Ridden and Reviewed: The Ridley Helium

The Ridley Helium is a stiff, fast and lightweight bike designed for climbing

The Ridley Helium is a stiff, fast and lightweight bike designed for climbing

Lighter Than Air

The Ridley Helium is part of the lightweight line of Ridley bikes. While the Helium SL claims top honors in Ridley’s “superlight” category, the Helium is still one of the lightest production frames available, and in fact was the basis for what became the SL. This tried and true chassis has been ridden to victory by riders from several different Pro Tour teams, and after spending a few days on it, it’s easy to see how.

So exactly where does the Helium fit into Ridley’s lineup? Like all of Ridley’s other bikes, the Helium originally grew out of a request from Ridley’s pro riders, who needed a lightweight frame that would make climbing during difficult mountain stages easier. While the Fenix is Ridley’s “go everywhere, do everything” bike, and the Noah is designed to be an ultra-stiff aero-wonder for the sprinters, the Helium was designed to shave every possible gram for the climbers.

But this isn’t to say the bike is only at home in the mountains…

All of Ridley's bikes are tested on the cobbles to make sure they meet the brand's own durability standards

All of Ridley’s bikes are tested on the cobbles to make sure they meet the brand’s own durability standards

Beyond the Mountains

When we visited Ridley in Belgium a few weeks ago, among the bikes we were given to test out were a pair of Heliums. While they weren’t spec’ed exactly the same as the Performance models, we got a pretty fair sense for how the Helium rode, and for two of our testers, it came to be the bike of choice for the Tour of Flanders sportif (the others chose the Fenix).

 While Ridley may bill the Helium as a climbers bike built for the mountains, we actually found that the bike was more than at home on the cobbled roads of Flanders—a realization that was backed up by the fact that several of the Lotto-Belisol riders chose to ride the pro-level Helium SL for the actual Tour of Flanders. Thanks to its super-thin seat stays and more traditional rounded tubing, we found the ride to be plenty compliant for even the toughest cobbled sections we encountered.

Even our test bikes, which were built up with some super-stiff, low spoke count carbon wheels, seemed to have almost no problems dealing with the cobbled roads and descents found on the sportif. At no point did we feel we were bouncing off the rocks or getting bucked all over the road. Not that the ride was exactly silky, but the Helium had the chops to take the hits. But this isn’t to say the Helium is a noodle either—it was plenty stiff enough to deliver the goods come smash time on the Circuit Zolder, where it was right at home in a paceline involving a few pro’s, local hardmen and excitable juniors. The bike just felt fast, responsive and lively.

We were able to follow sprints, break-aways and surges with aplomb, and when we stood up to go for the gusto, the bike instantly responded with plenty of forward speed.

The Helium was right at home on the flat and fast Zolder track

The Helium was right at home on the flat and fast Zolder track

Climbers Delight

Despite it’s all-arounder abilities, we have to say that the bike did truly come into it’s own on the climbs. We started the day of the Tour of Flanders sportif feeling more than a little anxious about going up the Koppenberg, the Steenbeekdreijs, the Kwarmont and the Paterberg—all legendary cobbled hills with brutal gradients that can surpass 20%, but eventually we came to almost look forward to them.

We’re not the worst climbers in the world, after all we do live in North Carolina, but aboard the Helium we felt almost delusionally gifted—enough so to even try to challenge a Trek Factory Racing pro we happened upon on the Kwarmont (it didn’t end well for us). Making the turns into the climbs made us feel almost giddy, because you really do get the sensation of floating uphill. The bike is very light, but it’s more than that. The geometry, the fork rake, and the blend of both stiffer and more compliant carbon fibers all seem to function together in an almost unquantifiable way to just make climbing feel easier and more natural.

This isn’t to say we weren’t suffering on the Paterberg at the 22% pitch, but we rarely felt we had to resort to standing to make it up the hills. The bike seemed to work with us to make the going easier, and that’s something we can always appreciate.

The Ridley Helium helped make climbing even the Paterberg feel easier and more natural

The Ridley Helium helped make climbing even the Paterberg feel easier and more natural

A More In-Depth Look

After riding the Helium for a few days, we got a chance to talk with Dirk, the lead product manager at Ridley about what went into making the Helium, and out of that conversation came a true insight into what the Ridley brand is all about. The Helium is if nothing else a pragmatic machine, built to solve problems with substance instead of style and marketing.

