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Yearly Archives: 2018

A Fun, if Icy, Ride with My Friends

I never know what to expect from days like yesterday, as far as who will show. We got a dusting snow the night before and it was chilly out… 29° but with the wind, it felt like a balmy 21° (-6 C) with an 8-mph wind out of the southwest. One thing is certain, as the guy who posts the rides I know one thing; if one person shows, I’m riding.  I can’t just shuck it off and ride inside.

I expected the crowd to be sparse with the cold and the potential for ice, maybe two or three of us. I was wrong. Phill, Brad, and Chuck all drove up just a few minutes to 9:00 – Diane and Mike rolled up just after the other three.

Everyone readied, and rather than stand around in the cold, we got moving, but Brad showed up with his rain road bike so we altered the route to give him more pavement than gravel. Unfortunately, we found out early on, we were dealing with some ice.

One item helped in dealing with the cold; I got my layers right. I wasn’t exactly warm, but I sure wasn’t cold, either.  I have a tendency to dress too light for the weather for fear I’ll sweat… so I go the whole ride just a little too cold and don’t really enjoy the ride anyway.  Instead, the last two rides out I chose to go with a fourth layer in lieu of three – the difference was amazing!  I enjoyed the ride rather than gritting my teeth to get through it.

The ice was enough that we stayed out of a subdivision that would give us an extra mile – north/south roads were bad, but the less-traveled roads were treacherous.  We were slow and deliberate and made sure to point out anything that even looked like ice.

Amazingly, as cold as it was outside, I was able to enjoy our ride, right up until the last mile.  We pulled into the driveway with a cool 23.9 miles – only 50 to go to hit 10,000 and we’re hitting the road this morning in a couple of hours – we’ll have a perfect winter’s day for a bike ride – taking the tandem today!

A New High-End Bike Shop Website

I just happened on a new website (to me) this morning whilst checking the weather for our ride.  While I’m not in the market for anything right now, some of the deals on the website, for some excellent high-end stuff, are simply amazing so I’m passing it along, my friends.

Enve SES Ceramic wheelset for $2,000 (regularly $3,200)
Blue Axino 105 Black Edition (full bike):  $1,500
Argon 18 Radon frameset:  $300
Rolf Prima Ares 4 carbon clincher wheelset:  $1,500

You get the idea – these are some of the best deals on ultra-high-end stuff I’ve ever seen.

Check out the items on sale here.

Five Subtle Signs You’re in the Presence of a Cycling Enthusiast.

There are several hundred different ways to spot a cyclist that could keep us busy all day long and I just don’t have time for that… If Specialized decides they want to pay me to write, well then we’ll talk at that point. Same for you Trek, I spend enough on you guys to fund my own writing! Anyway, not to get too off the beaten path, there are several ways you can spot a cycling enthusiast from across the room.

  • You’re at a cookout party with a person who loads their plate with a burger, a hot dog, salad, and some noodle salad (gotta have the noodle salad!), and some fruit… and they look… skinny. Yes, sparky, that’s a sure sign of a cyclist right there. Sadly, eating like that is limited to those days with north of 60 miles in the saddle.
  • Tan lines. Look for the helmet straps around the ears and under the chin. Then you’ve got the ridiculous leg tan lines and the razor cut arm tan lines from the jersey. Oh, and let’s not forget the raccoon eyes! Heavens to Murgatroid, we can’t forget those!
  • The cycling enthusiast will exude a calm demeanor that will be unsettling to most “normal” people. Fear not, they’re just happy. Really, it’s okay.
  • The cycling enthusiast will have a smile that lights up the room and a verve for life that makes normal folk wonder what they’re doing wrong that they can’t love life like that. There’s a trick to it, of course… It’s the whole “feeling like a kid” aspect of cycling. You simply can’t beat it.

  • Sadly, and I almost hate to admit this, for the first five to ten years of cycling, most conversations that shouldn’t have anything to do with cycling will devolve into conversations about cycling in the presence of a cycling enthusiast. Or bikes. Or cycling trips. Eventually we get a handle on this and can carry on a normal conversation, but it’ll take some time. The one thing that fixed me was the joke about vegans; how can you tell there’s a vegan in the room? Oh, don’t worry, they’ll tell you. I didn’t want to be that guy. Um… anymore. Chuckle.

