Ridden and Reviewed: Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike

Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike

Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike (we installed pedals and water bottle cage for our test rides)

One of our favorite bikes of 2014, Diamondback’s Haanjo is back and better than ever for 2015 – this time in 4 different flavors. The updated 2015 versions take the Haanjos we loved from last year and step everything up a notch. We’ve been lucky enough to have a Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike – 2015 in our test stable for a few months now, and it’s just a bike that feels right as soon as you hop on it. It will probably be one of the most versatile bikes you’ll ever own – perfect for everything from ‘cross racing to gravel grinding to touring to commuting to light trail riding.

The Ride

Diamondback designed this bike around their ‘Endurance Geometry’, which translates to a slacker head tube and longer wheelbase than a standard cyclocross bike. Then they layered on wide handlebars, fatter tires, and disc brakes for the ultimate in confidence and control. And that’s exactly the sensation that you get when you throw a leg over the Haanjo Trail.

This bike begs you to have fun when you go out for a ride – you can start out on the road, then veer off on that dirt road you just found, and even hit some single track on the way back. We even rode the Haanjo Trail on snow-covered trails, just because we couldn’t resist. Will this bike replace a dedicated skinny-tire road bike? Not exactly, but that’s not the goal with the Haanjo Trail. It’s a bike that lets you find whatever adventure comes your way on a ride: on-road, off-road or on your commute!

The Parts

The Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike – 2015 is equipped with top-end components all around – starting with rock-solid and dependable Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed shifting components mated to an FSA Gossamer cyclocross crankset with 46/36T chainrings so you have plenty of gearing options for pavement and trail (this cross gearing is really valuable off-road).

HED disc-brake wheels provide a lightweight, fast, and durable set of hoops that can take anything you throw at them. Braking is handled by TRP’s excellent Hy/Rd system, which uses a traditional mechanical cable to actuate a hydraulic brake cylinder, giving you the simplicity of mechanical brakes and the stopping power of hydraulics.

The Haanjo Trail‘s frame is fully butted 6061 T6 aluminum tubing, with a tapered, integrated head tube for better steering response, control, and road absorption. A Gravel Disc Performance full monocoque carbon fiber fork rounds out the package, and smooths your ride. Our one quibble with the package has to do with the Kenda Happy Medium Pro 700×35 tires – while we loved the high volume and smooth rolling of these tires, we wished for more tread when we took the bike off road. With that said, the tires are a great compromise if you are riding a wide variety of terrain, on and off road. But you may want to swap them for something more rugged if you are spending more time on trails (don’t worry, there is ample clearance for this).

The Other Haanjos

Now if the Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike – 2015 is not exactly what you are looking for, don’t give up on the Haanjo series just yet. The Diamondback Haanjo Comp Cyclocross Bike – 2015 takes the same DNA as the Haanjo Trail and outfits it with a bit more affordable parts.

Diamondback Haanjo Metro in action

Diamondback Haanjo Metro Plus in action

The Diamondback Haanjo Metro Plus Flat Bar City Bike – 2015 builds off of the same frame but ends up with an ultimate commuter package with swept-back handlebars and fenders. And finally the Diamondback Haanjo Flat Bar Cyclocross Bike – 2015 dials in the same go-anywhere mentality in a sport/fitness-oriented bike concept.

Diamondback has worked really hard this year to make sure that there is a Haanjo available for almost every type of rider – as long as you want to have a great time when you ride! Check out a video of the Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike in action:

Ridden and Reviewed: Fuji Tread 1.1 Disc Road Bike

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The Fuji Tread 1.1 Disc Road Bike is an eye-catching bike, with it’s blacked-out look (with a few bright green highlights) and disc brakes. But what kind of bike is it, exactly? Is it a road bike with disc brakes, a commuter bike for utilitarian rides, or a gravel/adventure/cyclocross bike with slick tires? The beauty of the Tread is that it’s a little bit of all of these things – a truly versatile package that mixes an appealing design with a whole lot of practicality and performance. We’ve put in some hard miles on this Tread 1.1 Disc and came away impressed by the total package.