Neither the Helium nor the pro-level Helium SL are anywhere close to the lightest production frames available, but that’s not something that Ridley is really interested in making. Ridley believes that behind most of those other super-lightweight frames is a directive from a brand’s marketing department, not an actual benefit to the consumer. To make a sub-700 gram frame isn’t difficult, but to make a sub-700 gram frame that can actually be ridden is.

With the Helium series, Ridley looked at how cyclists actually ride. Pro’s, amateurs, weekend warriors, everyone. Then they talked with pro mechanics, materials engineers, designers—basically anybody who would ever have to work one—about what they wanted to see in a lightweight bike. The consensus was clear: it didn’t matter if it was the lightest bike on the market if it couldn’t survive a full season, or transfer all your power into the pedals. Where they arrived at was a frame that was just a few grams heavier than the competition, but that would stand up to the abuse of racing, training and everyday riding like nothing else in its class. In fact, the frames ended up being so dependable that the Lotto-Belisol pro’s just ride off the shelf bikes, painted up in team colors.

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The Verdict

The Helium is just a flat out great bike. It has a ride feel that combines so many different aspects into one bike, which is a hard act to follow. Stiff enough to sprint, comfortable enough for the cobbles, and purpose-built for climbing, this bike comes pretty close to being the total package.

The bike definitely has a race-tuned geometry, so if you’re looking for something a little more relaxed you might want to look at the Fenix, but if you want a go-fast machine that performs as a true all-around high performance bike, then the Helium is the way to go.

Survive The Polar Vortex(es): 6 Tips For Cyclists

Polar Vortex II got you down? Trust us, we understand. Our North Carolina office has been inundated with snow, ice and single digit temps that make riding hard. We can only imagine what it’s like further north. The weatherman says that it should be clearing soon– but we’ll believe it when we see it. To keep from getting some serious cabin fever, we’ve had to get creative to keep on form and having fun, despite all the craziness outside.

Here are some of the tips we’ve come up with.

Snow biking puts a new spin on old trails, and is a great way to spice up your riding routine.

Snow biking puts a new spin on old trails, and is a great way to spice up your riding routine.

1. Snow Biking:

If you’ve got a mountain bike or a fat bike, consider hitting the trails for a little outside fun. We went out yesterday on the Charge Cooker Maxi for a bit and it was awesome, if a little cold (more on that later…). Just make sure to bundle up and keep warm. It’s cold out there.

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When the temps go south, trainer time tends to go up. Just make sure to structure your workouts to get the most out of your time.

2. The Trainer:

If you’re more of the roadie type, then throw that bike in the trainer and get spinning. Need some motivation? Consider listening to music or watching a movie to end the monotony (last night we watched Top Gun while riding the trainer and sprinted every time a plane took off—it was exhausting).

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Cross training, such as weight lifting, running, or yoga is great way to improve your performance on the bike

3. Cross Training:

Go for a run, hit the weights, go cross-country skiing, try some yoga or just do some stretching. Remember that taking time off the bike can be as important as time spent on the bike. Taking a day or two to strengthen non-cycling muscles, work on flexibility, or core activation can have big rewards later in the year.

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Knowing how to properly fuel your workouts is very important. This recovery meal provides a good mix of carbs, protein, simple sugars, and malted recovery beverages.

4. Make A Good Meal:

Or better yet, make yourself a meal plan. It’s easy to put on a few pounds over the winter, but making a meal plan and sticking with it is one of the easiest way to make sure you’re adequately fueling your rides without taking in too many calories. Plus, it’s a great way to score points with your significant other.

Cleaning your bike is a great way to prolong the life of components and ensure it's ready to ride next time

Cleaning your bike is a great way to prolong the life of components and ensure it’s ready to ride next time

5. Clean Your Bike

If you haven’t done this in a while, give your bike some serious TLC.

