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Brantford Cyclepath Blog

We Know Bikes

Use It Or Lose It

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It’s a hard thing to stomach when you realise that your bike has been stolen. Pacing around after the fact, searching the area, sure that a friend has played a practical joke. You locked it up and it still disappeared! How do we prevent this misfortune from happening again?

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The first thing to understand is that all locks are not created equal. Most people buy a cable lock, mainly because they cost the least. They can be highly effective when used in the right situation. Use these locks for that trip to the coffee shop, where your bike can be seen from the window. A quick dash into the local variety store will be okay. Cable locks are also extremely useful as a secondary lock. Security? We’ve cut a low quality department store lock with a pair of bicycle gear cable cutters. If you choose this type of lock, go to a bike shop and get the stronger 12mm thick cable. For added strength, look for one that also has a mesh outer layer.

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Chains are a better choice. The links are made of hardened steel and although they are heavier, they are easy to carry around. They also tend to be longer, giving more options for locking. Most chains offer medium security. Some of the heavier chains go well beyond this. The Hip Lock, pictured above, can be worn around the waist as a belt, further simplifying the method of bringing it with you.

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A new type of very portable lock uses hardened steel flat plates that are pinned together to form a type of flexible chain. These tough locks are difficult to defeat because they tend to move around when tampered with. The plates fold in on each other, creating a very small lock to stow. This lock seems to offer the highest amount of strength for it’s ease of transport. Security is mid to high, depending on the size of the plates.

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A decently priced, good quality U-lock still offers the best general security. Although heavy and cumbersome, if you have to leave your bike unguarded, it will usually still be there when you return. These locks are available with many different lengths of shackles and styles of key cylinders. Some, like the Bike Guard lock above, come with a secondary cable for a completely thorough way to secure your bike.

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Which ever lock you choose, use the lock through the rear wheel and around the seat tube of the frame, then around the parking rack. If your front wheel is not nutted to the fork, remove it and lock it beside the rear wheel. Consider using a cable lock for the front wheel in conjunction with a heavier lock for the rear of the bike.  Another option for removable wheels is to add theft proof axle skewers.

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Reduce the opportunity for theft by locking in a well lit, trafficked area. Finally, use your lock, no matter how brief your stop, and keep your bike yours.

#brantfordcyclepath

#lockyourbike

#useitorloseit

 

 

 

Why Ride?

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There’s a bike shop saying that goes like this. “Everyone rides for their own reasons.” It’s more than true. Who can’t remember those fledgling days of learning to ride as children? Red Bull gives us wings? I beg to differ. A bicycle gave us wings. It broadened our world to include far away places such as the corner store and the park. We had a new form of liberation. At least until the street lights came on. Didn’t those summer days seem to last forever?

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As teens, bikes were our wheels. We formed social lives with them. Rode to each others houses. Went on two wheeled adventures together. Checked out the river, the woods, the neighborhoods on the other side of town. They allowed us to begin our first jobs, which brought us a new kind of freedom. Financial independence! A bike took the strain off of not affording a car. Ever been on a date via bike?

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Into our twenties, many made the switch to the automobile, pushing bikes to the back of the garage. Plenty of us still weren’t ready for cars, or enjoyed the exercise component of cycling, and continued to commute by bicycle. This is where we earned hero status. “You ride your bike all year ’round?!” Or lunatic status. “You ride your bike all year ’round?!” We felt as if we belonged to a unique fraternity of people. Cyclists. Again, ever been on a date via bike?

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Some of us really got into the exercise side of biking and started to train and compete against each other, furthering the hero and lunatic statuses. Many people became triathletes, who are a tougher brand of cyclist altogether, with hero and lunatic statuses cranked to the maximum. Our machines became expensive works of titanium, aluminum and carbon fiber. No matter, it’s what we did. It’s who we were.