The Parts:

But let’s start with what you get with the Fuji Tread 1.1 Disc in terms of components. At it’s core is an aluminum custom-butted frame (based on their tried and true alloy cyclocross frame), carbon bladed and tapered fork, a capable Shimano Tiagra 20-speed drivetrain, and lightweight TRP SPYRE mechanical disc brakes. Oval Concepts supplies the handlebars, stem, seatpost, and Vera Terra wheels are clad in 700 x 32C Vera City Wide tires with Phalanx puncture protection for added safety.

On The Road

The Fuji Tread 1.1 Disc Road Bike has comfortable on-road manners with a sporty and quick steering response. It’s not a super-lightweight road racing machine, but a 50/34 tooth crankset and smooth-rolling tires (even though they are 32mm wide) mean that you can keep up with groups on the road or keep up a brisk pace on solo rides. We rode the Tread 1.1 Disc out on some fast group rides here at our office, and we only really felt at a disadvantage on climbs when the group was pushing the pace – the main culprit was the slight added weight and size of the tires as compared to super-light carbon racing bikes (which is no real surprise given the versatility of the bike).

Fuji Tread 1.1 Disc on the road

The Tread 1.1 Disc was a smooth roller on the road

 On Gravel

On gravel or dirt roads, the comfy wide tires and disc brakes of the Tread 1.1 Disc really shined. The stopping power and added control of mechanical disc brakes are a big plus when conditions aren’t great, so it’s no wonder that we were fans of the TRP SPYRE specced on the Tread 1.1 Disc. And while the 700 x 32C tires were not knobby, they had sufficient traction for most situations. We were even impressed by the Shimano Tiagra drivetrain – it has a light shifting feel and performed flawlessly for us, plus the 12-30 speed cassette allowed us to tackle any terrain.

Fuji Tread 1.1 Disc on a gravel road

Gravel roads were no problem for the Tread 1.1’s wide tires

Everything Else

The key word with the Fuji Tread 1.1 Disc Road Bike is versatility – it’s a bike you can ride around town, on the back roads, or just on weekend rides. It’s a great option for a utility commuter bike – there are eyelets for racks and fenders – but it’s not limited to any one ride or terrain. We even took the Tread 1.1 Disc out onto some local trails and had a blast. So what kind of bike is the Fuji Tread 1.1 Disc Road Bike after all? It’s whatever you want it to be – and a whole lot of fun on 2 wheels.

Fuji Tread 1.1 Disc on the trails

Even light trail riding was no problem with the wide gearing range of the Tread 1.1

If the Fuji Tread 1.1 Disc Road Bike isn’t exactly the bike you are looking for, you should also check out the rest of the Fuji Tread lineup. There are several other options and specs available, including an exclusive Fuji Tread 1.0 Disc Road Bike, which upgrades to Shimano’s excellent redesigned 105 5800 11-speed components.

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.

Real Advice: Achieve Your Cycling Goals in 2015

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A few years ago my wife and I decided to stop making New Years Resolutions, and start making New Years Goals. This might sound like an eye-rolling game of word play, but bear with me a minute.

We realized that we seldom (never) stayed with our resolutions for long, because by saying vague things like “I’m going to bike commute to work more”, “I’m going to wake up early to train”, or “this year I’m going to get back into racing”, you’re not laying yourself any pathway for success. You’re just saying things you’d like to do, but they’re not goal oriented, and there’s no real way to chart your progress.

Once we started making Goals, things got off to a different start, because behind each Goal was a plan with clear, actionable steps.

Here is our guide to help you make 2015 your year to finally achieve those cycling goals.

Step 1: Set a Goal

Pick something that’s important to you, and be as specific as you can. Set specific monthly mileage, pick out a target goal event, etc… Make it challenging, but also rewarding.

If it’s an event, then pick out a time you want to be able to complete it in (i.e. ride a century in under 6 hours). If it’s mileage, then pick something that’s far above what you’re already doing (i.e. go from 75 miles a week to 200 miles a week).

Eddie MTB 2

Signing up for a goal event, like Eddie did with Shenandoah, is a great way to ensure you stay on track

Looking for a goal? Try a local charity rides, or a gran fondo or mountain bike race.

 
 

Step 2: Is this a goal you’ve set before?

