Wednesday and Thursday I rode steep trails in Utah on an electric-assist mountain bike, and I loved it. The bike was a Specialized Turbo Levo SL.
It’s an interesting bike and is a little bit of a wonderful oddity in the world of e-bikes. It’s lighter and provides less assist than most other options. At maximum assist (Turbo mode), it’ll double the amount of effort you put into the pedals. For comparison, Specialized’s “regular” Levo motor will quadruple your effort at full assist and weigh a good ten pounds more.
The bike has four levels of assist: off, eco-tour, tour and turbo. While a very light e-bike, it’s a pretty heavy mountain bike. Pedaling that thing uphill without assist would get old (and exhausting) very quickly. I know because I tried, briefly. After we’d ridden a little while, my riding buddy asked if I’d kicked it into Turbo mode. “I’m scared,” I explained. “I tried a drug once in college, had the time of my life and decided that I’d better never do that again. I’m not sure I should try Turbo.” I was also nervous because I’d rented a regular (popular terms are acoustic, analog and muscle) bike to ride later in the week, and worried that I’d get addicted to the assist. As a result, I tried to use as little as I could.
Riding the Levo SL uphill was great (which is really the reason one might consider a Levo SL). The motor makes a whirring sound, but I didn’t find it offensive even after a couple of hours. Power transfer is incredible. I’ve ridden e-bikes in which you move the pedals a partial rotation and then the power comes on in a big wallop . Not so with this bike; power comes on instantly and smoothly. Riding downhill was super fun. SUPER FUN. Yeah, I noticed the weight, but the bike could still be whipped around easily. I have nothing but good things to say.
I felt like I was riding the bike in Michigan because e-bikes are not allowed on the trails we were riding. Normally I’m very serious about following rules, but I’ve seen the reports from IMBA and believe that pedal-assist mountain bikes don’t tear up the trails. My riding buddy and I tried to be as polite as possible. We’d turn off the motors around other cyclists. We tried to be as innocuous as possible and not pass people going uphill. When someone did mention our e-bikes, they mostly wanted to understand the experience. In short, we didn’t get yelled at, but we tried pretty hard to avoid anything that might induce yelling.
On our second day of riding, my buddy had a bit of range anxiety early on. She’d planned a pretty big ride and did NOT want to run out of juice before we got to the summit. In the end her anxiety was unwarranted, as her bike had more than 35% battery remaining when we finished. Range anxiety is a thing with e-bikes, and lots of the new models have options to add a supplemental battery.
After two days on the Levo SL, I rented a super-sweet Stumpjumper, one of my very strong friends rented a Tallboy and my e-bike buddy continued riding her Levo SL. Holy heck! Riding that Stumpjumper up the same hills was a lot more work — this after I’d been very careful to use the least amount of boost possible on the e-bike. I’m sure my breathing sounded like a vacuum cleaner with a clogged filter. Make no mistake, it was great, but a more hard-core kind of great. My butt was more thoroughly kicked more quickly when riding the normal/analog/acoustic/muscle bike. I will say this: I felt something like pure joy coming down the mountain on the Stumpjumper. Oh my gosh that was fun.
What you’ve heard is true: you can get as much workout as you want on an e-bike. You also have the capacity for more. In my case I was able to ride longer, go higher on the mountain and see more sights. It was really quite something.
For unclear reasons, I’d been thinking about a single-speed cross/gravel bike. I regret having sold my last one, and didn’t want to spend a pile of money on another. I spent a fair amount of time looking for a new frame, but single-speeding appears to have fallen out of fashion. I found very little to propel the project forward.
One day I realized that my geared cross bike has a PF30 bottom bracket and decided to convert it to single speed. Wheels Manufacturing makes a simple but effective eccentric bottom bracket, which I purchased. I also bought a 40-tooth single-speed chainring, a nine speed chain and really cool bar tape.
I had a bunch of rear cogs and single speed spacer kits from bygone project, and I installed a selection of this stuff to some wheels Kalyn assembled for me. These wheels have super-interesting Onyx hubs; I’ve been looking for an application for them for quite a while, throughout which I ruminated on my former boss who (at least) once purchased a very expensive suit to go with some shoes she couldn’t resist. So it is with me and bicycle wheels.
This project had been banging around in my garage for a few months. What can I say? Busy times. Today I put the finishing touches on this thing, right as the rain quit. I checked my phone, saw that it wasn’t supposed to rain for a few hours and started dressing to ride.
A series of funny things happened in quick succession. When I hit the incline in my driveway, I tried to shift. When I got about a quarter mile from home, I realized that I was wearing regular bibs instead of knickers. I usually cover my knees when the temperature is under sixty. About a mile from the house I realized that I forgot water bottles. I shrugged and kept going.
What a fun time! The bike was fun, but sneaking in a ride between rain showers on an early spring day was the best part. This post was actually inspired by the ride, not the bike, but one isn’t actually possible without the other.
Before starting this entry, I looked back and re-read Part 1. How bizarre! A post about a bunch of parts without a bike on which to bolt them. Just to recap, I’m trying to incorporate a bike into more aspects of my life — not just going fast in pursuit of fitness.
When I first started ruminating on this project, the Kona Rove ST seemed like the right foundation. Like the steel. Like the steel fork. LOVE the purple. My size was in stock. And then it wasn’t. I cast my net a tad wider and started looking at the Sutra LTD. Lots to like here, too: similar geometry, all steel, hydraulic brakes. The color (Earth Gray) was a pretty large step backwards in the eyes of this beholder, but the overall bike looked good, and I got ready to order one. Then I noticed that the Rove ST was back in stock. Sheesh.
I called Kona and talked to my rep a little bit. He said that the Sutra gets better as you load it up and that the Rove probably rode better unloaded. I’m not really building this to go across the country. I plan to carry a change of clothes, my computer, its accessories and a small amount of human detritus, so I opted for the Rove.
In retrospect, there’s an unconsidered option that should have been, well, considered — a standard Sutra updated to the spec of either a Rove ST or Sutra LTD. The price of a Sutra is pretty low, and I was already bringing a LOT of extraneous stuff to the mix. In fact, I’m talking to a client who wants a bike very similar to mine, and we’re discussing this very option.
While I waited for the bike to arrive, I quickly ordered the rest of the wheel supplies and asked Kalyn to build them for me. I opted for Velocity Blunt SS rims and Sapim CX-Ray spokes because… why not?
I built the bike, installed the front rack, installed the new wheels and wired all the lights, in that order. Thanks to the remodel and a generally hectic life, this took place over the course of a few days.
Building the bike was easy. Installing the rack was typical: slightly more difficult than originally anticipated, but not bad enough to make you start punching yourself. Installing the new wheels was a piece of cake. I put a set of WTB Horizon tires on the new rims, set them up tubeless and haven’t thought about it since.
Part of the fun of this project involved gaining familiarity with dynamo lighting systems. We (Pedal) have been involved in a few dynamo systems, and I’ve purchased a lot of the parts, but I haven’t been in charge of installation until now. The theory of wiring this together stressed me out a little bit, but in practice it all went together nicely. I wasn’t totally excited about little wires all over my bike, but that’s part of the package.
Then it was done. I took it home and waited until dusk, then rode up and down the street in front of my house, trying to get the (very powerful and interesting) headlight aimed correctly.
A few days later I got home from work and discovered my refrigerator bereft of refreshments. I hopped on the new bike, rode to the store and admired the fetching look of my bike.
I went in the store, purchased my supplies and (gasp) placed them in the bike’s bag.
Success! As was the ride home, via the long route.
All is not perfect. Though the pizza rack seems like a winner, I can’t shove my backpack in the pizza bag. My laptop doesn’t really fit in the pizza bag, either. I’ve gotta figure this storage thing a little bit better. Maybe a net to just strap my backpack to the rack. Maybe front panniers. This is an intriguing… opportunity.
I’ve ridden home at night a couple of times, and the lights are great! No anxiety concerning battery charge, and lots and lots of nice, bright light. My initial worry over the tiny taillight has waned. It lights up nice and bright, and stays lit long after the dynamo stops producing power, very useful for long stoplights at night.
The bike itself is wonderful. The ride is oh so smooth. The wide tires provide lots of confidence. It handles great. I’m getting used to the flat pedals. I’m also getting comfortable with a 30 lb. street bike, conceptually and functionally.
The whole project has been fun, but not cheap. Truthfully (and typically), most of the expense was self-inflicted. I wasn’t required to build a new rear wheel. I could have built a dynamo front wheel from the stock rim. I could have used a less-expensive dynamo hub. I certainly wasn’t obliged to use really expensive spokes. The lights themselves cost perhaps a little bit more than their USB-charged equivalents, but.. dang. They’re nice.
We started carrying Santa Cruz in late April of 2019. We partnered with Santa Cruz for a few reasons. One is that they focus almost entirely on mountain bikes. A second is that they have a large, loyal following. I like their adherence to and constant tinkering with a consistent suspension platform, VPP. All of these things made it not too difficult for us to decide to carry Santa Cruz.
A few years ago, most XC (cross country) bikes sort of scared me to death. They had razor-sharp handling and typically threw me to the ground when my attention wavered for just a moment. I enjoyed mountain biking more while riding more trail-oriented bikes.
Fast forward a few years, and world cup cross-country courses have become significantly more technical and burly. In response, the bikes have become more capable and less sketchy. I bring all this up because you, dear reader (Hi Mom), might be thinking that there’s no way you want a twitchy XC bike. If you haven’t ridden one in the last few years, I recommend that you give one a try. They are sooooooo much fun, whether you plan to race or not.
This bike, the Blur, seems made for the people who mountain bike around these parts. It has 100mm of rear travel and either 100mm or 110mm of front suspension. It has snappy handling, light weight and a variety of build packages. I spent some saddle time on our demo Blur and decided that I should own one.