Cycling has Given Me Some of the Happiest Times of My Life

I was putting together, albeit quite a bit late, my DALMAC photo frame for this past year and I was struck with some pretty good feelings, thinking back over the years. This year my wife featured in more than half of the photos because she rode with us a lot more – especially on the last day. In fact, the last day we completely changed around our normal day – we completely skipped the last 26 miles of the day – we didn’t even make it to Mackinaw City… We did what refer to as the tunnel of trees for my wife, so she could see the unadulterated beauty of one of the best 100k rides in all of Michigan – the upper and lower coastline run, in an out-and-back starting at and returning to the Petosky State Park, heading through Harbor Springs, and turning around in Goodhart to head back…

Then, thinking back on the three previous DALMAC’s

…then all of the other places we’ve been, simply to ride our bikes with some select friends…

Without discounting the truly important things, recovery, meeting, dating, marrying and creating a life with my wife, the birth of my children, I mean the truly important things in life, cycling with my friends and club has added a dimension of happiness to my life that was simply unexpected.

I always viewed fitness as something I begrudgingly had to do to stay healthy until I hopped on my first adult bike at 41-years-old.  I don’t bother worrying about “fitness” anymore, fitness comes naturally with my hobby.

And that’s as good as it gets.

Playing Hooky for Some Winter Miles and My Buddy Chuck the Mile Whore…

The weather up here in Michigan land has been gnarly… right up until Monday.  Of course, it had to be Monday.

Saturday and Sunday, the weather was gnarly with freezing fog and cloud cover when it wasn’t foggy, but I still managed to get fifty miles in with the gang.  Monday was a full work day, no chance of getting out of that so I rode on the trainer.  Tuesday, however, I didn’t have anything going until the afternoon so I did what any self-respecting cyclist would do… I played hooky.  We geared up and did a fun paved/dirt route.  Wednesday, my buddy Chuck texted that he wasn’t interested much in speed, but he’s going for a whopping 12,000 miles on the year so let me know he’s planning on being “mile whore till the end of the year”.

We rolled at 8am… as early as we could possibly leave without absolutely needing a light, and for once, I got my layers just right so I was comfortable, but not too warm.  It’s such a rare occurrence getting it just right – usually I’m too cold.  Mrs. Bgddy was a little ornery the day before, so having made up, it was all laughs and jokes about my wife’s tendency to cuss like a sailor when she’s ornery.  My standard remark at each punchline was, “I’m not sayin’ nothin'”.  I’m a lot of things, stupid isn’t one…

And then we hit the headwind.  It wasn’t brutal, but you knew it was there.  My wife and Mike lined up in my draft and rode me like a rented mule.  Chuck rode next to us for a better workout.  Funny thing how a headwind will quiet a group down in a hurry, no?  After maybe four miles of straight headwind we turned east and enjoyed the sunshine.  It started out a little chilly but turned into a fantastic morning for a bike ride.

My wife and I split off from Chuck and Mike and headed for home, pulling into the driveway with exactly 20 miles.  Chuck went on to put in another twelve miles before calling it good.  I showered and headed to work.

We’ve got an interesting day on tap today.  We’ve got rain moving in this morning so I don’t know how this is going to pan out… we shall see.  It’s a good problem to have.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: How to Read an Article that Gives You the Five Best Road Bikes Around £500 ($630) – From an Enthusiast’s Perspective

Okay, so you’re in the market for a road bike so you enter in your £500 budget in the search engine followed by “best road bike” and you get this article
Or you’re simply tuning in for a laugh – and you picked a good post for that.
Let’s buckle up ladies and gentlemen, this $#!+ is gonna get bumpy. WOOHOO! And I hope to God someone doesn’t do this to me. Heh.
The actual article will be in black… my added comments I’ll distinguish with red lettering. Let’s begin:

The explosion in popularity of road cycling means there is now a speed-focused two-wheel machine to suit most budgets. Fair enough… I do like the explosion of popularity. A lot.

Of course, you could go out and blow the deposit for a home on a carbon, wind tunnel-tested rocket that wouldn’t look out of place in a professional peloton, but for most mere mortals, that’s simply unfeasible. I could comment here, but I’ll pass and keep the powder dry for later… Ahem.cropped-20180829_1641377344174852230004925.jpg

