Biketober – 31 Bike Deals in 31 Days

Here at Performance Bicycle, we want to make next month Biketober, so we’re going to offer 31 amazing bike deals in 31 days. The one catch? We’re only going to reveal 1 deal a day. Each morning at 10am ET, we’ll give out a coupon code on our Twitter page, good for one specific bike on that day only.

These are extra-special prices on great bikes, so you can’t add any other offers to these deals (basically, this is the best price you can get on these bikes). We may not have every size in stock, so be sure to check our Twitter feed early to see if that day’s deal is perfect for you!

Check back October 1 for the first bike deal:

It’s going to be awesome.

Pisgah MTB Stage Race – Stage 5

Finally, the fifth and final stage of the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race was upon us.  Our route for the day was the same as day 3 from last year, but that was about all that was the same!  Instead of wet and freezing temps, we were greeted with another beautiful day in western North Carolina, with clear skies and temperature ranging from 60 up to 85 degrees (no chance of snow on Laurel Mountain this year)! As you can see in the Google Earth map generated from my Garmin Edge 500, we had another big loop in store for us, with many stream crossings, the highest point of the race, and one of the gnarliest downhills thrown in for good measure:

But before we started, as promised, here’s a shot of Chris and I (David) with one of the famous white squirrels of Brevard!  OK, maybe the sneakers give it away, but that’s just a guy in a (somewhat tattered) squirrel suit.

The final stage started with a controlled roll-out, with police escort, onto the road that leads out of Pisgah Forest from our daily start/finish site at the base of Black Mountain.  We even got to stop traffic at an intersection (but the people of Brevard were exceedingly polite about the whole event, but perhaps they were just utterly perplexed by the sight of 50-odd spandex clad mountain bikers rolling down the road)!  Once we turned onto the main highway leading north, towards our first singletrack of the day, I tried to stay tucked in with the lead group as long as I could, but faded off the back on the first big hill (the first 4 days were really catching up with me).  Chris dropped back and we pacelined the rest of the paved miles until our turnoff onto the first big fire road climb of the day.

Soon enough we hit singletrack, a fun rolling stretch along Turkeypen Gap, before we dropped down to a creekside trail.  We waded through the chilly water many times  as the trail zig-zagged back and forth across the stream.  The first crossing was the deepest, but it was only about knee-high this year:

Since I had my GoPro HD Hero helmet cam ready to go, I made a little compilation of the stream crossing action, to give you a feel for the experience:

Once we finished the lowland stretch of stream crossings, the trail pointed ever upward and we started the long climb to the top of Laurel Mountain.  As I said, it was a beautiful day, so attempting this climb without blinding snow made it eminently more enjoyable, but it was still a hard slog.  We are definitely not elite level mountain bikers by any means, so riding for 5 straight days for over 5 hours was really starting to wear me down.  Even what would normally be fast and fun singletrack just became a matter of survival.

But battle on we did, pushing our bikes up Laurel Mountain when we had to (well, everyone had to at some point, as it was ridiculously steep)!  Once at the top, the view was amazing, but we soon had out hands full with the descent off of Pilot Mountain.  Rocky hairpin switchbacks greeted us for miles as we plunged downward–we needed every suspension advantage from our GT Sensor 9rs to get down in one piece.  Here I am navigating the “humvee” section near the bottom of Pilot Mountain:

After some paved road connectors, it was back onto the Avery Creek Trail for one last hurrah of Pisgah singletrack.

