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.

 

 

 

Belgian Waffle Ride

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The Belgian Waffle Ride, or BWR, on its Facebook page and in numerous requotes, bills itself as “the most unique cycling event in the country.”  This is generous euphemism.  Unique is a loaded word in this case.  In this instance, what unique really means is “ungodly hard.”  So, for the sake of accuracy, we can re-write that phrase to read, “the most ungodly hard cycling event open to amateurs in the country.”  I added that part about being open to amateurs because I have no doubt there are some pro level races, single day, that are pretty hard, and we want to compare apples to apples.

Let’s go over the bullet points:

  • 146 miles – more than last year
  • Over 13,000 feet of vertical gain – more than last year
  • 40 miles of bona fide off road riding – more than last year

Michael Marckx, the founder and chief organizer,  in some of the verbiage he is fond of using to “promote” the ride, doesn’t hide the fact this ride is a challenge, and it can be distilled down to a single word to describe what is in store for the participant: dread.26080866004_816b2af2c4_o

Having done this event, this year and the three years prior, what is my takeaway?  How might sharing my experiences be an instructive exercise for those contemplating making a serious stab at attempting the most unique cycling event in the country?  With that in mind, I’ll catalog what went right and what went wrong, both the result of just plain bad luck, and the mostly self-inflicted kind.  Ok, it will be mostly the self-inflicted kind. In fact, a more apt title might be: How Not to Prepare and Participate in the Belgian Waffle Ride.

Step One -Early Preparation:  As in, you actually have to train.

Familiarity breeds a certain kind of creeping complacency. I’ve done this ride the last three years, and actually felt pretty good last year and put in a decent time.  “Meh. I’ve done this ride before. I can handle it.  How hard can it be?”  Well, quite a bit it turns out, especially if you don’t put in the appropriate time to train. As intimidating as I make this ride out to be, it really is quite doable for most cyclists.  However, you can’t take riding 146 miles for granted.  That’s a long time to be in the saddle, and sadly, my 50 mile weekend rides weren’t quite sufficient to prepare me for riding..well…more than fifty miles, which is about the time I started to fade during BWR.  This made miles 50-146 quite interminable,as in, looking for a quiet shady spot on the side of the road to just crawl into the fetal position.  I was actually hoping for a mechanical that would give me the excuse to quit.

Last year, I did some longer rides all the way back in January, which gave me a good head start.  The earlier and better you prepare with some longer rides will ease the pain come event time – and you don’t have to ride a 146 miles in training, but please!..something a little more than fifty will help.  

As haphazard and as abbreviated as my training was, I did do one or two things right.  I have a short, steep hill near my home, and I’ve taken to the habit of giving a maximum effort in the saddle to climb up near the top.  It takes about thirty seconds, and I recover for another thirty seconds and try it again.  This helped in one very specific section of BWR, which specifically were the short, dirt climbs.  I was actually surprised what I could clean on skinny tires and inappropriate gearing, and I think having that short term power on those grinding sections is an area I thought I improved over last year. So I’ll take that as a small accomplishment.

Having the Right Equipment – or – Don’t be Stupid.

Riding BWR, or any any serious road ride that combines lengthy off-road sections requires its own type of unique equipment choice.  There’s an optimal bike I have in mind when it comes to rides like this, and I thought my equipment choice came pretty close the last two years. For example, last year I rode a titanium frame with compact gearing with a 28 max cog in back and 28mm wide tubeless tires running latex sealant.  That worked reasonably well. Titanium is my favorite material for rides such as this because it’s virtually indestructible, has a more compliant, “springy” type of ride quality that makes those off-road sections a little more tolerable, fun even, and simply requires a rinse off to have it looking nearly pristine again – no paint chipping.

The Guru ti bike has since moved on, so I tried my luck with my stiff carbon road bike with standard gearing, as in a 53/39 chainring with a 25 tooth max cog in back.  In other words, stupid gearing.  The only way my bike set up would have been sillier is if I had ridden a time trial bike with a straight block rear cassette and a 55 tooth front chainring.  It was the difference between riding and pushing my bike up the short steep climbs.  There were still some that I was able to clean, which was actually quite fun and surprised me, but that came at a cost, too, once my lower back began to throb at that aforementioned 50 mile mark.  

