Kalamazoo Cyclocross 2014

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2014cross

Check it out! Cyclocross returns to Kalamazoo at our two favorite locations, Kindleberger (home of The Hill) and Markin Glen. Races are $25 each (what a bargain!) and work as follows:

  • C race is at 11:00 and will last approximately 30 minutes. This is a terrific way to test the waters. Kids: welcome. Adults: welcome. Sandbaggers: not as welcome.
  • B race is at noon and will last approximately 45 minutes. Fun on a bun.
  • A race is at 1:00 and will last about an hour. Masochists only.

Cyclocross is a sport everyone can enjoy. Please come out and shake that cowbell.

The Full Cleveland

The white saddle, pedals and bar tape of this bike made me think of “style” in the leisure-suited seventies. If you’re too young to recall the period, this link might help decode the post’s title.

Every now and then someone comes into the shop and says, “Argh! You guys are terrible. You’re always showing me sweet new stuff and it’s just too much for my defenses!” Let me assure you: the exact same thing happens to us all the time. In fact, it might even be more cruel: we must (test) ride and be around cool bikes every day. (I know. Sucks to be us.)

I’ve been grinding along on a single-speed cross bike for about a year now, and recently started thinking that I should have something with gears. My thought process was that a geared bike might allow me to consider gravel rides and races that would be just too much on the uni-gear.

Thus I began looking at available cross frames. Frames? Frames. During the bizarre period in which I was without a road bike, I kinda (completely) freaked out and purchased a complete bike and a drivetrain at the same time. Not the most logical process to which I have been part, but sometimes you have to roll with it.

For pure cross bikes, it’s tough to beat the Kona Jake series. There are several schools of thought regarding “proper” cyclocross geometry, but Kona seems to have gone its own wonderful way. They aren’t set up in the traditional style (short top tube, tall head tube, high bottom bracket), nor are they road bikes with fat tires. As far as carbon cross bikes go, I like the fact that the Jakes are a bit more compliant than some. There are those who believe cross bikes should be mega-stiff in the rear triangle. I’ve owned and enjoyed such bikes, yet I remember the fist time I rode a carbon Jake and thought, “Hmmmmm. Delicious.”

superjakeSo I built this bike. It’s a Kona Super Jake frame, a Rival 22 drivetrain and a set of Stan’s Iron Cross wheels. Other semi-interesting bits are the TRP Spyre brakes, Fizik saddle, Ritchey bar, Time pedals. Slightly less than 18 lbs. as you see it. Pretty awesome.

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The frame is deluxe. It’s very light, has a smooth ride and looks very sharp. The included fork is also full carbon and very light. Kona is very funny with the frame thing. If you buy a frame, you get a frame, not a frame and headset. Not a frame and a few doo-dads. You get a frame. A frame and fork yields two parts: frame, fork. They figure that if you’re going to build up a bike of your very own, you’ll likely be picky about the headset and seat post clamp. Are they right? I don’t know, but after building up bikes from Kona frames, at least I’m used to it. For the record, I’ve been using a Cane Creek 40 on a few bikes, and it seems like a very good blend of price and function.

spyre

Oh how I once resisted disk brakes. As a guy who owns/owned a pile of rim brake wheels, disk brakes looked like another monetary black hole. And so they are, but by now I’m used to it. Rim brake users know that the best braking happens about the first time you squeeze the lever. With disk brakes, particularly mechanical disks, braking performance actually improves over a period of time. Why do I bring this up? I dunno. PSA I guess.

Traditional mechanical disk brakes are of single piston design. This means that you pull the lever and one piston (typically on the outboard size of the bike) pushes against the brake rotor, which bends until it hits the (fixed) pad on the other side of the caliper, at which point braking starts to occur. It works, but it’s not 100% great.

For this bike I thought I’d try a dual piston brake, the TRP Spyre. In this design, pistons push from both sides of the caliper to squeeze the rotor in the middle. It’s a nice design because bending the rotor is not part of the equation, and expectations are pretty high. I went this route despite the fact that I’ve had terrific luck with Avid BB7s on other bikes. As of this writing, I don’t have enough miles on the bike to properly rate the braking quality. I hope to remedy this situation soon. Sorry for the letdown.

Rival22

Twenty-two speed drivetrain! Who can’t get fired up about that? Luddites, that’s who. For the rest of us, the future looks bright. I put Rival 22 on this bike for the following reasons:

  • I had it handy
  • I was running out of money, fast
  • I can be something of a crasher in CX and am not made out of dollar bills
  • I had it handy

I have no beef with Shimano drivetrains, but I kinda like SRAM on my CX bikes. I treat my cross bikes rather unpleasantly and tend to think that SRAM stuff holds a tune a little longer. Is this bunk? Maybe, but such is my experience.