After one last fire road climb, and a last time pushing up over Black Mountain, we got to enjoy the 4 mile downhill that ended every day during the race!  Final stats for stage 5: 41.48 miles, 9,127 feet of elevation gained and a time of 6 hours and 43 minutes.  If we look a little wiped-out in the photo below, now you know why:

All that was left was to enjoy the post-race festivities.  But, wouldn’t you know it, on the way there we actually saw a real, live white squirrel!  I actually forced Chris to turn the van around so I could go back and get photographic evidence this time.  Cute little guys, aren’t they:

The closing ceremonies were held at the Brevard Music Center campus, where there was plenty of room for vendor booths and activities for young and old (from a kids’ race to a pie-eating contest):

Here’s a cool cut-away view of the internals of an Industry Nine freehub body, on display at their booth–they’re based near Asheville, NC and make some fantastic wheelsets:

Finally it was time for awards.  Once again we were only able to finish 5th in the team classification, but at least that meant we made the final podium (OK, technically we were standing on the ground).  To see a list of all the winners, check out Cycling News for their final breakdown (pro Jeremiah Bishop took the overall title once again).  Our final tally after all 5 stages: 173.50 miles and 39,621 feet of elevation in 28 hours 9 minutes (but who’s counting).  To see more from the race, check out the photo album on our Facebook page or go to our Youtube page (plus Thom from Cycling Dirt also logged some great coverage as he raced).

The Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race was again an epic challenge of endurance and willpower–definitely the hardest test on a mountain bike that I’ve ever tried.  Chris and I survived the race more than anything else, but it was still a blast.  We had no major problems with either man or machine (unless you count my sore legs), and our GT Sensor 9r mountain bikes performed great throughout all 5 days.  We’ll post more detailed reviews of our equipment in the next couple of weeks, to give you a few tips about what we discovered by pushing our gear to the limit (and hopefully let you know how you can get a GT Sensor 9r of your very own, while supporting Hans Rey’s great Wheels for Life charity).

But we’ll finish up this post with a few words from the race organizer, Todd Branham, talking about this year’s race, and what he has in store for next year.  Knowing Todd, it will definitely be an adventure!

Pisgah MTB Stage Race – Stage 4

Todd Branham is one fantastic race director.  When he says he’s going to put together one of the toughest stage races in the world, he means it.  When he says that the winners are truly going to have earned their prizes, he means it.  When he says that tomorrow’s stage is going to be easier than today’s, he is lying.  Big time.

Stage 4 was just like many of the other stages.  It started with a brutal climb and covered some of the East Coast’s most technical trail networks.  The difference was that there weren’t fire road sections connecting one part to another.  No, this stage was about 95% single track, which means that we had a tremendously slow average speed and took a mental drubbing to boot.

Before the stage started, everything was fine.  Here’s David signing in, as was our morning ritual:

Then the gun went off and we started out by riding the finishing stretch of each days’ stage backwards – straight up Black Mountain.

After pedaling uphill for about 30 minutes, the trail really kicked skyward and we were forced off our GT Sensor 9rs (along with everyone else).

Up, up and away we went, to start what became the longest stretch between aid stations we had all week (over 2 and a half hours).  David drained his Camelbak.  Then we worked together to drain mine as well.  By the time we came down the “stairs” to the first aid station we realized we were in for one long day.

We then had to tackle Squirrel Gap backwards (relative to the direction we rode it during stage 2).  This was so mentally taxing that at one point, I fell off of the side of the trail, quite literally.  Luckily, David was there to pull my bike back up onto the trail so I could climb back up myself (there was a bit of a drop).

About the only way to find inspiration out on the trails was to have 2 guys screaming and ringing cowbells in your ear, and luckily 2 local residents obliged on what they called “Hell Hill” (a nasty little climb that you had to power through if you didn’t want an earful from the cowbell-ringers):

After a mere 7 hours and 30 minutes we crossed the finish line (since we rode “only” 38.27 miles today, that gave us a scintillating 5.1 mph average speed).  Many riders behind us missed cut-off times on this stage and everyone agreed that it was the most physically and mentally challenging stage of the race so far.

How do you recover from something like that?  Well, for starters, we split an XL “party size” pizza with numerous toppings and washed it down with Fat Tire Ale.

Follow up dinner by watching a podium presentation and a movie.  Here Jeremiah Bishop takes top honors for winning the stage (in a mere 4 hours and 15 minutes).

