Throw Down: Lycra or No Lycra

To wear or not to wear, that is the question. Few things seem to divide cycling tribes quite as much as lycra clothing. While for some, a pair of padded bike shorts and a zip up jersey are necessities, for others they are an eye sore that carries certain connotations with it. To be certain, lycra isn’t for everyone—and choosing to wear it or not to wear it is a personal choice.

As with most debates, neither side is right or wrong, necessarily. For the sake of argument though, let’s take a look at some of the pro’s and con’s of lycra.

Lycra is something most riders find a lot of benefit in...but not everyone

Lycra is something most riders find a lot of benefit in…but not everyone

Pro’s:

  • Super Comfortable: There’s no two ways about it, properly fitting lycra shorts and a good jersey are some of the most comfortable clothing you’ll ever wear
  • Feeling Fast: Wearing lycra can make you feel fast, no matter what the reality might be
  • Cushioning: Finding the right pair of padded bike shorts can be a revelation in comfort. The pad helps take the sting out of long days in the saddle, and when you find the brand of shorts that work for you, you’ll never want to ride without them
  • Staying cooler: most cycling clothing now is designed to wick away sweat and is made with fabrics that help you stay cooler
  • More Aero: Wearing cycling jerseys can really cut down on wind drag, since even a club fit jersey will fit more closely than a t-shirt. This might not seem important to the everyday cyclist, but it actually does make a huge difference
  • Part Of The Club: Let’s face it, in certain cycling circles—we’re looking at you roadies—it’s just expected that you’ll wear it
Lycra can make a big day in the saddle a lot easier

Lycra can make a big day in the saddle a lot easier

Con’s:

  • The Confidence Factor: It takes a certain amount of confidence to wear lycra in public, and some people don’t feel comfortable in it
  • Limited Wear Occasions: In lycra, it’s not like you can just step off the bike and go sit at your desk at the start of the work day
  • What It Means: For many, lycra has become a symbol of exclusivity and elitism in the cycling community, and some see the perceived requirement of wearing lycra as an obstacle to getting more people on bikes
For many riders, especially in urban areas, lycra isn't as important

For many riders, especially in urban areas, lycra isn’t as important

A Personal Choice

At the end of the day riding a bike should be fun, regardless of what clothing you choose to wear while doing it. If you do choose to wear lycra, it doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to the body-hugging race-fit stuff you see on TV. There are many different fit levels available, from straight up t-shirts made of technical fabrics to roomier “club fit” clothing that isn’t as form fitting. And nobody says (well…some people do) that you can’t wear mountain bike baggies on the road if you want to.

And if you choose not to wear lycra, that’s ok too. It’s not for everyone. There are plenty of other clothing options out there that offer bike-friendly features in more casual clothing. Jeans and shirts from Club Ride, Zoic, Performance, and others offer features like reinforced seats, articulated knees, and specially designed pockets to facilitate your non-lycra bike life.

Types of Riders and Their Relationship to Lycra:

The Roadie:

Lycra Love: 10/10

Perhaps no other cycling clan takes their super hero costumes so seriously as the serious road rider. This is usually the guy who shaves his legs and has a bike more expensive than his car. Just wearing lycra isn’t enough. It has to be worn well. Usually the shorts and jersey (collectively called a “kit”) must match in color and brand, and will preferably be a matching set. Wearing pro team clothing when not paid to do so is highly discouraged in this circle, though wearing one’s club kit is acceptable. The kit will usually be color coordinated with the helmet, socks, shoes, gloves, and for the truly dedicated, the bike. Additional rules regarding sock height, short length, and jersey fit may apply.

These roadies find the lunch ride is perfect for matching Performance Ultra kits. Zach gets bonus points for matching socks and helmet

These roadies find the lunch ride is perfect for matching Performance Ultra kits. Zach recieved bonus points for color coordinating his socks and helmet

The Weekend Warrior:

Lycra Love: 7/10

The Weekend Warrior takes a more casual approach to lycra. Sure, they might like things to match, and who doesn’t like some cool socks? But the important thing is comfort and functionality. Shorts add comfort on a long weekend ride, and the jersey provides plenty of cooling and pocket storage as they rack up the miles. It’s not necessarily about fitting in or looking “pro”, so much as it is recognizing the benefits that lycra offers on long, high mileage rides. Lycra clothing is a functional item, but having mismatched kit won’t get in the way of enjoying the ride.

For many riders, wearing lycra is more about comfort and functionality than anything

For many riders, wearing lycra is more about comfort and functionality than anything

The Urban Rider:

Lycra Love: 0/10

Lycra is usually anathema to the urban rider, and not without practical reasons. The urban rider uses the bike primarily for transportation and getting around—which means they ride their bike to get somewhere. While they may wear bike specific clothing, it’s usually more along the lines of Club Ride, which incorporates bike-friendly features into everyday clothing. Urban riders usually also view the association of lycra with bikes as an impediment to getting more people on bikes—a thought that might not necessarily be wrong.

