Archive for the 'Gear' Category

Do I Need to Love My Bike Shop?

In a word, yes. 

Bikes, parts, and gear are available everywhere from superstores to etailers.  Certainly there is some sense to saving cents, but you must be careful about the “big purchase” and how you plan to maintain your precious ride.  If you buy your bike from a local shop, you’re a part of their family.  They “own” a small part of your bike–mainly the part that makes it safe to operate.  They own the reliability.

This means, when its not right, they’ll fix it.  But first, you must develop a relationship with them.  For some, it means getting to know the owner and the mechanics.  For other shops, you can go with them on rides on Saturday mornings or week nights.  For others still, it might be bringing over a six pack or some brownies and sharing stories from great trips.

Having a shop to rely on means they’ll be there for advice on all things cycling: when to upgrade, what events to look into, how to train, eat, and dress.  They’ll have events they’ll invite you to.  They’ll welcome you in and ask you about your training.  Some of the best shops have coffee, WiFi, and a Facebook page.  Meaning you’re connected.

I’m not advocating spending all your “bicycle allowance” in one place.  If you can get a deal on tires you’ve used many times at a volume discount online, go for it.  But I’m not a big fan of buying your own cassette or bottom bracket and expecting the shop to be excited to install it.  They might have concerns over fit and operation with the other parts.  Play it smart and discuss the big buys with the shop.

Many shops will be more than happy to show you how to fix your own bike, too.  Flats, Truing, Emergency Road Repairs.  All good stuff you might want to know.  Some shops have fitness and training programs.  Others have extremely high tech equipment for fitting you to your bike (or next bike) so you’re getting the most from your effort.  And more importantly, avoiding long-term injury from a poorly adjusted bike.  For those who don’t know, a millimeter in seat height, 1-degree of seat or handle bar angle can make all the difference.  I’ve had numb fingers or neck pain and know this from experience.

Bottom line.  A shop is a lot like your barber/hairdresser.  You can go Cut-for-Less and get an express cut.  Or you can go to the same gal for years and know what to expect every time.

If you have your own reason for loving your bike shop, be sure to leave a comment on this blog post.

Ready for Launch?

j0289276Sometimes I’m so excited about a ride, I forget to do or bring something.  Not long ago, it was my helmet (didn’t get far fortunately).  Today it was my water bottles (I was 5 miles out before I realized this). 

As organized as I am most times, I’m overly organized about riding.  When I am going somewhere to ride, I always print my checklist. But a casual ride from home-base–not so vigilant.

Just like launching a rocket, it pays to have a checklist.  Or at least do a bike scan and physical equipment check (here’s mine):

Look at each part of your bike to ensure you have what you need.

Wheels:  Did I fill them with air?

Handlebar:  Do I have my bike computer?

Pedals:  Do you have my shoes? (If I’m driving somewhere first)

Bottle Holders:  Do I have my water/power drinks?

Bike Bag under Saddle:  Does it still have a spare tube, tire levers, multi-tool, and CO2 inside?

Then check myself:

Head:  Do I have my helmet?

Hands:  Do I have my gloves?

Face:  Do I have my glasses?

Feet:  Again, do you I my shoes?

Right Jersey Pocket:  Do I have my food (gels, bars, banana) and key to house/car?

Middle Jersey Pocket:  Do I have my phone (usually in a zip lock baggie)?

Left Jersey Pocket:  Do I have my emergency kit?

Emergency kit is a zip lock baggie loaded with: spare CO2 cartridge, Advil/Aleve in a contact lens case, patch kit, spare PowerBar gel, old insurance card, a few business cards (never know who you’ll meet on the road and want to trade numbers), and of course, money (this is how I bought some water today at Mile 15).

Everyone has there own way of staying organized.  Just stick to it so you don’t end up forgetting something important.

What else do you bring?  Feel free to leave a comment that might be helpful.

The Art of Riding in the Rain

j0447867Last month I got the “opportunity” to ride 76 miles in the rain.  I’ve ridden in rain before, but this was an organized ride with lots of riders and a long haul.  Plus, I knew it was going to rain, and welcomed the opportunity to learn from the experience.  Most riders do not plan to ride in the rain, it just happens when you least expect it.