I had a bunch of parts in my garage, so I ordered a frame. While Santa Cruz generally makes three frames: an aluminum frame and two carbon frames, C (regular) and CC (fancy), the Blur fame is available only in CC, so that’s what I got. Being a patient person, I picked the color that would get to me quickest. I’m not dissatisfied.
Upon receipt of the frame, I installed an X01 drivetrain, a Fox 34 fork, Santa Cruz Reserve 25 wheels that I purchased earlier this summer, SRAM TL brakes, a few odds and ends that I purchased or found hiding in a corner of the shop. It might be worth noting that I’m a little off-script in that I have a 120mm fork on this thing while the stock options offer either 100mm or 110mm options.
Long digression that probably deserves its own post, but too bad. Skip down about three paragraphs if you like. Immediately after Gary Fisher introduced his G2 geometry, nearly every 29er-producer started specifying forks with 51mm of offset, which is the distance between the axle and an imaginary line running through the steering axis. Lately manufacturers have been building bikes with slacker (more “raked out”) geometry. To keep the bikes from steering like a chopper (read: vague), they’ve been using forks with less offset. Santa Cruz is one of these companies.
I initially installed a 51mm offset, 120mm fork on this bike, It worked fine, but was, in fact, a tad vague on turn-in. Once it got into the corner everything was fine, but it was just a tiny bit weird right at the application of steering input.
Fortunately for me, I work with other people who hoard bike parts. J’Son let me try his 120mm fork with less offset. The difference wasn’t quite night and day, but it was definitely noticeable. The bike now feels planted 100% of the time, and J’Son sold me a fork. Long story short: fork offset and frame design go hand in hand.
This is a tremendous bike, but of course it is. This is a very fine frame with a legendary suspension design and lots of nice parts bolted to it. It *ought* to be great. And it is. Really. Honestly. I love it.
We sell fantastic XC bikes, and this is definitely one of em. We’re planning (another) bike shoot-out shortly. Stay tuned.
Spring is trying to spring, and early Spring makes me think of dirt roads, crud-filled bike lanes and the appeal of what are now referred to as Gravel Bikes. Let’s start with a bit of definition and distinction. Then I’ll ramble about figuring out what you might want in a gravel bike. Finally I’ll finish up with a list of some of the super-killer options we carry.
Gravel bikes were kinda born of racing which is born of riding on the roads you like to ride while trying to go faster than your friends. Locally, it started with Barry Roubaix. Nationally, the Dirty Kanza is a big deal. Personally, I think the DK is a bigger driver of current gravel bike design than, say, Barry Roubaix. My feeling is that local racing and riding is totally do-able on tires not wider than 32mm. The strange mud in Kansas can reward a significantly wider tire. While designing a bike for a wider tire, why not drop the bottom bracket just a little bit for better high-speed handling. And for really long 200-mile races (or long days in the saddle, period) we might make the bars a tad higher and closer to the rider.
This, in broad strokes, describes the general differences between a gravel bike and a traditional cross bike: more tire clearance, lower bottom bracket, a more relaxed riding position.
Let’s talk about what you want. 40mm wide tires are a “thing” with gravel bikes, and I’ve done that before. It’s great to fear almost nothing in the road. It can be less great to haul around a heavy tire, and a 40mm tire is almost surely heavier than a 32-35mm tire.
Bottom bracket drop is pretty easy to picture. Imagine a horizontal line going from the front axle of your bike to the rear axle of your bike. The vertical distance between the center of your crank/bottom bracket and that line between the axles is the BB Drop. “Normal” bottom bracket drop in road bikes is right around 70mm. Cross bikes might have as little as 6mm, while some gravel bikes will have more than 8mm of drop. How much does bottom bracket drop matter in Michigan? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say: not much. More drop contributes to stable high-speed handling. Less drop promotes a punchier bike — a bike that feels like it accelerates with vigor.
Riding position is the last consideration, but maybe it should be first on my list. There’s been a pretty interesting tendency toward higher, shorter positions, relative to cross and road bikes. By this I mean that the bars are up higher and the distance between the saddle and the bars is shorter. Some people (especially people with proportionately longer legs) love this.
If you’re considering an all-road (yet another great term!) bike you might think about a few things: how wide a tire do I want on there? What sort of riding position would I prefer? Does this bottom bracket drop even matter? And then there are the questions involved in every bike purchase: Can I accessorize it as I wish? Do I like the color? Do I like the drivetrain? And of course: how much is this gonna cost me?
Let’s talk about some bikes.
Trek came out with the CheckPoint a while back, and it really plugged a hole in their lineup. While maybe a little bit late to the party, the CheckPoint arrived with all the options — great tire clearance (in the ALR and SL models), a gravel-low bottom bracket, great looks and a lot of price point options.
The Crockett is another Trek worth considering. Same great tire clearance, just a little bit more cross-oriented.
Specialized has a couple of bikes worth considering.
The Diverge was the best-selling gravel bike in the country last year, and why not? Very low BB, very relaxed position, many price options and decent tire clearance have made the bike a real hit.
Another option that’s been very popular recently is the Specialized CruX cyclocross bike. The CruX has great tire clearance, but the riding position is a tad more aggressive than the Diverge.
In retrospect, Kona appears to have come to the party pretty early.
Kona’s cross bikes, particularly the Jake the Snake, make great gravel bikes with big tire clearance, super handling, great versatility and a marvelous riding position.
The Rove NRB was the first gravel-plus bikes we saw in these parts. Gravel plus is a very wide tire (slightly larger than 45mm) on a smaller-diameter (650b or 27.5”) rim. It’s super-stable and comfortable.
The Libre is more than a carbon Rove. It has unique geometry with a very light carbon frame that makes for a compelling package. Available as a frame or as a complete bike with either a 650b gravel plus setup or with a more traditional 700c tire/wheel combo, the Libre checks a lot of boxes.
The nifty, smaller brands we sell offer compelling gravel choices:
These days about half the bikes Moots makes are in their Routt series. The chain stays are slightly shorter for 2019, and the differing geometries between the “regular” and RSL bikes offer something for everyone.
The Open UP/UPPER is very intriguing: really short chain stays, road-bike riding position, tons of tire clearance, a bit of innovative engineering and the ability to order a ready-to-paint frame make this a bike with tremendous performance AND one that you can customize to your heart’s content.
Oh my gosh! So many fun bikes! It can look overwhelming, but it isn’t. Once you figure out two or three things that are important to you, the field narrows considerably. We’d be super happy to help you figure it out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the whole package looks like this when they’re installed
Way to go Speedplay! Nice new stuff and some extremely well-considered upgrades to existing products.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Urban 650 costs $130 has a very similar beam to the 800, with perhaps just a bit less punch.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re here to help, and we sincerely, strongly appreciate our wonderful customers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, 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.
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…
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.
As 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.
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.
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.
‘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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Air up the tire to 40 psi (compressor again highly recommended)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 and would be an excellent choice if you need to swap bikes in and out of the trainer on a regular basis.
With any of these, all you need are a fan, some water and a stack of movies (or downloads) to help pass the time.
People (don’t really) ask me all the time, “What could you possibly do to make that black cross bike of yours even more black?” Maybe a black crank with black rings?
This — a Quarq Cinqo crank-based power meter –is something I’ve wanted to try for quite a while. Since I purchased a Garmin Edge 500 and sold off all of my older wired Powertap wheels, the time was ripe for a test crank.
Why? I’m fundamentally convinced that a power meter is the best tool you can have if you want to maximize your cycling workouts and/or get better/stronger on the bike. PowerTap has (to me, at least) always represented the best value for a power meter, but at the cost of constraining the consumer to a single wheel. The folks most generally concerned about the wheel thing are bike racers and triathletes who possess (or wish to possess) a serious investment in training and racing wheels. For them, a crank-based power meter has incredible appeal. And since I am one of those people (at a very low level), I figured I’d get one and try it out.
Quarq is a cool company located in Spearfish, South Dakota and was purchased by SRAM in May of 2011. Quarq makes power meters on a variety of “donor” cranks including FSA, Rotor, SRAM, Specialized and Cannondale. I picked a Cinqo built on a SRAM S975 carbon crankset with Red chainrings and a GXP bottom bracket interface. In case confusion reigns, Quarq is the company and Cinqo is the product.
Small aside re: current bottom bracket trends. I have a bike with a BB30 bottom bracket and another with a standard 68mm threaded BB. With appropriate spacers, I can get a “normal” crank to work with BB30 bike, but there’s no way in heck to make a BB30 crank to work with a “normal” frame. Plus, a BB30 crank will set you back an additional fifty bucks. While I can get behind the idea that a BB30 bike is stiffer than the same bike with a standard bottom bracket, it sure makes it a PITA for the guy or gal with bikes that cross standards. Huge PITA.
That said, my initial impression of the Cinqo are very positive. The weight penalty of this crank over a similar SRAM crank is less than 100 grams. Nice. The weight penalty of this crank over a similar Red crank is a mere 114 grams. Super nice. Installation of the crank couldn’t be easier. Simply unscrew the drive side bottom bracket cup, install a little magnet bracket, reinstall the drive side cup and install the crank. The crank came with a nice installation and user guide, which had helpful pairing instructions for a few Garmin cycling computers. Couldn’t be much easier.
Once all that’s done: Ride. Train and race with power. I’ll report back once I get a decent amount of miles on Cinqo, but things look very excellent at the start.
Here we are, almost one year into Pedal’s existence. It might be a good time to talk about what we’ve done, what we’d like to do and where we’re going.
The Pedal approach is about the bike shop as primarily a service enterprise as opposed to a traditional retail store. In our first year, this has been a double-edged sword. To the good, our concept appears to have been well received. To the bad, there were definitely times when a more retail-centric stance would have been to our advantage. I’m talking specifically about inventory levels and merchandising, which we bungled from time to time. Changing our inventory software right when business ramped up was not an example of crackerjack timing, but the new systems are good and should help us have our inventory in better shape going forward.
