Survive The Polar Vortex(es): 6 Tips For Cyclists

Polar Vortex II got you down? Trust us, we understand. Our North Carolina office has been inundated with snow, ice and single digit temps that make riding hard. We can only imagine what it’s like further north. The weatherman says that it should be clearing soon– but we’ll believe it when we see it. To keep from getting some serious cabin fever, we’ve had to get creative to keep on form and having fun, despite all the craziness outside.

Here are some of the tips we’ve come up with.

Snow biking puts a new spin on old trails, and is a great way to spice up your riding routine.

Snow biking puts a new spin on old trails, and is a great way to spice up your riding routine.

1. Snow Biking:

If you’ve got a mountain bike or a fat bike, consider hitting the trails for a little outside fun. We went out yesterday on the Charge Cooker Maxi for a bit and it was awesome, if a little cold (more on that later…). Just make sure to bundle up and keep warm. It’s cold out there.

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When the temps go south, trainer time tends to go up. Just make sure to structure your workouts to get the most out of your time.

2. The Trainer:

If you’re more of the roadie type, then throw that bike in the trainer and get spinning. Need some motivation? Consider listening to music or watching a movie to end the monotony (last night we watched Top Gun while riding the trainer and sprinted every time a plane took off—it was exhausting).

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Cross training, such as weight lifting, running, or yoga is great way to improve your performance on the bike

3. Cross Training:

Go for a run, hit the weights, go cross-country skiing, try some yoga or just do some stretching. Remember that taking time off the bike can be as important as time spent on the bike. Taking a day or two to strengthen non-cycling muscles, work on flexibility, or core activation can have big rewards later in the year.

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Knowing how to properly fuel your workouts is very important. This recovery meal provides a good mix of carbs, protein, simple sugars, and malted recovery beverages.

4. Make A Good Meal:

Or better yet, make yourself a meal plan. It’s easy to put on a few pounds over the winter, but making a meal plan and sticking with it is one of the easiest way to make sure you’re adequately fueling your rides without taking in too many calories. Plus, it’s a great way to score points with your significant other.

Cleaning your bike is a great way to prolong the life of components and ensure it's ready to ride next time

Cleaning your bike is a great way to prolong the life of components and ensure it’s ready to ride next time

5. Clean Your Bike

If you haven’t done this in a while, give your bike some serious TLC.

Taking two or three days off can actually make you faster by allowing your body time to recover

Taking two or three days off can actually make you faster by allowing your body time to recover

6. Take a Day Off:

There’s nothing wrong with taking the occasional day or two off. In fact studies show that if you’ve been riding hard, taking two or three days off will actually make you faster by allowing your body to recuperate. If it’s too cold or snowy where you live, don’t feel bad about putting in some serious couch time to watch a movie, read a book, catch up on Downton Abbey, or spend time with the fam.

Real Advice: How To Store Your Bicycles Inside

The first step to storing your bikes is admitting that you have a problem – when your bikes are taking up more space in your house than your actual furniture, then it’s time to look into some storage solutions! There are a lot of opinions and differing ideas about the best way to store your bicycle. We’ve used them all, so we’re here to help. What follows are some easy ways to keep your bikes organized and out of the way around the house, while maintaining your relationship with your significant other.

Bike Storage Hook

Performance Bike Storage Hook

The simplest option is the humble Storage Hook – it doesn’t get much easier than this. Screw this rubberized hook into the wall and you’re good to go – just hang your bike from the front or rear wheel and let the bike hang down. We highly recommend using a stud finder and drilling a pilot hole to make sure that it’s secure enough to hold the weight of your bike. You can also use two of these if you’re going to hang your bike from the ceiling and you’re comfortable lifting your bike over your head each time you want to put it away.

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XPORT Hang 2 Plus Bike Hanger

If you’d like a little more versatility, you could consider an option like the XPORT Hang 2 Plus Bike Hanger. With a rack like this, you can put two bikes very close to one another (you’ll probably have to flip the orientation for the second one) and put gear on the shelf behind it. We would recommend clipping your helmet to the shelf and adding gear on top as needed. One drawback with this system is that the bikes stick out a bit out from the wall.

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XPORT Bikes Aloft 2 Storage Rack

If you’d like to be a little more space conscious, you might consider an option like the XPORT Bikes Aloft 2 Storage Rack. This is our go-to bike storage option. You’ll find them all over the Performance home office and even used in our retail stores and at events. This is because the rack is extremely space conscious and also very easy to set up. It doesn’t require drilling into walls, so it’s great for apartments or rooms where you may not always want to have your bike. Because one bike is directly above the other, the footprint of this rack is equal to one bike.

Bicycle Hoist

Transit Bicycle Hoist

If you have high ceilings and would like to open up some space by lifting the bike out of the way, you might consider a rack like a Transit Bicycle Hoist. This system takes a bit of effort to set up, but once it’s in place it is very easy to use, and you’ve got some instant bike art elegantly on display!

