2013 Year in Review – From Cyclocross Worlds to How to Climb

While we’re already looking ahead at 2014, but as we close out 2013 we wanted to take a moment to look back at some of the best stories and posts that we’ve shared throughout the year – we’ve got even more planned for the coming year, so stay tuned!

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Real Advice: Commuting by Bike

Our coworker Aaron’s story of his 20 mile commute struck a chord with many of you out there – check out the comments for tales from fellow commuters.

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Fuji Pro Bikes at the 2013 Amgen Tour of California

In May we were lucky enough to catch a few stages of the Tour of California, where we got an up-close look at 2 very different professional rider’s Fuji bikes.

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Event Recap: 2013 UCI Cyclo-Cross Worlds

Of course we weren’t going to miss seeing the very first Cyclocross World Championship held on US soil – we summed up the craziness in this post from a very chilly and wet Louisville, Kentucky.

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Cycling First Aid Essentials – What to Pack

We don’t like to think about, but riding bikes means that sometimes we’re going to crash. Our first aid essentials for cyclists post covers the basics of what to carry to be prepared.

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Our Take: 10-Speed vs. 11-Speed

If there’s one post that generated much heated discussion, it was definitely our take on the 10 vs. 11-speed debate – you might be surprised by what we have to say!

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Real Advice: How to Lock Your Bike

There aren’t many worse feelings than having a bike stolen – our Real Advice column breaks down a robust locking strategy to make sure that it won’t happen to you next time.

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Real Advice: An Intro to Climbing

If there’s one thing that most of us would like to do better, it’s learning how to improve our climbing skill – it turns out that it’s not as hard as you think.

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Real Advice: Weight Loss

One of the great side effects of a love for cycling is being able to maintain a healthy weight – but another one of our Real Advice posts covered some straightforward tactics to help you keep the pounds off.

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Real Advice: Wheels

Another great conundrum of cycling – what upgrade provides the best bang for the buck? It’s no secret – we think that it’s all about the wheels.

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Product Profiles: The Scattante CFR LE and Scattante CFR Race

Finally, we profiled some great gear this year as well – including the latest iteration of our always popular Scattante line of road bikes.

Cycling Stories: Winter Riding

It’s no exaggeration to say that every fiber of my being rebelled at the idea of getting out of bed. It was cold in our barely-insulated farm house in rural North Carolina. Hoarfrost coated the window panes, and thin grey morning light dimly illuminated the bedroom. Under the down comforter it was snug and warm. But I know I should get up. As I shifted to slide out from the covers, my wife threw a warm arm over me and sleepily said “you don’t have to get up…just ten more minutes”. I was sorely tempted, and if you asked me why I would want to get out of a warm bed at 6.30 AM on a Saturday morning to go ride a bike outside, I couldn’t answer. I would have shrugged and said “I love the ride.”

The shock of the cold air hit me, I wrapped up in my robe and shuffled out to the dark kitchen. I put the kettle on to boil, ground some coffee for the French press and switched the space heater on. A few minutes later, I was sipping on a cup of coffee, eating some oatmeal, and thinking about the ride ahead. ‘Should I do the long route or the short route? Should I stop for lunch? Do I really feel up to climbing today?’

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The weather app on my phone said it was 23 degree outside. I checked the other app, which promised 24 degrees. The high would be 37 with 10 mph winds. I finished my breakfast and began getting ready. I laid my clothing and equipment out. I took some things out, added other things in. Eventually I was satisfied. I would be gone for at least five hours, and needed to be ready.

Thick wool socks, bib shorts, sleeveless wool baselayer, long sleeve wool baselayer, WindStopper tights, softshell jacket, wool neck warmer, skull cap, merino wool glove liners, heavy insulated gloves, cycling shoes, and shoe covers.

Into my pockets I shoved my phone, some cash and cards, a few gel packets, a set of lights, a spare set of liner gloves, a spare skull cap, and spare sleeveless baselayer.

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Winter is the season for LSD (long steady distance) riding, and this ride wasn’t going to be an exception. I left the full carbon race bike on the rack and pulled down the rain bike, the one with the metal frame, nice relaxed geometry, compact crank, and alloy wheels. I filled up two bottles, put my Garmin in its mount and checked the saddlebag contents, ensuring I would have all the tools necessary.