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The truth is, there are plenty of good bikes out there that can be picked up for under £500 but still boast a number of attributes that will ensure your cycling progresses from the occasional hack to the local shop to more serious rides. No, there are not. That whole paragraph is entirely bullshit. Now hear me out – it’s not just one thing that makes a budget bike slower than their high-end counterparts, it’s a whole mess of inadequacies. If you can keep up with the C guys at your local club ride on one of the bikes listed below, you would keep up with the B group and maybe even the A gang on a real better quality bike. God’s honest truth. It’s not that the entry-level bikes are all that horrible, it’s that their cheaper components leave holes in the gearing so you’re never in the right gear for your speed and cadence (and this matters at 25-mph). If your club rides a fairly flat route, you could get a corncob cassette (very tight gearing, for a 9 speed (see Sora below) you’d be looking at a 12-23 cassette, you might get away with a 12-25, but that’s pushing it. Add to that the additional six or seven pounds (2.7 – 3 kg) – you can feel a pound’s difference going up a hill. Six or seven is huge. Finally, on the cheaper, entry-level steeds, they’ve got a relaxed geometry so the rider sits a little more upright so you’ll be fighting aerodynamics as well. You can’t have that riding with the A and B groups. You will absolutely need another bike to progress to the serious rides – or at the very least a new component set and a decent set of wheels that don’t weigh five pounds (a decent set weighs 3-1/2 pounds, a nice set is 3, a spectacular set is 2-1/2). In the end, you’re better off spending double that £500 and getting some decent wheels and components on that bike so it doesn’t so much resemble an anchor. This doesn’t mean the cheap bikes don’t have their place, they absolutely do, the average noob just needs to know up front; cheap bikes have their limitations.

Of course, there is some compromise (how about “there are compromises” because there are more than one?) when looking at the lower end of the budget scale, but all of the bicycles recommended here are absolutely perfect for road cycling beginners or those looking to jump on a sporty steed from a different ride. I’m cool with that – as long as your “different ride” happens to be a mountain bike. “Sporty” is going a little far.

Best bikes for under £500: what to look out for

Clearly there will be some compromise when looking at entry-level road bikes and these conciliations tend to come in the form of the groupset (the gearing, chain and crankset fitted to the bike) and the finishing kit, which are elements like the handlebars and saddle. As I wrote above, but I actually gave the details where this paragraph just leaves it up to the noob who is looking for a cheap road bike to figure everything out on their own.

On top of this, the frame is most probably going to be fashioned from aluminium, rather than high performance carbon fibre, which means it will be heavier than more expensive rivals. Not “most probably”. Absolutely. You don’t get into carbon fiber, not even with the cheap Chinese knock-offs, for £500 ($630)

But this is no bad thing, as carbon fibre (fiber) is very easily damaged and it takes a fairly tuned-in roadie to notice the benefits of using such an advanced material. Again, horse pucky. It doesn’t take a tuned-in roadie to notice the benefits. It takes someone with an ass (which is everybody) and sensation in that ass (which is then “pretty much everybody”) to know the difference. That difference is not small. Also, carbon fiber is not easily damaged – well, it is, but it isn’t. It’s incredibly strong and a carbon fiber frame’s service life is a lot longer than aluminum. Also, should one crack their carbon fiber frame, it can be fixed and fairly easily (though it isn’t always cheap). Should one crack their aluminum frame, throw it in the garbage. Look at the bright side, at least you’ll have a cheap drivetrain that won’t fit on another bike and isn’t worth selling on eBay.

Finally, bikes at the cheaper end of the spectrum probably haven’t spent hours in the wind tunnel, nor have they been aerodynamically fine tuned for peak performance, so responsiveness, handling and power transfer through the cranks isn’t going to be up there with pricier machines. “Probably haven’t spent hours in the wind tunnel”? Probably haven’t?! Try absolutely haven’t. Specialized does a little with their higher-end Allez, but they’re the exception. Now this is what’s interesting: “responsiveness, handling and power transfer through the cranks” will all be awesome on an aluminum bike. They’re stiff as hell. What they aren’t, at least with 23 or 25mm tires, is comfortable. With 28’s, well, they’re livable. I should know, I’ve got one (though my entry-level gravel bike was almost double the price used for the bikes in this post). It is reasonably comfortable, though, as long as I don’t pump the tires up to paved road specs (I ride with the tires at 60 psi on paved roads – any more and you can feel every bump grain of sand in the road. And I’m a fairly heavy build for a cyclist at 175 pounds – any heavier and you’ll need more pressure in the tires to avoid pinch flats, but hopefully you get the point.

But that said, much of the high-end technology that was once pioneering on ludicrously expensive models is now slowly filtering down into more affordable bikes. I will never tire of people expounding the virtues, yet again, of trickle-down economics – that it works, is sound, and helps those at the lower end of whatever we’re talking about. Makes me chuckle every time. Because that’s what this is, folks. Also, it’s not slowly filtering down – every three years Shimano’s line filters up one level – So 2018’s Tiagra is the equivalent of 2015’s 105 line. 2018’s Sora is 2015’s Tiagra, and so on. The exception is Claris. That stuff is still crap – see further comments below.