Taking two or three days off can actually make you faster by allowing your body time to recover

Taking two or three days off can actually make you faster by allowing your body time to recover

6. Take a Day Off:

There’s nothing wrong with taking the occasional day or two off. In fact studies show that if you’ve been riding hard, taking two or three days off will actually make you faster by allowing your body to recuperate. If it’s too cold or snowy where you live, don’t feel bad about putting in some serious couch time to watch a movie, read a book, catch up on Downton Abbey, or spend time with the fam.

6 Cycling Gloves for Cold Weather Rides

Now that cold weather has rolled in across much of the country, cyclists everywhere turn to that most common of riding refrains: “My fingers are frozen!” The best way to avoid chilly digits on your ride is to wear long-fingered gloves, so we turned to our clothing team for recommendations of our best and most popular cold weather riding gloves. Of course what you choose to wear will depend on the forecast and your cold tolerance, just like our clothing suggestions for riding in cold weather - but read on below for a few great frost-fighting options (and don’t forget to get your bike ready for cold weather rides too).

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1. Smartwool Liner Gloves: Sometimes all you need is a lightweight liner glove to bring you through the cooler season in comfortable warmth, but these gloves are multi-purpose since they are also perfect as an extra insulating layer under your favorite gloves or mittens (and as a barrier if you are using chemical warmers layered inside your gloves).

2. Fox Women’s Digit Gloves: Mountain bike riders have an advantage in cooler weather since they already wear long finger gloves, but don’t be afraid to break out your ‘mountain bike’ gloves on a chilly road ride – just pick a pair that aren’t super-lightweight, like this stylish option from Fox.

3. Pearl Izumi Cyclone Gloves: Pearl Izumi’s most popular, cool weather cycling gloves offer great fit and protection, while adding reflectivity for safety and Comfort Bridge Gel padding for comfort. Elite Softshell is a highly functional stretch fabric that offers windproof, waterproof, thermal and breathable protection for cold weather performance.

4. Louis Garneau Super Prestige Gloves: Ergonomically designed to maximize hand comfort in cold conditions with windproof, waterproof and thermal fabrics, pre-curved fingers and gel padding in the palm. The ‘lobster’ design provides more warmth than full-fingered cycling gloves and better mobility than mittens, but on these gloves you can actually fold back the ‘lobster’ covering to turn them into standard 5-finger gloves.

5. Castelli Diluvio Gloves: Take the warmth of mittens and combine it with the weatherproof properties of neoprene and you have Castelli’s Diluvio gloves. Thermo-sealed, 3mm neoprene construction thwarts wind and rain, plus it’s insulated for amazing heat retention. Thin, flexible design fits easily over your hands and gripper palm improves handlebar control.

6. Belgian Gloves: Only recommended if you are cycling ‘hardman’ like Jens Voigt or Tom Boonen.

What Do You Carry When You Ride?

Ever wonder what cyclists carry in their pockets, saddlebags, and hydration packs? We polled some folks around the office, asking to see what they carried to get out of a jam, and found some interesting stuff.

Which kind of begs the question: what do you carry when you ride?

And don’t forget that tubes, multitools, mini-pumps, Co2 cartridges, black size medium Giro Air Attack Shield helmets, and saddlebags make great stocking stuffers.

 

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

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

XC riding: Spare tube, Co2 inflator and multitool combo

XC riding (strapped to seatpost): Spare tube, Co2 inflator and multitool combo

Super-light road kit (carried in jersey pocket): mini pump, rear flashy light, tire levers, Ikea hex wrenches, tube, dollar bill

Super-light road kit (carried in jersey pocket): mini pump, rear flashy light, tire levers, hex wrenches that came with Ikea shelves, tube, dollar bill

Touring kit (in saddlebag): Multitool, SRAM masterlink, rear light, tire levers, tube, Gerber mutlitool, (not pictured: frame pump)

Touring kit (in saddlebag): Multitool, SRAM masterlink, rear light, tire levers, tube, Gerber mutlitool, (not pictured: frame pump)

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Trail Riding (carried in hydration pack): food, Go Pro + tripod, Co2 inflator, hatchet, shock pump, zip ties, multitool, tire levers, pump, spare tube

Road Kit (carried in jersey pocket): Tube, Co2 cartridge and chuck, spare Co2 cartridge, mutlitool

Road Kit (carried in jersey pocket): Tube, Co2 cartridge and chuck, spare Co2 cartridge, multitool