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XPORT Bike Cover

One final option is just to cover up your bikes with something like this XPORT Bike Cover, so that at least you won’t get grease all over your new couch. And if you’re unfortunate enough to have to store a bike outdoors on a regular basis, you definitely need a bicycle cover. This will keep some of the elements off of your bicycle – just make sure to keep that chain lubed!

Are there any circumstances we haven’t covered? Any strange bike storage options you’ve used in the past? Let us know in the comments section below.

Cycling Classes – What Do You Need To Train Inside?

Some Performance stores host indoor cycling classes

Whether you’re a dedicated cyclist or not, indoor cycling classes have plenty to offer for everyone. For the casual cyclist who’s looking to do some cardio work, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more intense—or fun—workout . It’s especially beneficial if you have bad knees or are nursing an injury, since cycling is a no-impact sport. For cyclists, indoor training classes are an excellent way to improve power and stamina, as well as a fun group event that can spice up your training and help pass the winter months.

Some Performance Bicycle stores host free weekly indoor training classes. After business hours, the store staff will set up stationary trainers for everyone who shows up for a fun, indoor group ride. All you need is yourself and your bike, and the store staff will take care of the rest. If you’d like to know more, you can contact your local Performance store for more details. If you’re a member of a gym, they may also offer indoor cycling classes (sometimes called Spin ® classes) in special studios equipped with stationary bikes. Sometimes they may feature coaches that you push you to ride harder, local DJ sets, or movies. But as with any exercise activity, showing up ready with the right equipment will enhance your experience.

While technically you could jump into any indoor cycling class with standard running apparel and shoes, a few small upgrades will help you get the most out of your experience. Two things in particular will really boost your experience – cycling shoes, and cycling shorts.

Indoor cycling classes are great way to get in shape, have fun, and meet fellow cyclists

95% of indoor cycling bikes have pedals that use 2-bolt style cleats. This means you can pick up a simple pair of cycling shoes and cleats to attach your feet to the pedals (temporarily). Using clip-in (called clipless) shoes and cleats will give your legs a more complete work out and make staying on the pedals during hard intervals a piece of cake. Check out the Pearl Izumi X-Alp or X-Road shoes . These look like casual shoes but perform like a good pair of mountain bike shoes. The best of both worlds!

Shoes like the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Road shoe look like casual tennis shoes, but have a mount for cycling cleats in the sole

Once you find the pair of shoes that’s right for you, you’ll also need cleats. Cleats are typically sold with pedals as each pedal design uses a different type – but you can easily pick up some cleats on their own to match the pedals you will be using. If you’ll be using a stationary bike at a gym or fitness studio, it would be best to double check with your indoor cycling instructor as to which type of cleats your indoor cycling bike will accept. As mentioned, the vast majority of indoor cycling bikes use 2-bolt, SPD style cleats such as these. Don’t forget to buy the cleats or the shoes will just be for the looks. To learn how to mount the cleats, click here.

Most stationary bikes will have a mechanism for SPD-style cleats on the pedals. Clipping in will drastically increase your pedaling efficiency.

The second thing you’ll need to purchase is a simple pair of cycling shorts (click here for baggy shorts, or here for lycra shorts). Simple cycling shorts have a slim pad called a chamois that will help sitting on the bicycle seat be more comfortable. A cycling chamois will also wick away sweat (don’t wear underwear under your cycling shorts). A great place to start would be the Performance Nevado shorts, available in both men’s and women’s. These shorts provide the benefits of cycling shorts with a baggy outer layer so they don’t look like cycling shorts. The added comfort will help you stay on the bike seat longer and the more you ride, the more fit you will become.

Shorts like the Performance Nevado have a “baggy” outer layer, with a removable lycra liner with a chamois pad for increased comfort

Another great benefit of cycling shorts like these is that once you’re ready to take your newly formed cycling legs out onto the open road, you’re already partly outfitted. These shorts and shoes will work as well outside as they do in the indoor cycling studio, giving you the same increased comfort and efficiency on the road as they do in the classroom.

If you’d like to do your own version of an indoor cycling class at home, then a stationary trainer is a great option. A stationary trainer is like a treadmill for your bike. There are a few different models to choose from (you can learn more here), but they all provide a pretty good workout. If you want to do your class in your own basement or TV room, a stationary trainer is a great option. For more advice on training at home, check out our article on the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

A stationary trainer, like the Elite Qubo, can turn any room into your house into a personal home gym.

Quick Guide To Winter Jackets

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Just because it’s dark and cold out doesn’t mean you can’t get out and ride. After all, as Eddy Merckx, every single magazine, and everyone on Facebook says: “there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing”. With the right outerwear on (and the right equipment and preparations), you can ride comfortably in just about any conditions.

We’ve done some rough guides to dressing for the weather before, but folks keep asking us for specific jacket recommendations. So we pulled out some of our favorites to highlight here for you today. These are all jackets we regularly ride at lunch, after work, and on the weekends.