The moment I stepped outside it hit me like a slap in the face. 23 seems like just a number, but this was a real, physical thing. Again, I felt half tempted to just forget it. To go back inside, remove all these layers and get back into bed like any sane, rational person. But I did’t. I would miss the ride. I headed onto the road, and instantly felt chilled. The muscles took forever to warm up. There was no hurry, no need to push it. All I have to do is pedal. I felt the deep peace I always feel on the road begin to wash over me, and I began to settle into the rhythm of the ride. As I crossed the bridge over the lake, my mind cleared of all the work worries I’d carried with me into the weekend, the worries about budgeting for the holidays. This was my time to sink into myself and let my mind quiet for a few hours, and the cold only intensified the feeling.

There is a certain beauty to riding in the winter. Anyone can get up and ride on a sunny 80 degree day, but it takes fortitude to get out and ride when you don’t want to. You will be cold, you will suffer like a dog, and you will at times question why you do this. But, like anything else, the joy is found in the small things. A warm coffee shop. The empty roads. A beautiful vista, a hot meal, the feeling of flying when you find a nice straight stretch of road behind you with the wind at your back all take on a new significance that will stay with you for the rest of the day. And believe me, home has never seemed so inviting as when you pull up in the fading, cold evening light to see the windows lit, throwing warm, welcoming streaks of light on the snow.

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30 miles later, I hit one of my favorite stretches of road. I was riding into the headwind, and was working hard, every turn of the cranks feeling like an immense effort. But I didn’t care. I crested a hill, and it came into view. It’s an area where the usual dense pine forest opens up into empty farm country. At these higher elevations bits of snow still clung to the side of the road, and stuck to shadowy spots. The fields were barren and covered in frost. The roads were empty. In the distance across the fields smoke rose from the chimney of a farm house, ascending into a leaden sky. I could smell the faint scent of wood smoke on the air. Something about this sight makes my breath catch in my chest. At the bottom of the hill, I pulled over, and watched an unkindness of ravens peck with purpose at the fallow fields around the house, until for reasons unknown to me they rose and took to the air, indistinct black shapes wheeled higher and higher. I watched them until the cold became too much. These are moments you never have in a car. You might catch a glimpse, but you don’t experience it the same way, and much is lost.

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At 45 miles, I passed through town, the half way mark. By then I was thoroughly damp and chilled, and I couldn’t wait to get to the coffee shop. Smells carry further on the cold, dry air, and the smell of roasted coffee beans was never so delicious. I leaned my bike against the window, noting the other bikes there. Two were familiar, one was not. I walked in, nodded hello to the other cyclists, asked them about their rides. I ordered a coffee and a cookie, and refilled my bottles. At my table, I piled up my helmet, gloves, and neck warmer, then headed to the bathroom, where I changed into my dry baselayer. Back at my table I hung my soaked liner gloves, baselayer and skullcap on the back of the chair to dry. My first sip of coffee was beyond delicious. The chocolaty smell, the deep rich taste, and the warmth suffusing through me. It was a small cup of heaven, and I prolonged it as long as I could. I sat back, took a bite of cookie, and relished in the feeling of being warm. Finally though, cookie and coffee done, it was time to go. I pulled on my spare cap and gloves, helmet and glasses, repacked my pockets, and headed back out into the cold.

As I remounted my bike, I wondered again why I do this. For a split second I contemplated making The Call.  The cold, the suffering in the wind, the long day spent away from home, is it worth it? It doesn’t matter, not really. I pedaled through the intersection and began the long climb out of town. Soon, I reached the place again where where all the worry disappeared and I found my rhythm again. I left the outskirts of town, and the wind gusted. My thoughts turned to warm soup, a cold beer, and the indescribable pleasure of my legs turning in circles. I pulled my neck warmer up to my nose and the brim of my cap down a little further.

I’m out here for the ride. It need only be as simple as that.

Sometimes it's looking forward to simple things that keep you motivated.

Sometimes it’s looking forward to simple things that keep you motivated.

Top 10 Things For 2014

This year saw a lot of innovation, but coming out of all the trade shows, blogs, and our own meetings, there are a few things that really stand out and have us all kinds of excited for 2014. But these are just our thoughts – post a comment below with what cycling gear or rides you’re most pumped to try out in the new year!

