My wife and I bought our gravel bikes through the local bike shop. I got a fair deal on them, and we’ve ridden them hard. We may have been able to get a “better” bike, possibly with better components, for the same price from an internet based, direct sale manufacturer. However…
My wife and I believe in our local shop. In fact, we’ve purchased seven new single bikes, my used Trek, and our tandem from the same shop over the last ten years – not to mention the upgrades (oh, sweet baby Jesus in a manger, the upgrades!): Two new cranks (S-Works for my Venge, 105 for my wife’s Alias) , a handlebar for the Venge, then a paint job, seat post, crank, bottom bracket, and a headset for my 5200, dozens of tires, wheels for my wife’s road bike, fenders for the tandem…. plus all of the clothes, and tuneups, and a few mechanical issues I couldn’t sort out on my own…. a new Cyclops Magneto trainer just last night (I know I could have done slightly better online that I did at the shop but only slightly).
We also volunteer heavily, for everything we can that the shop has its hands in, plus for the annual club sponsored ride.
We’ve been good to our shop and they treat us even better.
For instance, my wife’s gravel bike seems to have had a defective wheel (it’s cracked at more than half-a-dozen spoke holes), so the shop contacted the manufacturer who promptly replaced the wheel as a warranty issue, more than a year after I bought the gravel bikes. If I bring a wheel to be trued (because I really suck at truing wheels), somebody will jump on it and have me out the door, with my wheel, in ten minutes if someone is free. On another occasion, they completely rebuilt a wheel for me in two days, right before the biggest tour of the season, so I could have my backup wheelset. Or how about that brand new trainer I just bought? The resister housing was shipped with a loose screw. I didn’t realize this when I put it together, I just knew it shouldn’t be making the noise it was making when I turned the crank. I called the shop, took it in and the mechanic had it fixed in ten minutes. I was out the door and home, round trip, in 30 minutes. Now, could I have fixed that on my own? Likely, given some time and a little bit of want to (which I would have had, rather than go through the trouble of shipping the old trainer back for a new one), but I didn’t have to bother – I had a mechanic to take care of it.
My friends, there’s a lot of good on the internet, but it can’t do that.
Support your local bike shop. You don’t have to buy everything there, but if your shop goes out of business because everyone decided they’ve gotta save a buck online, who are you going to have fix your stuff when you can’t? Good luck sending your precious steed to the internet.
Oh, and just so we’re clear; yes, the store marks up an item a little more than they do on the web, because your bike shop has a storefront it has to pay for. The internet doesn’t have to pay the same rent, or employ as many people, so your internet company likely makes more money on you than your local shop will with all things leveled out.
It’s something to chew on.
This post was inspired by my Kiwi brother from another mother, the Tempocyclist. Visit him here.
It’s another Monday evening after a typical Monday at work.
If you felt just a little dread after reading that sentence, you know Mondays like I know Mondays. They’re not all bad, but they’re rarely good at the same time… it’s almost as if… everyone takes the weekend to lose their mind for a minute – or they realize over the weekend they’re nuts and have to spread the joy come Monday morning. Whatever it is, it’s interesting.
So I pull in the driveway and park my SUV in front of the camper, which reminds me of my last cycling/camping trip just a couple of weekends before. That immediately puts a smile on my face. I head into the house and get my gravel bike ready, thinking about how cold it is outside. I’m trying to figure out what I want to wear to hit that magic balance of not too cold, but not too warm.
I decide on my kit, put it on (over the next ten minutes… ahem) and roll over to my buddy’s house. On the way over, I not the tailwind both ways – the first half of the ride after I pick Chuck up is going to be chilly with the cross-headwind. And I missed on my kit. I’m definitely on the uncomfortably cold side of things. It’s funny, how 49° on a summer morning can be just enough to leave the arm warmers and knee warmers at home – after all, it’ll be 80 in an hour. That same 49 on an autumn afternoon, leg warmers, arm warmers, wool socks and a light vest aren’t enough.
Once we get going and find a rhythm, though, everything fades into the background. All of a sudden, I realize how nice the dirt roads are – they’re almost perfect, like paved roads. We’re hauling pretty decently into the wind on what’s supposed to be a fairly easy day, and rather than dial it back a notch, I decide I’ve got the legs for the pace and keep it rolling.
