Waiting for the sun to come up to build our travel bikes, after the inaugural Delta SEA to OGG flight, responded to a new friend, and her request on Facebook with
Hello Jennifer and thanks for the intro Jeremiah, timing-wise I’m on vacation and have reduced the amount I talk about bikes to a trickle. But see this Wired story. And this post. From there the snowbike tag. Fat bikes are great fun and also significantly improved, since I first started posting about them.
Back on the mainland in the new year, we’ve got a magazine issue dedicated to fatbikes and how, in the industry, a side or personal project will mature into a new category. What’s happening now with Trek and Spesh in the game, is the handling characteristics of each bike vary drastically. None bad, just loose like a tractor, all terrain like a jeep, short and tight with racing geo, or hauling like a semi.
If you’re at a resort or in a town with one like we were in Park City last week, absolutely get out there and try a fatbike. We descended slopes with them.
Now, back to building up the travel bikes, and riding island roads. Not taking about bikes too much, either.
Ordered new music for the new year from @heyrosetta and as soon as that drops, syncing it to my iPod for some long rides.
After closing out my cyclocross season at Waves For Waterâs UCI event in Tacoma, Iâve had a chance to evaluate my equipment choices from this season. This time around I brought in a second bike, a Davidson D-Plus, that I fitted as a singlespeed (you can read about the design in Issue 19 of our downloadable magazine). All the little details on the bike were spot-on, allowing the components to function at their best, though there were only two significant deviations from my usual parts selection: brakes and tyres. For the moment I still remain faithful to cantilever brakes, but rather than Avid Shorty Ultimates I chose TRPâs RevoX Carbon (to be reviewed in a separate post). The other change from my usual CX equipment was tubeless tyres. With an embarrassingly large personal stable of bikes and kit, I was eager to avoid cluttering my life and draining my finances with yet another single purpose tubular wheelset.
Like a tubular, a tubeless clincher tyre promised to allow low pressure in the CX races without pinch-flatting, yet without the laborious gluing ritual I could change out the treads each week if I so desired. And at the end of the season, the tubeless wheels could be reshod with commuter or gravel tyres, or maybe I leave the tubeless CX tyres on the wheels so I can go play around in the muddy woods this winter, free from the fear of damaging expensive tubular tyres on a casual outing. In contrast, my tubular CX hoops get cleaned and stored in wheelbags where they do nothing but take up space in my closet until next September. But promises are one thing, reality another.
The issue isnât finding rims that will work in a tubeless setup anymore. A few years ago CX tubeless-ready tyres were built for the rims/wheels engineered to match with road tubeless systems, similar to mtbâs UST standard. This largely limited you to wheel-systems like Shimano. Or you could use Stanâs NoTubes conversion kits on a regular rim, but often that meant a lot of effort and uncertainty to get just the right setup for the rim/tyre combination and avoid burping the tyre at low pressure. Now however there are numerous 700C rims being manufactured for either CX or 29er that mimic the easy-mounting NoTubes rim shape. These rims are often wider than typical âroad tubelessâ rims, giving a better shape and more support to a CX tyreâs larger casing volume . And thankfully for cantilever holdouts like myself, rims like the Hed Belgium Plus and Velocity A23 allow one to introduce tubeless technology into our race gear without requiring disc brakes and a new frameset and components to match. But all these developments have been slow to become broadly established in the market. The selection of tubeless-ready tyres has yet to catch up, and perhaps the resourcefulness of cyclocross racers and mechanics is actually hurting the cause.
Unlike road tubeless systems, which require much more precision in design and manufacturing due to the far greater air pressure used, CX tubeless use has largely evolved out of individuals experimenting with their own equipment. Like MTB, cyclocrossers were converting existing equipment to tubeless by any means necessary in the beginning.
Step 1: buy a NoTubes kit with tape.
Step 2: mount some clincher tyre with sealant and see if holds air.
Step 3: unmount and add more tape, repeat Step 2.
Step 4: go out and ride. If tyre burps, walk home and repeat Step 2
Step 5: replace tyre with a different model, repeat Step 4
Step 6: burp tyre in a race; receive condescending look from guys running tubulars, repeat step 4
Why would tyre companies use their resources to develop competent tubeless CX when the racers seem willing to tolerate all manner of kludges? The big brands continue to sell their standard clincher tyres; if you want to run them tubeless, thatâs not their problem. The packaging clearly states that using sealant voids the tyreâs warrantee.