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Then there remains the bulk of us. For most, life got busy. Forty hour work weeks, children and mortgages. The activity that we once cherished in our past was set aside in favor of other pursuits. Children grew as did our waistlines. We morphed out of our lean, fit shapes into a more aerodynamic one, round. Interestingly enough, our bikes sat in the basement, retaining the original shape that they were manufactured in.

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It doesn’t matter why you started riding a bike. It doesn’t matter why you stopped. The greatest thing about bicycling is that our bikes will be waiting for us when we decide to return to them. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It doesn’t matter how old we become. The only thing that matters is the question “why not ride?”

#brantfordcyclepath

#ridingabike

#ilovebikeriding

#cyclingblog

 

 

Paint It Black (?)

 

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The Rolling Stones must not have had the faintest idea as to the influence that they would hold in the world of cycling, albeit decades later, when they penned their popular anthem, Paint It Black. Love it or hate it, you’ve no doubt noticed the trend in matte black paint jobs that the majority of bicycles have been wearing over the past few years. There have been seasons when it seemed that nearly every bike on our sales floor was finished in some sort of black. The most interesting fashion of all seems to be the move towards shooting matte black paint jobs onto road bikes.

There was a time, decades ago, when a stolen bicycle could easily be identified by its hastily done, flat black paint job, sans decals. “Wheredja get the bike, bud? Nice over spray on the rims and cranks.” You knew it was hot. They knew it was hot. But now? Be prepared to pay thousands of dollars for the same look. It’s a wonderful case of art imitating life.

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In the 1960’s and ’70s there was a tendency towards conservative, mainly solid colors on road bikes, whether they be used for leisure, touring or competitive road racing. Decals were kept simple. It was common to have a sensible head badge, the brand name on the downtube, and a few color bands on the seat tube. Life was simple then. If you liked blue, you bought the metallic blue one. If not, you bought the candy apple red one.

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There’s no doubt about it that the 1980’s was a wonderful time. Big hair, crazy fashion, great music. Neon bikes. Referring to the bikes of the ’80s as “dayglo” would have been an understatement. Loud paint and numerous decals meant that the bikes of the 1980’s had more in common with NASCAR then any decade previous. And get a load of that cycling outfit! It’s enough to make a peacock blush. (incidentally, I still own a pair of those EXACT Sidi shoes)

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After that came the kid-in-a-candy-store years of anodized colored parts. Shiny, oftentimes densely logo’d frames were the rage. If your bike had a plainer tone to it, you spent considerable money on stickers to make it more factory pro. Cyclists everywhere were “upgrading” perfectly good silver components by buying CNC machined, brightly anodized aluminum parts in red, gold, green, blue and purple, among others. Truth be known, many of these “high zoot” upgrades were of a considerably lower quality than the boring stock components. Ah well, at least you looked good.

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The bikes of the 1980’s and ’90s were akin to attending a never ending all-niter. After the eventual hangover subsides, you want nothing more than calm. The 2001 S-works M4 Stumpjumper above is still a full factory race bike, but it most certainly seems to be more subdued than that in-your-face Yeti above it. From this point on, paint choices on bicycles returned to their simpler, less busy roots. Gone was the anodizing. Components were offered in black or silver. Many cyclists, BMXers in particular, went completely minimalist, removing decals from their bikes in order to present a cleaner, less noticeable ride.

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If it’s minimalist you want, then it’s minimalist you shall get. Most companies made the shift in recent years to matte paints and ghosted graphics on both road and mountain bikes. After the glossy paints and excess graphics of previous decades, seeing a flat black road bike was quite startling. Where was the flashy NASCAR and F1, “factory pilot” look? This stealth fighter attitude was a complete 180 in the other direction. It’s about as lo-vis as you can get. One thing is certain. You’re either for it or against it. There seems to be no middle ground.

From predictable, plain paint colors and tasteful decals, to full volume neons and splashy graphics, to hide in the shadows mattes with barely there logos. We’ve made the trip from quiet to loud and back to quiet again. Our industry has most certainly offered us visual variety over the years. That much can be said. However, you know what they say about history repeating itself.