I did get the the tire choice right – sort of. In this, my fourth BWR, I’ve not gotten a flat tire, which is pretty remarkable, and is a combination of a little good luck (even I get some of that) and some sensible tire choices. This year, again, I ran my favorite combo of Hutchinson Sector tubeless tires with latex sealant.  No flats again this year, which was fortunate considering I lost my saddlebag on one of the dirt sections.  Nevertheless, I did run a tire pressure of about 90 to 95, which was just too high. I wasn’t sure what I was thinking here.  Normally, I would have run 80-85.  I suppose I was just in a hurry.

The big downside to riding road bikes in the dirt is just the lack of traction when making turns at any kind of speed when it’s loose.   Running high pressure with slick tires on loose dirt made the already treacherous handling a ready made scenario for me to wind up in a crumpled head on the side of the trail after having washed out.  Lesson learned the hard way, again.  It wasn’t until the Sandy Bandy section that I just pulled off to the side of the trail and let air out of the tires.  This actually helped tremendously on the rest of the off road sections.  So, check.  Another lesson learned.

 

As a bonus, we listed some more detailed info on how
our staff members’ bikes were set up!

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Raffaele

  • Bianchi Oltre XR1
  • Panaracer Gravel King  28
  • Standard cranks    11-28 cassette
  • If you could do one thing differently next time: “I would wear chamois cream. 100% chamois cream. “

Jason

  • Guru Praemio
  • Sector 28 Tubeless Tires
  • Compact cranks    11-32 cassette
  • If you could do one thing differently next time: “I used 3T Ergosum Carbon bars this time. I would switch to FSA short and shallow bars for more comfort next time. “

Tony

  • BMC CX01
  • Challenge Strada Bianca Tires
  • 1 x 11  40 tooth       11-36 cassette
  • If you could do one thing differently next time: “I would double wrap my bars next time and bring muscle relaxers. Thank you Double Peak for cramping my legs. “

 

 

Cycling Nutrition Explained

Doughnuts

Food is great. Everyone likes food, and it’s pretty simple. You eat when you’re hungry right?
That’s what I thought when I embarked on my San Diego to Los Angeles ride with my friends. (If you missed out on that adventure, you can read more about it here). Long story short, we greatly underestimated the amount of food we needed. That could have been avoided with a little more planning. But, more importantly, I now know how important it is to eat before you start getting hungry. Chances are, if you’re riding super long distances and you start getting hungry during the ride, it might already be too late.

At a glance, nutrition seems to be pretty simple and intuitive. You walk up to the shelves and you pick up anything that looks appealing just like you would at the snack isle at the supermarket. Salted caramel is my personal weakness, and I used to just pick up a random product based solely on the flavor. But if you ever spend a little extra time looking at all the different options, you start to realize there are so many different types of nutrition, and each package seems to be covered in marketing speak. It’s certainly hard to decipher and understand, especially if you’re still relatively new to cycling. However, once you understand the differences and the specific uses for each type of nutrition, you can make sure you’re eating the proper stuff in any given situation.

At this point, you might be thinking, does it really matter what I’m eating as long as I’m eating? Well, it depends on the length of your ride. If you are cycling for under 2 hours, it probably doesn’t matter too much if you are grabbing a gel, bar, or chew. However, when you start spending a lot of time in the saddle on a ride, your ability to digest food decreases as blood is being diverted away from your stomach to other parts of your body. What this means is that 4 – 6 hours in, you’re not really going to want to wolf down a harder to digest power bar at that point. I know I’ve felt funny before eating super-dry bars near the end of  a long ride and I just dismissed it as a consequence of last night’s Taco Bell binge dinner.Osmo Nutrition Preload Hydration

Here’s my personal timeline example of what I’d be eating if I were to spend 4+ hours on the bike.