1. Disc brakes on road bikes: we’ve had a chance to play around with these a little bit lately, and we’re excited about the performance advantages we’ve seen so far. Hopefully, we’ll see more manufacturers offer a bigger range of bikes with disc brakes.

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We love the performance of disc brakes on the Diamondback Century Sport Disc

2. 1×11 drivetrains for MTB: Who knew that losing a front derailleur could be an improvement? OK, so many folks have already gone down this path of simplicity, but the improved gearing range of 1×11 makes it a possibility for almost any mountain biker. They’ve proven to be a reliable, durable and quiet – we can’t wait to see it come stock on even more bikes. SRAM’s XX1 and (more affordable) X01 systems are the only one’s available right now, but you can go part way towards this system with a ‘narrow-wide’ single front chainring to ditch the front derailleur on your current bike.

We love the new crop of 1×11 MTB drivetrains

3. Hydraulic brakes for the road: The unfortunate SRAM recall aside, we’re excited about the potential for improved braking power. The idea is there, and the applications and benefits are obvious, it just looks like it needs more refining. We’ve been using the TRP HY/RD mechanically actuated hydraulic system the last few weeks, and are pretty impressed, so we’re looking forward to more innovation in 2014.

TRP Hy/Rd mechanically actuated hydraulic brake calipers drastically improve braking performance

TRP Hy/Rd mechanically actuated hydraulic brake calipers drastically improve braking performance

4. SRAM electronic drivetrains: Hey, we’re suckers for new technology! Spotted at the Illinois State CX Championships, it looks like SRAM is finally set to introduce an electronic shifting system to compete with the tried and true systems from Shimano and Campagnolo. Since SRAM seems to like names like “New Red” and “New Red 22″, anyone want to venture a guess about the product name? Click here to learn more from Bike Radar.

5. 27.5” wheels: 27.5″ (aka 650B) wheels on mountain bikes were huge this year, and we bet that next year they’ll gain even more prominence as more folks upgrade their rides. As a mountain biker you owe it to yourself to test out one of these ‘in-between’ bikes if you’re in the market for a new off-road steed – they really do combine some of the best traits of a nimble 26″ bike and a roll-over-anything 29er.

27.5″ wheeled mountain bikes, like this GT Force Carbon, were all the rage this year

6. Giro Air Attack Shield helmets (black, size medium): Literally the only thing on my Christmas list and I didn’t get one. Hopefully one will find it’s way to me in 2014. They make a great Valentine’s Day gift (and that’s a science fact, you guys). But seriously – aero bikes, components and gear will continue to make inroads into more every day rides. It’s free speed with very little trade-off when it comes to weight or comfort.

Maybe next year…

7. New power meter designs: The Garmin Vector and our new completely awesome, formerly super secret wheel project are making power readouts more accessible to cyclists, improving the way we ride and train. Hopefully, the designs will continue to get more affordable and easier to install.

Innovative new power meter designs are bringing power to the masses

8. Fat bikes: Fat bikes are the new fixies, but more fun. Want to experience a trail in a new way? Power through snow? Roll over boulders like it ain’t no thang? Then you need a fat bike – if you have never tried one, then you’ll be blown away by how much fun they are!

Go anywhere on a fat bike. Seriously…you can pretty much go anywhere.

9. Some exciting new stuff added to our bike and clothing lineups: We’ve got some awesome new stuff getting ready to fill up our bike inventory, including some exciting new brands. We can’t say what yet, but we’re really excited. And our clothing team is hard at work improving our already amazing high-value Performance brand apparel – we think you’re going to like what you see!

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More great Performance gear is on the way.

10. More great rides with friends: Whether it’s a lunch time hammerfest with coworkers at the office, an epic Gran Fondo, a ride with the family, or a leisurely weekend excursion with your best riding buddy – we’re here for the ride, and we hope that 2014 brings all of us even more great adventures on 2 wheels!

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Here’s to great rides in 2014!

The Fat Bikes Are Coming! Meet The Charge Cooker Maxi.

