Why You Should Participate in the Ride 2 Recovery – OC Honor Ride

R E C O V E R I N G from Become Films on Vimeo.

There are many great walk, run and bicycle charity events that you can participate in these days.  All the causes are worthy but with so many events, people have to pick and choose what they do.  So in a way, each event is competing for ridership, but nobody wants to look at it that way.   ARB Cyclery is hosting the 4th Annual Ride 2 Recovery – OC Honor Ride on Saturday, October 29th.  We would never tell someone to participate in our event over some other worthwhile charity ride.  Again, all the causes are worthy, and event participants will make their own decisions on what charities to support.  But let me tell you why we chose to partner with Ride 2 Recovery and why we’d love to see you come out and support this cause on Saturday, October 29th.ride-2-recovery-logo

Despite the nuttiness of the current election year, I think I speak for the entire crew here at ARB Cyclery when I say we feel grateful to be living in the United States of America.  And to be clear, this is not any sort of political statement – just an acknowledgment that we have freedoms here that you don’t find anywhere else on earth and that we shouldn’t take them for granted.  Hopefully, we can all agree on this, no matter your political persuasion.  And we all know that freedom isn’t “free.”  Thousands of Americans have sacrificed their lives to help us remain a free people.  You may not have agreed with certain wars in our country’s past or agree with what we are doing now, and that doesn’t make you unpatriotic.  But there is no doubt we would not be a free nation today if it weren’t for the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform in the past, as well as today.

The people in our military freely volunteer to defend our country, and it doesn’t matter who is President or whether or not they agree or disagree with a particular mission.  They go voluntarily because that is the promise they made.  Some pay the ultimate sacrifice, and many come home severely injured -physically, mentally or both.  In many cases, their lives are altered forever, and they deserve the support of all Americans, regardless of political views.  So supporting Ride 2 Recovery is one small way ARB Cyclery can give back to the veterans who have given so much for our nation.

While every organization that helps our veterans is worthy of support, Ride 2 Recovery (R2R) does it in a special way.  It uses cycling as its primary form of rehabilitation and healing.  Wow…. when I heard about this, I knew immediately that ARB Cyclery had to get involved.  Everyone here at ARB Cyclery has a passion for cycling, or else they wouldn’t be here!  Most people who ride regularly want to share with others what cycling has done for them – hoping they also catch the “bug.”  The benefits are numerous – health & fitness, connection with the outdoors, time to unplug, environmental, social, challenging oneself, increased confidence, and much more.  If you feel cycling has positively benefitted your life, then who better to share that with than those who we owe such an enormous debt of gratitude and desperately need our help– a wounded veteran.

On Saturday, October 29th, let’s take a pause and forget about all of our differences this election year and support our fellow Americans by giving the healing power of cycling.  You will literally be helping to save lives.  Click here to register!

If you would like to see the entire documentary, Recovering, there will be a screening at the shop on Wednesday, October 26th at 7:30pm following our shop ride.   The documentary will also be shown two separate times following the Orange County Honor Ride on Saturday, October 29th.

Smart Cycling Helmets – Smart or Not?

bp4-handlebarsEach year I go to the bicycle industry’s annual US trade show in Las Vegas (known as Interbike), I’m always looking for the next technological innovation that will truly stick.  There are always many new products unveiled at the show but all too often they don’t become widely adopted.  Sometimes these new products try to solve a problem that doesn’t exist – at least in the minds of most consumers.  Take for example the BP4 handlebar design presented at the 2014 show.  Sure, there may be legitimate data supporting the design, but for some reason, I don’t see these becoming mainstream.  But hey, I could be wrong!

Other products are ahead of their time.  For instance, Mavic came out with the first electronic groupset known as Zap in the mid-nineties.  It took nearly two more decades before Shimano’s electronic Dura-Ace Di2 became commonplace in the market.  Last year SRAM took it up a notch by introducing their wireless electronic shifting groupset known as eTap.  Electronic shifting hasn’t supplanted mechanical, but it’s definitely here to stay.