To be fair, I donât really think that the industry is nefariously holding back properly engineered product, but they certainly go where the money is. A number of companies have finally started offering tubeless-ready cyclocross tyres, but only in a decidedly medium conditions variety, and by âmedium conditionsâ I mean âfor frequent use on pavement or gravelâ. The whole gravel grinder trend blew up just this past season, yet several tyre manufacturers are diving into 40mm plus tubeless ready gravel tyres. Where are the dedicated mud tyres? Maybe you donât need them for racing in California, but mud is the default for CX racing in New England and the PacNW. The big companies bank on OEM sales and hot new trends like the gravel grinder category when they develop clincher tyres.
Besides, everyone knows that the real racers inevitably choose tubulars when they get serious, right? The smaller companies, like Challenge and Dugast, that specialize in tubular cyclocross tyres make an effort to offer treads optimized for specific conditions, even different types of mud. With the cost of quality race wheels and tubulars multiplied by the number of potential race conditions, it doesnât take a genius to figure out that trying to always have the right setup for the races quickly spirals into a money-sucking vortex.
What racers need are tubeless-ready tyres that donât burp even at pressures below 25PSI, that mount easily without relying on luck and a heroic air-compressor, and come in a variety of tread types for actual cyclocross racing. It almost happened this year. Maxxis introduced their Mud Wrestler in 60tpi and 120tpi tubeless-ready versions, but not that many distributors were actually carrying them before the end of the season. Kenda, who make a very nice dry conditions/gravel tyre in the Happy Medium, showed a more mud-oriented version of their Kommando, called the Kommando X Pro, at Interbike 2013, but none of the distributors even have a sku# for them yet. However Hutchinson, an early proponent of tubeless CX, are on their third generation of tyres, and their Toro CX has been available for a season or so.
On the other hand, Michelin was a partner in developing the UST tubeless standard for mountain bikes, but they have made no effort in recent years to develop their cyclocross lineup in anyway, let alone introduce tubeless-ready versions. Specialty tyre maker Clement has expressed a desire to offer tubeless CX ever since the brand re-entered the market a few years ago, but that has yet to lead to anything. I know people who would kill to have their PDX tread in a fully tubeless-ready casing.
Next year I think that tubeless CX options will finally catch up, and in the very least I have found a tubeless setup that meets my requirements. More next time.
Somehow at the last minute, the Pacific Northwest got their UCI-sanctioned cyclocross race. When the Deschutes Brewery Cup in Bend OR was cancelled mid-season, it looked like there wouldnât be a UCI race anywhere north of California all year. Luckily the guys who run Seattle-based MFG Cyclocross secured a sponsor in the form of Waves For Water, a nonprofit organization that works to provide clean water to communities in need worldwide. With a little help from the guys at Cross Revolution, a rival CX race organizer, MFG managed to deliver 2 days of racing this past weekend that attracted racers from all over the NW as well as places like Colorado. Hats off to all involved!
For me, that will be my last weekend of cyclocross racing, though I mostly missed out on the first half of the season. Instead of getting ready for racing at the end of the summer, I was breaking down a 31 year old bike shop. Long, relentless hours of packing and moving made riding my bike, let alone going to the races, into a whimsical daydream. My long-awaited Davidson D-Plus cyclocross bike was the last bike to be painted at that location, but I was too busy to build it up until after we completed move-out on Halloween. I assembled the frame with a 2x10 drivetrain for photos and then immediately rebuilt it as a no-compromise singlespeed race bike, thereby fulfilling the D-Plus design concept (you can read more about the design and fabrication in Issue 19 of our downloadable magazine).
Before the season began I had ambitions to double up on race days, entering both Cat4 and singlespeed events. The plan was to use my still-awesome Redline Conquest Carbon as my geared bike and the D-Plus for singlespeed. As it actually played out, I raced Cat4 at Silverlake and Magnuson Park; SSCX at Woodland Park, Frontier Park, Gig Harbor, and the first day of Waves-For-Water at Marymount Park, Tacoma. At Steilacoom on the second day of the UCI weekend, I finally managed to do the double, so now itâs time to clean all the mud off my race wheels, return the D-Plus to a fully-geared mode, and reflect on what I have learned this season.
