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.

Pedal goes Political

Over the past three years, I’ve almost become used to the extent that bike shop owners are hit up to be part of many different things. There are industry conferences, trade shows of all stripe, this, that and the other. Until recently, I’ve been too busy and Pedal has been too lean-staffed for me to consider many forays into the wild.

A few weeks ago I submitted a scholarship application to attend the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC, provided by the NBDA. The Summit is presented by The League (which is how the League of American Bicyclists was known throughout this summit) and consists of two main parts, learning more about cycling advocacy in various discussions and then actually advocating by lobbying your state’s elected federal officials with other interested parties from your state. I was awarded the scholarship largely, I think, on the strength of my answer to “What else should we know about you?” — I look really good in a suit. A photo submission was not required.

Why go? Bicycling has been good to me physically, mentally and financially, though my wife might argue the last point. I would like bicycling to continue its upward trajectory in the  consciousnesses of both my community and my country. Though important work on behalf of bicycling exists here at home, I thought that it might make good long-term sense to broaden my experience in the wide world of advocacy. So I bought a plane ticket, made hotel reservations, attended two preparatory webinars and transported myself to our nation’s capital.

I’m not sure why this surprised me, but the percentage of bike shop folk was rather small. Most folks were “advocates,” and there are all kinds of advocates. I met a lady from Tulsa who runs a place not terribly dissimilar to our own Open Roads. I met a lady from Minnesota who arranges multi-day supported bike rides with a built-in evening lecture series. I met the database czar of People for Bikes. I met bona-fide lobbyists. Within the Michigan delegation there were two shop owners and eight advocates who were there to talk about bicycling in general and perhaps a personal cycling-related project in particular.

Monday was a day of travel. Monday was also the day that a good amount of snow fell on Washington D.C., a city not completely prepared to deal with such an event. Compared to many, mine was not a grueling journey, but it did present opportunities for resourceful thinking and problem solving.

Tuesday was a day of learning in big meetings with famous politicians and advocates and in smaller break-out sessions. Snippets…

  • It’s not enough to get the mayor’s support. You must also have support from a “champion in the weeds,” a person in government who can do the mayor’s heavy lifting.
  • It’s crucial to gather metrics for your advocacy projects, especially if government funding is part of the financing picture.
  • I tend to think of cycling as an important component of our community to attract talented young people which will make companies want to locate here which will fuel the area’s economic engine. That said, society’s dispossessed probably need safe bicycle transportation more than a guy like me who owns a car.
  • If we are going to be successful in our advocacy, we must stand together and not apart. I believe it was Oregon Representative Blumenthal who said that “One Less Car” is not an effective slogan. We need to be pro-bike, not anti-anything.
  • Pittsburgh’s Mayor Peduto spoke about the need to build partnerships in advocacy and that a welcoming and open stance is much more effective than one of confrontation or pugnaciousness.
  • Good work is never wasted.

Wednesday began early; our first meeting was with Senator Debbie Stabenow at 8:00. We talked with some of her staff folk for a bit, then the senator appeared and spoke with us for what seemed like a very long time for such a very busy person. What can I say about Ms. Stabenow? Impressive.

On the way to our meeting with Senator Levin, we passed him walking the opposite direction with a bunch of well-dressed people to ostensibly attend a more important meeting. We met with his assistant Alison, a beautiful no-nonsense lady who (to me) looks like she does not take any shit and is probably quite a bit smarter than you (and by you I mean me). Alison was a gracious host and incredibly informed and exactly what you might expect a federal staff person to be like based on all the TV and cinema you’ve seen.

In the afternoon a quartet of us met with our own Fred Upton (“I go by Fred”) and his assistant, Nick. This was my favorite time of the day, not just because I like Fred but because I got to sit down with Nick, a Paw Paw native and K College graduate, and go over the three League asks in some detail and in my own circuitous way.

The three asks were: Safe Streets, The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act and New Opportunities. Want more detail? They’re House Resolutions 2468, 3494 and 3978, respectively.

While I very, very much enjoyed participating in our federal government, I don’t think I’m a good lobbyist. Two or three of the folks in our contingent had their sound bites polished and assertively (aggressively?) controlled the conversation. I just can’t do that. What would Mom say if I didn’t take time to mind my manners before digging into business?