  1. (Optional) For certain rides, you may opt for pre-workout nutrition. Think of pre-workout nutrition as a preventative option. If you know you’re going to be working super hard on a ride, a pre-workout supplement can certainly help you feel better during your ride. Osmo Preload Hydration would be my go-to choice in this category. They recommend you take a serving the night before and another serving 30 minutes before your ride. If you’re not a huge fan of breakfast like me, something like this will help me stomach food a little easier earlier in the ride.
  2. Skratch-Labs-Matcha-and-Lemons-2-300x214Water is boring don’t you think? As a kid, I was always a huge fan of Gatorade and other sports drinks such as Propel. Flavored water just helps me drink more so I tend to find it easier to stay hydrated. Osmo makes a during-exercise hydration mix, but I personally prefer Skratch Lab’s pineapple flavored hydration mix. This power contains electrolytes among other useful nutrients that plain water simply does not have. Skratch labs also has a matcha + lemon flavor that I’ve been itching to try as it is naturally caffeinated. This is a big plus for those super early sunrise rides. Naturally, with two bottles, you can always dedicate your second bottle to just water.Rip Van WAffle
  3. As I mentioned previously, if you need to eat, eat before you get hungry. And if you’re going to eat your solid food, you’re going to want to do that in early stages of your ride. Any bars of your choice would be a good option here. Personally, I love the Rip Van Waffles. I became addicted to Stroopwaffles back when I was first introduced to them years ago, and I was thrilled to see them as an option for cycling nutrition. Alternatively, it makes a great compliment to your morning coffee as well.
  4. Chews would be next on the list. These are going to be easier to digest than your bars, which are relatively dry and harder to digest. Chews do tend to get pretty sticky, so it is recommended to take it with a generous amount of water. Shot bloks were the first chews that I’ve ever tried and I’ve generally stuck with them. They also come with a caffeine option, so if you need that extra kick to get you through your ride, that makes for a good choice. However, I’ve been meaning to try Glukos gummies. I’ve heard that they’re a bit lighter than the Shot blocks which I might actually prefer a bit more.
    Glukos
  5. At this point, you’ve probably been on your bike for a decent amount of time. Stomaching a bar at this point would make my stomach super uncomfortable. The best option at this point would be to take a gel. Gu is my go-to option in terms of flavors. However, these gel shots are still pretty thick and water helps assist you finish off the pack. Again, Glukos seems to have come out with a “light” version gel. The Glukos gel is much more like a liquid, making it easier to consume.
  6. Now that you’ve finished your ride, time for recovery nutrition – pizza and beer! Or doughnuts? You were probably waiting for the part where I tell you its ok to eat 5 doughnuts after your ride. I don’t condone that type of eating, but I’m not going to tell you you can’t do that. Personally, I have a habit of frequenting dirty fast food establishments after a ride, but that tends to be more for the recovery of my soul. Actual post-ride nutrition is high in protein. As mentioned before, Osmo makes specific nutrition for each stage of your riding. If you’re more of a one type does all kinda person, Glukos is the way to go. You can use their powder pre, during, or post-workout.

Each of you will probably develop your own preferences for specific combinations / flavors, but this list should provide you with a starting point for proper nutrition.

 

 

Titanium Bikes. They’re Something Special.

Mosaic

There is a certain feeling of excitement that you get when you are searching for your next bike. But sometimes, you might not even know you’re on the search for a new bike. Imagine yourself, innocently scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook feed trying to find out what your friends have been up to. Then, out of nowhere, BOOM. You get hit in the face with the nicest looking bike you’ve ever laid your eyes on. You try and scroll past it and pretend that your heart rate hasn’t raised. Deep down, you already know it’s too late. One Google search, and before you realize it, you’ve spent the entire night watching YouTube reviews on the bike, hoping for some form of negative criticism that will steer you away from committing to the purchase. But secretly, you’re hoping to hear just how amazing it is.

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Foundry Chilkoot Ultegra

However, once you’ve actually decided that you’re ready to make that next purchase, that is when the excitement really starts to crank up. I went through this entire experience when it came to buying my Foundry. I remember seeing a picture of a super nice, custom, titanium road bike on social media and it blew me away. Coming from a carbon bike that I had purchased without enough knowledge about fit, sizing, and geometry, I vowed to do it correctly this time. My carbon bike was super light and looked pretty darn cool, but the harshness of the ride made riding any distance over 25 miles a real chore. For me, having ridden aluminum, carbon, and steel, I knew my next bike had to be titanium. I wasn’t quite in the market for a full blown custom bike, so I kept my eye open for a company that carried stock geometry frames. I’m pretty particular on how the bike looks, and I’ve always favored slightly larger diameter tubing. When I stumbled upon the Foundry Chilkoot, it was everything I was looking for. The frame came partially painted in a simple white which I love. As an added bonus, the Foundry logo is relatively small and low-key. For me, I just wanted something that would stand out from the usual crowd of bikes, but I wanted it to do that in a more subtle manner.

