5 Predictions For The 2015 Tour de France

Champs Elysees (via Peloton Photos)

Champs Elysees (via Thomas van Bracht | http://pelotonphotos.com/)

We’re pretty excited to see the Tour de France ready to kick off tomorrow, July 4th. With the sport’s biggest names getting ready to face off against each other in the biggest race of the year, it should be one of the most exciting races in years. Here are some of our predictions for how things will unfold.

Have your own ideas about how things will go? Let us know in the comments section.

Learn more about the Tour de France

1. The Cobbles Won’t Be As Decisive

Last year’s reintroduction of the cobbles into the Tour on stage 5 produced some of the most epic racing we’ve been treated to in recent memory. The conditions were perfect (horrific) and the racing was amazing, and quickly revealed who brought the grinta to the race, and who forgot theirs at home. Lars Boom rode an amazing stage for the win, but it was Vincenzo Nibali who put on a cobble gobbling clinic for the other GC riders (those that managed to survive), and solidified his strangle hold on the race before a mountain top was even sighted.

Cobbled sector under repair (via https://twitter.com/letour/)

But this year, the teams all know what to expect and have planned accordingly, stacking their teams with classics riders to shepherd their GC contenders through those tough first couple of days. While someone like Boom or Stybar will probably get away for a solo win again, it’s doubtful that we’ll see another breakaway feat like Nibali’s being allowed to go free again.

Learn more about the 2015 Tour de France stages

2. The Big Four Will Be Reduced To the Big Two

The press has really been hyping up the coming battle between Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana– what will hopefully be the ultimate showdown between the sport’s best riders. Or not. Chris Froome, we love you (and your cat)– but bike handling skills and toughness aren’t your forte, and you’ll need plenty of both in the opening days of the Gran Boucle.

Chris Froome and his cat (via https://twitter.com/chrisfroome)

With rainy weather in the forecast, plus the cobbles and tight, twisty, narrow roads of Holland on the docket, it’s almost assured that the Kenyan climber will hit the deck at least once. The only question is how badly. Our bet is that two of the big GC guys—possibly even Froome and Contador again— will crash out in the first week, as well as a few other second tier favorites. Nibali showed last year that he can not only survive but thrive in bad weather and bad roads, and Nairo Quintana headed to Flanders this spring to put in some time on the rocks and he actually didn’t do too badly. Our best is that it will be those two who are left standing at the end of the first week

3. Kristoff Will Cement His Sprinter’s Status

This year’s sprint field looks almost as exciting as the GC field. With an on-form Cavendish and Mr. Green Jersey Sagan lining up against up-and-coming favorites like John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff, it’ll be a tightly contested match. However, Sagan has not exactly been his usual magical self this year, and seems to have been struggling to find his place on the new Tinkoff Team, and may suffer from a lack of support since the team’s priority is putting Contador in yellow, not Sagan in green. Cav is looking good this year, but his form usually only lasts so long as things are going perfectly and he has the confidence to know he can win.

Kristoff in winning form (via https://twitter.com/katushacycling)

Kristoff on the other hand just can’t seem to stop winning. Since the season’s opening days, he has won nearly every race he has entered, including a few with head to head sprints against Cav and Sagan. He has the racing acumen to make good decisions, the experience to stay upright when things get hairy, and the raw speed to match the other favorites. Plus, with trusted lieutenant and pilot fish Luca Paolini by his side, they will make a formidable match.

4. The French Will Do Very Well

But they just won’t be on the top step of the podium. Many Next Great French Hopes have come and gone since the days of Bernard Hinault, but Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet have certainly been the most promising in a great long while. Last year saw veteran Jean Christophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinot on the second and third steps of the podium, and it’s not unreasonable to think we could see Pinot and Bardet either on the podium, or taking the Climbers jersey and best young rider jerseys. But honestly, it’s doubtful that they have the chops to really hang with the likes of Quintana, Contador, Froome, or Nibali once the race heads into the mountains.

5. Quintana Will Take It All

And by all, we mean literally everything. He’s still young, so he’s eligible for the white jersey—which he has already won. He’s a pure climber, so he’s a solid bet for the polka dot jersey—which he’s also already won. And since the race will almost assuredly be decided in the mountains, where he rides best, he’s a good bet for the yellow jersey too—which is just about the only one missing from his collection.

Nairo in action (via https://twitter.com/Movistar_Team)

Quintana looks to be in good form coming into only his second Tour de France, and if his first outings at the Tour and the Giro are anything to go by, we’ll probably be seeing the little Columbian stoically spinning his way up the mountains while maintaining a completely neutral facial expression on his way to victory. If he manages to take all three jerseys, it’ll be the first time in we’re not exactly sure how long, if ever, a rider has managed to do it. But if anyone can, it would be Nairo.

Tell us in the comments, what are your predictions for the race?

Setting Up Garmin Connect LiveTrack

_140322_track_your_rides

With extreme hot weather hitting much of the American East Coast this week and next, it’s important that you stay safe during your rides. Make sure you are following the usual advice of staying hydrated, riding during the cooler hours of the day, and taking frequent breaks.

