Race

Gravel Tips For Barry-Roubaix!

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This week, riders from across the Midwest are gearing up for the biggest gravel road race in the country! The Barry-Roubaix starts and finishes in Hastings, Michigan and offers riders 22, 36, 62 and even 100 mile distances to test their spring legs and bounce their bones over some of the famous gravel roads of Barry County.

It’s a race that grew from just a few hundred riders back in 2011 to capping out at 3,500 in 2019. Over the years, the race has tweaked and changed the course and finish, including a move away from Gun Lake and into the town of Hastings. The small village has completely embraced the event, essentially shutting down on race day and even permanently signing the routes to that riders can come to town and ride the course any time of the year.

With all those riders and all those hilly roads, everyone has a few inside tips on how to make the most of your Barry-Roubaix pilgrimage. We put together just a couple of ideas to make sure you’re ready for race day.

Don’t Lose Your Bottle. The first turn off pavement and onto gravel road leads onto the Three Sisters, a series of rolling climbs that help sort out the big waves of riders you’ll find in every category and distance. Some riders fear the rolling elevation; others are more concerned with the washboard and pothole ridden stretch of road that precedes it. It’s very common to see dozens of water bottles get ejected from their cages, leaving riders without water for the rest of the day. Leave one bottle in the cage and start the race with your second water bottle in your back pocket. If you’re bringing three bottles, use both your cages, but keep the third in your pocket, too, where it can’t get shaken and lost. This is one of the few races of the year that we use aluminum cages, which you can bend to hold bottles tighter.

Air Down. Like with fat bike tires, there’s a tendency for riders to run their gravel tires really high, especially on race day. In theory, it makes sense; a harder, rounder tire offers less rolling resistance. The reality is a bit different. The constant contact with potholes, rocks, gravel, and rough roads mean that firm tire is actually just bouncing off things and slowing you down. The exact pressure you run will vary based on your tire being tubed or tubeless, its width, the rim width, and your body weight. As a good rule of thumb, a 35c tubeless tire under a 170 pound rider should be in the 45-50psi range. The lighter the rider, the less tire pressure you need.  

Move Up. Always. With such big waves leaving Hastings at once, you can do a lot of passing just by lining up near the front of your wave and working hard to stay in the top 20 positions. For riders further back, it’s hard to see what is happening at the front, if groups are going clear, or if the peloton is breaking a part. It’s even harder, then, to catch up and bridge those gaps, especially if you have to make that effort repeatedly. If you’re heading out for a result, make it a goal to always have the leader rider or two in sight.

Bring Snacks. Even for the 36 mile, staying properly fueled and hydrated is crucial. Plan on taking in 30-60 grams of carbs per hour of racing, whether that’s by energy gel, a drink mix, or natural foods like bananas or dates. The longer the race, the more you’ll need to plan out just what to eat, when, and even where. Consider putting a timer on your watch for 40-45 minutes as a reminder to eat, or pick specific distances to earmark as snack time. These should be flat, fast sections that will let you sit in the group or sit up and eat. In the hustle and rush of a race, it’s easy to forget to eat, so heading out with a plan can be a big help.

Have Fun. Barry-Roubaix is like the spring version of Iceman. It’s not just a race, it’s an experience. Take time to look up, look around, and appreciate seeing thousands of people on bikes; it’s really a special thing. The post-race party with Founders is always a great chance to meet new riding pals, learn about gravel gear and other bike organizations, and really get the 2019 season started!

Cobbling Together A Classics Bike: Tech and Modifications For Flanders

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It’s the Classics season in Europe, a time of cobblestone roads, crosswinds, and fascinating tweaks to the pros bikes to hand the rough farm roads of Belgium and northern France. We’re taking a look at some of the little adjustments pros make to their normal bikes to make all those miles bouncing over the cobbles and climbing up the hellingen a bit more bearable.

The cobbled classics are in full swing. The first cobble races of the season start at the beginning of March with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Over the next few weeks, races build into a crescendo with smaller semi-Classics, used by pro teams to test their riders and their gears on the roads used in the Monuments that cap off the spring campaign, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. As some of the oldest races on the calendar, the two races have seen plenty of changes, though their identities remain largely unchanged since their inception over 100 years ago. Both send racers of sections of cobblestone, or pave, though each race presents these in different ways.