For the longest time, electric bikes were hyped at Interbike, but I hardly saw any on the road.  After several years, they are finally starting to catch on – but still at only a fraction of the entire US bicycle market.  In the road market, it seems like even proven technology takes a while to be accepted.   After years of being fully embraced in mountain biking, the benefits of tubeless tire technology and disk brakes now appear to be gaining some real momentum in road cycling.  Will there come a day when most road bikes come spec’d with tubeless tires and disk brakes, like carbon frames and integrated brake & shift levers?  Time will tell.

One technology that I found intriguing at Interbike this year was something called the smart helmet.  It seems like everything is becoming “smart” these days with our rapidly evolving wireless computing technology.  The ubiquitous smartphone has allowed us to connect to almost anything–wirelessly!  In cycling, think heart rate monitors, power meters, cadence sensors, not to mention our location on the globe.  Well, why not the helmet?   It makes sense.  Obviously, the primary function of a helmet is safety.   These new smart helmets feature technology that can sense a major impact.  If this happens, the associated app automatically sends a message to your designated emergency contact.  That’s pretty nifty technology.

earbudsBut here’s where it gets a bit more controversial.  How about built in speakers and mics for listening to music without earbuds or talking on your cell phone?   Let’s take cell phone communication first.  One of the reasons I ride is to disconnect from the electronic world!  Of course, I keep a phone in my jersey pocket in case of emergency, but I don’t take calls while on a ride.  So now I have a smart helmet and all I have to do is push a button on my handlebar to take an incoming call – is this a good thing?   We’ve all heard of distracted driving.  What about distracted cycling?  My guess is that talking on the cell phone while cycling will not become a trend, even as this technology evolves.  However, I suppose it is nice to have the option.  And a “walkie-talkie” function, another feature of these helmets, could really come in handy on group rides. livall

I think the most fascinating feature of these smart helmets is the ability to listen to music without earbuds.  Many states, including California, have laws against cyclists wearing two earbuds – one is okay.  But I know there are many who would argue that from a safety standpoint, no music is best.  The chief selling point of the helmet makers is that you get the best of both worlds – music to BOTH ears while still being able to hear the ambient traffic noise around you.   I do like listening to music while working out but I rarely do it while cycling.  Music coming through one earbud just isn’t that good, and I’ve always had trouble with keeping earbuds in place!  So I was eager to try one of these new smart helmets.

I came home from corosInterbike with one of the new Livall BH-60 road helmet models.  It was pretty easy to sync up to my iPhone, and before I knew it, I was listening to my playlist while riding with no earbuds!  I have to say, it was pretty cool and put a little pep in my ride.  The audio quality was solid, and I could still hear the ambient traffic noise around me – but no doubt that was compromised somewhat.  So I kept thinking that despite enjoying the music, wearing this helmet wasn’t the “smart” thing to do.  Then there is the fact that I have to charge not only my cycle computer and lights but now my helmet!  And there is always the occasional glitch like the playlist repeating the same song over and over again in the middle of a ride!  Do I really want to stop and have to fiddle with my iPhone to fix those things?   And finally, there is the aesthetic factor.  Let’s face it, who wants to wear an ugly bulbous helmet, especially us roadies?   The Livall helmet isn’t exactly sleek, but it could be a lot worse.  And surprisingly, with the built-in technology including a rear light, it’s not that heavy at only 280 grams.  Another helmet coming to market soon by Coros looks a bit more aero (similar to the shape of the Specialized Evade), and I look forward to trying that one out in a month or two.

I’d like to hear your opinion.  What is your take on these smart helmets?  In 5-10 years will everyone be wearing some sort of smart cycling helmet?   Would you like to see these helmets at the shop?