Many times were we reminded that our dress on Wednesday needed to bridge the line between fashion and comfort as we’d be doing a LOT of walking and standing around. Did I heed this advice? No. I wrote that I looked good in a suit, so I brought out the Johnston-Murphy wingtips that have occupied space in my closet since I was a cubicle denizen and shined those suckers to a mirror finish. And those traitorous shoes absolutely destroyed me. I have a blister the size of neptune to attest to the fact that advocacy is hard work.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – The Anticipation Edition

Hello!

I once worked for a company that provided lunch for its employees. After a really tasty meal, one of my coworkers would often say, “Enough is never enough, but too much is too much!” Such are my feelings about the current season. Yesterday as I was putting on my long johns, I thought about a hot summer day in which the sun comes up early and I steal a ride before work. After the ride I hustle to take a shower but it’s So Stinking Hot and Humid that I can’t cool off before heading to the shop. This day will be here soon enough. And someone will complain about it. Heh.

I’ve been singing the praises of 650b/27.5″ mountain bikes for a few years now, and it looks like 2014 might be a breakout year, largely because one of the Big Guys (ok, it’s Giant) threw their hat in the ring. We’re fortunate that our brands were early adopters — Jamis has been making 650b for five years, Scott’s won two cross country world championships on 650b hard tails and Kona’s been doing their thing for a couple of years now. Neat stuff, proven designs and pretty darn exciting.

One of the recent trends in cycling that I like quite a lot is the movement toward not-skin-tight clothing. We started carrying baggy mountain bike shorts last year, and I’m a huge fan. I like being able to pop my car keys in a zippered pocket and I LOVE the fact that mosquitos have yet to pierce my baggy shorts — unlike thin lycra. This spring and summer will also see us experimenting with jerseys that look more like a shirt yet behave like a proper jersey made from performance material. Functonal? Yes. Stylish? I think so. Come see!

A hot topic around the shop these days is “What in the heck kinda tires are we going to use for Melting Mann and perhaps even Barry Roubaix?” Weather and road conditions being what they are lately, I’m going to say that studded looks like a good choice, despite the greater weight and rolling resistance. “What?” you say, “Those things are really expensive!” While they’re not dirt cheap, I think it’s fair to expect several years of use from a pair of studded tires. Plus fewer falls.

I recently wrote a long piece about dressing for cold weather that I thought would be great for next year, but maybe now is OK too.

The more things change, the more they change. We have several new faces around the shop. Charlie, Matt, Violet and Kira all work at Pedal part time while matriculating at various local institutions. They’re all super-nice and are acclimating to Pedal. I hope you’ll welcome them to our little world.

Over the past three years I’d like to think that we’ve built our business on service, particularly prompt, professional service for your bikes. It’s always our goal — and very often our realized goal — to get your bike done in a week during the busy season. I’ll be honest and say that this year’s longer, colder winter has me a bit spooked. I fear that there’s a glut of repair work sitting in garages and basements around town that’ll suddenly arrive at our door on the first warm day of the year and that it’ll take us a fair amount of time to work through that gob of labor. You, the people who receive this missive, are our customers. You’re the lovely people who’ve secured our success. If you know your bike needs a little attention, I really, really encourage you to get that sweet thing down to us before the hoards arrive. Thanks in advance.

One of my favorite programs from the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club is Bike Camp, a wonderful introduction (or perhaps reintroduction if you’ve been away from the sport for a while) to road cycling. If you are or know someone who might benefit from such a thing, I very much encourage you to check out http://kalamazoobicycleclub.org/club/bikeCamp.php It all starts on May 13th, so you’ve got a little time yet.

Fun Things to Do:

As always and with great sincerity PEDAL thanks you for being our customer. Please let me know how we can better serve you.
Sincerely,
Tim

The Clothing Treatise

One of the significant barriers to cold weather athletics, biking in particular, is dress. How do you dress for an adventure on a really cold day? Folks in the know speak of three clothing layers: Base, Insulation and Protection. I’ll write a little bit about what these layers are, what I use, why I use it and what you might want to consider. (Quick aside: I’m going to talk about a lot of stuff, and it’ll look like I’m talking about thousands of dollars of clothing. Heck, maybe I am, but no one expects anyone to develop an entire full-year cycling wardrobe in one shot. My own has developed over many years and I’m still adding and subtracting items all the time.)