Well…technically they’re already here. British-brand Charge just dropped their new 2014 Charge Cooker Maxi Fat Bike on us, and it’s pretty awesome. According to Charge: “The Cooker Maxi is designed to take you anywhere. It takes the ‘fat bike’ feel to the trails for a new off road experience. Matching our unique ‘trail tuned’ geometry and premium Tange tubing with huge 4” wide tyres and powerful hydraulic disc brakes.” Be ready for some attention when you take this monster bike out for a ride! Your fellow riders will laugh, smile, and then realize that they want one too!

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The 2014 Charge Cooker Maxi Fat Bike in all its glory!

Lucky for you, friends, it’s up on our website right now, waiting for you to join the fat bike revolution! So, why a fat bike? A fat bike is just that; it’s fat. With the added width and girth you’ll immediately feel more stable. That stability translates into trail confidence, even on singletrack. Add in some remarkably low tire pressures and you’ll be cornering and riding berms with unheard of traction.

This thing is pretty dialed in with excellent components, a great paint job, and — of course — some big ol’ fat 4-inch wide Vee Rubber tires. Drivetrain-wise, a forgiving 36/22-tooth FSA crankset is mated to a 10-speed SRAM cassette and SRAM X5 derailleurs to handle the shifting duties. Pro Max Decipher hydraulic disc brakes, with 160mm rotors front and rear, tame this monster bike’s speed.

The fat bike really made a name for itself where other bikes perform poorly: the snow and sand. That stability and wide footprint will make anything from sand dunes to billowy snow easy to navigate. Here’s a video of the Cooker Maxi having a day out at the beach…which is probably where you wish you were right now, but it’ll work just as well in the snow, or pretty much anywhere that you want to ride!

Road Bike Party 2 Video

Martyn Ashton Road Bike Party 2

This doesn’t even look possible!

If you have yet to see the new Road Bike Party 2, featuring the amazing skills of trials-riding impresario Martyn Ashton and friends Danny MacAskill and Chris Akrigg, then you need to stop what you’re doing and watch it now! Even if you have already watched it, do yourself a favor and watch it again:

Despite suffering a serious accident in a trials-riding demonstration earlier this year that left him paralyzed from the waist down (covered in a very good article in Bike Magazine), Ashton was determined to finish this amazing movie as a testament to his will to recover and carry on with his life. His good friends, and equally talented riders, MacAskill and Akrigg, ably filled in for the injured Ashton to complete his vision. After you’ve watched the sequel, don’t forget to check out the original Road Bike Party:

And don’t miss the outtakes reel too, just to show that these guys are human, sometimes:

Fit Into Your New Kit: 6 Steps To Keep Off The Holiday Pounds

See this? Don't be tempted by this.

See this buffet? Don’t be tempted by this buffet.

This is the toughest time of year to be a cyclist. Not only is the weather absolutely atrocious (I’m looking out at a rainy day with temps in the 30′s), but this is also the time of year when, due to a mixture of holiday festivities and inactivity, the svelt waistline you worked on all year long will slowly disappear, leaving your pants tighter and setting you up for some hungry months ahead.

Before we start dispensing the tips, it’s important to admit that you can’t have you cake and eat it too (no matter how delicious it looks). If you are serious about heading into 2014 without loosing a lot of fitness and  a bigger waist, you need to keep your eyes on the goal, and moderate yourself even when those around you get fully into the spirit(s) of the season. Here are some tricks and tips to get you through these next few weeks.