Long have I felt that lady cyclists represented an underserved market in Kalamazoo, and I very much wanted Pedal to fill that void. I think we did a good job on bikes, but a pretty mediocre job with clothing. We had some cool stuff, but perhaps not enough selection and surely (not to beat a dead horse) some inventory issues at times. I’d give us about a C+ on fulfilling that mission last year and hope to see improvement in 2012. Stay tuned.
On occasion I’m asked about online shopping. I have a very long answer that boils down to this: Not now, and maybe never. There are definitely some advantages to an online Pedal — I’m thinking cash flow during the February Kalamazoo cycling scene (or lack thereof) and the fact that our local customers can see items we can access but may not have in the store — but there’s a lot of work involved. Pedal was established to serve the good people of Kalamazoo and surrounding areas, and I think — especially right now — any extra work should be aimed at doing what we do better, instead of trying to do something new.
All this talk about good and bad and what we do and don’t want to do made me think that it’s high time I codify a few ideas that have been banging around in my head for some time. In that spirit, I present the Pedal Priorities:
Make our customers happy to do business with Pedal.
Respect and value our employees.
Treat our vendors as we wish to be treated.
There will be more, but that’s what I have for now.
Our goal here at Pedal is better. Better service. Better value. Better advice. Better everything! We’re not perfect, but we’re trying, trying to be better.
The foundation of Pedal’s business model is our interaction with people — customers, potential customers, even people who are unlikely to be customers but might need our assistance with something (like directions). With all of these people, we need to be approachable, friendly, knowledgable and professional. And enthusiastic.
When you interact with the staff at Pedal, we’re trying to figure out how you might interact with people in general and our customers in particular. Are you approachable, friendly, knowledgable and professional? Are you enthusiastic? Do you like bicycles and bicycling? Show it.
Should you correspond with Pedal through the written word, write well. Use complete sentences and proper punctuation. We assemble bicycles that people — our friends — ride very quickly down steep hills. Those bicycles must work perfectly, and attention to detail is required in their assembly. Good English shows me a couple of things. One, that you give a shit. Two, that you have some attention to detail. These are excellent traits. Do not correspond in text speak.
We are always on the lookout for someone who can make us better. Not someone who can maybe do the job, but someone who lifts us up or adds something to the mix. Are you that person? I hope so, and I hope you can make the impression on us that we want you to make on our customers.
We’ve had occasion to play with a few nifty gizmos as of late.
Item One: a PowerTap G3 Wheelset. This is PowerTap’s latest, lightest hub (the G3) laced to a Velocity A23 rim. The whole shebang weighs 1850g, making it significantly lighter than my old, wired PowerTaps.
For 2012 PowerTap (finally?) ditched wired power meters and narrowed their line of hubs down to two, the Pro and the G3. The Pro has been around for a while, but is now a few grams more svelte and substantially more attractive dressed in stealthy black. The G3 is new, light and has field-serviceable electronics. A semi-important fact: the Pro transmits data via ANT+ and PT’s usual 2.4 GHz frequency while the G3 only transmits data via ANT+. This means that you can’t use the traditional little yellow computer with the G3. Which brings us to…
Item Two: Garmin Edge 500.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. This little wonder has been out quite a while now, so I’m a little late to the party. You can read all kinds of internet reviews but I’ll add just a couple of things relevant to what I want, which is PowerTap integration. On the one hand, this is a very amazing little device. It synched right up with the new wheel. The menu system seems intuitive. It’s not too big. It can display an absolute blizzard of information. I was happy to see that the PowerTap hub transmits enough information (power, speed, cadence) to make the Garmin speed/cadence sensor unnecessary. Lemme say it a different way: If you’re pairing an Edge 500 with a PowerTap, get the cheapest Edge package you can. You don’t need the extras unless, I guess, you want to use it with an alternate wheel set.
On the other hand, the Edge 500 is a little bit complicated and requires a non-zero amount of time for proper setup. Once I (very easily) got the Edge to recognize the PT, I thought my life was good. Then I used the computer in a room full of people, which caused the Edge to whine, “There are a lot of heart rate monitors around me and I don’t know which one to pick!” Lots of beeping ensued. While not a heartbreaking situation, it did reinforce the need for a thorough setup and pairing of relevant accessories. To that end, the printed documentation included with the Edge is very, very light. A full and comprehensive user manual is available on a CD included with the Edge. That’s nice, but it would have been nicer still for a $250+ computer to come with a nice printed manual to study.
Item Three: Garmin FR60 Heart Rate Monitor.
I haven’t personally used a heart rate monitor in a few years, but I felt like we should offer something nice in the shop. A good friend and fellow nerd suggested that we carry the Garmin FR60, so we do.
Recently a nice guy came into the shop and said, “I want a cycling computer that measures from the rear wheel and offers heart rate information.” He left his bike and we set upon a solution. Frankly, I cannot believe how easy it was. We took an FR60 and paired it to a Garmin speed/cadence sensor. Blammo! Everything he wanted. Plus, he can also pair the FR60 to a foot pod and measure his running speed. Like the Edge, the menu system on the FR60 is easy to navigate — more intuitive than the Polar and Suunto watches I’ve worn in the past. Also like the Edge, the included documentation was insufficient for the task at hand, so we resorted to downloading the full manual from the internet.
I got to thinking that I should have purchased an FR60 to work with the PowerTap instead of the Edge. Alas, the FR60 doesn’t have power capability. Darn.
Big Finish I noticed the rise of GPS-enabled cell phones and thought that I should short Garmin stock. I’ve also been watching the ANT+ protocol with interest, noticing that Garmin’s leadership role. Having had a chance to play with a few devices, I’m impressed all the way ’round. It’s hard not to appreciate that one can buy a PowerTap hub, a Garmin computer, a Wahoo Fitness heart rate strap and Timex foot pod and have all of these devices work and play well with each other. Such has been the ANT+ promise from the start, but it looks like the reality is here. Who benefits? You.
I remember purchasing a *very* expensive Polar watch a few years ago to get bike, heart rate and running data in one instrument. Later I had a fairly expensive Suunto system that did the same stuff. It looks to me like those days of proprietary transmission protocols and accessories are over, and I think you’d have to have a pretty compelling reason to not build your electronic system around ANT+.
I’ll report back when I have more time on the devices.
We’ve been racing a lot of cross this fall, the last five weekends in a row. As a result, we had no idea what to do with ourselves with a shocking Sunday off. We were discussing it yesterday and decided that we should try some mountain biking. My mountain bike for the last several years has been a 26″ VooDoo Sobo with fancy wheels, brakes and fork. It’s a *very* aggressive bike, damn near twitchy. It can be rewarding, but it can also be downright scary.
You, like me, have probably noticed the gradual demise of groovy 26″ hardtails over the last few years. 29ers are taking over. I’ve been slow to jump on this bandwagon for a couple of reasons. For starters, I don’t do a metric ton of mountain biking, so the expense of Yet Another Bike and associated psychic trauma from the lady of the house are formidable deterrents. Also, I’ve been wary of big-tire bikes for a shorter dude. On the other hand, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone who’s more than happy to tell you about how a 29er is suitable for anyone over 5’4″.
With this as a backdrop, Ryan and I decided that it was positively stupid that we had not yet tried some of our equipment in its chosen environment. Thus we picked a couple of 29ers off the rack and headed for the trails. I chose a 17″ Jamis Exile II. This is a cool bike: light aluminum frame, Tora fork, Shimano 3×9 drivetrain, Hayes hydraulic brakes and decent wheels and tires. Plus: incredible value. Ryan grabbed a 19″ Dragon Sport, which is incredibly similar to the Exile but for the steel vs. aluminum frame and SRAM vs. Shimano drivetrain.
In short, I am stunned, so much so that this bike might not see the interior of Pedal until it needs an overhaul. We rode hard for a couple of hours on the red and green trails of Fort Custer on this wondrous fall day, and I’ve never had so much fun on a mountain bike. I think the trip was a validation of 29″ wheels in general and this bike/geometry in particular.
Things I noticed:
The steering is slower than my 26″ bike, but still plenty quick. I’m not a good mountain biker and the quickness of my existent bike is often a liability, as I spend a great deal of time steering too hard, overcorrecting and trying to get back to where I should have been in the first place. This 29er was much more natural w/r/t steering input. The more modern, upright seating position also put a lot less stress on my hands and wrists, for which I am appreciative.
29″ wheels make it easy to get over things. Like log piles. Or Ryan. Much easier.
I noticed absolutely no difference with regard to center of gravity. Perhaps this is because I spend the vast majority of my time on a road bike, but the transition from 26″ to 29″ wheels was not only a non-issue; it was imperceptible.
It’s true. I could not spin a 29″ wheel up as quickly as a 26″ wheel. This is due to unbreakable laws of physics and that pesky guy Newton. But I didn’t really care. The lack of outright acceleration was more than offset by the momentum I had once I was up to speed.
I’m not tall at 5’8″, with relatively short legs. Still, I had zero issues with toe overlap or any other alleged issue with the big wheels.
The stock bars are wide. I whacked a tree pretty darn hard, and was happy my hand didn’t get pinched in the process. Cue the tube cutter.
As mentioned, I’ve been watching the 29er thing with an interested but uncommitted eye. The benefits have always appealed to me, but I always worried about the alleged drawbacks. A bit of time with the real deal dispelled a few myths about center of gravity and quickness. I’ll admit: if you’re a fighter pilot with incredible reflexes and control, a 26″ bike is probably more your speed. For a citizen such as myself, I was very impressed with the bike. Very impressed, indeed.
Confession: I am extremely anxious to try a Dragon 650B in the appropriate size.
This is a poorly-focused picture of a very cool bike, one that I’ve been anxious to see and ride: a Jamis Dragon 650B.