I’m not sure that I’m 100% on board with yaw front derailleurs. Sometimes they work great with minimal setup hassles. Sometimes there are significant setup hassles. On this bike it worked pretty great from the start. Rear shifting is typical SRAM: bang, bang, bang through the gears. Very nice.

ironcross

If I have a weakness, it is for wheels. Drivetrains stir my tactile feelings. Frames are beautiful or not. However wheels make my little heart go pitter pat. You can make whatever wheels you want. You can go for super-light; you can go for super-durable. You can spend a fortune. You can spend considerably less. You can try to hit some idyllic middle ground, which is the place I typically seek.

I already own two sets of disk cross wheels: HED Ardennes +, which are almost unreal in their awesomeness, and Velocity A23s, which represent a very nice value. For this bike I thought I’d get something pretty cross oriented, but not as spendy as the HEDs. Thus I have the Stan’s Iron Cross which was developed to provide superior tubeless burp resistance, maximum strength and light weight. No, you can’t run ‘em at high pressure for road tubeless, but who cares? That’s not the point of this bike.

heartKona loves cyclocross and so do I. I first rode this bike on the Barry Roubaix course with a good friend. As we rolled out I began kvetching about the fiscal questionability of building a carbon cross bike when I have a nice steel bike in the garage. “What are you talking about?” asked my friend. “This is your favorite thing.”

Yes. It is. And this promises to be an excellent companion.

 

Your Pedal Bicyclical – And now: Autumn

Hello!
I cannot believe that we’re staring October in the face. Wow.

Around the Shop

Cool bikes are coming in. Of special note are some very nice cyclocross and gravel road bikes. Delicious.
We have some sweet long-sleeve shirts that you could stylishly wear while:
- Riding
- Drinking a beer
- Being cool
Quantities are limited. Limited to what? To what we have. Dive in, and be prepared to ward off the paparazzi.
Winter gear? Heck yes! We have tights and jackets and warmers and gloves and hats and STUFF TO KEEP YOU WARM. Do you want to be warm? Yes? Let’s talk.

Politically Speaking

Important stuff is going on. I’m specifically speaking of the Stadium Drive and Michigan Avenue Corridor Study If you, like me, long for a more bike friendly Kalamazoo, it’s happening. I very much encourage you to use the tool here and attend the meetings and make of the city what you will. You. We need *you* to make this happen.
While visiting a friend this summer I shared how impressed I was by bike friendly Missoula. He said, “You can’t believe how hard it was. People were sure that road diets would ruin the city center and stop traffic forever. Yeah, it looks fantastic now, but it was an ordeal.” To this I would tell my fellow Kalamazooters: many hands make light work. Please contribute what you can to this very worthy effort.
I’d also remind everyone that change is difficult. Though it may seem intuitive to those of us who often ride, please be kind to your friends and neighbors who might have difficulty understanding the value of a bike friendly community.

Fun Things to Do

All good things must end, and so it is with the Thursday evening Pedal ride. The sun just sets too darn early these days. Thanks for a fantastic run this summer. I can’t wait for next year.
There are two (2) local cyclocross races this fall:
- October 12th at lovely Kindleberger park in Parchment
- November 16th at Markin Glen
We’ll have practice at noon the Saturday before each event at the race site. Cyclocross is fun. Please come enjoy!
More CX here and here!
The Colorburst in Lowell is this Saturday, and has always looked appealing.
Since the Grand Rapids XTERRA was cancelled (Boo! Hiss!), I guess we’ll all race CX at Manhattan Park and maybe dine as Rose’s after. This is always a good plan.
Iceman registrations are trading hands like hotcakes. Want to race? We can maybe hook you up with someone who can’t go. Want to get rid of your entry? Perhaps we can help. Shoot us an email or call.