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Closeups of the Foundry

The company offered the bike as both a complete build with Ultegra 6800, or as a frameset. Because I wanted to compare how the titanium bike rode vs my carbon bike, I decided to go with the frameset so I could swap all the parts over. This way,  I had a more realistic comparison between the two frames’ riding characteristics. Being the aesthetic nut that I am, ordering the frameset only also allowed me to have white cable housing instead of stock black thanks to the Pro Build done here at ARB Cyclery.

While I kept the same SRAM groupset and wheels, I ended up making the switch to a full Enve cockpit to match the Enve fork that comes with the frame. Granted, this doesn’t make it a perfect comparison to my old bike, so keep that in mind. Watching the bike being built in the stand gave me the same feeling of excitement that I had when when I was a kid on Christmas Eve. The sense of giddiness you get on new bike day is unforgettable.

The first ride I had was amazing. I know there is a lot of marketing speak behind the handling characteristics of different frame materials. You hear things like “aluminum is harsh” and “titanium is whippy”. Whippy? That doesn’t mean anything to me. Based on my personal experiences of my bike, I can say that one characteristic of titanium frames is it’s dampening capabilities. I’ve ridden both bikes on the same stretch of road, and there is a noticeable difference in road feel between the two. On my carbon bike, I can feel the texture of the road much more than I can on my Foundry. Everything feels softer, and the little vibrations I could feel on my carbon bike were gone. My titanium bike is comfortable. I don’t put out enough power to comment much on power transfer or frame flex, but I certainly didn’t feel like there is a loss of power. As a long term bike, for me, this bike is perfect. Its comfort really stands out on rides longer than 25 miles, and I don’t have to worry about things like corrosion or about cracking my frame in the event of a crash. Riding a titanium really is something special. It is special in the way it rides, and it is special because it is different from most of the bikes out on the roads.

Mosaic
Our store manager’s custom Mosaic being built!

Now, for those of you who are truly looking to get a one-of-a-kind bike, you can go with the custom route and get a bike made just for you. No more trying to match a frame to your needs. Instead, your needs dictate the frame that you will get. ARB Cyclery is proud to announce that we are now a Mosaic Cycles dealer! Mosaic offers fully custom bikes tailored to the bike that suits your need! Paired with bike fitting that we provide here at the shop, you’ll end up with a titanium beast that was designed just for you. Receiving your Mosaic will certainly have you feeling like you once did on Christmas Eve. If one thing is for sure, it’s that a titanium bike is worth buying.

What’s In Your Saddle Bag?

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So you’re out on a ride, and your buddies decide to hit some of the dirt section off the side of the bike path. You follow behind them, taking some care not to do anything stupid on your 23mm tires. Just as you reach the bottom of the hill and prepare to launch yourself up the next hill, your bars slip and you barely manage to maintain your balance and keep yourself from being thrown into your stem. Your buddies are having such a great time they leave you behind in a trail of dust.

Lezyne Carbon Multitool
Lezyne Carbon Multitool

Moral of the story? Take the time and check to see that your bolts are torqued down properly. Also, it’s pretty important to carry a multi-tool. I was never a huge fan of saddle bags for aesthetic reasons (also my inner weight-weenie cries), and stuck mostly to placing tubes and other items in my jersey pockets instead. However, a multi-tool wasn’t something that I ever carried, because I never thought I’d ever really have a use for it on the road. Funnily enough, on the same ride, one of the screws on my Garmin mount worked itself loose, and that needed tightening down as well. Needless to say, having just started riding more seriously, I didn’t think to have a multi-tool handy and had to ask to borrow one.

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Arundel Dual Saddle Bag

I figured that having the tools to change a flat would be sufficient, but you never know what can happen on a ride. More importantly, it’s nice to have a range of tools as well to help someone else who may be in need of assistance. Coming from someone who wasn’t used to utilizing a saddle bag, I figured I could give a couple of suggestions now that I understand the importance of carrying one.  These suggestions are not only great functionally, but are also clean looking.

Personally, I prefer a slightly smaller and more compact saddle bag. There are many options currently available, and depending on the equipment you’re running, there are some choices that stand out. For example, if you happen to be riding a Fizik saddle, you can utilize their nifty clip and buy the Klik bag that attaches directly to the back of the saddle. It comes in both a small and a medium size, so depending on how many things you plan on bringing, you can choose between the two. The medium size would be a good idea for long solo rides when you would want to have two tubes in your saddle bag instead of one.

