemed to rear straight up into the tree-laden sky. Even though I was in the granniest-gear that I could find, my legs burned ferociously. Later I learned that the grade of that hill topped out at fifteen percent. Ouch. We were graciously rewarded with a long decent, though, that swooped us through ancient landscapes inhabited by the first Americans and those that came before. The road bottomed out onto the Delaware river, and I let out an audible gasp at the beauty of our surroundings. It was insanely gorgeous. The valley walls sloped up parabolically from the wide river and seemed untouched, just as it must have looked when Washington crossed it centuries ago to give battle at Valley Forge, supposedly just miles away from where we were. I got a little sad as we veered off and climbed up the valley wall, but I would not be wont for more heart-wrenching scenery.

Every little house that we passed was tucked perfectly into its place, nestled comfortably against a streambed or hill, seemingly having been there since forever. People still lived here, and they lived well. There were no treeless subdivisions, or gated communities, but each place that we zoomed past commanded that we look and marvel at the grandeur of their sculpted lawns, cobbled drives, and magnificent architecture. As we rose farther away from the Delaware River, towards the middle of the ride, we found plateaus covered in bucolic farms that afforded views I had not dreamed could exist in New Jersey. The vaulted blue sky above us gave us sight for miles in every direction, over the gorges and valleys that translated the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean: a topographer’s dream. At mile sixty-five I surpassed my previous longest ride. It wasn’t a huge moment because I had no computer to tell me exactly where it was, but it was a silent reaffirmation that although I really didn’t train for this, I knew I could do it if I just kept pedalling.

Around mile seventy-five, some harcore exhaustion made me wonder if the positivity I was feeling just ten miles ago was just a pipe-dream. I still had one more timed hill climb to go, and although it wasn’t going to be as bad as the third of four, it was still going to hurt. I tucked myself into the pain cave and gasped for air, my legs and lungs ready to explode. Cresting that hill felt so good that I think I yelled something. Can’t remember what. The rest of the way I was pretty tired, meeting up with Ryan only once more before the end. We chose different paces, and so spent most of the ride apart, but I caught up with him at the party-like SAG stops, where we both consumed impressive amounts of calories. There weren’t many more big hills, but some false flats and rollers as we worked our way back toward Morristown. At the twenty mile mark they gave us little signs counting down the distance toward the finish. Fifteen, ten, five, and four passed, then the signs stopped, but I knew we were close. The last signs before the finish said: “Use Caution: Very Steep Descent 1+ Miles”

I grinned and dove in. There were no other riders around me at this point, and perhaps some amount a fatigue addled my brain encouraging me to go faster, to stop riding the brakes, allowing the Jamis Xenith Pro I commanded to carve confident lines through the pavement. I have no idea exactly how fast I would down that narrow street, but it was really, really fast. A short climb later and I was surprised to be in town, one lane of traffic coned off for me as I hustled toward the finish. There were people yelling, cowbells ringing, and I swear Phil Liggett was there as I sprinted the last mile, passing under the banner with a fist punching the air. It had been the most physically and mentally draining day of my life, and I loved it.

The Gran Fondo New Jersey was the first time I rode a century, or even over sixty-five miles. It was more than a training ride, it was more than an event, it was a rite of passage, an affirmation of my status as a cyclist, and a refreshment of my passion for the sport. It was transcendence on two wheels.

Two High End Cycling Computers

I’ve been using two high-powered bicycle computers lately and (finally?) now have time to express my thoughts. These words will no doubt reveal the reasons that I am not employed as a professional device comparer. I’m not going to waste a lot of space writing about features and specs; those are easy to find. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on my thoughts when I used the devices.

Our contestants are the wildly popular Garmin Edge 500 and the much more new on the market CycleOps Joule. I purchased these computers because they’re both ANT+ receivers. In case you haven’t heard of it, ANT+ is the bluetooth of fitness. Many heart rate monitors, watches, cycling computers and power meters use ANT+ to communicate with one another. Though it’s owned by Garmin, ANT+ is an open standard and devices from many manufacturers work and play very well with each other. Many a geek is thrilled with ANT+.

Summary: these are both very nice in different ways. The Joule is, in my opinion, a better device if your goal is to train with power. The Garmin does more things, displays more data and is a better all-around computer.

Let’s take a look:

Cateye double wireless on top with Joule on the left and Edge 500 on the right.