One thing I learned is that I donât like being at the back end of my fields. Iâve had good CX seasons in the past when I was consistently in with the top quarter of the finishers, but this fall Iâve been tail-end Tommy most of the time. The biggest difference is my lack of fitness. I have been lax in my training, spending too much time fixing other peopleâs bikes and making poor use of my time. And Iâm not getting any younger; from now on fitness wonât be a happy accident. Iâm kinda glad that CX season is over, because now I can concentrate on developing and implementing a training plan.
It wasnât pure humiliation though. I still have a decent finishing sprint in Cat4, and I am capable of racing twice in the same day. I expected to get trounced in the singlespeed races, especially in the races without separate âAâ and âBâ division. Lumping the fast racers and the race fodder into the same wave means that the field strings out right from the start, and the slower riders can at best hope to not get lapped by Craig Etheridge as he slays the singlespeed field yet again. Craigâs stranglehold on the competition would be a lot more irritating if he wasnât the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet at a starting line or in the parking lot. No shit, the guy is so nice itâs inhuman. Craig aside, a drubbing in the singlespeed division doesnât get me down, especially this season since Iâm still getting a feel for gear selection. After 3 or 4 seasons, I am familiar with most of the courses, but Iâve never had to think about how I would set up the bike if I couldnât shift during the race.
The day before Woodland Park CX, I put a 36x17 on the bike, partially because thatâs what I could scrape together from my stash. With the bike shop closed, the pool of parts from which I could draw supplies had disappeared, but I found that ratio to work reasonably well for me at Woodland Park. At about 58 gear-inches, itâs not a very tall gear, but I have always been a spinner on the road. And on the Redlineâs 1x10 setup, I use a 38T ring and spend most of the time in the lower gears. But even with that low gear I start to suffer on the longer climbs by the end of the race (another motivation for training). Still, even if I return to a competitive level of fitness, there is a practical limit of how much I can spin a low gear when the terrain is rutted and bumpy because you canât keep a smooth cadence while bouncing all over the place. In retrospect I wish I had tried out the BodyFloat suspension seatpost in a couple of the races. I had success using that post in gravel grinders last summer, but I have been hesitant to use it in a CX race since I donât feel confident about trying to remount the suspended saddle. For one thing, the saddle would be higher than normal without my weight on it, so I would need to leap a little higher as I remount, and then Iâm worried that I might not stick the landing as the post sags under my downward inertia. By next fall I would like to have the fitness to move up to a 38x17 (~61 gear-inches), but later this month I plan to experiment with the BodyFloat at Marymoore, since that is one of the really bumpy courses that is readily accessible.
I learned to look at the bottom of my shoes. Itâs probably a good idea to start the CX season with fresh cleats for your shoes. I didnât check the condition of my cleats before Silverlake. I had problems staying clipped in, I flubbed the sprint when I inadvertently unclipped, and in the end gave away a placing that I had worked hard to gain.
Another learning adventure has been tubeless cyclocross tyres. My goal has been to find a trouble-free CX tyre that would perform well in stereotypical NW courses: muddy grass corners, deep mud, and loam. Last summer I discovered some great gravel tyres in the Kenda Happy Medium. A tubeless-ready version is available in 32mm and even the regular 35mm version works well in a tubeless conversion. Having the wider option in a dry conditions/gravel tyre is great on rutted descents from mountain passes, but the tubeless-ready tyres are frequently only available in the 33mm size to meet UCI regulations. Worse, manufacturers want to make sure that their tyres will not exceed 33mm width even on todayâs trendy wide rims. That means that the tyres actually measure significantly less than 33mm unless they are mounted on those wide rims. When it comes to cyclocross racing, pretty much the only time narrower tyres offer any benefit is if you want that skinny to give more space for mud to fall through on a frame with tight clearances. Since Iâm racing in Cat4 or singlespeed, no one cares if my tyres are wider than regulation, but itâs not so easy to take advantage of that without wider mud tyre options. Iâll talk about my tubeless tyre revelation on another day, but in the end I did find a good tubeless CX tyre for Washington state.
