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.

 

 

 

Belgian Waffle Ride

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. “

 

 

What’s In Your Saddle Bag?

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.

arundel-dual-index
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!