Alternatively, if you have a different saddle, I personally like the Arundel saddle bag. It comes in a convenient three sizes, and I am currently running the medium.
The small can only really hold a tube and a CO2 inflator, so if you’re planning on bringing a multi-tool, you’re going to want to go with the Arundel Dual. As a bonus, the bag comes in different colored edges. This slight bit of color really pops, and paired with the simplistic design, it’s hard to find another bag that is both stylish and functional.

After you’ve chosen a proper saddle bag, now it’s time to fill it with the essentials!

  1. Tube (s) – You’re going to want to carry at least one of these with you on your rides. Personally, I use Continental Race Lite tubes; weight weenies rejoice!  They’re still butyl and not latex, so no need to deal with a constant loss of air.
  2. CO2 Inflator – I use a hand pump that doubles as a CO2 inflator. I like to have the option of both, but you man find that those mini hand pumps are difficult to pump your tires up to a decent pressure.
  3. Multi-tool – Although I don’t have it yet, I have my eye on Lezyne’s carbon multitool. Carbon fiber replaces your usual alloy side plates, and the bolts holding this tool together are titanium. Not only is the excess weight shaved off from the base of the tools, even the bolts are tapered off. What you have left is a super slick-looking, 80g multi tool.
  4. Tire Boot – This is one of the things that more people tend to forget to pack into their saddle bag. There are many clever ways to come up with a temporary tire boot from empty gel packs, cut up tires, or if you’re feeling particularly epic, a hundred dollar bill should work just fine. However, Park Tool makes a nice adhesive tire boot, and this helps prevent the boot from shifting around, thus making it my personal favorite.
1000-bill-emerrgency-tire-boot
If you’re like me, you use $1000 bills as tire boots.

Other items such as a credit card and a phone end up going into my back jersey pocket for easier access. You want to be able to snap those cycling selfies as fast as possible, so you’re not going to want to have to fiddle around with your saddle bag for that.

If you have any personal favorites that you won’t leave home without, be sure to leave it in the comments below! Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@arbcyclery) as we will be showcasing what the employees here at ARB Cyclery keep in their saddle bags! Be sure to use #undermysaddle to join in on the fun!

 

Making Sure Your Shifter Cables Don’t Destroy Your Levers

“Who knows what evils lurk in the heart of your bike’s shifting??? ARB Cyclery DOES!!” – Bruce B. the mechanic 2/25/2016Crash

When it comes to maintaining your bike, too often, out-of-sight means out-of-mind. I’ve seen this happen too many times before. Many people are super happy the first few months after they get their new bike and everything works perfectly, as it should. Fast forward a few accidental drops (I never do this) and a few rides in the rain, possibly a crash or two…

Speaking of crashes, I remember when I had finally built up a carbon steed with new parts and I was itching to ride my bike all week. A buddy and I decided to take it for a quick 20 mile spin to test it out. *Cue lens flare, dramatic overhead camera angle, and epic soundtrack. It was great. New bike day is ALWAYS great. However, just 3 miles away from home, it happened. I took a turn too hard trying to push my bike to the limit, dragged the brakes a fraction of a second too long, and slid out on the sand that made its way onto the bike path. At that point, I knew I was falling but there was nothing I could do.  I had only one thought in my head, “Man, I hope my bike is going to be ok…”.  My friend was totally clueless, and rode off into the distance, leaving me sideways on the ground, craning my neck around for any signs of damage on my new frame.

Anyways, point is I don’t like to neglect my bike and neither should you. It’s as important to me as your family pet is to you. Yeah, my bike is like family to me. But a lot of people put in big miles on their bikes and come back from their rides exhausted. Totally understandable. It’s almost instinctive to just throw your bike in the corner before you plop down on the couch with a beer. But as time goes by, the smoothly operating machine that you loved can become a cantankerous beast. Its easy to push off a tune-up, or lubing your chain, but each time you ignore your bike you’re taking a step down the dark, dark path of bicycle neglect.

So how may you avoid the dark side you ask? This time we will focus on your bike’s derailleur cables. The newer 11 speed systems, particularly those from Shimano (Dura-Ace, Ultegra and 105) rely on a systems design approach to achieve their phenomenal performance. This approach includes re-designed cable housing and polymer coated cable wires, coupled with radically higher cable tension.