Have you seen the latest crop of bikes?

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Getting In Tune With It All

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With spring waiting just around the corner, thoughts, for the majority of us, should begin to focus on getting our bicycles into good working order. Many of them have spent the last four or five months gathering dust and cobwebs in basements and garages. After an entire year of use they could most certainly use some adjustments and new components. Let’s briefly chat about the most common of them.

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Chains and freewheels. Besides rear tires, these two components are usually the biggest wearable. If your chain has seen plenty of mileage it’s a good idea to have it checked for wear. If the chain is badly worn, then the rear gear cluster will also need to be changed. If a new chain is paired with an old set of gears, the shifting will tend to skip and jump since the two components no longer mesh properly. Aluminum front chain rings will wear as well and should be checked for “shark finning”, wherein the teeth become shaped like a sharks fin. These teeth will tend to not release the chain smoothly. Steel chain rings are more common these days and do not wear as quickly.

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Cables. Shifty little things! Give me a brake! In a nutshell, these parts are what cause the important components on your bike to either do or not do what they are supposed to be doing. Commonly referred to as “cable stretch”, the outside housing actually compresses over time with regular use, thereby leaving the inner cable slacker than it originally was. In order to restore proper shifting, the slack needs to be tightened at the derailleurs. In some cases the inner strands of the outside housing itself can pull away and cause inaccurate shifting. This can be checked by carefully pulling the end caps from the ends of the housing. Look for strands of wire protruding from the end of the casing. Replace it if necessary. Check the inner cables for any sharp bends, crimping, rust or fraying. If the exposed part of the cable is rusty, you can imagine what the cable under the housing looks like. Every bike can use fresh cables and they are one of the least expensive parts to replace. Be sure to replace any of the small metal cable ends if they have gone missing.

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The better you can stop, the faster you can go. Not only do brake pads wear down, they also become contaminated with dirt and grime. A fresh set every spring will do wonders for your confidence and peace of mind.

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Tires. This can be a big conversation. We can talk about rebound and durometer and suspension loss and thread count and all kinds of stuff. I think we’ll talk solely about tires in a later blog entry. For the moment let’s just say that worn tires have less traction and are less safe. Something to bear in mind is that tires are a lot like pencil erasers. The friction of the road wears them down. They become thinner. There’s no need to wonder why that thorn penetrated your tire casing, is there? While inspecting the tread surface, take a look at the sidewalls of your tires. They can weaken as the ply of the sidewall ages, producing cracks or holes. This is especially common if a tire has been ridden while under inflated. If it’s time to replace your tires, buy the best ones you can afford. The rubber is of a higher quality and they are less heavy, which produces a more comfortable and livelier ride.

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If there’s one thing to say about handlebar tape, grips and saddles, it’s that they, along with pedals, are the touch points of your bike. While gold duct tape may look fabulous, it might not be the best option out there. Fresh handlebar tape or grips can make your old bike feel new again as well as restore your level of control. There are many different kinds of each to choose from. When it comes to conversations in a bike shop, no other subject tops saddles. People love to complain about them. Depending on the quality and frequency of use, saddles can break down fairly quickly. The foam becomes non supportive and gel padding hardens and becomes brittle. Mountain bike saddles become torn and the rails can bend in a crash. There are many better saddles out there now and most are offered in different widths and shapes to fit your body more accurately. If your seating isn’t quite what it used to be, consider replacing it with something more agreeable.

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Finally, there is one item that can always use replacing. Your water bottles. Particularly if you only own one. It’s a good idea to own at least four of them so that they can be properly cleaned and used in rotation. Many bottles are insulated to keep water cold and some, such as the ones made by Specialized, are antimicrobial to prevent the growth of nasty bacteria.

Go out to the garage, move the snowblower out of the way and give your bike the once over. I think I hear spring approaching…..

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#springbiketuneup

#brantfordcyclepath

#bicyclemaintenance

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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