  1.  KNOW YOUR ENEMY: As with all things, it’s easier to combat your enemy if you know what it is. And this holiday, just like every holiday, your enemy goes by the names of Alcohol, Parties, and Idleness.
    • Alcohol: We’re all adults here, and as adults we can all admit that sometimes adult beverages get the better of us during the holidays. And, as we all know, alcohol is a quick way to pack on the pounds. The first thing to do, obviously, is make smart choices. That glass of eggnog or that bread-in-a-bottle winter ale ain’t gonna do your belt line any favors. Pick  drinks that are lower in calories like light beer, red wine, or spirits. It’s also important to remember the three simple rules: 1. Eat before you drink; 2. pace yourself with no more than one drink per hour; 3. after every alcoholic drink, have some water. The reasons you’ll want to do this are directly related to number 2 on this list, and that’s that you don’t want your inhibitions to be lowered. If you drink on an empty stomach or have a little bit too much, that buffet line will become more and more enticing until it becomes irresistible.
    • Parties: Even with a sober and clear mind, holiday parties can often be the downfall of even the most iron-willed among us. Office parties, friend’s parties, family parties and the like mean that cyclists the world over are facing down plates full of cookies, cakes, and a buffet full of delicious snacks. You need to really commit yourself to making healthy choices here. Even the most indulgent parties will usually provide healthier alternatives like fruit, vegetables and hummus, or lighter snacks. If you don’t think there’s going to be one, then bring one as a contribution to the buffet or party platter. Not only is it polite, but it also ensures you’ll be able to stick to the plan. And, when all else fails, and you simply must have a sweet, try to hold off until right before you leave. Sugar acts on the brain much the same was as cocaine, and leaves you physically craving more. If you can hold out until the bitter end, it increases the odds of you having only one helping.
    • Idleness: No matter how much you resist the caloric temptations you’ll be presented with, it won’t matter much if you let yourself slip in the exercise department. We know it’s tough though. The roads are bad, it’s dark, and family and travel place a huge demand on your time (Thanks to the American divorce rate, I myself will be attending three Christmas celebrations in two states– neither of which I live in). But it’s important to remember that exercise doesn’t necessarily have to be done on the bike. This holiday, while traveling, I booked myself into hotels with gyms and have set the goal of running on the treadmill or lifting weights BEFORE I head over to the family. Promising to do it afterwards is setting yourself up for failure, and we all know it. Even if you aren’t staying in hotels, ask family members if they can get a guest pass to their gym, or try to sneak out for a run before the festivities really get going. It’s a good way to take some time for yourself and refocus on the year ahead.
  2. STEP ON THE SCALE: It’s scary, it’s tough, and you may or may not like what you see. But stepping on the scale regularly has been shown to help people both loose weight and keep it off. Don’t be discouraged if your weight fluctuates a little bit every day. That can happen depending on how much salt you’ve eaten, how much water you drank, etc.. But if you see a general upward trend in the numbers, that should start the alarm bells ringing, and give you the prompting you need to start making some healthier choices.
  3. WEAR YOUR KIT: Even if you aren’t riding, put your kit on regularly. It seems silly, but again, research has shown that this helps keep you accountable. Thanks to how tightly cycling clothing fits, its a good barometer of how you’ve been eating lately. Don’t laugh, but I always bring one with me when I travel over the holidays, and I put it on every morning to remind myself of what’s around the corner, and to stay focused on my bigger goals instead of the immediately gratification that a cookie (or seven) will bring.
  4. DON’T SIT NEXT TO THE SNACKS: While sitting around the television or fireside, don’t sit next to the bowls of nuts or plates of snacks. It’ll be too easy to find yourself mindlessly eating, whether you’re hungry or not. If you do find yourself situated next to a bowl or platter, you can simply move it away from you under the pretext of making it easier for everyone else to reach.
  5. ENJOY YOURSELF: Pick one day where you decide that it just really doesn’t matter. Sometimes it can be difficult to watch family and friends feast with impunity while you pick at some celery and carrot sticks. It can wear down your will, and make you miserable. So pick one day to just go for broke, whether it’s Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years, whatever. This can help keep you motivated, and give you something to look forward too. Just be careful to remind yourself that it is only one day. The next day, you’re back on the program.
  6. ONLY WHAT YOU LOVE: Don’t feel like you have to eat it just because someone pushed it in front of you. Indiscriminate eating is a good way to end up consuming way too many calories. Pick the foods you really love, and stick with those. You’ll feel better and more satisfied at the end of the meal. Eat slowly and really enjoy the food. This has the twin benefit of not only delivering some tasty satisfaction, but eating slowly also signals your brain to release hormones that tell you when you’re full.
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Good luck everyone. You’ll need it.

Winter Training Tips: Using Music To Motivate

Listening to music on the trainer can help motivate you for a training session or a race.

Listening to music on the trainer can help motivate you for a training session or a race.

Have you ever gotten on the trainer, spun the pedals for about 3 seconds and then decided you just weren’t feeling it? You decide to slog it out, so you shift down to an easier gear and spin. After an eternity of riding in what surely must have been a multi-hour, 900-calorie crushing session you look down at your computer, to see that a paltry 6 minutes have passed. We’ve all been there.