For many riders, cycling clothes don't have to be skin tight, thanks to more casual-- yet functional-- options

For many riders, cycling clothes don’t have to be skin tight, thanks to more casual– yet functional– options

The Mountain Biker:

Lycra Love: 5/10

Ah…the sneaky lycra wearer. While most mountain bikers may outwardly deride road bikers for wearing lycra, the truth is that most mountain bikers secretly wear it. Sure, they might look super casual in their technical t-shirts and baggy shorts, but underneath it all is a pair of padded lycra shorts. And in truth, lately some XC riders have even dispensed with the pretense and started emulating their road biking cousins.

Don't be fooled...underneath those baggy shorts are some padded lycra shorts

Don’t be fooled…underneath those baggy shorts are some padded lycra shorts

If you’re looking for a new suit of clothes, check out our reviews of some of our favorite kits here:

Ridden and Reviewed: Sugoi Ice RP Jersey and Bib Shorts

Ridden and Reviewed: Performance Ultra SL Jersey and Bib Shorts

To learn more about what to look for in a pair of shorts or a jersey, check out our buyer’s guides below:

Learn more about cycling shorts

Learn more about cycling jerseys

Team NetApp Endura Visits Fuji’s Home Office

A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to visit the biggest one day bike race in the US, the Philly Cycling Classic, thanks to an invite from our friends at Fuji Bikes. We had a great time checking out the excitement of the race (especially the finish up the famed Manayunk Wall), but the highlight of the trip was a chance to visit the home office of Fuji Bikes (and their sister brands in the Advanced Sports International or ASI family: Kestrel, Breezer and SE Bikes) with the members of the NetApp team, after the race.

Members of Team NetApp posed for a photo with the Fuji Bikes team

Members of Team NetApp posed for a photo with the Fuji Bikes team, including CEO Pat Cunnane (on the right)

ASI moved to their current headquarters in northern Philadelphia, from New Jersey, in 2004 so that they could triple the size of their warehouse.We followed along as the members of Team NetApp got a chance to meet everyone at the ASI offices, especially the bike design team. We learned more about the product development process, from assessing the market and looking at past sales, to talking to customers, attending trade shows, talking to dealers – even reading every bicycle magazine and good old-fashioned research on the internet. It’s definitely an in-depth process! Just the design process for a new bike can take over a year, and it’s not uncommon for a bike to go from concept to delivery to market in 18 months to 2 years.

We also got to learn more about the ASI/Fuji culture – needless to say they are really into bikes! There is a full Fuji demo fleet in their warehouse so that any employee can check out any type of bike for a month. Even though they are located in Philadelphia, they’re also building a full cyclocross course on the grounds near their warehouse, along with some mountain bike trails. And remember the Norcom Straight triathlon/time trial bike? Norcom Road is a favorite stretch of test road just a short ride from their offices. Fuji is also a huge presence in the local cycling community, with one of their main focuses being the Cadence Cycling Foundation – a group that engages youth through the sport of cycling to help them grow into healthy, responsible, and confident adults.

One of the highlights of the tour was the chance for everyone at ASI to have lunch and chat with the members of the NetApp team, all-rounder Blaz Jarc from Slovenia, classics rider Ralf Matzka from Germany, Jonathan McEvoy from the UK (11th place finisher in Philly),  all-rounder Erick Rowsell from the UK, mountain specialist Frantisek Padour from the Czech Republic (who finished 12th in Philly), and Director Sportif Christian Pomer from Austria (a former pro cyclist himself). Fuji associates got the chance to pepper the members of Team NetApp with questions.

They described their Altamira racing bikes as a good quality all-around bike – light, stiff, and with good handling. The hardest race they’d ever done? Without a doubt, Paris Roubaix – they made it to the end, but the Arenberg cobble section was just super hard, since you go straight into it at a really high speed. They also compared Philly Cycling Classic to Europe and said that it was a different style. At Philly the racing was a lot more aggressive, and they were always fighting for position as it never settled down. In Europe, the racing starts hard, but then a break goes, it settles down, and it only gets really hard again at the end. But they loved the atmosphere on the Manayunk Wall (where they may, or may not, have received beer handups at the end of the race).

The team even talked a bit about how they got started in bike racing – most started in their early teens riding for development programs. In England, their academy system finds kids in grade schools and progresses them through their national Olympic training program – they were full time riders from an early age, but not pro until a few years ago.  They also spoke about the stagiare program – wherein a professional team takes on ‘cycling interns’ starting in August. Young riders are released from their U23 team and get what amounts to a try out for a pro team, for free. It’s a big step up from the lower level, and the riders are under a huge amount of pressure to make a good impression in a few months. They even spoke about what they do in their off time – other than ride bikes, they just like to take a few weeks off the bike and not think about racing at all!