Don’t be surprised if your £500 budget stretches to carbon fibre (fiber) forks, or disc brakes, for example. As well, don’t be surprised if those components don’t work all that well. Axis brakes, are a perfect example. The fork will work well, they’re cheap nowadays, but don’t expect that carbon fiber fork to be light, either. The fork prongs are carbon fiber, yes. The rest of the fork, that is half of the steering assembly, is aluminum and heavy as all get out. A true carbon fiber fork, where 95% of the fork is actually carbon fiber, is a fraction of the weight and only found on bikes four to six times the cost of the bikes used in this article.

The best road bikes under £500 in order of preference

B’Twin Triban 520

1. B’Twin Triban 520

Hands down the best package for the money

Weight: 9.9kg | Frame: 6061 Alloy | Forks: Carbon | Groupset: Shimano Sora R3000, Shimano brakes | Wheels: B’Twin Sport

Excellent lightweight frame Now let’s not get carried away – that sucker’s still 22 pounds!
Solid components For the price, this is true.
Looks cool Definitely not bad.
Brand isn’t desirable Which is unfortunate, because this bike really is a good deal.

Like Halfords, excellent all-round French sports store Decathlon takes advantages of its economies of scale (or should that be économies d’échelle?) and fully loads its entry-level cycles, while keeping costs down for the inquisitive road cyclist.

The Triban 520 is a superb machine for the money, boasting a solid 9-speed Shimano Sora groupset, lightweight carbon fibre forks and a thoughtfully crafted, short geometry aluminium frame (the angles of the frame’s tubes) that manages to offer a degree of responsiveness and performance that would shame more expensive cycles. Which more expensive bikes would that be? I don’t think so, bud. It’s a solid setup, sure, but let’s not get carried away. Also, the cockpit needs to be adjusted for anything better than a trip to the grocery store or office. Rolling the handlebar forward about 15° would be a great start.

Some will likely turn their noses up at the decals on the frame, but this is one extremely good looking bike, with touches like the branded white stem and razor sharp racing saddle lending it an air of the pro peloton. There’s no “air of the pro peloton”. Seriously, bro. “Air of the pro peloton” can’t be hit for under $2,000 (about £1,580)

At just £499, it just about hits budget, but this is pound-for-pound the best entry-level road bike we’ve seen in a long time. Give me an Allez for another $300 or so, but the B’Twin really isn’t all that bad.

Vitus Razor

2. Vitus Razor

Great value, great brand

Weight: 10.3kg | Frame: 6061 Alloy** | Forks: Carbon | Groupset: Shimano Claris 8 Speed, Tektro brakes | Wheels: Jalco

It looks great
Carbon forks (It’s a fork – there’s only one)
Solid groupset (Garbage groupset. Claris sucks. My wife has it on her bike. SUCKS)
Rubbish wheels

The Razor from Vitus gives the B’Twin number above a run for its money, purely because the brand bases this extremely affordable bike around a brilliant aluminium frame, which is both light and extremely durable. That bike isn’t light in any way, shape, or form. That’s a period at the end of that sentence.

At just 10.3kg, it’s slightly heavier than the Triban 520, but it’s still no porker and that lack of heft will make things a lot easier when it comes to tackling the big climbs. Overall geometry is also fairly forgiving, placing comfort over all-out performance. Bu-u-u-l-l-l-shit! Every word in that paragraph is wrong – except the bike’s weight and that it’s heavier than the Triban 520. This is what I got into earlier – you’re not keeping up with the folks on the 15 pound (7 kg) bikes on that fat girl. The forgiving geometry is another item to look out for. Riding low on an aerodynamically designed frame isn’t bad at all. At 48 years-old, I don’t know why they make such a big deal about the saddle being a few inches higher than the bar top – unless you’re on the heavier side of the scale. You’ve gotta work off the gut because you can’t bend to reach the handlebar with a gut in the way. Ride a lot, push yourself away from the table a little earlier, and in no time you’ll be svelte enough to ride low without pain or discomfort – in my case, riding low fixed my back problems. I’m not kidding.

Granted, Shimano’s Claris 8-speed doesn’t offer the widest spread of gearing, but the technology is proven to be robust and reliable, which means maintenance should be fairly easy. Claris offers the least wide spread of gearing with the standard integrated shifters. It’s junk. On a stick. On the plus-side, and this is with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, you’ll become an expert at dialing in your derailleurs using the barrel adjusters. Sneeze wrong and the component line will need adjusting. I spend more time adjusting my wife’s Claris gravel bike that all of the rest of our bikes combined – and there’s a lot of them.