Following the podium presentation, we watched Ride the Divide, a documentary about the ultra-endurance Tour Divide Race (it runs from Canada to Mexico) which features 7-time champion & Chapel Hill native Matt Lee, seen below introducing the movie:

Over 10,000 feet of climbing and about 10,000 calories of pizza consumption lead to another great night’s sleep at our campsite with dreams (nightmares?) of Laurel Mountain running through our heads.

Pisgah MTB Stage Race – Stage 3

Our intrepid racers David and Chris (as you’ll recall, David works in Marketing, while Chris is in our Bikes division) are safely back in the office after their adventure at the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race, and they’ve picked up where they left off last week with recaps of their long days in the saddle.  Today Chris offers up his take on Stage 3, which included the famed Farlow Gap descent:

Stage 3 of the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race had us up early to catch a shuttle to the start at a campground a few miles away from our normal departure point at the base of the Black Mountain descent.  As you can see by the map below, our return route to the finish line wasn’t exactly a straight line (things in Pisgah never are!):

But everything was well-organized and there were plenty of trailers on-hand that were specifically designed to carry bicycles.  This way none of our fancy-pants bikes would end up with more scratches on them than we would later inflict upon them as we descended down the infamous Farlow Gap (last year we missed out on this bit of trail because it was covered in ice–what a difference a year and about 40 degrees makes!)

Once all of the bikes were safely stowed, we piled into waiting passenger vans and headed out!

Here are David and Alex Hawkins, another rider from our company hometown of Chapel Hill, NC who made the trip to the mountains to race (and Alex ended up winning his 40+ division overall!)

As tom-foolery and pre-race banter filled the back of the vans, our loyal volunteers drove us to our remote starting location where Todd (the race organizer) had another surprise in store for us: somersaults.  Not content to simply start us on a grueling mountain bike stage with a stream crossing about 100 yards in, we had to first perform a somersault (or cart-wheel) in a designated area, then run and find our bikes.  Despite virtually no training in this area of mountain biking, we succeeded and were on our way (with surprisingly no injuries sustained).

The trail eventually took us to the dreaded Farlow Gap where we found a rocky descent the likes of which we had never seen before.  It all culminated in a series of stream crossings like the one below.  We saddled up and jumped the streams of course.

Just kidding.

But what’s the fun of telling you about the riding, when I can show you a sampling of the sweet trails we got to ride this day (shot with our GoPro HD HERO camera).  So while there was a lot of fire road to slog through on this stage, plus quite a few sections of singletrack that we had to walk in order to avoid something catastrophic, we were usually amply rewarded with miles of some of the best trails that you can find anywhere in the world:

The one constant through all of the varied and difficult terrain was the high spirits of the volunteers.  At each aid station (there were 3 per stage) we were treated like kings.  As we rolled up to the tent, they would rush towards us asking if there was anything we needed while retrieving our aid station bags (which we packed to send ahead) and filling our Camelbaks for us.  It was sweet luxury after hours in the saddle to have food waiting for us and more than a little positive attitude to raise our spirits.

While this was a long day, we had no idea that the next day would be even longer and that we would appreciate the aid stations more than ever.  Still, with an elevation profile like this one it’s no wonder we slept like babies that night.

Totals for the day: 43.34 miles, 8,823 ft of elevation gained, and 6 hours 40 minutes on the bike (I think the pro winner, Jeremiah Bishop, finished up in around 4 hours or so).

Pisgah MTB Stage Race – Stage 2

Another day down at the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race. Today was hailed as the “Queen Stage” and it certainly lived up to that moniker. We rode 38.24 miles and climbed 8,912 feet!  Here I (David) am trying to stay upright on a side-slope & rooty trail (most of the pictures are of me, since Chris was usually way ahead of me and had time to set up camera shots)!