It was a great visit with the ASI/Fuji team, and with Team NetApp – we’re excited to cheer for the team as they compete in the Tour de France in July! To get a little sense of what pro racing is like from inside the peloton, check out this video we put together from the Manayunk Wall at the Philly Cycling Classic:

Rep. David Price Visits Performance

U.S. Representative David Price (NC) visited our offices a few weeks ago

U.S. Representative David Price (NC) visited our offices a few weeks ago

A few weeks ago U.S. Representative David Price (NC) was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to visit our offices in Chapel Hill and meet with some of our employees. After giving him a tour of our offices and telling him a bit about what we do, we had the opportunity to ask him some questions about the role of the bicycle in American transportation, what’s on the horizon with transportation legislation, and what’s up with those Tiger Grants?

U.S. Rep David Price and our CEO tour the Performance offices

U.S. Rep David Price and our CEO tour the Performance offices

Rep. Price touring our warehouse

Rep. Price touring our warehouse

He answered all of our staff’s questions, and shed a lot of light on what is happening in America right now with transportation policy.

Round table discussion with Rep. David Price

Round table discussion with Rep. David Price

The big things that he stressed were:

  1. Transportation policy will depend on people who care about transportation policy, individual health, wellbeing, the environment and livable spaces taking a more active role in government decision making, at the local, state and federal level
  2. Transportation policy isn’t just about paving more roads, it’s about “transportation enhancements” that include rail, transit alternatives, pedestrians and cyclists
  3. On a local level, the more specific we can be with infrastructure improvement plans the better our chances of getting the plans implemented.
Rep. Price also met with many of our warehouse staff

Rep. Price also met with many of our warehouse staff

In short, he highlighted the fact that we need to fight for better transportation alternatives, and for bikes to have a place, and encouraged us all– and you– to keep your representatives at the local, state and national level accountable when it comes to legislation that affects us as cyclists.

 

Ridden and Reviewed: Sugoi RP Ice Jersey and Sugoi RP Bib Shorts

The Sugoi RS Ice jersey and RP bib shorts are excellent for hot days

The Sugoi RP Ice jersey and RP bib shorts are excellent for hot days

With a Southern summer in full swing around our offices in North Carolina, we’re always looking for new ways to stay cool on our lunch rides. Riding in the heat of the day, when June temps can reach 95 with 90% humidity can really take it out of you, especially if you wear the wrong clothes.

While some of the new mesh climbing jerseys are great, on really sunny days we still want something that will keep us from getting a sunburn. So when the clothing guys showed us our new Sugoi RP Ice jersey and RP bib shorts– available exclusively from Performance Bicycle– we figured we’d test it out to see if it actually works.

The racy pro-fit provides plenty of compression mixed with all-day comfort

The racy pro-fit provides plenty of compression mixed with all-day comfort

 The Jersey

The RS Ice jersey uses Icefil technology to reflect infared light and keep you cooler

The RP Ice jersey uses Icefil technology to reflect infared light and keep you cooler

The idea behind the jersey is that it uses Icefil technology that helps block thermal infared light (the kind that makes you feel hot) and wicks away sweat to speed evaporative cooling. It also has a Xylitol fabric treatment that generates a cooling effect when it comes into contact with moisture, helping to draw away some heat. Sugoi claims that it will keep you cooler, even though the jersey has significantly fewer mesh panels than comparable hot-weather jerseys.

The big thing we noticed about the jersey is how remarkably light it feels. In fact, it feels about as light as some breezy, sunburn-prone mesh jerseys we have. The light feeling goes a long way towards how cool the jersey feels on a hot day.

The day we took the jersey out was about 96 F with 89% humidity. It was the kind of day when you start feeling like an egg on a skillet the minute you walk outside. The RP Ice jersey was more than equal to the ride though. The first thing we noticed immediately was that the fabric didn’t feel like it was soaking up heat in the sun. Normally you can just feel a jersey getting hot, but the jersey felt fairly cool while just sitting in the sun waiting for everyone else in the ride to show up.

Active vent side panels help shed body heat that builds up inside the jersey

Where we really noticed the cooling effect was while riding. Usually our test day would have been an open-jersey ride, but we stayed pretty much zipped up during most of the ride (except for the long climb) without feeling like we were overheating or suffocating. While we did kind of miss feeling of airflow you get from some thinner jerseys, we found we didn’t really need it. The Sugoi jersey was plenty breathable, and wicked away sweat really well and dried very fast, so we didn’t get that wet towel feeling.

The jersey has a locking zipper, and back pockets that give you plenty of room to store tubes, tools, food and a phone.

The RP Ice jersey also features a pro-fit, which means it will be a tight, aerodynamic cut. Our tester found he probably could have gone down a jersey size as well, but that could vary depending on your body type. The body-hugging, contoured fit actually felt really nice, without the cloying, clingy feeling you sometimes get from jerseys that fit like this.