But there is another important aspect of staying safe during extreme weather (or any time really), and that’s making sure that someone knows where you are. If you get dehydrated or suffer a heat injury, having a friend or family member who knows where you are or the route you are taking can be invaluable to getting you help when you need it most.

One of the easiest ways to do this now is with Garmin LiveTrack. Garmin LiveTrack is a free service that can be used with a Bluetooth-compatible Garmin Edge unit, such as the Garmin Edge 510, 810, and 1000. Garmin Connect Live Track works by connecting your Garmin Edge to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and then sending your ride data to friends or family with a secure, unique website. This lets your friends and family instantly know where you are, what route you are taking, and more.

To activate Garmin Live Track: follow these steps:

1. If you have a Garmin Edge 510, 810, or 1000, ensure Bluetooth is enabled

IMG_2942IMG_2941-2IMG_2938

2. Download the Garmin Connect app to your phone

IMG_2943

The Garmin Connect app can be downloaded for Android, iPhone, and Windows phone

3. Ensure your phone’s Bluetooth is turned on, and pair it with your Garmin Edge

IMG_2934

Turn on Bluetooth in your phone’s settings and go through the pairing proceedure

4. In the upper left corner of the Garmin Connect app, look for the icon is 3 horizontal lines

IMG_2933

Next open up the Garmin Connect app, and open the menu

5. Select “LiveTrack” from the menu

IMG_2935

Now go through the process of setting up Live Track

6. Tap “Invite Recipients”

IMG_2936

Make sure the person you share your ride with will be able to help you in an emergency

7. Put in the email address of the person you wish to share your ride with, and select “Done”

IMG_2937

You can either pull from your phone’s contacts or just enter an email address

8. The person you have selected to share your ride with will receive an email with a link to view your ride on a web page (there are also options to share your ride to Facebook or Twitter)

9. Select “Start LiveTrack” at the bottom of the screen

IMG_2936

Now your friends and family can follow along on your rides

10. When you press the “Start” button on your Garmin Edge, LiveTrack will begin

If sharing your ride to Facebook or Twitter, make sure that you wait until you’re a few blocks away from your home to press start, to prevent people you may not know learning where you live.

Ridden and Reviewed: Giro Empire SLX Shoe

The all-new Giro Empire SLX

The all-new Giro Empire SLX

When we first pulled the Empire SLX out of the box, we kind of didn’t want to wear them. They looked so amazing, with the shiny, opalescent white finish that we were afraid just putting them on our feet would somehow diminish them. But once we put them on our feet, we didn’t want to take them off.

We were already really big fans of the original Giro Empire, and with the all-new SLX, Giro continues to kill it with their shoe game. When Giro first launched the Empire, we’ll admit we had kind of the same reaction as everyone else: “Really? Laces?” But then we actually got to try on a pair, and were sold. The Empire SLX takes that retro-tech with a modern twist approach and steps it up a notch. Or three.

So if you don’t want to read the full review, we’ll sum up it up right now. 5 stars. Amazing fit, super lightweight, great performance and incredible finish quality. Plus, they look absolutely stunning. Like, Sunday best stunning.

If you want to know more, keep reading below.

The Fit

When it comes to fit, we loved the original Empires. They came pretty close to fitting our very low-volume feet, and the laces actually made it much easier to dial in the perfect fit without having to resort to our usual two-insole trick. Plus, the addition of laces meant that you could really customize your shoes by swapping out for different colors, and trying different lacing and tying methods to maximize comfort and adjustability. Last year’s Empire ACC was a little more polarizing around the office, mostly for fit reasons. Giro changed the last and gave the Empire ACC a higher volume fit, with a wider toe box. Obviously, this didn’t work for us, but some coworkers who found the original Empires a little too tight were overjoyed.

Giro even provided us with this handy guide to custom lacing patterns

Giro even provided us with this handy guide to custom lacing patterns

The new Empire SLX seems to split it straight down the middle, and has a fit that works for almost everyone. We had to lace them a little tighter, but didn’t have to go with a second insole, while our friend with wider, higher-volume feet was also able to wear the same pair without any pinching or hot spots. The toe box is pretty straight down the middle too. Our toes don’t feel pinched, but they aren’t swimming around either. It also looks like the spacing of the two sides of the shoe where they lace up has been slightly increased from the original Empire. This might seem like a weird thing to notice, but we’re pretty sure this is part of the secret of the new, more versatile fit. With more space around the tongue, it means that someone like us can lace the shoe tighter without pulling the lacing eyelets all the way together in the middle, while someone with a higher-volume foot gets more breathing room so the laces constrict less.

Basically, Giro seems to have finally really nailed their last shape with the Empire SLX, and created a shoe  that will work for most foot shapes.