The tree branches grabbed at our arms constantly as we battled our way across Squirrel Gap. The trail has been called “half-track” because it’s not wide enough to justify the name “single track”.  But at least the weather was perfect this year, instead of last year when this stage was cold, wet, and generally miserable (made especially so since I broke one of my pedals halfway through the stage).  Here I am battling through the foliage (I’m right in the middle, hiding Where’s Waldo-style):

Fire roads served to ferry us from one section of trail to another all day. This sounds like a pleasant break from the brutal single track, but in fact Todd (the race promoter) uses the technical ease of the fire roads to get away with making them 7+ mile climbs. Below you can see me suffering up climb number three (today).  You may also notice the odd protuberance from the top of my helmet–that’s our GoPro HD Helmet Hero camera, which we used to shoot some cool footage from the stage today (we’ll post a movie on our Youtube channel soon):

Our closest rivals (with whom we are engaged in a fierce competition for who gets to be last place in the team competition) Tom and Karen were celebrating a wedding anniversary today. Here Karen showcases her trademark good humor and optimism on top of Black Mountain, despite having just gone through a half hour of hike-a-bike (and calling it hike-a-bike really doesn’t do it justice):

We had to push our bikes a quite a bit today, but small consolation was the view from the top on the way to the Black Mountain descent.  Here we are posing with our GT Sensor 9rs, which we put through quite the workout today:

We finished the stage today in 5 hours 44 minutes, an improvement of an hour and half over last year!  Here’s a map of the stage, showing the out-and-back course:

And here’s the elevation profile (those last peaks are the hike-a-bike sections, leading to that final ripping descent off Black Mountain):

We’ll be up early tomorrow to catch the shuttle to the start of Stage 3, which includes the fearsome Farlow Gap (although Todd says it has an overblown reputation, as the hard part is only about 100 yards of rock ledge dropoffs… onto more rocks).

Product Profile – Shimano 105 5700 Components

Our local Shimano technical training representative dropped by our headquarters a little while back to give our Spin Doctor Product Support team (our in-house technical experts that are ready to answer your questions via phone or email) a rundown of the new Shimano 105 5700 components, so we asked him to give his presentation on video so that we could share the new product features with you.

This new and upgraded version of the 105 line of road components offers many of the same performance features of the higher-end Ultegra or Dura-Ace components in a more affordable package.  Almost everything has been redesigned, from the improved ergonomics of the dual-control levers (which now feature under-the-bartape cable routing), to wider-link front and rear derailleurs for crisper shifting, to the Super SLR brakes that feature increased modulation and power.

You can find the new 105 5700 group featured on our 2010 Scattante R-570 Road Bike and 2010 Scattante W-570 Women’s Road Bike.

Pisgah MTB Stage Race – Stage 1

Monday evening David and I (Christopher) packed up our bags and headed to Brevard, North Carolina where we would set up camp and get a good night’s rest in preparation for today’s big first stage of the 2010 Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race.  We rented a van for the drive since we have a tendency to overpack (why not bring 2 spare bikes, and extra wheels, spare tires, and…well, you get the point):

This morning came early as we were up with the sunrise in order to make up breakfast and drive to the start of the stage (although the temp would warm up nicely, it was chilly early in the morning).

This was the only stage we will have to drive to and thank goodness! The drive was rough! There was over 6 miles of gravel road that apparently doesn’t see too much care and our rental van was barely up to the challenge (it sounded like someone threw a handful of quarters into a clothes dryer).

None the worse for wear, we arrived at the start with plenty of time to sign in and get warmed up. The finish line was at the beautiful Blue Moon on Pinnacle Peak, which had a spectacular view:

Another cool feature of the race was that we all had to sign in before the stage (like they do in the Tour de France).  Here I am signing in, getting as close to Jeremiah Bishop as I would all day!

 

Here we are, ready to go, in our Performance team kits, next to our GT Sensor 9rs:

 

Stage 1 was touted as the easiest of the 5 stages. We started by all rolling out for a neutral (not racing) 7 mile ride to the start line (mostly downhill). Then as a surprise we faced a Le Mans start (which is where you have to run and pick up your bike, always an amusing sight at a bike race) before facing “Dupont Forest’s rockiest terrain”. The stage consisted of a 12 mile climb (with brief glorious downhill sections) to take us back up to the finish line. The highlight of the day was David flying headfirst into a deep stream crossing–he took the race promoter’s word seriously when he said that everything on the stage was rideable! Someone was actually on the scene taking a video, so we will post it as soon as we find out who it was filming.  The battle was hard fought but in the end, we weren’t last!