Perhaps the icing on the cake is that this road warrior comes with carbon fibre forks, which is extremely generous at this price point. Folks, I do ride with the fast gang and you couldn’t pay me to show up with that bike. I’m not being funny. There is no icing – and it’s not cake. It’s a crap sammich they’re calling a cake. With icing.

Carrera Vanquish Disc

3. Carrera Vanquish Disc

Disc brakes at this price point are a rare sight EXACTLY, so the likelihood they suck is YUGE. Buyer beware – especially anywhere north of 35-mph.

Weight: 11kg | Frame: Alloy** | Forks: Carbon | Groupset: Shimano Claris 16 Speed, mechanical disc brakes | Wheels: Carrera

Powerful brakes
Nice colour scheme
Comparatively heavy You can say that again! Woof!

Once again, Halfords manages to deliver on the bang-for-your-buck element, with the generously appointed Carrera Vanquish.

Unfortunately, a sub-£500 budget isn’t quite enough to stretch to something from the more lavishly appointed Boardman range, but the Vanquish comes with niceties that include carbon fibre forks, disc brakes and a 16-speed groupset that features some of Shimano’s most popular oily bits.

At £425, it’s an absolute steal and it doesn’t half look good, but we can’t help thinking more advanced technology, such as the disc brakes, aren’t going to be particularly impressive at this price. Look, for the price that’s a great bike, but let’s look back to that opening paragraph: It won’t get you from “local hack to the shop” (for we American’s, the ride is the ‘hack’, not the rider in that sentence) to “more serious rides”. It will get you to realize you need a better bike to get to those “more serious rides”.

Brand-X Road Bike

4. Brand-X Road Bike

The Tesco Value of the road bike world

Weight: 12kg | Frame: 6061 Alloy** | Forks: Alloy Steel | Groupset: Shimano 14 Speed, Tektro brakes | Wheels: Alloy QR

Cheap as chips And you will get what you pay for here.
Basic but solid
Looks cool in black
No-frills format Well, that’s one way of saying it, now isn’t it?

Here is proof that entry into the Lycra-clad roadie club needn’t be a drain on the wallet and this no-frills freedom machine is arguably one of the cheapest ways of getting out onto the blacktop. Friends, your winter cycling kit will cost more than this bike. At 26-1/2 pounds, it’s a behemoth that will drain your will to live as you try to ride up a speed bump. And Shimano Tourney, while still in the realm of the advanced integrated shifters, leaves a lot to be desired – and with only seven speeds, the chance you’ll be able to match cadence with the 11-speed gang is somewhere betwixt slim and none. Actually, no. It’s between none and none. So that’d be none.

Based around a solid 6061 alloy frame, the all-black Brand-X features a combination of groupset and finishing kit that have been selected for reliability, rather than fancy features. Now that’s a reasonable statement – but noobs likely wouldn’t see it for what it really means.

It’s a pretty basic set-up, but we think the black finish belies its generous price tag and the solid frame is likely to outlast many a hobbyist’s road cycling ‘phase’. Or ensure that, because of its cheapness, your hobby is as short-lived as possible because your bike sucks. Honest to God, another way to say what they just did is, “Hey, at that price, you’re lucky they painted the bike.”

Merlin PR7

5. Merlin PR7 Sora Alloy

A solid all-rounder for the price

Weight: N/A 10.47 kg or 23 pounds the weight is available, you just have to know where to look for it.| Frame: 6061 Alloy** | Forks: Carbon | Groupset: Shimano Sora R3000, Merlin brakes | Wheels: Mavic CXP-22

Good wheels
Generous groupset
Who the hell are Merlin?

Wheels are an often-overlooked part of the bicycle-buying process, but they are the elements that connect the bike to the road and as such, it’s important to have a set that is both strong and rolls smoothly. Wheels are one of the most important parts of a bike build. A good set of wheels on a crappy bike will go a long way to making for a decent ride – even if the rest of the bike is junk.

The Merlin PR7 is the only bike on the list to feature a branded set of Mavic wheels, which are a little bit heavy, but they are extremely robust and won’t melt at the first sign of a pothole. At this price point, all wheels are heavy. You’re going to spend more than the cost of the whole bike for a decent set of wheels in the 1,600 gram range. Assume the Mavics are well north of 2,000 grams. The reviews on the wheels are fantastic, though, and from heavier riders (225 lbs.+). If you’ve got Clydesdales giving good reviews on a wheelset, pay attention. They’re solid (and cheap).

