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Brantford Cyclepath Blog

We Know Bikes

Look What The Cat Dragged In – 2016

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If you’re going to make a career out of working in a bike shop, it stands to reason that you’d better like looking at bikes. Lots of them. Every day. They’d better make your heart race a little bit faster. Make your pulse quicken. If you’re going to be a REALLY great bike shop employee you’d best be fairly well rounded in your tastes. If you work in a bike shop you’re going to see all kinds of bicycles from all decades and of every genre. Embrace them all. As the saying goes, “too many bikes, not enough time”.

Every year we see tons of really cool bikes. Some of them are rare. Some of them are unusual. Some of them are what we call “survivors”. Bikes that should have been used up long ago, but are still in fantastic condition. What follows is a sampling of what rolled through the door in the past year, and made us sit up and take notice…. for whatever reason.

That cromoly steel, blue Specialized Stumpjumper up there in the opening shot made me particularly weak in the knees. For two reasons. First off, it’s all original. Secondly, it showed up at the very start of the year. Talk about a potentially good omen for things to come! This bike has remarkably low mileage, hence its pure originality. It wears grey Umma Gumma tires, which was a series of tires that were developed by Specialized to be stickier than normal rubber. There’s a matching grey saddle with a longer nose, designed so that you could scoot forward on longer climbs to pin the front end of the bike down. Shimano XT drivetrain. Those Specialized resin toe clips were the best ones you could buy.  The bike is long and low, just look at that stem. This was the hot race setup of the day.

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Here’s an aluminum Stumpjumper that came in. Check out the long stem and those Manitou forks. This one would be a good candidate for a restoration since the paint is in nice shape.

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Here’s one that I couldn’t believe that I was actually standing in the presence of. This is a completely all original Amp Research dual suspension bike. The fork was designed by a suspension pioneer named Horst Lietner. The amount of aluminum machining on this bike makes your eyes ache. Check out the super rare Bullet Bros chain tension arm behind the rear derailleur (go ahead and Google it). RaceFace Turbine LP cranks. This was a mountain bikers dream, and way out of reach price wise.

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The Amps fork linkages. Art work.

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Who doesn’t love the buttery smooth, almost non-existent welds of Gary Kleins aluminum frames? This Attitude Comp was modestly built with some cool components that weren’t over the top.

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Here’s a fantastic Cannondale F1000 that ticked all of the boxes. Headshok fork. Top end components including Cannondales own Coda cranks wherein the arms, spider and chainrings are made from a single piece of aluminum. Smooth double passed welds and a polished natural finish.

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It wasn’t all mountain bikes either. We loved this modern carbon Bianchi because it’s A) a Bianchi, B) it’s Italian and C) it’s celeste green.

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Just to give the French their due, here’s a beautiful little Peugeot randonneur bike in candy apple red. Completely original and from the ’70s, this little survivor has all of the extra trim, including rubber brake lever covers and a factory installed dynamo lighting set and carrier rack. It just needs the pump to be found…..

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…. along with some light TLC.

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Rounding everything out is a vintage American entry. This is a Schwinn Starlett III ladies roadster. Where to begin? It’s all original. It has a fantastic porteur rack on the front that can either carry cargo on its own, or lend extra support to a fully laden basket.

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The Schwinn emblazoned, two tone seat is a blast from the past. Everything was automobile influenced back then and the “tailfins and taillights” design of the rear carrier rack goes to show this as true.

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The coolest part? It’s a gas tank inspired electric horn. Press the button and impress your friends. And yes, it worked.

That’s a sampling of some of the bikes that were a little out of the ordinary and managed to make us smile. It’s now a whole new year. I wonder what the cat has in store for us this time…..

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Does This New Wheel Make Me Look Fat?

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Looking ahead into 2017, we feel REALLY happy for mountain bikers. There will be so many different ways to satisfy your dirt cravings and you’ll want to explore them all. However, this particular blog posting will focus on the newest and most exciting mountain bike wheel size. The 27.5+, if you want to talk in imperial measurements, or the 650B+ if you wish to talk in metric terms. See how easy that was? We’ve just cleared up one of the things that confuse people when talking about plus sized bikes.

So, what is this plus sized thing all about anyways, and why is the bike industry so giddy over it? Over the past few years we’ve seen the adoption and increase in popularity of both the fatbike, with its 4 or 5 inch tires on 26 inch wheels, and the mid sized 27 inch wheeled mountain bike with its standard 2 inch tires.