 

Waiting for us at the finish line was a field full of happy participants and very nice lunches (Jeremiah Bishop won the stage, of course, in a close fought battle–or so we’re told!)

 

As we sat and ate we pondered what tomorrow would bring. Today was an hour and a half of very difficult trail. Tomorrow will bring more than three times that. Should be fun!

 

Final stats for the day: 12.16 miles and 2,540 feet of vertical gain:

 

On the road to Pisgah with GT Sensor 9rs

David and Chris are packing up today to head out to the Land of the White Squirrel (that’s Brevard, NC) for the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race (which starts Tuesday, Sept. 14).  But before they left they wanted to share a few thoughts on their ride for the week of racing, the exclusive GT Sensor 9r mountain bike.  Just in case you’ve forgotten, David works in our Marketing department (although you may remember him from his on-the-scene posts from this year’s Tour de France), while Chris works in our Bikes department, making sure that all of our stores have the right mountain bikes in stock.  Here’s David talking about his experiences on the GT Sensor 9r:

We’ve only been riding the GT Sensor 9rs for a few weeks, but it really has been a eye-opening experience for me.  Stepping up from a 26″ full-suspension bike to this 29″ design has been fantastic, especially since the GT Sensor 9r has 120mm of rock-solid Fox suspension front and rear.  Just taking the bike out of the box, I really liked the whole look, from the dark green paint job to the aggressive-looking top tube shape.

Of course we couldn’t resist throwing on a few upgrades while we had the chance.  Both Chris and I installed a Crank Brothers Joplin 4 seatpost, with remote, as it’s the perfect weapon to battle the variety of gnarly terrain ahead in Pisgah.  Chris then swapped out his components for a full Shimano XTR build, while I opted for an FSA crankset and cockpit with Avid Elixir CR disc brakes, plus a SRAM X.O rear derailleur/X.9 shifters combination (and of course Ergon GP1 grips).

So how does it ride?  Well, I’m a big fan!  I love how the 29″ wheels roll over technical sections of the trail, and GT’s Independent Drivetrain suspension design does a great job of isolating pedaling-induced suspension feedback.  Plus, I really like having 120mm of suspension to bail me out when the trail gets nasty.  In short, it should be a great ride for the long days in the saddle on the super-technical trails of the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race.

The only thing I don’t know if it will help me with is in trying to catch a glimpse of one of the elusive white squirrels of Brevard! I swear I saw one last year, but Chris still doesn’t believe me!

Getting ready for cyclocross season

If you are anything like a lot of the guys here in our office, as the summer starts to draw to a close it can only mean one thing… it’s almost cyclocross season!  Stretching from mid-September into February (depending on where you live), the cyclocross season fills the winter competitive void for road cyclists and mountain bikers alike.

For those in need of a quick primer, cyclocross racing dates back to the early 1900s, more than likely started after early road racers raced each other home across fields and through woods and soon decided that a race like that would be a great way to stay in shape in the winter months (plus it just sounds like fun).  From it’s probable origins in France, cyclocross racing spread throughout Europe in the years before World War II (and most significantly into Belgium, the undisputed spiritual home of ‘cross, if only because of the rabid fans).

Photo from http://www.blackbirdsf.org, home of many cool old cycling scanned photos

But it wasn’t until 1950 that the first Cyclocross World Championships were organized by the Union Cycliste Internationale (the governing body for world cycling). In the US, ‘cross really only became popular in the 1970s, starting from hotbeds in the Northeast, Northwest, and in California.  Of course now there are races and series all over this country, although the highest professional level of the sport, the UCI Cyclocross World Cup, still takes place only in Europe. The exciting news is that that may be changing soon, as cyclocross gains in prestige and popularity here in the US, since Louisville, KY was recently awarded the 2013 Elite World Championships.