Base Layer. This can be helpful in the warmer months, but is critical once it gets cold. Likely you’ll start to sweat a little bit once you get going, and it’s your base layer’s job to get that moisture off your skin. Modern base layers fit snugly and give you a nice warm feeling, too. A base layer is the foundation of any cool (or cold) weather dressing strategy.

Insulation Layer. This is rather like the pink stuff in the walls of your home. It creates a dead air space to buffer your body from the cold. Modern layers aren’t very bulky and work with the base layer to move moisture away from your body. Personally, I only use an insulation layer on the very coldest days. Long-sleeve jerseys and maybe that old fleece thing in your closet make good insulation layers.

IMG_2862

A long-sleeve jersey is nice when it’s cool and is a good insulation layer when it’s quite cold.

Protection Layer. On a bike in the winter this layer needs to be pretty darn windproof and perhaps waterproof as well. Breathability is also very important, otherwise everything inside the jacket turns into a soggy mess once you get going. It is the combination of these things (windproof, waterproof, breathable) and the degree to which a protection layer takes on attributes of the insulation layer that differentiate various garments. I’m a sucker for a good protection garment and (as mentioned above) typically just wear a base layer and a protection layer unless is it some kinda cold. A jacket that you wear to work out is slightly different than a jacket you wear for commuting. A commuting jacket tends to have a more relaxed fit to provide room for a greater variety of clothes underneath. A workout jacket may have less windproof material on the back, while a commuting jacket should be completely wind and waterproof. If your commute *is* your workout, there are garments that fit right in the middle.

A fully wind- and waterproof jacket with a trim fit. It’s tough to see all of the ventilation zippers, but there are many.

A waterproof commuting style jacket. The cut is more relaxed and the vibrant colors are good for being noticed.

A waterproof commuting style jacket. The cut is more relaxed and the vibrant colors are good for being noticed. Ventilation zippers abound on this guy, too.

That’s the theory — and good theory it is. When riding a bike, the three-layer system works perfectly for your upper body. Things that I have in my personal arsenal of upper-body riding attire include:

  • Base layers of various weights, both long- and short-sleeve. Historically one of my favorite things has been a nice base layer with a windproof chest panel. Lately I’ve modified my thinking such that I wear more of a base + protection combo.
  • Arm warmers are perfect for a cool day, perhaps a cold race if you’re working hard or a day in which the temperature might fluctuate a great deal. They’re easy to remove and store in a pocket.
  • A long sleeve jersey or two is nice to have on a cool day or for an insulation layer on a cold day.
  • I have three cycling jackets, but only one is my favorite. It has a windproof chest and arms, but not the back. It’s just the right amount of snug; it doesn’t flap in the breeze, but it has enough room so that I don’t look too much like a selection of sausage links if I have a long sleeve jersey under it on a really cold day. It’s cut rather long in the rear so it doesn’t ride up when I’m in the drops. All in all, a superior piece of clothing. One of my not-quite-as-favorite jacket is wool with a windproof chest. It’s very nice and terribly well cut, but it doesn’t work in as broad a temperature range as my favorite. My other is very similar to my favorite with an important exception — it’s not snug enough around the waist, allowing cold, nasty wind to blow up my back and make me miserable. I give this third jacket the stink eye sometimes.

On your lower body, things get more interesting. Because a pretty high range of motion is required and fabric bunching is a serious no-no, the three layers are typically combined to one degree or another in a single garment. Cycling tights are pretty much a de-facto base layer. Thick tights are a base layer and insulation layer. Windproof tights… You get the picture. Garments that I have, use and enjoy include:

  • Knee warmers. Combined with the cycling shorts you wear year round, knee warmers keep me going well into the 50s. My personal philosophy is to keep my knees covered when it’s under 70 degrees. Overkill? Maybe, but I’d like these knees to last me a lifetime.
  • Leg Warmers. Knee warmers’ big brother. If I had to pick between one pair of warmers, knee or leg, I’d take leg, as they often have big zippers toward the foot and can be rolled up if you get a tad warm, but not warm enough to warrant removal. Leg warmers can be windproof, which is pretty darn nice.
  • Windproof underpants. While I typically argue against underwear when cycling (bunching is bad!), snug windproof undies can make life bearable. I’ll say no more.
  • Tights. Tights are great, and the big question is whether to buy tights with a pad (cycling-specific) or buy tights without a pad and wear ‘em over your bike shorts. I have both, but prefer to bike in tights with a pad. I like to have two pair of tights, winter tights and really serious winter tights. Some years I never wear my serious tights. This winter they’re gotten quite a bit of use. I have had my serious tights for eight years, so although they were rather expensive, the investment has actually been quite good.
  • Knickers. I am a full-on sucker for knickers. Yes, it’s like shorts and knee warmers, but you never have to worry about your warmers slipping down. Knickers are usually constructed of a more weatherproof fabric than the stuff I wear in the summer, and can thus be worn in cooler temperatures than a shorts/warmer combo.
  • If you’re more into commuting or mountain biking, windproof, waterproof pants are available to wear over your lycra short or over your regular clothes. I don’t have these personally, but a couple of guys in the shop like them quite a bit.

I hate a cold head, cold hands and cold feet. Each of these areas requires something specific.

I have a lot of hats. Two of my favorites are a merino wool cycling cap with fold-down ears and a similar cycling cap with a windproof forehead. The merino cap is good for all but the coldest days. In addition to these, I have a skullcaps of various weights and windproofness, a balaclava and some crazy neoprene thing I bought for snowboarding that covers my face below the nose.

Merino cycling cap with fold-down ear flaps.

Merino cycling cap with fold-down ear flaps.

Hands can be a challenge to keep warm. I like a pair of windproof gloves for the fall and early winter season. When racing hard, these work down to very close to freezing. The next thing would be an insulated glove. It probably goes without saying that the insulation makes these a bit more bulky than a merely windproof glove, but they are certainly warmer. The warmest thing is windproof, probably waterproof and very well insulated. “Lobster claw” gloves can be quite warm — sometimes too warm. It can be rather unpleasant to have your sweaty hands slowly become colder and colder.

Windproof gloves are an important part of any cycling wardrobe.

Windproof gloves are an important part of any cycling wardrobe.

Feet can also be tough — and potentially quite expensive — to keep warm. Start with good socks that wick away sweat and provide a nice level of insulation. Wool is considered the benchmark. Don’t get them so thick that it cuts off circulation; you need blood flowing to keep you warm. After socks you have essentially three options: toe covers, shoe covers and bona-fide winter riding boots.

  • Toe covers are great when it’s cool. They’re typically windproof, often neoprene and work great until, for me, around fifty degrees. I went through a period in which I didn’t have toe covers, but would apply duct tape to the toes of my cycling shoes. Hobo chic aside, duct tape is not as effective as a good pair of toe warmers.
  • Shoe covers are available in various thicknesses and materials. These work great down to Pretty Ding Dang Cold, and I haven friends who cycle happily on the coldest days with shoe covers. However, it’s not enough for some people, which brings us to…
  • Boots are pretty serious and typically expensive. They can also be difficult to locate. If bicycling is a specialty item, boots for cycling in really cold weather represent something quite niche indeed. I’ve personally purchased two pair of boots. One just wasn’t warm enough and frustrated the heck out of me, while the other is pretty amazing in its ability to keep my toes warm.

Other little tips that might help:

  • Those chemical hand- and toe-warmers that you often see at hunting and fishing stores can be lifesavers. Use as directed.
  • Winter insoles for your cycling shoes can help a lot. High-performance shoes are often designed to help keep your feet cool, so a better-insulating insole can be very helpful.
  • If you’re going to get wet, either via perspiration or the elements, embrocation can be very helpful.
  • Dryer sheets are bad news for performance clothing, as are most liquid detergents. Those things have additives that’ll clog the pores of performance fabrics and make your expensive stuff perform in a substandard fashion.

And that’s just about everything I know about clothing. I’d encourage you to work with some of the stuff you already own (that old fleece in the closet for an insulation layer, running tights for a bike ride) and add garments as you need them and as your willingness to go out in ever colder temperatures increases. I’ve heard people say that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. I don’t know about that, but appropriate clothing can certainly extend your cycling season and allow you get enjoy a bit more Pure Michigan.