Then we hit the cross-tailwind and things really pick up. I’m on an entry-level gravel bike that’s comically heavy next to my road rigs that cost roughly four and six times more. Still, the 32mm tires have just the right grip and roll and the low pressure eats up minor potholes. We’re cruising along at 20-mph, holding a conversation about stuff in general and cranking out the miles. We’re 17 miles in when I realize we’ve only been passed by one car so far. That puts a smile on my face – I always enjoy gravel season after road season for just that reason – it’s not that I dislike traffic, I don’t mind it (and it’s a necessary evil if you want the speed associated with road cycling), it’s just wonderful to get out of it at the end of the season.
With just a few miles to go, I realize that I’m chilly but it hasn’t bothered me. I was too busy thinking about how much fun I was having. I’m looking forward to the nice, warm shower that awaits – just nine more minutes…
Daylight is fading as we pull up to my driveway. Chuck and I exchange fist bumps and thank you’s and he heads off down the road, two more miles for him. I charge through the ditch in the front yard to clean my tires off in the grass so I don’t track dirt into the house. I hit the brakes at the front porch and hit the “stop” button on my Garmin.
And that’s not the good part.
In the shower, I’m thinking about how lucky I am to be me. Life isn’t really special or all that much better for me than anyone else, I simply love what I’ve got – and that is special.
Dinner was spectacular. Chicken-noodle soup and grilled cheese sammiches – but not your standard American cheese on white bread grilled cheese. Mrs. Bgddy cooked up gruyere and gouda on brioche bread grilled cheese sammiches. Mmmmm… butter. On top of butter. On top of butter, with a side of butter. They’re heavenly, and the soup to go along and warm up the insides…
I fell asleep thinking about how good it is to be me.
Then I woke up and thought about how much fun yesterday’s ride was. I smiled on the way out the door to the office, struck with the “man, it’s good to be me” vibe all over again. Driving into the office I just set my cruise control and drove, a smile stretched across my face. Just twelve hours and I’ll be doing the same thing all over again – and I smile bigger. My God, it’s good to be me.
And that’s what a proper bike ride does for the spirit.
Sunday, a few friends and I showed up to ride with a guy in our group who moved down to Clarkston (about 30 miles from our place) a short while ago. He’s jumped in with the local club and invited us down to ride at the Fall Back 40, a gravel bike ride that cuts through the most unlikely of areas we ride in. Typically, Clarkston is a high-traffic area – vastly busier than we’re used to. The gravel roads are a different story altogether…
I’ll get the easy part out of the way right off the bat; this was one of the most enjoyable gravel rides I’ve ever been on. We did the 48 mile route but took a wrong turn so we ended up with 44 miles with 2,300′ of climbing. I don’t know where they found all of those hills in southeastern Michigan, but we ride hundred milers with 500′ less elevation gain. Fortunately, even on my entry-level Diverge, I had the gears for everything the route could throw at us – I used them all, though. Every last one.
We rolled out just before 8am to a just-rising sun on a windy, chilly Sunday morning. I bundled up pretty well, even with a pair of compression shorts under the bibs. I also went with arm-warmers, a jersey, a long-sleeved jersey and a vest, leg warmers and full foot covers. At 44° (7 C), I was a little over-dressed, but the wind was whipping north of 15-mph. As is normal, I’d rather have it and take it off than not have it and be cold – especially with the wind. It had rained Friday, but the dirt roads appeared to be dry enough.
I had my entry-level Diverge (Sora) and Mrs. Bgddy was using the gravel bike that our friend loaned her. It’s a beautiful Cannondale SuperX Ultegra with the nicest wheelset I’ve ever seen on a gravel bike. Everyone else rode a higher-end carbon gravel bike – the guy who loaned my wife the Cannondale had a new Pinarello Grevil (upgraded to SRAM eTap). I was a little envious but I figured I’d get a better workout trying to keep up. I wasn’t wrong, and I had to tell myself that more than once that day.
It never fails – I tell myself the extra eight pounds going from my Venge to the Diverge won’t be that big a deal… then I hit that first big hill, and it very much is a big deal (it’s only six extra pounds going from the Trek. Two pounds? Not so bad. Six or eight? Woof!).
The ride was perfect though. My Diverge handled fantastically and I only had a tough time keeping up with the lead guys on the bigger hills. On the flats and downhills I was fine and we kept a fairly decent pace with the crew we had.