The Ramble

Remember when you were younger, maybe eight, and you looked forward to your birthday SO MUCH. The anticipation was incredible. Maybe you knew exactly what you wanted or maybe you didn’t, but were excited by the prospect of being one year older. Then it was your birthday!
And then it was the day after your birthday.
I’m having trouble with the end of Best Summer Ever. I’ve used the term over the past few months, and I’ve believed it. It hasn’t been too hot. It hasn’t been too cold — not too much rain, not too dry. Yes, it’s been a good year at Pedal, but I write of something greater. Our clientele has been so uniformly happy. Rides I attended were full of camaraderie and joy. It’s been so fantastic that I want to give everybody a loud, stinging high-five… and now it’s fall.
Don’t get me wrong. I love autumn in Michigan with brisk weather and grape smells and beautiful trees and cyclocross and apples, but what a marvelous summer.
Big Finish
I went to a wedding this past weekend, a wedding of two people that I love enormously. One of them, a highly educated special ed teacher, told me about the drills she did with her students to train them to better fit into larger society. The drill topics distilled down to four things: curiosity, grit, zest and gratitude. On the cold, dark winter morning when she shared this with me, I thought, “Holy heck. Those are the exact things I want from my employees. Those are the exact things I want to demonstrate to our customers.”
Every day at Pedal we wonder how things work. We solve problems. Sometimes we solve difficult or unusual problems that take a whole lot longer than we think they should. Sometimes there are high fives. Sometimes there is harsh language. Do you care? I don’t know that you do, or that you should.
The thing I really, sincerely want to express in the Bicyclical is gratitude. I thank you for your business. I thank you for your consideration. I thank you for making Pedal part of your life.
I thank you for Best Summer Ever.
Sincerely,
Tim

CX Tires

biketires

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.

Tubes

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.

They’re Real, and They’re Spectacular

While not exactly under the cover of a darkness, I haven’t been terribly forthcoming about the fact that I’ve been scratching an itch, an itch to which few men are prepared to admit an obsession, a problem, an addiction. I’m not necessarily proud, but nor am I ashamed about my recent infatuation with: steel bikes.

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Exhibit One, The Unit

In the late spring of this year it came to pass that I could no longer mute the siren song of a single-speed, steel mountain bike. I thought about buying a 27.5 frame, but that just didn’t make sense. We’d sold a few Kona Units, and that bike started looking really great — everything you need and nothing you don’t for a very attractive price. Let’s discuss: Reynolds 520 frame, steel fork, oversized headset so you can fit a modern suspension fork if you wish, very nice sliding dropouts that can be configured for 10×135 or 12×142 in either geared or single speed — just like on my Explosif. So I ordered one in my size, threw some tubeless tires on it and signed up for the Expert (hah!) single speed class in the Yankee Springs Time Trial.

I have a beautiful friend from a far away land who used the term “throwing my name away” to describe an evening in which she once drank too much and did foolish things. Though alcohol played no part, I threw my name away the instant I signed up for that race and backed it up the minute I hit the trail. I have many minutes of comedic material about this race, but suffice to say that I’ve never set my self up for failure — and achieved it — quite so thoroughly. And it left me wondering what the hell I’d done by purchasing a single speed steel mountain bike.

I rode it to work and back one day and really really liked it. I took it to The Dump and really, really liked it. I put hydraulic brakes on it and like it even more. It’s turned into the bike I typically haul to Mountain Bike Monday. This is a very fantastic platform.

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What’s it like? It’s neat. I had not ridden a modern rigid-front mountain bike before this, and I’m still pretty impressed by how well it works. It is (of course) much more efficient going uphill and is very confidence-inspiring going hard into corners. I think this is because the geometry doesn’t change in the corner as it does when a fork compresses, but I could be wrong. Regardless, it sticks in there very nicely. Related to the steel fork, I was pretty impressed by my sore wrists after the YSTT, but there’s a little bit more to the story. I had, like many of our customers, been over inflating my tires. I used the same pressure as my 27.5 tires, but the fat 29er front tire has much more air volume, allowing for sill lower pressure. Getting the front tire at the right pressure (close to 20 for me) took a lot of the sting out of the rigid fork.

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The rest of the bike is a hoot. I love riding it. I also spend way too much time thinking about it. Maybe I should put a suspension fork on that bike. Maybe carbon doodads. Maybe really light cool wheels. I actually had thoughts of putting an RS-1 fork on the bike with compatible wheels until I realized that I’d quickly multiply my initial investment and possibly ruin one of the things I like most about it: simplicity. I ride the bike. I smile. I wash the bike. I lube the chain. I repeat.

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It comes in purple for 2015. How’s that for a kicker? Please don’t tell my wife that I’m thinking about another one with smooth tires for a commuter.

Exhibit Two: The Eclipse

I’ve been thinking about an Eclipse for a long time. I worked with a guy a few years ago who showed up on an Eclipse frame with a fancy Campy drivetrain, and I thought, “That’s pretty cool.” I rode a Jamis steel mountain bike for a couple of years and thought, “A road bike like this would be pretty cool,” but I loved my Xenith Elite and stayed the course.

