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.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – Warm at Last

Hello!
Over the most glorious Memorial Day I can remember in some time, I heard someone around me — maybe even someone I didn’t know — say, “Yeah. That winter was horrible, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more happy about summer.” Too true. And so it is that I find myself finishing the Bicyclical on my back porch on a fantastic late Spring evening.

Fun Things to Do

One day I looked up and found a poster in the shop door advertising Mountain Bike 101, put on by our own Southwest Michigan Mountain Bike Association. If you’re curious about this super-fun cycling genre, this looks like a great way to start. June 8th (that’s this Sunday) from 11-1 at the Al Sabo land preserve. Register here.

I’ve been talking about it for months, but June is time for Tour de Taylor. Grab your bike, your friends and go for a very nice supported bike ride. All proceeds benefit the Michigan Make a Wish Foundation.

An oldie but a goodie, the Kal Tour, unleashes 100 miles of hillier ride than you might have believed possible in this glacier-scraped area. Well-supported and always popular, Kal-Tour is a great way to spend a Sunday with friends new and old. Sunday June 29th. Note: many (more sane) options other than 100 miles.

The weekend of July 12th and 13th brings us the Miller Energy BTR Crit and the Lawton Race for Wishes. Get your road bike racing on!

And there’s the Dream Ride on August 9th. Good, good stuff.

Around the Shop

Our theme this month is that you can take it with you… to a point;

  • Our cool Scandinavian friends at Thule have created some really cool bike accessories, very interesting racks, clever bags and gizmos you might not have imagined. We have a few in the shop and they’ve been very well received.
  • Touring tough? You want gear tough enough for your long-haul tour? We’ve got you covered with very nice things from Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Ortlieb. Waterproof, well-considered handlebar bags and panniers for your rack. This super nice equipment will get your stuff to your destination safe, sound and dry. Nice.
  • I well remember when my family went from a big car to something smaller, and we bought a box top gizmo to make up the difference. What a revelation! For a fraction of the price difference between a large and smaller car we darn near made up the cargo capacity. If you’re planning a big road trip this summer and are worried about your ability to carry it all, please give us a holler.

Rides, rides, rides. Mountain Bike Monday continues. 5:00 at the shop or 5:45 at the Fort Custer trailhead. Experience bona fide Michigan mosquitoes and poison ivy just minutes from your home! Seriously, many folks abandon the trails in the warm months due to fear of itch. I understand. However, there’s nothing like being up close and personal with the lush countryside on a bike. It’s very beautiful. Bonus: nature. We saw five (5!) snapping turtles laying eggs last time out.

Shop rides are Thursday at 6:15 from, you guessed it, the shop.

Ramble

Speaking of rides, did you notice that our very own Kalamazoo Bicycle Club won an award from the League of Michigan Bicyclists for Bike Camp? Did you notice that our very own Paul Selden won the Advocate of the Year award for his work with Bike Friendly Kalamazoo? These awards are terrific things, signs that two-wheeled life is alive and well in our lovely community. And I’m happy that Bike Camp and Paul received the recognition they deserve and happy that they’re ours, yours and mine. We’re fortunate to live among these powerful advocates for cycling.

How can we — those of us with limited time and resources and connections and whatever — contribute vastly to the cause of Riding A Bike? By being a good ambassador for cycling. By signaling our intentions. By not riding more than two abreast. By obeying the law. By sharing the road. Almost every cyclist can tell a harrowing story about a bad experience with a car, but many drivers can share stories of entitled behavior on the part of someone riding a bike, stories that are poison to the broader acceptance of cycling. And (I think) the broader acceptance of cycling is required to make it easier/safer/better to ride to work, ride with our kids, ride for fitness and run errands on a bike.

So: I wish you a wonderful summer. I hope you achieve the cycling-related goals you’ve set for yourself. And I hope that all of us can represent the joy of cycling to our greater community.

Big Finish

We’re here to help, and we sincerely, strongly appreciate our wonderful customers.

Sincerely,
Tim

Friend Team

Not very long ago a really cool customer asked about our race team. “Do you guys have tryouts or need a resume or anything?” While we’re thrilled that someone might think our results could indicate that such might be the case, it isn’t. What we have is a concept that we call the Friend Team.