For my Redline, I am using the Tufo Flexus Cubus 34 tubulars that I have had for the past few seasons. Tufo tyres may not be the lightest or most supple CX rubber around, but they are tough and long lasting. You do want to spend the money on the âFlexusâ version of Tufo tyres, as the base version is like a garden hose. Tufo has recently updated the tread designs of both the mud-loving Cubus and the medium condition Primus. I suspect that the Primus had more room for improvement since it really suffered badly in wet conditions, whereas the Cubusâ only real weakness might be a little excessive rolling resistance on hardpack or pavement. Regardless, Iâm going to keep the older Tufos since they pre-date the UCI 33mm rule. Maybe they stretched a little over time, but those brick red lovelies measure 35mm as they are now. Monster truck grip, Cadallac ride. If the Cubus didnât shed mud so well, their bulk would be a problem on the Redline, which is not overly generous on clearance. I do have one Flexus Primus mounted on my backup rear wheel; the only time I used it was actually for the singlespeed at the chilly Gig Harbor race. I was actually surprised how competent it felt on frozen grass. The experience rekindled my appreciation for the original Primus, though I still feel that it is not as versatile as some other options out there.
Since I cannot get the Flexus Cubus in 34mm anymore, I have reason to maintain those tyres for future seasons. Somehow I had slit the tread on the rear, maybe at Silverlake. The slice was just short of going into the casing, and I figured out that I could repair the wound in the rubber with a little bit of Aquaseal, which I have been using to seal the sidewall on CX tyres with cotton-poly casings like Challenge and FMB (Tufoâs vulcanized construction eliminates the need to seal the sidewall). The fix worked perfectly.
One key lesson that I learned was this: donât take whiskey hand-ups during a race. I donât know why I did it at Marymount; maybe the self-awareness that I was nowhere near the front of the singlespeed field. And I often have more than a shot of brandy or applejack immediately after the race, so what could it hurt to have a snort of the hard stuff in the final lap? All seemed well as I finished, but then I was overwhelmed with nausea. I was by the team tents when I started wretching, then soon I stumbled over to the treeline out of courtesy. Nothing was actually coming out of my mouth, but I wasnât fit for moving for a good quarter hour.
Patented rod-and-clamp design makes the bag-closure device very versatile
Ok, so it’s not really a bike thing per se, but check this out: With 6 days left to order in time for Christmas with Prime, Amazon published their annual Stocking Stuffers with a Story feature and it includes an origin story about a household product my company makes, Clip-n-Seal.
We originally designed this to keep coffee and chips fresh at home, but people have found all kinds of other uses for them, including disposal of chemical waste in manufacturing processes, and even to seal testing apparatus in the space program.
Used in making fast, race wheel that I reviewed in our mag.
The application of Clip-n-Seal that most interests me, as a cyclist, is their use in wheel building. During PressCamp earlier this year, I met with Enve Composites and we discussed their latest wheels, and how they use Clip-n-Seal at the factory. I can’t share the specifics, as it’s propriety process, but Clip-n-Seals keep their resins and carbon fibers fresh.
Originally designed to keep chips fresh
As Amazon shared on their site today, Clip-n-Seals are a stocking stuffer with a story that has many more chapters to write, fresh beans to grind, and wheels to make.
Bike Works at work in Seattle. Photo: Kristie McLean
This weekend, Bike Works is holding its fourth bi-annual Kids’ Bike-O-Rama at its Columbia City location. Staff, dedicated youth, adult volunteers, music, and community will accompany over 100 kids receiving a bike—for many, their very first bike. Partnering with social service agencies that serve individuals whom are low-income, refugee, and newcomers; including Neighborhood House, East African Community Services, and Southeast Youth and Family Services, Bike Works will give over 100 bikes to kids from the community from neighboring communities.
At Bike Works our youth programs are rooted in the belief that young people thrive when they are valued, feel a sense of belonging, and value themselves. We actively involve young people in their community which helps them to develop new skills and promote links with neighbors while catalyzing future youth involvement in community change. Our youth programs offer an innovative combination of education, bicycle repair and ownership, outdoor activities, and community service and include….
For more information about Bike Works, visit their site and Bike-O-Rama is December 20th, 2014, from 10am to 2pm.
It was fun AND competitive
This afternoon on your local CBS station, the CBS Sports Spectacular: Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest is showing. We attended the event as guests of Deer Valley to ride, hang out with the celebs, watch a Lady Antebellum concert, and take some photos. Like these….
DV Celeb Skifest: Alysia Reiner and Amy Ackker of Orange is the New Black and Person of Interest
Giancarlo Esposito and the Crab Wizard from Breaking Bad and the Deadliest Catch
The annual Celebrity Skifest pairs former Olympic ski legends with television and film celebrities for an exciting weekend of skiing, live music and fundraising for Waterkeeper Alliance, the fastest-growing grassroots environmental movement in the world. Waterkeeper defends communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water—from law-breaking polluters to unresponsive government agencies. So it was celebs in Park City and a couple of cyclists (us), having fun and protecting water. A pleasure to attend, and as I posted this week, the snow conditions weren’t great for skiing, but were for snow biking!