 

By increasing the space around the tongue, the Empire SLX decreases hot spots and stress  from the laces

By increasing the space around the tongue, the Empire SLX decreases hot spots and stress from the laces

The Ride

The first time we wore the Empire SLX was on a 75 mile ride. This might seem like a really stupid thing to do with a new shoe, but in our ecstacy over receiving the Empires, we’d left our trusty pair of Bont Vaypor+ at the office. But fortunately, setting up your cleats perfectly on Giro shoes has never been a problem. That’s because Giro has some of the best sole markings for this purpose out there. The numbered grid includes both fore and after hash marks, as well as left/right. This makes it very easy to reproduce your cleat placement, even if you’re comparing them to another shoe.

The Easton EC90 soles provide excellent stiffness during hard efforts

The Easton EC90 soles provide excellent stiffness during hard efforts

During the ride, we didn’t even notice we were wearing a pair of new shoes (aside from the brilliant, magnificent shininess of them), which is actually one of the highest compliments you can give a cycling shoe. We wore them with some pretty thin socks, but never noticed any hot spots or problems. They shoes felt perfectly broken in from minute one. The only thing we did notice was the new, slightly-grippy material the Giro added to the heel irritated our Achilles tendon a little bit, but it was kind of minor, and after a while it went away.

The Empire SLX is also one of the lightest shoes we’ve ever worn—period, and it breathes really well. Even on some of the hotter spring days in North Carolina, it feels very light and airy on the foot, which is excellent. The sole is stiff, and power transmission feels exceptional, with not a bit of flex being felt through the sole, even when we did our annual Functional Threshold Power Test– which will put all of your equipment through the wringer. The low stack height also puts your foot closer to the pedal spindle which improves power transfer, but it may mean some riders will have to lower their saddle a few millimeters to maintain proper bike fit.

Giro really seems to have nailed the all the details, making these shoes among the most comfortable out there

Giro really seems to have nailed the all the details, making these shoes among the most comfortable out there

A big key to rider comfort is retention. If your shoes are too loose, or two tight, it can ruin your ride. With most shoes, that’s an easy on-the-bike fix. With straps, ratchets, and especially BOA dials, tuning the fit mid-ride is incredibly easy. With laces, not so much, since you can’t exactly stop and retie them without getting off the bike. Our best suggestion is to tie them according to the kind of ride you’ll be doing. Doing a hard, short hammer ride, intervals, or crit? Go ahead and lace them up tight to avoid any heel slip and ensure your foot is locked in. For longer rides though, we suggest scrunching your toes while lacing up and tying. This will create a few millimeters of wiggle room, which will give your feet some room to swell during the ride, avoid undue pressure, and keep you more comfortable.

The Empire SLX not only performs well on the bike-- it looks great after the ride, too

The Empire SLX not only performs well on the bike– it looks great after the ride, too

Wrap Up

The Empire SLX is easily one of the best shoes on the market right now, comparable in quality, comfort, and performance to other shoes at and above this price range. Giro has really refined the fit in this third iteration of the shoe, and it seems to fit a broad range of foot types.

Key Points

  • Great Styling
  • Low weight
  • Very stiff sole
  • Low sole stack height
  • Exceptional fit

 

Verdict

If you’re looking for a shoe where great looks that stand out from the crowd meet pro-level race winning Performance and industry-leading comfort, the Empire SLX is the only shoe for you.

DSC_0700

2015 New Bike Preview: Van Dessel

Edwin, the man behind Van Dessel, is probably one of our favorite people when it comes to bikes.

  1. He’s a real life Belgian, which gives him an automatic street cred.
  2. He’s really fast on a bike. Like, top 10 in the National Racing Calendar Criterium series fast.
  3. He’s a really nice guy who really loves bikes.
Edwin and his new bikes. And the Van Dessel Mobile.

Edwin and his new bikes. And the Van Dessel Mobile.

So when he rolled up in the Van Dessel Mobile a few months ago to go for a ride and show us his latest wares, we were pretty excited. After going for a fast lunch ride where he rode a 1×11 ‘cross bike with 38mm tires and still almost dropped us on a hill, Edwin took a minute to show us his new 2015 bikes. We also got a peek inside the Van Dessel Mobile, and we’re already scheming about how we can get one of our own.

Make way for the Belgian Pain Train... from New Jersey.

Make way for the Belgian Pain Train… from New Jersey.

You might have already seen some of these featured in Bicycling Magazine, Bike Radar, and Road Magazine, but let us walk you through his new line up. Edwin definitely has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening with bikes right now, and designed each bike to have plenty of options, and to be pretty much future proof. With so many cool build options available, we decided to carry them as framesets, so you can turn any one of these into your own dream bike.