The important thing was that we observed post-season “it’s all bonus miles” pace. We were just out there for the good time, and that’s exactly what was had. With a 15-mph average, we certainly didn’t watch the leaves turn color, but we weren’t killing it to hit a 16-ish average, either. And Mrs. Bgddy crushed it… and I, according to my wife, accrued 1,000 points for accepting the pace for what it was with a smile on my face.
Then came the taco lunch that was a part of the entry fee. It wasn’t quite fantastic, but it was very good. I tore mine up – lugging that heavy-@$$ bike around made me hungry! After everyone had eaten and laughed and congratulated one another on a good time, we all went our separate ways. My wife and I, having already loaded the bikes, made our way to my car. She kissed me tenderly on the cheek, squeezed my hand and let me know the thousand points wasn’t an exaggeration.
I don’t think she realized staying together was the plan all along, but with a thousand freakin’ points, I’m not saying anything, either!
UPDATE: My buddy, Chuck and I took the gravel bikes out last night, too. 20 miles, we were passed by one car. Gotta love it, baby.
This is the second post in my new series on how “we”, meaning my friends and I, do a road trip. We don’t do the epic, four-week long “sea to shining sea” 100-miles a day journey. I only wish I had the time to do something like that. I don’t. We do, however, have plenty of time to head up to the northern part of our State, a three-hour drive, for a long weekender or three during the year… and we do it right.
What I’m talking about is the non-supported, heading away for a few days with my buddies, getaway. Hotels are great, but camping is where it’s really at because at that point, it’s all about the cycling, food and sleep. Once camp is set up, all you do is ride, eat, sleep, repeat. Often.
Typically speaking, I’m a fan of hotel road trips, but there’s just something about camping with a group of friends that makes the weekend about what it should be; friendship, food and cycling.
We’ll have several “levels” of camping that will cover most incomes. First would be tent camping. Camping in a tent, in my opinion, takes a lot of want to. You’ll need a tent, preferably a mattress (air or foam), your clothes, and something to carry your incidentals; food, cooking supplies, and utensils. A grill of some sort would be wise (or a grate you can put over a fire pit works too – cooking is a challenge, but if you can get the fire to behave, my God, is that a fantastic way to cook. While this isn’t the easiest or most comfortable way to camp, it’s got its advantages – both in money and scope.
In our case, my wife and I didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend on a camper, so we bought our pop-up used. I think we paid $1,200 for it. We’ve gotten so much out of it, I can’t believe we paid that little for it – it was a steal at $1,200. My wife is a tent camper – I absolutely am not. I did it, camp in a tent, but I never liked it. The pop-up was our compromise. The big, screened windows had the feel of a tent for my wife, but with actual beds and electrical outlets, and other amenities for me.
For us, the pop-up carries with it a lot of the conveniences of home; a microwave oven, a stove-top, beds, storage for a hibachi grill, pots, pans, coffee maker, sheets, comforters, pillows, a sink, a furnace and refrigerator… but in a relatively light package. It’s only 1,500 pounds dripping wet. This means you only need a V-6 with a decent tow package to pull it and gas mileage isn’t destroyed, either. One thing to keep in mind, however, is the method one will use to get the bikes where you’re going… We travel with enough people the bikes usually can’t go in the vehicle. With the camper on the hitch, we can’t use our bike rack, either. I had to build a rack to go on the camper (see photos above and the link – it works excellently).
Now, my friend, Chuck, goes with a hard-side camper that has quite a few more amenities, but it lacks that outdoorsy “feel” my wife wants
insists on when she camps. Either way, with a camper, a decent home base for that road trip is just a matter of packing, hooking the rig up to the vehicle, and rolling out. And rather than blow $100+ a night on a hotel room, we can get a full hookup campsite for $25 to $40 a night. When the nights turn cold, a $12 propane tank will run our furnace at night for the weekend. In other words, if money is an object or, like us, you’re simply a fan of the outdoors, camping and cycling road trips go hand in glove.
Though this is Part One, the initial post’s link is here.