Frayed
If you’re lucky it’ll all come out with some fishing around.

The result is a shifting system that works really, really well until it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, it can be with catastrophic and expensive results. Derailleur cables are made up of stranded wire and work with the shift lever to move your derailleur in the precise increments necessary to smoothly shift your bike from one gear to the next. They operate by bending back and forth the inside of your levers (out-of-sight, remember) and they begin to fail by breaking one strand at a time. As you continue to shift, more and more of these wires fray and snap resulting in either cable failure or in the worst case, lever failure. In either case your bike is out of commission. The cost of a cable is about 12 bucks, (installation is included as part of an ARB Classics level or above tune-up). If an individual lever is destroyed by a broken cable, the cost of the replacement lever can be in excess of $200.

Especially if you haven’t looked at this often overlooked critical component in more than a year, it’s really a good time to include cable replacement as part of your bike’s routine maintenance. Your bike will continue to please you with like-new performance and your wallet will thank you.

 

Why Your Bar Tape Is More Important than You Think

Having gone to a school where many of the students commute to class on bikes, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve seen it all. As college students, you have to cut us some slack when it comes to anything that isn’t considered a necessity. We come up with all sorts of cost saving “life hacks” because we barely have enough money to spend on the essentials. The cheap bike you buy off craigslist with rusty handlebars? Not a problem, there’s many different ways to come up with bar tape alternatives. You have some people who will wrap their bars with plastic bags and tape it tight. Others will use a roll of duct tape and keep layering it until it becomes thick enough to provide padding (to some extent). I’ve even seen someone stretch socks around their bars and tape it closed.

This gold duct tape wrap screams BLING.

As clever and creative as some of these ideas may seem, college students can get away with doing things like this because they really aren’t riding very far or very hard. And they’re broke. Since you’re riding hundreds of miles, if not thousands, its important to remember to change out your bar tape when it becomes worn, especially so if you don’t ride with padded gloves.  Your bar tape is one of the main contact points you have with your bike.  Therefore, you have to make sure that what you do does not sacrifice comfort in any way, or you will pay for it in the long run with discomfort.

Also, if your old bar tape is so old that it is falling off in places or ripped, you could be damaging your shifter and cables. Sweat and the elements could be ruining your shifter cable clamp, which is not something that usually crosses peoples’ minds as a consequence. Rusty Shifter Clamp

Now that I’ve established the importance of having non-worn out bar tape for your comfort as well preventing damage around the shifters, it’s worth mentioning that bar tape comes in a variety of colors and patterns! It’s certainly a great way to personalize your bike. Certain patterned bar tapes look cool in the box, but I have yet to see one on a bike that I think matches well. I’m more of a minimalist type myself, but don’t let that stop you from choosing the crazy colors!

But, keep in mind that according to Velomati’s The Rules #8,

“Saddles, bars, and tires shall be carefully matched. ”

Valid options are:

      • Match the saddle to the bars and the tires to black; or
      • Match the bars to the color of the frame at the top of the head tube and the saddle to the color of the frame at the top of the seat tube and the tires to the color where they come closest to the frame; or
      • Match the saddle and the bars to the frame decals; or
      • Black, black, black

Personally, you can’t really go wrong with black. But that can get boring over time. Thankfully, Selle Italia’s Smootape comes in a huge range of solid colors. Excatly what I’d be lookismootape-taping1ng for to bring a little color out on my bikes. Not only that, but the Smootape comes in four different finishes. You have your classic corks, gel, and leather wraps. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the soft-touch leather tape if I ride without gloves, and with my titanium bike, I think the leather wrap would look super classy.

A cool difference between Smootape and other brands of tape is that Smootape is designed to reduce overlap “ridges” that you get when you wrap your bars with traditional tape. The diagram will help you visualize how it works. Essentially, the thickness of the tape is tapered off towards the edges so that when you wrap the bars, the thickness won’t stack to create those ridges.

If you’re heading over to the shop for a tune-up, (which you should do as the weather is getting nicer and nicer!), why not change things up a bit! Get that old bar tape off your bike and choose from one of the many exciting colors and textures that Smootape offers!

 

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Not pictured: Brown and the other textures

 

Bianchi Via Nirone 7 2016 Review & Comparison

“Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to three”.