In the span of three weeks I sold both of my road bikes and found myself doing everything pavement-oriented on my (single speed) cyclocross bike, which is hardly a terribly situation, but perhaps not optimum. So I started looking at vendor availability and thinking about what I wanted and generally doing everything I could to make myself crazy. Ultimately I bought an Eclipse just to silence the voices in my head. And it’s cool. Facts: Reynolds 853 steel, carbon fork, Ritchey wheels and cockpit, Ultegra 6700 drivetrain.

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I vacillate on the bike weight thing. I think there are more important attributes to a bike than weight, but I also appreciate a svelte machine. I was curious that Jamis’s literature claimed the Eclipse weighed 17 pounds. That’s pretty light for a steel bike, and seemed perhaps a bit of marketing hyperbole. Upon arrival, I ripped my bike out of the box, put it on the scale and saw 17 lbs, 1 oz. Wow.

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Delivery of the Eclipse has forced me to admit that I have gotten sloppy with my own, personal road bike fit. There was a time when I would get a level, a ruler maybe a laser and some other fancy tools to set up each new road bike exactly like the old one. Because I was anxious to get this thing on the road, I didn’t go through that process and it’s taken me a little while to adjust my way to a good position on the bike. While every mile has been nice, the last few have been terrific. I think this is going to work out very nicely.

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I’m occasionally asked what a modern steel road bike is like. Mostly it’s like a really good modern bike regardless of material. This bike has great handling. This bike has geometry that works for me. This bike is zesty. This one is smooth like butter. Maybe (probably) it’s not as efficient as a modern carbon thingy with a huge bottom bracket, but I’m not sure I can tell. Thinking about it a bit more, I’d say this bike is almost the epitome, the acme of a road bike. It is a very tight, zippy bike that files the edges off the really, really awesome roads around these parts.

The not terrific news is that the Eclipse ended its production run. I learned this information between the time I ordered my bike and its delivery. It was not altogether shocking — the Eclipse has never been a strong seller for Jamis — but still sad. I think well done, mass produced steel bikes are a hallmark of Jamis, and the 853 bikes are just fantastic. Still, they are expensive and business is business. I cannot help but note that Kona might have recovered the Jamis fumble with the Kapu. We’ll see.

Trying to Wrap it All Up

So what do we have here? A single-speed sledgehammer of a mountain bike and a lithe little road bike. As I’ve massaged and mangled this post over the last few weeks, it occurs to me that I didn’t buy these bikes because they’re steel. I bought them because they spoke to me in some subtle way. It’s not that I don’t like carbon bikes (watch this space!), it’s just that a couple of steel bikes happened to meet the needs I had. And they’re good bikes. Really neat. Really fun.

In the end, I took two bikes that had one thing in common and tried to shoehorn them into one post with a tired Sinefeld reference. Regrettably, you might be getting what you paid for from this blog.

I Had a Blast

While visiting friends in Missoula, Montana, I very much wanted to check out the mountain bike scene. I searched the internet and found a bike shop from which to rent a bike and a weekly mountain bike group ride.

I admit that I picked the shop, Missoula Bicycle Works, because they sell Konas and might have a bike with which I had some familiarity. Sure enough, I rented a Blast, Kona’s 2014 entry-level 27.5” hard tail.

You might ask, “You’re rather used to nice stuff. Did it bother you that you rented an entry-level bike?” Good question. I’d thought that maybe they’d hook me up with a Process or a Hei Hei or a dual-suspension something, but such was not the case. I wasn’t unhappy about the Blast per se, but I did wonder if I was going to be in trouble on a hard tail. (short answer: No. Not at all.)

Blast!

Blast!

I rode the bike from the shop to my friends’ house and immediately saw that Missoula is maybe five or so years ahead of Kalamazoo in bike friendliness. Road diets have been undertaken. Bike lanes are numerous. Traffic is bike-aware. I couldn’t believe how safe and fun it was to ride through and around downtown. My buddy assured me that Missoula was recently much like Kalamazoo — multi-lane, fast moving roads with very little consideration to non-motorized traffic. This news gave me great hope for the efforts underway in my city.

A huge difference between mountain biking in Missoula and Kalamazoo is that the trailhead was a stunning 2.1 miles from my friends’ house. Google predicted that the ride would take me 23 minutes by bike, which brings me to the second major difference: significant elevation change. It was straight uphill to the trailhead.