Base layers under long-sleeve jerseys. Tights or knickers. Warm shoe covers. Windproof gloves in front, lobsters in rear. Cap on the guy in front, hair on the stoker.

A day around freezing temperatures. Base layers under long-sleeve jerseys. Tights or knickers. Warm shoe covers. Windproof gloves in front, lobsters in rear. Cap on the guy in front, hair on the stoker.

Your Pedal Bicyclical – Kill the Groundhog Edition

Holy Guacamole! What a winter wonderland we have here.

Very quick thoughts:

  • If I could have back all the time I’ve spent maintaining my driveway this past month, I could have written six Bicyclicals.
  • Very Much is the amount that I regret wasting Snowpocalypse on last month’s issue.
  • The days are getting longer, right? Right?

Before anything else: thanks to everyone who participated in last month’s survey. Feedback was positive with good bits of very constructive criticism thrown in for good measure, some of which mirrored my own thinking and some that did not. Food for thought. Food for action.

There are but a few things cycling-related that we can talk about when it’s so cold and snowy. One of those things is fat bikes, a “segment” of the biking world that has picked up substantial steam in the last two years. It’s been interesting to watch the changes. A couple years ago there were only two or three bikes, and now there are all sorts of brands and models. Frame and component standards have changed and perhaps coalesced. More tires are becoming available, as are rim and hub options. All of this is good, and all of it makes these interesting things more accessible. One thing I would mention: if you like the look of a fat bike but think, “I don’t want to ride in the snow. I don’t like to be cold. I would never use one of these,” I would say “Au contraire!” They’re actually very fun to ride on mountain bike trails and on city streets. In all instances, those big tires don’t mind a lot of the things that bother their skinnier cousins — things like roots, rocks and potholes. Come in and give one a spin. I think there’s every chance that you’ll like it. And here’s the funniest movie ever created. Here’s an article you might like. And this has a quote in which I sound like I have some command of the English language. I know. Weird.

What’s new in the shop?

Our 2014 design short sleeve jerseys arrived along with a healthy assortment of Pedal bibs and shorts for everyone. Look good and feel good. Not like this guy.

Thinking about a road trip but don’t know how to fit it all in your ride? We’ve doubled-down on Thule cargo boxes for 2014. In fact, we stock a complete size run of Force boxes, which represent a fantastic blend of price and function. Imagine four people, a dog and four bikes on a 1500 mile road trip in a small SUV. Cozy? You bet. But we couldn’t have done it without the Thule box on top.

It’s time. Come get yourself a good deal on winter clothing. What! Good deal on winter clothing when it’s still cold outside? Yup. Right here. Right now.

Things to which we can look forward with increasing anticipation:

Melting Mann. Will it be a race, an adventure or something else? Who knows, but I all but guarantee that it’ll be memorable. Come on down and win yourself a Kona Rove thanks to our friends at Kona, our other friends at Central District Cyclery in GR and, well, us.

Barry Roubaix, you make me fearful, but I’ve always had a wonderful experience. March 22nd in lovely Hastings, MI. Tough race and one heckuva party immediately after.

I’ve said it before and I might just say it again in 2014, but these gravelly races are for anyone. If you have a bike that’ll traverse a gravel road, you can do these races. Yes, there will be people going really fast. Yes, the conditions might well and truly suck. Yes, you should know and exhibit proper race etiquette. Yes, it’ll be hard. Any time you put a number on your body or your bike it’ll be hard, but that’s kinda the point, right? The experience. Hurt a little bit. Maybe get a little bit outside your comfort zone. C’mon. Pick the right right length route for you and give it a shot. Even in the unlikely event that you have the worst day of your life, you know what? You’ll have done a bike race.

One of the few non-cycling events I’d like to talk about is the EZ 5K on April 19th. This is a foot race or walk to benefit the Eric Zapata Memorial Foundation. As you may recall, Officer Zapata passed away just less than three years ago while in the line of duty. The foundation was created to honor his legacy as a Kalamazoo Public Safety Officer and hopes to perpetuate his memory by maintaining a memorial scholarship and making contributions to the community he served. That’s about as nice a thing as I’ve ever heard, and I encourage you to check it out.