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MEN’S

Castelli Mortirolo Due Jacket:

This is a heavier-weight, Wind Stopper soft shell jacket from Castelli. It has a smaller cut and a race fit, so we’d definitely recommend buying a size up… especially if you plan on layer up with it. Paired with a long sleeve base layer (or two if it’s really cold), this jacket can help you tackle even the worst weather.

For the WOMEN’S version, click here.

Craft Elite Bike Pace Jacket:

The Craft Elite Bike Pace is another soft shell jacket that does an amazing job of holding in heat without over heating the rider. With a soft, breathable exterior, wind-resistant panels, and an innovative brushed fleece interior featuring ThermoCool technology to help regulate body temperature, this is a great jacket for all day rides in cold conditions. Paired with a base layer and long sleeve jersey, this jacket will keep you comfy down to at least 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Trust us, we had the dubious pleasure of getting to test that out during the Coldest Day of the Year Ride (for North Carolina).

Sugoi Icon Rain Jacket:

The Sugoi Icon is more of a rain jacket than an insulating jacket, but if you live in New England or the Pacific Northwest, you’ll probably need one of these. The Icon is made from Polartec’s incredible new NeoShell material, which is the most breathable waterproof material on the market right now. That being said, you still might want to save this one for when you really need it, because it’ll still hold heat during climbing or hard efforts. But when the rain is coming down, it’s packed with innovative and useful features that’ll keep you dry and cozy while riding. We found this jacket to run a little bit on the larger side…but that should be fine if you’ll be layering under it.

For the WOMEN’S version, click here.

Here’s a cool video about Sugoi’s jacket technology:

Performance Transformer 2.0 Jacket:

This Performance Transformer 2.0 jacket is a great choice for milder days when you might only need a wind jacket. The Transformer 2.0 jacket is built with a wind-resistant material that helps keep you warm on blowy days, and removable sleeves to turn the jacket into a vest if the day really warms up. It’s not insulated, so if you’ll be wearing it when it’s really cold out, you’ll need to layer up underneath, but it’s definitely a great choice for most occasions. It has plenty of features that make it ideal for all-day riding.

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket:

Like the Performance Transformer 2.0 jacket, this Pearl Izumi jacket is a wind layer, aimed at more mild days. Again, it’s not insulated, so in the winter its best used as part of a layering system, but it does a stellar job of cutting the wind. Thanks to removable sleeves, you basically get two garments in one that allows it to be worn most of the year. And, with its great use of color and graphics, this jacket stands apart from the crowd.

For the WOMEN’S version, click here.

WOMEN’S

Louis Garneau Enerblock Cycling Jacket

Being a Canadian brand, Louis Garneau understands the importance of staying warm on the bike better than most. That’s why the Louis Garneau Enerblock Cycling jacket is made form Garneau’s amazing Heatmaxx and Enerblock fabrics. Enerblock helps cut the wind chill, while Heatmaxx provides a brushed fleece interior that maximizes heat retention. Pair with a base layer on milder days, or add in a long sleeve jersey to take on even the coldest days. It’s also got some cool features you won’t find on most other cycling jackets, like hand warmer pockets and a zippered sleeve pocket for snacks or valuables.

Quick Fix: An Easy Way To Deal With Chain Slap

Mountain bikers and cyclocross riders alike will understand the difficulty of discovering chain slap marks on your beautiful new bicycle. Chain slap just happens. Especially in a sport like cyclocross where you’re tearing around dirt roads and through fields with no suspension to absorb the trail chatter. Here’s a quick fix to deal with chain slap.

Follow this quick and easy guide to get your bike all-ready to go off-road.

Note the slight grease marks on the chainstay. This is an indicator that the chain has come in contact with the stay and will eventually chip the paint off and possibly even damage the frame given enough time.

Note the slight grease marks on the chainstay. This is an indicator that the chain has come in contact with the stay and will eventually chip the paint off and possibly even damage the frame given enough time.

Step 1: find an old tube. We tend to keep a flat road tube or two around for this reason. If you don’t have one, ask around. Surely one of your riding partners has recently flatted.

Step 1: find an old tube. We tend to keep a flat road tube or two around for this reason. If you don’t have one, ask around. Surely one of your riding partners has recently flatted.

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Starting next to the valve stem, cut the tube.

Measure a length of tube about twice the length of the area of the chainstay you’re looking to protect.

Measure a length of tube about twice the length of the area of the chainstay you’re looking to protect.

Cut the tube again so now you have a piece of tube twice the length of the stay.

Cut the tube again so now you have a piece of tube twice the length of the stay.

Start by holding the tube onto the chainstay about an inch behind where you think the chain slap will start.

Start by holding the tube onto the chainstay about an inch behind where you think the chain slap will start.

Next, pass the tube around the stay (just like wrapping a drop handlebar) keeping tension on the tube.