Conditions good for snow biking
Lady Antebellum performed
The best of High West
We rode fatbikes on the slopes in Park City and it was SUPER FUN.
Cyclocross drivetrains with single chainrings (either 1x10 or 1x11) are certainly trending, and earlier this year SRAM delivered their CX-1 line as a single ring gruppo-in-box. The crucial elements of the CX-1 group are the narrow-wide chainring tooth design (which a multitude of boutique brands have copied in the last 9 months) and the non-slanting parallelogram rear derailleur, which optimizes shifting performance and manages chain tension. That CX-1 derailleur is heavily influenced by SRAM’s mtb designs. Or to be more accurate, the CX-1 derailleur is exactly identical to the 10sp version of the X01 DH (downhill) derailleur except for the cable routing. The CX-1 derailleur has a bolt-on interface for a barrel adjuster like other traditional road derailleurs, while the X01 DH/10sp has front entry for the cable and a bolted-on pulley assembly. I use the X01 DH derailleur because the more direct cable run leaves a less housing to catch mud, grass, or some else’s QR skewer. To tune the shiftering in the absence of a derailleur-mounted barrel adjuster, I’ve installed a Jagwire inline barrel adjuster on the housing between the handlebar and frame. Many frame designs have some sort of barrel adjuster where the housing joins near the head tube anyways. Normally SRAM road derailleurs work best with a fairly generous loop of housing, so using the X01 DH unit really cleans up that area on my Redline Conquest carbon. If you’re piecing together a cyclocross bike with a SRAM 1x drivetrain, this might be a good idea.
Before you drop the money on an X01 DH derailleur, there are a few things you should know first. Obviously, you can only use SRAM DoubleTap shifters (technically you could use the SRAM bar end shifters too, Mr Retro). It does not matter if you’re using 10 or 11sp DoubleTap levers, but you must choose the 10sp DH version of the X01 derailleur, not the 7sp DH version nor the 11sp standard version. This is because SRAM’s mtb drivetrains use different cable-pull ratios for 10 and 11sp, while SRAM’s road rear derailleurs, both 10 and 11sp, use the same ratio as the mtb 10sp. The 7sp DH derailleur is merely a short cage version of the 11sp standard X01 meant to work on a reduced range cassette with the same cog-to-cog spacing as the enormous 10-42tooth 11sp mtn cassette. The final issue is that not all cyclocross frames have a cable path for the rear derailleur that can line-up with mtb-style derailleurs. On my Redline, the path is almost perfect coming sideways out of the chainstay, but on Byron’s Specialized Crux the housing exits from behind the dropout, as is common for many bikes that are Di2 compatible.
The Volta saddle is perhaps the most striking saddle in Fizik’s lineup, at once familiar and stunningly different. It’s deep flanks harken back to the days of the Selle San Marco Supercorsa or Selle Italia Turbo, yet the Volta’s visual lines are brutishly simple and sharp, as if Fizik had extracted and purified the essence of cycling in the 1980s.
Fizik is a brand that appeared less than two decades ago under parent company Relle Royal; the new flagship brand fuzed the latest technology and materials with innovative style, and promptly joined companies like Selle Italia and Selle San Marco as a marquee name in the high-end of the market. Fizik models such as the Alliante became trendsetters, while the Arione is destined to be a Fizik signature for decades to come. Fizik rode to success with modern designs that all fully embraced the aesthetic of lightweight and low-profile shell as displayed by the Selle Italia’s slightly earlier saddle Flite, a smash success in its own right. But not every rider has found a happy perch atop these low profile, ultra-modern seats like a Doritos chip dusted with foam padding. Is there something about the ergonomics of those older designs? Or have the 1980s finally become a stylistic touchstone for cycling, a Golden Age of Cycling for the millennials? Yet while Selle San Marco and Selle Italia are restarting production on the revered favourites from the past, newcomer Fizik had to invent their own retro “classic”. And thus became the Volta.