Let’s all hold hands and imagine — imagine that the snow will be gone by May 4th. What’ll we do without the snow? How will we exist? I’d suggest that we race the Fort Custer Stampede! It doesn’t take as long as a marathon and last year there was a frosty BEvERage at the end. Nice.

One of our customers came in and said, “You should say something about Bike the Drive in Chicago. I did it last year and it was really cool.” On May 25th Chicago closes Lake Shore Drive to vehicular traffic for five hours. I have to admit that I knew a whole lot of nothing about this event until Ken told me about it, but it looks like a good time for a good cause. Check it out here.

Let’s think about a warmer month, such as June. Is your June calendar already filled up with stuff? Good stuff? Stuff that benefits a great cause, is done by fun people and is itself a good time? Really? You’re already doing this? Good for you. See you there.

Big Finish

Winter is what makes us grateful for summer.

PEDAL loves its customers.

Sincerely,
Tim

Your Pedal Bicyclical – Snowpocalypse Edition

January, the month of introspection, of resolutions kept and abandoned. This issue of the Bicyclical is generally addressed to those subjects. One word of warning. Remember last month’s issue that was so short and sweet and quickly readable? This month won’t be like that, so you might want to grab a cup of coffee in the morning or perhaps something more fortified in the evening. Or hit delete now.
I occasionally use this organ to discuss the health of Pedal. I think our customers show great faith in us, and it’s only fair that we let ‘em know that — thus far — their faith has yielded a successful bike shop. We’re just a few weeks away from our third birthday, and I think we’ve come a very long way since our first few days.
So things have changed a lot. We’ve increased our inventory. We expanded our service area. We’ve hired good people. We are better equipped to serve a greater variety of needs than we were a while back. It’s good stuff. And in that time we’ve also never had a sale. Why? I don’t like them. I don’t like charging one thing one day and another the next. I don’t like the idea that item X has this value on Tuesday but a different value on Friday. I like to take a different approach, one that is more value- than price-oriented. I want you, Pedal’s customer, to know that you can come into the shop any day at all and we’ll give you a fair price and excellent service. That is our deal, and I don’t think it’ll change anytime soon.
However, we make purchasing mistakes. Our vendors change things around and phase out old models and, yes, that stuff has to go. We have things that fall into that Gotta Go category and you are welcome to take advantage of these changing times. Right now we have a good number of really great Easton wheels that need good homes. You may recall (or more likely not) that Thule purchased Chariot a couple of years ago. Thule decided to rebrand Chariot as Thule for 2014, so our existing child transportation system floor models are, well, no longer current and are in need of good homes. Note: this Chariot stuff is as good as it gets. Primo. Deluxe. Don’t miss out on a good deal.
Help! Our queen of back office affairs inexplicably took another job, and we need a sharp cookie to fill her shoes. If you are or know someone who can handle tasks related to inventory in a friendly, efficient manner, we’d like to talk. The Pedal application is here. Why am I bothering you with this? Odd fact: 100% of Pedal employees were Pedal customers first.

New Stuff:

HED makes great aerodynamic wheels and really, really terrific aluminum race wheels. New this year are wider rims, disk brake compatibility and insanely light carbon fat bike rims. I’ll admit that I’m something of a wheel junkie, but one of my favorite recent purchases was a pair of HED Ardenne Plus for my cross bike. They are extraordinarily well considered and constructed.
No doubt the biggest name in aerodynamic wheels, Zipp continues to innovate and improve. We’ve had enough customers hassle (er, ask) us about Zipp that we just can’t say no. Clincher or tubular, all Zipp aero wheels are totally carbon, very strong, very light. We have an 808/404 combo hanging on the wall, about which Ryan said, “Those black Zipps look bad.” Indeed they do. Fast, too.
I’ve always been a little bit mystified by these guys with cameras on top of their helmets or on their handlebars. Even so, when Garmin recently released the VIRB we snapped up a couple and have been putting one through its paces. I’ll admit: it’s fun. It didn’t take too long for us to load up a Micro-SD card, charge the battery and start filming. Once we had actual footage, we used Garmin’s downloadable app (PC or Mac) to transfer the data to a computer and then on to Facebook. Minutes later, we’d interfaced the VIRB to both an iPhone and an Edge 510, such that either device could control the camera. Pretty darn cool. Available now. Here. At Pedal. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnLGejV4e0o