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Fatbikes offer previously unheard of levels of grip in any situation, be it attacking a difficult rooted climb in the middle of July, or trekking across a snow covered field in the dead of winter. There are those that are keen in their commitment to going full fat, but there are many cyclists that desire the benefits of extra tire volume but don’t feel the need for such a big tire.

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Enter the 27.5+ tire. It’s the fatter one up there next to a standard 29 inch wheel with 2 inch wide tires. With its 3 inch wide tire installed on a wider version of the new 27.5 inch wheel, it provides far more grip and “float” on loose surfaces than a standard mountain bike tire, but doesn’t have the extra rolling resistance and weight penalty of some full fatbike setups. This big tire is still very nimble and trail capable all year round. The extra air volume really adds cushion to rougher trails and the tall height offers increased momentum for some surprising speed. It’s a little bit fat and a little bit skinny.

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Guess what the coolest part of this whole entire wheel jumble is? The bike above is made by a brilliant American frame builder named Jeff Jones. www.jonesbikes.com This particular bike is set up with a 27.5+ wheel on the back….. and a full fatbike wheel up front. The wider tire out front will provide extra float in loose situations while the narrower back tire is lighter and more nimble. Here’s the thing. If you look at both wheels, the HEIGHT of the tires is the same. This is where it gets fun. If you own a full fatbike, you can use both 4 or 5 inch wide fatbike wheel setups, the new 27.5+ wheels, AND standard 29 inch wheels. Use them in matching pairs, or get creative and mix them up like Jeff did on the bike above. If you decide to go with one of the new 27.5+ bikes, you can use the original wheels or standard 29 inch wheels. This is because the overall tire heights are all the same and therefore the geometry of the bike is not adversely affected. Be aware that the various hubs have to be compatible with whatever frame and fork combo you use. In the graphic below, a fatbike wheel would be the same height as the 650B+ and 29in examples. Depending on which fatbike tire you used, there may be some variation in height, due to some sidewalls being taller than others.

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It’s all pretty neat stuff. This is why we’re excited and this is why the industry is excited about the new 27.5+ wheel setup. If you’re a recreational trail rider looking to add some rougher trails and bigger hits to your afternoon ride, or extend your season into the winter months, then this new group of bikes is aimed squarely at you!

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#brantfordcyclepath

#27.5+

#650B+

Peering Into The Crystal Ball

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Change. Change is as certain as death and taxes. It seems that in recent years, changes have come hard and fast in the bicycle industry. Every facet, from bottom bracket revisions to new or reinvented wheel sizes, has experienced some sort of change. In 2016 we saw the mountain bike find renewed popularity as the industry pushed the 27.5″ wheel and its pseudo 29″ cousin, the 27.5+ wheel. On the road front, carbon became affordable for the masses and the adventure road bike saw increased interest. Change brought about excitement and it was a great year to be in a bike shop.

As we stand before the exit door to 2016 and prepare to jump over the threshold into 2017, what can we expect in the coming year?

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To get started, let’s take a jump into the woods. By all accounts, when it comes to playing off road with your friends, it seems that all of the industry money is firmly riding on the latest 27.5+ platform. For the uninitiated, this new mountain bike uses the newer 27.5 wheel as a base, then adds a three inch wide tire with increased sidewall height. This combination seats itself squarely between a standard two inch tire and a full four or five inch wide fatbike. You get some of the speed and nimble handling of the traditional narrower tire, and some of the confidence inspiring, all season grip of the fatbike. With an increase in non competitive trail cycling and a decrease in competitive mountain bike racing, it’s a fairly solid guarantee that this new “baby fat” tire will be the winning choice among many woods riders.

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It’s a fact. Big wheels keep on turning. Proud Mary would undoubtedly be leaning towards the 29″ wheeled mountain bike. When the 27.5 wheel was introduced everyone wondered which wheel size would win the battle for supremacy. The question is, WHAT battle? 2016 saw the 29er take a small back seat as the industry gave a really hard push towards the new 27.5 bikes. Was the 29er slated for disappearance? Did the smaller underdog 27.5 turn the tables and carry out a David and Goliath surprise upset? Fear not. For 2017 it seems that there will be an equal representation of both of these wheel sizes on the floor at your local bike shop. What can we see as the future for the average mountain biker? How about a garage that contains a sweet old 26″ bike for satisfying that retro urge, a 27.5″ bike for tight, technical trails and a 29er for longer, high speed rides and race events. Feel free to mix up their intended uses. Why choose just one? One more thing. We predict an increase in requests for full suspension mountain bikes as enduro style riding becomes more popular. Comfort is key.

