A Visit To The Lotto-Belisol Service Course

Last week we were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to visit the Lotto-Belisol team service course in Belgium. It was only a few days before the Tour of Flanders (Flemish: Ronde van Vlaanderen) and Tour of the Basque Country (Spanish: Pais Vasco; Basque: Euskal Iztulia) so the place was pretty cleared out, but Chris, one of the team mechanics was there, and was nice enough to take the time to show us around.

Lotto-Belisol is a strongly Belgian team, so of course they ride Ridley bikes. Most of the bikes were gone to either Oudenaarde or Bilbao for the races, but we did get to see some pretty cool stuff there, with plenty of eye candy for the bike geek in everyone.

Beyond Andre Greipel’s distinctive Gorilla bike, Adam Hansen’s Helium SL with a set up no bike fitter would ever recommend (but hey, it works for him), and plenty of Dean FAST time trial bikes, we saw the new custom-built Ridley X-Night cyclocross bikes the team will be riding at the 2014 Paris-Roubaix (April 13, 2014). For most classics races, the team opts for the Ridley Fenix, which is more than equal to the cobbles found in Belgium and the Netherlands, but the cobbles of Northern France require a more specialized machine.

Check out this video tour of the Lotto Belisol team bus by CyclingTips, with Adam Hansen as the guide, for a better look around their home away from home on the road:

Paris Roubaix Special Edition Ridley X-Nights

Special Paris Roubaix edition Ridley X-Night bikes

Special Paris Roubaix edition Ridley X-Night bikes

According to Dirk, the Ridley product manager, all of the frames are stock off-the-shelf Ridley X-Night’s– like all the rest of the Ridley bikes the team races. The only change made to the frames was the front derailleur hanger was mounted slightly higher to allow for a 53T chainring, instead of the usual 46T chainring used in cyclocross.

The bikes were also specially spec’ed to handle the rougher cobbles of Roubaix. Instead of the standard Campagnolo Super Record 11 EPS electronic groupsets and deep-section carbon fiber Campagnolo Bora Ultra wheels the riders usually use, the Ridley X-Night bikes were built up with the just released mechanical Campagnolo Super Record RS groupset and lower-profile Campagnolo Hyperion wheels with specially-made Continental tires, with a unique tread profile and casing that can handle the tough cobbled sections. Instead of the usual cyclocross cantilever brakes, the team opted for TRP Mini-V brakes, which offer more powerful stopping and better cable pull with road levers.

For those of you who are already salivating in anticipation, don’t worry. The Ridley X-Night frameset will be available from Performance Bicycle later this year.

Before the Tour of Flanders, we visited with the Lotto Belisol team mechanics at the team hotel as they were getting the bikes and team cars prepped for the big race. If you thought that the team mechanics kept everything organized and tidy in the service course, that was nothing compared to how diligently they worked while on the road, on their bus and mechanic’s truck.

Join the Performance Bicycle Great Ride Series

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Do you want to make some new cycling friends, add some variety to your rides, or just get back in the saddle after some time off? Then you’re invited to join our beginner level Saturday morning group ride, starting and ending at your local Performance Bicycle store at 9:00AM. The ride is geared for beginner riders, but everyone is welcome! The ride will last approximately one hour, and will go at an average pace of between 12 and 15 miles per hour. Routes will vary by location, but they’ll explore some of the local roads, bike paths and some residential routes, as well. And don’t be worried that you can’t keep up – our rides operate on a “No Rider Left Behind” motto.

Come out and join us for this fun, non-competitive ride.

To get you motivated, here are a some photos from just a few of our store rides all across the country – we hope to see you in the one of these photos next time!

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Rockville, MD store

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Boulder, CO store

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Berkeley, CA store

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Winter Park, FL store

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Roswell, GA store

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Orland Park, IL store

We can’t wait to see you at your local Performance Bicycle store – join us every Saturday at 9:00AM for the Great Ride Series group ride.

 

Ridden and Reviewed: Ridley Fenix

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The Ridley Fenix was built to tame the cobbled roads of Flanders

The Belgian Swiss Army Knife

A few months ago when Ridley invited us to come to Belgium to learn more about their brand, we were pretty excited. When Ridley told us were going to be testing their bikes on cobbles, we were a little less thrilled. We’ve ridden cobbles before, and if you’ve ever wanted to know what’s like to ride a bike inside of a paint mixer, taking a spin down a Belgian lane is a pretty good approximation. We knew that Ridley makes some tough bikes though, so we figured this would be the ultimate test of a bike’s durability.