A big reflective stripe on the back helps you stay visible

A big reflective stripe on the back helps you stay visible

The Shorts

As great as jersey’s are, it’s the shorts that can really make or break a kit, since that’s the part actually contacting the saddle. The Sugoi RP shorts feature an excellent molded, multi-density chamois pad, which is perfect for longer rider with plenty of padding. It provided plenty of padding in all the right places, especially on the sit bones, which can sometimes be an issue—given our tester’s preference for minimally padded saddles.

The Sugoi RP shorts provide plenty of comfort and support during hard efforts and long days

The Sugoi RP shorts provide plenty of comfort and support during hard efforts and long days

The lycra is a little bit heavier than we were expecting, but actually breathes quite well. The material also provided plenty of compression, without feeling overly constrictive—it felt like it was giving our muscles support, which actually felt really great toward the end of our ride when we started to feel a little fatigued. The leg gripper has a really solid feel, and stayed in place no matter how much we sweated, even when our sunscreen started to run off.

The Verdict

The Sugoi RP Ice jersey and RP shorts are definitely a go-to summer combo.

The Sugoi RP jersey, as far as cooling goes, is right up there with some of the best summer-weight jersey’s we’ve tried, with the added bonus that it provides a lot more sun protection. It’s definitely one a good one for hot, sunny days, when not just overheating, but getting sunburned can be an issue.

The shorts are very comfortable, with a good mix of compression and support, and a pretty solid (not literally) chamois. We found them to be pretty ideal for rides of any length– be it a short hour-long hammer ride where the compression can help prevent fatigue, or a longer weekend ride where the chamois can prevent soreness and keep you comfortable.

The Sugoi jersey and shorts are also available in a women’s version, available here.

The Sugoi RS Ice jersey and RP shorts will help you perform you best on hot days

The Sugoi RP Ice jersey and RP shorts will help you perform you best on hot days

Ridden and Reviewed: Diamondback Haanjo and Haanjo Comp

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The Diamondback Haanjo Comp (left) and Haanjo Flat Bar (right)

You might have read lately about “adventure” or “gravel” bikes. Part cyclocross bike, part road bike, part touring bike, these rides are designed to help you go anywhere your imagination can take you—on or off road.

Over the past few weeks we got a chance to test out Diamondback’s Haanjo. We loved it so much that after the test was over we bought one for ourselves.

About The Bike

The Haanjo comes in two models, both of which we got to test out. Both are built around a high end aluminum frame and fork, with disc brake mounts, fender mounts, and rear rack mounts. The geometry of the Haanjo is pretty relaxed, with huge tire clearance (both bikes come with WTB All Terrain 32mm tires). The emphasis here is clearly on keeping the bike capable of going off road while staying stable and comfortable for the rider.

The Haanjo Comp comes with a Shimano 105 10-speed road group, short cage rear derailleur with an 11-28T cassette, drop bars, FSA Gossamer 46/36 ‘cross crankset, and TRP’s exceptional Hy/Rd mechanically-activated disc brakes.

The Haanjo comes with a Shimano Sora 9-speed flat bar road group, long cage rear derailleur with an 11-30T cassette, flat bars, FSA Gossamer 46/36 ‘cross crankset, and Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes.

We tested both bikes.

Adventure awaits

Adventure awaits

 Unboxing and Set Up

Unboxing and set up for both bikes was pretty straight forward, since the bikes come 90% assembled. Just put the front wheel on, put the handlebars in the stem, and install the seatpost/saddle (already assembled). Each bike also comes with a pair of platform pedals, spare spokes, and some zip ties whose purpose remains a mystery, since they weren’t really necessary for setup.

Both bikes did need to have the brakes and derailleurs adjusted, but it wasn’t anything too major. The Avid BB5 brakes set up like any other mechanical disc brakes. The TRP brakes can be a little more frustratingly simple, so let us save you the headache: 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.

We added our own pedals, bottle cages, and saddle packs.

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The Ride

After spending a few days riding the Haanjo, we pretty much fell in love with the bike. It rode like no other bike we’ve ever tested… and we ride a lot of bikes. The best word we can think of to describe the ride feel is “confidence”. Whether we were on the road or on the trail, on the flat bar version or the drop bar version, we always felt confident in the bike’s ability to handle anything in its path.

The bike actually feels less like a CX bike-meets-road bike than it does a rigid mountain bike-meets-road bike…something that sounds admittedly dubious in theory but turns out to be amazing in reality. The Haanjo is easily the most versatile bike we’ve ever ridden. It doesn’t really excel in any one thing—it’s not as fast or lively as a road bike, nor as capable and controllable as a mountain bike—but it does very well in pretty much everything.

On the road the bike accelerates nicely, with smooth, predictable handling. The geometry on both bikes is also really nice for long days on the bike. The tall head tube, and slung-back geometry put you in a nice upright position that makes it easy on the back. The aluminum frame and fork feel nice and stiff for fairly snappy acceleration without any noticeable frame flex (even with a loaded rack on the back). Surprisingly we didn’t get any of the harsh road chatter we expected from this full aluminum rig, and the ride felt plush and comfortable. The WTB tires aren’t exactly the best for road riding, since the beefy tread and increased rolling resistance can slow your roll a little. For extended road riding, we replaced the WTB All Terrains with some Continental Gatorskin Hardshell 700x25c road tires.