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Speaking of comfort, let’s head on out to the pavement. As more and more casual and recreational riders develop an interest in drop barred bicycles, it seems reasonable that we see an increase in comfortable, endurance styled road bikes. More forgiving tubing shapes coupled with higher volume tires and taller handlebar positions are what many cyclists are really asking for. It’s the ultimate day trekking bike. Or is it? What would your reaction be if we took all of that and tossed front and rear suspension into the mix? Check out the new 2017 Roubaix from Specialized. That’s it in the picture above. We had this bike on display in the shop for a day, and it really represents the next step forward. The seat post has been installed into the frame in such a way that it is allowed to move slightly to ward off bumps. The handlebar stem is installed on a shock absorber of sorts, which sits inside the traditional looking head tube. You have a small amount of bump absorbing travel upwards, and double the amount downwards. The action does not feel the same as the front fork on a mountain bike. The movement is more subtle and the bike appears to be visually conventional. We expect other manufacturers to quickly follow suit.

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Gravel riding will continue to grow in popularity. Purpose built gravel road machines are out there and we predict that many cyclists will lean towards the unique geometry, increased tire capacity, and rack and bag capability of this sort of bike. It’s almost what one would call a super tourer. Almost.

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We’ve seen two strong choices in the past when it comes to recreational cycling. The flat barred road bike, such as the one above, and the crossover styled bicycle, which resembles a mountain bike hybrid with its larger wheels and suspension fork. Both of these machines are more than happy to pull double duty by accompanying you on your commute from Monday to Friday and blasting miles of rail trail on the weekend. There really isn’t any need to fix what isn’t broken and so we can only see sales of these types of bicycles to head one way. Straight up.

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It may be a futuristic photo, but the near future of ebikes looks to be quite rosy. There are as many different reasons to use an ebike as there are brands to pick from, but one thing is certain. We’re still at the tip of the iceberg. Developments of electric assist bicycles with lighter weights, increased battery range and true offroad capabilities are making headlines everywhere. Newer thinking revolves around creating mountain bikes that use available electric power to help the rider conquer bigger hills while conserving human energy, thereby extending the duration of any offroad adventure by a considerable margin. One day ebikes ARE going to save the world.

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Lastly, as cyclists discover performance limitations due to improper bike fit, many will seek to correct these issues by undergoing detailed fitting assessments, such as the Specialized Body Geometry FIT method. By discovering each cyclists individual physical limitations and adjusting the bike to meet those limitations, rather than making the cyclist bend uncomfortably to meet the design of the bike, having a proper bike fit can improve just about any aspect of your ride. It makes good sense.

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As bicycle shop employees, we never stop learning. The near future constantly shapes our skill sets while keeping our chosen line of work exciting. How will the coming advancements in bicycle technology shape your own cycling habits next year? How about five years from now? Ten years from now? One thing is certain. There will be change.

#brantfordcyclepath

#cyclingfuture

#weknowbikes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Fast Gift Ideas For That Pesky Cyclist On Your List

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It’s December all ready and the countdown is on. Names have been drawn and lists have been penned. This is easy. Just drive all over town, locate the items, and cross them off of your list. What’s the big deal with Christmas shopping? “Oh…wait a minute. Timmy is one of those weirdo cyclists. What the heck am I supposed to get HIM? Does he have a kickstand? If he does, it’s probably some fancy thing made out of carpet fibre. I think that’s what his bike is made of. *sigh* And I was doing SO well!”

Relax. Here are some simple gift suggestions for *The Cyclist Who Has Everything*. Forget the fluff for THIS blog entry, we don’t have the time. We won’t bother with stuff like bikes for this one. We aren’t all spoiled like the kid in the opening picture. Let’s just dive right in.

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THIS is the most indispensable tool that a cyclist can have. It’s a hex wrench that contains the three most common bolt sizes on a bike…all in one place. Do they have one already? WHO CARES? They wear out with use.