Did you achieve it? Were you happy with the result? Why didn’t you achieve it, or how can you do better next year? This gives you a chance to do an after-action review on previous goals and examine what you can do differently this year.

An example: my goal for 2015 was the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. While I finished, I wasn’t super happy with how I rode. Here’s my assessment why:

-Too few long distance build-up events

-Too little time spent in the mountains

-Inadequate fueling/hydrating in the first half of the event

-Carried too much clothing and repair supplies

-Bike was overbuilt for durability, and ended up being heavier than I would have liked

Brian's titanium Scattante frame should be the right tool for the job

Look back on previous goals, and see how you can improve on them

Having trouble getting over hills? Check out our How-To Article to make it easier.

 
 

Step 3: Start Planning

Get out a calendar, a notebook, and a pencil and start planning how you’ll achieve your goal. Look at what you wrote down for Step 2, and think about what might need to do differently this year to be more successful.

Some tips:

Set mini-goals for every week and every month that can help you chart your progress

If your goal is an event, mark the date on the calendar and work backwards from there

Look for secondary goals you can set through the year that can help you build fitness (smaller events, local group rides, etc…)

You don’t want to get down into the nitty gritty of what you’ll be doing on every day months in advance—part of making a plan successful is making it flexible and allowing for life to happen—but you should have a weekly idea of what needs to happen.

Remember you have a whole year to work with, and you don’t have to do it all at once.

Testing the Ultra kit on cobbles

Planning out challenging rides in advance can help keep you motivated and on track

Looking for a new challenge to help you prepare? How about a Group Ride?

 
 

Step 4: Is This Goal Realistic?

This is where you need to be really, brutally honest with yourself. You need to decide if this is a goal that is either too hard or too easy, and if it’s a plan you can realistically stick to. Look for challenges you need to take into account (i.e. kids, family time, work commitments, etc…). Once you’ve done this, think of ways to get around the challenges.

Example:

If you’re someone who struggles to get going in the morning, making waking up a 5:00 AM to ride a part of your plan isn’t something you’re likely to stick to for long.

Instead, you might want to start by trying to wake up just 30 minutes earlier than normal and getting in a ride on the trainer instead.

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Make your plan realistic, and look for ways around challenges. If you can’t make it out the door at 5:00AM, trying waking up just 30 minutes earlier than normal for a trainer session

Need an indoor workout? Try Riding On Rollers.

 
 

Step 5: Track Your Progress

At the end of every week do an assessment of your progress. Are you following your plan and getting closer to achieving your goal?

If not, take a close look at why you aren’t and what’s happening. Talking with friends or family can be really important for helping you identify things that might be going wrong (even if you don’t want to hear them) and figuring out how to get back on track.

Using social media can also be a giant help in keeping you accountable and getting support. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are incredibly useful to keep track of your progress, update your friends and family, and help keep you motivated.

philadelphia_cycling_with_fuji_22

Remember, big achievements happen through a series of small steps. Keep your eye on the prize, Tiger.

 Here are some other helpful articles to help you reach your goals:

Avoid fatigue on long rides.

Weight Loss For Cyclists

Words of Wisdom for Novice Riders

Guide to Cycling Etiquette

5 Reasons to Join a Group Ride

6 Steps to Master The Paceline

6 Tips For Traveling With A Bike

Working Out At Work

Build a Home Gym For Under $250

4 Articles To Get You Through The Holidays

Happy Holidays from Performance Bicycle! We hope you’re enjoying the time with friends and family.

But like you, we’re starting to crave some bike time. Realistically though, that’s not going to happen for a few more days. So we went back through the blog and found some of our favorite articles that got us pumped to start get out and ride…or at least some motivation to avoid the cookie tray next time.

1. 5 Tips for Cold Weather Riding

No matter how cold it is, follow these tips and you’ll be able to enjoy a ride outside.

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2. Cyclists Guide To Surviving the Holidays—2015

Family time, food, and booze. Follow these tips to ensure you start the new year in (close to) good shape.

Thanksgiving_17

3. Build a Home Gym On A Budget

Not feeling the outside riding? You can still get in a good work out, by building a complete home gym for as little as $250.