While consciously echoing the aesthetic of another era’s saddles, the Volta R1 is thoroughly modern in construction. The carbon composite shell straddles Fizik’s proprietary “Mobius” rail, formed by one uninterrupted loop of carbon that is riveted to the shell (the 2015 Volta R3 has “kium” metal rails). The shell has a relieved central section where a more pliable plastic takes the place of the carbon, to reduce pressure in the perineum area without relying on bulky padding. The microtex (a microfibre material) takes the place of leather, covering a thin layer of dense foam. In profile, the vintage saddle that the Volta most closely resembles is the Selle San Marco Rolls, having moderately deep flanks with a virtually flat upper line (no sag along the back nor kick at the tail). Like the Rolls, the Volta is well rounded laterally from the nose all the way back. However the Rolls flares wide from the centerline abruptly midways along the saddle length. In contrast, the straight-lined Volta looks almost a perfect triangle from above; the broad nose leads back to a moderate width at the rear flank. The flexible sides drop down just low enough to obscure the rails from view, but the saddle still weighs a meager 181gr, less than the original Flite that started the low-profile trend.
I’m going to be upfront about my riding impressions of the Volta: I really wanted to like it, I did in fact hate it. When people ask me about looking for a new saddle, I always advise them to pay attention to the characteristics of the saddles they’ve liked in the past. All the saddles I’ve found some success with had the same flat profile as the Volta, but they were more squared off across the top rather than the Volta’s domed shape. At this point all of my bikes have ended up with Arione saddles, which are long, flat, squared off, and have a gentle flare at the flanks. This shape allows me to scoot around on the saddle rather than being limited to one distinct “sweet spot” along the length of shell. But atop the Volta, rather than feeling that I could comfortably move fore or aft to alter how I was pedaling or change my upper body position, it just felt like I was sitting on a traffic cone that I had mounted sideways on the seatpost. Sliding back on the saddle just wedged more material between my thighs rather than better supporting my “sit bones”. And despite what other reviewers have written, I did not feel like the Volta offered anything at the back to push against. Maybe if the Volta was a little more flared at the flank or perhaps swept up at the back, then I would not have felt like I was going to slide off the back edge of the saddle. Sitting on this saddle was like being lost on an open plain: I never knew where I was and never was any place where I wanted to be.
This isn’t to say that the Volta doesn’t deliver on its promise to fit like those classic saddles of yesterday. If I reveal the fact there are no classic saddles that suit me either, one could argue that my displeasure with the Volta implies that this saddle actually may suit riders who can’t find what they want in the low profile saddles of today. However, I will caution that there is much more to the shape of a saddle than whether or not the shell obscures the rails from view. This is most definitely not an Arione with shorter tail and deeper flanks. At $300 with the Mobius carbon rail ($200 for the R3’s kium rail), the Volta R1 would be a costly experiment in style for most riders. It also seems like an odd duck within the Fizik saddle line because it does not easily slot into their “Spine Concept”, in which saddles are marketed to three categories of riders, differentiated by their posture and riding style.
Saddle preference is a distinctly personal thing, arrived at with experience and long miles. It is good to experiment a lot if you are unsatisfied with your current perch. And if what you discover at the end of your search is something that looks beautiful atop your bicycle, then so much the better. The Volta R1 was not that saddle for me.
Two years ago, Bike Hugger collaborated with Seattle’s Davidson Custom Bicycles on a titanium cyclocross that could be easily switched from singlespeed to multispeed “modes.” Sure, just about any multispeed bike can replace the rear derailleur with a chain tensioner, but the idea was to eliminate such items since like derailleurs they can foul with mud, grass, or ice. Also, one would want to have two alternate handlebars, one connected to only to brakes and one with derailleurs as well, and be able to swap them with minimal cable replacement and/or tuning. The bike that came to be known as the Davidson D-Plus has seen plenty of racing, geared and singled, and has actually gotten tons of road riding in these Northwest winters. But like all prototypes, there was room for improvement.
To read what improvements Mark made in the latest iteration of the D-Plus and the rest of the story, please subscribe on iTunes or the Web. Annual subscriptions are $16; individual issues are $4. Your money directly supports authors like Mark who contribute to Bike Hugger.
Before heading back to Seattle today, we hiked above Guardsman Pass, and at the the top of Empire Pass, to shoot this view of the Wasatch Mountains. Will share the rest of the Park City story soon, about the biking we did, gear we used, and the Scott Foil.
Hiked with a Thule camera bag full of gear
Rode up Marsac
For the holidays, Issue 19 is about giving to the community; also how bikes change lives, and contribute with projects like Bike Works here in Seattle. There’s an article about the UCI race this weekend and donating to Waves for Water.
