Find the Right Fuji For You

If you were looking for the oldest bike brands, it might surprise you to know that Fuji would be among them. Fuji Bicycles has been helping riders conquer their mountains since 1899, and to this day they’ve continued to develop some of the most cutting-edge bikes on the market. The Fuji stable of products is enormous, with everything from high-end road bikes, to race-winning mountain bikes, cruisers, comfort bikes and everything in between. A blog article that dealt with all of it would probably be more like a text book, so for the moment we’ll just stick with their road bikes. Fuji makes some of the best road bikes out there, but with so many to choose from it can be difficult to figure out which model is the right one for you.

Never fear, we took a look at the whole Fuji road bike line-up, and broke it down for you to help you think about what kind of rider you are, and decide which bike is for you.

Fuji Carbon Fiber Bikes

Fuji Altamira 1.1

The Altamira

Best for: riders who push themselves and their equipment hard, and demand the very best

This is Fuji’s flagship road model, and is designed with the racer or serious enthusiast in mind. In 2011 Juan Cobo won the Vuelta a Espana aboard an Altamira, and for the last two years the German-based NetApp team has been riding them in races from the Tour of California to Paris-Roubaix.

Every model of the Altamira features a full carbon fiber frame and fork, making this a lightweight, stiff and fast bike. The Altamira was created for long, fast days in the saddle, and can climb with the best of them. The geometry is more aggressive than the Gran Fondo, but doesn’t sacrifice comfort in the name of speed. Make no mistake though, this is a pure, unadulterated race bike.

  • Altamira SL: Pro-level specialized climbing bike shaves every possible gram with SRAM Red and carbon tubular wheels
  • Altamira 1.1: Pro-level bike pulls out all the stops in the name of speed with Dura-Ace 9070 Di2 and aero carbon fiber clincher wheels
  • Altamira 1.3: Pro-level bike is designed to win races with a Dura-Ace 9000 drive train
  • Altamira 2.1: delivers cutting-edge performance with Shimano Ultegra Di2 drive train
  • Altamira 2.3: take any town-line sprint with Shimano Ultegra drivetrain
  • Altamira 2.5: features Shimano 105 for riders ready to graduate to a new level of riding

Fuji SST 1.3 C

The SST

Best for: the rider who has an unabashed need for speed

The Fuji SST first debuted under the riders of the Footon team (to see the notorious team kits, click here…if you dare) during the Tour de France. The swoopy, graceful carbon fiber frames looked fast and aggressive, and indeed they proved to be.

The SST is Fuji’s straight up speed machine. The arched tubes and compressed geometry are a sprinters delight, and will best serve criterium racers and enthusiasts who like to go fast. These are not bikes that will keep you comfortable during an 8 hour day in the saddle, but with the Fuji SST, the town line sprint or the top of the podium are yours for the taking.

  • SST 1.3: Pro-level bike delivers all-out sprinting performance with Ultegra Di2 drive train
  • SST 2.0 LE: take the top of the podium with Ultegra mechanical drivetrain
  • SST 2.3:  features Shimano 105 for those looking to get lots of speed at an exceptional value
  • SST 3.0 LE: get ready to move on to competitive riding with this Shimano 105 equipped bike


Fuji Gran Fondo 1.1 C

The Gran Fondo

Best for: the rider who likes to go fast, and demands performance, but doesn’t mind sacrificing some speed to be more comfortable

There are some who say that comfort and performance aren’t good bed fellows, but those people obviously haven’t seen the Fuji Gran Fondo. These bikes use the same blends of carbon fiber found in the Altamira and the SST, but with a geometry that won’t push your body to the limits. For sure, these bikes don’t have an aggressive race geometry, but when you’re spending 6-8 hours in the saddle during a Gran Fondo this is a bike that’s nice and forgiving on the back.

  • Gran Fondo 1.1 C: features 11-speed Dura-Ace 9000 for the serious Gran Fondo rider
  • Gran Fondo 1.0: features 10-speed Dura-Ace 7900 for those who demand the best
  • Gran Fondo 1.3 C: take your ride to the cutting-edge with Ultegra Di2
  • Gran Fondo 1.5 C: features mechanical Ultegra for those who desire high-end performance but prefer mechanical shifting
  • Gran Fondo 2.0: cutting edge Ultegra Di2 and a beautiful Italian-themed paint job
  • Gran Fondo 3.0 LE: for the rider looking for a great new road bike that won’t break the bank
This geometry chart compares the Altamira with the Gran Fondo

This geometry chart compares the Altamira with the Gran Fondo


Fuji Aluminum Road Bikes

Fuji Roubaix 1.0 LE

 The Roubaix

Best for: the rider who wants to go fast on a budget without sacrificing performance

The Fuji Roubaix got its start in life as a specialized frame built to take pros through the murderous Spring Classics of Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The hellish cobblestone roads of those races have long sent pro-racers begging to their sponsors for a new kind of frame, and Fuji responded with the Roubaix—an aluminum bike that was built with enough compliance and high-tech features to tame the horrific roads of the northern Classics.