Stay tuned for Part Two
Who Turned Off Summer? And I’m Glad It Happened; Conversely, It’s Doesn’t Have to Be All Fast All of the Time
My buddy, Mike got a new bike Friday. Well, a new frame for his Di2 components. Trek helped him out under their crash replacement warranty whereby they replace a cracked frame with a newer model at a discount. They replaced his old Madone 7-Series (with the Godforsaken rear rim brake under the chainstays) with a Emonda 700 series (their lightest frame), and it is beautiful… and, thank goodness for Mike, it’s gray and black with white lettering and red flourishes. He gets to dress in black and red again! [there’s an inside story to this and his old babyshit greet 7-series that goes way back].
So we took the good bikes out yesterday morning. And it was cold. We’d been gifted unseasonably awesome weather for four-and-a-half days and it finally came crashing to an end… Mrs. Bgddy was testing out the loaner gravel bike, Vince was out on his Pinarello F-10 eTap Team Sky Edition with Zipp Whale-back wheels ([!] The wheels alone are $4,000 and made to order), and I had my Venge. Sadly, Vince flatted three miles out and had grabbed the wrong saddle bag that didn’t have his valve extension so he had no way to replace the tube. Mrs. Bgddy rode back to get her SUV to pick Vince up and we rode on at their request.
Two days before I was riding in a short-sleeved jersey and bibs. Now I had two layers, wool socks, toe covers, ear muffs (the behind the neck kind, VASTLY better than a cap – I highly recommend them for cold weather riding), full-fingered gloves… the whole nine yards. I was never cold, but I certainly wasn’t warm, either.
Mike and I just cruised the 35-mile route, talking about what cyclists normally talk about when out cycling… Cycling.
We were so slow I was almost shocked for a Saturday ride, but when it came down to it, I didn’t care. It being the middle of October, the season is done. Now it’s just bonus miles and good times with my friends.
All of fastest rides of the year are memories, jarred every time the furnace kicks on. Oh, but they still put a smile on my face.
Today we’ve got a gravel ride out of town. I’ll be loading up the bikes for a rare, short drive to the start. It’s cold again, but I’ve got the gear to enjoy the ride…. and they’re all fun miles now, anyway. The real work won’t start again until January – when I’ll have two months to whip myself into shape on the trainer for another epic spring.
I’m sad to see the season go, but I’m glad at the same time. I’m tired. It’s time to sit back and enjoy a few easy rides with my friends… and remember the good times we had over the last six months.
I had a great week going, as mileage goes – especially for October. The weather was fantastic, lows in the 50’s, highs in the low 70’s (20 C), and sunshine was plentiful. My buddy, Chuck and I, had a fun, easy Monday 19.9 miles. Tuesday, a perfect day as weather goes, was 31 miles for our fastest club ride ever (unassisted by the A Group – and just four tenths of a mph shy of that). Wednesday was an easy, 23-miler – perfect conditions yet again. Thursday was my first day in the dirt since spring and it was glorious – another perfect day, too. Unprecedented for this time of year – and the good weather was supposed to continue, but with a big drop in the temperature.
Being a weather guy (I’m almost as avid about the weather as I am about cycling), I know the temp can’t drop 20-ish degrees in a day without a storm – the volatility created by the cold front just won’t allow it. I was hopeful, though. Well, my suspicion was confirmed when I checked the weather Friday morning. I knew I wouldn’t be riding that afternoon.
I love to tinker with bikes on rain days.
My wife’s gravel bike, a Specialized Diverge, had a bum wheel. The rim cracked at several spoke holes and was a mess. Our local shop got Specialized to cover it under the warranty and the new wheel was in. When my wife got home, I taught her how to take the disc brake wheel out and remove the tire so we could take her old wheel in. Unfortunately, the old wheel was a six-bolt disc and the new one was a spline, so we left both wheels at the shop so they could fit an adapter. Whilst there, I got to talking to the owner about the setup on the bike my friend loaned Mrs. Bgddy… the setup was a little off (reach was long), so he suggested just making it right rather than see if she’d be able to ride as it was…
So rather than mess with her trying to “get used to” the extra stretch, I went out into the bike shed and grabbed the proper stem. I pulled my friend’s stem and replaced it with an 80mm 6° that changed the reach to match my wife’s gravel bike, and I took three spacers from the bottom as well, while I was at it, to match the drop (saddle nose to bar). Now it should be perfect.