The inside of the Van Dessel Mobile. We're already scheming about how we can get one of these...or at least some of the bikes

The inside of the Van Dessel Mobile. We’re already scheming about how we can get one of these…or at least some of the bikes

The Motivus Maximus

While the Van Dessel Gin and Trombones CX bike may be grabbing all the headlines (more on that soon), we actually think Van Dessel’s new Motivus Maximus road bike is the more interesting bike from a design and compatibility standpoint. If you keep up with cycling news, you probably already know that road bikes are in transition, between mechanical and electronic shifting, and rim and disc brakes. While everything is in flux wouldn’t it make sense to have a bike that is pretty much future proof? Edwin certainly thought so, which is why he designed the Motivus Maximus to be exactly that. The Motivus Maximus is available in two options, disc brake or caliper brake. But here’s the secret: the only difference is the fork. The frame has both a caliper brake mount on the brake bridge, and a carefully concealed and integrated flat mount disc mount on the rear triangle. Both frames also come with modular rear drop outs, so you can change between 130mm QR, 135mm disc brake QR, and 12x142mm thru axle if you want. That means that even if you buy the caliper version, if you upgrade to discs at some point in the near  future, all you need to do is find yourself a disc-brake ready fork, and you’re set to go. And of course, the Motivus Maximus is both Di2 and mechanical shifting compatible, and can clear up to a 28mm tire no problem.

The Hellafaster

AKA the Crit Killer. Our office has seen a resurgence in interest in aluminum road bikes this past year, with several employees supplementing their carbon stables by building up alloy bikes for winter training and criterium racing. So when the made in the U.S.A. Van Dessel Hellafaster came along, there were plenty of raised eyebrows. The Hellafaster is made by Zen Fabrication in Portland, OR and has an unbelievable level of finishing detail. The welds are super smooth, the fit of the PF30 is incredibly precise, and the whole frame just looks nice and clean. Plus, with its 27.2mm seatpost and super-thin seatstays, the Hellafaster is a lot more comfortable and forgiving than some of the older, stiffness-at-all-costs alloy frames we’ve been using. And oh yeah, it’s both Di2 and mechanical compatible, and can clear up to a 28mm tire with clip on fenders. We’ll probably be seeing a few of these around the office pretty soon.

 

The Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

What exactly is this? Well….that’s kind of up to you. The Van Dessel Whiskey Tango Foxtrot can be built with 700c wheels or 29er’s. It can be built with drop bars and flat bars. You can mount racks and fenders on it. Take it touring, out on the trail, race monster cross with it. Whatever you want. The only thing you can’t do is use rim brakes, because this thing is disc brake only. When most of us first saw this, we all pretty much said “interesting…but what would you use it for?” Then the proverbial wheels started turning, and we realized the answer was: everything. A few weeks ago we saw our first employee Whiskey Tango Foxtrot build, a drop bar bike with Shimano Ultegra 6800 drivetrain, Shimano R685 hydraulic disc STI levers, and 700×38 tires. It was pretty awesome, and we’re sure it won’t be the last one to pass through the shop.

The Jersey Devil

Rounding out the new models from Van Dessel is the Jersey Devil. It’s a tough as nails hardtail 29er mountain bike that looks as mysterious as the creature of the Pine Barrens it was named after. We haven’t gotten to see one built yet, but word around the campfire is that it’s kind of the Goldilocks of XC bikes. It’s carbon, so it’s super lightweight and stiff, but since it also has to cope with the rocky, root-snaked, craggy trails we have here on the East Coast, the Jersey Devil is also super tough, and can take a licking and keep on ticking. Plus, with its stealthy matte black and green paint job, silver metallic logos, and aggressive geometry, it looks about as fast as it rides.

Pro Cycling on $10 A Day: Interview with Phil Gaimon

pro cycling

The thrills, the spills, the adventures in China, and the cookies. You’ll read about it all in Pro Cycling on $10 A Day

Some of you may have heard about Phil Gaimon. He’s one of the top pros right now from the U.S, and will be spending his 2015 season with the Optum Pro Cycling Presented by Kelly Benefits team (who also happen to ride some awesome Diamondback bikes).

An unrepentant English major, Phil wrote a book about his experience of trying to make it as a professional cyclist in the U.S., Pro Cycling on $10 A Day. A memoir is something that most pros wait to do until after they’ve retired, but Phil isn’t most pros. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s a great read that gives you a peak behind the curtain of domestic pro cycling. And it’s also hilarious.

Phil was kind enough to give us a few books to give away the other day, and to answer some questions from some of our customers.

Read below for Phil’s answers about racing, being a mechanic, crashing, and other hot topics:
What's the story behind that bar of soap? Check out the book to find out more. Photo: Sam Wiebe

What’s the story behind that bar of soap? Check out the book to find out more. Photo: Sam Wiebe

Carlos: If you could win any race in the world which one would it be?

PHIL: The Tour de France would probably be the best one to win. Not just a stage. The whole thing. I mean, an Olympic gold or world championship would be alright (I’d take either of those), but the Tour is the Tour. I think any bike racer would agree.

Learn more about the Tour de France

AJ: Do you need to be a pro level mechanic to be a pro racer?

PHIL: Mechanics come in all shapes and sizes and experience levels. Just about anyone can turn a wrench, but you want one who knows their way around a bike race. There are a lot of rules about where you can stop, for example. The guy who works at the local shop would probably rack up fines in Swiss Francs, and I don’t know how he’d feel about leaning out of a window to fix my derailleur at 40 mph.

Learn how to be your own mechanic

Photo: Sam Wiebe

Photo: Sam Wiebe

Jim: How do you cope with knee pain?