BMC Roadmachine 02 Review


I have been thoroughly enjoying my titanium Foundry for the last six months. (If you missed out on the original post about titanium bikes, you can read about that right here).
Not too many things have changed since I first got the bike. The external cable routing has kept my shifting and braking smooth and reliable, and my bike has not given me a single issue yet. I did end up swapping out my Mavic aluminum wheels. I opted to go for a set of Enve SES 3.4 clinchers with Enve’s brand new carbon hubs which only further improved my ride quality. Crazy, I know. If you told me when I first got the bike that it would be possible to make my bike ride even better, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Needless to say, when BMC dropped off the new 2017 BMC Roadmachine at our shop, I knew I had to try it. I came off of a carbon bike onto my titanium bike, and I wanted to hop back on a carbon frame to compare the differences after riding titanium for so long. This would also be my first time riding disc brakes, so I was curious as to how they performed in comparison to rim brakes on carbon wheels. With all of the hype surrounding disc brake road bikes, I wanted some first-hand experience on them so I could come to my own conclusions about them.

The Roadmachine is touted to be a one-bike-does-all kind of bike. I like to think that my Foundry can accomplish the same thing, but the Roadmachine actually does much more. It does so by drawing technology off the BMC TeaIMG_3311mmachine, Timemachine, and Granfondo. “On paper, the Roadmachine is a disc brake road bike with good tire clearance, officially up to 30 or 32mm tires depending on the model; an adaptable head tube designed to accommodate wide range of handlebar heights; geometry that combines short chainstays (410mm) and a high-ish bottom bracket (71mm drop), with relaxed front-end geometry (head angle varies with size, but fork offset is adjusted to maintain a long-ish 63mm trail dimension across all sizes).”

I was excited to take the Roadmachine out on this week’s Wednesday Worlds ride. This was the ideal ride to test the Roadmachine out because I have lots of Strava data from previous rides that I could use for comparison. First things first, I swapped my pedals, lights, and saddle back over to the Roadmachine which was followed up with making the necessary saddle adjustments. Once that was done, I was ready to roll. I weighed my Foundry without all the gear and pedals, and IMG_3316it came in at 15 lbs and 13 oz. Not too shabby considering I didn’t even build the bike out to be super light weight. However, I wanted to take the Roadmachine out for its ride first before weighing it; I didn’t want to be biased on the ride thinking about the weight difference. My initial impression rolling out on the bike was that I expected it to be a lot harsher. Instead, it seemed pretty close to the comfort that my Foundry provided, but I wanted to wait until the end of the ride before drawing any final conclusions. The post-ride soreness, or lack thereof, would dictate whether or not the bike was truly comfortable.

Once the ride really started picking up, I began to realize just how smoothly the bike rode. It was incredibly stable at speed, and handled super well. It wasn’t twitchy, and even when the bike rolled over larger cracks and bumps in the road, I didn’t feel like the bike wanted to jerk around or throw me off. Granted, I did notice that the bike was slower to get up to speed than my bike, but I also had to keep in mind that this particular build was still running aluminum wheels, and a disc brake setup in inevitably going to be heavier than its caliper brake counterpart. Funnily enough, my ride with the Roadmachine ended up being my fastest Wednesday Worlds ride. While that may or may not have to do with stopping due to someone’s flat and then furiously playing catch-up for the remainder of the ride, it shows that this bike really doesn’t hold you back in any way. As for stopping power, the brakes were great. There was plenty of brake power and modulation, and while we didn’t have any descents on the Wednesday route, I feel that they would inspire confidence. Although for someone that weighs as little as I do and doesn’t ride in super mountainous areas, traditional caliper brakes are honestly more than enough for me.

I finished the ride with no soreness in my shoulders (which is the first place I would usually start to feel uncomfortable), and I felt pretty great on it. After moving the pedals and the rest of the accessories off the bike, the Road Machine weighed in at 19 lbs and 7 oz. It made sense that it was a little slower to accelerate in, but a decent carbon wheelset could probably come close to bridging the gap. I can truly see the Roadmachine being the one bike that you could have, especially if you consider a Roadmachine 01 (which is closer in specs to my Foundry). And while I think I would still prefer the quick snappy feel of my Foundry and the classic look of titanium, the Roadmachine makes a great option.