Times have changed though, and so has this venerable aluminum bike. While many riders have moved on to carbon fiber, the Fuji Roubaix continues to be one of the longest and best selling bikes in the world thanks to its impressive mix of comfort, performance and handling. The Roubaix is the perfect bike for the beginning racer, someone looking for a first road bike, or even the veteran racer who needs a durable yet fast bike for crit racing.

  • Roubaix SL: this race bike is equipped with a carbon fork and Shimano Ultegra mechanical shifting
  • Roubaix 1.0 LE: features a fast, durable alloy frame and dependable Shimano 105 shifting
  • Roubaix LE: equipped with Shimano 105 shifting for optimized performance
  • Roubaix 1.5 C: Shimano Tiagra 10-speed shifting and a pressfit bottom bracket for a high-end feel and dependable performance
  • Roubaix 2.0 LE: features Shimano Tiagra 10-speed shifting
  • Roubaix 3.0 LE: road bike with Shimano Sora 9-speed shifting is perfect for the beginning road cyclist

Fuji Sportif 1.1 C

The Sportif

Best for: the rider who wants to stay fit and have some fun on the road

The Fuji Sportif was created to answer the needs of the everyday road cyclist. Traditionally, Sportifs are non-competitive organized rides that don’t recognize winners, but celebrate the joys of the road. In America we now know these rides as gran fondos, but the tradition is an old one, and it demands a certain kind of bike. A bike just like the Fuji Sportif.

If you’re eager to discover the joys of the road, but don’t have much interest in racing, then the Fuji Sportif is for you. These bikes are built with the same high quality standards as the Roubaix, but with a more relaxed fit and geometry to suit riders who believe road rides are more about the journey than the suffering. Think of the Sportif as an aluminum version of the Fuji Grand Fondo. If you want it to go fast, it will, but this bike is more about staying fit and having fun.

  • Sportif 1.1 C: road bike with Shimano Tiagra 10-speed shifting is ideal for the long distance rider
  • Sportif 1.3 C: Shimano Sora equipped bike is great for someone looking to stay fit
  • Sportif 1.7 C: Shimano components make this a great value for a first road bike
This geometry charts shows the difference between the Roubaix and the Sportif

This geometry charts shows the difference between the Roubaix and the Sportif


For more information and an in-depth model comparison, check out these videos from our The Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

Say Hello To The New Louis Garneau

A couple of months ago, when the Performance Bicycle Group Ride of Excellence was assembling after work, we all noticed Jeff and Chuck wearing a previously unseen kit. It looked lightweight, comfortable and definitely had a pro fit. They were all decked out in the new Louis Garneau Course kit, ready to take it for its first test spin. We all agreed that it looked great and that the test would probably be more effective if we each had our own set of Course jerseys and bibs to test out.

Feeling cool in the Louis Garneau Course kit

Sadly, this was not to be, so over the next 40 or so miles, the rest of us sweated it out, jerseys were unzipped, and baselayers were cursed while Chuck and Jeff still looked cool as cucumbers. After the ride, they both agreed that it was by far one of the most comfortable kits they’d ever worn. The chamois was incredibly comfortable, the shorts offered amazing compression and stayed in place, and the jersey offered, as Chuck would later say, “absolutely incredible breathability”. Indeed, the new Course jerseys are almost transparent, they’re so thin. Chuck later tried riding on a 90 degree day in the Louis Garneau Course jersey with a baselayer on, and still found it to be comfortable and cool.

A few days later we got a glimpse of the new Course Aero Helmet, which graced the heads of Tommy V and the Europcar crew at the Tour de France, and the new Course shoes, which feature an all-new fit, razor thin carbon soles and new BOA-style lacing system.

Pierre Rolland’s Course helmet looked great in polka dot

If you’d like to know more about the Course helmet, here’s a video from our Learning Center.

These were just the first glances we had of Louis Garneau’s new 2014 line up, and everything we’ve seen since has lived up to the incredibly high standard set by the Course line. Every jersey, every pair of shorts, every helmet and every pair of shoes has been redesigned for a new, sleeker fit, updated graphics, and all-new ergonomics that improve the fit, breathability, and weight of their gear.

The crowd went wild when they saw how great Thomas Voeckler looked while wearing Louis Garneau Course shoes, bibs, jersey, and helmet.

If you’re looking for a kit that delivers a next-to-skin fit and pro-level performance without the bleeding edge advancements, then check out the Louis Garneau Elite series. The Elite jersey and shorts have the competitive and fast enthusiast rider in mind. For most of us here at Performance, there is at least one of these kits in the quiver. They’re excellent for longer rides, fast group rides, racing and everything in between. The next-to-skin fit is super comfy, and the incredible chamois pad keeps you comfortable all day long.