Off road, the bike was just awesome. The handling almost felt more like we were riding a 29” mountain bike, instead of a twitchy CX bike. Thanks to the more upright geometry we were even able to take the bike over some more technical sections of trail without worrying about it too much—we felt totally in control of the bike. Off-road is also where the WTB tires came into their own. They really hooked into the trail nicely, with plenty of grip in the corners and hills, so we had the confidence to go full bore when we wanted to. The easy CX-style gearing meant that we had plenty of low-end gearing to make it up even the hardest inclines.

The stopping power of both the Avid and TRP disc brakes was impressive, even in the rain, mud, and dirt.

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The Verdict

Just awesome. If, in some sad alternate world, we could only own one bike, it would easily be the Haanjo. Its ability to literally do anything and go anywhere is unmatched. Sometimes with a bike like this, one that tries to be all things to all people, you end up with a bike that’s really nothing to anybody— but not in this case. Diamondback really cracked the code and delivered up something truly remarkable… which might be why every shipment we get sells through so quickly.

We did everything on the Haanjo: commuting, road riding, trail riding, gravel riding, bike camping with a fully loaded rack. The Haanjo is a bike that’s limited only by your imagination.

When the test was over and we had to give the bikes back, we were a little sad. So sad in fact that we decided to go out and get ourselves a Haanjo flat bar. We look forward to seeing where it takes us in the days ahead.

The Haanjo felt right at home anywhere we went

The Haanjo felt right at home anywhere we went

2014 Philly Cycling Classic with Fuji – Riding the Manayunk Wall

In the first weekend of June we were lucky enough to get an invitation from our friends at Fuji Bikes to check out the Philly Cycling Classic in their hometown of Philadelphia, PA. Although this race has changed names a few times over the years, it’s remained one of the richest and most prestigious one day races outside of Europe. Beyond the world-class international field, and high caliber bike racing, the Philly Cycling Classic also brings a party atmosphere for the communities of Philadelphia along the 12 mile route from Manayunk to Fairmount Park. With a ride open to the public, then a professional women’s race, and then the pro men’s race all taking place on the same day, it’s a smorgasbord of cycling fun that should be on your agenda at least once in the future – plus Fuji puts on a great house party at the top of the wall, just past the finish line!

CLIMBING THE MANAYUNK WALL

If there is one feature that defines the lore of the Philly Cycling Classic, it’s got to be the fearsome Manayunk Wall. It’s one of those climbs where the numbers don’t really do it justice – it’s a little over half mile long, with a average grade of 8%, and an ascent of 226 feet. No problem right? Well, that’s what it feels like after you turn on Levering Street and then make a quick right on to Cresson Street, then turn left back on to Levering Street and face the Wall proper.

Turning on to Cresson Street at the base of the Wall

Turning on to Cresson Street at the base of the Wall

When you first see the Wall itself, you are feeling good, the cranks are turning over fast, and you start to think that this whole Manayunk Wall reputation is overrated. Sure, it’s a hill, but you’re still flying up in the big ring.

Heading up Levering Street - the bottom of the Wall

Heading up Levering Street – the bottom of the Wall

But about halfway up it hits you – this isn’t getting any easier! The street starts tipping up to 18% and you start shifting to an easier gear, and then shifting again. Once you make the slight left onto Lyceum Avenue, you start to understand why they call this the Wall. It feels like you are in a canyon, with a rock wall on one side and houses on the other, and there is nothing to do but keep pedaling until you get to the top.

The Wall gets really steep on Lyceum Avenue

The Wall gets really steep on Lyceum Avenue

The steep section doesn’t last long, but it seems like it takes forever. As Lyceum Avenue straightens out, the grade starts to relent and you can put your head down and churn out the last few hundred feet to the top. This is where the strongest riders can put in their final attack – but for most of us it’s just a matter of surviving.

The slog to the top up Lyceum Avenue

The long slog to the top up Lyceum Avenue

Finally you make it to the top and the right turn on to Pechin Street – the fall from the Wall. It’s all downhill from here – but did that climb only take 3 minutes (the record is just under 2)? Now remember, you just climbed the Manayunk Wall only one time – the pro men have to climb it 10 times!

The top of the Wall, turning on to Pechin Street

The top of the Wall, turning on to Pechin Street

PHILLY CYCLING CLASSIC COURSE

The route of the Philly Cycling Classic has changed over the years, but its current incarnation is as a 12 mile circuit course that connects the communities of Manayunk, East Falls and Fairmount Park. It races through neighborhoods, past restaurants, and along the scenic Schuylkill River via Kelly Drive. The course is bookended by Lemon Hill at the far end, and of course the Manayunk Wall at the other. One of the major changes to the race was to make the finish line right at the top of the Manayunk Wall – creating a finish line atmosphere not unlike a Spring Classic in Europe. Another change in the Philly Cycling Classic this year – the prize money is split evenly between the men’s and women’s fields! They both ride the same course, so they both have the chance to earn the same cash!

