Archive | January, 2011

A Diamond in the Rough.

20 Jan

The bike shop is a dying breed. This doesn’t mean you can’t go to a store and buy yourself a bicycle. There are a plethora of cookie cutter bike stores or department style stores that sell cycling products. However, cycling is not a cash and carry endeavor. It is an experience that involves more than simply hopping on a bright shiny new bicycle and pedaling down the road. While some of the other stores do carry a nice array of products most of them lack the ability to convey this experience. They have no true history or character, and cannot educate and inform like a true bike shop can.

A true bike shop has its own vibe and feel, each one is immediately recognizable as something unique and special. While a bike shop may share similar elements with others,  no two will be the same. It is a feeling you get when you walk through the door.  The experience of the bike shop is one that assaults and heightens all the senses.  You experience it with your whole body.

Aeroadvantage negated by the beard.

The first thing that hits you is the smell. A sweet yet unmistakably industrial combination of rubber, lubricant, suspension oil, and elbow grease tells you that you have arrived. Next, your eyes begin to take in the entire product range both new and old. Shiny new bikes, the height of carbon fiber and suspension technology reside serenely next to vintage cruisers so unique they are no longer for sale, but museum pieces. The latest in cycling apparel and trends are neatly displayed on the sales floor. While the walls exhibit vintage posters from years past or signed jerseys from world champions. Trophies from races won, long collecting dust may be proudly displayed somewhere out of the way. Everywhere you look is something unexpected and exciting. While you are still getting your bearings you will be greeted by one of the sales staff who probably understands you need a minute to take it all in.

Once your eyes adjust your ears will begin to pick up on the sounds of the shop, hammers clanking, saws moving, the 1970s era bench grinder whirring to life are some of the usual sounds.  Somewhere in the back you may hear the Mechanics. Peek around and you will see them busily wrenching on the days repairs. A huffy or Murray may be in the stand next to the latest and greatest road, tri, or mtn bike.  Their motions seemingly choreographed to the soundtrack of the day. techno, R&B, rap, jazz, blues, bluegrass, mathrock, metal, and the occasional jam band are just a few of the regular genres. One thing is certain you will never hear piped in satellite MUZAC in a bike shop.

In the midst of their efficient workings you may hear their discourse.  Sometimes a gentle buzz about what’s new in the race scene or the newest section of trail being built. Other days the talk may be of some obscure racer important for his exploits in the history of cycling. The next big bike event, race, who is riding strong, who isn’t riding anymore, who just bought a house, who just had a baby, are all topics you wouldn’t be surprised to hear discussed in the shop.  Politics, religion, worldviews, history and family are generally reserved for only the most heated debate, but are never off limits. At the end of the day a good ride or a beer together will bring everything back to level for the next day’s work. All these things came up, but bikes and cycling are still the main focus.

Aside from its eccentricities the Bike Shop provides to its customers a level of service not found many other places. While our customers are the livelihood of the shop; they become more than that. Through the shared interest of cycling customers become a second set of friends and family to the bike shop. Over time a regular customer will be included in the daily banter of the shop. For the trusted few they might be allowed in the back of the shop to clean their bike, do a race check, or change a tube. With theses privileges come the occasional ribbing and snide comments reminding the newcomer of their place in the pecking order. Remember, the staff of the bike shop is like a second family so a certain level of familiarity is understood.

A bike shop is uniquely qualified to serve the needs of the community for one reason, its employees.  A bike shop hires based on a higher level of experience than the normal bicycle department style store. A typical bike shop employee will have multiple years of experience in the cycling industry.  This experience can come from many different places. In fact no two employees will have taken the same path to get from beginner to seasoned professional. That is why a shop will have different employees that specialize in different areas of the cycling experience. Any of the workers can answer most questions and there will always be someone you can trust with your more specific questions.  The knowledge base and technical expertise are the reason you get top notch service, and the reason you put up with the occasional attitude.

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A well organized and extensive service area.


Riding Comfortably Through the Winter

11 Jan

The Subzero Glove. For temps below freezing.

This time of year it is easy to hang up the bike and forget about it until the warm winds of summer return. However, for those of us that don’t have a cadre of other sports to keep us busy in the winter time; we have to find a way to ride through the cold. Cycling through all weather conditions affords the rider a certain ethereal connection to the elements that is invigorating.  While it can seem daunting, the savvy cyclist can learn to love the cold weather.

