Quick Guide To Winter Jackets

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

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

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MEN’S

Castelli Mortirolo Due Jacket:

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

For the WOMEN’S version, click here.

Craft Elite Bike Pace Jacket:

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

Sugoi Icon Rain Jacket:

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

For the WOMEN’S version, click here.

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

Performance Transformer 2.0 Jacket:

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

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket:

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

For the WOMEN’S version, click here.

WOMEN’S

Louis Garneau Enerblock Cycling Jacket

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

Quick Fix: An Easy Way To Deal With Chain Slap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Starting next to the valve stem, cut the tube.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real Advice: How To Properly Clean Your Water Bottle

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

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

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

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

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

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Firmly grasp the nipple and give it a good twist.

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

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It’s pretty easy to pull out, actually.

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

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Thoroughly clean out the nipple.

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Carefully clean out the bottle lid as well.

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Don’t forget to scrub down inside that bottle!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wet Lubricants:

Wet lubricants are ideal for wet, muddy conditions

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

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

For directions on application, click here.

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

Dry Lubricants:

Dry lubricants are the way to go for everyday riding

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

For directions on application, click here.

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

Spray vs. Drip:

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

Hot Wax Bath:

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

So Which One Is Right?

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

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

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

Ridden and Reviewed: Diamondback Century Sport Disc Road Bike

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

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Diamondback Century Sport Disc

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

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

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

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

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Handling was excellent, even on rough roads

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

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

The tapered headtube and carbon fork helped stiffen up the bike

The tapered headtube and carbon fork helped stiffen up the bike

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

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

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TRP Hy/Rd brakes provided excellent stopping power

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

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

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

Cycling Stories: Winter Riding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Things For 2014

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

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

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

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

We love the new crop of 1×11 MTB drivetrains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe next year…

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

Innovative new power meter designs are bringing power to the masses

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

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

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

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More great Performance gear is on the way.

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

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Here’s to great rides in 2014!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See this? Don't be tempted by this.

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

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

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

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

Winter Training Tips: Using Music To Motivate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BrianIndie/Punk: Reformed skateboarder turned roadie.

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

 

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

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

DevlinElectronic: One album, many rides

  1. Tycho: Dive (full album)
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