Support Your LBS (Local Bike Shop) This Holiday Season

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The LBS never goes out of style!

Times, they are a changin’!  Over the past several “Black Fridays,” headlines indicate the rapid growth of online sales over the flat or declining sales at brick and mortar stores.  It looks like the traditional rush to the mall for holiday shopping is gradually fading away in favor of shopping in your PJs.  And certainly, there are many advantages to that!  While the nature of shopping habits are changing, we’d like to put in a plug for the good ‘ole LBS.

Shop from your PJs on your LBS’ website

If you are shopping for a cyclist on your list, strongly consider buying from your local store, either in-person or on their website.  Yes, most local bike shops do have an extensive selection online, offering you the convenience of shopping in those PJs while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate.  You can always choose in-store pick-up to save on shipping.  Besides the convenience factor, probably the number one reason to shop online is price.  While your LBS may not have the lowest prices around compared to some websites, there is a reason for that.  Part of what you are paying for when purchasing at your LBS is the personal, one-on-one service you are getting from knowledgeable sales associates who are passionate cyclists in your local community.  Now, if you don’t think that service is very good, for whatever reason, then by all means shop elsewhere.  A store has to earn their stripes.

When I say “Service,” what do I mean?  A lot!  If a shop is doing it right, that means you having the ability to walk into a store and ask questions about bikes and accessories from a real live person who is knowledgeable and friendly.  Their years of experience can help you avoid potential buying mistakes.  They live and ride in your local community as opposed to somewhere else in the country or even overseas.  Even if you call or email the store, that sales associate knows you can come by the shop for a personal one-on-one visit anytime, and they hope you do!  If someone is hundreds of miles away, they know that’s not happening.

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Nothing replaces one-on one human interaction

One of the complaints I hear from time to time is that the local bike shop just doesn’t have the product selection.   And it is true that the in-store selection is not going to compare to a web store.  However, that local store’s website most likely does have that “endless aisle” selection you may be looking for.  Because a local bike shop cannot realistically carry so much inventory, one of the services they do provide is a curated product selection.  Let’s face it, one of the problems consumers face today is TOO MANY choices.  The LBS is spending the time to bring in what they think are the best options for its local customers among the seemingly limitless number of options available.  This is usually based on personal experience using the products themselves!  So a good LBS has curated a selection they believe to be the best products out there, saving the consumer time and money!

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A curated selection

If you decide to make a purchase at the LBS instead of an out-of-state or out-of-country online seller, or an auction site, some additional service you get from the price you paid includes the following:  First, it means knowing you bought from an authorized dealer.  This means the store and the manufacturer will stand behind the product according to the warranty.  Should there be any issues, you just come back to the store and talk with a sales associate in person to handle the issue.  No endless phone tag with a remote company, who may not even be authorized dealers of the product.  If they’re not, you are out of luck.  There are a lot of websites out there participating in the “gray market” who are not authorized to sell a brand’s products or may even be selling knock-offs, so buyer beware.

The price you pay at an LBS also includes the showroom experience.  In addition to your interaction with a real live human being, you get to touch and feel the product in a pretty cool environment.  Many shops have a place for you to hang out, read the latest magazines, watch some races or videos, and enjoy a coffee or espresso.  When it comes to bikes, there is nothing like the test ride and a proper bike fit.  You are taking a real risk on your purchase if you skip those two services.

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A good bike fit is essential to cycling enjoyment

If you do purchase a bike at the LBS, the price you pay typically includes some nice perks worth real money – such as a free tune-up, free bike fit, complimentary adjustments for the life of the bike and sometimes a nice discount on all future tune-ups.  Every bike shop is a little different in this respect so see what they offer.  Also, be aware of the difference between cost and price.  If you add it all up, you may be surprised to realize that the overall cost from purchasing at the LBS is actually lower than that great deal you got for a bike online.

Another service included in the price of a bike at the LBS is the bike build.  While not all LBS mechanics are the same, in general, you will find a much higher quality bike build from your LBS than the online retailer or certainly big box store.  You will usually have to complete a portion of the bike build yourself on shipped bikes (or bring it to the LBS who will charge a build fee).