FANS OF MANAYUNK

Of course no race would be complete without fans to cheer on the riders and create a party atmosphere. While there were crowds all along the entire route of the Philly Cycling Classic, the biggest and loudest spectating spots were Lemon Hill and the Manayunk Wall. And it is Manayunk that has acquired almost mythic notoriety over the years – there are tales of epic house parties with live house bands and a hundred thousand people packed in to a half mile of Philadelphia rowhouses. While the atmosphere and crowds are more mellow these days (no doubt thanks to the overwhelming, but very polite, police presence), it’s still a great crowd many thousands strong that is not shy about getting loud when the race comes flying by. We may even have spotteed a few beer hand-ups for riders who were going to drop out of the race a few laps early, their jobs done for the day (don’t tell the UCI).

FUJI’S BIGGEST PARTY OF THE YEAR

We would also like to say thanks to Fuji for hosting us during the race weekend – since this is their hometown event, they put on a great party and cookout at the top of the Manayunk Wall. With nearly endless supplies of food and drink, and ample bike parking – the Fuji party was the place to be on race day! Even the Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, dropped by and hung out for a few hours!

Check out our race day photo gallery on Facebook.

Helmets: To Wear or Not To Wear?

Two approaches to riding a bike: helmeted and helmetless

At the risk of setting the internet on fire, this is an article about wearing helmets. We’ve seen a few articles lately that seem to have reignited this timeless debate, and thought we’d jump into the fray.

Before you get all fired up, know a few things

  • We believe in the studies that show helmets save lives, and always wear one when we ride
  • This author personally had his life saved, or at least avoided having to relearn the alphabet, by wearing a helmet
  • We haven’t always been stringent helmet wearers, and spent years going lidless (in fact the day I had my accident was almost a lucky chance, at the last minute I completely randomly decided to grab my helmet for my ride to the grocery store)
  • Ultimately the choice whether or not to wear one is up to you

Like politics, helmet wearing tends to be super divisive. The two most vocal camps (though maybe not the most numerous) tend to be:

  1. Helmets are totally unnecessary for the everyday cyclist, and just make cycling seem more unappealing
  2. Helmets offer critical protection, and should be mandatory for everyone.

But in the middle are a huge number of riders who just go out and ride their bikes, do what they do, and don’t really get too worked up about stuff like this.

But for the sake of argument, let’s break down the two opposing views:

 Anti-Helmet:

This mom and daughter in Hasselt, Belgium are just going about their business-- no helmets needed

This mom and daughter in Hasselt, Belgium are just going about their business– no helmets needed

This camp tends to be more the urban/transportation type of rider, who usually bikes at slower speeds, and in slower moving traffic. To these riders, the helmet is simply an impediment to getting people on bikes. There are some valid arguments to be made here, including studies that show that mandatory helmet laws decrease participation, which actually makes riding more dangerous since there are fewer bikes on the road. Others dislike them because they think it makes cycling seem excessively dangerous, or that they do little to prevent injury. These are also valid points—most cyclists will never need the protection a helmet provides, and in the event of an accident, there really is only so much a helmet can do.

Let’s look at some other positives here:

  • Your hair will always look fantastic (unless it’s windy)
  • It’s one less thing to worry about buying
  • Riding helmetless feels more relaxing
  • You won’t get as hot when you ride
Helmet or no, we kind of hope we look like this guy on a bike when we're older. Major steez, for sure

Helmet or no, we kind of hope we look like this guy on a bike when we’re older. Major steez.

Another point that is often cited is that helmet use is relatively uncommon in other industrialized countries, such as in Europe.

When we were in Belgium a few weeks ago, we saw countless people on bicycles in the city going about their commuting and errand-running business without helmets…similar to what we have seen when we’ve visited and ridden in Norway, Denmark, France and Italy (although in all those places we always noticed road and MTB riders wearing helmets). And before you get up in arms about better infrastructure, allow us to say that riding in a city in Europe, even ones with protected bike lanes, can often be more terrifying than riding along a divided highway in the U.S. The roads are tiny, the drivers are unpredictable, and the traffic patterns are utterly incomprehensible. If a car can fit somewhere, then that’s where that car is going—pedestrians, cyclists and legally-binding signage or not.

The point is that people choose to ride bikes, and don’t worry too much about the details.

Couple just out for a ride on a rare warm Belgian evening

Couple just out for a ride on a rare warm Belgian evening

Pro Helmet:

For many, wearing a helmet is a basic safety precaution

For many, wearing a helmet is a basic safety precaution

For others riders, the helmet is a necessary safety precaution, and one that they wouldn’t leave the house without, akin to wearing a seatbelt. Personally, this is the camp we fall into. We freely admit that if you’re struck by one ton of metal at 35mph, there’s only so much some foam and plastic can do, but that simple barrier can, and often does, mean the difference between a traumatic brain injury and a mild headache—as it did for us.