The foam roller is one of the best recovery tools available to any athlete

The foam roller is one of the best recovery tools available to any athlete

4. Alternative Road Bikes

Didn’t get the bike you wanted? Maybe this is your chance to get the bike you need. Today’s alternative road bikes are tough, faster, and more capable than ever.

The GT Grade is one of the most exciting gravel bikes yet

The GT Grade is one of the most exciting gravel bikes yet

5 Ways To Stay Warm On Cold Rides

Here we go again…looks like the Polar Vortex has descended upon us once again. We don’t know about you, but so long as we don’t get one of our famous, downhome Carolina Ice Storms, we’ll keep riding outside as much as we can.

Now, you wouldn’t think a bunch of Southerners would know much about riding in the cold, but most of us actually grew up riding, training and racing in places like Vermont, Chicago, Pennsylvania, and Portland (Oregon, not Maine– which is a whole other animal), so we’ve learned a few things over the years about riding in the wet, the cold, and the snow.

So here it is: 5 Ways To Stay Warm on Cold Rides.

1. Layer Up

Using layered cycling clothing can help you adjust your temperature to suit the ride and the conditions. You can pretty much layer every part of your clothing system as the conditions warrant, from your feet all the way to your head. Click here for our guide to layering.

PRO TIP #1: No matter how well you think you’ve layer up on top, always bring a wind jacket or vest with you in case conditions take a turn for the worse. #1B is to bring some knee warmers on super cold days– if your knees get cold you can put them on over (but preferably under) your tights for extra coverage.

PRO TIP #2: Spare arm warmers, spare gloves or liners, a spare hat, and base layer can pack up small in a plastic bag that fits easily into a jersey pocket. On long rides, it gives you the option of changing out sweaty, damp garments for warm, dry ones.

PRO TIP #3: Don’t use super thick cycling socks with your cycling shoes. Instead, layer your overshoes as needed, putting insulated ones closer to the foot, covered by wind/waterproof ones.

Layering up is a great way to make sure you can a stay warm, and adjust your core temperature as you go

Layering up is a great way to make sure you can a stay warm, and adjust your core temperature as you go

2. Hot Water Bottle

Using an insulated water bottle filled with some warm tea or Skratch Labs Apples and Cinnamon hydration mix (which is absolutely delicious, by the way) can take the edge off a very cold ride. This is a tip that the pro’s use during early season races like Milan-San Remo to stay warm (check out a video here)

Make like the pro's, and use some warm tea to hydrate on your winter rides

Make like the pro’s, and use some warm tea to hydrate on your winter rides (Orica-GreenEdge)

3. Eat Enough

In the winter, you burn more calories on the bike than during the summer. Not only are you using fuel to exercise, but also to stay warm. That means that during the winter you should fuel up with a healthy breakfast like oatmeal, and then bring plenty of bars, chews or gels to eat while riding. This will give you plenty of carbs to keep your body warm and prevent the dreaded bonk—which could mean serious trouble if you’re far from home on a cold winter’s day.

Eating a solid, healthy breakfast, and having plenty of food for the ride will help prevent you bonking

Eating a solid, healthy breakfast, and having plenty of food for the ride will help prevent you bonking

4. Mix In Intervals

If you’re really feeling the cold, trying mixing in some intervals to bring up your body temperature. You can either 1) pick a target a good distance away and ride as hard as you can until you reach it, or 2) go by time, and ride as hard as you can for about a minute. Just make sure you don’t go so hard that you start sweating a lot, which can just make the problem worse.

Riding a few hard intervals is a great way to get your body temperature back up

Riding a few hard intervals is a great way to get your body temperature back up

5. Take a Rest

We usually like to plan our long, meandering winter rides with a destination in mind—usually a restaurant or café with warm drinks and food. But it’s OK to take a break at any time if you’re feeling cold, chilled, or just tired. Stop at a gas station, coffee shop, café, whatever, warm up and take a breather.

Go in and get warm, grab some hot tea or coffee, and eat a cookie.

PRO TIP #1: If you’re feeling the chill from a damp clothing, you can use your rest stop to change into your spare base layer, spare gloves or liners, and hat. That way you can go back out into the cold feeling dry and warm.