Louis Garneau Elite jersey

The Louis Garneau Performance line was designed for the enthusiast rider. A more relaxed fit keeps things comfy for those long, wandering rides or for the rider who prefers not to feel like they’ll need turpentine to remove their jersey after a ride. But don’t let that fool you. This writer has more than a few miles laid down with the Performance jersey and bibs, and has found that they are excellent for high mileage days. The jersey is highly breathable, while the bibs offer plenty of support with a great pad that’ll keep you from squirming in the saddle. The updated graphics help take this kit to a new level of finish that always looks great.

Louis Garneau Performance jersey

The folks up in Quebec have been busy, and it’s paid off big time. To browse our full collection of Louis Garneau clothing, helmets, and accessories, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about the Louis Garneau brand, Mr. Garneau himself reflects on thirty years in the cycling business below.

Back in Black

I was at the grocery story once, loading up the kids and the car, when a beautiful Porsche pulled up next to me and an older gentleman stepped out. We got to talking about his ride, and I asked him what the top speed was.

“I have no idea,” he said, which left me a little dumbfounded. Then he elaborated.

“I didn’t buy it to go fast…but I like the idea that I could go fast if I really wanted to.”

I immediately thought about my bike. I probably don’t get as much out of my Dura-Ace Scattante CFR as a pro would, but I love the idea that I have a bike that could get me there if I wanted it to.

Shimano Dura-Ace is the crème de la crème of Shimano’s component line up, a favorite of pros and amateurs alike. For every bike manufacturer, the Shimano Dura-Ace equipped bike is the gold standard. It becomes the template for every bike that follows, injecting it with performance, trickle down technology, class and style. Our Scattante line of bikes is no exception. We spend enormous amounts of time on the frame layup and geometry, and working on all the small details like graphics. The goal is to create a machine that delivers race-worthy performance to cyclists of any level. Because while we all know that the Toyota is a great, dependable, practical car, at the end of the day it’s the Porsche that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

cfr_black_hero

2013 Scattante CFR Black

With the launch of our all-new, lust-worthy Scattante CFR Black — decked out with Dura-Ace 11-speed 9070 Di2 electronic shifting, the latest evolution of Shimano’s race proven technology — we decided to take a stroll down memory lane to see where we’ve been.

2006

In 2006, the Scattante CFR LE was at the top of the line with a full Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 drivetrain and carbon monocoque frame. The bike was decked out in that year’s best components.

2006 Scattante CFR LE Road Bike

2006 Scattante CFR LE Road Bike

The 7800 series shifters with external cable routing

Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 series shifters with external cable routing

2008

In 2008, Shimano went to Dura-Ace 7900. Cleaner internal cable routing and refined components added efficiency, ergonomics and saved weight.

2008 Scattante CFR LE Road Bike with carbon Control Tech components

2008 Scattante CFR LE Road Bike with carbon Control Tech components

The 7900 series shifters

Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 series shifters

2010

The 2010 Scattante CFR Team was quite an evolution. While the Shimano 7900 drivetrain remained unchanged, a full Italian Deda Elementi Ultra cockpit, Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels, and a brand new frame with a tapered head tube and BB30 bottom bracket took center stage.

2010 Scattante CFR Team Road Bike with as bevy of high-end components

2010 Scattante CFR Team Road Bike with a bevy of high-end components

2011

For 2011, Scattante went electronic. Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 was truly a remarkable innovation, so the Scattante CFR Pro design had to match. The CFR Pro was one of our personal all-time favorite bikes with color-matching anodized TRP brakes, Prologo saddle and Schwalbe Durano tires.

Scattante CFR Pro Road Bike was a new milestone in component and graphic design

Scattante CFR Pro Road Bike was a new milestone in component and graphic design

A cleaner appearance thanks to Shimano Di2

A cleaner appearance thanks to Shimano Di2

2013

So what now? What does the Dura-Ace experience have to offer a rider of every caliber for 2013? How about another gear, brand new technology and components, and a black-out paint job. The Scattante CFR Black brings the “wow factor” to every Sunday group ride. Click here to learn more about the Scattante CFR Black, or Enter to Win one now.

cfr_black_fork

Scattante CFR Black fork with Shimano Dura-Ace brakes

cfr_black_headtube

Scattante CFR Black headtube

cfr_black_downtube

Scattante CFR Black downtube

Real Advice: An Intro to Climbing

climbing_3Real Advice is a new series here on our blog. To answer some of the questions we get from customers, we’re turning to the employees here at our home office for some answers. Just like anyone else, they need to balance time on the bike with full time jobs and families. Over the years they’ve gotten pretty good at getting the most out of their rides. Let us know what you think in the comments.