The Ultimate Trail Building Kit (carried in hydration pack): Hatchet, pump, shovel, chain saw, shears, pruners, strap, tube, food, bug spray, branch cutter

The Ultimate Trail Building Kit (carried in hydration pack): Hatchet, pump, saw, shovel, chain saw, shears, pruners, strap, tube, food, bug spray, branch cutter

Product Profiles: The Scattante CFR LE and Scattante CFR Race

The Scattante CFR Race

The Scattante CFR Race

The Scattante CFR Race

When the guys over in the bike division heard about the new Ultegra 6800 group, they realized they had to build a bike around it. And it couldn’t just be any bike. No, it had to be something extra special– like no other bike we’d ever done before. It took a few iterations, and lots of emailing back and forth with our suppliers, but we did it, and the result is exceptional. Behold: the Scattante CFR Race. This incredible new bike features our pro-level ScMT carbon fiber frameset, an Ultegra 6800 11-speed drivetrain, and a compliment of high end components from Deda, Selle San Marco, and Fulcrum.

The Scattante CFR Race features the same Scattante Monocoque Technology (ScMT) that was used in the CFR Black bike. ScMT carbon fiber technology is incredibly stiff and lightweight, but also nice and compliant in all the right spots for a buttery smooth ride. It’s stiff yet springy, and is incredibly responsive to pedal input. It’s got plenty of compliance to make it both comfortable and surprisingly agile and easy to handle.

For components, we outfitted the CFR Race with mechanical Ultegra 11-speed. The all-new Ultegra features improved front end shifting thanks to a redesigned derailleur pivot arm, Shimano’s new distinctive crank arm design, and, of course, the addition of an 11th cog. Rounding out the package is a full Deda cockpit, and a set of Fulcrum wheels.

If you’re the type of cyclist who takes your riding seriously and are looking for an 11-speed upgrade that delivers pro-level performance, it’s tough to beat the Scattante CFR Race.

Hurry though…these bikes won’t last long.

11-speed Ultegra 6800 takes performance to a new level

11-speed Ultegra 6800 takes performance to a new level

The distinctive 4-arm crank design sets Ultegra 6800 apart from the crowd

The distinctive 4-arm crank design sets Ultegra 6800 apart from the crowd

Improved lever ergonomics take cues from Shimano's Di2 systems

Improved lever ergonomics take cues from Shimano’s Di2 systems

Deda provided components for the cockpit on the CFR Race

Deda provided components for the cockpit on the CFR Race

Fulcrum wheels are lightweight and fast

Fulcrum wheels are lightweight and fast

ScMT carbon technology gives the CFR Race a ride feel like no other carbon blend out there

ScMT carbon technology gives the CFR Race a ride feel like no other carbon blend out there

The Scattante CFR LE

The Scattante CFR LE

The Scattante CFR LE

But we don’t just have one new bike on the docket. The CFR Race is more geared toward the racers out there, but we don’t want you to think we forgot about the long distance riders, right? That’s why we’re also rolling out the Scattante CFR LE.  So what’s the story with the Scattante CFR LE? The Scattante CFR LE (Limited Edition) road bike is a new road bike that is built for all-day comfort and amazing performance.  We took the same Scattante Monocoque Technology (ScMT) carbon fiber construction technique that we used in the CFR Black and CFR Race,  but reworked the geometry to make it a little more relaxed and forgiving. ScMT carbon fiber technology is incredibly stiff and lightweight, but allows us to adjust the compliance in all the right spots for a buttery smooth ride. The fork is custom tuned for quick, predictable handling. The bike is all-dressed up for the holidays with a 10-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain, FSA compact crank and some Kenda Kadence tires.

The CFR LE is the perfect road bike for the distance guys and weekend group riders. It deliver’s excellent performance that’s perfect for charity rides, fast weekend group rides, or gran fondos. And don’t worry, it’s a great value, but it can hang with even the most expensive bikes on the course.

It’s a value you won’t believe…but these bikes won’t last long, so get yours today.