The Ridley Fenix is what Ridley describes as their “Swiss Army knife” bike. The bike was designed at the behest of the riders of Ridley’s pro-tour teams, who needed a bike that could conquer the long, brutal spring classics races in Italy, Belgium and France. Looking at lessons learned from the Damocles and the Excalibur, two of Ridley’s most successful bikes ever, Ridley’s designers came up with the Fenix. Built with a more “endurance” tuned geometry for improved comfort over long distances, flattened seat stays for improved compliance on the terrible cobbles, and diamond-shaped tubes for incredible durability and strength, the Fenix is one of the toughest, most versatile bikes ever.

The Performance-exclusive Ridley Fenix CR1 is built around the same frame the pro's ride

The Performance-exclusive Ridley Fenix CR1 is built around the same frame the pro’s ride

About The Ride

Because Ridley had a lot of journalists and vendors visiting the week we were there (during that Tour of Flanders), the bike we ended up with wasn’t exactly spec’ed the same as the Performance-exclusive CR1 model (different crank, handlebars and saddle), but it was close enough to give us a general feel for the bike. And wow, were we impressed.

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The Fenix more than lives up to its reputation. From the minute we first put a leg over the bike, it felt like it came alive. The handling was snappy, and the bike felt responsive from the first pedal stroke. On the pavement it handles like one of the finest race steeds we’ve ever encountered (in fact the bike more than held it’s own when we took it to the brutally fast Wednesday night ride at the famed Zolder Circuit), but where the bike really came to life was on the cobbles.

We’re not going to say that it made the cobbles smooth like butter–there’s only so much a bike can do, but the Fenix certainly made the ride less jarring than we remembered. Turning onto our first cobbled section at speed, we braced for the first bike impacts and tried to prepare for the bone shaking hits. We didn’t really need to though, since the Fenix definitely took some of the sting out of the cobbles. It was especially apparent in the saddle, where the flat-section seat stays made a noticeable difference and transmitted much less vibration and absorbed the worst of the hits.

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Even these cobbles were smoothed out some by the frame’s flattened seatstays

The bike also held it’s line and tracked far better in the rough stuff than we were expecting. Even our lighter weight tester, who normally gets bounced off the cobbles pretty well and ends up all over the road, was able to find a line and hold it on the Fenix over some of the worst cobbles we encountered. On the one occasion when we did crash, the bike was just fine—thanks to the diamond shaped tubing that gives it a higher strength and makes the tubes more resistant to side impacts. After a few kilometers (sorry, we were in Europe), we could definitely see why the Lotto-Belisol guys love the Fenix.

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The Fenix handles rough roads well, with a stable handling feel that helps you hold your line

About The Bike

After our experience testing the bike, we had a chance to talk with Joachim Aerts, founder of Ridley, and Dirk, the lead product developer, about what went into the bike. It turns out that the inspiration for the Fenix came not only from the shapes found in nature, but also from real world riding. Both of them grew up in Belgium, riding on the cobbled roads, and thought about the kind of bike they would want to ride on those roads. After getting more input from pro riders, they turned to the Lotto-Belisol mechanics, and asked for their opinions about the bike. Would it be easy to work on? Could it survive a crash? Did the internal cable routing make sense from a practical stand point? Once all these questions were answered and problems solved, and only then, did the bike move into production.

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The carbon fiber frame found on this test bike, as well as the Performance-exclusive CR1 and CR2 are the same as the ones ridden by the pro’s from the Lotto Belisol team

Ridley, and the Lotto-Belisol team, were so thrilled with the final product that they didn’t even make a special version for the pro team, which is fairly unusual in the bike industry. The pro riders literally get off-the-shelf Ridley Fenix bikes, painted in the team colors, and built up with their pro livery parts.

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Jurgan Roelandts of Lotto-Belisol chose to ride the Fenix (outfitted with team-issue Campagnolo Super Record 11 EPS and Bora Ultra wheels) in the Tour of Flanders

Overall, we’d say that the Fenix is one of the best all-around bikes we’ve ever ridden. Stiff enough to hold it’s own on one of the fastest group rides we’ve ever done, comfortable enough to ride all day on some of the roughest cobbles in the world, and tough enough to survive a fairly gnarly crash. If you want a bike for riding a charity ride, a gran fondo, and even racing, then this is definitely the bike for you. This bike not only gets our seal of approval, but the seal of Belgian approval as well.