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Cycling is thirsty work. Everyone that rides a bicycle can use a fresh bottle. We lose them all of the time. They get pretty grimy too. See these ones? These are antimicrobial. They prevent the growth of bacteria. Doe they have one already? WHO CARES? You can never have too many.

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Gloves. They provide extra grip on the handlebars and considerably more comfort. Wiping sweat from a brow is easier too. These ones are interesting. The new Grail glove from Specialized features a new design that eliminates traditional padding and places it in the center of the palm to even out the pressure across the entire hand. Do they have gloves already? WHO CARES? Gloves get old, torn and smelly.

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Headlights and taillights. The idea here is really simple. Keep your loved ones safe. There are styles for everyone at affordable prices. Do they have these already? WHO CARES! If one light is good, a second one is brighter!

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Floor pumps. Make life easier, strain yourself less, and get fewer flat tires! Win, win,win! The theory here is that if you top up your tires BEFORE you ride, it’s less likely for anything to penetrate while out on a ride. Do they have one already? WHO CARES? The new pumps do higher pressures while being easier to operate.

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Let’s talk about lubes! EVERY bike needs it. There are chain oils for the outside of the bike, and greases for the inside of the bike. While we’re at it, let’s not forget degreasers. Do they have some already? WHO CARES? It should get used up on a regular basis.

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How many of these we’ve sold over the years at Christmas, I’ll never guess. Multitools are SUPER popular gifts that are appreciated and used over and over and over again. They’re a Godsend when you need them. If the person on your list is a mountainbiker, be sure to buy the one with a chain breaker on it. Do they have one? WHO CARES? It’s a tool, used often. Theirs is probably worn out.

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Getting back to the theme of keeping your loved ones safe. Did you know that a helmet is only good for about three years? Perhaps five years for a casual rider? A fresh new helmet is always a great idea. Do they have one already? WHO CARES? The new helmets are far lighter, cooler and more comfortable.

How about stocking stuffers? Let’s wind this down with three of our favorites:

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shot-bloks

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Bells are ALWAYS a fun stocking stuffer. It doesn’t matter whether the recipient is young or old. So many different bells, so many different personalities. Energy foods, such as gels and shot blocks. Candies for cyclists! NEVER disregard the lowly bicycle inner tube. When they need one, they’ll think of you and kiss the ground you walk on. Do they have these already? WHO CARES?  It’s the thought that counts…..and this is what they’re getting!!!

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Comfort And Joy 2 (the frosty edition)

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Back in May I wrote a piece targeted towards recreational cyclists entitled Comfort And Joy, which covered suggestions concerning items that would make summer time cycling more enjoyable. It would appear that the big blue and green marble has rotated far enough around that we now are entering the winter portion of the year. What better time to whip up Comfort And Joy Part Two?

You’ll see a fair number of people out riding their bicycles during the colder, snowy months of the year. They are not clinically insane. They are not genetically modified. They ARE of the human race. What might seem really odd is that these people are actually ENJOYING being out there. Whether (weather) for fun or out of necessity, how in God’s name do they do it?

The answer involves no magic whatsoever. Appropriate clothing plays a very large part as does the addition of a few accessories to your bike setup.

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The key to doing this successfully is to dress in layers so that you can add or subtract items as the temperature changes while on your ride. The idea with all of this is to leave the house feeling slightly cool but comfortable. You will warm up as you ride. There are long sleeved cycling jerseys available that are microfleeced on the inside to provide warmth but also wick sweat from your skin. You can also use a normal lycra cycling jersey as a base layer. The important wicking properties are still there. If using a dedicated winter cycling jersey, just add a wind and waterproof shell jacket over top. If using a regular lycra jersey, you can consider adding a polar fleece garment between it and the shell. An outer shell designed for cycling will have the added bonus of a longer tail, which helps greatly in keeping your seat dry and will be cut in such a way that it won’t bunch up in front either. The arms should be slightly long so that they cover the cuffs of your gloves while reaching the handlebars.

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There is nothing nicer than a pair of microfleeced tights for cold weather cycling. Not only do they wick plenty of moisture from your skin, they also keep your knees warm as you move through the cold air. These are available with or without a chamois padding in them. The ones without padding are great for other cold weather activities too. A winter walk, snow shoveling or even tobogganing can be that much more comfortable! Bib tights are considered by many to be even better since they eliminate any gap between waistband and jersey. A pair of waterproof pants can be added over top of any setup for wet days.