I think this all started our first summer when a bunch of us decided to do the Lawton road race. We all wore Pedal jerseys because it seemed fun and we thought we looked cool and organized. In truth, we were as unorganized as about anything I’ve ever seen. But it was a laugh and we all had a cold one and some food at the Old Hat (oh, how I miss thee) when it was done.

Why not a bona-fide race team? Our logic, twisted though it may be, works something like this: we’re a shop for everyone. While we’re pleased when someone wins while wearing a Pedal jersey, we also smile when we see a family pedaling around town on our bikes. I guess it comes down to two things:

  • We feel like a team by its very nature is exclusionary. Are you on the team? Did you make the team? No. That ain’t us. You’ve got a bike and you want to race and you want someone to hang out with? We’re your people. Look for us in the beer tent.
  • While we don’t want to be exclusionary, we would like to exclude assholes. I’m not sure that those folks enjoy hanging out with us anyway.

We’re all about community. We have some friends who are smoking fast. We have friends who aren’t. Our fast friends are friends with our not as fast friends. We’d like to introduce you to our friends. We’d like to hang out. We’ll cheer for you or heckle you as the situation merits. Do you have to wear a Pedal jersey? No, but it would help us pick you out. Can you wear a jersey from another shop and still be on the friend team? Sure, I guess, as long as you’re willing to buy the beer. ALL the beer. Heh.

Your Bicyclical – It’s Happening

Holy crud bucket! Can you believe it’s May, the fifth month of the year? Me neither. And look at me: late with the newsletter. Stuff is happening.

Please allow me to say this first and foremost: Way to go Ryan. 19 credit hours and a full time job is a hard way to finish up college, but the deal is done and we’re just as happy and proud as can be. Nice work.

My wife just said, ‘You should say something in that thing of yours about how much women’s clothing you have.” Her wish is my command.

We have a wonderful customer who’s been asking me to stock Swiftwick socks for longer than I would like to admit. Turns out that all I needed to do was try a pair and, lo, we started stocking them shortly thereafter. Fancy cuffs with cool designs aren’t really Swiftwick’s thing. Instead they make super comfortable, supportive socks. Check ‘em out!

Just today we inked a deal to sell Sarma carbon fat bikes, rims and forks. Why? Fat bikes are exploding. While we are totally happy with Kona and 616, there definitely is a place in Kalamazoo for carbon fat bikes. So that’s the bikes. The neat-o carbon rims and forks allow us to zestify (new word, look for it in the 2015 OED) your existent fat bike for less than a grocery bag of dollars. We have wheels and forks now, with bikes and frames expected before Labor Day.

A few shop folk and several friends raced (term used loosely in some cases) the Ft. Custer Stampede mountain bike race last Sunday, which is *the* major fundraiser for our local mountain bike chapter, SWMMBA. I could write lots of words about the wonder of riding in the woods. I could write about the fun of adding an element of adrenaline (or fear or something) to the already nifty sport of cycling. We’re very lucky to have the trails at Fort Custer in our back yard, but I’ll tell you this: those trails didn’t build themselves. If you have a mountain bike or want to mountain bike or maybe even build trails on the odd Saturday, I very much encourage you to join the Southwest Michigan Mountain Bike Association. They’re good folks doing good work and could use your support.

Speaking of riding mountain bikes, Mountain Bike Monday is happening. All are welcome. The last three Mondays have been terrific.

Shop rides. Get your shop rides here. Actually, get a pile of road riding here.

What would May be without Kalamazoo Bike Week? Less awesome. Cool things to note are:

  • The Trail Blazer is this Saturday the 10th. Some years ago the TB was my first century, and I have fond memories of the event. It’s a good event benefitting the Kal-Haven Trail.
  • Also on Saturday is the Mayors’ City to City Ride. Join Mayors Hopewell and Strazdas at 9:00 at the Portage Creek Bicentennial Park. Yeah, mayors on bikes. Spring is happening.
  • More? You need more on Saturday? How about the Spring into Summer Family Bike Fest at Mayors Riverfront Park at 10:00.
  • Ward off evil at the Blessing of the Bikes at 10:30 at the Climax/Scotts Jr./Sr. High School, sponsored by the Climax United Methodist Church.
  • The Kalamazoo Bicycle Film Festival featuring short movies on May 13 at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe. Shows are at 6:00 for all ages and 8:15 for those over 21. Admission is a paltry five clams.
  • Our community Ride of Silence takes place on Wednesday, May 14th. The Ride of Silence honors those cyclists who have been injured or killed, raises awareness and asks that we all share the road. Good stuff.
  • Lots of cool stuff including the Bells to Bells ride on Saturday the 17th can be found on the Kalamazoo Bike Week web site.