PRO TIP #2: If your toes are feeling very cold on your ride, see if you can get some aluminum foil or a foil food wrapper, and wrap up your toes. It’s not the most comfortable thing, but it does provide some additional insulation.

PRO TIP #3: Ask if the coffee shop or restaurant can refill your water bottles with hot water.

When you start feeling cold or chilled, go ahead and head indoors to warm up

When you start feeling cold or chilled, go ahead and head indoors to warm up

Real Advice: Setting Up Your Trainer Room

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1. Pick the Room

Even trainers that claim to be “ultra-quiet” are still going to generate enough noise to annoy someone in an adjacent room. Pick a room that’s separated from others in the house, such as a basement, garage, or spare bedroom. Make sure you have room to set up the trainer and angle it toward your entertainment of choice. And remember folks—make sure that floor is level-ish. An uneven floor can make the trainer rock, putting a ton of stress on your hips (no good) and the bike frame (really no good).

 

2. Sweat Catching

Since you’re not going to be riding anywhere, there will be no air moving on you. That means you’re going to sweat more. To avoid ruining the carpet or hardwood, set up a trainer mat or towel underneath your bike. To avoid ruining your bike (specifically the headset and BB bearings), use a sweat catcher or hang a towel over your bike.

Using a sweat net or towel can help preserve the life of your compoents

Using a sweat net or towel can help preserve the life of your compoents

3. Cooling

Since riding the trainer gets super-hot, it’s a good idea to set up a fan to keep from overheating. Even a cheap mini tabletop fan can make a world of difference. Using a fan doesn’t preclude following Step 2—you’re still going to sweat like a demon.

 

Not sure what kind of trainer to get? Check out our guide.

 

4. Entertainment

Riding the trainer with nothing to do can get really, really boring really, really fast. Make sure you have a TV, tablet, or computer to watch a movie or do a structured work out.

PRO TIP: Since there trainer is loud and you’ll have a fan running, if you’re in a domestic living situation or have housemates, it is generally considered polite to invest a couple of bucks in a headphone extension cord or some wireless headphones so you’re not tempted to crank the TV volume.

Using headphones can help maintain domestic harmony

Using headphones can help maintain domestic harmony

5. At Hand

Set up a stool or some medium height shelves next to your bike. It should be at about a height where you can reach it comfortable while seated in the saddle. This will ensure that your remotes, computer mouse, gels, spare water bottle, spare towel, etc… are all easily at hand.

 

6. Be Prepared

The trainer is usually more demanding than an outdoor workout. Not only do you have the increased resistance of the unit itself, but heat buildup and a tough structured workout can really take it out of you. For an hour long trainer session, you should have 3 water bottles (2 of them filled a hydration drink) and some gels to keep your energy levels up and avoid dehydration.

 

Last Chance 2014 Gran Fondos

Gran Fondos are a great way to test your fitness as a cyclist

Gran Fondos are a great way to test your fitness as a cyclist

If you’ve gotten out to some of our Great Ride Series rides at our stores, you’ve probably realized how awesome a group ride is. If you’re ready to take it to the next step though, you might just be ready for a Gran Fondo.

Gran Fondo’s are a great way to test your fitness as a cyclist, have fun at a well organized event, and give you a goal to work towards. Gran Fondos are usually challenging rides of 100 miles or more (though often organizers offer medio and piccolo routes for shorter distances), and most organizers pride themselves on finding the hardest routes possible.

If you’re looking for an event to end your year on a high note, these rides might be your last chances until next year.

No matter where in the country you live, there are a few rides left that can give you a chance to see how you stack up, or just give you some bragging rights with your buddies.

Did we miss your favorite ride? Tell us about it in the comments section.