There are many reasons this can happen. Sometimes, it might just be your body telling you you need a break. Winter is a good time to take a long rest, relax, and let the legs recover from a hard season. Other times, though, it might just be a lack of motivation.

The problem is that motivation can be very difficult to find from within. On those tough days, sometimes  motivation needs an external nudge to get going, and one of the best of these is music. In 2008, Sports Psychologist Costas Karageorghis found that by listening to music you can reduce your perceived exertion by up to 10% . Plus, we’ve all experienced that sensation when a good pump-up jam comes on. Suddenly we hear the song (we’re pretty partial to the Karate Kid theme…), you get a second wind, the legs seem strong, the form feels better. You just feel faster and stronger than before.

The secret though, is to find music that you enjoy, and that is tailored to your work out. Most indoor workouts should be roughly separated into three distinct phases: warm up, workout (base building, intervals, threshold, etc…), cool down. Building a playlist that helps you move through those phases with different types of music can help you pace yourself, and make the workout feel more natural. Plus, it’s fun.

To help get you motivated, here are a few employee trainer playlists to get you started (note, you must be signed into Spotify to listen to these playlists).

BrianIndie/Punk: Reformed skateboarder turned roadie.

  1. DIIV: Sometime
  2. Austra: Spellwork
  3. Naked Raygun: Soldier’s Requiem
  4. Black Flag: My War
  5. The Misfits: Skulls
  6.  Bad Brains: Sailin’ On
  7. Gorilla Biscuits: New Direction
  8. Bleached: Lookin’ For A Fight
  9. Minor Threat: Small Man, Big Mouth
  10. The Business: National Insurance Blacklist
  11. Beach House: The Hours
  12. Caveman: Old Friend
  13. Youth Lagoon: Posters

 

BobClassic rock: “If you ask me tomorrow it would probably completely different, but for today this is my riding list.”

  1. Band of Heathens: Jackson Station
  2. Janis Joplin: Piece of My Heart
  3. New Riders of the Purple Sage: Louisiana Lady
  4. Van Morrison: Jackie Wilson Said
  5. Shooter Jennings: 4th of July
  6. Led Zepplin: Hey Hey, What Can I Do
  7. Cheap Trick: Southern Girls
  8. Bruce Springsteen: Promised Land
  9. Phil Collins: Behind the Lines
  10. Procol Harem: A Whiter Shade of Pale
  11. Bright Eyes: Waste of Paint
  12. The Doors: LA Woman
  13. Allman Brothers Band: Soul Shine
  14. Paul McCartney: Instrumental (junk)

DevlinElectronic: One album, many rides

  1. Tycho: Dive (full album)

Holiday Gift Guide For Cyclists

How would you rate your holiday wishlist? It’s hard to believe that Hannukah is already here and Christmas is just a few brief weeks away. At about this point you’ve probably been asked by panicking relatives what you would like for Christmas, or maybe you’re shopping around for a spouse or loved one who rides. Either way, it can be tricky figuring out what to get the cyclist in your life for the holidays. Never fear though. We’re here to help you out with some great gift ideas to fill your wishlist or a stocking with.

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Download the Holiday Wishlist PDF here

Oh, and if you’re hoping to leave your spouse, children or co-workers with some helpful hints about what you would like for the holidays, we’ve included this handy downloadable Holiday Wishlist PDF . Just download it, print it out, fill it up with all your favorite stuff, and leave in a conspicuous spot (like inside your mother’s copy of Look! magazine, artfully arranged on the bed).

And just to get the old creative juices flowing, we polled some fellow cyclists around the office to see what they want for the holidays. They each picked 4 cycling items and 1 non-cycling item– you know, just for variety.

The keys to starting a successful training season

The keys to starting a successful training season: aero helmets, tall socks, jackets, good food, and plenty of Euro rocket fuel

BRIAN: Content Developer & Mr. Roadie

1.    Giro Air Attack Shield helmet

2.    DeFeet Air-E-Ator high top socks

3.    Castelli Free jacket

4.    The Feed Zone Cookbook

5.    Espressione Café Minuetto Professional espresso machine

Summer or winter, this wishlist will have you ready for the mountains in any season

Summer or winter, this wishlist will have you ready for the mountains in any season

ALICIA: Product Developer & Mountain Biker

1.    Rock Shox Reverb 125mm Adjustable Seatpost with Right-Hand Remote

2.   POC Trabec MTB Helmet

3.   Sidi Women’s Dominator Fit MTB Shoe

4.   Craft Women’s Active Extreme Crew Neck Long Sleeve Baselayer

5.  My husband and I always travel as our Christmas gift, so looking forward to some skiing

Components, a workstand, and freedom. What more could you want?