PHIL: Everyone’s different, but in my experience, pain was usually relieved by proper alignment of the ankle, knee, and hip. You’re looking for an up-and-down piston-like motion there, which can be achieved through bike fit, proper insoles, cleat position, etc. Think about that motion when you’re making adjustments, or find an expert.

Learn how to deal with knee pain

Timothy: How many times have you crashed?

PHIL: I only wish I hadn’t lost count a long time ago. I was putting on my jersey at a race recently, and a fellow racer in the parking lot saw the series of giant scars on my shoulder. “San Dimas?” He asked, referring to a race where I crashed out of the yellow jersey and sent myself to the hospital in a helicopter. “No,” I shrugged. Those scars are all on my face. The rest of them are scattered around my knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders, from years of sliding around on the same spots. You don’t notice them, and I wouldn’t want to die without a few scars, anyway. Maybe without the ones on my forehead, though…

Learn how to deal with road rash

Too many cookies? No such thing, according to Phil. Photo: Sam Wiebe

Too many cookies? No such thing, according to Phil. Photo: Sam Wiebe

Andrew: Where’s your favorite place to ride and do you have a favorite street?

PHIL: Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles is my favorite place to ride. North of the city, there’s a long series of canyons to climb up from the ocean, with low traffic, and amazing views. I’ve ridden all over the world. There are some places that are about as good, but nothing better.

Photo: Sam Wiebe

Photo: Sam Wiebe

So there you have it. You can find even more juicy details about the inner-life of pro cycling in Phil’s book Pro Cycling on $10 A Day.

We’d also like to thank Leyzne and Chamois Butt’r for their contributions to last week’s giveaway.

Introducing CHCB Cycling Clothing

Most clothing projects around here usually start off trying to answer a performance need. More aero, lighter weight, sweatproof pocket, etc… So it’s not too often that one of our employee’s personal projects suddenly gets the chance to be turned into an actual line of clothing.

CHCB got its start when Zach, our clothing product manager, realized that he was having a hard time finding more casual clothing for riding around town in Chapel Hill. North Carolina gets pretty hot and humid, so he wanted some cycling clothing with the some of the performance features you find in bike clothing—like the ability to wick away moisture, but would still look like he was wearing everyday street clothes when he got off the bike. Sure, some mountain bike clothing could certainly fall into this category, but that stuff usually tends to be overbuilt for every day riding.

Zach spent almost half a year working with Alicia, our clothing product developer, to make his idea come to life. After months spent playing with fabrics, materials, designs, cuts and details, they finally came up with exactly what they had envisioned, and the Performance CHCB  cycling clothing line was born. CHCB  stands for Chapel Hill and Carrboro, small twin towns in North Carolina where our offices are located and where most of our HQ employees live and work.

Review: CHCB Crew Jersey

Since Zach was pretty excited about his new project, he wanted to get us riding around in them to see what we thought. Since it is winter, we haven’t had too many chances to test the shorts, but we’ve been wearing our crew shirt pretty much non-stop since we got it. As a baselayer on our commute to work, around the house, or around the office the CHCB Crew Jersey has become one of our favorite clothing items. The fit is superb, and is incredibly comfortable on and off the bike, and the understated, casual design is something we’ve really come to appreciate, since it looks just fine walking around the office, and even better on the bike.

2650_CHCB

One thing we did notice was that the CHCB Crew Jersey got noticeably softer after the first wash. It’s not uncomfortable by any means straight out of the bag, but it got incrementally more comfortable when we washed it. Because it is a wool blend, we’d definitely recommend air drying it, to avoid any shrinkage.

3104_CHCB 2

 

Review: The CHCB VC Shorts

Admittedly, we haven’t gotten too many chances to wear the CHCB VC Shorts on the bike yet, which is unfortunate because we really love the way they look and feel. Stylistically, they look similar to some other casual overshorts we’ve tried out, but the finish and attention to detail is much better. The slate grey is pretty classic and neutral looking, but on closer inspection actually has a subtle texture to it that gives it a really premium look. The fabric is also super soft and has a nice solid stretch to it that we’ve found incredibly comfortable, even when we’re just hanging out around the house. And what do we mean about solid stretch? Well…the stretch moves with you, but it has some resistance to it that gives us confidence in its wear-life, and that it will return to shape after a long ride. We also really appreciate the extra-stretch panels built into the waist band. They’re just as comfortable on the bike as they are sitting at the desk or on the couch, which is a big win for clothing designed for active wear.

Both the CHCB VC Short and Polo Jersey are available in a women's version

Both the CHCB VC Short and Polo Jersey are available in a women’s version

Another thing we loved about the shorts were all the small details, which showed a lot of thought. One of our pet-peeves about most lifestyle cycling shorts is that there aren’t any pockets. The CHCB VC Shorts give you two front pockets—which are a well-pocket design so your phone or wallet won’t fall out. Plus a side pocket for some smaller items you want to keep secure. The reflective back pocket tab will be great for those nights when the ride goes a little longer than planned, or when you forgot to bring your light.