With a little preparation and a small change in attitude all the complaints that accompany riding in the cold weather can be overcome. Some of the complaints we hear over and over again are: my hands and feet go numb, my clothing is too restrictive and it takes too long to get ready, my bike doesn’t feel right. I will touch on some solutions to these problems in this brief article. Of course everyone who rides in the cold has their own tricks that work for them,  but these simple guidelines  have helped me.

My Hands and Feet go Numb:

The obvious answer here is that you are not using the appropriate equipment. There are numerous ways to keep your extremities warm, and the biggest thickest gloves and socks in your closet are not always the best thing you can do. Your hands and feet need to be covered in a windproof, water resistant, fabric that is breathable.

For your hands, this means that you need to invest in some proper cycling specific gloves; they make them for a reason. You may find that you even need several pairs for different conditions. I have two pairs of cold weather gloves. The pair that I use on truly nasty days that is waterproof and uses a separate glove liner.If the temp is in the twenties and I plan on being out for a while I will throw a hand warmer in between the liner and the outer. The other pair that I have is for most other days. It has a wind proof front and light insulation on the inside the cuff also extends up higher on the wrist to keep the breeze from getting under your jacket.  Also, your big ski gloves are neither practical nor appropriate for cycling use; they are too bulky to effectively shift and brake.

There are many types of jackets available.

Now, for the feet, there are tons of old wives tales out there about wrapping your feet in plastic Wal-Mart bags and duct taping the vents on your shoes while wearing the thickest socks you can cram into your shoes. These efforts generally result in even colder feet. The extra compression on the nerves of your feet by all the extra stuff causes numbness because of the pressure too. A simple solution can be found in using dedicated cycling booties with a thin wool sock. There are several types of shoe covers that you can get and like gloves it is best to have two, but err on the side of warmth. A more extreme solution that some riders employ is a winter specific shoe that is insulated. On very cold days a thin “toasty toes” can be inserted into the shoe for extra warmth.

My Clothing is Too Restrictive and It Takes too Long To Get Ready :

Ok these two complaints are directly related to one another and also somewhat tie into the last complaint, “my bike doesn’t feel right”. Generally speaking your clothing takes too long to put on and feels too restrictive because of the same reason. YOU ARE WEARING TOO MUCH OF IT. One only needs a few key pieces specifically designed for cold weather riding to free up your range of motion, and extra time to ride, because you are not pulling on layer after layer.  Here are the essentials for winter riding (gloves and shoe accessories excluded). Insulated Bib tights, a long sleeve base layer, and a windproof breathable top will suffice for most days. It normally takes me only a few seconds longer to get ready to ride in the cold because of gloves hat and shoe covers. I always chuckle to myself when I see people on group rides wearing their summer bib shorts, leg warmers, and then a flimsy set of lights over all that. For their top you may see base layer, jersey, arm warmers then a long sleeve jersey covered up by a windbreaker. All these layers cause too much restriction in range of motion and too many friction points that can cause chaffing. Not to mention that breathability goes out the window with all those layers.

My Bike Doesn’t Feel Right:

Tom knows that Less is More.

Ok, so you have your position dialed in at the end of the season, but everything feels out of whack when you ride in the cold. This problem can be both an equipment problem and a biomechanical reaction to the colder temps. As we mentioned earlier, all those layers build up to limit range of motion. This equates to an effectual decrease in flexibility. Therefore, you can’t achieve the same comfort with your current position. Try using the appropriate clothing and this feeling should go away. We have seen in some athletes a general “tightening up” in the off season. In other words a rider becomes slightly less flexible in the winter months due to cold, activity level, diet, etc. If the proper clothing doesn’t help then you may want to make a consultation appt. with a bike fitter to see if your position needs to be adjusted.

Everyone who rides in the extreme cold eventually develops their own habits that work for them. These recommendations are what have worked for me and the many cyclists I help on a regular basis. I would love to hear what you think and what works for you. Feel free to contact me via phone 479-442-9311, email, or facebook Highroller Cyclery

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P.S. Insulated water bottles are a great way to keep your water from freezing on really cold days. Just fill them with a warm mix of your favorite winter drink, and they offer comforting refreshment during the ride.