If you happen to fit a 54cm BMC, be sure to stop by the shop and arrange a demo ride!

Back in the Saddle Again – Looking Under the Hood


Well, it’s now been a few weeks since I’ve been riding consistently again and I definitely notice & feel the difference.  My bike fit adjustment, although small, has helped quite a bit.  My lower back appreciates it!  But I know it’s important to incorporate more stretching and massage into my weekly routine.

IMG_3252I meant to get a VO2 test shortly after getting back on the bike, but you know how scheduling goes when your juggling work and family!  This would have given me a snapshot of my baseline fitness in what I considered to be my “out of shape” state.  By the time I got to my test today, my fitness was certainly much improved from that first ride back in June.  I shouldn’t have waited so long but at least I know where I stand today.  I’ve heard a lot of our customers say, “I’ve got to get in better shape before I get that VO2 test.”  For some reason that is the way many people view a VO2 test, but it really is the complete opposite.  The goal of the test is to see where your fitness stands right now.  Then, you can utilize the numbers to guide your training starting the very next day!  Unfortunately, I don’t think the term “VO2 test” is very good.  Actually, it’s usually called a VO2 Max test.  It sounds too scientific and does not convey why it’s beneficial.  Some people use terminology such as “metabolic testing” or “physiological testing” but I don’t think they are much better.  I use the term “fitness test” but that tends to get people nervous – who wants to test their fitness?  What if I don’t measure up?  What if I’m not in as good a shape as I thought? (probably the reason people think they need to “get in shape” before the test).   First of all, that’s not the point!  And second of all, I would say who cares?  It’s not like anyone is going to post your results to Facebook!!  The purpose of the test is not to see how your fitness stacks up against others – it’s to help YOU get better, no matter where you are in your fitness journey.

Whatever you call the test, I like the analogy of a car engine.  Your body is the engine that powers the bike so you are essentially “looking under the hood” to get an engine diagnostic check.  I think of the heart rate as the tachometer.  You can only rev the engine into the red zone for so long before something bad happens.  Our red zone is when our heart rate goes above our Anaerobic Threshold.  We can handle this red zone for only so long before our body just gives out.  The key to becoming a better cyclist or any sort of endurance athlete is to raise the threshold before you hit your red zone.  This can be measured in terms of heart rate and power output (wattage).IMG_3254

Most people think of a VO2 Max test as someone running or cycling to complete and utter exhaustion while wearing a funny looking mask.  It looks worse than it really is.  The test starts out with an easy warm-up and you get used to the mask fairly quickly.  Every couple of minutes, the power is ramped up 20-25 watts until you hit your Anaerobic Threshold and go a little beyond.  And here is something you should know:  you do not need to go to complete exhaustion!  This is also known as a VO2 Submax test.  The most important data is gained BEFORE hitting your maximum effort – that being your Anaerobic Threshold and training zones leading up to it.  For most of us, those are the key metrics to help us train smarter.  Some additional data IS gained if you do go to complete exhaustion, but it’s not required.  For today’s test, I went above my Anaerobic Threshold but opted not to completely max out.  The test itself only lasts 15 – 20 minutes but the process takes about an hour including a pre-test Q&A with the Exercise Physiologist as well as body fat and resting heart rate measurements.

Hopefully I’ve conveyed here that first, the purpose of the VO2 or “fitness” test is not to see how fit you are compared to others.  It’s to see what YOUR engine looks like TODAY, so you can train better TOMORROW.  And second, the test itself is fairly quick and not as tough as it might seem, especially since hitting your maximum heart rate is not required.  If you want to, go for it, but it’s not necessary for the vast majority of us.

In my next “Back in the Saddle” series blog post, I will talk about the test results and most importantly, how to USE THE TEST RESULTS.  Those who can benefit the most are actually the recreational to enthusiast cyclist and those just starting an exercise program – think recent couch potato!