ScMT technology gives the frame and fork an unparalleled ride

ScMT technology gives the frame and fork an unparalleled ride

Shimano 105 component provide excellent shifting performance

Shimano 105 component provide excellent shifting performance

The frame delivers race-ready performance that is a joy to ride

The frame delivers race-ready performance that is a joy to ride

Product Preview: Scattante CX 350

The Scattante CX350

The Scattante CX350

The Scattante CX 350 is a brand-new workhorse cyclocross bike that our guys over in the bikes division dreamed up. The CX 350 is designed from the ground up to be a do-it-all kind of bike. It features a stiff, durable alloy frame, reliable, premium Shimano components, and mechanical disc brakes for all-weather stopping power. The bike also features full eyelets, for mounting fenders or a rack.

No matter what you’re looking for in a bike, the CX 350 is the bike that can do it. It’s ready out of the box to ride ‘cross if that’s what you’re into. Have some fire roads in your area? Head out and explore, confident that the knobby tires and disc brakes will give you plenty of traction and control. Or you can change out the knobby tires for some road tires and head out for a road ride. Need to get to work? Mount a rack on it, attach some lights and you’ll get there in no time.

There’s a million ways to ride the Scattante CX 350—but only a limited time to get one.

Stay tuned for more bike profiles, coming soon.

Shimano shifting components deliver crisp, snappy shifting

Shimano shifting components deliver crisp, snappy shifting

Mechanical disc brakes give the SCX350 all-weather stopping power

Mechanical disc brakes give the CX350 all-weather stopping power

A 46/34 cross crankset gives you plenty of gearing for any course or terrain

A 46/34 cross crankset gives you plenty of gearing for any course or terrain

The alloy frame is durable, lightweight, and completely versatile

The alloy frame is durable, lightweight, and completely versatile

Kid In A Candy Shop: Our Favorite Bikes

Last week, my coworker Aaron and I got to talking about our favorite bikes. Working in the cycling industry, we get a chance to ride some great stuff, and we’re always impressed by the bikes that the likes of Fuji, GT, Diamondback, Devinci, Van Dessel, and our own in-house guys at Scattante turn out.

But inevitably, the question always comes up: what is your favorite bike? With so many good ones out there, it was hard to choose, so to narrow down the challenge, we decided we had to pick three favorites.

  1. The “Dream Bike”– if cost were no object, what would you ride?
  2. The “Next Bike”– what is the bike we’re probably going to be riding next season?
  3. The “Best Bang For the Buck” Bike– of all the bikes available from Performance, what is the best value for the money (in our opinion)?

BRIAN

Dream Bike: 2014 Diamondback Podium Equipe Campagnolo Super Record EPS Road Bike

It seems like an obvious move to pick the $10k road bike, but there’s good reason here. Namely, I love Campagnolo and I thirst for EPS. And I also think the Podium is  one of the most beautiful and distinctive road bikes out there right now. Diamondback really knocked this one out of the park with the color-matched parts and frame in the distinctive “wet” red look, a full Campy Super Record 11 EPS gruppo, and carbon fiber HED wheels. Plus, Diamondback did all their own R&D and development on the frame and fork, and the ride quality is right up there with any other pro-level frameset.

2014 Diamondback Podium Equipe Campagnolo Super Record EPS 11-Speed Road Bike

Next Bike: Fuji Altamira 2.1 C Campagnolo Athena EPS Road Bike

Not being a big fan of the all-Top Ramen diet, next season will more than likely see me on the Fuji Altamira 2.1 C instead of the Podium. But that’s just fine by me. Campy’s EPS system is absolutely incredible, and Athena EPS is exactly identical to the Super Record variety, except the parts are aluminum instead of carbon fiber– which is actually a bit of a benefit because it means better crash survivability. I’ve heard nothing but great things about electronic shifting performance from other coworkers, so I’m excited to test it out for myself.

2013 Fuji Altamira 2.1 Road Bike

Best Bang For The Buck: 2014 Fuji Roubaix 1.3

If I were trying to get the most value for my dollar out of a bike, I would go straight for the Roubaix 1.3. This alloy bike packs some serious punch in the parts department. A carbon fiber fork and a full 10-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain give this bike plenty of performance for the dollar. The compact crank is paired with an 11-28T cassette, which means you’ll have the perfect gearing for casual riding or racing right off the bat– all for around a thousand dollars. Plus, the frame is stiff, light, and fast enough that it can easily grow with you if you decide to upgrade components over time.