Thankfully, the rest of the offering is fairly tempting, with Shimano Sora gearing and the brand’s own brakes making for an enticing package. Actually, the brakes are not good, if you read a review or two – they’re bad enough I’d say they make the otherwise decent package unenticing. That’s just me, though. See, when I want to go fast, I want to go fast. So my stoppers better work! On the other hand, the Sora R3000 9sp component group isn’t all that bad – as I wrote earlier, I’ve got it on my gravel bike and am quite happy with it. Still, and again, I’d never try my gravel bike on Tuesday night – not unless I wanted to see just how hard I had to work at cycling to barf on the top tube of my bike.

In other words, these bikes won’t get you to the serious rides. You can ride it serious distances on them, but that’s something else entirely. However, if all’s you’ve got is the bare minimum, hey, get on your bike and ride. Just don’t think that entry-level bike will get you to the serious rides. Unless you’ve got the legs to be a pro. Which you don’t. More than likely.

My March to 10,000 Miles Pt. 2: Closing in on the Goal – Mo Miles

Four weeks ago I was rather blasé about whether or not I was going to come up short of 10,000 miles for the year, or just barely make it. It was going to be close enough I didn’t think I’d get there. I started riding longer miles on the trainer to give me a better chance because I was going to have to put in better than 500 miles for December – not exactly easy when you’re just shy of halfway between the equator and the north pole.

Well, shortly after December 4th I realized I might be able to make it. I was going to have to ride every day of the month (certainly not a big deal), but it was looking as though I’d cross over the mark around the 28th, maybe the 29th, with a couple of days to spare, max. As of Saturday morning, halfway through the month, I only had 220 miles to go.

To help, after two months with temps vastly below normal, we hit a warm up over the weekend. It wasn’t balmy or anything special, but it wasn’t 20, either (-7 C). We took the tandem for a spin on Saturday and had a fun 30 mile excursion – and by fun, I do mean fun. My wife and I stayed up front for all but one mile.

Sunday morning rolled around and it was cold and foggy – freezing fog. Still, we were hopeful because the forecast called for sun. We pushed the 8am start to 10. Even with the late start it was still gnarly. We opted for the least traveled route we could come up with. And the fog got worse the longer we were out. We opted for a couple of bonus miles but took it home with just shy of 20 miles.

After yesterday’s ride on the trainer, I’m down to 153 to go with 13 days to get there. I should make it with four days to spare (or more if we get some decent weather).

Not bad for a workin’ fella.

UPDATE: Shhhh… I played hooky this morning when my help texted last night that he couldn’t show up this morning… I got another 21 in on the gravel bike before work. Make that 132 with 12 days to go.

The Most Anticipated Women’s Specific Saddle in the History of Cycling; The Specialized Power Mimic

My wife has had saddle issues for as long as we’ve been riding.  I’m not going to get descriptive here, because it’s simply not necessary.  If you’re a woman, you know the issues.

Specialized set out to fix those issues.  They brought in dozens of women and a couple of scientists and went to work.  The end result was the Specialized Power saddle with Mimic Technology.

Its release was possibly the most anticipated in women’s cycling.  Ever.

Specialized_Power_Mimic.jpg

The saddle is so popular the entry-level model, starting at $145, is completely sold out.  Our local shop had two on order, but they weren’t sure when they’d come in so to make sure my wife had hers for Christmas, I ordered the next level up, for $175.  That’s a lot of cheese to spend on a saddle but a possible cure for the angry cycling coochie is worth every penny.  That’s love right there, baby.

Ladies, don’t take my word for it, this is the review that sold me.  If you need more, try here or here.  If you’ve had a tough to impossible time finding a saddle that doesn’t scorch the nether-regions, this sounds like the saddle for you.  Having had the uncomfortable conversation with my wife, and feeling helpless to do anything of any worth, as I read the symptoms the saddle addressed in the review I became ecstatic.  Every one my wife had complained about in the past.

The point being, there’s so much buzz around this saddle, even guys are snapping them up for their bikes (and I’ve heard a lot of good to that end as well).

My friends, this could be the most anticipated cycling saddle ever created.  If you’ve got angry kitty issues, check it out.

#nomoreangrykitty

SKS Mudguards/Fenders for the Co-Motion; They Aren’t Easy, but not Much Worthwhile Is… and These are Absolutely Worthwhile.

After having spent a couple of hours cleaning the tandem up after a wonderful, but wet, ride a couple weeks ago, my wife and I talked about picking up mud guards, or fenders, for the Co-Motion. They were my Christmas present (when you’re an avid cyclist, every day is Christmas, so the actual day only requires a token gift).