Back in the Saddle Again – Bike Fit Revisit

IMG_3176Well, it’s been about 3 weeks of consistent riding since I jumped back in the saddle again after a long layoff.  Actually, in one of those “life gets in the way” moments, I was trying to figure out how I was going to maintain my consistency when I had a vacation week:  which included dropping my daughter off at summer camp in the San Jacinto Mountains plus attend a remote cub scout camp with my son in East San Diego County.  Although I do mostly ride road, the only way I was going to get some miles in was to bring a knobby tire bike!  So I brought along the BMC CX01 demo cyclocross bike that you may have seen at the shop.  A ‘cross bike is a popular choice for those who have done our “Strade Marroni” shop rides which includes a mix of pavement and dirt.  It was a nice change of pace to ride off-road.   Although I was only able to get in about 37 miles, there was hardly anything flat and it was mostly dirt, which means expending more energy controlling your bike on the rutted and oftentimes sandy trails.  So all in all, I was satisfied with my accomplishment for the week!

Once I got back home, I knew it was time to revisit my bike fit.  It’s been a couple years since Barrett Brauer, ARB’s fit specialist in our SoCal Endurance Lab gave me a Retul fit.  I have mostly been riding the same model bike, Pinarello’s Dogma, during that time so I’ve kept the same setup since then.  However, after the long layoff, my body was giving me signals that I was perhaps in too aggressive a position.  Also, as my bike gets rented out from time to time, the saddle height gets adjusted and when I put it back, I had experimented going up a little because I thought I needed a little more knee extension.  My body type is such that I’m more leggy – in other words, I have a slightly shorter torso compared to longer legs.  Going up on my saddle was giving me even more of a drop from saddle to handlebar, and this wasn’t good for my finicky lower back.

A new bike fit was also a good opportunity for me to get into a new pair of shoes since I had worn out my previous pair.  It was time for me to try the new Shimano R321.  What I really like about these (as well as the Shimano RP9 – one model below) is that they are meant to be custom-molded to your own foot.  The shoes are heated in the Shimano oven for a couple minutes and then placed on your feet.  With shoes on, you place your feet in a plastic covering and a pump essentially “vacuum-wraps” your shoes so the upper conforms to your foot.  Once this is complete, the shoes cool and you can actually see how the shoe is now patterned after your own foot!  Barrett then took the time to accurately place the cleats on the shoe based on the location of my metatarsal bones.

Now it was time to see if I should make some changes since my last bike fit.  Even though I plan to stay on my Pinarello Dogma F8, we opted to go with what we call our “Bike Finder Fit.”  This means that instead of doing the fit process on my own Pinarello bike, I was put on our recently upgraded automated size cycle by Purely Custom (formerly Guru DFU).  This is kind of like starting with a blank slate.  If you are in the market for a new bike, once the fit is completed, we’ll find the 3 to 5 bike brand/model/sizes that fit you best.  For example, one manufacturer’s size 56 in a given model may be an ideal fit for you.  But another manufacturer’s size 54 in a certain model may also fit you really well.  That’s why you can never just say, “I ride a size 56.”  It really depends on each manufacturer’s bike geometry.  Once we find the 3 to 5 bikes that are a really good match for you in terms of fit, then it comes down to what you like in terms of the bike’s riding characteristics.  Are you looking for something stiff and fast or maybe something a little more forgiving and compliant?