De Ronde. At just over 100 years old, the Ronde van Vlaanderen features over a dozen small bergs, or climbs, that are still made with cobblestones. Volunteers and local organizations have banded together over the year to protect iconic roads like the Paterberg, the Koppenberg, and the Oude Kwaremont from being resurfaced and to preserve the character of the race. These bergs may not be towering alpine climbs, but their rough surface and short, steep pitches are incredibly taxing on riders’ legs, especially over the massive 260 kilometer course. Many of those climbs are taken twice of even three times throughout the race, with fans sticking to one spot to see riders more often, or racing along dusty farm tracks to catch the race passing elsewhere.

The Paris-Roubaix, known as the ‘Hell of the North’ or the Queen of the Classics, offers a different challenge. It’s route from the northern outskirts of Paris to the small industrial town of Roubaix are almost entirely flat; there’s hardly a climb in over 250 kilometers. Instead, the 29 cobbles secteurs are littered with bigger, rougher, and more jarring stones than those you’ll find at Flanders, and as a result, many riders make more modifications to their bike for this race.

Until the last ten years, most racer made few changes to their bikes for Roubaix.They enlisted what few changes they could to reduce the beating their bodies endure over the stones of both Flanders and Roubaix, often adding a second layer of bar tape, taping their wrists and knuckles, and running as wide a tire as they could fit into their frames. Often, that wasn’t much more than a 23 or 25c tire. The occasional rider would use a cyclocross bike, which offered a way to run  wider tires and more forgiving geometry, but that was rather infrequent,

All of that has changed in the past half decade, with more and more brands designing bikes that offer more vertical compliance, more tire clearance, disc brakes, and a geometry designed to offer the rider a bit more support. These bikes often use a taller head tube, slightly longer wheelbase for more stability, and a carbon layup that allows for more vertical flex in the frame to offer more relieve for the rider. Maybe the biggest difference is the ability to run 25, 28, even 30c tires at lower tire pressures for a smoother ride and more grip. With the prevalence of disc brakes, some riders are even able to stick with their normal aerodynamic, and less forgiving, bikes while still being able to fit a wide 27 or 28c tire. When Matt Hayman won the 2016 Paris-Roubaix, he didn’t do it on Scott’s cobble or gravel-specific frame; he did it on their aero road bike, the Foil.

That said, most teams and riders will hop on their Classics bikes, and most continue to add little tweaks to take that specificity even further. You’ll still see double-wrapped handlebars and taped wrists, but new tech means new ideas, too. Many riders will add satellite shifters to their bars, allowing them to shift not only from the hoods, but also from the tops and from the drops with wired or even wireless buttons.

Another Classics favorite is grip tape, the kind you’d see on a skateboard, added to the inside of water bottle cages. Even those get swapped out; instead of light carbon cages, many teams install regular aluminum cages that can be bent down for a tighter fit to prevent losing bottles.

Gearing also gets tweaked at these races. With the steep, sharp climbs of Flanders offering plenty of fatigue, riders will use a 53/39 crankset paired with an 11-30 or 32 cassette to have a little extra room to shift on the 15, 20, even 25% pitches of the hellingen. Alternatively, there’s not much need for a 39 at Roubaix; instead, riders will put on a 55 or 54t big chainring and run a 46, 48, or 50 small ring, just to give the legs a bit of a break when necessary. Many will never shift off the big ring, and many run a chain catcher adjusted very close to the chain line to make sure they never drop a chain over the rough cobbles.

Maybe the biggest adjustment any rider can make is to the tires. Many riders opt for 27c tubulars, though there have been sightings of 28s and 30c tires this spring and over the past few seasons. Additionally, they run low tire pressure for more comfort, often down to as low as 55 psi, depending on the weight of the rider. Nearly every brand has tried to find the perfect tire for cobbles, which can offer up kilometer after kilometer of rough, sharp rocks and plenty of debris in the gutters, too.

We love seeing all the nerdy, techy adaptations added to bikes this time of year, and if we see anything cool, we’ll share it on our Facebook and Instagram. To see what gravel bikes we’ve got set-up like the pros, stop in and see us!

Two Duby's, Two Series Winners at Short's Brewing Fat Bike Series Finale!

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The winter racing season wrapped up on Saturday with Beard of Zeus, the party/fat bike race that serves as the unofficial start to the spring countdown in northern Michigan.

With over 100 racers, Beard of Zeus was a big event to cap off what has been an extremely fun winter for the City Bike Shop Racing squad. For John and Cindy Duby, it was a full-on winter campaign. The pair took on each of the Series’ events dating way back to January 20’s Fat Chance at Crystal Mountain. Both posted consistent results, but few quite as impressive as Cindy’s four straight wins. Staying perfect was perhaps a bit of a luxury, but she pulled it off on Saturday and picking up all the points possible for the Series and bringing the title home to City Bike Shop!

