A few pictures from our ride from the Downtown shop to Fricano’s in Alamo. We had a beautiful evening, delicious food and about 20 attendees. This casual ride stuff is fun! We’ll do more soon. Many thanks to the nice folks at Fricano’s for having us.
We’ve been sponsoring the local Ride of Silence for a few years now, and I’m happy that we do. The Ride of Silence organization exists for three reasons:
- To honor cyclists who have been injured or killed.
- To raise awareness that cyclists are here.
- To ask that we all share the road.
This is great stuff. The ride itself is traditionally a silent group ride that goes about 8 miles at a slow pace with a police escort. It can be a very moving experience.
The pandemic put the kibosh on the group ride this year, but it allows us perhaps greater opportunity to raise awareness. Instead of lots of people participating in one group ride within a small part of our community’s overall area, let’s flood Kalamazoo County with cyclists on May 12th. This plan is this:
Do your ride. Maybe it’s a commute. Maybe it’s down the block with the kids. Maybe it’s your secret training ride. It’s cool. Do your ride, and do it with intention.
Obey the rules of the road. Please.
If you’re into the socials, stop by the shop and grab a sticker. Our gal Charlotte designed it, and our friends at Sign Center printed ’em up gratis. Nice! You can stick it on your bike, your tool box, your beer fridge, etc. You can take a picture of it before/during/after your ride. #KBWROS
It’s back for 2019: our weekly ride from the Downtown shop. It starts in April and ends when we run out of either heat or daylight. Each Thursday we’ll chat for a few seconds at 6:15. Then we’ll be on our way. The rides are like this:
The Fast Ride goes for anywhere between 27-35 miles, depending on how frisky everyone is feeling. Average speed (once out of town) is 22+ mph. The Fast Ride does not provide support, so you need flat repair equipment and a general idea of how to get home. The route is here.
The Medium Ride is 22 miles long and is sometimes one ride, sometimes two, depending on the number of people on any given evening. Expect average speed of around 18-20 mph depending on conditions, who shows up, etc. Medium rides will have a lead, a sweep and occasional regrouping points. Fun. The route can vary, but generally it’s either this or this.
The No Drop ride goes around 15 mph once out of the city. It’s 22 miles long and focuses on group riding skills. As the name implies, you won’t be dropped. The route is similar if not identical to the Medium Ride. This and this are popular routes.
A few last notes:
- We try really hard to start on time. Please give us a hand by completing any business you have in the shop by six, so our staff has time to get ready. Thanks!
- This year we’re focusing on putting the Group in Group Ride. What’s that mean? Close the gap. Don’t pull too hard at the front. Don’t overlap wheels. Call out the hazards. Be safe. Have fun.
A few pictures and comments from an all-too-brief vacation in Tucson.
I rented this lovely Trek Fuel EX 8 from a cool shop in town. They set up the suspension for me, topped off the sealant in the tubeless tires and gave me a seat pack with a spare tube and a couple of CO2 cartridges. Having owned an EX a couple of years ago, I can attest that it’s a really nice bike with 130 mm of travel front and rear and unflappable handling.
I was able to ride three days with an old college buddy of mine who moved to Tucson many years ago. The first day we rode the Sweetwater trail system. Great fun, and a good way to get acclimated to the area, and by “the area,” I mean the rocks. Rocks, rocks, rocks. It was fine, but it took a bit of mental adjustment to believe the tires would stick and the bike would turn.
The second day I hit Sweetwater again, then met my buddy for a trip to the Golder Ranch Trial System. This included a bit of sand, some huge boulders, a bit of hike-a-bike, screaming descents down The Chutes and lots of rocks, including one that I fell from.
Just a flesh wound. I’d tried to climb up the face of a rock, but didn’t have enough steam to get over the top. Boom. It looks worse than it is. However, this picture features the shoes that I wore, a very new pair of Bontrager Cambions. Two things stood about about these shoes. One, they are very comfortable. Two, the soft rubber on the lugs was just grippy enough to get me up a few hike-a-bike sections up rock faces. Perhaps flat pedals would have been a really good option, but I brought clipless stuff, so clipless I used.
We were going through some pretty rough business when I heard my buddy holler, “I could use a bike mechanic.” He’d crashed on the drive side and smashed the derailleur pretty hard right on the pivot (see the pic). I guess I’ve been living right, as I was able to grab the darn thing, bend it back and make it shift pretty darn well. I prefer to have some fancy tools, but luck will do just fine in a pinch.
The third day brought us to the Tucson Mountain Park. Wow. This was enormous fun, very rocky with a few tough climbs, but mostly just fine and incredibly lovely. This was the best weather day of the trip with temperatures over 50F and clear blue skies. It was during a descent that I decided to create a photo collection of Things In Tucson That Don’t Like You.
That last one in particular is quite nasty. The needles have tiny barbs on the end, and are both terribly painful and difficult to remove. Though the plants are hostile, the mountain biking was great. And the views. My word. Look at this:
Ansel Adams I am not. When I took this picture I felt as though I were in the most remote place in the world. And then we biked up a ridge to find a neighborhood on the other side. Incredible.
Thumbs up to mountain biking in Tucson. I rented a really great bike for about $80/day. I drove about 20-30 minutes to the various trails in town and just had a tremendous time. Recommended.
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.
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):
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.
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!
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.
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.
I love Iceman.
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.
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
- Get lost
- Hurt myself
- Endure the expense and PITA of traveling with my own bike to a safe space to experience ayahuasca
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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.