IMG_3190Before jumping on the size cycle, Barrett conducted a body analysis to test my flexibility as well as look for any imbalances and rotational/alignment issues.  This gives him an idea of what type of position will best suit you on the bike.  Barrett utilized the Retul 3D motion capture tool to measure the angles of my body as I was pedaling the size cycle.  This is what we call a dynamic fit, as opposed to a static fit.  In a static or “basic” fit, you are not actually pedaling your bike while being measured.  And the measurement tools are not as precise in a static fit.  An impressive amount of body angle data is generated after a few short pedaling sessions.  And the platform was rotated so that angles on both sides of my body were measured.  As Barrett looked at the numbers, he wanted to see if anything in particular jumped outside the typical normative ranges.  However, even if you are outside a normative range, it does not automatically mean an adjustment is warranted.  This is where Barrett works with each person as an individual, taking into account their unique body type, previous injuries or problem areas, and riding goals.  The main problem area for me is lower back discomfort.  Part of this stems from a fractured vertebra I sustained about 12 years ago.  The other part is that I am just getting older and stiffer and need to improve my flexibility!  This is where an off-the-bike core conditioning and flexibility routine could really help – a topic for another blog post!

Barrett started my fit position to match exactly how I was currently riding my Pinarello Dogma F8.  Right away, he could see that I was on the very edge of the normative range for knee extension. IMG_3201  This as a result of me increasing the saddle height ever so slightly.  So, as I was pedaling the size cycle, he lowered the saddle.  I noticed the difference immediately.  This brought me back within normative ranges AND felt great.  Noticing that I still had a significant amount of saddle to handlebar drop and that I was putting a bit too much weight on my hands, Barrett raised the handlebars slightly.  This also made a positive difference.  Fortunately, I have a little room left on my bike’s steerer tube to raise my bar slightly and this will no doubt help my lower back on those longer rides.  My saddle fore-aft position was already solid and in the end I only needed a few small adjustments but they made a noticeable difference.  Some fit sessions will require more back & forth than others.    Barrett will take his time and make sure that each adjustment made works for that particular client.  There is never one prescribed fit, take it or leave it.  It’s always a collaboration.

I am really looking forward to taking my new fit out onto the road.  After all, that will be the ultimate test.  And if for some reason something doesn’t feel right, Barrett always offers a complimentary follow up fit session to make any necessary tweaks.  As I ride more and improve my flexibility, then at some point I could likely get into a more aggressive race-oriented position.  This would make me more aerodynamic and faster.  Something to visit down the road.  But next up for me is to evaluate my current fitness level and this means a visit to Saul Blau, our SoCal Endurance Lab’s Exercise Physiologist.  Stay tuned!


Back in the Saddle Again – First Ride

Cycling became my adult athletic pursuit once my childhood days of team sports such as baseball, basketball and soccer were long gone.  It pretty much has been since I graduated college back in the early ’90s.  I’m what you call an enthusiast, or nowadays can be termed the “Gran Fondo” rider.  I’m not into racing simply because I don’t want to go down like a domino and break my collarbone in a criterium – I’ve got a wife, three kids and a business to run!  But I admire those who train to compete in amateur bike racing, especially those Masters guys who also have families and a career.  Probably like the majority of cyclists out there, I enjoy both the group ride and solo rides.  The midweek or weekend group ride is more social and forces you to step up your game, lest you get dropped.  Fear is a powerful motivator!  The solo training ride helps clear your head from stressful days.  Over the years, my riding consistency has waxed and waned depending on what was going on in my life.  Invariably something would come up, like the birth of a child, a move, a new job, etc. that took me away from my weekly riding routine.  Soon a few weeks would go by and I could feel all that hard-earned fitness slipping away.  And then weeks might turn into a few months.  Since my non-cycling spouse liked that fact I was around more to help around the house, I figured it was good that I took some time off.  But I would get restless, missing my fitness and time outside.  All the time, I knew that getting back on the bike and into a new routine was GOING TO HURT.