I threw a Cateye Double Wireless into the picture to give these things a bit of perspective. Yes, the Edge and Joule are larger than the Cateye. However, they’re not that large — smaller than a phone or deck of cards — and they display a ton of data. Both have four buttons. The Garmin has two on each side while the Joule has ’em sprayed all over the place: two on the right side, one on the left and one just below the display. Both computers are pretty intuitive once you get oriented and/or until you hit a tough spot, at which point intuition is worthless and you’d better dig out the manual.

At this point, it’s probably best to take a deeper dive into each device.

Garmin Edge 500

Edge 500 setup isn’t bad. The menu system is very detailed and easy to navigate. I got my data entered, screens configured and devices paired pretty quickly. The computer can display up to five screens of data with up to eight data fields on each screen. Forty metrics! Who can keep up with that? Regardless, it wouldn’t hurt to think about the information you want to see before you’re in the middle of setup. Note that the data screens and fields are consistent between all bikes you use with the computer.

The Garmin has an internal, rechargeable battery and is delivered with a nice power plug-in and a USB cable. Each time you turn it on, it spends a bit of time locating GPS satellites. If you’re training indoors, you can turn off the GPS function, but you must perform that operation each time you turn on the computer. (Aside: I once met a Garmin rep and gave him a pretty good number of potential enhancements. The only one he wrote down had to do with a setting that would bypass all GPS functions until the user changed said setting. So I might be onto something.)

From one ride to the next, the user must reset the ride data. Otherwise, it’s all one long ride. When the Garmin detects movement it’ll tell you that you might want to hit the start button. The Edge does have an auto-start/stop function, but it’s *really* sensitive (perhaps I have a hard time standing still), so I opted for manual mode.

In my time with the Edge 500, I’ve trained indoors and out. I’ve used it on two bikes with two different power meters. I’ve ridden in torrential rain. I’ve banged it around in my backpack. I’ve downloaded piles of data and have performed at least one firmware upgrade. It’s pretty tough. The bad news: I’m on my second device. The first had a dud button that ultimately rendered it useless. Garmin support was good and sent me a new one, under warranty, within a decent amount of time. It might be worth noting that I dealt with Garmin as a customer, not a retailer. Your experience, if required, should mirror mine.

The Edge 500 goes through its charge pretty rapidly, wireless communication and GPS being pretty power intensive. It’s easy to charge, so it does pay to keep an eye on the level of juice after each ride. After almost a year, this would seem a difficult task for me; I ended up with a dead computer mid-ride a few times. My adaptability is ostensibly low.

If you’re really going to maximize your experience with one of these fancy computers, you’ll probably plug it into your computer and the plumb the data you’ve recorded. The Garmin software, Garmin Training Center, is easy to locate on the internet, install and use. Assuming you record with GPS turned on, it’ll give you a nice little map of your ride. You can also upload your ride data to the internet and share it with the whole, wide world.

In summary, this is the benchmark for fancy bicycle computers. Garmin’s long experience with professional and consumer grade devices shows through. It’s very configurable. It’s tough. The device and accompanying software are easy to use and feature-rich. If you’re looking for a powerful, do-it-all computer, this is a dandy.

Joule

My Joule is one of the very first off the line, as I’d backordered a few as soon as I learned of their existence.

Like the Garmin, the Joule comes with a thin little quick start manual. The big, highly-detailed manual is available online. Fortunately, the thin documentation was enough to get me started with the Joule in a matter of moments. I paired it to a Powertap wheel and took off riding. Piece of cake.

Immediately after, I lent the Joule and a Quarq to a friend of mine who had a rhymes-with-stich of a time getting things to work appropriately. Seems that the computer wants to know that you are actively engaged in your workout. With the Powertap, it knew this from the speed/cadence sensor in the hub. The Quarq doesn’t have this function, so my friend had to pair the computer to a heart rate strap. This makes sense on one level, but seems like a monstrous PITA on most others. Since this computer lacks GPS, I think it’s safe to say that your normal person would employ some brand of ANT+ speed/cadence sensor on her bike. Aside from the setup issues, my friend did like the Joule. And the Quarq.