Look at all this fun stuff. Three years ago there were relatively few activities during Bike Week. Now: lots. I think this is nothing but terrific.

Speaking of advocacy, our state Advocacy Day is in Lansing on May 21st, and you can read all of the detail on LMB’s very informative web site. I did something incredibly similar to this on a national level in March, and was really impressed.

I know what you want. Fun things to do.

“They” changed the date of the Yankee Springs Time Trial at almost exactly the moment last month’s Bicyclical hit the presses. It’s now May 18th and would be a perfect way to wind down (hah!) from Bike Week. Srsly: whip out that mountain bike and (ahem) redeem yourself from that Stampede fiasco.

Bike Camp starts on May 14th. Think you might like to road ride but are nervous about the whole thing? Bike Camp is opportunity knocking. Hear that? It’s opportunity.

If Tour de Taylor were an indie rock band I would own all their albums (which begs the question, how much does usage of the word album date a person? I suspect the answer is: significantly). Anywho, TdT is June 14th.

Kal Tour is June 29th and is a heckuva local thing. There are routes of 13, 15, 31, 62 and 100 miles. We’ve been kicking it around the shop and think it would be fun for all of us to ride bikes together. More details next month, but slap an X on June 29th to save the date. One note: register before June 15th for the good deal.

The weekend of July 12th and 13th is a monster. The Miller Energy BTR Crit happens on Saturday and the Race for Wishes in Lawton occurs on Sunday. Good fun all around.

I love riding bikes. I love bicycling machines. But, as I told my buddy recently, I really love being a part of the Kalamazoo bicycling community. Part of being from Kalamazoo, in my opinion, means that we acknowledge the fantastic philanthropic tradition of our community. Another part is acknowledging that there are many — too many — poor among Kalamazoo’s citizens. The Kalamazoo Dream Center exists to help the truly needy among Kalamazoo’s population, and they have a bike ride to help them raise funds toward that end. The Kalamazoo Dream Ride takes place on August 9th. I’ll tell you right now that it’s not your typical $20 century. It’s a ride to benefit a mission. If that sounds like the kind of thing that you can get behind, please do so. I’m not in the business of vetting nonprofit organizations, but I like the people I’ve met from this place.

Big Finish

As mentioned earlier, the cycling season is happening, and I’d like to get out of the way and allow you to enjoy it. If we can help, say the word. Otherwise I wish you many fun, untroubled miles.

Sincerely,
Tim

Explosif Revisited

ExplosifLately

I’ve had the new bike for a while and thought I’d share some thoughts and experiences.

 Fork: I bought the SID largely because I was trying to build a light bike. It took me a while to get the thing dialed, and I have come to believe that RockShox’s air recommendations are a tad on the high side and that this particular shock came with too much compression damping. I’ve rectified both of these issues and am very, very happy with this item.

Drivetrain: XX1= Blammo. I’ll confess that I had some reservations about this move as I’d been very happy with my former Shimano stuff, but XX1 has far exceeded my expectations. It works perfectly. My only complaint might be that it’s a bit pricey, a complaint that appears to have been addressed with X01.

Brakes: I did the Magura thing largely just to try something new. I was happy with the Avid brakes on my previous mountain bike and have been very impressed with Shimano’s latest stuff. Instead of going with equipment that I knew would work, I tried Magura’s MT6 setup… and there were issues, some of which were setup issues (don’t cheap out and try to use your old Avid rotors; the Magura rotors are thicker and work better) and some of which were process issues (learning to get them bled correctly). Somewhere along the line I contaminated the pads, either from the old rotors or a bleeding mishap. I installed new pads and bed them in the night before a race and BANG! Everything clicked, and the brakes worked marvelously. Like really freaking good. I confess that there were dark moments when I thought about chucking this system and bolting on some SLX brakes, but I’m now very satisfied and can recommend Magura brakes with confidence. Looking for something really light and maybe a tad off the beaten path? Here you go.