IMG_3003So it was that one of those life interrupters came along at the end of 2015 – this time a local move.  But add to that my volunteering as an assistant baseball coach for my son’s Little League team and my riding time went to nil.  Before I knew it, it was nearly halfway through the year and I had hardly ridden my bike.  Fast forward to mid-June and the baseball season was now over (Little League must be the longest and most time intensive of youth sports!) and we were for the most part in our new house.  So on June 21st, the second day of summer, I decided to get back in the saddle again.  Can’t you hear those Gene Autry song lyrics?  Or Aerosmith?  At lunch time, I hopped onto the shop’s demo Pinarello Dogma F8 – which just so happens to fit me 🙂 – and decided to dip my toe back in the water.  One of my favorite short rides from the shop is the Newport Back Bay Loop.  It’s scenic and fortunately, pretty flat.  No serious climbing for me as I ease my way back!  The first couple of miles and I’m thinking, “this feels pretty good.”  But as I jumped on the bike trail and headed towards the coast, a nice 10 mph headwind smacks me in the face and suddenly I see my average speed start to drop.  And now it was starting to hurt.  I tell myself not to get hung up on what the Garmin says and just go at a comfortable pace.  I’m not going to get back to my previous fitness overnight, it’s going to take some time and consistent riding.

I finished that ride feeling more tired than I wanted to admit but happy to have completed that first ride back – it’s more of a psychological barrier than anything.  It was much easier to go on my second and third ride that week having completed the first one.  Clearly my bike fitness has a ways to go, but it was nice to get the sensations of getting outside and spinning those legs again.   Going through this process is giving me the chance to utilize some of the services we promote regularly at ARB Cyclery – in other words, to become a customer of my own shop!  Having been off the bike for awhile, it’s definitely time for my bike fit to be re-evaluated.  Some changes could be made to help me ride a little more comfortably until I can improve on my fitness, strength and flexibility.  The subject of my next blog post in this series will be my visit to the SoCal Endurance Lab’s Senior Fit Specialist, Barrett Brauer.  After that, I’ll pay a visit to the SoCal EL’s Exercise Physiologist to find my current level of baseline fitness.  Stay tuned!


Saddle Demo at ARB Cyclery

You are probably excited when getting a new carbon bar, or even a new carbon stem. But there doesn’t seem to much love for our old friend the saddle. For many people, bicycle saddles are just ‘there’. They exist for you to sit on so you can ride your bike. Even with the new carbon shelled and railed saddles, they just don’t seem to generate the same level of excitement as other components. More often than not, people use whatever saddle comes with the bike they purchase. If it’s initially a bit uncomfortable, they attribute it to a “break-in period”. This is true in some cases, but that doesn’t change the shape or the cutouts of the saddle which are areas that often play a more important role in saddle comfort than padding density. It’s like your desk chair. It usually isn’t the most comfortable thing to sit on, but you just deal with it. When you start thinking about it, why should you just “deal with it”? You spend so much time in it, it would be a worthy investment to make sure you aren’t hurting yourself.

ARB Cyclery Saddle Demo
ARB Cyclery Saddle Demo

Other times, it seems like I overhear people saying that they chose their saddle because they liked the way it looked or the color matched their bike better than other saddle options. OK, that might just be me. But the more I find myself riding, the more importance I place on my comfort instead of aesthetics. It is common to fall into the trap of getting a saddle for a great price without taking comfort into consideration. The mentality is, “if I can save some money on that saddle, surely I can deal with any discomfort it will bring”.

It’s understandable. Saddles aren’t cheap, and you might just have to deal with the saddle you buy if you’ve spent a good amount on it. Similar to shoes, you don’t really know how it will work out for you until you actually use it. So when you think about it, is that deal actually worth it in the long run? Fortunately, we have a saddle demo program right here at ARB Cyclery! As mentioned in a previous blog, I came from riding a full carbon saddle with no padding. It looked really slick and catered to my desire for weight reduction. It was quite literally a pain in my ass. I knew I had to switch to something else after going on rides with the other guys from the shop, but I had no idea where to start. Being on the small side, the only thing I was sure of was the need for a narrow saddle. But in today’s saddle market with hundreds, if not thousands, of options, picking a new saddle is quite a daunting task. I don’t like committing to a purchase of an item I don’t know much about, and reading the hundreds of subjective reviews online were doing nothing for me. It just made things even more confusing.