Like the Garmin, the Joule allows the user to customize the display. However, the Joule offers neither the quantity of data fields nor the display flexibility of the Edge 500. I generally did not feel limited by the view options on the Joule, though there was one data field on the Garmin that I came to love. I’m honestly not sure that I’ve read the Joule documentation thoroughly enough to say categorically that it’s not possible to show that data, so maybe I don’t care that much after all. One word about the Joule display: some of the customization can only be performed in PowerAgent, CycleOps’s companion software. The Garmin, on the other hand, allows the user to control everything from the device. Is one better than the other? If you want to play with your new Joule without a computer+internet nearby, the Garmin approach seems better.

Which brings us to PowerAgent. Many things can be done with PowerAgent. Firmware can be updated. Joules can be configured. Data can be downloaded. Versions are available for both Mac and PC. Frankly, PowerAgent is not as polished as Garmin Training Center. I’m a Mac guy, and I found PowerAgent a little on the dodgy side. I installed it on a PC at the shop and found the experience quite a bit more satisfying, especially with regard to firmware updates and overall device connectivity. That said, the Mac version of PowerAgent now does what I want. It was just a bigger hassle than I experienced with Garmin Training Center.

Back to usage: when you take off on a ride, the Joule asks if you’d like to append this data to the previous ride, or start anew. I think this is pretty fantastic. Using it with a speed/cadence sensor, the Joule records when the bike is moving and stops when the bike stops. Perfect! After a period of inactivity, the Joule shuts itself down. Also nice.

As a guy who uses a bike computer to primarily display power data, I really like the Joule. It shows me the two or three things I want and generally stays out of the way. The documentation would have me believe that I’ll get 300 hours of computer usage from a battery. Sounds good to me! I haven’t killed the included battery, but I haven’t been keeping track of usage, either.

Big Finish

Let’s say that you’ve been using a wired PowerTap for a number of years. Let’s further state that you got rid of all that wired stuff and got ANT+ equipment as a replacement. In that situation, the Joule is a perfect upgrade from the Cervo (or Little Yellow Computer) that has served many PowerTap users for many years. The Joule is great, but it’s primarily nice as a training partner. At $165 MSRP, it’s a fantastic partner to your ANT+ training equipment.

The Edge 500, on the other hand, is just a terrific bicycle computer. It is extremely customizable. It has sturdy software support. It is, as stated earlier, the benchmark for cycling computers. It’s also not cheap. $250 will get you the basic GPS unit. $350 will get you the unit and a speed/cadence sensor and a heart rate monitor (both ANT+, natch). We have a good number of customers who use the Edge 500, and I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like it.

So: if you’re mad about metrics, I’d recommend the Edge 500. If you’re looking for a display for your ANT+ power meter, I’d talk with you about the Joule. Regardless, your opportunity for happiness is very high.

But wait, a Footnote

My wonderful daughter proofreads my writing. Once I digested her suggestions to this piece, I asked, “Well, which one do you want?” Her response: “Neither. I don’t really care about much beyond speed and distance.” A worthwhile comment. If all you care about is speed and distance, these guys are serious overkill.

Achey Brakey (cross) Bike

As 2013 cyclocross bikes begin to appear in advertising and in physical form, those in the market for a new cross bike are faced with a decision: disk brakes or canti?

A quick rundown of PEDAL’s 2013 cyclocross offerings:

  • Jamis:  4 disk brake bikes ranging in price from $850 – $4000.
  • Scott:  3 cantilever brake bikes ranging in price from $1422 – $3400
  • Kona:  2 disk brake bikes ($1150 – $1700) and 2 canti brakes ($1650 – $3500)
  • Guru: Disk or canti, your pick

What’s the educated CX shopper to do? Honestly, I’d say disk is the future. A short story: When I bought a decently high-powered mountain bike several years ago, all of my friends told me to pass on disk brakes. Too heavy. Too much stopping power for West Michigan. Too much complexity. Too much money. Just too darn much. In the end, I got some very nice rim brakes on my bike. Not terribly long thereafter, I competed in an adventure race with three friends, all of whom had disk brakes. We biked trough some icky stuff and only one of us could not stop. Me. I later essentially purchased the bike again when I put disk brakes and compatible wheels on the bike. Ho hum.

Are disk brakes more maintenance intensive? It depends. Cable-operated or mechanical disk brakes are pretty darn straightforward and introduce no new systems into the bicycle mix — it’s all still cables and leverage. Hydraulic disk brakes require almost no maintenance… until they do, and then it can be something of a process. Bleeding a hydraulic system is not the most difficult thing in the world, but it does require special equipment, a willingness to mess with nasty fluid and a steady mind/hand. For 2013, Jamis and Kona offer only mechanical disk brakes, so we won’t need to worry about brake fluid for another year or so.