2014 Fuji Roubaix 1.3 C Road Bike

AARON

Dream Bike: 2014 Devinci Atlas RC Carbon 29er Mountain Bike

For me, the DeVinci Atlas is all about having a really lightweight carbon 29er with Shimano XT and a Fox Float 32 CTD FIT 29 fork that can go out and fly on the trails. Plus, it’s just a little extra mashed so it’s awesome at downhill but won’t be weird on regular single track.

2014 Devinci Atlas RC Carbon 29er Mountain Bike

Next Bike: 2014 GT Force Carbon Expert 27.5″ Mountain Bike

The carbon fiber Force is all about AM riding all-day long on a very smooth, comfy, bike. The great parts spec and cushy, full suspension will mean you won’t still be feeling the trail hits later in that night. Plus, you get the new 27.5″ wheels that give you plenty of speed and maneuverability on the trail.

2014 GT Force Carbon Expert 27.5″ Mountain Bike

Best Bang For The Buck: 2014 Fuji Nevada 29 1.1 Mountain Bike

If I was looking for a bike that could really tackle the trail on a budget, I think this is the best option– since you don’t see too many 29ers with this spec at this pricepoint. For about a grand you get an aluminum 29″ frame, 100mm travel fork, and a mix of Deore and XT. You could  ride this one all day and stay pretty happy.

2014 Fuji Nevada 29 1.1 Mountain Sport Bike

Real Advice: Bicycle Lights

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It’s getting to be about that time of year again, and the days are getting shorter. Believe us, we’re none too happy about it either. But just because daylight is in limited supply doesn’t mean you can’t get some riding in while the gettin’ is good. All you really need is some lights to help you see a little better and be more visible to cars and traffic. With the right lights, riding at night can add an exhilarating new dimension to familiar trails, help you extend your riding hours during the dark months, or make you feel safer on the roads.

Here’s some of their Real Advice when it comes to bike lights, courtesy of a daily commuter, a mountain biker with a fondness for night riding, and couple of roadies.

To learn more about the different types of lights, click here.

The Commuter:

One of our coworkers commutes about 12 miles on dark, unlit rural roads. There aren’t any street lamps along her route, so in addition to hi-viz, reflective clothing, she uses as many lights as possible to light her way and make herself visible.

  • Blackburn Flea 2.0 USB taillight: this rear light is very compact, lightweight, and incredibly bright with multiple flash modes. Plus, I can recharge them at my computer at work.

The Blackburn Flea 2.0 USB packs a big brightness to weight punch

  • Blackburn Mars 3 taillight: this is a very bright tail light. It has a different flash pattern than my Flea 2.0 taillight, which helps grab more motorists attention

The Mars 3 taillight is weatherproof, bright, and easy to install

  • CygoLite HotShot 2 Watt USB taillight: I have this light attached to the rear of my helmet, and I use it on its steady pattern instead of flash. The steady, high up light helps cars see me, even if their view may be partially obscured by the traffic in front of them. Like the Flea, this can be recharged on my computer at work.

The CygoLight HotShot 2 is ideal for all types of commuting

  • Blackburn Flea 2.0 USB headlight: I mount this lightweight, compact light on my left fork arm. It’s incredibly bright and has a very distinctive flash mode. Plus, I can recharge them at my computer at work.

The Blackburn Flea 2.0 can be recharged via USB and is incredibly bright

  • Axiom Flare 5 LED headlight: I mount this commuter headlight on my handlebars. It’s pretty bright, and has a great flash mode that augments the Flea 2.0. Plus, in a pinch it’s about bright enough to light my way if my headlamp battery dies.

The Axiom 5 is ideal for urban commuters, or as a secondary light on more rural roads

  • NiteRider Pro 1800 Race LED headlight: Without streetlights, you’d be surprised how dark the night can get. I use this light to illuminate the road in front of me. It has the added advantage of being as bright, if not brighter than, a car’s headlights—so it makes you pretty much unmistakable on the road. It has multiple settings, so you don’t burn through the battery or blind any motorists.