Walking into a bike shop brings about the same feelings as walking into a candy shop as a child. I would venture to say that the feelings of wonderment, awe, and excitement  are comparable to the very nostalgic scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I remember when I went shopping for my first road bike, I walked by rows of gleaming carbon fiber bikes, each looking meaner than the next, some of them with funny looking bars and wheels that didn’t even have traditional metal spokes. There were all sorts of oddly-shaped helmets, shoes with odd attachments on the bottom, and pedals that weren’t even flat! To a beginner like me, the world of cycling was truly fascinating.

As fascinated as I was, I still lacked fundamental knowledge as to what made a bicycle “good”. At the time, all I was familiar with was a little silver bike I had ridden 10 years ago as a kid. I wanted to try it all, every kind of chocolate, every flavor of gum, every color of gummy bear, but I had no idea where to start. Thankfully, the great thing about walking into a bike shop is the knowledge the bike staff has. If you go to them with your specific needs, chances are a good bike shop will tailor your bike selection to do exactly what you need it to do. However, I personally like to learn, and to be prepared. It is always useful to do a little research yourself, not because I don’t believe what the sales people are telling me, but because I want to understand and be able to carry on the conversation and ask meaningful questions as I’m shopping.

Fortunately for you, I understand how difficult it can be to pick that very first road bike of yours. There is an art to balancing value, aesthetics, short and long term goals when it comes to deciding on a bike. I did my best to pick something that I believe will hit all of those areas. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll understand that I view aesthetics as a pretty important factor when I buy things. I am also impressed when a company pays attention to details.

Bianchi’s attention to detail and their awesome headbadge.

Enter Bianchi. If you want to talk about history, heritage, and aesthetics, say no more. Bianchi is the oldest bicycle manufacturing company that is still in existence. The company was founded in Italy back in 1885, and if you aren’t necessarily familiar with the name, you may be familiar with a specific color that they are known for. That beautiful green-blue color, know as Celeste, is one of the things that Bianchi is known for. If you take a look at the Via Nirone 7, which is actually named after the first shop that Edoardo Bianchi started manufacturing bicycles in, the attention to detail is evident. The cable housing even has a Celeste-colored stripe running along it to compliment the other Celeste-colored areas. And if we’re talking about aesthetics, I think that Bianchi has one of the nicest looking headbadges out there.

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Via Nirone 7 Sora – Click to zoom.

If you look at the Via Nirone 7, you’ll notice that it definitely stands out among similar level bikes from other companies such as the Giant Defy 3. The Italian-designed Bianchi will certainly turn more heads on the roads compared to the mass-produced, vanilla style of the Defy. These two bikes are equipped with the same Sora groupset, so let’s look at some additional differences. For one, the Bianchi is equipped with Vittora tires instead of Giant’s in-house tires. Secondly, the paired spoke design on the Via Nirone 7 certainly looks much cooler as well. In terms of value of the bike, the Via Nirone 7 is great because it comes standard with a carbon fiber fork! With both bikes in the same price range of just under $1000, who wouldn’t choose the heritage and styling of the Bianchi?

If you’re still uncertain that you will get into the sport of cycling (which I truly believe you will once you commit), you may be a bit hesitant to spend that amount. If you’re still looking to test the waters of cycling, you can opt for a Via Nirone 7 with a lower spec groupset. The Via Nirone 7 can also be purchased equipped with Shimano Claris, which is one tier under Sora. You’ll sacrifice a 9-speed drivechain for an 8-speed drivechain with Claris, but you’ll save almost $200 in the process. The best part of the Claris model is that it still comes with that carbon fork! While a carbon fork may just sound fancy, there is actually a great benefit of having one. When you compare the ride quality of the Via Nirone 7 Claris to the Giant Defy 5 (Claris equipped), you’ll notice a difference on the front end of the bike. The Giant has an aluminum fork. A carbon fork will actually absorb much more of the road vibration, and what this translates into for you is greater comfort and less fatigue. For only $800, that’s a pretty sweet deal.

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Via Nirone 7 Claris – Click to zoom.

Regardless of which model you choose, you certainly won’t be disappointed. I suggest you come in-store and give both these bikes a spin around the parking lot. If you have any questions, or just want to come in and chat about all things cycling, we encourage you to do so. If you’re looking to take your new Bianchi out for a ride but are still trying to learn the ropes, we have the ride just for you! Take a look at the Cycle to Fitness ride we do every other Saturday and we’ll have you addicted to cycling in no time!

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