Personally, I’m hesitant to jump on the disk bandwagon w/r/t cyclocross, largely due to legacy issues. For starters, unlike the mountain bike I wrote of above, my personal cross bike is not disk compatible. Thus, I’d need a new frame, which I don’t want. Then there’s the fact that I have a pretty nice pile of cross wheels that are incompatible with disk brakes. I cannot say that I’m anxious to abandon what I have *or* repurchase a few wheel sets. Thus: I’m probably rim brakes for a while yet.

You? If you have legacy wheel issues like me, you’ll probably want to stick with a rim brake bike. Otherwise there’s no reason not to be happy with whatever brakes come on the bike you want.

More Wheels with Fewer Tubes

In the sprit of the last post, I thought I’d share a couple of recent projects. First, a set of Velocity Blunt SL 650b rims shod with Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires. The wheels, rim tape and valves came straight from Velocity, the tires from Schwabe and the sealant from Stan’s.

Blue tape from Velocity

This is the tape Velocity sent me. Pretty nice. Maybe a tad easier to install than Stan’s. Time will tell if it holds up as well.

Schwalbe + Velocity = Love

Everything went together very well. The tape was pretty easy to install. The valves seemed very nice. The tire inflated easily. All leaks sealed quickly.

When you inflate a tubeless setup, it *really* helps to use an air compressor. You need to quickly force a lot of air into the tire to get it to jump up on the bead. Thus: presta adapters are part of the process. The other part of the process is that at least 50% of the time the valve core unthreads from the valve when you (or at least when I) attempt to unthread the presta adapter. Such appeared to be the case yesterday as I finished the rear wheel and got it ready to put on the bike. Surprise! The valve broke in half.

Bad valve. Bad, bad.

Bummer. Fortunately I had another at hand and only threw sealant over half the shop as I changed ’em. Fun!

As with most of their wheels, Velocity makes this in a more expensive, low spoke count version and a perfectly suitable version with 32 DT Swiss butted spokes. These are the latter. Nice thing about Velocity: they’ve moved the production of many rims to Florida and build the wheels in the exotic location of Grand Rapids.

Next up is that horrible cliche, the pair of wheels the shop guy built for himself. I lay the blame for this exercise on our Kona rep, who raved about his use of this setup last season. Since he can handily whoop me in CX, I figured the wheels much be the difference. Ha! Anyway, this is a set of Chris King Classic Cross hubs laced to Stan’s Alpha 340 rims with DT Competition spokes. Tires are Michelin Mud2, not the fastest thing on a dry course, but incredible and predictable when things get sloppy.

I have run out of captions.

Prep was the usual: clean the rim with alcohol, apply Stan’s yellow tape, insert valve, inflate. I used tires from last season, and they popped right up on the bead. Great! Until I noticed a nice hole in the sidewall of one of ’em, possibly from being stored in a box with lots of cranks (don’t ask). I pulled a new tire off the shelf and tried to get it to inflate with dismal luck. I installed a tube with the new tire, inflated it and let it stew for a few hours. I then removed the tube and the tire inflated without issue. This rim/tire combo sealed up very nicely, thus saving the Kona rep from a snarky email.

Chris King Beauty Shot

These look very promising. Much less hassle to set up than tubulars with the same promise of a pinch-flat-free existence. We’ll see.

We Don’t Need No Steenking Tubes

As promised (threatened?), let’s talk a little bit about tubeless. First of all, who might care? Interested parties include weight weenies, low-pressure advocates and those concerned about punctures, esp. thorns in their MTB tires. Who doesn’t care? Possibly people with enough stress in their lives who don’t need another thing to think about/spend money actuating.

The big advantages of tubeless are two: no tube means less (wretched) rotating mass. No tube also means no pinch flat in low-pressure situations. The addition of sealant to a tubeless system also provides a level of puncture protection.

There are three types of tubeless worth writing home about:

UST was initially developed by Mavic and granted a US patent in 2001. UST consists of an airtight rim combined with an airtight tire. UST has very specific requirements on rim and tire bead shape to achieve the airtight bond at the tire/rim interface. Sealant may or may not be a part of a UST system. UST delivered on the two big tubeless promises: low mass and no pinch-flats. Hassles related to UST include very specialized and often expensive equipment and, at times, marginal weight savings. An air-tight tire weighs more than a regular tire, so…

Stan Koziatek, founder of Stan’s NoTubes, started working on his sealing system in 2000. Unlike UST, NoTubes doesn’t require an airtight tire. Instead, the special sealant makes any tire (with very few exceptions) airtight. The promise of a universal sealant system (pretty much any rim, pretty much any tire) has become more focused. Certain characteristics make for a better tubeless rim (particularly the profile of the rim bed and the “hooks” on a clincher rim) and other characteristics make a tire more or less suitable for tubeless use. Thus a consumer sees many “tubeless ready” rims/wheels and tires. Are you required to use tubeless ready equipment? No law says so, but your life will be easier if you do opt for it. Tubeless Ready is profoundly more popular than UST at Pedal.

Road Tubeless is the new kid on the block and has yet to gain broad acceptance. Road Tubeless has special requirements due to the considerably higher tire pressure compared to mountain bikes. Thus, special tires are required. Right now, Hutchinson is the big player in tires, but other folks are coming out with competing products shortly. Rims are more widely available, but not prevalent. I’ll be honest: we don’t see much Road Tubless at this point. That’s not to say that it won’t take off or hasn’t already in other parts of the world, but it has yet to happen in Kalamazoo.

As we do MUCH more Tubeless Ready than UST, the remainder of this… buncha words… will focus on that method. The number one first step is to make the rim air-tight. For a bona-fide tubeless ready rim, this is pretty easy. Simply take some fancy airtight rim tape like this or this and install as directed. Once the tape is correctly installed, a valve of some ilk must be installed, which is a piece of cake. For a non-tubless-ready rim, the best bet is to install a tubeless kit. These kits include a special rim strip and a pint of sealant. My experience with them has been rather good. Grab a cold one and watch this video a few times. Make it something that appears in your dreams. All the secrets are here.

An aside: a tubeless state, like a Zen state, is best achieved in a stress-free environment. Much like changing a flat, patience and a mind like water are keys. Don’t rush. Be aware of what’s going on. Know and follow the process. If I have a tubeless project that looks remotely stressful, I’ll wait until after the shop is closed (or before we’re open), put on good music and remind myself of all the great things in my life. It’s not that this stuff is hard, but it can be a real bummer if you have troubles and aren’t sure what you did wrong. Instead: know that you did everything right and that a little patience and minor futzing will get you to your destination.

Once the rim is air-tight, our steely gaze turns to the tire. I’ll start with a beautiful story:  I had two identical tires on two identical rims. One of ’em sealed up like crazy and has probably lost 0.05 psi over a month. The other wouldn’t hold air for two days. Frustrating? Yes. Very. I called the manufacturer and said, “Hey. What gives?” In short words, I was told that I was swimming upstream by trying to get a non-tubeless-ready tire to hold air. The tire I was using wasn’t designed to be run tubeless; a really tight tire/rim interface was not part of that tire’s mission. Note that a good interface is possible (see Tire that Held Air Like a Champ), just not guaranteed. I threw that tire on the question mark heap and grabbed a tubeless ready equivalent. BLAMMO! Worked like a charm. A tubeless ready tire is designed to have a tight tire/rim interface that make sealing much more… likely.

So you’ve got your rim and you’ve got your appropriate tire. Now you just refer to the directions and:

  • Soap up the tire and pop it on the bead just to make sure it will (air compressor highly recommended)
  • Install sealant
  • Air up the tire to 40 psi (compressor again highly recommended)
  • Swish around sealant as directed
  • Maybe it’s time to watch the video again
  • Don’t be in a hurry

What equipment do we like for tubeless ready? Many of our customers like the NoTubes rims, particularly the Arch (or Arch EX) 29er. Ryan built a set of road wheels from ZTR Alpha 340 rims, and I’ll be using those rims (with more spokes) to make a set of tubeless cyclocross wheels. Velocity has a few attractive rims. I like the Blunt SL. Many are the good options; these are those with which we’ve had success.

Tires? I’m thrilled with Schwalbe EVO tubeless ready tires. Expensive? Yes. But they pop on the bead very nicely, have very supple sidewalls and a nice selection of tread patterns. I’m confident that your favorite tire brand has a good tubeless ready tire — and we’ll get it for you if you’d like — but we’ve installed a lot of Schwalbe with very limited issues.

After all of this discussion, should you go tubeless? Maybe. Consider the drawbacks:

  • Potential new equipment investment
  • Setup required
  • Still have to carry a spare tube in case disaster strikes
  • Not maintenance free. You can’t put your mountain bike away for months and expect the tires to be sealed and the sealant fresh when you’re ready to ride.

 

And the upside:

  • Lower rotating mass for the speedy crowd
  • Significantly lower risk of pinch flats for the low-pressure crowd
  • Puncture sealing characteristics

Will it make cycling more fun? I think that’s the question that must be answered.

Busy, busy, busy

A buddy recently said, “I was reading your blog. I wonder if you’re going to be able to keep up the enthusiasm.” Enthusiasm is high; time to write has been a bit low. Time is still at a premium, but I’d write a few words about things I’ll explore in greater detail later.

Tubeless

We’ve been messing around with tubeless mountain bike tires a LOT in the last year. For the most part, the tires have been Schwalbe and the rims have been Stan’s (or No Tubes or whatever that company calls itself now. Regardless, they make Good Stuff.). I’ll be experimenting with the new made in the USA Velocity Blunt SL rims on my bike soon. In short, tubeless-ready tires make the entire process *much* easier and good rims sure don’t hurt.

Rim Size

I (ahem) liberated a couple of bikes from the shop so that some friends and I could do a  wheel-size shootout — 26 v. 29 v. 650b. I’ve been trying to distill the data from this experience down for a while now and will hopefully publish something comprehensive before too long. In short, there’s a lot more to a mountain bike than wheel size.

Joule

We received (as in five days ago) three CycleOps Joule computers. I’ve been waiting for these non-GPS, ANT+ gems for a while now. A more complete review will be along shortly, but I’m very pleased with my experience after two rides. A worthy competitor to the Edge 500? We’ll see.

Get ‘Em While They’re Hot!

Do we like multisport? Yes. On occasion, we participate. Thus we have these really awesome, really current multisport tips, in order of occurrence.

  1. Buy stretchy laces the night before the race and install them in your shoes. Try out by walking around the house for a few seconds and pronounce good.
  2. Also buy a new shirt to wear at the race.
  3. Why not new tri shorts, too?
  4. Have caffeinated coffee for the first time in over a year.
  5. Bring a pump to the race, but don’t check your tires. After the fact, it would seem that 20 psi is all you need. Note: not a tubeless setup. Further note: Lucky.
  6. Go out really really fast in the first run of the du. Really fast. Even though you know you’ll pay for it later.
  7. Do the same on the bike for a while before good (?) sense (finally) kicks in.
  8. Begin the first brick workout in years as you exit T2.
  9. Immediately regret items 6 and 7 and begin to learn humility.

Do with these pointers what you will. I accept no responsibility at all. Especially for chafing. And pinch flats.

A Recap of Stuff

Someone (wish I could remember who) recently suggested that I write a recap on some of the stuff that I’ve blabbed (er, blogged) about over the past year. Sans ado:

A Very Good Friend Indeed

Jamis Xenith Elite: This is about as much road bike as you could possibly cram into an MSRP of $5000 or less. Fantastic bike. I cannot think of an attribute of this bike that disappoints. Stiff? Yes. Jarring? No. Bitchin Red drivetrain? Check. Sweet wheels. Yes, though I did give mine to my wife as I typically use something involving a power meter. I’m extremely pleased to see this bike get some terrific press lately. Bicycling Magazine recently featured it as “The Bike You Need.” Neat. I didn’t buy a new road bike for 2012 in large part because I’m mega-satisfied with my current bike. Is it the bike you need? Maybe.

Now with Highlights

Guru Sidero Cyclocross bike: As chronicled earlier, I made a couple of mistakes when I ordered this bike: the totally horizontal top tube and the mega-stealth paint job. The first thing ends up not bothering me at all (is this a bad admission?). The second bugs me to no end. This is a sweet bike; I should advertise it. Otherwise, I’m impressed. The fit is (as it should be) great. The quality is very high. The Force drivetrain is good, but I’d probably go Rival in the event of a Groundhog Day type of event. Rival is very good and quite a bit less expensive if, say, you crash on the drive side or ride a spectacularly muddy race or otherwise beat on your drivetrain. Tubulars? Jury’s out. Love the feel and the low pressure, but I rolled a tire in a race. Major bummer. I’ve found the flaw in my process and should be fine in the future. If I had a do-over I’d opt for a wider rim (probably Velocity Major Tom) OR just give tubulars the finger and go back to clinchers. Note: my buddies at Sign Center helped me with the over-stealthiness of the bike.