650B is a wheel/tire specification. In short words, 650B is halfway between a 26″ and a 29″ wheel. 650B proponents say that this size gives the rider the benefits of a 29er (low rolling resistance, better traction, smooth ride) without the limitations (geometry issues, toe overlap, high center of gravity). I can’t say if 650B will stick around for the long haul or not, but it is gaining momentum. More and more tires, wheels and forks are available all the time. Things look pretty good, but selection is not what it is in the 26 and 29 worlds.
This particular 650B is composed of several interesting pieces: Steel Reynolds 853 frame. A very nice White Brothers Loop TCR fork. American Classic wheels. Syncros (a division of Ritchey) cockpit and seat post. And a Shimano SLX drivetrain.
Know what? I did that, too. I said to myself, “That’s one helluva bike, marred by an SLX drivetrain.” It’s not that I thought SLX was bad, I just thought it was pretty darn average. However, we’ve built four Dyna-Sys (10-speed) SLX bikes this week and they all shift really good, so I’m rethinking my stance.
A few words about Dyna-Sys. When Shimano introduced their 10-speed mountain bike drivetrains, it looked very much like a quick response to SRAMs very awesome XX technology. A closer look indicates that Shimano spent a long time working on the entire system. Interesting bits include closer-ratio rings in the front, a Dyna-Sys specific chain and two big changes to the cassette: a huge 36-tooth cog and a tightening of the middle ratios. The idea is two-fold: make front shifting better and make the Primary Driving Gear (Shimano speak for the middle ring) more usable via the wider range of ratios in the back.
Most of us are used to Rock Shox or Fox or maybe even Manitou forks, so this White Brothers Loop thing might seem a bit odd. It is for real? Yes, it is. One of the challenges high-end fork manufacturers face is the threshold between locked-out and active. For instance, you don’t want the fork to bob when you’re pedaling, but you’d like it to absorb the hit if you run over a log. Everybody uses some sort of internal valving techniques to achieve this platform, and the Loop uses magnets in its Aura damper. Very clever. The TCR in the fork name refers to its possible adjustments: Threshold, Compression damping and Rebound damping. All in all, it’s quite a fork.
The whole package is great. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think the frame is gorgeous. The green is sparkly in the light and small-diameter steel tubes appeal to me. The American Classic rear hub makes that neat patter sound that American Classic freehub bodies make. Plus the ride is something — but something that’s difficult to quantify. It’s not as whippy as a racy 26″ bike. It’s also bigger, more substantial, but without that too-big feeling some 29ers engender. In short, it’s different, but different in a good way, like your favorite dish made with a new ingredient, like a Hendricks martini.
Hello. Today’s blog is a little bit different from those you may have seen in the past. For starters, I, Lily Krone (aka Tim’s Daughter, or just That Girl With Glasses Who’s Sometimes in the Shop and Often has Food Stains on Her T-Shirt), am writing this post. Secondly, today’s blog is not so much an update or tidings of some exciting event as it is an amusing anecdote. So…here we go:
A couple of weeks ago, my dad (Tim), Ryan, Kim McGowan and I drove up to Grand Rapids for a cyclocross race in my dad’s car. The two bikes were on the roof rack on top of the car, as were the bikes’ front wheels. A few miles into our commute, when we were on the freeway, my dad opened the sunroof to check that the bikes and wheels were safe and secure on their mounts and noticed that Ryan’s wheel was shaking precariously in the rack. He said he was sure it’d be fine, but maybe we ought to pull over and check, just to be sure.
We pulled off onto the D Avenue exit, and Ryan reached on top of the car to tighten down his wheel. Within minutes we were back on the open road, with these yellow and orange trees and this green, green farmland just stretching out forever. My dad did another quick wheel check through the sunroof and noticed that Ryan’s wheel was still moving around more than we perhaps would have liked. We decided after some consideration that it could make it until we got to the race.
Just a few miles after that, my dad looked in the rearview mirror and began chuckling. It seemed that Ryan’s wheel had fallen off the car after all. My father gave us a play-by-play of Ryan’s wheel skidding along the highway. “It’s hit the road!” He laughed, “It’s hitting the guardrail! It’s in the median!”
Ryan, thinking that my dad was joking, peered up through the sunroof. “Tim,” he said, “my wheel’s still there…but your wheel isn’t.”
All laughter abruptly ceased and an expletive was heard emanating from the driver’s seat. I got the distinct feeling that maybe this wasn’t funny anymore. “We’ve gotta turn around,” he, my father, said, “do you see any of those emergency turnoffs?”
A few moments later we were using one of the Authorized Vehicle Only turnarounds to get to the other side of the highway. When we got to the spot that my dad imagined the wheel had landed, he pulled over, put on his hazards, and hopped out of the car. Ryan followed him and together they scurried across the highway and awkwardly hopped over the guardrail. They jogged down the median, searching for the wheel. To add to the humiliation that had already been felt, my dad tripped and fell in the wet grass. They continued on, though, for about fifty yards, until they located the wheel, which was significantly less damaged than my father’s pride.
My dad and Ryan returned to the car, wheel in hand, and we continued on our expedition to Grand Rapids, Land of the Single Stage Sewer System, this time with all wheels in the trunk.
The weather the past few days has been spectacular — cool in the morning and rising to 70ish in the afternoon. Where was this weather all September? I do not know.
Anyway, thanks to the wonder of Winter Hours (Pedal doesn’t open until noon) I’ve been out riding between the hours of school starting and work starting. Yesterday it was forty when I began my ride, today it was 53. Brrr. Cool enough for toe- or shoe covers and windproof gloves. For a wuss like me, at least.
One of my favorite companions on days like this is one of these:
A Craft Pro Zero Wind-Stopper baselayer. It’s a regular (which is to say, fantastic) Craft Pro-Zero long-sleeved baselayer with a Gore Wind Stopper panel sewn to the chest. I like biking in it because it keeps my trunk warm without overheating the rest of me. For winter running, it’s the perfect thing to wear down to just about freezing, especially against the wind. My wife gave me one of these on my birthday years ago. In the time since, I’ve amassed several more, always wishing I had one when the rest were in the laundry.
You might check this out and say, “Nifty! But $80 for underwear is stupid.” I’d agree if said expensive underwear lasted one season or two, but I still have the original garment my wife bought me six years ago. In fact, I wore it this morning. So, yes. $80 is a lot to spend on fancy underwear, but $15/year doesn’t seem bad at all to be more comfortable on those chilly days.
We’ll be open a little bit less for the next few months — setting up at noon and close at the usual time, with a couple of changes. We’re now open until seven on Monday and Wednesday, and six for the remainder of the week days. Saturday remains the same, 10-5.
I have to admit that the shop staff is pretty excited by the prospect of a few more hours to ride in this wonderful, if all too temporary, Indian summer. Quick: go smell the grapes.
We take a different approach to tri-bike fitting than that seen in many shops. We don’t have a ton of models on the floor, though we sell a marvelous selection of tri bikes, both in stock and custom geometries.
When you walk into Pedal and express an interest in a triathlon bike, we don’t start pointing you to models on the floor or in catalogs. Instead, we’ll start talking about the fit bike, about our protocol, our process. As a guy who’s spent a not-insignificant amount of time on a tri bike, I 100% believe that comfort and performance when training and racing a triathlon bike start and end with a bike that puts your bottom, elbows and hands in the right spot for you.
Could we figure this out with a bike on a trainer? Maybe, maybe not. The thing with a bike on a trainer is that we’re always working within the constraints of that particular frame and probably the components (notably the aerobars) on that bike. When we use the fit bike, we must only deal with its limitations, which are pretty darn tough to exceed (not to be construed as a challenge). Additionally, the fit bike is much, much quicker to adjust, so we can try more options and make double-darn sure that we arrive at your optimum position.
Once we determine your optimum contact points, we can figure out what bike(s) will work for you and begin the conversation about brands, models, components, etc. — the part of the bike buying process that many of us love so much.
All of these words boil down to the fact that, in triathlon as well as everything else, we don’t want to sell you a bike, we want to sell you THE bike, the bike on which you are most comfortable and awesome.
You might think that the #1 bestest thing about working at a bike should would be access to cool bikes. And you would be correct. Yet sometimes access isn’t enough; sometimes you have to sample the merchandise on a more permanent basis. In that spirit, I bought myself a new cyclocross bike, a custom steel cyclocross bike.
Why a custom steel cyclocross bike? Because it’s what I wanted. I can fit really well on stock bikes sized 51-54, the former requiring a relatively longer stem while the latter can have a taller headtube than I like, but I wanted a steel bike and Guru said, “All of our cyclocross bikes are custom, so what do you want?”
Fitting a custom Guru road or cyclocross bike is a multi-step process. First, we measure you seven way to Sunday and send that data to Guru. Guru then suggests bicycle geometry, and we set up our fit bike to that spec. You come in to try the bike, and we adjust as desired. When you’re happy, we measure the fit bike and send the data to Guru. They then build a bike just for you. Voila!
In my case, I gave a tape measure and a form to my twelve-year-old daughter and said, “Get busy.” In addition to the completed form, I sent Guru (what I thought might be) pertinent data from my old cross bike, my current road bike and another road bike that I liked a whole lot. After Guru sent me their measurements, I obsessed over things for a while and made them try something else and generally drove myself crazy. Finally I picked the first geometry they suggested and a custom paint scheme. Guru asked. “What do you want for the angle of your top tube? Sloped down five degrees or so?” “No,” I said, “I’m a classic dude. Make it totally horizontal.” And then I settled in to wait.
Four weeks later, it arrived. It is a very, very light steel bike. The welds are beautiful. The machining on the head tube and bottom bracket is perfect. It was an absolute pleasure to build.