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Have your bike built and cared for by a professional

Contribution to the local community is also a service which is part of the price charged by the LBS.  Is that worth something to you?   While this may seem more nebulous, it’s real.  Amazon and other remote online sellers contribute nothing to your local cycling community.   First and foremost, your LBS employs people in your community.  And therefore when you spend dollars locally, more of those dollars stay in your local economy, compared to spending them with an out-of-state or out-of-country remote seller.  But beyond that, most local bike shops organize regular shop rides, support organized charity rides and put time and dollars towards improving cycling infrastructure in your community.  Often they work with schools to get more kids riding bikes (safely) and contribute their time to get people in lower income areas on bikes.   The list could go on and on as each bike shop is a little different.

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The LBS advocates for bicycling infrastructure in your community

One of the initial appeals of buying online was the sales tax savings.  This has dwindled in recent years as many of the larger online internet retailers also have some sort of “physical” presence in multiple states, such as a warehouse.  In addition, more and more states are compelling online sellers to charge sales tax even without a so-called physical presence.  As these cases continue to go through the courts, it is more likely Congress will pass a federal internet sales tax law (different bills are pending) that will eliminate the sales tax advantage currently enjoyed by many online sellers.   No matter your view on taxes, the sales tax theoretically supports the people of the state you live in.  And even factoring in the sales tax, the overall value proposition you get at the LBS when you consider all the SERVICE (as outlined in this blog) built into the price you pay, is usually better at the LBS!

Hopefully, I’ve made a compelling case for shopping at your LBS for all the cyclists on your list this holiday season.   Sometimes, when comparing only price tags, consumers don’t take into account the overall value they are getting for that price.  It is not an apples to apples comparison.  The benefits I’ve described for shopping at your LBS are not spelled out on a price tag.  In the end, the LBS must earn your business.  If the bicycling consumer does not see the value of the LBS that I’ve outlined above, then ultimately some will go away.  Consumers vote with their dollars.  There is no doubt that “Cyber Monday” will continue to grow and at some point, we will reach some equilibrium between online sales and bricks & mortar sales.   This means the LBS has to adapt and continue to find ways to enhance their value proposition.

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!

 

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Redeeming Myself with a VO2 Max Test

I was always very opinionated growing up. I spent more of my time trying to explain my views to others rather than taking the time and absorbing other people’s ideas and thoughts. This attitude was amplified when my parents tried to bestow any sort of wisdom upon me. They were always talking about how eating unhealthy things will be bad for me, and how I can hurt myself if I’m not careful enough. I could not help it though. As a child, I assumed I was invincible. Needless to say, my belief that I had Wolverine’s healing powers resulted in bad habits, and overly risky activities. For example, I had the bright idea of participating in a race down the six thousand some steps of a mountain we climbed in high school. Mistakes were made that day. For years after that I had knee pain. To this day, my knees still make a popping noise if I squat down. As I grew older, I also started noticing that even the smallest of scrapes seemed to take longer to heal, and when they did, it never seemed to disappear as quickly as before. 

I have been increasingly more aware of the truth in much of the advice that I hear. For one thing, I used to be obsessed with being a weight weenie. As someone who never seems to be able to gain weight no matter how much I’m eating, it made sense to me to try and reduce as much weight off my bike as a could. While I am still partial to light components, I made the poor decision to sacrifice anything to achieve a stupidly light bike (I hit a sub-12 lb bike at one point). I never did much serious cycling at the time, so I would like to believe that my sacrifice of comfort was somewhat more justifiable than if I had put that saddle on a daily bike.

So there I am, at the rest stop on ARB’s remote ride to Temecula, which was the longest ride I’ve done on my weight weenie bike. I look down at my full carbon saddle, which saved me a glorious 179 grams, and had only one thought in my head. “Mistakes were made”. Sure, I read plenty of comments on how uncomfortable and ridiculous a saddle like that would be, but I chose to believe I knew what I was doing. While I am undoubtedly changing saddles now, a teenage me would have happily sucked up the pain and ridden the damn thing until some serious damage was done, and that area is something you really don’t want to mess with.

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Don’t do it. It really is that bad.
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Follow us on Instagram @arbcyclery for more awesome photos!