This week we asked Robert, one of our copywriters and dedicated lover of the road ride, to give us some tips on how to get better at climbing.

climbing_brianI learned a hard lesson about climbing a few years ago after moving to North Carolina from a certain Midwestern city known for ferocious winds and two-dimensional topography. I thought I was in pretty good shape—until I decided to join the Thursday night group ride my first week of work at Performance Bicycle. I doubt I had actually ridden a bicycle up a hill before (unless bridges count), but I didn’t think it could be too hard. After 5 miles of rolling hills, I was utterly exhausted, and had long since been dropped. My ego was deflated, but thankfully there’s nothing like a reality check to get you motivated. Here are some of the tips and tricks I used to improve my climbing:

  1. PRACTICE. This seems obvious, but there are no silver bullets here. The only way to get better is to go out and find hills to ride up. Don’t overdo it, but adding challenging vertical mileage to your rides will do wonders.
  2. BUDDY RIDES. After my embarrassment on the group ride, I found a strong climber at the office and rode with him a few times a week. It was painful, but forcing myself to match his faster pace helped me make huge gains in a short amount of time.
  3. YOUR FRONT DERAILLEUR. Use it. You’re not going to impress anybody by big-ringing it up the local hardman hill, and you may even hurt yourself. If you find yourself struggling and out of the saddle from the start of the climb, you need to get into the habit of shifting to the little ring sooner. Since it’s almost impossible to shift the front derailleur once you’re actually climbing, it’s better to shift five minutes too early than five seconds too late.
  4. STANDING vs. SITTING. This one is divisive, but it honestly depends on the type of climb. If the climb is, say, 2 miles at a 6% grade, you’re better off staying in the saddle and pedaling at a higher cadence. If it’s a short, steep climb you can probably just stand up and stomp on the pedals to power up it. In general standing makes you work harder than sitting and pedaling at a higher cadence. If you do need to stand, make sure to shift to a harder gear to compensate for the extra force on the pedals.
  5. RELAX. Climbing is hard, but we subconsciously make it harder than it needs to be. Next time you head uphill, pay attention to your upper body. I bet you’re clenching your abs, tensing your shoulders and white knuckling your handlebars. All this saps your energy and makes it harder to breath. Next time, try to keep things loose and relaxed, control your breathing, and let your legs do the work.
  6. EQUIPMENT. Yes, nothing can really take the place of saddle time—but there are some equipment upgrades that can make climbing a little easier. If you’re really struggling on the hills, consider changing your cassette to a 12-28T, or switching to a compact crankset—both of which can make things a little easier. But the most important upgrade you can make for climbing is your wheelset. Wheels add both raw weight and rotational weight to your bike, making climbing more difficult. Finding a good pair of lightweight wheels is a very personal matter, and much can depend on budget and personal preference, but here are some of my favorites.

Race Day: Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Tubulars

Training Ride: Easton EA90 LTD Road Clinchers

Workhorse:  FSA Gossamer Road Clinchers

If you already have a pair of wheels you love but still want to go lighter, then take a look at your cranks, seatpost or saddle. There are many places on a bicycle where grams can hide. For more ideas on how to improve your performance or shave some weight from the bike, check out the “Upgrade Yourself” article in the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

Wordless Wednesday

spinning_wheel

Community Events: 2013 South Florida Bike MS

Since we’re now open for business in Florida, with 4 new stores and 1 coming soon, we couldn’t wait to get on the ground and out in our new local communities. So what better way to celebrate than with one of our favorite activities, helping out with the dedicated riders of Bike MS.

Steve and Dave are set up and ready to tune-up some bikes.

Steve and Dave are set up and ready to tune-up some bikes.

Three Performance team members headed down to Miami to help out with the South Florida Bike MS in April. We were there to work, doing everything from handing out nutrition to performing quick bike tune-ups – before, during and after the 50, 80 or 100 mile rides.

Dave and Christopher tune up bikes.

Dave and Christopher tune up bikes.

As you would expect in Florida, the weather was sunny and beautiful on ride weekend! More than 1400 riders turned out for the 2-day event and everyone had a very good time. We worked on everything from dry and noisy chains to punctured tires and tubes (and even one punctured rim).

Three handups ready to happen.

Three handups ready to happen.

On the second day we had the first aid station. While there’s not usually too much mechanic work that needs to happen only 7 miles into the ride, we did have a few boxes of GU Energy Gels to hand out so we stood next to the course on a straight open section of road and handed out over 100 peanut butter GU gels on the fly. No need to stop for this aid station, we’ll hook you up as you ride by!

Steve distributes powerbars on the move.

Steve distributes powerbars on the move (click for the animated version).

Here Steve shows us the fastest way to empty a box of PowerBar Performance bars - open them up near hungry Bike MS riders first thing in the morning! All in all, the ride was a big success with no serious injuries and loads of smiles. We had a great time helping out and ended up manning 5 aid stations over the course of the two day event. We can’t wait to help out again next year!