Next, pass the tube around the stay (just like wrapping a drop handlebar) keeping tension on the tube.

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Keep tension on the tube as you pass it around the stay over and over so the tube just overlaps itself.

Keep going until you’re just short of the front derailleur cage, or just beyond where you think the chain will be impacting the stay.

Keep going until you’re just short of the front derailleur cage, or just beyond where you think the chain will be impacting the stay.

Back up just a hair and cut the tube at an angle.

Back up just a hair and cut the tube at an angle.

Finish it off with a little black electrical tape for a nice clean look.

Finish it off with a little black electrical tape for a nice clean look.

Ta-da! Now your chain is protected and you can feel good about recycling that old flat tube.

Ta-da! Now your chain is protected and you can feel good about recycling that old flat tube.

If this is just too much work for you or you don’t have access to any flat tubes, Lizard Skins makes a great ready-to-go chainstay wrap.

Is there anything else you’d like to see a quick and easy fix for? Ask us in the comments section below and we’ll add it to the list. Thanks!

Real Advice: How To Properly Clean Your Water Bottle

We all use water bottles every day. Taking the time to really clean them is very important to your continued health. A dish washer will get them mostly clean, but every once in a while it’s a good idea to pull the bottle apart and really clean it. Here’s how we recommend cleaning your water bottle.

For this example, we’re using a Polar Insulated Water Bottle (one of our favorites).

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We’re starting with what looks like a clean bottle.

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It looks fairly clean at first, but there’s mold growing under that nipple.

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See the black notches? They’re the key to getting that nipple out in one piece.

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Firmly grasp the nipple and give it a good twist.

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The notches should slide behind the columns. This will allow the nipple to pull right out.

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It’s pretty easy to pull out, actually.

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See all of the nastiness? And this bottle has been through the dish washer!

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Thoroughly clean out the nipple.

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Carefully clean out the bottle lid as well.

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Don’t forget to scrub down inside that bottle!

For this example, I’m using scrub brushes from a Camelbak Cleaning System to get all of the gunk out. When you’re done cleaning, pop the nipple back in and enjoy your thoroughly cleaned water bottle!

6 Ways To Recycle Your Cycling Gear

We all know that cycling is good for the environment, but we still end up with old, worn-out cycling gear that is destined for the dumpster. We’ve discovered 6 ways to recycle your old cycling gear – and change it from trash to treasure.

1. Recycling tubes or tires

Tires and tubes are the one part on the bike that you can go through at a rapid rate. Since they are rubber based, recycling is a great option. At every Performance Bicycle location, we have a blue recycling bin where we accept tires and tubes for recycling. We share all of that rubber with Liberty Tire and they use it to make everything from Olympic weights to playground mulch. All you have to do is drop off your used tubes or worn out tires and we’ll do the rest.

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Tube & tire recycling fixture at your local Performance Bicycle

If you don’t live near a Performance location, check with your local auto tire shop. They will often send piles of auto tires in to places like Liberty Tire and may take your bicycle tires and tubes for free. Be considerate though as they often have to pay to have their tires recycled, so asking them to do something for free that they have to pay for is asking them for a real favor.

One more option would be to box up and mail your tires/tubes to someone like Alchemy Goods. Alchemy recycles tires and tubes, turning them into everything from messenger bags and saddle bags to wallets and belts.

2. Passing on the love

The number one way this sport grows is through the generosity of others. We were all new to the sport at one point. Someone showed us how to use clipless pedals, when to signal, how to take over a lane to make a left turn, how to ride in a pace-line, or how to jump over a log. The best thing you can do for the sport of cycling is to take someone under your wing. For example, if you just bought pedals, why not your old pair on to someone who might get into the sport because of your generosity? So, be a cycling advocate and lend a hand to someone in need.

3. Making art

This one’s not for everyone. Some people just don’t have an eye for it. Still, if you’re artistically minded and have used bike parts lying around, why not combine your passion for cycling with your talent for art? We’ve seen some great examples of Christmas ornaments made out of bicycle chains, picture frames made from old bike parts, bracelets make from old spokes, or wind chimes made out of used chainrings. You don’t have to be a top etsy seller to make your mom a special hand-made birthday gift. Just think of the money you save and can justify putting towards new cycling parts!

4. Building bikes for those in need

Most large communities have bicycle co-ops. A bicycle co-op is an organization that recycles old bicycle parts and uses volunteer labor to build bicycles for people in need, often children. Many times they will have a program in place whereby a person in need can volunteer their time and earn themselves a bicycle. Volunteering for a program like this will give you another opportunity to give back to the cycling community and will also present many chances for donating some of your used bike parts. What seems like a worn out crankset to you, could be the missing piece necessary to helping someone without means to build a bike that they can use to get to work.

These organizations are everywhere. Ask your local shop if you can’t find one. Maybe your community needs one and you can start one yourself!