WEST COAST / SOUTHWEST

Tri State Gran Fondo

October 11, 2014

Mosquite, NV

Challenge Gran Fondo

October 12, 2014

Durham, CA

Tour de Scottsdale

October 12, 2014

Scottsdale, AZ

El Grande Fondo de Los Angeles Crest

October 18, 2014

Los Angeles, CA

 

 

ROCKIE MOUNTAINS

Tour de St. George Fall Gran Fondo

October 25, 2014

St. George, UT

The Coal Miner Gran Fondo

October 31, 2014

Steamboat Springs, CO

 

 

EAST COAST

Gran Fondo Virginia

October 11, 2014

Albemarle County, VA

New Holland Bicycle Race Gran Fondo

October 11, 2014

New Holland, PA

Tour of the Battenkill Fall Preview Ride

October 11, 2014

Greenwich, NY

Oktoberfest Ride

October 12, 2014

Collegeville, PA

Bicycling Magazine Fall Classic

October 12, 2014

Lehigh Valley, PA

Hincapie Gran Fondo

October 25, 2014

Greenville, SC

Florida Cycling Challenge

October 31, 2014

Daytona, FL

Bookwater Binge Charity Gran Fondo

November 1, 2014

Asheville, NC

 

To learn how to prepare for your next big ride, check out these articles:

Alternative Road Bikes: The Only Bike You Need?

The Haanjo felt right at home anywhere we went

The Haanjo felt right at home anywhere we went

One of the coolest emerging categories from bike manufacturers these days are alternative road bikes. Descended from road bikes, alternative road bikes have evolved into a category of their own, and continue to be refined to help riders take road bikes to new places we could scarcely imagine a few years ago.
So what makes an alternative road bike?

  • Disc (or sometimes cantilever) brakes for better stopping performance
  • Higher bottom bracket for more ground clearance
  • Clearance for bigger tires
  • More upright riding position and longer wheel base
  • Frames tuned to be more flexible in the right places (like the seatstays) for improved comfort

 

Cyclocross Bikes

The OG alternative road bike. These bikes are designed for the discipline of cyclocross (read more about it here), but have since become some of the most popular bikes on the market. Why?

Because the ‘cross bike is basically a do everything bike. It might look like a road bike, but they have clearance for wider tires (usually up to a 38mm, versus a normal road bike’s 25mm max), a taller bottom bracket, and powerful cantilever or disc brakes These features allow CX bikes to go places most normal road bikes can’t, from off-road riding, to mountain bike trails, to fireroads. Additionally, ‘cross bikes have a geometry very similar to a racing road bike, so you can simply switch out the knobby tires for a pair of road tires, and you’ll have yourself a very capable road bike.

Examples: Fuji Altamira CX, Van Dessel AloominatorRidley X-Fire

Key Strength: Versatile race-ready platform

Best For: Cyclocross, road riding, limited trail riding

 

The Ridley X-Night is fine example of a cylcocross bike

The Ridley X-Night is fine example of a cylcocross bike

Gravel Bikes

This is a relatively new category, but a pretty exciting one. Similar to a cyclocross bike, gravel bikes are primarily designed to be ridden on gravel and fire roads. Like cyclocross bikes they usually feature disc brakes, a high bottom bracket and big tire clearance.

What sets a gravel bike apart though is the geometry. While most ‘cross bikes are pretty racey, Gravel Bikes usually have a more relaxed “endurance” type geometry with a taller head tube, sloping top tube, and longer wheel base for improved comfort over long distances. The head tube angle is also a little slacker, and the chainstays longer, to give you more stability on uneven surfaces.

Examples: GT Grade

Key Strength: Outstanding stability and handling on rough roads

Best For: Exploring off the beaten path, gravel racing

 

The GT Grade is one of the most exciting gravel bikes yet

The GT Grade is one of the most exciting gravel bikes yet

Adventure Bikes

This isn’t really a category…yet, but it’s one that includes some really exciting new bikes. These bikes aren’t really gravel bikes, nor cyclocross bikes, but they still incorporate a lot of the features we love, and are extremely capable.

Disc brakes, wide tire clearance, fender and rear rack mounts…these bikes aren’t really designed to do any one thing particularly brilliantly… but they are designed to do a lot of things pretty well. They’re at home on the MTB trail, on gravel roads, on the CX course, or even some light touring. They won’t do quite as well as a dedicated platform, but for the rider who dabbles in everything, it’s the perfect solution.