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Choosing gloves can be fairly straight forward. There are many long fingered gloves available for cold weather cycling. Once again, they are designed to wick moisture. The outer layers are very weatherproof. One unusual but very effective type of glove is commonly referred to as a lobster claw. These may a better choice for a few reasons. Your fingers are separated so that two fingers go into each half of the claw. This allows more warm air to circulate around each finger. In essence, one finger keeps the other one warm. If riding a road bike, these are ideal for braking while riding on the brake hoods. Many gloves have secondary, removable inner liners.

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While not a glove, Bar Mitts are really handy for eliminating everything from cold, moving air to rain, sleet and snow. These neoprene “mitts” attach to your handlebar in a few minutes and allow you to wear less bulky gloves, even in sub zero temperatures. They are available for both road bikes and bikes that use handlebar grips. Being more of a gauntlet in length ensures that much of your forearm is protected from the elements.

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There are a few different options for keeping your feet warm. Start with a pair of socks that also wick moisture away from your skin. If you don’t use a clipless pedal system, then a pair of good hiking boots or winter boots will work well. For clipless pedal use, there are wind and waterproof shoe covers and toe covers that are worn over your regular cycling shoes. There are different thicknesses and materials available for any given weather situation. For the ultimate protection, look into a pair of dedicated winter cycling shoes such as Specialized’s clipless specific Defroster boot.

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It’s no secret that keeping your head warm in winter to prevent heat loss is of utmost importance. There are several ways to combat this when wearing a helmet. The most popular item among cyclists seems to be the microfleeced beanie. This is a tight fitting lycra cap that is worn under the helmet. The best beanies will offer some ear coverage. Many cyclists also prefer a balaclava for more complete face protection. One item that is gaining in popularity as word spreads is the helmet cover. This stretchy lycra cover is rubberized on the inside and is worn over the helmet. The idea with a cover is that it prevents wind, moisture and cold from entering the helmet in the first place. They work well, especially when used in combination with the beanie. Can’t be bothered to keep track of separate gear? Some helmet companies are offering winterized cycling helmets such as the Specialized Centro Winter LED, pictured above. This all season helmet features a removable winter liner complete with ear covers. It IS cozy! For added safety a removable LED taillight is included…..

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…..which conveniently leads us into the topic of lighting. “If I had a nickel…..” for every time that I saw a person riding a bicycle in low light conditions while using zero in the way of lighting, I’d be wealthy enough to be sitting on some warm beach, doing nothing more than writing a dozen blog entries a day. How do we sum this up? It’s dangerous. If the person on the bike could sit in a car and see their doppelganger ride by, unseen until the nth second, the majority of them might be shocked enough to invest in lighting. Lighting doesn’t have to cost a lot. The most basic silicon rubber blinkies will do the job and make you visible. More money buys more power and therefor more visibility. The bike industry has given us some very compact, lightweight, long lasting technology. Many lights are intended for use in the daytime as well as in the dark. Incidentally, studies have shown that using a single headlight on the front of the bike and a single taillight on the rear is far more effective than loading your bike to resemble a rolling Christmas tree (guilty as charged). The idea is that if you are TOO visible, a driver will become overly focused and might edge over towards you. Who knew?  Anyhow, we love all cyclists and would be incredibly happy to see everyone staying safe by using lights.

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How indispensable is a good pair of fenders? Very! Just ask anyone who uses them. It doesn’t matter whether you use the clip on kind or the full coverage set, once you try them, you’ll love them. The advantage of the clip on type is that they are easily removable on dry days and if you ride a road racing bike, there are partial fenders that are designed for bikes that have no traditional mounting eyelets. A full coverage fender set has the advantage of offering more complete protection. No matter which style you choose, the days of enduring a cold, soaked rear end or wiping splatter from your face will happily be over. Be sure to get the right width for the size of your tires and start smiling.

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With a little preparation, winter cycling becomes more of a case of mind over matter than anything else. Whether you intend to commute, or just escape the confines of the house on a Sunday afternoon, the change over from warm weather riding can be refreshing. Exercise is never bad and who knows? This could be your next big thing. You just have to get out and try it!