The paint scheme, which seems to have come to me in a dream, is both wonderful and horrible. I’m a guy who’s voided many a manufacturer’s warranty by repainting formerly gaudy frames a uniform color with no decals. In that regard, I think my subtle black on black scheme might be the coolest thing I ever designed. On the other hand, I sell Guru bicycles. I wouldn’t really mind if people knew that this murdered out (as I’ve been trained to say) frame is the product of a bike brand that I sell. One must be pretty darn close in pretty good light to figure out that the bike is, in fact, a Guru.
What to put on the frame… My road bike has a Red drivetrain. My tandem has Ultegra. My last cross bike had Rival. I, er, crash a lot in cross, so Red, Dura Ace and anything Campagnolo were nonstarters. With these thoughts in mind, I decided to give SRAM Force a try. I like Paul brakes, neo-retro in front and touring in the back. Thomson is the gold standard in strong, light seatposts and stems, so I chose those. The bar is some carbon FSA thing that was gathering dust in my basement. I’ll probably swap it for something with a bit less drop before long. In the world of “why not?” the wheels are Easton EA70X tubulars with Vittoria cross tires. The headset is a Crank Brothers Cobalt. It’s lovely and seems to work nicely, but I’ve never had a headset try to go in crooked during installation like this one. Bar tape and saddle are Fizik. And that’s the bike.
How is it? For you (probably) older ladies and gents that once had to dress nicely for work, can you recall how it felt when you picked up a good suit from the tailor after alterations and It Just Fit? That’s how this bike is for me. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing shocking. Nothing unpleasant. The bike just fits, as it should. Performance is another thing, and in this regard I’m quite pleased. (Nerd alert) Bottom bracket drop is one aspect of frame design that fascinates me quite a lot, and is a primary difference between this bike and my previous cross bike. I asked a guy at Guru about this difference and he said, “Holy heck. Your last bike had the bottom bracket drop of a track bike (a very small amount of drop), which is great for sprinting, but kinda sucks for stability.” Greater BB drop equates to a commiserate decrease in seat height, which could mean that I’ll have fewer “funny” moments when I try to mount the bike late in a race. (Nerd off) We’ll see. A nice surprise: this is possibly the first bike I’ve ever owned that has no toe overlap. Big deal? No, but nice.
I did make one mistake, and it’s that aesthetically awesome, completely horizontal top tube. Turns out that a short guy with relatively short legs might bottom out (if you know what I mean) on a top tube like that. Never dawned on me to look at standover height. My (potential) loss is your gain. Don’t think I won’t look at this stuff with a critical eye for your bike.
Finally, The Big Finish: Cool bike. Good ride. Good looks. Incredible fit. More expensive than off the rack? Yes. Worth it? Ah, the good old question of “worth it?” First, the cost. A custom steel Guru frame with fork sells for $2100. A similar setup in aluminum is $1500. Not cheap, but not in the stratosphere.
Folks look for different things in a bicycle. The aesthetic is important– swoopy carbon or lugged steel or mile-deep paint or…whatever floats your boat. Maybe it’s the purpose. Some like track bikes. Some like race bikes. Some love a cross bike or a touring bike. For me, a good bicycle should have a compelling look, but it must enable me to tap into the joy of cycling. With those loose criteria in place, I can’t say that I *need* this particular tool to feel my body and experience the weather and see the beautiful area around us, but I appreciate it. Oh, I appreciate the heck out of it.
As we keep yelling, the 2011 Cyclocross season is almost here. To prepare for this, we here at Pedal have organized a weekly event to practice barrier jumping, running up hills, riding through sand and much, much more.
Last night was our second practice. We set up some barriers made of PVC pipe in the field of Winchell elementary and went to town. We played such games as Get On Your Bike, Get Off Your Bike, Carry Your Bike and Run Up the Hill, Jump Over the Barriers, Ride Through the Sand Pit, and Ride in Increasingly Tighter Circles Until You Fall Down (there was no clear winner of this one).
We had an absolute blast relearning everything from last year, and be you a newb or a Cyclocross veteran, we’d love for you to join us next week Tuesday as we continue our sweaty journey to the top of the Cyclocross heap.
We’re making a lot of noise about cyclocross bikes, culture and racing around here, so I guess it’s time to start getting ready for the season.
PEDAL will host cyclocross skills training on Tuesday evenings from now until it becomes to cold/dark/whatever. Let’s start this Tuesday at Winchell Elementary at 6:30. Time and location will change as the season progresses, so stay tuned.
I’ve been meaning to write about my bike all summer, but summer has been busy and I’ve had better things to write about, if I’ve had time at all. Better late than never?
I spent some quality time with the Jamis catalog last winter, trying to figure out what I’d ride this year. The Xenith SL looked really appealing, but it was a pretty good pile of money and had stuff I didn’t really want, specifically really expensive tubular wheels. And it’s pretty expensive. Maybe next year. Then I looked at the Xenith Team, but I didn’t think I really wanted electronic shifting. Note that I made this decision BEFORE I spent quality time on a Di2 bike. I would most certainly take electronic shifting, thank you. Then came the Elite.
The bike had a lot of what I wanted. The same very cool frame as the Team. SRAM Red drivetrain. Cool wheels. Good looks. Really good geometry, too. So I ordered it up.
As I suspect it is with many bikes purchased by bike shop people, mine almost immediately became something of a Frankenbike. I have a set of wheels that I’ve used for years and really like, so I gave the stock American Classics to my wife. I also have a bar and seat that I’ve used and liked for some time, so I put those on there. I gave the seatpost to a client. What remains stock? Frame and Red drivetrain, and I’m quite a bit familiar with the Red drivetrain, having used it for a couple of years.
That’s a lot of preamble. How’s the bike? Wonderful. I’ve ridden this bike on cold (not cool, cold) spring evenings, hot summer mornings, good roads, bad roads, got myself a mild case of hypothermia, and experienced the heat of combustion during my first road race. And I’ve just loved it. I’m particularly impressed with the characteristics of the frame — it’s very stiff in the drivetrain while providing excellent vertical compliance. If you read any cycling magazines or sites, you’ve heard this before. What does it mean? It means that when you step on the pedals, the bike immediately scoots forward. No bending. No hesitation. Step and go. And the compliance thing? Amazing. It’s not some kind of rubbery, wimpy feeling, but you can tell that not every little thing that you run over is transmitted to your hands and posterior. Very cool. The handling strikes a nice balance. I once owned a bike that bordered on twitchy and another that very much preferred to stay in a straight line. The Elite (and every other Xenith frame, as they’re all made from the same molds) takes a middle road. It turns happily and predictably, but only when directed to do so.
Complaints? I generally ride a size 51 or 52 bike, and don’t think I’ve owned a bike that didn’t have some amount of overlap. That said, I notice it quite a lot on this one. Not enough to crash or anything like that, but it’s evident and a bit disconcerting at times.
How’s it rate overall? Really, really great. Really great. I think it blurs the line between metal bikes — specifically titanium bikes, known for the magic ride — and carbon bikes. The Elite is lighter than I can get a similarly equipped ti bike. Alternately, carbon fails to provide that “forever” feeling that one can achieve with a metal bike.
At $4600, the Xenith Elite is not an inexpensive bike, but it represents a good value. World-class manufacturing techniques meet excellent geometry, outstanding drivetrain and a suitable selection of components. Nice.
I was riding with a buddy of mine a couple of weeks ago, rather early on a Saturday morning. It was going to be a very hot day, but it wasn’t hot yet. We could see the damage to corn fields and trees from the recent wind storms. We’d both apparently had enough sleep, because we got down the road at a pretty good clip. It was awesome.
The next day I participated in my first road race. I talked some friends into doing it with me, and we were off. I lasted a lap and some change before I lost the lead group, and a little while longer before I was completely shot off the back. And it was hot. And dreadful. But my friends, my wife, my kid and a cold beer were at the finish. It was quite an experience.
A week later, I got up early and rode by myself (my friends, and most other humans, are willing to get up only so early to ride on weekends) for a while. It was a rainy, incredibly humid day, and perhaps I rode too hard too quickly. I was pretty beat as I rode the last four or five miles home, when I came across a cute gal running the other way. She smiled and waved and I felt refreshed, because I knew I wasn’t alone slogging it out in the rain and hot.
My kid and I rode our tandem last week, on a rather hot night. She likes to go as fast as possible and typically works me into a lather. For the record: I think she works pretty hard, too. When our ride was complete, I asked her what her favorite part might have been. “I liked that part when the trees were over the road and the pond was on the right and it was cooler.” Yeah. That was pretty great.
This morning I rode my mountain bike for the first time in many months. I told my buddies that it was interesting to take part in a sport in which neither strength nor endurance were my limiters. Said differently, I’m a wuss on the MTB. Regardless, it was super-excellent to be out in the woods, fishtailing in the sand, ducking under branches, panting up the hills, getting just the right amount of lost.
A friend lent me a dog trailer, so that I might try to bike to work AND bring my dog. The dog is very suspicious of the contraption and leaps out at inopportune moments, but it’s fun to give it a try.
Many are the joys possible on a bike, and this is a terrific time of year to find and enjoy them.
While cycling is, fortunately, not usually as awful as running in this incredibly hot and humid weather, there are some things you can do or use that’ll help keep extreme discomfort at bay.
Number one: drink a lot of water. A Lot Of Water. Measuring your sweat rate* at this time of year often yields rather shocking results — like you need over a liter of water an hour. One of the best tips I ever received was to use clear or translucent water bottles, so you can easily see if you’ve been drinking enough.
If you’re drinking a lot of water, you should probably increase your electrolyte intake. There are at least two easy options for this, a sports drink with minerals built in such as Gatorade G2 or First Endurance EFS drink, or a supplement such as Hammer’s Fizz or Endurolytes. Teaming up electrolyte intake with your water insures that you’ll ingest the stuff.
Is your wardrobe up to snuff? If you’re cruising around in an old, poorly-ventialted helmet, your modern options will surprise you with their low weight and incredible air management. I wear a Giro Aeon. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s easily the lightest, coolest, most comfortable helmet I’ve ever owned.