Examples: Diamondback Haanjo, Fuji Tread

Key Strength: Outright versatility

Best For: Someone who wants only one bike to do it all

Adventure awaits you aboard the Diamondback Haanjo

Adventure awaits you aboard the Diamondback Haanjo

Brian’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo Recap

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Our coworker Brian just completed Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Harrisonburg, VA this weekend. It has a reputation as the toughest ride on the East Coast, and with it’s combination of long distances, steep hills, and gravel, has been known to take even very experienced riders to their limits. Fortunately, Brian finished the gran fondo, and we’re checking in with him to see how it went, what he would do differently, and what advice he has for anyone wanting to attempt it next year.

-Hi Brian. Can you tell us a little bit about how you felt going into the gran fondo?

I felt pretty good going into it, but I think I could do better next year. My fitness was generally pretty good, but not having done it before, I definitely wasn’t ready for how difficult the gravel climbs would be, and they took their toll. I also made some stupid mistakes in the first half of the ride that almost undid me in the second half. Other than that, I felt pretty good on the bike, and was overall just happy to have finished.

-What was your favorite part?

Crossing the finish line to find my amazing girlfriend waiting with a bottle of Clif Recovery drink and a plate of food.

My favorite part of the actual ride was the descent off the first KOM section. Wide open highway, gentle curves, and high speeds. It was really exhilarating, and not something I get to experience too often. You truly get a feeling of flying, and it’s one of the most fun things I think you can do on a bike.

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Riders for the Gran Fondo, Medio, and Piccolo routes all started together

What was your least favorite part?

I think the two gravel climbs might be physically the hardest thing I’ve done, but the last 20 miles was much more difficult, mentally. Even on a really, really hard climb like Reddish Knob you can still settle into a rhythm—you just accept that you’ll be pedaling until the top and get to work. The last 20 miles however was full of short and steep rollers that were just long enough and steep enough to be very mentally draining after so much saddle time.

-What equipment choices worked well?

I think the Gatorskin Hardshell is  probably the single most impressive piece of cycling equipment I’ve ever used. I hit some rocks (not gravel, straight up rocks) and holes that by all rights should have detonated a clincher tire, yet I never flatted the entire ride.

The compact was also a great choice. No, actually, it was the only choice. After the first road climb I thought maybe I should have gone with a 52/36 chainring combo instead of a 50/34. After the first gravel climb though, I realized I never would have gotten up it with a 36.

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The route passed through some beautiful Amish country

 

-What equipment would you change next year?

-I think next year I would definitely ride a cyclocross bike or an endurance road bike. Something like the GT Grade or a Fuji Altamira CX with bigger tire clearance, disc brakes and a lighter weight would have been perfect.

-25mm tires were fine, but next year I’m definitely going with 28mm or 30mm tires

-Lighter wheels. My winter wheels were chosen for their durability, but it didn’t take long before I started feeling the 2150g weight. Having seen the course, I would feel more comfortable using a carbon wheel next year.

– I’ll probably consider using a mid-cage SRAM WiFli rear derailleur with an 11-32 cassette instead of an 11-27, just to get that extra bail out gear.

 

-Would you do it again?

After I crossed the finish line I swore I would never do it again. But I woke up on Monday morning thinking about how I would train and set up my bike differently next time. So I guess the answer is yes, I will probably be on the start line next year.

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Crossing the finish line is usually the high point of the day for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

-Any advice for someone thinking about doing it next year?

-Spend as much time climbing as you can! I didn’t this year, and I definitely paid for it. Not immediately, but later in the ride.

-Take full advantage of all the aid stations. I didn’t spend much time at the first two, only stopping to fill up on fluids and that was a big mistake which I blame on race day excitement. I should have stayed a few minutes longer to eat real food and stretch, but instead I ended up bonking around mile 60 and really suffering up Reddish Knob and the last part of the ride.

-Don’t take the “pro pee break” at mile 15. The only people who will stop are the pro’s and super strong riders, so you’ll find yourself alone very quickly, with nobody to pace up the climb.

-Run the widest tires your bike will fit, and make sure you have new brake pads on your bike

-Don’t start all loaded down with your own food. The aid stations are really well stocked, and had Honey Stinger gels and mini Clif Bars you could take with you. I would recommend just having 1 or 2 gels in your pocket at the start, just in case, and then loading up at the aid stations.

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Jeremiah Bishop won. Again. You really can’t put a price on home road advantage.

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