It’ll drop later today on iTunes and the Web and is published independently without ads. Annual subscriptions are $16; individual issues are $4. Subscription revenues directly supports the authors, photographers, and editors who contribute to Bike Hugger.
In the minds of many cyclists, Sidi shoes are the gold standard by which all others are measured. Yet in stark contrast to the quality of the rest of the shoe, Sidi’s insoles are frankly subpar even when compared to shoes that cost half as much. Sidi has made some strides lately to bring the insoles to a level more befitting of such a premium shoe, but even in their flagship road shoe Wire, the effort is hardly remarkable. One of the better insole/footbed systems available is the Giro SuperNatural ($49.95), which has three sets of modular arch support that allows the rider to select the amount that serves the interface between foot and shoe. One problem in fitting an aftermarket insole into a Sidi Wire is that the sole of the shoe has holes in it feeding air through channeled vents. The stock insole has holes aligned with those in the shoe’s sole; Giro’s aftermarket insole does not. But I shall have my cake and eat it too.
To put vent holes into the Giro insole, I first laid the stock insole over the Giro model, then marked the location of the holes into the new insole with a pen poked through the stock insole. Then I opened up a hole at each mark using a 1/8” drill bit on a small drill to bore through the Giro insole. The SuperNatural insole is primarily a firm, flexible foam pad that stretches around the bit rather than cutting into a smooth 1/8” hole. The X-Static fiber on the top surface of the insole also also ends of fraying a bit. So the next step is to make the hole bigger and seal the frays in the X-Static. The best way to seal frays in synthetic fibers is usually to singe them quickly. Heat can also be used to widen the holes in the foam without actually removing material from the insole; high heat just melts the foam a bit, which collapses away and leaves the hole bigger. I suppose a small tip soldering iron would have been a great idea, but I don’t own one. The tediously slow, primitive, yet effect way is to use some roundish steel pokey thing and heat with a candle. I used a Torx wrench that was surplus in my tool box. It’s so slow because I had to reheat the tip of the wrench in between each application to an individual hole, but it worked like a charm! Be aware that you’ll have to pause occasionally and let the whole wrench cool, because the portion of the wrench you’re grabbing eventually gets too hot to hold.
The tactic I used was to concentrate heating about 1cm from the tip of the wrench so that the hottest part didn’t touch the insole first. Then I pushed it into the pre-drilled holes from the top of the insole, so that the X-Static melted frays of X-Static get pushed into the hole, not up at the foot. Then I hold the tool in there for about 5-10sec, letting the heat be absorbed by the foam. Then I pull the wrench out, giving a twisting motion. You may have to adjust technique and the amount of heat for a given insole’s construction.
Bike Hugger HydroFlo water bottle by Purist ($15)
A cyclist can probably never have too many water bottles, but that doesn’t mean one can’t tell a good bottle from a bad bottle. A bad bottle ends up in the back of the cupboard, repurposed as a pen cup, or left at a race venue and only remembered a week later. A good water bottle is the one reflexively reached for. When you reach for the Bike Hugger Hydroflo water bottle by Purist, you grab onto a pliant case with a subtle, three-side cross section that fits the hand well and is easy to squeeze. The valve provides a high flow rate yet virtually eliminates inadvertent dribble. Oh, and it has that classy Bike Hugger logo, too.
Giro Supernatural Footbed Kit ($49.95)
One of the best features of Giro shoes is that they come with the company’s SuperNatural Footbed Kit (insole) that allows a rider to adjust the amount of arch support with 3 pairs of modular arch wedges. You can even tweak the fore-aft position of the arch support to a small degree. But even if someone has a different brand of shoe, the footbed kit is available separately so you can fine tune the fit of your own shoe. It’s a really nice idea as a gift because neither you nor the person receiving the gift needs to know exactly how much support is needed beforehand. The Giro SuperNatural kit is a cycling specific insole, unlike many others marketed to a wide variety of activities such as running and hiking; thus it takes up minimal volume in the shoe compared to most insoles. The top layer uses an X-Static anti-microbial treatment.
Personally, I find that these insoles work nicely in Sidi shoes, which despite being the gold standard for cycling footwear, invariably come stock with crap insoles.
Light & Urban 800 Fast Charge ($180)
The Urban series of commuter headlights from Light & are my personal favourites, and the sweet little Urban 800 Fast Charge is just a bit sweeter still. Throughout the 2014-2015 line, all the Urban headlights have a new charge port access that seals better against water ingress. This is nice if you like to hang the light upside-down on the handlebar leaving the bar tops less cluttered but giving water invasion a helping hand due to gravity. The new seal makes the current Urban lights waterproof at 1M for 30min.