The Jersey is also available in a Polo version with a collar

The Jersey is also available in a Polo version with a collar

Overall

We might be biased because Zach is a friend of ours, but we think he and his team did a great job with the CHCB line. It’s comfortable, well made, and has plenty of little features that anyone on a bike will appreciate.

We can’t wait for the spring when we can put some more mileage on these and wear them around town. In fact, we’re already planning on wearing them in September when we ride about 160 miles to Richmond, VA for the UCI Road World Championships.

 

Taking Care of Saddle Sores

fenix_08

File under “I’m going to stand the whole ride because it hurts”

While they aren’t generally discussed in polite company, saddle sores are simply an uncomfortable fact of life for many cyclists. No matter what, almost every cyclist is guaranteed to have at least one in their lifetime. They’re painful, they’re uncomfortable, and they can be embarrassing.

But don’t worry—it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Taking car of saddle sores is pretty easy. There are a few simple things you can do to prevent them from happening in the first place, or at least shorten the misery when you get them.

 What Are They

Saddle sores are localized skin infections in your, um…pelvic area. Think of them as a pimple that forms where the sun don’t shine. Most are very minor and will clear up on their own, but sometimes if you don’t take care of them, they can get a little out of hand.

Always remember: saddle sores are infections, and should be treated with respect. While extremely, extremely rare, saddle sores can develop into dangerous systemic infections.

If the sore is very painful, feels warm to the touch, is very red or you see red streaks coming from it, or you’re running a fever, seek immediate medical care.

You may also want to visit a doctor if the saddle sore hasn’t cleared in two weeks, or is getting larger.

 

What Causes Them

This is still debated, not just among cyclists, but also in the medical community. The general consensus seems to be though that saddle sores happen when friction irritates hair follicles, allowing them to become infected by bacteria.

 

Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To prevent saddle sores from happening in the first place, follow these tips:

1. Proper bike fit

Having your saddle too high can cause you to rock from side to side on the saddle, building up friction along the perinea and where the thighs join to the buttocks.

2. Use The Right Saddle (for you)

Not all saddles suite all body types. Find the one that’s right for you—which could mean trying a few different models and brands. Also, if you’ll be riding more than a few miles, stay away from very padded saddles, add on gel cushions, etc… These only increase friction and make things worse. It seems counterintuitive, but trust us.

Finding the right saddle for you can take some trial and error

Finding the right saddle for you can take some trial and error

3. Wear Bike Shorts

Bike shorts come with a pad sewn into them to help keep you comfortable on minimally padded saddles. By moving the padding to the shorts instead of the saddle, the padding moves with your body, reducing friction and helping prevent saddle sores. Also, don’t wear underwear underneath them—that just defeats the purpose.

Using cycling shorts, like the new Ultra SL bibs, can make a world of difference

Using cycling shorts, like the new Ultra SL bibs, can make a world of difference

4. Use chamois cream

Chamois cream is an anti-chafing lotion that can be applied to the chamois pad itself, or directly to the skin. It helps form a protective barrier between you and the fabric to prevent chaffing and irritation.

Have a saddle sore? This is your new best friend

Have a saddle sore? This is your new best friend

5. Wash Your Shorts

Never wear dirty shorts. Not even the ones you “just wore for only 2 miles yesterday”. Last time you rode in them, you created a hot, moist environment loaded up with dead skin cells and sweat. They’re basically a petri dish for bacteria and fungi. Now you want to put those dirty shorts on and ride again? Sure…if you think that’s a good idea…

6. Change and Shower

As soon as you finish your ride, take your shorts off and bathe as quickly as possible. Even if that means wrapping a towel around yourself in the parking lot and changing out of your shorts, go for it. Using some shower wipes to clean up can make a big difference. The longer they stay on after the ride, the greater the chances of a saddle sore. And no matter how short your ride, try to grab a shower and wash up. Staying clean is key to prevention.

If it'll be a little while before you can shower after a ride, try cleaning up with shower wipes

If it’ll be a little while before you can shower after a ride, try cleaning up with shower wipes

 

Treatment

Already have a saddle sore? Don’t worry. It may be sore, it probably hurts to touch, and it makes riding uncomfortable. But there’s plenty you can do to help yourself get better.

1. Cleaning

By far the best thing you can do to help speed along recovery is keep the area clean. Wash 2-3 times a day with regular soap and warm water. Thoroughly dry the area.

2. Rest

Nobody likes taking time off the bike, but sometimes riding can make saddle sores worse. If the sore is so painful you can’t sit on the bike, you’re better off taking a few days to let things heal. Yes, we hear about the pro’s riding through them all the time. They are paid to do that and are looked after accordingly. You are not.

3. Ointment

If you catch a saddle sore early, you can usually treat them easily with over the counter ointments.

We’ve had extremely good luck with topical acne medications that contain Benzoyl Peroxide (like OTC Persa-Gel 10). BP is a drawing agent that helps the spot dry out and heal—often in just a day or two. It can be tough on the skin though, and everyone reacts to things differently, so we’d recommend testing it on a…ummm… less sensitive area of the body first. Always consult a doctor before trying new medications.