Powertap G3 Wheelset: This is a great product — a really nice wheelset built around a really nice power meter. The G3 hub is great. The Velocity A23 rims are light and oh-so-vogue wide. A nice little bonus is that the hub transmits power, speed and cadence, so you don’t need a speed/cadence sensor glommed onto your bike for indoor training. Mine does appear to be eating batteries at a rather alarming rate, which I’ll investigate as more evidence accrues. On the whole: very satisfied. Also: nice value.

Crank-based power

Quarq S975 Powermeter. Another ding-dang power meter, this one built on a crank. More expensive than the above wheelset (1800 vs 1500), but perhaps more transparent in use. My experience has been this: install the crank, pair it with your computer and start riding. Piece of cake. Note that a speed sensor of some ilk is required to get speed, distance, etc. while training indoors. Worth the upcharge over the G3 wheelset? Yes, if you’re in love with your current wheels.

All the Data You Can Devour. And more.

Garmin Edge 500. Here it is: the go to computer for the cycling nerd. It does a lot of stuff and does it well. Everything good you’ve read or heard about this computer is true. Seriously. There are just a few things I don’t care for, and it might be worthwhile to put my carping into context. I bought this as a display and recorder for the aforementioned power meters. It does that job, but there’s a bit of overhead involved. For instance, it’s not enough to turn the computer on to record your ride; you must also start the timer. And when you’re finished, you need to stop said timer. If you’re riding indoors, you must manually turn off GPS every time you turn on the computer. If you’re riding with two different power meters, you need to set up two bikes in the computer or you must rescan for devices each time you switch bikes. These are not earth shattering complaints, but they’re niggling little nuisances that I notice on a pretty regular basis. Granted: my situation is probably a bit off the reservation, computer-usage-wise. One really great thing: super-easy data download once you install the appropriate Garmin software. Would I buy it again? Yes. Am I super-anxious for CycleOps to release the new Joule? Also yes.

Fun!

Jamis Dragon 650: Too new to say a whole lot more about the bike other than that this is the closest I’ve come to forming an Avatar-type bond with a mountain bike.

The Convergence of Money and Mouth

Would it be too much to ask for a photo actually in focus? Yes. It would.

Last fall I resumed my love affair with mountain biking and discovered the joys to be had on 29″ wheels. Since then, while I wasn’t paying attention, everybody else in the shop purchased a 29er of their very own. Strange, as I’m usually the first of us to succumb to New Bike Fever. In truth, I took my time selling my old 26″ bike and squirreling away money for a new bike because I was conflicted: 29 or 650B.

I’ve written (and deleted) a bunch of words related to my angst, but they wandered all over the place and kinda made me carsick.

In short, I am the proud new owner of a Jamis Dragon 650B. Why? I wanted steel. I wanted a suspension fork. I’ve been reading quite a lot of good things about 650B. And, honestly, I like bicycles that are a little bit off the beaten path. I wanted to want a SRAM drivetrain, but I confess to clinging to the familiar in this regard. Mountain biking is, for me, too mentally taxing to waste a few electrical impulses wondering about which button to push. I had those strange Shimano brake/shift flipper levers for a while. Then I switched to trigger shift. Then, because I didn’t really understand what was going on, I changed from a (bleeping) rapid rise rear derailleur to something normal. All of this in less than six years of (ahem) fairly infrequent MTB riding. It’s a miracle I can shift a mountain bike at all.

How is it? Great. I love it. A couple of buddies and I went to Fort Customer this morning, and I had just a super time. It was a quiet, slightly overcast and humid morning. My friends were moving along well, but weren’t trying to set the world on fire. I loved hearing the little gasps and sighs of the fork and the purr of the American Classic freehub body. I’m not a technically gifted mountain biker by anyone’s measure, but I’ve never felt so comfortable in corners. It was just a fantastic experience. Then I did a lap of Al Sabo with my daughter (now there’s a series of words that’ll just about bring tears of joy to a father’s eye) and couldn’t help thinking how much better things were on my new green bike.

What would I change? Not much. I did put a flat bar on the bike along with a set of Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires, both of which I like a lot. I’m very satisfied with the Loop fork, SLX drivetrain, Elixer 3 brakes and American Classic wheels. Am I faster? Probably. I’m a whole lot more comfortable in corners and downhill, which (one hopes) would translate to faster overall. If not, I’m cool with the increase in comfort and greater sense of control.