The NiteRider Pro 1800 Race puts out 1800 lumens, has multiple modes, and is ideal for rural commuting or mountain biking

The Mountain Biker:

Mountain biking is pretty big here near our offices, and hitting the trails at night is a favorite fall and winter past time. We asked one of the trail regulars at our offices what lights he uses on the technical, twisting trails in North Carolina to avoid accidents and safely navigate the trails.

  • Light and Motion Seca 750 Sport LED headlight: this light has a really nice, broad, diffuse beam pattern that gives some ambient light to the trail so you can see where you’re going. I mount this one on my handlebars so I can see where the bike is pointed.

The Seca 750 is ideal for night time mountain biking or commuting

  • NiteRider Pro 1800 headlight: This bad boy gets mounted on my helmet so I can see exactly where I’m looking. The tight, focused beam makes this light more like a spotlight that lets me look down the turns in the trails even if my bike isn’t pointed that way.

The NiteRider Pro 1800 Race makes an ideal spotlight when hitting the trails at night

The Roadies:

When heading out for some weekend road riding, it’s usually a good idea to bring a set of safety lights, even if you think you’ll be back before dark. They’re small, lightweight, and take just a few seconds to install. If they’re really heading out as it’s getting dark, they’ll usually opt for a setup similar to Mrs. Commuter.

Mr. Campagnolo:

  • Blackburn Click front and rear light: I really like these lights from Blackburn. They’re still small, but they are a little bulkier than most safety lights. But they make up for it by being much brighter than most. Plus, I like the attachment for the rear light since it faces directly backwards on the seatpost and doesn’t rub against my leg while pedaling.

The Blackburn Click fits easily a jersey pocket

Mr. SRAM:

The Axiom Zap fits easily into a pocket and is easy to install

Gear Up For Cross

Here at Performance Bicycle, there’s a palpable excitement in the air. Because it’s that time of year again. A time when the nights feel cooler. When the smells of embrocation and frites are in the air, and the ring of cowbells resounds across the hills. A time of year when we trade in our skinny tires, glorious afternoons spent on sun dappled stretches of road, and retiring mid-ride banter for the mud-slinging, loosely organized bit of mayhem we know as cyclocross.

If you’re interested in trying out cyclocross, or just want to learn more about it, check out the Cyclocross Basics article over in the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

So what do you need to get your season start off right? Performance Associates Ben and Ross are here to help guide us through Gearing Up For Cross Season.

cross-gear

7 Essentials To Start Your Cross Season Right

1. Cyclocross bike: it’s important to have the right tools for the job. We’re pretty big fans of the 2013 Scattante cyclocross bikes (if we do say so ourselves…), including the all-new Scattante CFX bikes, now equipped with either Red 22 Hydro or Force 22 to get you to the top of the podium.

2. Mountain bike shoes: it’s not very easy to run in road shoes. Mountain bike shoes have a lugged outsole to make it easier to leap over barriers or run up hills. Mountain bike pedals are also used, since they are easier to get in and out of and shed mud well.

3. Helmet: when you’re riding like a madman (or woman) through mud, running with a bicycle on your shoulder, and leaping over barriers, it’s a good idea to make sure that your head is protected.

4. Long sleeve jersey and bib shorts, or a skinsuit: ‘cross races have a reputation for being challenging, so the last thing you want is to worry about being too cold or your saddle rubbing you the wrong way.

5. Cantilever or disc brakes: either one is fine so long as they fit your bike, but these brakes have enough clearance to allow even the muddiest tires to keep spinning.

6. Eyewear: it’s inevitable that you’ll end up getting sprayed in the face with mud, sand and who knows what else. Protect your eyes with a quality pair of sunglasses.

7. Knobby tires: knobby tires give you just enough traction to keep rolling through the mud, but without slowing you down on the flat and fast parts of the course.

Real Advice: Wheels

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week Brian, a member of our content team, is going to share with you some thoughts on wheels.

wheels

Several years ago, when I got my first carbon fiber road race bike, I was so amped. It had SRAM 10-speed Rival on it, a full carbon frame and fork, and a carbon seatpost. I’d even splurged on some carbon fiber bottle cages. In those days, this was some pretty heavy artillery to be bringing for the level of racing I was at. Admittedly, I didn’t know an awful lot about bikes at the time, and I hadn’t ridden the bike much before the race. All I knew was I had the latest and greatest carbon 10-speed stuff, while most of those other chumps were rockin’ alloy 9-speed gear. According to all my mental math, I was already standing at the top of the podium.