5. Metal Recycling

The one other part on your bicycle that you should be replacing with some regularity is your chain. At your nearest Performance Bicycle location, we also accept worn out chains, which we ship to Resource Revival. Resource Revival uses the chains to make all sorts of creative products from bottle openers to award medals. Even if you’re not near a Performance retail location, you can still utilize Resource Revival by collecting and mailing chains yourself or helping your local shop collect them. Instructions can be found on the Resource Revival website.

If this isn’t a feasible opportunity or if you have more metal than you know what to do with, you might try searching for a local metal recycler. They will often have someone who will pick up piles of old metal from you (frames, wheelsets, etc.) and will haul them off for free.

6. Energy Bar Wrapper Brigade

Our good friends at Clif Bar have partnered with Terracycle to provide an amazing opportunity to recycle used energy bar wrappers. Depending on your rate of consumption, it may take a while before you have enough wrappers saved up, but what about setting up a box in your office? How about bringing a box out to the local group ride and encouraging your friends to save their wrappers for your recycling project. Recycling wrappers can earn you prizes or further charitable causes through Terracycle. Check out the Energy Bar Wrapper Brigade website for more info.

Do you have any other great recycling ideas? Did we miss any of the big ones? Have creative art projects? Share them in the comments section below and let the recycling begin!

Choosing the Right Chain Lube: Which Is Right For You?

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Picking the right chain lubricant can be one of the more frustrating things you’ll do as a cyclist. There’s a million different types to pick: dry lubes, wet lubes, biolube, waxes, spray on, drip on, poly grease, cable lube, etc… The list goes on. And let’s not even start on all the manufacturer proprietary technology. So what’s the best kind of lube?

Well…that’s really going to depend on what kind of riding you do, and what conditions you ride in.

Different chain lubricants are designed for different environments—because what may protect a chain or drivetrain component in one climate may actually do harm in another.

Before we delve into the different types of lubricants, let’s get two things out of the way:

1. Most chains will come pre-lubricated from the factory. In the old days, this lubricant was merely a rust inhibitor, and cyclists were advised to first remove the grease before installing the chain. Modern chains, however, are a different story. The grease that comes on modern chains is a far superior lubricant to any that can be applied by the user. DO NOT remove the factory grease from a new bicycle chain (although it’s ok to wipe off any excess) until it’s time to really clean the chain. Most factory grease applications are good for several hundred miles.

2. CAUTION: Do not ever, ever, for any reason apply standard WD40, motor oil, or bike poly grease to your chain. Ever. Standard WD40 does contain a light lubricant, but unless it’s applied after every ride it will end up drying out and stripping your chain. Motor oils contain detergents that will corrode your chain and destroy your cassette. Bike polygrease is intended for parts like bolts, pedal spindles and seatposts. It is a high viscosity grease that will completely clog your drivetrain and ruin your nice, expensive bike.

So, now that we have that out of the way, let’s delve into the different types of lubricants.

Wet Lubricants:

Wet lubricants are ideal for wet, muddy conditions

Wet lubricants are ideal for wet, muddy or snowy conditions when rust is the main concern. Wet lube, as the name implies, will stay wet on the chain, instead of drying. It has a medium viscosity, so it’s thick enough to stay on the chain, but thin enough to really soak into all the nooks and crannies to coat all the moving parts. Wet lube forms a protective barrier that prevents moisture from penetrating into your chain and forming rust in between the rivets. Wet lubricant is not advised for dusty conditions, as dust will stick to it and turn your greased chain into a belt sander. Also be advised that wet lube tends to collect a lot of dirt and debris as you ride, so it’s important to A) only use it when conditions warrant, and B) clean your chain often when using wet lube.

Wet lube can also be used for other moving parts on the bike to keep them free of rust and improve performance. Places where it is commonly applied are the rear derailleur pivot points, front derailleur spring, and brake pivots.

For directions on application, click here.

Best for: cyclocross, urban riding, winter cycling, wet climates, long term bike storage

Dry Lubricants:

Dry lubricants are the way to go for everyday riding

Unlike wet lubricants, dry lubes usually consist of a wax-like substance suspended in an alcohol-based solvent. About 3-4 hours after you apply the lubricant, the solvent will evaporate, leaving your chain with a light waxy film. Always make sure you allow sufficient time for the lube to dry before riding. The biggest advantage of dry lubricant is that it won’t collect dirt or dust as you ride, but it doesn’t inhibit rust as well. But for dry, dusty, or otherwise pleasant conditions, dry lube is the way to go.

For directions on application, click here.

Best for: road cycling, mountain biking, dry environments, summer riding

Spray vs. Drip:

Chain lubes generally either come in a spray can or a drip bottle. Which you use is up to you, but they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Spray-on lubricants are very fast and easy to apply, but they can be messy and make it difficult to be thorough. If you’re using a spray-on lube, it can be difficult to keep your frame, wheels, and brake rotors clean.  Drip on bottles on the other hand, make it easy to ensure that each roller and rivet has been lubricated and they are virtually mess-free. The downside is that, compared to spray on lube, it can take longer. In the end though, it all comes down to personal preference. Around these parts, we generally use drip bottles when we’re at home or in the shop, and spray-on lube when we’re at races or on the road.