Introducing Ridley Bikes at Performance Bicycle

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If you know nothing else about Belgium, you should know that the roads are cobbled and the weather is, well, we’ll be polite and call it changeable. If your bicycle is anything less than the toughest thing around, you won’t be owning that bike for very long. Which is why if you ever go to Belgium you’ll notice that most people ride Ridley bikes—because they’re made in Belgium, for Belgian roads.

When your roads look like this, your bikes better be as tough as the riders

When your roads look like this, your bikes better be as tough as the riders

Ridley Bikes was founded with the design philosophy of “tough enough to ride, fast enough to win, tested in every day life”. The company was started in Hasselt, Belgium in 1990 by Joachim Aerts, a former juniors racer. Originally founded as a bicycle paint shop in his father’s garage, Ridley has since evolved into one of the most innovative and dependable bike brands in cycling.

Joachim got his start by offering both custom frames, and later custom paint for pro and amateur riders. At the time, during the age of steel bikes, most professional would have their bikes built by the favorite custom frame builder (usually someone local who knew the rider well), but would have them painted to match their sponsor and team colors. When riders switched to aluminum bikes however, entirely new construction techniques became possible and Joachim used his experience as a juniors racer to begin designing a  new generation of bikes that were tougher, stronger, and faster than anything available before.

Ridley's facilities remain in Hasselt, where most of the bikes are still finished and assembled

Ridley’s facilities remain in Beringen, where many of the bikes are still finished and assembled

The evolution only continued with carbon fiber, and Ridley now makes bikes that are shaped to be strong, engineered to be fast, and ones so light they practically float up the hills.

The Ridley line-up consists of four basic models:

The Ridley Fenix was engineered for cycling’s “Spring Classics” races. It features a more relaxed geometry than their other road bikes, and Ridley’s innovative diamond-shaped tubing shapes for superior strength. The Fenix is available in 4 models, in both carbon fiber and aluminum, exclusively at Performance Bicycle.

The Ridley Fenix is one of toughest bikes around –  perfect for racing, gran fondos, and every day riding.

The Ridley Noah was designed with input from famed sprinter Andre Greipel, and is designed solely for speed. With water-droplet shaped tubes and the F-Split fork to knife through the wind. The Noah is available with a Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed groupset, exclusively at Performance Bicycle.

With it’s aero tube shapes, F-Surface treatment and revolutionary F-Split fork, the Ridley Noah is one of the fastest bikes in the world.

The Ridley Helium was designed for climbers, with circle shaped tubes that offer the best strength-to-weight ratio possible, allowing Ridley to shave off every possible gram. The Helium is available with a Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed group set, exclusively at Performance Bicycle.

The circle shaped tubing offers the best strength-to-weight ratio possible, which allowed Ridley’s engineers to make the Helium as light as possible.

The Ridley Liz is a women’s specific bike, and was designed for the ultimate in fit, performance and comfort without compromise. The Liz is available in two carbon fiber models, with either Shimano Ultegra 6800 or Shimano 105, and as a carbon fiber frameset.

To get the best mix of performance, comfort, and fit, Ridley worked with several pro women’s teams to find the best geometry for the Liz.

Today, Ridley is one of the most recognizable bikes in cycling. Famed for their toughness, and for their race-winning performance under the riders of the UCI World Tour Pro team Lotto-Belisol, Ridley’s penchant for innovation has made them one of the most imitated and watched brands in the industry, but the only one with the heritage and hard-earned reputation to be able to say “We Are Belgium”.

5 Great Spring Power Foods

It’s spring, which means that everyone is starting to ride more. We’ve focused on the bike, we’ve focused on your prep. Now it’s time to start looking at how to fuel those spring rides. Remember, the base miles you put in during the early spring are the important ones, because they lay the foundation for the rest of the year—so it’s crucial to make sure they are good ones. And one of the best way to do that is by properly fueling your rides.

Here are our favorite 5 Spring Power Foods:

1. Waffles

Both delicious, and nutritious, these delightful pastries have been a training staple for years in Belgium and the Netherlands, and with good reason. With plenty of carbs, simple sugars, and a lighter consistency that’s easy to get down even when you’re suffering, waffles are one of our favorite treats to enjoy on a ride.

To learn more about fueling your ride, check out our article.