Things to Do:

I’ve been pimping, er, promoting this Melting Mann race because — hey — it’s the kind of race I like. Over the past little bit, things have gotten more interesting. In conjunction with our friends at Central District Cycling in GR and Kona, we’re giving away a Rove at the race. You know, just in case you need another reason to sign up. Hurry! I’m not sure where we are on the 500 limit, but the buzz has been high and I’m afraid it’ll sell out soon.
Two weeks after is the fastest growing hootenanny in Michigan cycling: the Barry Roubaix. I could write a 1000 word essay on the number and intensity of emotions I’ve experienced surrounding this race the last couple of years, but I like you guys, so I won’t. Here’s the dirt: if you have a bike with reasonably chunky tires and some smattering of desire and/or competitive nature, you will have a memorable experience. I’m not talking about something you post on Facebook and forget; I’m talking about the kind of thing that lives in your heart and puts a smile on your face from time to time.
For people who’d like to get especially intimate with their mountain bike saddle, may I recommend the Lumberjack 100? The gold standard for 100 mile MTB whoopins around these parts, it occurs on the solstice this year for your druid pleasure.

Big Finish

Let’s come back around to resolutions. I’d like to lose some weight. I could swear less. I think Pedal could be more… tight, more precise. Yet I worry that I see what I want to see and not what I should see. I worry that our customers (that’s you) are kind people and won’t tell me what they want or how we should improve. In an effort to avoid that potentially unpleasant moment when you have to break it down for me face to face, I’ve created a short survey you can take if you have the time and inclination. If you don’t, that’s totally cool. I know I’ve turned down about 100,000 survey opportunities from AT&T. If you do have a few moments and an opinion or two, I hope you’ll participate in this, the first ever Pedal customer survey.
And it is with high hopes and good intentions that we march into 2014, trying to be a better bike shop  to serve you, our wonderful customers. Thank you.
Sincerely,
Tim

Early Christmas

Brittany wanted a mountain bike, and we ultimately decided that I owned the exact bike she wanted, so I sold her my Dragon. Which left me in a bit of a hole.

I purchased bikes from bike shops before I opened Pedal. Sometimes I said, “I have this amount of money and I want this kind of bike. Please maximize it for me.”  Sometimes I rode a lot of bikes and picked the one I liked best. Sometimes (tri bike) I went with the bike the fitter recommended. Sometimes I pointed to a picture in a catalog and said, “That one.” Sometimes I obsessed over everything and put together exactly what I wanted. This bike falls into the last category.

I started riding a couple of our demo bikes. Yeah, hard work. I rode the Kona Explosif during the bike portion of an XTERRA duathlon and the Big Kahuna for a long, winding day of road and trail. In the end, I’m a 650b kinda guy. The slightly smaller wheels just work better for me. So I called Kona to tell them I wanted an Explosif. I’m still not entirely clear on what words were said during the course of that conversation, but the next thing I knew I had a titanium Explosif frame on backorder and way too much time to think about parts. I’m going to have our water tested.

A word about the ti frame. It has the exactly same geometry as the Reynolds 520 frame I’d been riding, but is made in Tennessee by the fine folks at Lynskey Performance of 3-2.5 titanium. It has all of the attributes you’d expect from a hand-built ti frame: superb welds, beautiful finish. It’s really, really top shelf.

What to do about a drivetrain? I’ve been nothing but pleased with the SLX/Deore combo on the Dragon. It worked flawlessly and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. While I had zero problems with the Avid Elixir brakes on the Dragon, I’ve been mightily impressed with Shimano’s brakes lately. So it naturally follows that I have XX1 and Magura brakes on this bike.

Last year SRAM expected to sell 5,000 XX1 drivetrains. They sold 15,000. I don’t know if it’s weight, looks, simplicity or what, but single-ring drivetrains are a big deal these days, and I’ll admit that they work particularly well around these parts. Standout features of XX1 (and now little brother X01) include really cool chainrings that eliminate the need for a chain guide and a super-big (10-42) range of gears in the back. Good or bad, right or wrong, I like to personally try the technologies that interest our customers, so XX1 it is. Initial impressions: setup is a bit fussy, but it looks fantastic and shifts super great.