Cycling First Aid Essentials – What to Pack

We were recently asked the following on Facebook, by Michael P., and we thought it was an excellent question that is not often discussed in cycling:

always carry a well equipped first aid kit in my vehicle. I also keep first aid kits in my target shooting bag. What should be in a first aid kit for road biking? Recreational biking with the family? Mountain biking?

Luckily we have a certified EMT who also works here in our home office, Chris, who could offer some advice, and he was happy to write up this reply to Michael’s inquiry:

First off, let me say that you sound like a great person to ride with (though I’m sure you hear that all the time). Your question really highlights the varying needs that different cyclists have. To respond very generally, let me start with your basic family trip. Most of your injuries are going to be scrapes and bruises. You’re probably not going to see anything that a basic “stock” first aid kit wouldn’t cover. I would carry: band-aids, small gauze pads (2”x 2”), waterproof tape, anti-biotic ointment, anti-itch cream, and some sunblock. Stock first aid kits will have more variety and will range from $15-$60 depending on the size and quality. A good “all-around” kit would be the this one.

20-4497-NCL-FRONTFor road riding, you might consider our Brave Soldier Crash Pack: It’s got a very well thought-out mixture of gauze, non-adhering wound dressings (essential for comfortably treating road rash), butterfly closures, and betadine. This pack will keep you ready to handle basic road crashes and get you and your friends home or to a doctor’s office where you can get more treatment. It’s also very light weight and comes in a waterproof pouch – perfect for that un-used jersey pocket.

chris_peru_creekMountain biking is an entirely different animal. I’ve been deep in the woods and had a nasty crash that would have had me calling a friend for a ride if I was on the road. No such options exist when you’re in the back country however, so I would recommend a couple of extra measures.

Starting with a basic first aid kit like the one mentioned above, you might think about adding Tegaderm. Tegaderm is a transparent dressing that will seal a wound off from the outside. If you have a cut and have contained the bleeding and cleaned (and dried) the area, Tegaderm will keep it that way until you make it out of the woods.

SAM Splints would also be a good, light weight add-on to a back country first aid kit.

Of course the MOST important thing is your knowledge. Having training can make a panic-inducing situation into just another pit-stop. See if there is a Wilderness First Aid class in your area or take a basic First Aid/CPR class. Most community colleges will offer these things for a very reasonable fee. It’s fun, interesting, and could save a life. Also, I would be remiss to not include a big reminder to call 911 if there’s a real emergency. If someone loses consciousness for even one second, or slurs their speech after a crash, it’s hospital time. If you can’t stop their bleeding or if they have a broken bone, it’s best to call it in. EMS workers will be happy to come get you and will have many more tools than you could ever carry in your hydration pack. That being said, the most important life saving measure we all carry today is probably our cell phones. Keep yours intact and safe in your bag by adding a waterproof case like the Blackburn VIP SL Ride Wallet.

Any other suggestions from our readers out there?

Wordless Wednesday

2013 Alpine Loop Gran Fondo – the Finale

If you’ve been following on our blog, you’ve read how Zach, from our home office, had prepared his body and his bike gear to get ready to tackle the challenge of Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Virginia. But we couldn’t just send him up to the ride by himself, so we put together a team of 3 to report back on the most challenging and adventurous Gran Fondo in the United States!

Peloton heading out of town | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

Below is a photo of our crew the night before the big ride, with Jeremiah Bishop in the middle, sporting his extra-special white tuxedo for the pre-ride dinner (he was the host, after all). Ross, on the left, is a merchandise assistant in our bikes division – and is also an all-around fast dude on a bike. David works in our marketing department as our social media guy – documenting adventures such as this ride. And finally, Zach, one of our web merchants, is on the right – he’s been training hard all year to lose weight, gain fitness and get ready for the Gran Fondo. Read on below to find out how the ride worked out for each member of our team.

Ross, David, Jeremiah Bishop and Zach | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

Ross:

After hearing rave reviews from a few friends, I knew that the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo had to be highlighted on my calendar this year.  Any time you hear the words mountains, bikes, beer, gravel, and fundraising in an event description, a great time is to be had… and it was. I was very thankful to have taken Jeremiah up on his pre-fondo training ride a few weeks prior to the main event.  This ride gave me a chance to test out new equipment on many of the infamous sections of the course such as the hour long paved and gravel climbs and subsequent hair-raising descents of Reddish Mountain.  This ride was when I discovered my fondness for road tubeless setups and disc brakes on the road.

I’ll start my recap with a quick rundown of my bike setup, since it was a little different than the other guys. I rode a Scattante CFX Black cyclocross bike, running on Stan’s ZTR Alpha 340 disc front and rear wheels with Maxxis Padrone 700x23c tubeless tires, set up tubeless with Stan’s sealant (of course).