So suffice to say, when I was told it was a good idea to take a VO2 Max Test, I decided to take the advice. Even though I was a casual cyclist looking to start riding more regularly and seriously, my initial instinct was that a VO2 Max Test would be overkill. I was previously unfamiliar with this test as I never trained as an athlete before and I went into the test without a complete understanding of what a VO2 Max Test can do for me.

There is extensive information already out there that explains it much more scientifically than I ever could. You can even read about it on our website. But for me, the most beneficial aspect of this test is the fact that I now know how hard I need to ride to see the most gains. I never knew if I was putting too little or too much effort into my rides. Sure, it felt like I was riding really hard, but I was horrifically unfit as well. Equipped with all the data
I now have, my effort levels will not merely be a subjective guess.

By pushing you to your absolute max, the test can establish 7 different zones for you. All I really need to focus on are zones 2 and 3. It shows my power and heart rates for each of the 7 zones so that when I am riding, I can match my effort to the zone and figure out if I need to work harder. I would really only need a heart rate monitor to know my effort level. The complete test comes with much more information as well as coaching advice and data interpretation. While the test does require you to give your 100%, the information that you get out of it is so valuable. Don’t worry though, if you aren’t feeling that ambitious, you can always opt for a sub max test! While this lets you ease up a bit earlier, it still shows you your Anaerobic Threshold, and extrapolates the rest of the data.

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Pro Cyclists Comparison

As an added bonus, you can click on this chart on the left over here to see how you would stack up against the pros! Even though I technically should be an untrained cyclist, my data shows that I would stack up against the lower end of the Cat 5 racers. There is still hope yet for me!  And if there is hope for me, there is hope for you, but be sure to commit and book your test today!

 

 

 

European Cycling Classics > L’Eroica > ARB Strade Marroni

16485611883_6bd47f0d67On April 12, the same day John Degenkolb was sweeping to victory on the Paris-Roubaix cobbles, in the spirit of the European Classics, we were participating in the inaugural Eroica – California in Paso Robles, CA.  This event is the latest iteration of the original L’Eroica which has taken place every year since 1997 on the “Strade Bianche”  (white gravel roads) of Tuscany, Italy.  The Italian event annually attracts more than 5,000 riders from all over the world.   Although L’Eroica is intended to be in the spirit of cycling’s European classics early days and is restricted to road racing bikes of 1983 or earlier, its founder, Giancarlo Bracci, has stated; “Eroica, to me, is not a ride steeped in the past.  It is about finding meaning in the present”.

Bruce at L'Eroica

The geography of the Paso Robles venue provided a perfect backdrop for this near clone of the original Gaiole, Italy event.  Gaiole and Paso Robles are, in fact, now sister cities. With distances of 40, 65 and 125 miles which were about 40% off road, Eroica – California provided everyone with a challenge, especially with a vintage 5-speed freewheel. L’Eroica translates to “The Heroic” and at the end of our ride, we all got off the bike feeling more than a little “heroic.”

On an even more “heroic” vein, ARB’s own Barrett Brauer, recently participated in the Belgian Waffle Ride, a 140 mile “Hell of the North County” race with extensive off-road dirt & gravel sections.  Barrett was a 9th place finisher in CAT 4 on his trusty titanium Guru. Bigger events have bigger rewards!

Read more…

The Ultimate Off-Road Bike Ride

Danny Macaskill is a Scottish trials cyclist with great off-road skills and a serious flair for extreme mountain biking. “The Ridge,” by Macaskill’s Cut Media, is a brand new film featuring this Scottish daredevil as he hops on his mountain bike and returns to the Isle of Skye, Scotland – his native home.

Watch as he takes on the death-defying Cuillin Ridgeline. This rider must have nerves of steel!

New Year’s Resolution – Dirt & Gravel

Dirt and Gravel Road Bike RidingFinding motivation during the winter can sometimes be tough for a cyclist. It is extremely easy to lose a couple of weeks of riding due to family obligations, the holidays, the endless amounts of food, and less daylight hours. Thankfully, I was able to find my spark while riding on dirt & gravel with a few coworkers and friends.