North Carolina Cyclocross Series racing from last year

Cyclocross races usually consist of many laps over a short course (2 miles or less), ending after a pre-determined time limit.  Basically the lap time of the lead rider is taken and then the remaining number of laps is determined by this initial lap time; i.e.: if the lead rider does his first lap in 10 minutes and the race is an elite level race, usually 60 minutes long, then the field will have 5 more laps to complete. The remaining number of laps is posted at the start/finish line for the field to see as they pass by during each lap.

Terrain varies from paved roads to grassy fields to dirt paths (with mud or sand pits), featuring short steep climbs, off camber sections, lots of corners and sections (like the one with barriers below) where the rider may need, or would be best advised, to dismount and run while carrying the bike (although courses are usually about 90% rideable).  Because of the varied terrain in a cyclocross race, a cyclocross bike looks like a modified standard road bike, with better clearance for wider knobby tires, cables routed on top of the top tube to allow the bike to be shouldered, lower gearing, and cantilever brakes (plus mountain bike-style clipless pedals are also usually employed for their quicker entry and exit).

More North Carolina Cyclocross

So that should give you a good idea of the basics of cyclocross riding and racing, but really the only way to get a real feel for ‘cross is to give it a try. One of the best ways to try out ‘cross is at a local clinic, where you can pick up tips and tricks from more experienced riders.  Here at Performance we have an established group of cyclocross riders and racers, and they are always willing to share their hard-earned knowledge at bi-weekly ‘cross clinics, where we caught up with Spin Doctor Advisors Randy and Eric (part of our team of employee product testers & advisors) to talk about why they love riding and racing cyclocross:

We’ll be following the cyclocross racers from Performance here on the blog throughout the season, so check back for more updates.  The first race for many of the guys (and gals) will be the Charm City Cross weekend of races, in Baltimore, MD on September 18-19.  Keep an eye out for our Tyler’s team kits and stop by to say hello!

Bike MS: Historic New Bern Ride 2010

Most of us who work at Performance Bicycle take an enormous amount of pleasure from the simple act of riding a bike. Having the physical ability to get out and ride is something we don’t take for granted. For those living with Multiple Sclerosis it can be difficult or impossible to go for a bike ride, so at the Bike MS: Historic New Bern Ride 2010 we’ll be riding for them.

For the past eight years, Performance Bicycle has supported the National Multiple Sclerosis Society by providing mechanical support and special discounts for cyclists participating in our local Bike MS fundraising events. Again this year, we’ve organized a team of cyclists who are raising funds and riding under the Performance Velo Club name at one of the fastest growing MS rides in the country, the Bike MS: Historic New Bern Ride 2010, on September 11th and 12th.

Performance Velo Club team from 2009 Bike MS ride

Even if you don’t have a loved one who has been diagnosed with MS, chances are that someone you know has been affected in some way by this disease. Talk to some of the people around you, and you’ll probably encounter at least one person who has a close friend or family member living with MS. By making a donation, or supporting someone riding in a local Bike MS ride, you can make a difference in these lives. Your donations go toward programs, services, and advocacy for the people living with MS in your local community and also help  support national research to find the cause and cure of MS.  We believe this will be money well spent.  If you wish to support the Performance Velo Club team’s fund-raising efforts, you can find our team page here.

Gaynor and Josh ready to help at 2009 New Bern ride

But Performance won’t just be there as a team riding in the event, we’ll also be there to support all of the riders with technical support at rest stops on Saturday & Sunday.  In addition, we’ll also be at the New Bern Convention Center (for the weekend’s kickoff expo) on Friday, from 3-6pm, distributing water bottles, nutrition samples and providing safety checks before the big ride.

So if you’re headed to New Bern, NC for the ride, please stop to say hello to our tech support crew or any of the Performance Velo Club team members, as they’d love to meet you.  Our team will be wearing these stylish new jerseys this year, so they’ll definitely stand out in the pack:

As for those of you who aren’t from our area here in North Carolina, check out the Bike MS website to find a ride near you.  A Bike MS ride is a great way to challenge yourself, have a great time, and, most importantly, raise money to help create a world free of MS.

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