Following a brief staging, the ride was underway, we were winding through the streets of historic Harrisonburg and then off into the farmlands of the foothills.  After an hour riding over rollers, you could feel the peloton starting to get a little antsy as the first timed climb of the ride began and the pain began.  It wasn’t long before I was up near the front hanging on for the next several miles as Ben King set the pace.  As we passed over the summit, I was very thankful to have disc brakes on the wide open descent into the valley.  The Avid BB7 road disc calipers provided consistent stopping power no matter what the descent had in store.

Ross on his Scattante CFX Black | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

With the first climb out of the way, the small re-grouping at the front was off to tackle the next few climbs… which happened to be the hardest of the day!  The second climb was 30 minutes riding 10-20% grades on gravel.  It was nothing short of exhausting with no chance for legs to recover.  The next few climbs were paved but equally as steep and energy draining.

Half-way through the ride, and with virtually no chance for recovery and another food/water break, the “final” climb of the day, a gravel road to the top of Reddish Knob, was breathing down our neck.  I don’t think that this road can really be considered “gravel”, it is more of a road cut into solid stone.  Tubeless tires won the day on this rough terrain with low tire pressure and virtually no chance of a pinch-flat.

After a grueling hour of climbing, the final check point came and went with a sigh of relief.  It was only downhill to Harrisonburg, or so it showed on the course profile. But don’t be mistaken by the elevation loss, the last 20 miles of the Gran Fondo were extremely hard! Fatigue and saddle time had taken their effect but the finish was so close that it encouraged us to ride harder – that and the fact that gobs of food and New Belgium beer were waiting at the finish line.

If you plan on riding the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, be sure to look at Jeremiah’s equipment recommendations on the event website.  The route is nothing short of brutal.

Ross in the Amish countryside | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

David:

I had one advantage over my coworkers, Ross and Zach, going in to the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo – I had completed the ride last year. Yes, Zach and Ross had gone up to Harrisonburg for a special training ride with the host of the event, Jeremiah Bishop, but there’s nothing quite like riding the whole route and knowing how your body will react. Then Jeremiah went and changed the route! So it was back to square one for me – I knew how hard the first road climb and the last rolling miles into town were, but the whole middle of the ride (including the fearsome backside of Reddish Knob) was going to be a new experience. My only real equipment change from last year was rolling on a Stan’s ZTR Alpha Comp Road Wheelset, set up tubeless with Stan’s sealant.

At the start of the ride, I rolled along comfortably ensconced in the peloton with my coworkers – the pace was casual until the first big climb of the day. And that’s the last place I saw them until the finish line – Ross motored on up the road with the leaders, Zach started his battle to finish under the time cutoff for the glockenbell finisher’s medal, and I settled in to a comfortable place somewhere in between.

David climbing to Reddish Knob | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

It’s always interesting on rides like this how quickly you find the group that is going your same pace – for the whole rest of the day I saw a rotating group of the same faces as the pack that crested the first climb near me – a moving mini-group within the group. The good news is that I felt better than I had last year – although for some reason the second dirt road climb felt even harder than before. I blame selective amnesia – 20% pitches on a bumpy dirt road will do that!

The highlight of the ride had to be the soul-crushing ride up the backside of Reddish Knob, a new addition to the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo route. I neglected to read up on this devious climb beforehand, so I was convinced that it was only 3 or 4 miles. Nope, that’s not Jeremiah’s style. Instead it was 9 miles of undulating dirt and gravel road, checkered with potholes, steep climbs, flowy mini-descents, and a finish high atop Reddish Knob with a stunning 360 degree view of the mountains.

Top of Reddish Knob

On this climb I experienced the high and low-points of my ride. The high point (other than the delicious rest stop food – Nutella, waffles and Orangina are my new favorite mid-ride snacks) was finding an extra burst of speed and power halfway up the climb, which found me flying by fellow riders and the expertly placed photogs from Joe Foley Photography. My low point came shortly afterwards, where I paid for my sudden acceleration with the most painful leg cramps that I’ve ever experienced – I was only able to soldier through by pounding down as many margarita flavored extra-sodium Clif Shot Bloks as I could stomach. All in all, it was another grueling, amazing and memorable ride (and my longest ride ever at 107 miles), and I can’t wait to give it another go next year!

David near the top of Reddish Knob | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

Zach:

I’ve had a few weeks to digest the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. The scenery, both beautiful and tranquil, provided a picturesque background in which to suffer.  The event was quite the experience.  There was almost every type of cyclist there.  Everyone from “fat bike” riders, to Radio Shack Nissan team pro Ben King, and of course, the emcee of the weekend, the man himself, Mr. Jeremiah Bishop.  Everyone had fun. Everyone suffered.  Everyone made new friends.  We suffered together, we laughed together.  There were long grinding climbs, world class descents, and hours of relentless focus.