If there is a downside to 650B, it’s the lack of support from parts manufacturers. The Loop on this bike is the high-end 650B suspension fork. Don’t look for competitors as they do not exist. Likewise, there are between six and ten 650B tire models out there. One of these tires will almost surely fit your needs, but the absolute smorgasbord of options (as seen in 26 and 29 variants) does not exist… yet. The buzz at trade shows is that 650B is gaining support. Word is that RockShox will have at least one fork next year and that at least one major bike brand will have a 650B bike in 2013. Stans and Velocity already make great 650B rims.

Will 650B be the next big thing? I don’t know. I’ve thought about this a lot and I’m not sure that I care. I have good wheels, a good fork and good tires. Maybe I can’t get an Easton or Mavic wheelset in 650B, but I can get a super-awesome alternative. If you’re super explicit and picky about your stuff, you should probably either wait a little bit or go with a more established wheel size.

If, on the other hand, you have a bit of flexibility and (perhaps) daring, I can recommend a certain Shamrock Green bicycle that’ll almost surely slap a big goofy smile on your face.

This is not the big, goofy smile.

A Tale of Many Trainers

I’ll say it: there are a LOT of good fluid trainers out there. We sell a few brands and are often asked, “Which one should I buy?” As with bikes, it depends on the person and the budget, but here are a few things that I’ve learned and experienced.

 

Blackburn Fluid 2

This is the least expensive fluid trainer we sell, but it has a lot of stuff going for it. The frame is incredibly stiff and sturdy. It has adjustable-height legs, which have two benefits: One is that it’s easy to adjust the trainer for an uneven floor; the other is that you can adjust the overall height of the trainer for different size tires/wheels and/or you can set the rear tire very close to the ground so that a block under the front wheel is unnecessary. The resistance unit on the Fluid 2 has a distinct feel compared to the others. It has almost zero flywheel effect, so  no there’s coasting if you stop pedaling. Instead, you stop. Ryan likened it to riding a cyclocross bike on the grass as opposed to a road bike on smooth pavement. It’s not bad, but it is a bit different. Like all Blackburn products, it’s covered by a lifetime warranty. Very nice.

 

CycleOps Fluid2

This trainer is technically known as the “fluid squared,” but that’s a bit tough to type. This is one of the legendary fluid trainers. The frame is stiff. It has very nice adjustments for an uneven floor. It’s very easy to load and unload your bike from the trainer with the bolt-action mounting system. The resistance unit is very good and has a nice freewheel action. It’s worth noting that CycleOps fluid trainers had a reputation for leaking. The resistance unit was redesigned around five years ago (if memory serves) and I haven’t seen or heard of a leaking CycleOps trainer since. This is one of the standards and is a real workhorse.

 

Kurt Kinetic Road Machine

Another workhorse, this trainer has two main selling points: realistic road feel by virtue of a heavy flywheel on its resistance unit and a leakproof fluid unit. The latter was a bigger deal when fluid trainers tended to leak. I’ve put many miles on Road Machines over the years and find that it’s a terrific trainer. If there is a weak spot with this guy, it’s the mechanism used to adjust the tension of the resistance unit. The threads can strip with extended use. The good news is that Kurt replaces the offending parts without fail, so it’s not much of a weak spot. This trainer also lacks adjustments to compensate for uneven floors, but that’s nothing a scrap of wood or cardboard won’t fix.

 

CycleOps Jet Fluid Pro

A newer model from CycleOps, the Jet Fluid Pro has all of the features of the Fluid Squared plus a few more. Notable is the fact that this trainer can actually handle a 29er rear tire while the others require the installation of a smaller road tire on the rim.  Frankly, I don’t think this is a big deal in someone’s home, but it sure is handy in a bike shop. The method used to snug the resistance unit against the tire is a new and interesting design and is very handy if you need to swap bikes in and out of the trainer on a regular basis. If you’re a one bike/one trainer person, it won’t matter much at all. Still, this is a nice trainer.

 

Which one should you get? It’s all in what you want. The Blackburn is the least expensive of the lot and will serve you well. The Fluid Squared and the Road Machine are, as noted, tried and trued designs. They have slightly different pros and cons, but on the whole they’re just really good trainers. The Jet Fluid Pro is very impressive