I started the necessary research… and I read a few reviews of SKS mud guards and, as such, was more than a little apprehensive about buying them when the owner of our local shop said he preferred them. Most of the online reviews I’d read were brutal. Savage.

The issue is, the SKS fenders aren’t an easy install. They require some thought, understanding, planning, and some decent tools (a hacksaw, vice, grinder…). It also doesn’t hurt to have the needed bolt holes in the frame and fork for the installation which the Co-Motion does.

I bought a set of SKS Longboard P35’s from the shop. They’re 35mm fenders, good for 28mm tires, which is what we roll on the tandem.

With a much needed warm up on the horizon, I took the tandem to the shop Friday evening to have the new fenders installed so we could ride the tandem Saturday morning. The shop owner had offered to help with the installation when he recommended them.

I’m telling you right now, without competent leadership, the project would have taken three times longer than the hour it took Shawn and I to get it done – and to be clear, I took the role of “helper”. A man should know his place, and I know mine. Also, I think this might be the reason SKS fenders get a bad wrap.

So, the rear wheel is always harder, right? Wrong. Front wheel is tougher, by a long shot. We started with the front. We started with the frame that bolts to the fork. First, Shawn shimmed out the brake side and bent the legs back toward the tire. The non-disc side was straightforward.

Once the legs were bent, we attached them to the fender, marked the legs, took everything apart and cut the legs to the marks. Everything went back together after the sharp edges were ground down. He centered the fender and tightened everything down.

The back was much faster. No shimming, no bending. We took the rear wheel off, bolted the fender to the frame where the chain stays come together. Normally the rear fender has to be trimmed at the stays, but not in this case. Shawn put the wheel back on and bolted the fender arms to the frame. We bolted the arms to the fender, centered the fender, tightened everything down, marked the arms, cut them to length, ground down the rough edges, and installed everything.

SKS fenders require patience. They’re not a bolt on and go product. Often, you’ll have to trim them to fit around the frame. The support arms take a lot of work, and then there’s trimming the support arms to length, just so you can bolt everything back together again. If, however, you have patience and work at them, SKS mud guards are not your old, heavy, clunky fenders. They are truly a beautiful, light addition to a bike – they certainly don’t look like the fenders that came on the first bike I owned as a five-year-old… they’re racy even.

After our first ride Saturday morning, I couldn’t believe how wet it was out and how clean the bike was when we got back. My mind was blown – fenders are the best thing EVAH! I didn’t even have to wipe the bike down after the ride. Unbelievable.

I don’t know how we’ve gone so long without fenders. I do know why, though; ignorance and a little pompous grandiosity. If I’d known mud guards were that nice, the Co-Motion would have come home with fenders. They’re that good.

The Noob’s Guide to Road Cycling; More than You Probably Need to Know About Handlebars

Ah, the humble drop handlebar. For most noobs, we don’t give what comes on the bike a second thought. We just roll. That’s what I did when I brought home my Trek, my first real road bike, all those years ago… actually, it wasn’t all that many, but it sounds good. Moving on…

It wasn’t until I bought my Specialized Venge a couple years later; a perfectly fitted, 56cm frame with the proper stem length that optimized reach, the standard bend drop bar, and most important, a bar of the proper width, that I began to understand there was more to the humble handlebar than met my inexperienced eye. I won’t even get into that crazy ergonomic bend in the photo above… though I will say, that’s how the bike came from the shop – technically, the bar should be rotated forward so the bottom of the drop is just shy of parallel to the ground. I didn’t find this out until long after I swapped the old bar out for the original bar from the Venge when I upgraded the bar on that bike to something a little more, um, carbon fiber and a lot more aero (and sexy, baby).

The Trek looks a lot different today, and I’m a lot happier with the negative 17° stem and how the bars are rolled forward to match the angle of the new stem:

There are technically two correct planes for the typical drop bar, the top of the bar follows the plane created by the stem (as in both photos above with the black bars), or with the line created by the hoods/drop bottom parallel to the ground. Both are technically correct. What is entirely not good is something like this:

2759736-bike-trek--oclv-5200-0

If your bike looks anything like that, you’re doing something wrong. Take that bike to the shop and have it fitted – you’ll ride a lot happier. In terms of the bike above, a whole new bike is needed. You can tell by the length of the seat post sticking out of the frame that the bike is about two or three sizes too big for the person riding it.

So let’s get into this; Width first.