At the trailhead I met up with very nice folks from the Thursday Night Mountain Bike Group in Missoula. I explained that I was a stranger from a very flat land and that it was OK if they had to kill and eat me if I fell behind. And up we went.

Photography makes it appear as though we are not going up a steep slope. Which we are.

Photography makes it appear as though we are not going up a steep slope. Which we are.

And up and up and up and up. It was an amazing experience to just plonk the bike into its lowest gear and follow the guy or gal in front up the hill, grinding away. The Blast was pretty interesting in this regard as it is light in the front, and I had to take care to put enough pressure on the bars to keep wheelies at bay.

While we were climbing, a lady asked me what was different about mountain biking in Michigan. I said (though how I was able to speak remains a mystery) that where I live it’s much flatter and faster. As soon as we started to descend, I ate those words. Holy cow these guys scream down the mountain. Much of what Missoula locals refer to as two track is not the improved dirt road that we experience locally. It’s two single-track rocky trails with a narrow prairie in between. Amazing. And again I will say that the Blast was a good friend. There are times when I may have questioned the judgement of going warp ten down an unfamiliar trail, but I never worried about the bike. Fun. Super mega awesome lung-busting fun.

Most of the nice folks on the ride. Those not pictured are picking huckleberries in the woods. Get this: no poison ivy.

Most of the nice folks on the ride. Those not pictured are picking huckleberries in the woods. Get this: no poison ivy.

I returned home just in time for dinner, 3.5 hours after I left. I was very tired, very hungry and filled with the good feelings of a big effort. I’d like to thank the Blast for being a great companion and the Thursday Night Mountain Bike Group for their unsurpassed hospitality.

The author attempts amateur dentistry.

The author attempts amateur dentistry.

Meet The Scott Solace 30

(Our Man Randy borrowed a Scott Solace for the Race for Wishes road race in Lawton earlier this month. I asked Randy if he’d be willing to write a few words about his experience, and here they are. – Tim)

Many of our customers here at Pedal are familiar with Scott road bikes, especially the CR1, the Foil, and the Addict, bikes that are notoriously awesome. But far fewer are familiar with the new Solace. Maybe we (and by we I really mean me) were even a bit unsure about it. Was it a European classics inspired race bike? A gran fondo machine? A comfort road bike? It was time to put an end to all this confusion and mystery. When Tim asked me if I wanted to race the state championship road race on a Solace 30, I took him up on it.

Moving out. The Solace has tall, relaxed geometry. To get the four inches of saddle-to-bar drop I wanted for my race set up, we put the stem as low as it could go on the steerer. (Then sent photos to slamthatstem.com.) With my long femurs, we slammed the saddle all the way back on the rails. In spite of a tall head tube, set up this way, the bike cut a mean profile. Though the bike comes with a solid Shimano WH-RS11 wheelset, to give me an advantage at the race, we set it up with Stan’s 340s laced to Chris King hubs. I forgot to weigh it (oops), but it was impressively light, maybe 10 pounds. (Okay, maybe 16 or 17).

Smelling the roses. I warmed up for a good forty minutes to get used to the new bike. While Ryan and the Pedal train pushed the pace even during the warm up (Ryan actually doesn’t know how to go slow, if you didn’t know), I sat up to take in the vineyard aromas and sun-lit vistas along the course. I hardly noticed the Solace beneath me as I soft-pedaled along. The Shimano 105 drivetrain was silent and smooth and would remain so through the race. The bike’s silky-smoothness is immediately apparent to the rider.

Handling. Going into the race, I was not at all familiar with the 15-mile course. Luckily, we would use the first lap to get a feel for things before making our move on the second. I was only caught off-guard once on the first lap by one of the course’s many 90-degree turns. (Why weren’t the original architects of this fair state more creative?) About seven miles in, I came into a sharp left-hander at the bottom of a hill with too much speed and had to take it wide. Even as the rear wheel drifted across the pavement as I tried to avoid going off into the gravel shoulder, I felt totally in control of the Solace, steering clear of the gravel, then tucking back in on the front of the pack. With respect to the bike’s handling, then, what stood out to me was that it was totally intuitive and predictable. Again, it’s as if the bike isn’t even there.

Hammering down. After getting fed up with some yo-yo action over a roller section about 3/4ths of the way into the first lap, the Pedal train took control as Ryan, Charlie, and myself moved to the front of the race. We would stay there until the start of the second lap pulling through a long flat section of the course. The Solace excels at hammering down on the flats. I am not naturally a power rider who can pull hard on straight flat sections, but I felt comfortable pushing big gears and being in the wind on the Solace. I suspect the bike’s massive downtube-bottom brakcet junction has something to do with this.