Lately the medical community has advised AGAINST using an antibiotic ointment for minor skin infections like saddle sores. Antibiotic resistance is a serious and growing problem, so if you think it’s bad enough to warrant antibiotics, then you probably need a trip to the doctor to have them check it out.

We've had excellent luck with products like this for the early treatment of sores

We’ve had excellent luck with products like this for the early treatment of sores

4. Chamois Cream

Our old friend is back again. Most chamois creams have mild antiseptic and moisturizing properties. If your saddle interface area is feeling a little irritated or chaffed after your ride, it can help to put a small amount of chamois cream on the affected area after you shower. This helps to soothe the skin, prevent infection, and speed the healing process.

5. Don’t Squeeze Them

Sorry if this provokes a gag reflex, but don’t try to “pop” a saddle sore. While they are similar to pimples, they aren’t exactly the same. Trying to squeeze it may only drive the infection into a deeper layer of tissue—then you’re really in trouble.

The Perfect Recovery Meal

photo (1)

Recovery is arguably just as important as saddle time. No matter how hard you’re riding, if you aren’t giving your body what it needs to recover, you’re not going to get any faster.
Recovery consists of two key aspects: time and nutrition. Even if you’re taking regular days off, it doesn’t matter if you’re not refueling your body in that crucial 40 minute window after a ride. But sometimes after a few hard hours on the bike, it can be tough to scrape together a big meal that will give you all the key ingredients you need to help your body start repairing itself.

That’s why we’ve found it easier to drink our recovery meal than to eat it.

To make the Perfect Recovery Meal– one that tastes great and helps jumpstart the recovery process, all you need is a blender and some creativity. Here are some of our favorite recipes to spark your imagination.

1. The Recovery Cocoa

This is an excellent recovery drink to help revitalize you after those long, hard, cold winter rides.

Ingredients:

  1. 2 Scoops chocolate Clif Shot Protein Recovery Drink
  2. ½ packet (1 tbsp) hot chocolate mix
  3. Hot water

 

2. The Rejuvenator Smoothie

Use this refreshing smoothie to help recovery from hard rides on hot days. It has plenty of protein, phyto- and micronutrients, fat, and electrolytes. We would say it’s arguably the Perfect Recovery Meal.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup milk or milk substitute (almond, soy, or coconut)
  2. ½ scoop vanilla Osmo Nutrition Acute Recovery
  3. Splash coffee
  4. 1 Banana
  5. Handful fresh or frozen strawberries
  6. 1 big spoonful peanut butter
  7. Blend until smooth

 

3. The Green Monster

This is a great smoothie to have any time (sometimes we use this one as a meal replacement on off-days), but its really an excellent recovery meal after longer distance endurance rides.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup coconut water
  2. ½ scoop Skratch Labs Lemons hydration mix
  3. Handful baby spinach
  4. 1 banana
  5. 1 tsp matcha green tea powder
  6. ½ cup extra soft tofu
  7. Pinch of fresh or powdered ginger (natural anti-inflammatory)
  8. Blend until smooth

 

4. R4 Smoothie

Endurox R4 is an excellent recovery meal option on its own, but we like to enhance the benefits by adding a few extras. We’ve found this one to be best after those really tough, high intensity group rides or after an intervals day.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 serving vanilla Endurox All Natural R4 recovery drink mix
  2. 12 oz. water
  3. 1 banana
  4. 1 handful fresh or frozen blueberries
  5. 1 handful fresh or frozen strawberries
  6. 1/2 cup yogurt or soy yogurt
  7. Pinch of nutmeg (natural anti-inflammatory)
  8. Pinch of salt
  9. Blend until smooth

Getting The Most Out Of Short Rides

intensity

January is upon us, which means it’s time to really start thinking about your riding. Whether you’re on the trainer, or braving the elements, odds are most of us aren’t getting in nearly as much saddle time as we’d like. That means we need to be smarter about how we use it. Just going out and turning the pedals for a bit won’t do you much good.

Whether you’re into racing or not, here are some workouts to help you get the most out of shorter rides.

 

1. HIIT Sessions

High Intensity Interval Sessions are all the rage right now, and for good reason. You can get a serious work out in just 15 minutes that can give you some big fitness gains.

You can do these either outside or on the trainer. Start with a 5 minute warm up, then alternate 30 seconds intervals at 90% max effort  with 1 minute recovery periods. Finish with a  3-5 minute cool down.

IMG_7950

Shop for trainers and rollers

 

2. Climbing Repeats

These are best done on the trainer, but you can do them outside either by finding a familiar hill, or trying to ride into a headwind if you live in a flatter area.

Start with a 3 minute warm up, then alternate 2 minute intervals with 2 minute recovery periods. With each interval, you should move into a progressively harder gear, pedaling at a lower cadence. Alternate between sitting and standing to develop all those climbing muscles.

IMG_2393

Learn more about Getting The Hang of Indoor Training

 

3. Slow and Steady

You’re remembering to push it hard, but are you remembering to go slowly, too? Recovery miles are just as important for improving fitness as intervals.