A proper baselayer is as helpful in the heat as it is in the cold. Our Craft pro cool items have received rave reviews from customers this summer. “Expensive underwear!?” you might exclaim. Yes. It is. But it’ll keep you comfortable and it’ll last a looooong time. The thing about doing sports is that sometimes the body answer uncomfortably like with bad odor or fungus, but there are remedies for that as https://healthyusa.co/nutrapure-fungus-clear-review-the-ultimate-anti-fungal-cure/ to fix this issues.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, use your noggin. It might not be the best idea to perform your hardest workout of the summer on the hottest day of the year.
* Sweat rate is a measure of how much you sweat per hour. It’s easy to measure.
Weigh yourself (sans clothing) before your ride.
Ride for an hour as normal.
Strip, towel off and weigh yourself again.
Subtract your post-ride weight from your pre-ride weight, giving your weight lost.
From the weight lost number, add the weight of the water your drank while riding and subtract the weight of any voided waste (estimate is OK). This result is your total weight loss through sweat. When it comes to weight loss I would suggest on getting a waist training belt because it can help you maintain your process and also it will keep you on a good posture while working out.
For every kilogram less that you weigh, you lost a liter of fluid. It’s helpful to know that a standard small bike water bottle contains 0.6L (0.6kg) of water and a larger bottle holds 0.7L (0.7kg).
Your sweat rate is dependent on heat and humidity, so it’s not an absolute number. It does, however, give you good data to help you hydrate effectively. Use it wisely.
We like bikes. We like talking about monocoque carbon fiber frames, 2×10 drivetrains, light wheels… all that stuff. We also like riding bikes. Sometimes we like to ride bikes as fast as we can. Sometimes we can’t help but appreciate folks who can ride faster than us. Lots and lots faster.
So, yeah. We got a big ole TV and a subscription to nbcsports.com. We’re watching Le Tour in the morning and probably again in the afternoon. I’ll admit that it hasn’t been the biggest boost to productivity ever, but it is a lot of fun.
This Sunday is the Priority Health Race for Wishes, a road race benefitting the Make a Wish Foundation of Michigan, held in Lawton. It goes on all day, and should be a good spectator event. Maybe you might want to ride out to Lawton and take a look. Maybe you’ve never been to the Old Hat and might want to see what that’s all about. Maybe Lawton is the place to be on Sunday.
Is it too hot to talk about cyclocross? Of course not. Pedal, in conjunction with the Trikats, KissCross and the Kalamazoo County Parks, will host a cyclocross race in Kalamazoo on October 2nd. Much more will be written about this as time goes on, but you might wanna save the date now. Right now!
It’s easy to get dehydrated and hurt yourself in this steamy weather, so please remember to drink enough water.
Sunday is the KalTour, a marvelous tour of the Kalamazoo area put on by the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club. At least one Pedal human will attempt to undertake the century, probably starting around 8:00 in the morning. Join us if you’d like. The more the merrier.
Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to include maps to the rides we do from the shop each and every Thursday. The shorter ride (22 miles) is always no drop, but we have had an instance or two of someone getting out front and missing a turn. If information is power, this should be enough to power the light in your refrigerator for a millisecond.
For those of you who demand more media in your blog posts, here you go. The is the physical embodiment of the things that go through my mind when I’m a long way from home and realize that perhaps I haven’t been too diligent with the chain lube.
Unless the current show concerns sports or politics, we typically have the shop radio tuned to WIDR. We love it.
I asked the nice folks at our favorite radio station if I could give them a huge sack of money in exchange for a really cool ad. They told me that they’d create the coolest radio ad in the entire world for only a small sack of money. And here it is. If I can make these technologies work.
If you’d like to hear more of DJ World News, her very awesome show occurs each Wednesday afternoon between 3 and 5. Our friend and ad designer Cool Hand Luke hosts the No Mercy Morning Show each Friday morning between nine and noon. TGIF? Yes, indeed.
To date we’ve spent a few words writing about fancy bikes, bikes that cost a pretty good chunk of change and are generally purpose-built for racing and/or going pretty fast. But we like other bikes, too.
One of our favorites is the Jamis Coda. It’s a really cool bike — steel frame, good paint scheme, nice lines, comfortable riding position and a ton of versatility. Stock tires are nice, wide road tires, but the frame and fork have enough clearance for much wider and aggressive options. In fact, we’ve replaced the stock tires with cyclocross tires on nearly half the Codas we’ve sold. The bike also accommodates fenders and racks, if commuting or loaded travel are important considerations.
One of the first Codas to leave Pedal went to Kevin, a young guy who wanted to go everywhere on his bike. Kevin came by the shop a couple of weeks ago and let me take a couple of pictures of his bike in full Urban Assault regalia.
Neat bike. Good for paved or dirt roads, in the city or country.
This dang Guru Photon has been sitting here, built, in the shop for several weeks. Many are the Thursday nights (we ride on Thursdays) that I’ve thought about taking out the bike and, you know, doing some consumer research. Inevitably it’s rained or we got really busy or some horrible thing happened to prevent me from testing the merchandise.
Sunday, everything finally came together. I’d planned to ride with a buddy, the day dawned clear and beautiful and I managed to wake up with enough time to grab the bike and get it ready to go.
So what is the 2010 Bicycling Magazine Dream Bike like? It’s freaking dreamy. Is it stiff? Yes. Is there vertical compliance? Yes. Is it fun? Yes. It is an enormous amount of fun. Should you get one? This is the point at which things get interesting.
Until about two weeks ago, every Guru was made to measure. You’d come to a shop like mine and we’d make some measurements and employ the fit bike and do some magic and then Guru would build you a frame optimized for your position.
In an effort to speed the delivery process (to a matter of days), Guru recently decided to offer a select number of its frames in stock geometry, with limited paint options. It works like this:
Tier One represents what Guru has always done — completely custom with every option imaginable.
Tier Two is stock geometry with a lot of latitude for custom options and paint.
Tier Three is stock geometry with a stock paint scheme.
The truth of the matter is that many of us don’t need a custom frame. I’ve ridden many stock-sized bikes with great pleasure, comfort and efficiency. Guru’s new approach gives those of us with “average” builds an opportunity to save a few bucks and get the bike quickly.
If your physical self requires (or desires) a fully custom bike, Guru represents an excellent value. If you can be happy with stock geometry and maybe a stock paint scheme, Guru now offers an absolutely killer value.
Back to the Photon. It rules. It kicks ass. It is light and neat and expensive and really, really awesome. Should you get one? I really can’t make that sort of value judgement for you, but I will say this: I have every confidence that “regret” is not a word you’d use in any sentence associated with this bike except the obvious: “I regret that I didn’t do this sooner.”
First, a bit more data and detail about the talk we’ve (loosely) organized with Chris Gottwald. Chris’s talk will be held in conjunction with a Trikat meeting on Tuesday, May 24th at the lovely CityScape Center in downtown Kalamazoo. Pedal and the Trikats extend an invitation to anyone who might want to attend. Chis does amazing things — things that make we mortals just shake our heads — and does them with modesty and joy. He has terrific stories to tell and a tremendous adventure ahead.
It’s taken a few months to get a few things in the shop that I’ve wanted for some time. Most of these things aren’t exotic gizmos or fancy bikes, but they are things that I like. Such as…
Feedback Sports stands. I’ve had a Feedback Pro-Elite stand for a long time and have always been impressed with the quality. It’s light, yet strong enough to hold my tandem. Good stuff. If you’re thinking about working on your bikes at home, a good stand is a terrific asset, and Feedback are as good as they get.
Darn Tough Socks have a great story. A Vermont sock mill that did work for Thorlo and other brands found itself in trouble as its client companies sent more and more of their business overseas. After much thought, they decided to reinvent themselves with a new brand of sock, Darn Tough. If you’re into the comfort of a nice marino wool sock, Darn Tough is worth a look. Or a wearing. Or whatever.
I had specific requirements when I went searching for a cycling shoe brand. I wanted something cool, but I wanted a good value. Many are the people who (perhaps rightfully) go into shock when you start discussing the price of a pair of cycling shoes, and I figure I’d like less shock in the store. Northwave is the glass slipper to my Cinderella foot. They’re Italian and cool. They don’t cost an arm and a leg. The fit is very good. They’re worth a look.
We’ve been riding bikes after work on Thursdays. We haven’t made a big deal out of it because the weather has mostly sucked this year. Even so, we’ve ridden and will continue to do so. We’ll do 20-25 miles. It’s always no drop. We’ll try to leave promptly at 6:15. We’ve had a great time so far this year, and I see no reason why the trend won’t continue. Join us!
What a marvelous time was had at the Kalamazoo Marathon today. Most of Pedal ran, but I was part of a “spirit station” on Oakland Drive at approximately mile 13.6. What fun! It was very awesome cheering as the marathon participants ran past.
But I’m ahead of myself. I went to grab some Water Street Coffee before things got underway. It was nearly eerie biking down Oakland with no cars. Eerie and kinda cool. And what a beautiful day! A bit chilly early, but more and more awesome as the day progressed. I arrived at the location to find our favorite band setting up and feeling good. We put up a tent, hung a banner or two and waited for the runners. As we waited people continued to arrive by bike, some from the neighborhood, some from quite a distance. And you could feel it: this readiness, this anxiousness to throw away the shackles of this rather dreadful spring and celebrate fitness and cheer on the strong. I promise: it was like a drug.
We started on the sidewalk, clapping and hooting and banging cowbells. As time progressed we found ourselves in the road, right beside the participants, still clapping and cheering and ringing bells and now slapping hands and making contact and congratulating these guys on getting this far and wishing them the best of luck on their journey.
A non-athletic friend of mine was amazed by all of this and said, “Wow! Maybe I should run a marathon.” Lemme tell you: you don’t have to do that to experience the joy. There are awesome 5Ks and 10Ks and sprint triathlons and every other thing out there. Don’t get me wrong; a marathon is a big deal, but joy can be found in many athletic events that require less stamina, training and dedication. For some events, and this might have been one of them, the crowd is part of the experience. In others, it’s you — your body and mind and big, big heart.
How does this fit into a blog from a bike shop? Who cares! The Kalamazoo Marathon was big fun, and I’m just thrilled to have watched my friends and neighbors compete and to have, hopefully, contributed to the amazing energy of the race.
Through very happy circumstance, I happened to meet Chris Gottwald earlier this year. Chris is a Kalamazoo resident, a professional pilot, a former domestic pro bike racer and, by the way, a competitor in the Race Across America. And he does the latter to raise money for charity.
With our Trikat friends, we’ve arranged for Chris to speak about his past adventures and his preparations for this year’s race. You, Pedal customer, are invited to attend. So please circle the evening of Tuesday, May 24th on your calendar. More information coming shortly.
Many, many people come in the shop to look around and check things out. Several of those people (you people?) are kind enough to wish us well and ask how things are going.
Despite the crummy weather, things are going better than expected, so we’re a tad overwhelmed right now. This post will communicate a few items related to this issue.
The first is that if you’ve come to the shop and had to wait for attention, I apologize. As a busy guy who doesn’t like to wait, I am completely sympathetic and have plans to solve this issue (more later). At the same time, I loath the idea of not giving any customer all the time she needs. In summary, I’m sorry if you have to wait, but promise that you’ll receive quality service once the wait is over.
The next bit is probably obvious: Pedal is looking for help. Our perfect candidate would be an accomplished wrench with incredible interpersonal skills, a cool stable of bikes and an eagerness to discuss both “Infinite Jest” and “The Big Lebowski” at length. Think you can help our clients find the spin within? Come talk to me.
WMU has a thing called “Finals Finish.” It’s held in the rec center and is a chance for students to blow off steam during finals week. Pedal was invited to attend this year, and we wanted to try something marginally more exciting and steam-blowing than a table with a bunch of crap on it. After milliseconds of brainwave activity, we came up with a contest we termed (yep) Pedal Power. We equipped a couple of bikes with power meters and put ’em on trainers. Contestants pedaled the bikes for two minutes, at which point we divided their average power by their weight to arrive at watts per pound. We gave a prize to the most powerful guy and gal every hour.
We had a good time, met some nice folks and gave away a few goodies. Fun!
And one happy day our Photon frame showed up. Wow!
We thought long and hard about the build for this bike. I’ve wanted to build a Campy bike for some time, and thought the Photon frame would be the perfect platform. It’s also a great way to show off some nice Easton carbon parts, particularly the EC90SL carbon clincher wheels.
Stay tuned for riding impressions of both Gurus. I know I can’t wait.
Many are the days that have passed since I posted a few pics of the Guru Praemio titanium frame we received. Since then we’ve built the bike with a SRAM Red drivetrain, HED Ardennes SL wheels, a Ritchey cockpit and a Thomson seatpost. It’s a very understated, very cool bicycle that weighs just over 16 lbs.
And there it is. If you’re thinking about a custom bike or a titanium bike or especially a custom titanium bike, this is worth a look. Keep in mind that Guru does is for you. You want a bike stiffer than this? Done. You want a bike like this but for loaded touring? Done. You want a different finish? Done. All of those options and many more are part of making your Guru yours.
As mentioned on This Very Blog at some point in the recent past, our Jamis rep abandoned a Xenith Team at Pedal. Though the weather has been cold and/or miserable, I’ve been anxious to ride this thing before he comes back to retrieve it.
Probably the most distinctive thing about the Xenith Team is its drivetrain, Shimano Di2. Di2? What? Di2 is Shimano’s top of the line Dura-Ace component group with the added benefit of electronic shifting. Instead of the derailleurs being actuated by cable tension and springs, all of the work is done by tiny servo motors, powered by a rechargeable onboard battery. The shifters have little pushbuttons instead of levers, and they’re super-light as a result of the lack of mechanical stuff going on in there. When you hit a button to shift, the derailleur sounds a little bit like Terminator (the mechanical Terminator, not the strange liquid metal thing) when it changes position. Pretty darn cool. A nice touch is that the Xenith Team frame is built for Di2, so the wires connecting the shifters, derailleurs and battery are cabled within the frame and the battery resides under the downtube for that smooth look.
Di2 Rear Derailleur
For me, there’s a whole lot of new stuff going on with this bike:
San Marco Aspide saddle
American Classic 420 wheels
Vittoria Diamante tires
and of course the Di2 drivetrain
How’s it work? Really stinking awesometastic!
Let’s start with Di2, as it steals the show. I confess that I’d been skeptical of this fancy-pants high-dollar drivetrain up until now, but color me impressed. It’s like indexed shifting squared (Is that what Di2 stands for? Have I gone to marketing hell?). Never a half-shift. Never a nasty sound from the drivetrain. Never a thought of reaching for a cable adjuster. It’s great everywhere — a quick bzzzt from the derailleur and you are 100% in the gear of your choice — but the front shifting is from another planet. It just happens. Punch a button and the correct gear magically appears. I looked down at the crank from time to time, just to make sure it had actually shifted. Unreal.
Though the initial novelty and awesomeness of Di2 dwarfed most other aspects of the bike, the whole package worked well. In the harsh environment of Kalamazoo county roads with winter detritus everywhere and fresh potholes by the dozen, I thought the bike was stiff but super smooth. With no control data (the tires, saddle, wheels and frame were all new to me), it’s impossible to say what is super good and what isn’t, but the bike was an absolute pleasure to ride for 40+ miles.
It’s fair to ask, “Why is this guy writing so many words about this bike?” Frankly, Di2 is a very expensive drivetrain. Very, very expensive. Not everyone is going to have a chance to try it out and fewer still will actually own it. Is it worth the cost? Well, we all have different value judgements, and a $6800 bike seems reasonable to some folks and downright stupid to others. But I’ll tell you this: there’s nothing like Di2. Yes, other drivetrains shift smartly and crisply and all that, but they’re not Di2. Electronic shifting is serious stuff, and I very much look forward to the day when it isn’t reserved for folks with deep pockets or generous sponsors.
I was locating the greater trochanter (pointy hip bone) on a customer during a bike fit this week and couldn’t help myself. “Are you wearing underpants under your bike shorts?”
Public Service Announcement: Don’t do that. You’re just asking for bunching, chafing and other sorts of discomfort that give biking a bad name. Forge that personal bond with your shorts and leave the bloomers at home.
On that topic, how should bike shorts fit? Like bike shoes, they should be snug but not constrictive and they should be comfortable. You should not be able to move around in your shorts; they should move with you. A biking pad always feels rather dumpy when the wearer is not on a bike, but it’s important to pay attention to how the pad feels. Is it rough at the seam? Squat down. Does anything feel wrong? Do you think you’ll be happy wearing these things for a couple of hours or more? Anything that feels slightly wrong in the store has the potential to feel really wrong after some time in the saddle.
Factors that differentiate shorts are the cut, the fabric and the all-important pad. More expensive shorts typically have fancier pads and more expensive fabrics, but these things don’t necessarily mean that the shorts will fit you better. I encourage folks to try on several pair and choose those that best fit their physique and wallet.
A few things that the reviewer mentioned match my thinking to a great degree, such as the fact that a complete seat shell — sans cutout — will have greater structural integrity than a seat with a cutout. I confess that I have also wondered if all of this cutout-male-numbness stuff, a topic with serious implications, is a bunch of FUD.
Back to the nine purple fi’zi:k saddles. Combined with our eight black and yellow WTB saddles, these constitute our demo fleet of saddles. How’s it work?
You come in and ask to demo a saddle.
We give you the saddle of your choice and take a $75 deposit.
You take the saddle home, put it on your bike and try it out for a couple of weeks.
If you like the saddle, we’ll order you a non-demo saddle and apply your deposit to its purchase.
If you don’t like the saddle, you can bring it back and try another. And another. Et cetera.
If you throw up your arms in disgust, we’ll happily give you a $75 Pedal gift card.
The human bottom/bike short/saddle interface is of prime importance to anyone who rides a bike. We hope these demo saddles take a great deal of cost out of the trail and error process that one must inevitably endure when the time comes to find a new seat.
Alas, we haven’t found an appealing way to demo bike shorts. Yet.
The Kalamazoo Gazette was apparently woefully lacking in actual news, so they were forced to print this.
Yesterday was Pedal’s grand opening. What fun! It was terrific to see old friends and meet some new folks. Matt, our awesome Jamis rep, showed up with a couple of Jamis Team Di2 bikes and a dual-suspension 650B prototype mountain bike for demoing satisfaction. Actually, he left the 51 Di2 bike, so trot down and give it a spin if you desire. It’s quite a thing.
Late breaking news: Pedal will have a Grand Opening next Saturday. This has been on the shop calendar for about six weeks, but we’ve never really gotten around to promoting it… until now. If you have a chance, please come by and say hello. We’ll have a band (!) and some food. We’ll give away some stuff. Other stuff will be on sale. At least one of our product reps might show up (does that give ’em enough wiggle room?) to talk about their stuff. It should be fun. We’d love to see you.
Even more shocking than this inadvertently-secret grand opening is the fact that Pedal received email from reader regarding this very blog. “Why,” wondered the reader, “can’t I comment on your posts? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?” Excellent question. Three things have a great deal to do with the fact that I don’t allow comments on the blog. One is that I personally am not an internet commenter. Second is that only rarely do I think anyone’s blog posting is enhanced by a comment. Third is that I once had comments turned on, and received many unsolicited suggestions of pills that I might like to ingest or sites featuring racy photos that I might wish to visit. However, if you think the blog would be a more enjoyable thing if it had comments, please let me know using the Contact page or just shoot me an email. I’m willing to give it another shot.
Back on topic: Grand Opening. March 16th. 10-5. 611 W. Michigan Avenue. Fun.
Even though it was sixteen degrees when I looked at the thermometer this morning, summer hours are now in effect at Pedal. We’re open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10 to 6, Wednesday and Friday from 10-7 and Saturday from 10 to 5.
Come on down and we’ll talk about the warm days that are surely coming soon.
We had a customer in the shop the other day who took a look at a few of the bikes on display and said, “Woah! This must be a place for serious cyclists.”
I almost cried.
While Pedal is a place for serious cyclists, it is also a place for beginning cyclists, commuters, kids, folks who want nothing more than to ride a few miles on the Kal-Haven Trail, triathletes. Everybody. Yes, there is a very expensive and flashy bike on display in the window right now, but you don’t have to want that bike. I sincerely, deeply hope and believe that somebody wants it, but that somebody doesn’t have to be you.
Feel free to talk to us about what you want. Please don’t be afraid of the bikes you don’t want. We won’t force one on you. Promise.
Today was Pedal for Hope. What a marvelous event. Good energy. Very good organization. Fun instructors. And an incredibly worthy cause, the West Michigan Cancer Center. My sincere thanks to TJ for spearheading things and allowing Pedal to participate.
Every last one of us has been affected by the awful thing that is cancer. If you have a couple extra bucks in your pocket, please consider a donation to either Pedal for Hope or the West Michigan Cancer Center.
Pedal is very excited to have signed up with our second bike company this week. Guru crafts handmade, custom bicycles in Montreal, Canada. If you’re looking for a very special triathlon/TT, road or cyclocross bike, come talk to us about Guru. For your ogling pleasure, we’ll have examples of Guru’s work in the shop soon, a carbon Photon and a titanium Praemio. Yum.
Guru speaks to the advantages of a custom bike here.
More than one person recently expressed an interest in classes or seminars or some ilk of training for the home mechanic or that person who’d just like to understand more about the way bicycles function. I don’t think there’s a better time for this sort of thing than right now, when we’re looking at snow and single-digit numbers on the thermometer. This Saturday, February 12th, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, at noon, we’ll take a look at derailleurs. So French! So complicated! So much fun! You need only bring your body and maybe a scrap of paper if you think something interesting might be said. We’ll supply a bike with derailleurs, a work stand and a mechanic. And fun. Hope to see you there.
In the event that you, gentle reader, have been having a difficult time getting to sleep, this article should do the trick. For the record, Pedal does not recommend dozing with a hot laptop in your lap. Ever.
The first two bikes brought into Pedal for service had chain stretch, and both owners were moderately surprised by the news.
Your chain is the wear item on your bicycle, and it’s an insidious piece of work because it’ll wreck other parts of your drivetrain if it isn’t replaced in a timely fashion. As such, it’s probably worth a few words.
Chains “stretch” due to wear at the intersection of their various parts. As wear occurs, the measured distance of each chain link increases — not because the actual side plates stretch, but because things get “loose” at the rivets.
Chains and the rest of the drivetrain (cassettes, cogs, chainwheels, etc.) are manufactured based on a standard length for a link of chain. As the chain wears and the links become effectively longer, the harmony between chain and cog deteriorates. And here’s the sneaky bit: the worn chain will slowly deform the teeth on the cogs, cassettes, chainwheels, etc. so that they match the chain. If the chain becomes quite worn, the drivetrain components will no longer mate with a new chain, and other parts must be replaced. This is the source of many a higher-than-expected repair bill and shocked customer.
How much stretch is too much? For modern 9- and 10-speed drivetrains, the rule of thumb is that a chain should be replaced when it achieves 0.75% stretch. If the chain is 1% stretched or greater, the cassette has also been deformed and should be replaced as well. A very stretched chain will even deform chain rings, the replacement of which can be a pretty expensive proposition. Bad news for Campy folk, your 11-speed chain should be replaced at 0.5% wear.
Since mechanical wear is the cause of chain stretch, one should strive to minimize the wear by keeping the chain clean and lubricated. It’s OK to hose off your chain if it’s gritty. Just dry and lube it after the wash. What to use for lube? Chain lube is cheap and lasts a long time. When you lube the chain, put the goop on the chain and — this is the important part that everybody misses — leave it alone for a while, a couple of hours, days, whatever. The lube needs a chance to work its way into the nooks and crannies that need the lube. Once the waiting period is over and before you ride, wipe off the excess. It does no good to sling that nasty lube all over your bike, and you don’t want grit to get all over your sticky chain and make things worse.
How many miles can one expect from a chain? This is one of those terrific/awful questions with no pat answer. If you let your chain rust, it’ll be a goner very quickly. If you are something of a masher, your chain suffers. Grit in the drivetrain? Not good. I found an interesting piece of data, but it comes with a big caveat: it was compiled by a company that makes bicycle chains. Here it is
This data suggests that a 10-speed chain will last anywhere from 1000 to 3500 miles. Alas, that has been my experience. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to take the supplied data and work on the dollars per mile for various chains.
Questions? Concerns? Bring your bike by the shop and we’ll measure your chain. Free Of Charge.
It has come to my attention that Google and every other map provider has a tough time with the location of the shop. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that — for the moment — we lack signage.
Why? In short words, mail hasn’t been delivered to this building since the dawn of the computer age. Until a few weeks ago, the USPS didn’t care that this building existed. We’re all on the same page now, but it’ll take a while for this information to trickle down to the various computer mapping providers. Sorry about that.
Pedal is, in fact, on the south side of West Michigan Avenue, across the street from St. A’s, between Sign Writer and Orrin B. Hayes. If you know Kalamazoo and have been here for a bit, we’re in the old Jeep showroom.
Stop by and say hello. We’re talkative. Mostly friendly, too.
One of the things that I treasure about Pedal is that we ride bikes. We love bikes. We’d love to help you solve your biking conundrum. Such text has been used elsewhere on this site. Other places in the interworld say “We’re bikers!” and I wonder if that lovely slogan translates to the average dudette looking for a bike.
At Pedal, it means that we ride every bike we can get our hands on. We try to ride a few miles. We try to have fun. We talk about bikes a lot. We *know* that the same ride is better on a better bike. For you, beloved consumer, it means that we don’t want to sell you Some Thing; we want to sell you The Thing we think will make you happy, The Thing that represents a quality answer to the question you pose. “We ride bikes” = “We would like to share our experience with you.”
Although we’re not officially open yet (heck, we don’t have an assembled bike yet), people ask, “What brand of bikes do you sell? What clothes do you sell? What nutrition do you sell?” The following might be TMI, but transparency is a driving force.
Pedal could not be more pleased to be a Jamis dealer. Why? American company. Good history. Not wrapped up in the whole “spending a bazillion dollars to sponsor a pro tour team” mentality. Awesome value. Fairly unknown in the greater Kalamazoo area. Great bikes. Bikes as good as any other bike. Excellent triathlon geometry. Right now, on the cusp of 2011, Jamis is Pedal’s one and only bike brand because Pedal loves Jamis and thinks you will too. Will Pedal offer other brands? Yes. Pedal is looking for an American-made brand. Pedal is considering a zooty race brand. But Pedal believes that those are niche markets (as if bicycles in general don’t represent a niche market) for enthusiasts. Jamis makes a bike that’ll make you happy, and your happiness is our overarching goal.
Clothing is tough. Pedal loves Craft. And Skirt Sports. And Twin Six. And DeSoto. And others. Like bikes, lots of great companies make great products, but we have very nice stuff that we think you’ll love. Will we carry other brands? For sure, but we’re exceptionally pleased with the brands we carry.
Nutrition is more of the same.
What do all of these words mean? They mean that we’ve taken great pains to become associated with brands that we love. We’ve done tons of research that would bore you to tears and a little bit of research that would make you envious. However, it could be that you’re looking for something else. If that’s the case, please drop by and talk to us. We want to know what our customers — current and potential — desire. As we lack supernatural powers, your feedback is the very best way for us to determine what stuff we should stock.
I had a chance to ride a couple of competitor bikes when I went to Louisville this fall.
Saturday I rode an aluminum 54 Specialized with Zipp 303s and a SRAM Force drivetrain. My cross bike is a 51 Felt, so I was a bit nervous about riding a 54. My worries were for naught as the bike actually fit very well. The Force was a bit nicer than the Rival on my cross bike and maybe not as awesome as the Red on my road bike, which seems as it should be. The 303s were nice, but I never forgot that I was on someone else’s very expensive wheels. This bike reminded me very much of my bike, which I think is a good thing.
There were just no 51 loaners to be had in Louisville, so Sunday I rode a 54 carbon Cannondale. This seemed to be a significantly bigger bike. The top tube was dangerously high for a short-inseam person and I didn’t feel like I could get the front-end low enough. The takeaway from this data is simply that a 54 Cannondale is a bigger bike than a 54 Specialized. No harm in that, and a good reminder that you shouldn’t judge (or purchase) a bike by its stated size. Despite being a tad large, it was a terrific bike (finished 1 and 2 in the pro race), and the Red drivetrain was super excellent. I have to admit that I was a bit less nervous on aluminum clinchers than I was with carbon tubulars, perhaps because the aluminum rims had a more familiar feel.
The moral of the story is that there are lots of good cross bikes. I crashed ’em both and neither broke, which was very good news for my kid’s college fund. I also preferred the aluminum bike over the carbon bike, but factoring in that the aluminum bike fit and the carbon didn’t, it’s hardly a fair comparison. Both were a pleasure to ride and race.
My sincere thanks to Specialized and Cannondale for lending their bikes to a complete hack, and to Greenware for sponsoring the USGP of Cyclocross. Fun on a bun.
One of the things you can only learn from the School of Hard Knocks: If you purchase clothing before your shop is open and store said clothing at your home in the room that was once your office, there is some possibility that your dog will get into your stuff and eat the tags off something. So we already have an item for the bargain bin.