Study after study has shown that helmets can and do reduce the risk of both minor and serious head injury. Many take the view that there is little to be gained and much to be lost by not wearing a helmet. You only get one brain, and the brain is the only part of the body that can’t repair itself, so you better protect it.

Study after study has shown that helmets save lives and can prevent more serious injuries

Study after study has shown that helmets save lives and can prevent more serious injuries

The counter argument to the European philosophy is that you have to be realistic. We might all work toward and strive for that hopefully-near future when North American roads and politics will permit two-wheeled travel the way that some European cities do, but in the here-and-now that is simply not the case, and wishing will not make it so. Drivers here are inattentive, in many communities it’s still uncommon to see people using bicycles for transportation or recreation, and in many cities the roads were simply not designed for pedestrian or bicycle travel. Cycling on many American roads can be dangerous, and while you can’t live in fear, it’s best to take reasonable precautions.

Anecdotally, I was struck by a car in Chicago in a 25mph zone. While this might not seem fast, try riding 25mph on your bicycle and it sure seems fast enough. Even at that slow speed, with an oblique strike, it was powerful enough to throw me to the ground, break my collar bone in two places, fracture my scapula, and smash my helmet. At the ER I was told, verbatim, by the doctor holding my destroyed helmet: “if you hadn’t been wearing this, you would probably be upstairs in intensive care and we’d be calling your family”.

We won’t go so far as to advocate for mandatory helmet laws—at some point personal choice and personal responsibility become factors—but to us wearing a helmet is a smart personal choice.

Every year more and more styles of non-technical helmets become available

Every year more and more styles of non-technical helmets become available

So now that we’ve examined—at least in cursory detail—both sides of the argument, let’s hear your thoughts.

Ridden and Reviewed: Currie Tech iZip E-Bikes

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Who wants to take an e-bike ramble to get BBQ? We saddled up on the last day of our test to go get some lunch

A LITTLE ABOUT E-BIKES

E-bikes are kind of the hot new emerging technology of the bike world. They first emerged as a kind of in-between, living in the space between bicycle and motorscooter, but have since evolved into some pretty exciting vehicles in their own right. Here in the US, e-bikes are generally restricted by law to a max assisted speed of 20mph.

Not to be confused with electronic drivetrains, such as Di2 and EPS, which only use electronics to shift gears, e-bikes actually incorporate a propulsion motor into the hub of the wheel, and use an electrical motor to assist the rider while pedaling. The bikes usually do have a throttle mode to help you get things going, but generally the motor only assists you in the pedaling, it doesn’t do all the work for you. This makes e-bikes ideal for occasional riders, urban commuters, or those who don’t necessarily want a car, but want something more efficient than a standard bicycles for transportation.

I had a chance to test out the Currie E3 IZIP Path+ e-bike during bike to work week, and definitely put the bike through its paces, and my coworker did the same with the Currie IZIP E3 Zuma e-bike. These e-bikes definitely attracted a few looks from passers-by while we rode along at cruising speed, but read on below to find out how our test-rides worked out.

THE BIKES

Currie E3 IZIP Path+ e-bike is basically a standard city-style bike with a battery pack, electronics package and rear motor hub wheel. It has an 8-speed Shimano derailleur in the rear, which allows you to select how hard you want to pedal. Also upfront on the handlebars are a digital display that can display speed, distance traveled, battery charge remaining, and more. On the left hand, instead a front derailleur shifter, there is a digital control unit that lets you select the level of pedal assist, switch through the information screens, and turn the system on and off.

The bike comes with an included rear rack with an integrated battery pack.  It does weigh a fair amount—a bit over 50 pounds, depending on the size (our bike scale did actually go up that high, surprisingly), almost all of it in the battery and motor. Because of the weight, we found it necessary to keep the pedal assist on pretty much all the time.

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The Currie IZIP E3 Zuma e-bike featured more of a beach cruiser style frame design, with an upright riding position and a battery integrated into the seat tube of the bike (so you barely even notice that it’s there). The E3 Zuma uses Currie’s 500 watt rear hub motor, mated to a Shimano 7-speed rear derailleur and a simple LED control unit mounted to the handlebar (which allows you to select the level of assist that you would like, along with pedal-assist or throttle-control mode).

Maxxis 26×2.3″ tires provided a comfortable ride while also giving the versatility to be able to tackle some light gravel or packed dirt paths. The swept-back handlebars will give you a nice and comfortable upright riding position and the Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes let us easily control speed.