#brantfordcyclepath

#wintercycling

#cyclingblog

 

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Cycle On (beaters, trainers and fatties)

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I’m no mind reader, but I know what you’re thinking. “Gosh, he’s a little early with this snowy doom and gloom, isn’t he?” Looking outside, that may well be the case, but taking a look at the calendar, I couldn’t help but notice that the end of October is upon us, and the uncertainty of November is indeed about to usher us into much shorter days and colder temperatures.

We’ve arrived at that time of year when most recreational cyclists have noticed the increasing nakedness of the trees on their lawns and diminishing color in their gardens and have set about putting their outdoor spaces to bed. Bicycles are given one last wipe down, tires are inflated as a precaution, and the machines are retired to the vinyl covered storage hooks from whence they came. Winter training might look like this:

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That’s all well and good. There are days when I wouldn’t mind cocooning in front of that flat screen either. There are, however, alternatives to hiding away with remote in hand and Doritos on lap.

Here at the shop, we’ve noticed that many recreational cyclists are looking to keep moving throughout the winter months. They’ve seen the gains in physical conditioning that a summer of cycling has brought about and aren’t too keen to have it all taken away through idleness. Apart from traditional activities such as snowshoeing or cross country skiing, there are a few other ways to keep active during the colder months ahead.

We could make an addition to that cozy room above by way of a stationary trainer. You’ve no doubt seen these or know someone who uses one. For the uninitiated, these indoor training stands are designed to make use of your bicycle as an exercise machine. There are several types available, the most common being either magnetic, fluid, or centrifugal in nature. They are relatively affordable when compared to the price of a purpose built exercise bike and the nicest feature of all is that using one actually FEELS like riding a bicycle because you ARE riding a bicycle. They are also portable and can be folded up and easily stored away if limitation of space is an issue.

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Many of the more experienced cyclists actually enjoy riding outside in the colder temperatures and refuse to see snow as a deterrent. There are several ways to safely ride during the winter months. One time honored method is to build what is commonly known as a beater bike. An old mountain bike is absolutely ideal for this purpose. Adding a pair of fenders makes riding in wetter conditions quite comfortable. The key to winter riding is to be sure to install a good head and tail light as well as the consideration of extra reflectors and reflective decals.Many older vintage road bikes can be fitted with modern cyclocross tires, which have a more aggressive tread to make them more suitable for snowy conditions. Incidentally, these bikes are perfect for use on an indoor trainer.

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Finally, we have a newer way to conquer colder weather riding. Fat tired bikes made an appearance quite some time ago but have become more readily available over the past few years. These year round mountain bikes have large tires that roll over and through any terrain regardless of the weather. The benefits of using a fatbike are many, the main one being increased safety due to a significantly greater amount of traction and control. The ability to easily ride off trail adds to the adventure. Tires are available in three, four and five inch widths to suit varying grip requirements, commonly referred to as “float”. Once considered to be fairly expensive, the price of a decent fatbike has become quite affordable.

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As the calendar edges ever closer to the end of the year and the chilly days ahead, the general consensus may very well be that the cycling season is over. While Doritos and a television remote may be an attractive reward for a season well done, the best course of action may just be to keep calm and cycle on.

#brantfordcyclepath

#wintercycling

#keepcalmandcycleon

 

 

 

“So Long, Summer!” (don’t let the door hit you on your way out)

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It really wouldn’t be too far out of line for all of us to give each other collective high fives and perhaps even a great big group hug. After all, each and every one of us are survivors of what is being touted as the “hottest summer on record”, which apparently beats out last year, the old “hottest summer on record”.

And what a summer it was. Lengthy stretches of torridly hot days, heavy with humidity, dry and dusty trails and sleepless nights. As a rule, when the summer heat becomes too much to bear, the bike paths and bike shops become noticeably emptier. Since this was a standout summer weather wise, why shouldn’t this years cycling habits be just as unusual? People decided to defy mother nature and ride their bicycles as if the heat was a non issue. They bought more bicycles this summer than in any year previous. No one seemed willing to let these less than ideal cycling conditions get the better of them. A big round of applause for all.

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Heroics aside, it’s certainly a welcome relief to see autumn making its colorful grand entrance. After all, these are the days that are tailor made for cycling. Cooler temperatures promote longer and more spirited rides. As each week rolls by, the trees display increasingly more vibrant colors. It’s difficult not to have ones spirits lifted when seeing red and gold leaves displayed against a perfect blue sky. In the woods the foliage pares back, leaving the trail feeling more open and visible. The last of the summer insects buzz lazily about. Wildlife becomes easier to spot as animals make preparation for winter. Does the sound of geese on the wing ever get old?