Hot Wax Bath:

Hot wax is usually considered to be the gold standard of chain lubricants, since it nearly recreates the original factory grease of the chain. To apply hot wax, the chain is usually removed from the bike, and then soaked in a tub of hot wax, which completely coats the entire chain in a completely protective coating. This type of lubrication, however, requires special equipment, a lot of know-how, and quite a bit of patience. If you’ve got the time and gear though, a hot wax dip is legendary for improving chain function and prolonging wear-life. NOTE: while an excellent way to lubricate your chain, hot wax doesn’t particularly last very long and may require frequent re-applications.

So Which One Is Right?

Wet lubes are best for winter riding conditions, both on and off road

Well, we’d have to say that for this time of year (winter in the Northern Hemisphere), if you live in 90% of the U.S., you should be using a wet lubricant on your chain to protect it from the wet roads and corrosive salts you’re likely to encounter. For those folks living in Arizona, Nevada and other desert states, you can probably get away with using a dry lubricant, but remember to apply it more often than you would in summer.

But no matter what type of lubricant you use, there is nothing that will protect your bike indefinitely. It’s important to clean your bike thoroughly, especially if you’ve been riding in bad weather or after roads have been salted, and do preventive maintenance and check chain wear. If you’re the type that doesn’t ride all year, or that hangs up the race bike until Spring, then remember that your bike should be cleaned and well oiled, greased and lubricated before being put up for storage.

Ridden and Reviewed: Diamondback Century Sport Disc Road Bike

Reviewing a bike is always a tricky business, especially when it incorporates new technology. But when we saw the new Diamondback Century Sport Disc, we knew we had to try it out.

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Diamondback Century Sport Disc

About The Bike: The Century Sport Disc is an aluminum bike with a full carbon fork. This bike is designed with the high-mileage enthusiast in mind, and it shows it with a nice and relaxed geometry that feels easy on the back and neck without feeling like you’re riding an upright beach cruiser. It’s outfitted with a mix of Shimano parts—sporting 105 shifters and front derailleur and an Ultegra 10-speed rear derailleur, and TRP’s Hy/Rd mechanically actuated hydraulic disc brakes.

Unboxing and Set Up: Unboxing and set up are fairly straight forward: the bike comes 90% assembled, so you only have to mount the wheels, handlebars, and seatpost. The only tools you’ll need are a set of hex wrenches and some bike grease. As with most bikes, the rear derailleur will need a bit of tuning—but compared to some other bikes we’ve assembled, it was minor– just two quarter turns of the barrel adjuster. The only major obstacle came with the brakes. We’ve set up disc brakes before, but these took some figuring out to get set up. Turns out it was maddeningly simple. So to save you a headache, here’s the key: look for the knob with a picture of a lock on it. Unthread it counter clockwise until it pops up out of the socket. This will unlock the actuating arm. Once that is done, proceed much like you would with any other mechanical disc brake set up (pinch the actuating arm to activate the brake, pull the cable tight, and tighten down the cable clamp bolt, then use the barrel adjuster to back off the cable tension until the rotor spins freely).

We added our own Time iClic Racer pedals,  bottle cage, and Garmin mount. Weight after assembly: 21.3 lbs.

The Ride: Our first ride on the Century Sport Disc started out with a group ride that turned into a two-man exploration of some local gravel roads. Over this varied terrain, the bike proved surprisingly fast, and it climbed fairly well.  The feel of the bike also impressed. Being an aluminum frame with an alloy seatpost, we expected a harsh, jarring ride, but that turned out not to be the case at all. The bike nicely soaked up road vibration and delivered a smooth road feel. Even on some rutted out gravel the bike felt stable, thanks to its long wheel base and the unexpectedly excellent tires (some nice, sticky Michelin Dynamic Sport 700×25’s).

dback_century_sport_disc_gravel_climb

Handling was excellent, even on rough roads

Shockingly, we also found the saddle among the most comfortable stock saddles we’ve ever tried. Usually, the saddle is the first thing we discard when setting up a new bike, however for us the Diamondback Equation saddle (135mm wide) hits that nice sweet spot of just enough padding, just enough flex, and not being too wide or too narrow. The shape is also pretty middle of the road, with a nice graceful curve from the rear to the nose that didn’t rub on our legs or cause any hotspots. The center channel cutout also helps with numbness. (Our reviewer normally rides a 134mm Prologo Nago Evo saddle).

