Barefoot in the winter?

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I dabbled with “minimal” footwear about 3 years ago.  The Vibram 5 fingers were all the rage-that may be a bit of an overstatement- and I really liked them.  I enjoyed the feeling of being connected to the ground, and I did notice greater strength and flexibility in my feet.  But, let’s be honest, you can’t just wear those things everywhere……well I couldn’t.  After the first summer, they went on the shelf.

Fast forward to this last summer.  I got a pair of Bedrock Cairn sandals, and wore them nearly every day.  I rode my bike in them, I backpacked and hiked in them.  I would be wearing them right now if the temps hadn’t dipped below my comfort zone.

As the weather got cooler I went back to some “normal” shoes.  Not surprisingly, they didn’t feel right anymore.  There was too much heel lift, and not enough room for my little piggies.  So what’s a person to do?

Thankfully I’ve found two minimal shoes that I think will take me though the winter months.

First the Hana from Xero shoes.  The Hana is a simple canvas shoe that uses a lacing/heel tightening system similar to a huarache sandal.  The 5.5 mm sole provides enough protection and adequate grip.  These shoes are super light (stated weight for a mens size 9 is 8oz.).  You barely know you have them on.  The more I wear these shoes, the more I like them.

The Hana will keep my feet covered, but wont do much for really cold weather.  I started looking for a boot that would, hopefully, get me through some snowy conditions.  I recently bought a pair of boots from Vivobarefoot.

The Gobi II Winterproof has a seam-sealed, insulated, water resistant canvas upper and thermal insole.  I’ve been wearing these for about a week.  They do seem warmer, and we’ll see how they fare as I wear them through the winter.

Have any of you experimented with minimal foot ware?  Full time minimalist?  Let me know if you have any favorites.  I’m always on the lookout for new shoes!

Chris

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Simple is not maintenance free

bikes

 

One of my most vivid memories growing up is of my Grandfather.  “Mr. Fix It” could fix anything.  I mean anything.  I didn’t seem to matter what was broken, grandpa showed up and fixed it.  These were the days before everything was disposable.

The bicycle is one of the most elegantly simple machines ever devised.  At least, in my mind, it should be.  That shouldn’t absolve the end user from knowing his, or her way around it’s workings.

It has never been easier to find books, tutorials and how-to information.  The internet is full of videos that will show you, step by step, how to fix most things on your bike.  It’s going to require some task specific tools, probably a work stand and some patience.

There are a handful of things that I think everyone should know how to do.

Fix a flat tire.  It’s super easy.  Like anything else, the more you do it, the better you will get.  Here’s an old video we shot at the store showing how it’s done.

Clean your bike.  It’s going to make your drive train last longer.  It’s going to make potential big problems easier to spot.  It’s going to make your bike quieter.  It’s going to make your mechanic (should you have need of one) happier.  A word of warning-Do NOT use the turbo setting on your garden hose and give it a direct blast.  Under no circumstances should you use a car wash.  That water will push right past the seals in your bottom bracket, hub and head set leaving you with a bigger problem than a dirty bike.  A bucket of water, a couple of brushes, and the shower setting on your hose works just fine.  Just make sure to get some lube on all those places where there is metal to metal contact after drying.

Lube your chain.  Wipe off the gunk with a rag.  If it’s really dirty, some degreaser may be required.  Find a place on the chain that you can find again, and put one drop of lube on every roller.  Work your way around until you get to where you started.  Too much lube is arguably worse than not enough.  Too much lube will just attract dirt, and increase wear on your drive train. *** I don’t care what lube you use as long as it’s meant for a bicycle.  That old can of WD-40 in the blue can is NOT a lube!***

Try wrapping your handlebar.  Handlebar tape is an inexpensive way to make your bike look different/better/newer.  It’s fun, and easy to do.  Give it a try.

If you’re thinking, “I’m not into the idea of fixing my bike” I get it.  Your LBS (local bike shop) is full of great mechanics-I’m proud to say that I’ve worked with some of the best.  They’ll be happy to help you out.  All that being said, knowing how your bike works will make explaining issues to your mechanic SO much easier.

While I don’t know that I totally agree with the sentiment that the bicycle will “save the world”, but I know it’s improved the quality of my life.  Just understanding how the bike works deepened the connection between me and my machine.  Hopefully the same will be true for you.

If you have any bicycle related questions, feel free to ask.  I will do my best to answer them.

Ride on!

Where does your food come from?

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I’m turning 52 in just a few days.  It’s understandable, I think, to spend more time thinking about your health as you get older (probably shouldn’t wait that long).  While many people focus on the need to exercise more, I’ve spent more time focusing on the food I eat.  I think mine may be the first generation raised on processed food.  I remember eating tv dinners, the emergence of diet soda etc.  These were all promoted with convenience, and health in mind.  Little did we know.

Just a little investigation tells you that for decades we’ve been sold a bill of goods when it comes to what we should eat.  I’m no doctor, nor am I’m not a nutritionist, but cutting processed foods out of my diet has had a positive impact on my health and well being.

I’ve recently become fascinated by the small farmer.  People that have devoted their lives to growing natural foods and raising animals without stuffing them in cages and pumping them full of unnecessary hormones.  These are the folks selling their goods at your local farmers market.

We have several of these small farmers here in Indiana.  I hope to speak to some of them soon, so I can share what I learn in this space.

Great.  Now I’m hungry.

 

Embracing the new without throwing out the old.

I’ve spent the better part of the last decade trying to fend off the onslaught of technology that has bombarded the bike industry.  Constant “improvements” that add varying degrees of enjoyment for the end user.  Sometimes, like in any other industry, we see change merely for the sake of change.  It makes me crazy.  However, with a recent bike build I employed some features that, while not brand new, I had previously eschewed.  I’m warming to the idea that all new things are not necessarily bad.  Radical, huh?

We’re at an interesting point with regards to bicycle technology.  Like with any tech, things happen pretty quickly, but not all  “improvements” lend themselves to a better overall riding experience.  My biggest complaint is that this new tech makes the bicycle, which by it’s very nature is a very uncomplicated machine, much more difficult to work on.  When professional mechanics struggle what hope does the home mechanic have?  I think if what “we” (as an industry) really want is more people using bikes, shouldn’t those bikes be a simple and straightforward as reasonably possible?

Now, you have to understand I’m not talking about recreational “bike path” bikes.  Those bikes are straight forward, easy to ride and easy to maintain.  I’m talking about bikes ridden by more……enthusiastic riders (I refuse to use the word “serious”.  Why would anyone-save for someone making their living on a bike-be serious about something that should be so enjoyable and care free?).

The touring bikes that I ride, and sell have historically been the epitome of a bicycle that is functional, durable and straight forward with regards to design.  What I started to notice a year or so ago was “newfangled” tech creeping into my precious touring bikes!  The horror.

As I started to build a new bike this year I started to think about adding some of these new features.  Things like a 1x drivetrain have allowed me to ditch my front derailleur.  Tubeless tires make the big tires I ride, ride even better.   Finally, disc brakes allow me not only better stopping power, but more flexibility in tire selection.  There were challenges here and there, but I shouldn’t have been surprised that everything worked just the way I expected.  Have no fear, there are plenty of old things on this bike (least of which is the rider!).  It is, to me, the ideal mix of old and new tech.  It employs classic touring gear while borrowing from current mountain bike, and bike packing gear.

Keep one foot firmly planted in the past, while exploring whats new and embracing what works for you.  I like it.  I’m sure there are more aspects of life where this strategy can be employed.  I look forward to further epiphanies.

Below is a picture of said bike.

Thanks for reading.

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A bill of goods

I hear it all the time.  “I need clipless pedals so I can pull up!”  Sigh.

I think you’ve been sold a bill of goods.

So many people come into my store asking about clipless pedal and shoes.  Their assumption is that they “need” these items in order to be a “serious” cyclist.  If I could channel Denzel (channeling Malcolm X) for just a minute.  “Ya been took!, Ya been hoodwinked, Bamboozled, Led Astray, run amok!”

Before I get too far I should say that I’m never going to tell anyone not to use something.  If you want to wear cycling specific pedals and shoes, go right ahead.  I wore them for a couple of decades.

My issue is with folks thinking they NEED to wear them.  YOU DON’T.

When I put flat pedals on my bikes and could ride in whatever shoes I happened to be wearing, I fell in love with my bike all over again.

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Bedrock sandals and MKS Grip Kings-a tasty pairing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what about this “pulling up” thing?  What I can tell you is this: It took me the better part of a season to get used to flat pedals.  My left foot particularly kept wanting to come off the pedal.  As I got used to not being attached, I found that my feet stayed planted on the pedals, and my pedal stroke smoothed out.  Pulling up was a crutch that actually took away from efficiency.

Don’t believe me?  I get it.  Here are just a few of the articles I found on this subject.

http://pedalinginnovations.com/does-this-video-really-prove-that-flats-are-more-efficient-than-clipless-pedals/

http://www.nourishbalancethrive.com/blog/2015/10/02/its-not-about-pulling-why-flat-pedals-work/

http://www.over40cyclist.com/correct-pedalling-technique/

Here’s the bottom line: if you like your pedals and shoes, by all means, keep wearing them.  If you’re unsure, however, why not give flat pedals a try?

Ride on!