Going forward over the next several weeks means remembering where you’d squirreled away your thermal riding tights and long fingered gloves. Where did you put that fleece lined beanie and helmet cover anyway? The air is so crisp that you can ride all afternoon. It’s always a surprise to see fewer and fewer leaves on the trees with each passing weekend and hear the whisper under your tires as they roll through ever increasing drifts of golden leaves. That irresistible autumn scent is in the air. Late season sunlight is softly diffused. The opposition of chilled air and moderately warm sun on our faces feels invigorating. There seems to be nothing like a brisk autumn ride to stimulate the appetite and the last few kilometers of a Sunday ride can usually be spent thinking about a hot tea or latte and a pastry or two.

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From this point forward it’s the realm of the true cycling enthusiast. Colder weather means shorter days and quicker rides. The trails are all but abandoned save for the few like minded souls that enjoy the solitude of a late autumn ride. Cold weather cycling gear makes getting out in late October and November extremely comfortable. Whether you’re a die hard racer on a training ride or a recreational rider on a hybrid it’s the little secret to being able to stretch your season to the limit.

Shed no tears when bidding goodbye to summer riding. For many of us the best cycling of the year is upon us. Pull on your favorite sweater, grab your bike, and hit the trails. Latte or tea, muffin or pie. What’s it going to be?

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Pas Ce Que J’Appelle Recyclage

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One of the nicest things about being into bikes and being a self admitted “bike watcher”, is that when travelling to different places it’s always a guilty pleasure to observe and take in various local bike cultures. Whether it’s lesser numbers of cyclists going about their business locally, or the bicycle heavy activity of a city like Toronto, it’s all designed to be taken notice of. Once upon a long time ago, when I lived in bicycle rich Edmonton, I became part of the daily cycling buzz of that city. Bikes and the people who rode them were everywhere. It felt good to be alive and on a bicycle. It felt good to be part of the scene.

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A few weeks ago I found myself standing in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. You couldn’t have asked for better summer weather. Due to this, or perhaps in spite of it, bikes and the people who rode them were everywhere. I couldn’t help but soak it all in, taking mental notes as we walked the streets. That old feeling of being part of the scene came creeping back.

It didn’t take long to notice a few interesting points concerning the bicycles that people were riding… or locking to signposts and railings. A very large majority of these machines were older drop barred road and touring bikes. There were old Cannondales and Miyatas. Treks and Nishikis. Velo Sports and Bianchis. Nearly every one of them were reasonably maintained. There seemed to be no rusting hulks in dire need of repair. There was the impression that these bikes were not so much what you would call recycled junk, but machines that had continued to be ridden regularly since being purchased new some twenty or thirty years previous.

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Not to be left out, there were also plenty of modern bicycles being ridden. Flat bar commuters were plentiful. As were road racing bikes made of aluminum or carbon fiber. You would see the occasional mountain bike, but the machines of choice both on the city streets and on the bike paths and the bridge crossing over to Gatineau, Quebec were of the narrower tired variety. Nearly every bicycle, whether modern or older, used a rear carrier rack to tote the riders personal belongings. Busy people busily cycling about their business.

The point of all of this is that it felt pretty good to be amid this hive of activity. There were plenty of cyclists and bikes of all description to watch as they pedaled past. There was the hopeful “bike shop employee feeling” of seeing bikes used for utility as well as recreational and competitive use. And for the bike geek in me, there was the fantastic rolling museum of vintage steel to catalogue and file away in my brain. As the saying goes, old bikes have to go somewhere. It was really nice to see them being used in Ottawa. I just wish that I had brought a proper camera!

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Bicycle Rx

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Spend enough time working in a bike shop and you’ll see just about every type of bike in just about every stage of disrepair. Most shop employees tend to think about bikes and bike related subjects for most of their waking hours. It’s part of why we do what we do. One of the more interesting things to think about is trying to decide which point in time it is when someones brand new shiny “baby” becomes a neglected, poorly shifting, corroding piece of metal and rubber. This phenomenon is not solely held to cheap department store bikes. No sir. We often see what were once very expensive, high end machines in various stages of neglect as well. For a bike shop mechanic it can be like a trip to the local animal shelter. These once proud machines stare back at us forlornly, their silent voices whispering “save me”.