Waffles are a great, delicious way to fuel your ride

2. Chews

Because you can eat them one-handed, sometimes we find chews a little easier to eat on the bike, especially on windy days or on a fast group ride. Packed with simple sugars and carbs, chews are an easy to eat, quick fuel that can give you instant energy on the bike. On longer rides, we also look for chews that include some salt to help prevent cramps.

To learn more about fueling your ride, check out our article.

Chews are an easy, efficient way to fuel up on the bike

3. Hydration Mix

To avoid dehydration, it’s important to carry two water bottles on your ride: one with water, and one with a hydration mix. When you sweat, you lose more than just water—you also lose vital electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and calcium. It’s vital to replace these lost salts to not only avoid cramping, but also hyponataremia, a potentially life threatening condition caused by too little salt in the body. The leading cause of hyponatremia is athletes overhydrating with plain water without replacing lost electrolytes.

To learn more about hydration, check out our article.

Hydration mix is essential to avoid cramping and staying hydrated

 

4. Recovery Drinks

We used to not be a big believer in recovery products…until we tried some after a century ride. The next day we woke up feeling totally refreshed and without the aches and pains we were expecting. Recovery drinks are specially formulated with plenty of carbs, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to help rebuild sore muscles, replenish muscle glycogen, and inhibit inflammation, so you can feel refreshed and recovered.

To learn more about recovery, check out our article.

Recovery drinks can help you feel better and performance better after a hard ride

 

5. Real Food

As great as all of the above foods are, spring is a time when some of nature’s finest bounty is at its best. Even if you do everything to fuel your rides the right way, it won’t matter much if you’re neglecting your diet the rest of the time. Spring is a time when fresh greens, fruits, and vegetables are all becoming available again. The micronutrients, vitamins and minerals found in foods like beets, carrots, kale, and other fresh foods are important to help your body stay balanced, repair damage and function at its best.

Oatmeal is a great way to start the morning. Filling, healthy, and full of energy. Find this recipe in the Feed Zone Cookbook from Skratch Labs.

Eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods is a great way to fuel your rides before they even start

Wordless Wednesday

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Our Favorite Youtube Videos

Have you checked out the Performance Bicycle Youtube channel lately? If not, it’s definitely worth a peek. It’s packed full of Product Reviews, Buyer’s Guides, Riding Tips, How To Guides, and more to help you find the products you want, stay up to date, and help you get more out of your bike and gear.

Of the hundreds of videos we have, here are some of our favorites:

 

 Riding Tips

Ever wondered what the best way to clear that log in your path was? Learn how in our How To Jump A Log video:

 

How To Guides

Adjusting your front derailleur is more art than science. To get the hang of it, check out our How To Adjust Your Front Derailleur video:

 

Buyer’s Guides

Shopping around for a new indoor trainer? We break down the different types to choose from in our Guide To Indoor Trainers video:

 

Product Reviews

Looking for a great pair of all-around wheels? Check out our product review of the Zipp 202 Firecrest wheels.

Going The Distance: A Guide To Long Distance Cycling

Riding a century is one of the most challenging, and rewarding, things a cyclist can do

Riding a century is one of the most challenging, and rewarding, things a cyclist can do

 

Long distance cycling is some of the most challenging, and rewarding, riding that a cyclist can do. Nothing compares to the feeling of satisfaction of setting yourself a goal that seems difficult—if not impossible—and reaching it, exhausted, tired, but full of pride.

Everyone’s definition of what a long ride is will be different, but for the sake of making this easy, we’ll say a long ride is 100 miles, a type of ride also called a century. It sounds daunting—and it is, but there are few things as defining and rewarding for a cyclist as riding your first century.

But before you start thinking “how hard can it be?”, and go off to jump on your bicycles, bear in mind that long distance cycling puts unique demands on your body, and it’s something you need to work up to and prepare for.

 

So here are some tips for that first big ride—whether it’s the first century you’ve ever done, or if you’re just putting in some base miles for the season ahead.

 

1. Work Up To It

First things first, you need to make sure you’re in shape to ride this kind of distance. Just hopping on your bike and trying to set out to ride 100 miles without any preparation is not a smart thing to do. Set a date on the calendar at least 6-8 weeks in advance (if you’re doing an organized ride, then you’ve already got a timeframe to shoot for), and do multiple weekly rides, trying to increase your mileage by 10-20% every week (depending on your fitness level).

 

2. Plan Your Route

You should have a definite route set before you head out the door. Even if you have a GPS or a smartphone, make sure you bring a cue sheet so you can always find your way back. Also ensure that your route will include plenty of places to stop and top up on water, pick up some food, use the bathroom, and just get off the bike for a few minutes. Ideally, your route should include a rest stop every 20 miles.