Next, the latest LED tech and firmware allow L&M to squeeze even more output and burn times from these dainty lights. The Urban 800 is actually kicking out 800 lumens on high for 1.5hrs, 400 lumens for 3hrs, and a very practical 200 lumens for 6hrs.
Finally, the Fast Charge version of the Urban 800 only takes 2.5hrs to charge, as opposed to 6hrs for the standard Urban 800. Some riders would suggest that modern bikes are an exercise in planned obsolescence, that the bicycle was basically perfected by the 1970s, but today’s headlights beat the pants off of lights even ten years ago in EVERY parameter.
Rene Herse: The Bikes The Builder The Riders by Jan Heine ($86)
When I was eight years old, I liked Garfield cartoons. I had a grandmother who ever after gifted me a Garfield book ever year at Christmas, straight on till my college years. Don’t be like Gran; if you’re gonna give a book, give them something wonderous and timeless. I suggest the Rene Herse book from Bicycle Quarterly Press.
The Frenchman Rene Herse became one of the most revered names in cycling, and this book is a story about the man, the bikes he built, and the people who rode them. More than that, it is a journey to a Europe of a bygone era, from the interwar years through the decades immediately following WWII, into what most would call the Golden Age of Cycling. It is a book so lavishly illustrated with photographs and anecdotes that you can almost feel the breeze and the sun on your face and smell the French countryside as you spin the pedals alongside those riders. If you put this book on a coffee table, I suggest it be laid out alongside a baguette with jambon de pays and gruyere.
Fizik Performance Classic bar tape ($24-28)
My favourite bar tape is the Fizik Perfomance Classic. It has the Fizik’s durable Microtex (microfibre) backed by a layer of dense foam padding. It is embossed and stitched asymmetrically, so depending on how you wrap your bars you can have more or less texture. It’ll survive many scrapes and it washes up well too. The tape comes in seven colours, but I recommend you do NOT get the “Soft Touch” white. Sure it feels like suede, but it gets dirty like suede too; plus it doesn’t hold up like the white Microtex version of Performance tape. Fizik Performance Classic enhances anyone’s road bike.
Sugoi Zap Helmet Cover ($28-30)
This is kinda a no-brainer, especially if your cyclist lives in one of the cold, wet parts of the world, and especially if he or she has a really nice helmet. Today’s premium helmets are festooned with holes for ventilation, which isn’t actually desirable in a cold, wind-driven rain. Sugoi’s Zap helmet cover stretches over most helmets (sans visor) to give wind and water protection; you can easily stow it in a pocket or commute bag when not needed. It comes in two colours, black and hi-vis yellow. Both have reflective accents.
Abus Lock-Chain 585/75 ($40)
The 575/85 Lock-Chain from German company Abus is lightweight and a handy size. The fabric covered chain and elastomer encased lock head protect the bike’s finish, while the 5mm square-section punches above its weight against cutting devices. While the 575/85 is not the ultimate in bicycle security, it is exceedingly convenient to carry and use, while thoroughly outperforming the majority of cable locks. Available in a variety of colours. For heavier duty, see the Abus Lock-Chain 880 “Steel-O-Chain” or burly 1060/85.
Icebreaker Blast Vest ($260)
Merino wool is awesome because of its ability to provide warmth without excess bulk in a wide temperature range, but synthetic technical fabrics usually win when it comes to wind resistance. Icebreaker’s Blast Vest puts a lightweight 150 merino layer against the body and then adds a polyurethane middle layer for wind resistance and a outer polyester layer to ward off rain. If you’re looking for a more casual piece that works well as a mid-layer, I’d recommend the Sierra Vest ($140) made with 200 merino without the layers. A soft, cozy vest with hand pocket, the Sierra Vest is great for hiking, hanging out, or working on bikes.
Hugga Tool Roll ($40)
My phone, my keys, and my Hugga Tool Roll…things I don’t leave home without. The waxed canvas is water resistant and durable without bulk, and the integrated strap allows you cinch the roll down so it’ll slide into a jersey pocket easily. Drop it into you backpack or pannier when you commute. Snug all you little bike-fix-it trinkets and a tube together and then unroll it before you when you need to work on your bike. I actually wrap the roll around a mini-pump for road rides, or I tuck a CO2-inflator in for mtb rides.