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THE RIDE

While not really designed for the low-density rural area I live in, riding the Path+ e-bike was probably the most fun I’ve had on a bike in a long time. The Path+ e-bike is not your everyday townie bike, that’s for sure, and it takes some getting used to. But once I got the hang of riding it, I came to love to feeling of the gentle assist nudge from the rear wheel with every pedal stroke. It made running errands and getting places by bike way easier. The joke at my house is that we’re at least 20 minutes from anywhere—including work. The commute, the primary route I took the bike on, is about 12 miles each way and includes a long, grinding climb that is locally notoriously difficult even on a road bike.

Even riding into a stiff headwind feels delightful on an e-bike

Even riding into a stiff headwind feels like no big deal on an e-bike

The Path+ e-bike definitely made the commute much easier, and while I do love my commute, the Path+ e-bike introduced a level of enjoyment I haven’t felt since I moved to NC from Chicago years ago. On the mornings I rode the bike to work, instead of wearing my usual lycra, I just reached for the jeans and t-shirt I wear at work. It was a weird feeling to ride a bike in street clothes—something I admit I haven’t done in a long, long time—years even, but I really enjoyed it. I don’t think I broke a sweat at all, and even enjoyed a nice cup of coffee while riding. I was definitely still pedaling, but the motor took almost all of the strain out of it, so I arrived at work feeling refreshed instead of like I’d had a good workout. Even fully loaded with groceries, panniers, and everything needed to ride to work, the Path+ e-bike handled it all, and made even tough grocery runs feel fun, novel, and enjoyable.

I know that most people buy bikes because they want to work out, but that’s not really what the e-bikes were designed for. E-bikes are designed as a transportation solution for urban-dwellers and others who don’t feel they need- or want- a car to go everywhere. On these counts, it hits all the marks.

On a personal note: My wife and I are planning on moving into Chapel Hill proper (where the Performance offices are located) at the end of this year, and we kind of regret that we didn’t find the Path+ e-bike sooner. We bought a second car in October of last year to replace our college-era hoopty. Already having an SUV, we wanted a smaller, more efficient car for around-town and local trips. But after our test-week on the e-bike we both agreed that we may have reconsidered if we’d had a chance to try out the e-bike sooner—especially in light of our impending move. The Path+ e-bike would have easily solved many of the issues we were looking to address with a second car: reliable, powered transportation; an easy, fuel efficient around-town vehicle; and a fast way for my wife to get to work.

The e-bikes really excelled in around-town trips

The e-bikes really excelled in around-town trips

My coworker had a similar experience while test-riding the E3 Zuma e-bike - he used it every day to commute to work over a 5 mile mixed urban/rural route with a few tough hills, and he was able to tackle it with no problems in his regular work clothes. In fact he even shaved time off of his commute using the E3 Zuma e-bike on full pedal-assist mode, with much less perceived effort than his normal cyclocross commuter rig. He also left the bike in max-assist mode all the time – and it was remarkable how big a difference it made while climbing hills. Even when it didn’t feel that fast, once we looked at ride data later we could see that the motor-assist helped him keep a consistently high speed over tough climbs in town.

BATTERIES

Ah yes, what you’re all really wondering about. How long does the battery last? Good question. Like a car, it’s really going to depend on where you’re riding it and how you ride it. According to Currie, the Path+ e-bike should have gotten about 40 miles per charge. If you leave it on throttle mode and treat it like a scooter, you’re going to get less battery life. If you ride it with minimal pedal assist, you’ll get probably more than the advertised battery life.  Because of the distance and terrain I had to take the Path+ e-bike over to get to work, I got more like 25 miles per charge.  It was enough to get me to work and home again, but I had to recharge it every night. I also left it in max pedal assist, which probably didn’t help battery life either.

How much mileage you get out of your battery will really depend on where and how you ride it

How much mileage you get out of your battery will really depend on where and how you ride it

My coworker, who tested an E3 Zuma e-bike, actually got more than the 40 miles per charge—but he used his for more urban-style riding and rode it over shorter distances.

For most people, I don’t think battery life is going to be much of an issue. The on-board computer will give you plenty of warning that your battery is running low, just like your cell phone. If you just remember to charge it regularly, you won’t have any problems.

BBQ tastes better when you have to ride to get there

BBQ tastes better when you have to ride to get there. Though we didn’t quite fit in with the Harley bikers who also rode there…

VERDICT

E-bikes are definitely a fun, pragmatic machines, and something I find myself really wanting. Normally when I express a desire for a new bike, it leads to  eye-rolling and a family meeting, but on the Path+ e-bike my wife and I were much more in agreement. We both think e-bike would have been (when compared with a car) a very affordable, very practical solution to some of our transportation needs.

E-bikes are great for anyone in an urban area who wants a way to get around quickly, easily, and want to expand the capabilities of a normal bicycle (especially in a hilly area). But it’s also ideal for people who don’t ride as often, or want a bike that’s more about having fun and relaxing than pushing themselves to the limit.

Amazing machines and amazing food

This is what an ideal day on an e-bike should look like

But that’s just our take – what do you think about E-bikes?

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