If you’re a little uneasy about getting stranded in the middle of nowhere if you bonk or have a mechanical issue, try finding a 20-30 mile loop near your home that you can ride repeatedly. This way if something goes wrong you can always make sure you can get home.

Lastly, plan a “B” route that will get you home faster in case of a mechanical problem, bad weather, or an emergency.

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A GPS computer like this Garmin 810 can help you stay on your route

 

3A. Have The Right Gear

Depending on your speed, riding 100 miles means you can be on the bike anywhere form 4-8 hours. That’s a lot of time for the weather to change or something to go wrong. Always make sure you have the follow with you when you set out on a long ride:

Remember though that tools are useless if you don’t know how to use them. Before you set out, make sure you know how to repair a flat tire, fix a broken derailleur, or adjust loose brakes. To learn more about basic bike maintenance, check out the How To page on our Learning Center.

Commuter Kit (carried in messenger bag): Tire lever, multitool, patch kit, spare tube, pump

A comprehensive tool kit, like this one, can save you some trouble down the road

3B. Pick The Right Clothes

This also isn’t the ride to wear your “B” gear. Wearing the shorts with the ok-but-not-great-pad, a pair of ill-fitting shoes, or a jersey that is either too thin or too warm will have you hating life somewhere around mile 55, if not sooner. For your big ride, break out your best shorts, favorite jersey and make sure your shoes fit properly. You’ll thank yourself later.

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Choosing the right clothes, like the Performance Ultra shorts and jersey, can help make the miles a little more comfortable

 

4. Fuel Up

Inadequate fueling is the biggest reason most failed attempts at a century ride don’t succeed. You need to start eating before you even leave the house, with a good breakfast that includes plenty of carbs and protein. The second you get on the bike and start riding, start eating. Gels and chews are essentials to bring, since they pack plenty of energy in a small package. But you also want to avoid having a belly full of nothing but sugar, so ensure you’re eating real food too, like bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers, and other high-energy, easy to digest foods.

You also need to make sure that you are drinking. Drink one bottle of plain water the first hour, then a bottle of hydration mix the second hour. Keep alternating water and hydration mix every other hour.

If you find yourself cramping, that’s usually your body’s way of telling you you need more salt, so make sure you pack some chews (Clif Shot Bloks margarita flavor is a delicious choice) or other snack with plenty of sodium.

And the biggest thing to remember: bring twice as much food as you think you’ll need.

For more tips on cycling nutrition, check out our guide.

Picking the right nutrition items, like these salt-filled energy chews, will help keep you fueled up and avoid cramping

 

5. Sit Up and Stand Up

Most professional riders can spend 6-7 hours on the bike no problem, but they’re getting paid to suffer like that. When riding a century, make sure you take plenty of stops to stand up, get off the bike, walk around a bit, and stretch. This will help restore blood flow, stop muscles from cramping, and help you feel better during the day.

You also don’t have to hammer all day. Riding a century is more about your ability to endure than to go fast. Take it easy, spin in an easier gear than normal, and really take the time to enjoy the sights you’re riding by.

Check out this article to learn more about preventing fatigue.

 

6. Mentally Prepare

There’s no two ways about it, no matter how fit you are, riding 100 miles is tough. You need to mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable aches, pains, and defeatist thoughts that are going to come to you. Things are going to get sore, weird muscles are going to cramp up, you’ll be riding into a bad headwind at some point, and you’ll probably reach some dark places where you think you can’t do this. You may even get chased by a dog or two.

Just remember that this happens to everyone, and our minds and bodies are much more resilient that we give them credit for. Riding through those aches and pains and low moments are part of what makes riding long distances so rewarding—overcoming our own perceived limitations and doing things we thought were impossible.

 

7. Don’t Go It Alone

What’s harder than a century? A solo century. Being alone with your thoughts for 100 miles can undo even the hardest of cyclists. If you have other friends who ride, see if anyone is up to going for the 100 with you. Not only will it be fun to get out and train together, but doing a long distance ride is much easier when you have someone else with you. You can talk to each other to take your mind off the miles, help keep each other motivated, and draft off of each other if the wind picks up. Plus, in case of an emergency you’ll have someone around who can get help if needed.