Until recently, I haven’t had the opportunity to ride off-pavement with my road bike but it was a blast! It was a nice change of pace not having to share the road with cars. Riding on the fire roads and gravel trails gave me a sense of freedom that I haven’t experienced since I first started road cycling. Instead of navigating our suburban roadways, while being cognizant of auto traffic, I had to navigate around deep sand and horse manure!

Most roadies are reluctant to try riding on dirt or gravel.  The neat thing is that you don’t need a new bike.  With the proper setup and introduction, it can be safe and beneficial to any road cyclist.  Your overall bike handling skills will improve and you’ll get a sense of what it’s like to ride in one of the Spring Classics!  Think Paris Roubaix or the Strade Bianche. I would recommend trying places like Peter’s Canyon or Irvine Lake to start. Instead of running my typical set up of 23mm Vittoria Corsa tires, I ran the 25mm Vittoria Pave. The wider tire helped with traction and puncture resistance.

It is important to find trails that don’t have any steep pitches and are hard-packed enough for road (albeit wider) tires. Trails with steep gradients and/or those that are too rocky, rutted, or sandy call for either a cyclocross or mountain bike.

New scenery has really helped re-ignite my enthusiasm for cycling. I was looking forward to every ride rather than treating it like necessary training miles. In fact, I’ve been cyberstalking local cycling legends on Strava to come up with new riding areas! My goal is to find new trails and dirt sections on a weekly basis. I feel that my renewed passion for riding will pay dividends during the race season!

So, my New Year’s Resolution is to add more variety on the bike. I’m glad to have found a new aspect of road cycling that will let me explore new avenues and diversify my normal routine.  For 2015 at A Road Bike 4U, be on the lookout for new shop rides that will incorporate dirt & gravel riding.  Trust me, you’ll love it!

A Road Bike 4U Partners with Orange County Gran Fondo

A Road Bike 4U Partners with Orange County Gran FondoA Road Bike 4U is proud to announce that it is partnering with the Orange County Gran Fondo (OCGF) organization. Earlier this year, we were approached and asked to help advise and steer the OC Grand Fondo. Given our passion for the sport and close ties with the Orange County cycling community we gladly accepted!

The Orange County Gran Fondo (OCGF) was originally created in 2010 by a group of cycling enthusiasts from St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Irvine, California. Its first event drew almost 700 riders and increased to nearly 1,000 riders as of 2012. OCGF’s long-term goal is to make the OC Gran Fondo yearly event as representative of a true European Gran Fondo as possible in a major metropolitan area of the United States.

Bruce Marshall, A Road Bike 4U’s Owner and General Manager, is currently working with OC Gran Fondo’s organizing committee to achieve four (4) key goals for this yearly event in order to closely align it with the prestigious Gran Fondo events in Europe:

First, the mass start, as opposed to starting in waves. This creates an exciting, festival-like atmosphere as all riders start out together, no matter their ability level, excited about the journey ahead.

A Road Bike 4U Partners with Orange County Gran FondoSecond, is the uninterrupted course, free of auto traffic, stop signs and stoplights for as long as possible. While we would love to offer a course that provides an uninterrupted ride for 100 miles, this is not really feasible in our densely populated locale. However, the first several miles of the Gran, Medio, and Piccolo Fondo courses will consist of a police escort and/or controlled intersections. And beyond that, the first one-third of the Gran and Medio Fondos will be a near continuous ride with few stop signs or lights.

Third, a Gran Fondo is supposed to be challenging. Riding any metric or full century is a test of endurance and the course profile has a lot to do with just how hard it is. This year, the OC Gran Fondo will consist of 6,200 feet of climbing along a route that showcases the geographic diversity of Orange County, from mountains to sea. This is not a course for the recreational rider – it is truly a challenge for the seasoned enthusiast. The Medio Fondo route features 4,600 feet of climbing over 66 miles.

Fourth, there is a competitive element. Unlike a marathon, you will not be competing on overall time to complete the course, but there will be four timed sections – three climbs and two sprints for the Gran Fondo. The Medio Fondo will have two climbs and two sprint section. Awards will be given to the fastest male and female finishers on the KOM segments and sprint segments as well as to the male and female who have the best overall combined time. They will be considered the General Classification (GC) winners.”

You can register here for this year’s OC Gran Fondo event, held on Saturday, October 4, 2014.