Thinking about that sampling new technologies thing, we have several demo bikes with SLX brakes. You, dear customer, are welcome to give ‘em a shot. They are superlative; I recommend them without hesitation, but there’s no new ground to tread. I rode a bike with Magura brakes recently and liked a few things — mineral oil for brake fluid, easy to bleed, good (and still improving) access to spare parts, excellent tech support — beyond the overall performance. Plus: oh my goodness are they light. So a pair of MT-6 brakes grace the bike. I’ll write more about these as I have a chance to get to know ‘em, but they look very promising.

Fork. Fork fork fork. What to get? Another Loop (which I loved)? Rockshox? Fox? X-Fusion? Are these not good times when I can look to more than one suspension company for a 650b fork? I swear that I am not a weight freak (look at me, for heaven’s sake), but I was a bit conscious about keeping the pounds off of this thing. Important factors were 120mm of travel, a tapered steerer and no remote lockout. Many options were available, but the Darth Vader dark side SID was too much to resist.

Wheels I have: Stan’s Crest in a comp build. Tubeless. Nobby Nick in the front and Racing Ralph in the rear.

So: you put all this stuff in a bowl, stir it up, place in a preheated 350 degree oven and a few hours later: Voila! A new bike!

This is where we started. A little over 4 lbs. of Tennessee titanium.FrameWeight

 

 

Pretty welds.Welds Ugh. The stress of riding a bike made to go fast.Tennessee Nice dropouts, convertible from 10mm QR to thru-axle to single speed. And a fancy derailleur.RearDer Head tube, oversized to fit a tapered steerer.Headtube The fancy ring.Crank More beautiful welding and ISG tabs.BBShell Fork!SID And here’s the final number, with pedals. Pretty great.FinishedWeight

Done! Yes. I will trim the front brake line so it looks less like a lasso.final

 

Man oh Mann

Heard of this Melting Mann gravel road race happening on March 9th, 2014? We have. We signed up. We wondered what we’d gotten ourselves into. And so it was that Special Pedal Operational Recon Team (SPORT) found ourselves at Swiss Valley ski area in the middle of a rain squall on a sixty degree November Sunday.

We found mud. We found hills. We found a couple of nice looking swine farms. We found an incredibly strong headwind at times. We found a gang (or rafter) of turkeys. We had a really great time and somehow managed to do all of this within a brief period of unrain on this very damp day.

How does it compare to the mothership (Barry Roubaix)? Faster, would be my guess. The presumptive uphill finish looks like a crusher, but the course on the whole is a dandy — some big climbs typically followed by a bit of recovery. What kind of bike? We saw folks on mountain and fat bikes, but I’d say a cross bike would be the ticket for a fast ride.

In the event that you’re looking for something more… involved than sitting around in your underpants on March 9th, Melting Mann looks pretty darn good. Only 500 entries this first year, so don’t sit around thinking that you should maybe get to this maybe next month if not the month after. Who knows what the weather will bring, but course conditions are part of the fun.

intense

Trainer Movies

I confess: in this time-compressed world we inhabit, I’ve been forced onto the trainer before I would have liked. However, the combination of a fan, an Apple TV and a Netflix account have made the experience not as bad as it could be. A few of the movies I’ve recently viewed from the saddle include:

Haywire

I loved this. Fast-paced. Lots of action. Pretty good plot. If you were really picky maybe you could guess some things, but since you’re watching it on your trainer and you don’t have a ton of oxygen in your brain, you’ll be fine. Seriously: I liked this a lot.

The Boondock Saints

Netflix told me that I should watch this, and when a computer — especially a computer communicating with me via the TV — tells me to do something, I get with the program. I wasn’t sure how this one was going to go, but it was great. Sufficient action to make it trainer-worthy tied to a good, thought-provoking story. Added bonus: Willem Dafoe is terrific. This baby is rated R, and maybe the R should be in bold if only for the carpet f-bombing.

The Avengers

Perhaps you’ve heard of this art house flick. Enjoyed it in the theatre; enjoyed it on the trainer. Nothing new to add.

Stay tuned. I suspect trainer season is just beginning.