The carbon fork and BB386 bottom bracket definitely helped stiffen the bike up, which helps with performance by improving power transmission and minimizing frame flex. It’s not quite on par with a carbon bike, but for what this bike was designed for, it’s more than adequate.  The geometry is a little more upright than we’re used to, but it actually felt pretty good on the back and neck. Sitting more upright did make us work a little harder when riding into the wind, but we were more than able to keep up with a fast group ride without any problems. It’s important to remember though that this isn’t a race bike—this bike is built for those putting in long hours in the saddle.

The tapered headtube and carbon fork helped stiffen up the bike

The tapered headtube and carbon fork helped stiffen up the bike

The handling was nice and stable, with no hints of the twitchiness we’ve come to expect from more racy-steeds which sometimes have pushed us to the edge of our comfort zones. On gravel roads, the bike was responsive enough to help us ditch some pot holes at the last minute, and even bunny hop others that we saw a little too late. The bike is spec’ed with slightly wider bars than normal (44cm on a 54cm bike, versus the usual 42cm) to give the bike a more stable feel akin to a flatbar road bike, but with the ability to ride in the drops. Handlebars are fairly inexpensive (a set of Forte Team alloy bars are about $39), so if you want to switch to a narrower bar for more nimble handling, it won’t break the bank.

Now for the disc brakes: our bike arrived the day that SRAM announced their hydraulic road recall. Even though the TRP Hy/Rd is a fundamentally different system, we still eyed the fluid reservoir with not a little apprehension. Fortunately, our fears were unfounded. The bike stopped on a dime without a single hiccough, even on gravel roads and steep descents. In fact, sometimes it almost worked a little too well. If you’re used to traditional road calipers, then you’ll need to remember that “less is more” with disc brakes. Because the system is mechanically activated (the cable actuates the hydraulic piston, which actuates the braking arm), you don’t really have to worry about boiling the fluid on long descents, and the sealed hydraulic chamber has almost no chance of developing the air bubbles that brought down SRAM’s systems. They are definitely powerful, and performed well even in wet, muddy conditions we encountered on gravel roads.

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TRP Hy/Rd brakes provided excellent stopping power

The Verdict: The Diamondback Century Sport Disc is an excellent bike for riders looking to put in long miles, ride in bad weather, or looking for a first road bike. Even our less experienced testers felt right at home on the bike, thanks to its stable handling and the confident braking feel they got from the Hy/Rd system. The spec is decent for this price range, with the high-end Ultegra rear derailleur, BB386 bottom bracket system, and TRP hydraulic system all normally found at a much higher price point. However, if you’re looking for a bike that’ll climb like a champ or that will help you take the town line sprint, then you may instead want to look at the Diamondback Podium series to get that extra performance edge. A racing bike, this ain’t. But for Gran Fondo’s, charity rides, and club outings, this is a bike that definitely has the chops to help you stay with the group without pushing you to the limit.

Recommended Upgrades: As it is the Century Sport Disc, is a great bike. However, if you want to get a little more out of it, here are the upgrades we would recommend.

  • Carbon Seatpost: A carbon seatpost will help the bike feel a little smoother on rough roads or gravel
  • Wheels: A good wheel upgrade, like the Stans Alpha 340, will help shed weight and improve ride feel, performance, and handling
  • Crank: The FSA Gossamer that is spec’d on the Century Sport Disc is perfectly fine, but a carbon crank like the FSA SL-K compact will help take the bike’s performance up a notch or two with stiffer rings, lighter arms, and improved power transmission

How Do You Build a Mountain Bike Trail – Talking with Elevated Trail Design

Fresh new trails are the siren song for mountain bikers – when you hear about a new line or some sweet new singletrack, you have to go and check it out. So when we heard about a new section of trail being built, by professional trailbuilders, on our usual home office lunchtime loop (a 6 mile trail system in a local sustainable development) our ears perked up and we had to know more!

We rode by to check out the construction progress and meet the guys from Elevated Trail Design, otherwise known as Andrew Mueller and Peter Mills. Based out of the Carolinas and Boulder, Colorado, ETD creates trails that integrate unique trail features into the natural landscape while maintaining high standards of safety and sustainability. They offer a variety of natural surface and resurfaced trails for many types of clients, and their specialties include multi-use trails, mountain bike trails, backcountry hiking trails, and bike parks. With experience building both machine built and hand built trails and all types of mountain bike features, they take pride in being a rider-owned company, and strive to secure projects which allow them to build creative and progressive features.

With that in mind, we fired off some questions to Andrew to find out more about what goes into building great trails.

Andrew riding the new trails at Briar Chapel

Andrew riding the new trails at Briar Chapel

How did you get started building trails as a job?