Climbing. In the second lap, it was expected that one of us would attack on the course’s only real climb. A natural climber, this would be my moment to shine and push the limits of the Solace. Giving it everything I had, the Solace and I moved past several riders as I tried to take some of the pack with me and get back on the front of the race after falling asleep in the peloton. Just like that I was back at the front. (I wish I could say this happened effortlessly, but I can’t. The legs were starting to give up!) Though it doesn’t have the get-up-and-go of, say, a Foil, the Solace tears up our Michigan hills at least as well as most other carbon road bikes.

From then on, the Pedal train would be at the front, poised well for the big sprint finish. Pedal would capture first and third, while I had nothing left for a sprint, finishing three or so seconds off in lucky number 13th place. I didn’t mind; after all, I did get to ride around a carbon wunder bike for the day.

Concluding thoughts. I love Scott road bikes. In each of Scott’s road offerings, the rider can appreciate perceptible differences in frame design achieved with specific carbon layups for different riding conditions or styles. Like the Addict, the Solace is buttery smooth, but probably holds a line a little better when the going gets tough as a result of the shock-absorbing qualities built into the seat stays, seat tube, and seat post (the Solace uses a narrower 27.2 carbon Syncros post for a more forgiving ride). And like all Scott HMF Carbon bikes, it’s super light.

And who’s it for? The Solace, I think, is for anyone. It will do anything. Do a 30 mile road race with it. Do a gran fondo. Or go on a wine tour in the Leelanau country. Ultimately, I think it will be most appreciated by those who pile on the miles and those who can really put the power down on the flats. And if you want to experience just how smooth carbon fiber frames can be, check out Scott’s latest offering in the Solace. Check it out at Pedal today!

Your Pedal Bicyclical – The Joy Edition

Gracious! What a positively magnificent summer. I write this on my back porch after today’s Kal-Tour, a beautiful ride through the county sponsored by the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club. A buddy of mine and I hooked up with other friends for a brisk (cough) ride with a little rain, a little sun, a little wind and a little heat: the Full Michigan. June was a wonderful month to be on a bike, and I have high hopes for July.

Around the Shop

Garmin has upped the high-end computer ante with its new Edge 1000, which offers maps, routes and connectivity to your smart phone. Cheap? No. Feature-rich? You bet. Check it out.

Our Scott rep is going to bring a few sweet bikes to Fort Custer for Mountain Bike Monday on the 30th (that’s tomorrow if this goes out on time). It’s not the full demo experience, but it is a good chance to maybe try something new if you’re interested. 5:45 at the trailhead.

Our clever friends at Swiftwick are having a nifty July promotion: Tour de Fours. Buy three four-inch-cuff socks and get a fourth for the impossibly low price of free. Woah.

Man, our shop rides have exploded this summer. I know it wears people out when I go into Full Preacher Mode before the ride and talk about good manners and ambassadorship and legal stuff and just on and on. I’d like to take just a quick moment to thank everyone for putting a nice face on group road riding. Thank you.

We’re working our tails off to keep service wait times as short as possible.

Fun Things to Do

Mountain Bike Monday

Shop Rides

Lots of weekly area group rides

It’s my perception that many folks will be traveling for the extended Independence Day weekend, so we’re not planning to ride on the 3rd. My apologies if this bums you out.

Racin’ racin’ racin’ in Kalamazoo the weekend of July 12th and 13th. The 12th is the Miller Energy BTR Crit here in town and the 13th is the Race for Wishes in (you guessed it) Lawton.

July 19th is the Holland Hundred, which ALWAYS gets a rave review.

Lots of bike rides here and lots of triathlon here.

Our friends at the Dream Center have their Kalamazoo Dream Ride on August 9th. This is a big fund raiser for an organization that helps the very needy in our community. Please give it a look and your consideration.

Big Finish

Joy is the emotion we hear expressed most around the shop. The brutal winter is still pretty vivid in most folks’ minds and almost everyone is just as happy as can be to experience this beautiful summer. What fun! On the shop ride last week I rode by the location of this incident and couldn’t stop laughing.

Viva summer and thanks to you, PEDAL customer!

Sincerely,
Tim

Slowing!

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.

RS1

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.

GuideBox

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.

GuideRotor

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.

MaguraRight

The old setup.

Bold new look.

Bold new look.

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.

RotorInstalled

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.