 

Riding with a friend is a good way to help the miles go by a little easier

Riding with a friend is a good way to help the miles go by a little easier

 

Have you done any long rides lately, or do you have any planned? Do you have any tips or tricks that we missed? Let us know in the comments section.

3 Tips For Getting A Friend Into Cycling

 

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We all know how awesome it is to be a cyclist—but sometimes it’s nice to share the love. Many cyclists have tried valiantly over the last century or so to turn their friends and loved ones into members of our community, with varying degrees of success. It can be done, but it needs to be done with care—push it too hard, and it could backfire.

Here are a few simple tips to help get your loved one into the 2-wheeled lifestyle.

 

1. Keep It Accessible

There’s nothing cyclists love more than geeking out about gear and numbers—but you want to avoid making things sound harder or more complicated than they really are. Keep it simple, easy, and accessible.

Here are some common errors to avoid:

  • Resist the temptation to go all-out with gear, and focus more on what they want instead of what you think they need. Example: if they don’t feel comfortable in lycra cycling wear, try turning them onto more relaxed gear like apparel from Club Ride or Performance.
  • Don’t push them into getting a super aggressive or racy bike (at least not at first). The bike they pick should be one they like and feel comfortable on.
  • Don’t push the use of clipless pedals, aerobars, or other things like that at first. Wait until they get more confidence on the bike.

As they get more into it, hopefully all that stuff will come with time. But to start, just keep things simple. Here are a few additional tips, from our Learning Center.

 

Casual cycling apparel offers many of the performance benefits of lycra gear for the beginning cyclist

 

2. Make It Fun

Don’t just get them hooked up with a bike and a helmet, and expect them to go out and ride. When you’re just getting into cycling, it helps to have someone who can encourage and guide you on your journey. Ride together and get out and have fun. But tread carefully here, my friend.

If you try and drag your friend or significant other on long rides or push the pace too hard, you risk making them think cycling is too hard. You want cycling to be remembered as something fun and a respite from every day worries, not something that they had to suffer through.

Try picking short scenic routes or a bike path to start with, and ride at a pace where you can talk and hold a conversation. If you find yourself unconsciously pushing the pace harder, try riding in the little chainring, which will act as a hobble and prevent you from riding too fast.

 

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Remember to have fun out there. Organized events and fun rides, like charity rides or fund raisers, are a great way to introduce new riders to the sport.

 

3. Prioritize Safety

Even if you get everything else right, it will all be for naught if your your new cycling buddy doesn’t feel safe on the bike. And feeling safe on the bike is very important. While most experienced riders have the bike handling skills and experience to ride in traffic with cars zooming by, it can be a scary experience for newer cyclists. To start, pick routes with little traffic and lower speed limits, or head for the bike path. Also try riding during off-peak hours, so there will be less traffic. And remember, if they express any concerns or fears, don’t scoff or dismiss them as unfounded. Try and accommodate their concerns as much as possible, so they’ll have the confidence to go riding again.

For more information, check out our article about riding defensively.

Riding on a bike path or low-traffic street is a good way to help beginner cyclists feel safe

Riding on a bike path or low-traffic street is a good way to help beginner cyclists feel safe

 

Did we miss anything? If you have any tips for helping someone get into riding, feel free to share in the comments section.

Fat Bikes, Gravel Bikes and More from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show 2014

Since the 2014 edition of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show was right down the road from our home office, as it was held only a few hours away in Charlotte, NC, we couldn’t miss out on the chance to see what this creative array of small and custom bike builders have been dreaming up. While many of their designs aren’t for everyone, that’s precisely the point! Having a small and nimble design and build team (of sometimes just one person) means that they can cater to niche markets and often anticipate new trends in the cycling industry.

So what did we notice while we perused the convention hall – well, quite a bit of creativity! But one of the big trends (pardon the pun) was the growing number of fat bikes on display, in a wide array of sizes, colors, suspension and utility:

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Gravel bikes were also on display from many builders, again in a variety of shapes and sizes. The line gets kind of fuzzy between gravel and cyclocross bikes, but the idea for a gravel bike is one that you can ride any where – on road, off road, and everything in between. Wide tires, lots of clearance, and disc brakes were common factors on these do-anything “road” bikes.

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But a lot of the fun of the Handmade Bicycle Show is just taking a look at the creative and sometimes wacky designs on display – all a direct reflection of the builder and the person that the bike was designed for.

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And finally, while we didn’t catch them all, we also loved checking out the headbadges that each bike builder used on their bikes – one last bit of personality to finish off a frame!

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