I started building trails the same way a lot of pro trailbuilders do; by building illegal trails. I guess it started around age 12, when digging holes to build jumps (without permission, of course) in the neighborhood was just a good way to get out of our parent’s houses. After all, until you can drive, a bicycle is about the closest thing to freedom that a teenager can get. Spots came and went, jumps were built and torn down, but I knew by the time I was 18 that I loved building bike trails…I just didn’t know it could be a job. My desire to ride and build led me to Appalachian State University, where I studied Geographic Information Systems and Sustainable Development (you could argue that I minored in downhill mountain biking!). I took an internship my senior year at the newly-envisioned Rocky Knob bike park in Boone, NC. We worked alongside a trail contractor, both working on the trails and then mapping them. It all pretty much fell into place from there; I got a job working for a trail company, met Peter Mills, and realized that we should be doing this on our own. We knew that if we wanted to build the unique features and trails that were in our heads, we had to go legit, and Elevated Trail Design was born.

What does it take to design & build a great trail?

I think design is huge.  So much of a trail’s potential comes from its design. Our first step is looking at maps and exploring. I want to know where all the rocks are, find the cool trees, and learn the layout of the terrain before we drop the first flag for the line. The next thing is drainage; you have to understand how water is going to behave if you want to build something that lasts. The last thing is experience. I think what sets Peter and myself apart as bike-specific builders is our diverse backgrounds as riders. We’ve ridden so many different types of trail and terrain that we have a unique vision for what mountain biking should be. We understand how trails evolve beneath knobby tires and how to prepare for that. It’s fun to think back to a fun section you rode in some other place and envision how we can replicate that experience where the users might not expect it.

Pump track built by Elevated Trail Design

Pump track built by Elevated Trail Design

What do you use to build trails?

The tools really depend on the project. A lot of people think pro trailbuilders just drive through the woods with a bulldozer and build some boring trail, but we really try to work with the client to build what he or she wants. We do machine built and handbuilt trails, and I think there are a lot of great things about both.  Nothing beats the artistic quality and minimalist traits of a handbuilt trail, but there are also situations where a machine can build better product in less time. I can confidently say that learning how to build trail with an excavator has made me much better at handbuilt trail and vice versa. For handbuilt trails, we start with chainsaws and blowers, then remove organics and cut the trail with trail tools (Rogue Hoes, Mcleods), then touch up with rakes and loppers. For machine built trail, we only use mini excavators.  The excavator is the ultimate do it all trail machine; we can use it to build minimal trail with rocks and roots, or we can build big dirt features that make places like Whistler famous. Either way, separation of materials is key…it’s all about keeping as much of the good mineral dirt on the trail and discarding the waste materials in a clean fashion.

Technical section at Briar Chapel

Technical section at Briar Chapel

What’s your favorite place to ride?

I’ve ridden a lot of great places, but for this question, I think I have to stick with my roots. I learned to ride in Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina, and I still have to say it’s my favorite. I love the rugged trails there and the remote feel that they have. I hope that people see that we try to pay tribute to the rocks, roots, and rhododendron of Pisgah even though we’re trying to build sustainable trails and also make a living. Peter would probably tell you his favorite places to ride are Whistler Mountain Bike Park or any nice big dirt jumps. I think that’s what makes us a great team; we draw from different mountain bike experiences and put them all into a totally unique product.

What’s a favorite project that you’ve worked on?

It’s hard to pick just one, but believe it or not, I have to mention a hiking trail here. Last spring we did a 1.5 mile “face-lift” on part of NC’s Mountains-to-Sea trail near Boone, NC. It was called the Boone Fork Trail and it involved hiking into a remote drainage each day to build a huge variety of trail features. We did excavator trail, hand-built, rock armoring, and ladders with local timber, all on one job. Just working in that beautiful setting; with huge hardwoods and cascading rapids all around us every day, made that job really memorable.

New trail in Briar Chapel

New trail in Briar Chapel

What would be your ideal trail?

I like variety in my trails. My favorite trails mix new-school mountain bike trail building with natural terrain. I love a trail when you are smashing through some crazy rocks but there’s a perfect berm at the bottom to hold your speed into the next section. I love turns; if I’m riding in a straight line I better be hitting a nice jump or some roots and rocks, otherwise I’ll be bored! I also love trails that descend through different zones and environments, making you feel like you’re experiencing the forest and having a blast in a way a hiker could never understand.

And of course, near to our hearts, how would you describe the trail you just built at Briar Chapel?

Briar Chapel was just an all-around great project for us. It was a design/build, so it allowed us to show off our full vision and potential as trailbuilders.  We tried to maximize the terrain in every way possible, striving to show people that you can have a rugged and fun mountain bike experience even in a suburban, residential setting. What that vision resulted in is a huge variety of building and riding styles packed into a small amount of trail. We built flowy berms and rollers, tight singletrack, rock gardens, stuff that’s clearly machine-built, stuff that people will think is handbuilt, and stuff that actually is handbuilt.  We were calling it the party trail while we built it; it makes you just want to do lap after lap. If people come there and ride our trail two or three times in different directions, we accomplished our goal [note for locals: please check trail conditions before riding - the new section of trail may not be open yet due to weather].

Peter having fun in Moab, Utah

Peter having fun in Moab, Utah

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