As for me, I did what I set out to do.  Finish in under 10 hours – I did it in 8 hours and 45 minutes.

Every time I tell recall the experience, whether to friends or just in my mind, the more details I remember.  It’s as if it was an epic, suspenseful movie with ups, downs, twists, and turns.  Every time you watch the movie, you pick up on new things you hadn’t noticed the first time you watched it.  I remember the folks I had conversations with, where they were from and what inspired them to ride in the ALGF.  I remember suffering for hours, by myself, turn after turn yielding nothing but more elevation around the next corner.  I remember that pothole I hit at 38mph during a 15 mile descent around mile 80 that could have thrown me from the bike and thinking that, ‘I should try not to lose focus’. After all, I had ridden 80 miles and climbed over 10,000 feet  at that point in the day and my mind and body was fading.

Zach on the first climb of the day | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

I could point out around 20 highlights of the weekend in general, but the two that stand out the most have to be the second climb of the day, and crossing the finish line.  The second climb of the day was 3 miles, 1400 feet, on gravel, with nothing but 15-20 percent grade stair step pitches.  Many people were walking up most of the pitches.  Somehow I managed to stay on the bike, and never walked at any point during the day. Epic. Finishing goes without saying.  It was just good to accomplish something that I had spent all summer thinking and training for.

All in all, this was the hardest event I’ve ever done in my life.  After three weeks I’m just starting to get my legs back.  I’m undecided as to whether or not I’ll try and tackle it again next year, but I highly recommend it for anyone looking to take their riding to the next level.  I did things on a bike that I never would have dreamed about when I first started riding a few years ago.  It was an event I’ll never, ever forget.  Thanks to all my supporters who helped me do it, and most of all, my wife!  From here on, I’m looking forward to bike rides to the park with the family, Spaten Oktoberfest, and the off season.  Oh yeah wait, there is no off season!

For more pictures of the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, check out the photo gallery on our Facebook page or take a look at the amazing photos from the pros at Joe Foley Photography (who were gracious enough to let us use their images in this post). Plus we want to give a special shout-out to all of the volunteers at the Gran Fondo, who did a great job of making everyone feel welcome all weekend long – and especially to Jeremiah and his wife Erin, who were gracious hosts for this great event, even if Jeremiah did poke fun at Zach after the ride:

Zach’s Training Diary: Getting ready for the Gran Fondo

It’s almost time to see if our web merchant Zach has what it takes to ride hard in Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Virginia. If you’ve been following on the blog, Zach has been training all summer to take on the hardest Gran Fondo in the US – 104 miles, over 11,000 feet of climbing and dirt road climbs thrown in for good measure! So now it’s time to see how he’s feeling and what gear he’s picked to take on the challenge.

The big ride I’ve been training for is in just a couple of days!  I’m ready for it.  I feel like I spent the entire summer training for it and thinking about it.  I got burnt out on training for a while, right after I peaked too early and then fell off the wagon a bit.  Since then I have rested up, done some active recovery, and come back a bit stronger and more prepared.  I’ve got everything lined up and dialed in!  The only thing that’s bothering me is a brutal allergy attack, but I’ve been getting plenty of rest and come Saturday morning I’ll be riding no matter what condition I’m in!

Zach’s training log

Over the summer I’ve had the pleasure to ride a few bikes from Fuji to try out and see which one was the best for me, given the riding conditions of the Gran Fondo.  In an earlier post I talked about the Fuji Altamira and the Fuji SST.  I was able to test out two more bikes over the summer, the Fuji SL1 Comp and the Fuji Gran Fondo.

The SL1 Comp was a very comfortable bike, and would be the perfect bike for someone transitioning into their first carbon road bike, or doing long group century rides.  For me, though, it wasn’t quite as responsive as the Altamira during the long climbs. Since there will be 11,000 feet of climbing in the Gran Fondo, I may need to pass on this one.  Otherwise, the bike did great on long training rides with rolling hills around the Piedmont of NC.  I could easily get 80 miles in on it and feel great afterwards.

Zach riding the Fuji SL1 Comp

The fourth and last bike was the Fuji Gran Fondo.  This bike is designed for exactly what it’s named after, riding long and hard during a Gran Fondo, or any other similar style of ride.  The bike is a very fast machine, climbs great, is comfortable, and absorbs potholes and gravel easily to give a smooth and plush ride.  The upright geometry gave me no problems while reaching for energy gels, a water bottle, or getting my phone out of my back pocket to text my wife that I was OK while riding (just kidding on the texting part).  Plainly put, the Fuji Gran Fondo delivers!