With this in mind, here are a few tips for what to do when the drops start to fall.

  • Just like driving, when the streets just start to get wet, the oil and junk combines with the water to make the road as slippery as it will get.   Once it has been raining a while, the roads are mainly wet, not as slippery.
  • Ride on water like you drive on ice.  When making turns, do not change speeds (accelerate or decelerate); do that before you get to the turns.  Shift as much of your weight on the outside pedal as possible.  Lean your body more than the bike (to keep the bike upright more than usual).
  • Braking distance is obviously affected.  Give yourself extra distance to stop and don’t squeeze the brakes–instead, squeeze the brake levers and release and repeat.  Nice and easy.
  • AVOID THE PAINTED LINES ON THE ROAD.  These wreak havoc on riders.  They are very slick and can easily send you off the road.  Wet leaves are a similar danger.
  • If it looks like rain, pack a rain coat.  You might even wear your booties, if you have them.  Soggy socks suck.  You’ll probably still get water in your shoes, but not as much.
  • You’ll need your glasses to keep rain out of your eyes.  Clear ones are much better, obviously.  If you plan to ride in the rain, think about applying Rain-X to avoid fogged up glasses.  Are goggles over the top?  Maybe not.
  • Keep your distance from everyone.  If you’re riding with someone, you might want to be side-by-side (being right behind them is only fun if you like riding in the rooster tail of water coming off their back wheel).  However, side-by-side is dangerous in heavy car traffic.  Consider riding two seconds following distance, one behind one another.
  • Puddles can be deep and conceal dangerous pot holes (and other things).  Avoid them as best you can.
  • Use lights to be seen better.  A flashing red LED rear light is essential.
  • Make sure you conduct the normal safety check on your bike before heading out.  Is glass hiding in your tire ready to poke into your tube? Do you have a loose spoke or seat post?  A wore chain?  You don’t want to be stranded with a broken bike in the rain.

As far as the actual ride goes, once you get used to the slightly different handling of your bike (within five miles), you start to forget about the rain and just enjoy the ride (as long as you’re warm enough).  It just becomes a constant, like wind or a long climb up a mountain.  Frankly, I was enjoying my 76-miler in the rain so much, I didn’t want it to end.

By the way, I semi-stole the title from a great book I recently read, “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”  Race cars, not road bikes.  Check it out.

It All Starts at the Bottom: Your Shoes!

One of the most important articles of clothing in your biking gear is your shoes.  This is where all the power from your legs is transferred to the bike through the pedals.  Having a poorly fitting shoe will deter your ability to transfer the energy efficiently.

Take a look at this video, graciously supplied by my Twitter friend Victor Jimenez ( of BicycleLab, and make sure you have the best shoes for road cycling.

Video:  Road Cycling Shoe Fit

Is Weather Your Excuse Not to Ride?

There’s an old expression in biking circles: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing.”  Believe it or not, there is some truth to that.

When the weather is less than ideal for a ride, it is easy to postpone your ride for the day.  Unfortunately, this can lead to a string of days off the bike.  And we know what that means.  For some, it takes double the time you took off to regain the level you were at when you stopped.

Instead of taking the day off, consider having the right clothes.  Experiment with different combinations of jackets, vests, Under Armor, arm and leg warming sleeves, toe covers/booties, and long-fingered gloves.  Oh, and don’t forget something for your head–a lot of heat escapes from there.  For really cold days, a balaclava is a must (it’s the one that looks like a burglar’s mask, and it is great on a cold day).

You’d be surprised how warm you can be once you get going.  A good rule of thumb is if you’re still cold after 20 minutes of riding, you are not going to warm up with the clothes you’ve selected.

I have found that my tolerance for cold weather has improved each year.  Not long ago, I wouldn’t even bike outside in temps lower than 65.  Now I ride in short sleeves and shorts at 62.  The other day, I even rode in 5 degree windchill (just to see what it was like–guess what, it was really bitterly cold).

Understandably, everyone has their limits.  You just need to keep pushing those limits.  And there’s always stationary bikes at the gym or a trainer in the house.  No excuses!

More info: Winter Cycling Tips

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