When the race started, everything seemed to be going fine. I rode well and felt strong. Until I got out of the saddle at speed or tried to sprint in the drops. Every time I did, I could hear the rim hitting the brake pads with every pedal stroke, shedding speed and momentum. When I leaned into a corner, the rims squealed against the brakes the entire time, slowing me down drastically, and I watched furiously as other riders flowed past me, despite me having the extra 10th gear.

After the race, I was fuming. I had just spent all this money on a carbon fiber frame that I believed to be about as stiff as a wet noodle. I ranted to another rider about how flexible the frame and fork were, and how poorly the bike had performed. The other (more experienced) rider took one look at my bike and said simply “dude, it’s not your frame—it’s your wheels.” I did the next race on a borrowed wheelset that proved him right.

For most riders, whether you race or not, wheels are the most overlooked and important upgrade. It’s incredibly tempting to upgrade your bike with the newest drivetrain, or all the carbon fiber you can find. While the performance gains you get from those parts are significant, they still pale in comparison to investing in a great set of wheels. Among the many improvements you’ll get will be stiffer rims, lighter weight, improved handling, and greater aerodynamic performance. But before you buy, here’s a quick guide to help you find the wheels that are right for you.

 

  1. What kind of wheels do you need: The first step to buying new wheels is ensuring they will work with your equipment. It may seem like a wheel is a wheel, but asking a few basic questions can help you get it right the first time.
    • Does your bike have rim or disc brakes? If disc brakes, what kind are they?
    • How many speeds is your drive train (ex: 11-speed cassettes usually require 11-speed freehubs)?
    • What brand of drive train do you have (SRAM, Shimano, Campagnolo)?

    These DT Swiss XM 1650 MTB wheels will work with center-lock disc brakes, Shimano cassettes, and tubeless tires.

  2. Know what you want: Few wheels can really be placed in the do-it-all category. Knowing what you want to get out of your rides can help you narrow things down.

    A pair of lightweight alloy clinchers, like these Easton SLX wheels, can shed significant weight from a bike, making them ideal for climbing

  3. Alloy vs. Carbon: This one is entirely up to you, and a full discussion would be another blog post, but here’s a basic breakdown:
    • Alloy wheels are usually more durable, less expensive, and offer better braking performance, especially in wet weather, but tend to be heavier and less aerodynamic than carbon wheels
    • Carbon wheels are much lighter, aerodynamic, stiff, and (according to some) cooler looking than alloy, but are also much more expensive. Carbon road wheels also can have diminished braking performance, especially when wet (this isn’t a problem with MTB carbon disc brake wheels)

    Carbon wheels, like this pair from Reynolds offer significant aerodynamic and weight savings

  4. Tubular vs. Clincher vs. Tubeless: These are the three basic types of bicycle wheels, and each have their pros and cons.
    • Tubular wheels require tubular tires (tires with an inner tube sewn inside) which have to be glued onto the rim. They are very lightweight, and offer unsurpassed road feel and cornering abilities, but they require a special technique to mount and may be difficult  to change if you flat on the road.
    • Clincher wheels are the most common, and use a tire with a separate inner tube that hooks onto a bead on the rim. Clincher wheels are very convenient for most rides, since it’s very easy to change a flat, and some of the best clincher tires approach the road feel of tubulars. The drawbacks are that clinchers are often heavier than tubulars, and if the tire is under inflated or flat it can sometimes roll off of the rim.
    • Tubeless wheels are quickly becoming de riguer on mountain bikes, and are finding their way onto the road. Tubeless wheels require the use of special tubeless tires and use no inner tube. The bead on both the rim and the tire is made very tight, so as to make an airtight seal when inflated. The benefits of tubeless tires are legion, specifically that they virtually eliminate the chance of flatting. The downside (for the road at least) is that they are the heaviest type of wheels.

    These Reynolds Assault CX tubulars are perfect for cyclocross season

So there’s a basic breakdown of wheels. For a little more information on other upgrades you can make, check out this article in our Learning Center.

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