Components, a workstand, and travel. What more could you want?

DUPREE: Spin Doctor Tech Support & All-Weather Commuter

1.    Shimano 105 Crankset

2.   Shimano 105 levers

3.   Shimano 105 rear derailleur

4.   Spin Doctor G3 Workstand

5.  A trip to Uzbekistan. We have to dream yes?

Do Wheels Really Make A Difference? We Put A Pair To The Test

Getting ready to climb, here are the new Assault Limited on a Fuji Altamira test bike

Getting ready to climb, here are the new Assault Limited’s on a Fuji Altamira test bike

For a minute I almost forget I’m on a video shoot. It’s a beautiful, cold morning, with the fog lying heavy in the hollows of the foothills around our office. To either side of the road, a dark forest of pine and hardwood echoes with early morning bird call and the scent of conifers fills the air. The sound of the tires on the pavement and my own breathing form a rhythm for my pedal strokes. The clothing I’m modeling has me far underdressed for the temperatures, but as I climb higher and higher up the hills, I kind of begin to enjoy the feel of the cold air on my skin, cooling me down from the effort.

Start up

Felt a little chilly, but I was excited about trying out the new Assault Limited’s.

I’m starting to find my climbing rhythm, and I shift my hands to the top of the bars and sit up a bit to breathe a little easier. My legs feel like they are turning in perfect circles, and I let my hands relax on the bars. Normally deeper dish wheels like the Assault Limited carbon clinchers don’t make the best wheels for climbing, but these seem to be an exception. They feel as fast going uphill as downhill, the stiffer build making up for the additional weight. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this good on a 10.5% grade. A hawk swoops down from a powerline to my left and I turn my head to watch its flight. I begin to feel like I’ve reached that special place where the ride becomes easy and feels natural.

We’re out here to film some B-roll footage for product and brand videos, which means that nothing is mine. My heels keep coming out of these shoes, I’m still adjusting to the fit of the Fuji Altamira, I continually misshift the unfamiliar Shimano controls, and the fresh-from-the-box helmet doesn’t feel quite right after so short a time. Among a million different sensations vying for my attention, it’s the feel of effortless climbing and nearly free speed from the new Reynolds Assault Limited wheels I’ve been given for this shoot that really grabs hold.

Climbing with the Assault Limited's felt remarkably easy

Climbing with the Assault Limited’s felt remarkably easy

The Fuji Altamira is a great bike. It’s among the stiffest, most efficient, and comfortable bikes I’ve ever ridden. But as you’ve doubtlessly read countless times before, a great set of wheels can drastically improve how any bike rides. I’ve been riding an older set of Reynolds Assault wheels on my personal Van Dessel Rivet for a few years now, but I can say without a doubt that the new Reynolds Assault Limited’s are stiffer, faster and lighter. The new carbon lay up on the rim, the stiffer bladed spokes, and the re-engineered hubs with new, upgraded bearings make this new set an amazing improvement over what was already an incredible wheelset.

The hill ticks up a grade again, and I can hear the engine in the camera car rev up. My legs burn, and I debate whether to downshift or stand. I’m still forgetting which Di2 levers to hit, so I decide to stand. The bike feels stiff and light underneath me, pure power transmission. The wheels feel incredible. Not once do I hear a brake pad hit the rim, there is no quiet ticking of spokes or the eerie silence and sudden BANG! of a stuck pawl suddenly reengaging. The wheels are silent and powerful, stiff enough to respond without question to every watt of power I put into them. I pedal and the bike obeys.

Later suckers. The Assault wheels enabled me to drop the camera car on the downhill.

Later suckers. The Assault wheels enabled me to eventually drop the camera car on the downhill.