To start, the original bar that came on the Trek had a width of 44cm. The Venge bar was the standard 42cm (for males of the species, while females are usually 40cm), you have to have some exceptionally broad shoulders to require a 44. The extra two centimeters, never mind that they were uncomfortable over long distances, meant my hands were wider than my shoulders, technically increasing the frontal exposure to the wind. Okay, now add in that they were uncomfortable because they were too wide and the original bar had to go. Now, the measurement that pertains to handlebar width is taken from shoulder blade to shoulder blade, so I have no idea what it is, I just know the owner of our local shop held up a tape measure to my back and said, “Yep, you need a 42”, and that was about it. I have a funny feeling there’s a 42cm in that measurement of my back, though.

Anyway, when I brought the Venge home, my first ride felt foreign and vastly better with the proper bar width on the bike.  The improvement was so great, there was no way I was going to stick with the original bar that came on the Trek.

Next up is Drop

Modern drop bars, even those in the pro peloton, are evolving to a shallow drop. Take a look at my 5200 (with the original handlebar from my Venge) and Diverge gravel bike side-by-side and you’ll see the difference right away:

I’ll cut to the chase, the drop on the Trek’s bar is 16.5 cm. The drop on the Diverge is only 14.5. The end result is, I’m able to ride a little (slightly) lower on the Trek – and this is by design… I wanted to sit a little more upright on the gravel bike so seeing potholes was a little easier.

More interesting still is the Venge with the aero handlebar next to the Diverge:

If there’s a difference at all in the drop, it’s millimeters. The difference is the Venge has a race geometry (lower front end) next to the Diverge. With the lower front end on the Venge, I don’t need as much drop on the bar to get low. Now, if you look really close, you’ll notice that the bottom of the Trek’s handlebar is significantly lower than the Venge, going by the garage door indentations. That’s a fly in the ointment. I gave up some drop on the Venge so I could have the Aerofly handlebar on it. I’ll cop to it, the aero bar looks awesome on the aero bike. Fortunately, the compact race geometry of the Venge makes up for the little bit of drop lost to the Trek. Again, getting technical, the drop at the bar ends doesn’t matter, though, because you’re not going to ride with your hands way down there anyway – too far from the brakes.

And that leads us into Reach

The handlebar’s reach is an important number – that’s the number from the center of the bar top to the center of the bar right behind the shift/brake lever. Now look at the Venge and Diverge photos again (same with the Trek and Diverge, btw). The reach on the Venge’s Aerofly bar is vastly greater (80mm compared to 70). Here’s why the reach is so important: When you’re riding in the drops, especially in a group, your hands aren’t on the bottom of the drops, they should be directly behind the brake levers, maybe a touch lower, so you can actually reach the brakes. It’s the reach combined with the drop that helps the cyclist ride lower, thereby improving aerodynamics. The key to reach is that if it’s too great, you’ll be uncomfortable and stretching for the drops which will pull you forward on the saddle. To compensate, you’ll ride with your hands farther down, and away from the brakes. This is no bueno. The important thing to know here, if you don’t like getting down into the drops, look at the stem first, and the handlebar second (it’s vastly easier to replace a stem than the handlebar). If I rode that gravel bike any more seriously than I currently do, I’d swap the bar out for a standard Tarmac bend bar (like the one on the Trek). I’ve already got the right stem on the Diverge, so the next step would be to change the bar to add some reach when I’m in the drops.

Handlebar Material; Carbon Fiber vs. Aluminum Alloy

To keep the difference in material explanation simple, there is a difference in ride dampening characteristics between carbon fiber and alloy bars, but it’s not much (though it is noticeable). A good cushioning bar tape will usually negate any difference in material. Also, the weight difference isn’t all that great, either. The Aerofly bar on the Venge weighs exactly the same as the alloy bar on the Trek. Carbon fiber bars and stems tend to be over-engineered because the material is being used in a manner that doesn’t suit its characteristics.  Also, the aero bar top adds an extra 35-ish grams of weight as well.  In fact, going by stems, the lightest stems on the market aren’t carbon fiber. They’re carbon fiber wrapped aluminum. The FSA stem on the Venge is something like 60 grams lighter than a typical carbon fiber stem that would cost $100 more. That’s only a shade more than a tenth of a pound, but it’s more than nothing.  The point is, if you’re looking to shed weight from the bike, look elsewhere.  On the other hand, if it’s just gotta be carbon fiber, knock yourself out (I did).

The wrap up

To wrap this up, there’s more than meets the hands to handlebars. They’re not just a one-size-fits-all proposition. While they don’t require a lot of thought, some helps. Choose wisely and enjoy the ride.