Wheels/Tires: I’ve had this setup for a while, so nothing shocking here. Stan’s are probably the best deal in tubeless wheels and Schwalbe makes mighty fine tubeless ready tires. I remain very satisfied.

The Whole Package: I’m not the best setup artist on my own stuff. I tend to go out and ride with my friends, think about what I might change, do nothing, go ride with my friends again and think about the same changes. This time I actually took a shock pump and an assortment of stems on a ride or two and slowly got the bike where I wanted.

As I ride more and more bikes I have a greater feeling for what feels right and what does not. However, I lack the technical chops to articulate what it is about one bike that makes it feel better or worse than another. I also think my thoughts should be taken in context — I’m not a gifted mountain biker. When I first rode a stock steel Explosif outside of Bellingham last year, I thought, “This is the most confident I’ve ever felt on a mountain bike.” That same feeling is strong when I ride this bike. Confident and frisky. Those are the two words I’d use to describe this bike.

It’s a keeper.

Mountain Bike Monday

VanOBikes

Some while ago — last summer? summer before last? — Our Gal Kim started getting a few friends together to hit the area trails on Monday evenings. Sometimes ten people would show, sometimes three. You could go as fast or not as you wished and it was consistently a really great time.

I asked Kim if Pedal could co-opt Mountain Bike Monday, and she said that it was cool with her, provided that mountain bikes were ridden on Mondays. So we’ll start tomorrow, April 21st. You can meet at the shop at 5:00 (sharp! no one likes to wait) for car pool opportunities or be ready to ride at 5:45 at the Fort Custer trailhead.

What is this like? It’s not terribly structured and is a work in process. It’s for anyone who wants to come, beginner to expert. It’s not a race. It’s not a skills clinic. It’s friends and acquaintances riding mountain bikes together. If this sounds fun, you are more than welcome. If it doesn’t, you’re still welcome.

I’ll update this post when and if things change, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

A Barry Nice Day

A good friend is hard to find.

A good friend is hard to find.

Immediately after yesterday’s Barry Roubaix race many of our friends were clustered at the end of the finish chute, coughing, having used parts of our lungs that hadn’t seen much action in a while. “There’s no way a big effort like this is good for your body,” opined one guy. “It’s not,” said another, who then provided science to buttress his argument. After we’d put on dry warm clothes the conversation continued in the beer tent.

This body isn’t what it once was (and it was never all that much), but it seems like a good idea to test the system every now and then. Whether or not it’s good for my body, I know stuff like this is good for my soul. I feel so darn good after a race like this. Why?

  • One reason is the big effort itself. It feels good to take on a project, do the work, finish the darn thing AND receive immediate feedback. In this hyper-efficient global economy it’s tough to find this sort of immediacy in work and social life. I’ve wondered if this isn’t part of the reason for the recent popularity of sport.
  • Competition is good, and by competition I mean the process of figuring out how good we can be, for which we need a course, competitors and a clock. Lemme say this differently: a course, some competitors and a clock allow me to determine how well I can do. In the act of competing I’m forced to acknowledge my shortcomings and deal with them. I know I’m not going to win, but I do wonder what my best might be.
  • I feel a wonderful bond with my competitors on the course. Yes, OK, I would like to finish ahead of you, but I also want you to finish better than you thought. I want you to make me earn it, and I want you to earn it.
  • A big race empties me. Assuming I can get myself psyched up to perform, there typically isn’t an iota of energy or emotion left in my body when the race is done. I feel very pure, as though I’ve sweated and exhaled all of the bad stuff out of my body.
  • What goes into this empty vessel? The companionship and love and camaraderie of my friends and competitors in the beer tent. An hour after the race I am a new man, stripped clean of my stresses and filled only with good feelings.

These are my ruminations. I might be right. I might be as wrong as I’ve ever been. Regardless, I’m still basking in the warm glow that follows a good, hard race. I tip my hat to the Barry-Roubaix crew for providing me the opportunity to feel the feeling.