Utilizing the saddle demo program allowed me to test multiple saddles. I figured out that I was more comfortable on a saddle with a channel. I figured out I needed a medium amount of padding. I figured out how much flex I preferred in the saddle shell. Prior to testing out the actual saddles, I had my eye on the Selle Italia SLR saddle simply because of the look. Then I actually tried it out, and decided there were better options for me. I finally ended up choosing the Fizik Antares VS, and it is by far the best fit for me. I’ve done a metric century on this saddle and my rear end was thankful. And as a bonus, even though I put aesthetics behind comfort this time around, it looks damn fine. I was also pretty close to going with the new Brooks C15 saddle, which looked and felt great. It’s styling is certainly a very attractive feature, and it felt more comfortable than it looked. The rivets add a level of class to it that would have matched my titanium frame quite well, but the feel of the Antares came out on top.

My Fizik Antares VS with carbon rails
My Fizik Antares VS with carbon rails

Everyone is going to be different when it comes to saddle. There is only so much advice that we can give you, and a recommendation from me may not do it for you. The best thing you can do is to come in yourself and demo new saddles! If you mention this blog post when you come in for a saddle demo, you will also receive a Zjay’s Saddle Sore Soother (while supplies last)! We want to make sure you have a comfortable experience. Your butt will thank you for it.


Why Enve?

Bicycle components are a very personal thing. Everyone develops their own taste and preferences. Some value form over function. Others don’t mind having mismatched parts as long as they are comfortable. I used to focus heavily on weight, and others are die-hard fans of a certain company.  I could never be satisfied in purchasing a stock bike. I needed to have a say in what components were going on my bike. Every bike I’ve owned after my first road bike has been custom built with carefully selected parts to match my aesthetic and functional preferences.

Many of us here at the shop have our bikes built up with Enve parts and wheels. If you take a look at our shop manager’s new custom Mosaic, you’ll see that it has been fully equipped with every part that Enve has to offer.

IMG_3090 Final Resized

There is a lot of name recognition around the brand. Their products are recognizable even with their new stealth logos (which I think are badass), but you may be asking us why we all choose Enve. It certainly looks clean and aggressive on a bike, but there are many more reasons beyond that that make Enve a top choice for many bike builds.

First of all, Enve wheels are designed and built right here in the USA. What that means to you as a consumer, is better quality control. Out of all the years our store manager has worked here, he never received a warranty issue regarding the brake track with Enve wheels. For a carbon wheel, that’s quite the accomplishment. And when the odd issue does pop up, Enve’s warranty department is pain-free to work with.

Enve is also constantly improving their product designs and coming up with innovative ideas. Take for example, one of my personal favorites, Enve’s built-in bar end plugs. They work seamlessly, and provide a clean finish to the ends of your bars. enve bar end plugIts little details like this, combined with a super comfortable bar shape that really pushes the product above other options. When you look at Enve’s wheels, they are undergoing constant revisions and improvements. The new brake tracks for one offer better braking than previous iterations and is something we except to see constant revision generation after generation. Enve’s new front and rear rims differ in depth and shape as well which was proved to improve handling and drag. Instead of drilling spoke holes in the rim, Enve molds those in to provide extra strength and durability. Not only that, but you can choose which hubs you want your wheels to be built with. DT Swiss? No problem. You want to match your hubs to your Chris King headset and bottom bracket? They can do that. Enve’s dedication to aesthetics also resulted in their own specific Garmin stem mount which looks super clean as it attaches directly to the stem face plate.

However, you won’t really be able to understand how great the wheels are unless you actually ride them. Luckily for you, we have Enve 3.4s in stock for you to demo! This way, you have the opportunity to experience and enjoy the wheels before you decide to commit. Personally, the next upgrade for my titanium ride will be upgrading my aluminum wheels to carbon ones, and I don’t have to look any further than these Enves. If you’ve seen the new carbon Enve hubs, you know how excited I am.

How does that saying go? “Once you go Enve you don’t go back”?
That sounds about right.