Fuji Gran Fondo 3.0

So which one did I go for?  It was a hard choice. The SST and SL1 Comp were ruled out as top contenders for a Gran Fondo.  They’re great machines for what they’re designed for, but not great at long ascents on gravel roads.  The Gran Fondo would seem to be the obvious choice, but given that I also had the option of the similar Altamira that’s decked out with Shimano Dura Ace electronic shifting, I went with the Altamira!

There was just something about the Altamira that felt better for me.  It’s quick and snappy on the climbs, is very comfortable, it delivers optimal power transfer with its oversized bottom bracket, and at the end of the day was lighter than the rest of the choices. I’ve been riding it for quite some time now, and have made a few changes to prep it for the gran fondo riding conditions.  The Altamira came with an Ultegra standard 53-39 double crankset and an 11-25 cassette on the back.  I swapped those out for an Ultegra 50-34 Compact Crankset paired with an 11-28 cassette.  With that low of a gear ratio, I should be able to ride the hills of the Gran Fondo with no problems! For tires I chose Continental Gatorskins in a 700X25 size, that, when paired with Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher wheels, actually measure out to about 26mm in width. Running this set up at about 90 psi gives it all the cush and grip needed for those long gravel climbs.

So that’s the bike!  It’s a very important part of the puzzle, but there’s plenty more that’s needed for the fondo.  After testing several products over the summer, I’ve come up with my own personal checklist of things that have worked the best for me from head to toe:

  1. Shoes: I use Sidi Ergo 3 shoes (similar to the Sidi Ergo 2 Carbon Lite Road Shoes) as the adjustability and control of personal fit on these shoes is unmatched!  They’re light, stiff and make for great climbing shoes!
  2. Socks: DeFeet Air-E-Ator HiTop Honey Badger Black Socks are sooooo nasty!!  Defeet has stood the test of time, miles, sweat, rain, multiple washes, and continue to be at the top of the sock drawer.
  3. Kit: Louis Garneau Mondo Evo Bib Shorts and Team Short Sleeve Jersey - This kit is the absolute most comfortable kit I’ve ever had.  It’s light, breathable, and it wicks and dries sweat away in the blink of an eye.  Our Garneau Custom Cycling team from Performance wears this combo for our team kits.
  4. Jacket:  Depending on the weather report, I may be packing my Cannondale Pack Me Jacket.  It stows away into my jersey pocket nicely and is a welcome addition if the rain starts pouring.
  5. Gloves:  Pearl Izumi Select Gel Gloves because they fit great, are comfortable, and my hands don’t go numb after four hours in the saddle.
  6. Eyewear:  Smith Pivlock V2 Max – I’ve never in my life owned a better pair of cycling glasses than these.  The tapered lens tech is no joke, and after riding them I’ll never go to another brand.  They’re very lightweight, and extremely durable.
  7. Helmet:  Giro Aeon Helmet – I switched to this after riding a Specialized Prevail for a long time and I have to say, the Aeon feels lighter and it fits my head better.  The red and black also match my kit.  DONE!
  8. Nutrition:  I thought I had this dialed in, but at the Gran Fondo training ride, I had some severe cramps despite staying hydrated and eating.  Since then I’ve started taking GU Brew Electrolyte Drink Tablets.  They’re packed with plenty of sodium and seem to be doing the trick!  For solid food I’ve always enjoyed the multiple varieties of Honey Stinger Waffles, and margarita flavored Clif Shot Blocks Energy Chews!  I also take some supplements here and there such as SportLegs or Endurox Excel, depending on what I’m doing.  Lastly, I love Endurox R4 for a recovery drink.  The chocolate flavor is my favorite, but they’re all good.
  9. Inflation:  The Spin Doctor Rescue HP mini pump will be tagging along with me.  With all the gravel I stand the chance of having to change multiple flats, and I’d rather not carry a bunch of CO2 cartridges.
  10. Pocket Essentials:  The Blackburn VIP SL Ride Wallet will be carrying my ID, credit card, phone, etc.  I’ve been using this thing for months and have been caught in downpours and sweat through my jerseys.  Everything inside stays completely dry.
  11. Computer:  Garmin Edge 500 with H/R monitor and the BarFly computer mount.  All around I think this is the best GPS device out there.  I love the compact design and that it’s fully customizable to give me everything I want to know.  The BarFly makes it a quick glance of the eye to view the Edge 500, instead of having to tilt my neck all the way down to view the stem mount.
  12. Water Bottles: CamelBak Podium ChillJacket Insulated Bottle – I dismissed these until I forgot my bottles on a training ride and ended up having to buy water bottles.  Now, I’ll never use anything else.  It keeps your water cool and that goes a long way both mentally and physically when you’re out there grinding it out.

Well, that’s the gear.  The only thing left to do is head back up to Harrisonburg this weekend and ride the Gran Fondo!  I can’t wait to get back up there and do it.  Hopefully this allergy attack will subside and I’ll have a strong ride come Saturday morning.  I’ll have a full report after I get back. Thanks for reading!

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