Prior to heading to the shop, while I was waiting on my wife to come home, I decided to work on my gravel bike a bit, specifically looking at dirt in the bottom bracket area. The crankset was full of dirt where I wasn’t able to get at it with a towel… it just needed a good cleaning. So I went to work. I didn’t have any creaking when I rode, but I had a funny feeling I didn’t have long before I did. That crankset was gnarly. I’d just gotten everything apart and cleaned when my wife strode through the door. After we tinkered with the loaner bike and her wheel, I finished up on my bike… I won’t be waiting so long to clean that crank again. What a mess.
Next, the Shimano Sora equipped gravel bike as always been a little off as the shifting goes. The components shift perfectly (surprisingly, almost as good as my 105 and Ultegra equipped bikes), but there’s some rubbing going on in the highest gear – and I hate that.
Well, after a whole lot of farting around, I finally found the biggest problem. The extra-wide derailleur cage was just barely rubbing the the crank arm when the front derailleur was trimmed out for the higher gears. Of course, all of the barrel adjusters were maxed out, too, so I simply went to town on it… I loosened everything, took the whole front shifting system apart, cleaned and lubed everything, and put it all back together so the derailleur cage was better lined up with the chainrings and I had some adjustment in the barrel adjusters again. It went back together perfectly.
However, because I’ve always gotta make a stupid, noob mistake when working on that bike, I turned the barrel adjuster for the rear brake instead of the shifter at one point and had worked some rubbing into the back end of the bike. That took a minute to figure out and I actually laughed out loud when I realized what I’d done. Oy, that bike.
With that out of the way, now the bike’s ready for Sunday’s gravel ride. It should be a doozy.
The owner of our local shop suggested, years ago, that I tinker with my bikes. He said, “You can’t brake it bad enough we can’t fix it”. So I did… and I put that statement to the test, too. It turns out he was right, though, and the knowledge paid off. Being able to tinker with our bikes and keep them in tip-top shape has been fantastic – and my God, do I save a lot of money that way!
A friend of mine has more bikes than… well, he has a lot of bikes, so he let my wife borrow one of his gravel bikes because it never gets any use – it’s been sitting in his basement for quite a while. This is great for me, because I’ll still be riding my 24 pound behemoth while she’ll be sporting a sleek, 16 pound rocket – I’m going to get a workout this gravel season.
Speaking of, I just went out for my first gravel ride of the post season last evening and it was spectacular. I picked up some new tires, 32’s (the widest that can fit on our gravel bikes), and they’re excellent – much better that the Espoir Sport slicks that came on the bike. The dirt section of the road I live on was absolutely gnarly last evening and I was still able to hold 19-ish mph. With the old tires, I’d have been happy with 15 because I’d have been all over the place.
So back to the post. The bike showed up last week but we haven’t had any time to mess with the set-up but we’ve got a big gravel ride coming up on Sunday so I had to deal with it last night so my wife could test it out today and we could tweak it after my ride this evening if necessary. I’ve got her old gravel bike, so I’ve got the dimensions I need – I just had to transfer them over.
First, I measured and set the saddle height. My wife is easy; 36″ on the nose. Next, I took out my 4′ level and set the edge at the nose of her saddle, plumb to the floor, and took the measurement from the edge of the level to the center of the crankset – 1-7/8″. Fortunately, the saddle on the loaner was set perfectly at 1-7/8″ once I’d raised it the inch and change. From there, I check the reach. In this case there’s a bit more reach on the new ride, but it’s not like we’re putting a new stem on someone else’s bike, so we’re going to see if my wife can live with an extra 1/2″ reach. That’s a bit of a stretch – I like an extra 1/4″ myself, but a half inch is a lot of extra reach. We’ll see.
From there, I eyeball the drop from the nose of the saddle to the handlebar. Normally, I’d take that 4′ level and set it on the saddle of the original bike, finding level, then measure from the edge of the level down to the handlebar. On the new bike, I’d do the same and swap spacers from below the stem to above the stem to lower (or vice-versa and raise) the bar to where it needs to be. In this case, with the extra reach and a little bit of stretch, we’re going to see how my wife likes it where it’s at, then lower it from there – with the extra reach, we won’t need as much drop.
So there it is, the fifteen minute set-up transfer.
Now, if the reach had been a little closer, and I’d dropped the bar to match the original gravel bike’s set-up, that might have added two or three minutes to the process… but then the Title would have been “How I set up a road bike in 17 minutes”… and that just doesn’t have the same ring, now does it?
No, of course not.