Bicycles are amazing machines. Bearings and sprockets and chain links spin and whir literally thousands of times an hour as our bikes carry us to work, the grocery store or along the rail trail on a Sunday afternoon. Bicycles are built up of many wearable components and all of this repetitive activity slowly takes its toll. Unfortunately one thing is certain. Bikes do not heal. They stay worn out and broken until their owners take action.

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All is not lost! Every bicycle can be saved from a horrible fate. Some simple routine maintenance and an awareness of which components WILL wear over time is all that is needed. It takes surprisingly little effort to keep your bike running smoothly and looking great for many years.

We hate flats. We’d rather avoid the walk home in the hot sun. The solution is to buy a floor pump and routinely top up the air in your tires before each ride. It’s surprising how much air loss can take place over the course of a weeks time, and over an even shorter time for road racing bikes. Harder tires generally roll better and resist becoming punctured. Follow the recommended air pressure on the side of your tires.

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The subject of lubricating your bike is an interesting one. Too much oil can attract dirt and turn a chain into a grimy black mess, which causes sluggish performance. Too little can invite corrosion, and a dry chain is much harder to pedal. Use a good quality oil made for bicycles. Lightly oil the chain and wipe off any excess lube after a few minutes. You can also add a dot of oil to your brake lever pivots as well as the ones on your brakes and derailleurs. It’s best to keep lubrication away from disc brakes.

It can be a good idea to periodically remove the seat post from your bike and add a thin film of grease to it. You can also remove your pedals and add a small amount of grease to the threads before screwing them back into the crank arms, bearing in mind that the pedals have opposite threads. This will prevent galvanic corrosion which causes these parts to become permanently stuck over time.

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Rail trail riding will soon cover a bike in a decent layer of dust. This dust is very abrasive and works its way into the various pivots of your drive train, causing premature wear. What to do? It isn’t necessary to constantly wash your bike. Taking an old towel and dry wiping the dust off of your bike is often enough. If you DO find it necessary to wash it, a bucket of water and a sponge or a garden hose with a regular gun attachment will get the job done. Towel dry the bike afterwards. Pressure washers or the local car wash will force water into the bearings of your bike, ruining those components. After cleaning your bike, whether by wiping or washing, lubricate it as mentioned above.

It’s also a good idea to routinely check the various nuts and bolts of your bike, especially those that were used to attach racks, mirrors and fenders.

What about “wearable” components? How do bikes age? As was said before, those thousands upon thousands of rotations that occur as we ride end up taking their toll. You might remember the performance of your bike when it was brand new. Everything was silky smooth and felt tight. The bike rolled forever. As certain parts wear, the performance of the bike degrades. But as was said, all is not lost. Replace these wearable pieces, and the bike will feel new again. Sometimes this can be difficult to perceive when living in a throw away society.

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Modern bike chains are only designed to last for a given mileage. Once they wear to a certain point, the freewheel on the rear wheel starts to wear as well. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to replace both of these affordable components each spring if the bike sees regular usage. Tires become thinner as they wear. It doesn’t take much force for the smallest item to punch through. Couple this with under inflation, and you can easily guess why your flat tire occurred.

Gear and brake cables can oxidize and become dry over time, especially when coated with trail dust. They won’t slide as easily through the outer casings. This causes very sluggish braking and shifting and leads to the most frustration. It’s very cost effective to change cables. The ones made of stainless steel are highly recommended due to their high resistance to corrosion. Lastly, brake pads are quickly worn down.  Checking and replacing them not only improves braking performance, it is also important for safety reasons.

Those are the most basic of the wearable components of your bike. Taking it a step further, you could also consider your handlebar grips or tape as well. Ditto with your saddle. Replacing your grips or tape is the fastest way to make a bike feel new, due to them being a direct touch point. The foam and gel inside your saddle ages and hardens. It breaks down over time not unlike a bed mattress. If it doesn’t feel right any more, replacing it will usually help. Not to mention, there are constant improvements in saddle technology.

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As you can see, it’s really easy to get many more years out of your bicycle investment by following a simple maintenance regimen. All it costs is some time. Your bike will spend less time in the shop or the corner of the garage, and more time out on the trail. That’s a good thing!

 

 

 

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