Finally we hit the summit. I take a drink of water cold enough that it seems to drill straight into my forehead and reminds me I have a cavity that needs filling. We begin to descend. I shift into the big ring, the Shimano Di2 controls effortlessly shuttling the chain onto the big ring. I depress the right upshift lever and hold it, feeling the chain slide across cogs. The resistance feels huge at first, my cadence low. My quads rebel for a moment after the long slog up. But as the hill disappears below me, the resistance evaporates, and my cadence climbs. I reach the bottom of the cassette, and have no place left to go. I am flying down the hill. The deep carbon rim of the Assaults knife through the air. I go into a tuck over the handlebars and begin to drop the camera car. The camera man yells at me to slow as I slide past, but I ignore him. This is too much fun. With my chin near the handlebars, I can hear the wind sliding past the wheel rim, and I chance a look at my Garmin. This is the fastest I’ve ever descended this hill, and I know it’s the wheels. The bike isn’t an aero design, and I’ve ridden in a tuck here dozens of times before. These wheels are giving me free speed on the descent, and I wish I could have a chance to try them out on a flat. Or during the Thursday evening group ride. Or even just take them out for a day and see what else they can do.

I later found myself preferring the new Assault Limited's to my older edition Assaults

I later found myself preferring the new Assault Limited’s to my older edition Assaults

But the video shoot is over, and I have to turn them back in. The next day I take my personal bike out. I love the familiar controls, the professionally-tailored fit, the stiff and responsive frame, but something is missing. My bike just doesn’t seem to have that pop to it, the liveliness from the test bike yesterday. It’s a small thing, almost imperceptible, but after the joys of yesterday’s ride with those new Assault Limited’s, nothing really quite feels the same.

And lest you should think that these wheels are only for carbon fiber super bikes, remember that a wheel upgrade can have massive effects on pretty much any road bike. Wheels can confer a huge advantage when you want to make your bike more aerodynamic, lighter, or just perform better. We’ve tested the Reynolds Assault Limited wheels out on many different road bikes, and found that they were faster, stiffer, and looked 247% cooler than most other wheels. We were especially impressed with the aesthetic and riding performance advantages they conferred on our new special project with GT bikes.

gt_strike_reynolds

Before & After: The Assault Limited’s made this GT Strike faster, stiffer and more nimble. Plus, it looks fantastic.

5 Must-Have Emergency Items

boone_fuji_leanBefore you roll out on your next ride, you need to make sure you’re prepared for an emergency. Now, we don’t mean you necessarily need to bring an entire first aid kit with you (although for you mountain bikers out there, it’s probably not a bad idea). What we mean is making sure you can get yourself home safe and sound without bonking, flatting, or getting lost– or at least being able to make The Call if you do.

emergency items

  1. Phone: No matter how short your ride, always bring your phone with you and make sure it’s charged up. There are a million situations that might lead to you need to make The Call for a ride: you might crash, bonk, get one too many flats, break a chain, etc… You just never know. Plus, it’s great for taking Instagram photos along the way.
  2. ID, Emergency Contact and Medical Info: Always bring a photo ID with you on your ride. In addition, write down your name, home town, and emergency contact number, plus any important medical info (previous injuries, medical conditions, allergies) on a sheet of paper and keep it in the plastic baggie with your phone.  That way if you crash or are involved in a car accident, the EMT’s and police will know who you are, who to contact, and what treatments you may need. There are also products like Road ID that make bracelets you can wear with your emergency info. It might also be a good idea to put an ICE (in case of emergency) number in your mobile phone.
  3. Cash: Cards are awesome, but cash is still king. Many country stores don’t take cards or have minimum limits on how much you can put on a card, so if you need food you may be out of luck. Plus, you can always use a folded up bill to boot a tire in case of a sidewall cut to keep the tube from pushing out of the hole.
  4. Map or GPS: Even if you think you know the route really well, always bring a map or GPS with you. Whether it’s a map printout, your phone, your Garmin 510, 800 or 810, or something else, always make sure you know how to get home.
  5. Flat Repair Kit: Nothing will end a ride faster than flatting without a repair kit. Always bring your repair kit with you, and make sure you include: spare tube, patch kit, tire levers, Co2 cartridge and chuck or mini-pump. Do not ever try to ride on a flat tire; you’ll just ruin your wheel. Don’t know how to fix a flat? Check out our handy how to.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments section below.

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