You can do this either outside or on the trainer. Start with a 3 minute warm up, then spin at a steady, easy pace for at least 20 minutes. You should be at no more than 60% of your max heart rate at any point. This may not feel like you’re accomplishing anything, but you’re keeping your muscles limber, and helping to flush lactic acid from the larger muscle groups. This aids in recovery, and helps keep you fresh for your next day of intervals. This is also a great time to work on cadence and pedaling form.

jones

Learn more about choosing the right trainer

 
 

Road Bikes: Rim Brakes Vs. Disc Brakes

 

rim-v-disc

The last decade or so has seen some massive changes for road bikes. The mainstream shift from aluminum to carbon fiber in the 2000’s marked the beginning of a new era in bike design, while the introduction of electronic drivetrains in the last 5 years or so has seen a fundamental rethinking of how bikes shift. But what about how bikes stop?

It started slowly. Very slowly, in fact. But in the last year or two, disc brakes on road bikes have really caught on, and are set to create yet another revolution. As always, there are fits and starts, and not everybody is on board (we’re looking at you, UCI), but like most changes, this one is gaining momentum.

Over the last year we’ve had a chance to test ride quite a few disc brake road bikes. Here’s how we thought they fared versus standard rim brakes.

STOPPING POWER

Disc brakes. There is no question about this. Disc brakes deliver incredible stopping power in pretty much all weather conditions. What’s more, that power is easily modulated, which means it’s easier to control how much brake you need at any given time. Often times no more than one-finger  is needed to stop the bike in a reasonable distance.

Rim brakes, especially with carbon wheels, can sometimes take a little bit to really bite into the rim and slow the bike. This is doubly true if your pads are worn or dirty.

The upward slant of the chainstay helps to minimize hits from bad roads, and helps perfectly position the disc caliper

Disc brakes provide superior stopping power and modulation over rim brakes

Shop for disc brake road bikes

COMPATIBILITY

Rim brakes—for now. Disc brakes are still going through growing pains, and in an industry where the term “standard” is pretty much meaningless, that can mean some headaches for consumers. Some disc brake bikes come with standard quick release wheels, some use thru axle. There are all different kinds of rotor sizes out there, and aftermarket wheel options are still fairly limited.

But these are actually fairly minor problems.

This year will pretty much guarantee a bumper crop of disc brake wheel options, and most of those will be interchangeable between QR and thru axle, making them more versatile for consumers.

ridley_helium_06

For the moment, rim brakes have fewer compatibility issues than disc brakes

Shop for road bikes

WET WEATHER

Disc brakes. This is a no brainer. No matter what is falling from the sky or laying on the roads, disc brakes don’t care. Snow, ice, and rain don’t have much of an effect on disc brakes—regardless of rim material.

Wet weather conditions can severely limit the effectiveness of rim brakes, especially carbon wheels.

DSC_0686

If you’re riding in wet weather, there’s only one way to go when it comes to brakes

Shop for disc brake road bikes

EASE OF INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE

Rim brakes. Frankly, these are pretty easy. Make sure they’re facing the right way, bolt them on, make sure they’re roughly centered and go. Every other year or so you change the pads.

Disc brakes…not so much. Mechanical disc brakes can be notoriously frustrating to install and get centered so they aren’t rubbing the disc rotor. Hydraulic disc brakes are easier to install, but maintenance can be an involved and time consuming, since you have to bleed the lines, replace hydraulic fluid, etc…

fenix_03

For all their benefits, disc brakes aren’t always as easy to maintain as rim brakes

Shop for road bikes

WEIGHT AND AERODYNAMICS

Rim brakes. Because of the simple design, rim brakes are currently much, much lighter than any available disc brake system.

And, because of where the brake is placed, disc brakes are also much less aerodynamic than rim brakes.

Bear in mind though that this is  likely to change in the next couple of years. As disc brakes become more widely adopted and pressure builds to use them in racing, the industry is likely to begin refining the designs to be lighter, and better incorporated into frames for improved aerodynamics.

fuji_altamira_sl_007

What they lack in stopping power, rim brakes make up for in weight savings and aerodynamics

Shop for road bikes

THE VERDICT

More than any other decision, this is going to be a very personal choice. Disc brakes offer unquestionably better and more consistent stopping power than rim brakes, but at a cost of weight and aerodynamics, and they are still not yet race-legal.

It’s all a matter of what’s most important to you—and we don’t mean stopping power (that’s important to everyone).

What we mean is that if you love racing, fast road riding, and having plenty of wheel options, then it might be best to stick with rim brakes for the time being.

If you’re just looking for a road bike to ride for the love of riding, like to explore gravel roads, bomb big descents, ride in an area that experiences frequent bad weather, or even for racers looking for a second road bike for training and base miles, then disc brakes are probably the better option.

Without question though, disc brakes are the way forward—so love them or hate them, odds are in the next 5 years, most road bikes will be equipped with them.

So tell us your thoughts. What do you think about using disc brakes on road bikes?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 201 other followers

%d bloggers like this: