A question for bike riders

I can’t help but contemplate the ever changing face of retail.  It’s how I’ve made my living for most of my adult life.  That said, I have a question for those of you out there that ride bikes (bicycles).

Do you shop at locally owned bike shops?

If so, are you “loyal” to one, or do you shop several? (assuming you have more than one to choose from.)

Is there anything you would change about the store/stores?  This would include products or experiences.

You can leave your answers in the comments.  I thank you for taking the time to help me with this.

Ride on!

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There’s no such thing as perfect

mari lezhava

There’s a thing that happens with bikes.  I’m sure it happens with other things too.  It’s a never ending quest for the perfect (fill in the blank).

If a bike comes out and it has feature X, it should have had feature Y.  Maybe it should have had X, and Y.  If it takes this size tire, it should have taken that size tire.  You get the idea.  It’s a constant second guessing and thinking that “if they had just done……this, it would be PERFECT“.

Well, I’ve got sour news.  There is no perfect.  It’s pretty hard for a thing, no matter what it is, to be perfect.  Things are designed by people, and people are imperfect.  Gloriously imperfect.  Expecting perfection can be a one way trip to disappointment.

What a thing, like a bicycle, can do is provide an experience. An experience, in my opinion, certainly can be perfect.  I love my bikes. I’ve tweaked them, changed them, sold some and bought others.  Each and every one, each incarnation has allowed me to have wonderful experiences.

When we focus on the thing, and not the experience, we run the risk of losing something quite special.

Ride on.

Chris

 

 

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!

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.

IMG_4222

Roads were meant for bikes (no really).

usefulllane

Using your bike for transportation is a great idea.  It’s also an idea that can be somewhat daunting.  I thought I would jot down my tips for, what I think makes for a successful commute (or trip to the store etc…).

  • Choose your route wisely.  The biggest mistake I see is people thinking they’re going to ride the same route that they drive every day.  It may work in rare instances, but more often it ends a commuting career before it even begins.  Google maps/Earth is going to be your best friend.  Linked neighborhoods, and side streets can keep you off of busy roads.  It’s a must.

 

  • Pick the right tool for the job.  I’m talking about bikes people.  The right bike can make things so much easier.  Wider tires, racks and fenders are must haves IMO.  That means skipping the go-fast bike (unless that’s the only one you’ve got).  You don’t have to spend a fortune.  A fitness hybrid with some accessories can do it all.  It may be the only bike you need.  The FX line from Trek is a great place to start.  Want to spend a little more?  How about a Long Haul Trucker from Surly?  Or a Sam Hillborne from Rivendell.  Those are lifetime bikes.

 

  • Get the weight off of your back.  Backpacks are for noobs.  Unless you’re carrying nothing more than a T-shirt and handkerchief, get it in a bag somewhere on the bike.  You’ll thank me later.

 

  • Light it up!   It’s not any kind of news flash; drivers are more distracted than ever.  I run lights day and night.  I’ve got bits of reflective tape on my rear fender.  I’m interested in being seen.

 

  • Wear regular clothes.  By that I mean something loose-fitting and comfortable.  Technical fabrics?  sure, but something that will move around a bit when there’s a little breeze will feel good.  It also changes the way drivers treat you.  Sad but true.  Save the lycra for the Tuesday night World Championships…..if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

  • Take the lane (when appropriate).  This one may seem like a contradiction.  I want to use up a good 2 feet inside the white line.  Many riders want to squeeze themselves over as far as they can.  The thinking is that if drivers see how courteous they are, they will give them safe passage.  Wrong.  What they do is try to squeeze by you, running you off the in the process.  They may honk, and they may swear but they are going to have to go around me.  If you’ve followed the first suggestion,  this should only be necessary from time to time.

 

  • Do wear a helmet.  It’s still a free country (at least at the time of this writing), but it just makes good sense.  It may not save you, but if you’re going to play in traffic-helmets today are so light and so comfortable……..just wear one.

What do you think?  Did I miss anything?  Do you have additonal tips?