John relied on consistent and aggressive racing. At Fat Chance, Vasa, and on Saturday, it was our rider glued to the front of the chase group, his rivals holding onto his wheel for as long as they could. He ended up an impressive fourth his category, but 9th overall, showing just how stacked some of the older age groups are this winter.

Just 19 seconds back was Mike Walters, who was able to swap time on the grooming snowmobile for some saddle time this weekend. It’s really great to see such a dedicated Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association advocate throw his hat in the ring and mix it up on the trails he has done so much to bring to life and maintain!

It’s been a great winter, and a casual glance at the ten-day forecast shows that the snow isn’t going anywhere soon! Make the most of it by tuning up your well-ridden fat bike, or renting one to give fat biking a try for the first time. March might actually be the best month for riding, with more sun and warmer temperatures making the trails more accessible than ever. Got questions? Call and let us get you rolling before the snow is gone!

Duby's Impress at Dogman Challenge

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PC. Julie Christiansen

After three races, both John and Cindy Duby are looking golden in the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series.

This past weekend, the Dogman Challenge saw 75 racers take on a two-mile circuit race for a full two hours of tough, snowy racing. Even with warm temperatures and the chance of rain, the course held up exceptionally well, as did our two Master-category crushers, the Dubys! Even with some of the best racers in action, our duo put in strong rides to bring home top results and keep City Bike Shop on the podium.

Cindy picked up another win in the women’s Master’s category, staying perfect this winter in that category and all but assuring herself the Series win with just one more race to go. It wasn’t easy, either; Cindy spend most of the day trying to stay out of the clutches of Amelia Hasenohrl and Kamie Wade, both of whom finished just a few minutes back, even after two hours of tough racing. Cindy will head into the final race of the Series with a comfortable lead, but she’ll want to make a clean sweep of things and make it a perfect four wins in 2019.

John finished second in the Master’s category, a huge haul of points that should see him inch closer to the lead of the Series. He’ll be hard-pressed to leap front Saturday’s winner and the Series leader, Paul Olson, but John has been the revelation of the Series this winter and has put in some top ten finishes since things kicked off in January. John was just three minutes behind the day’s overall winner, Rick Wetherald, and was one of the just 15 riders to put in a sub-10 minute lap!

The final fat bike race of the winter is back home in Traverse City on Saturday, March 2. Beard of Zeus is one of the most fun events of the season, with a short, circuit-style course offering fast racing and plenty of entertainment if you can make it up to watch at Timber Ridge. We’re going to see a ton of City Bike Shop racers jump back in the fray, and after getting a hefty snowstorm Sunday night, we’re going to have plenty of snow and ideal conditions for racing!

Also important to note, proceeds from Beard of Zeus go to Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association, the organization responsible not just for our groomed trails all winter, but for the miles and miles of trails we enjoy all summer long in Traverse City, at the Cadillac Pathway, Glacial Hills, and the new trails at Palmer Woods. Your race this weekend can help give you a place to ride this summer; you can’t beat that!

Registration is open, sign up and say hi to the City Bike Shop racers you line up with at Timber Ridge this Saturday!

Strong Showing at Vasa Fat Bike Race for CBS!

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It was a perfect day for a fat bike race. Not too cold, not too warm, and with the trails groomed to perfection, the sunshine overhead was just the icing on the cake for another glorious edition of the North American Vasa.

Since the Vasa added a fat bike race, it’s consistently offered racers from around the state a rock-solid event that always delivers great organization, a killer course, and professional-level grooming. It’s one the fat bike race is one of the largest categories of the weekend, with well over 100 bikes toeing the line at Timber Ridge.

We were proud to have John and Cindy Duby line up as two big favorites on Saturday after their stellar rides at Fat Chance back in January. If anything, the Vasa course suited them even better than Fat Chance, with Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association’s brilliant singletrack mixed in with a few sections of wider trail that allowed plenty of room to pass. After a blistering start, John was leading the way for CBS, spending the entire race patrolling the top ten overall and well ahead of the bulk of the Master’s competition. He finished off the day 9th out of the whole line-up, and first in the Master’s category, which puts him well ahead in the points series.

Cindy had to pick her way through traffic but put down four consistent laps to win the Women’s Masters and put herself on perfect points after two of four total Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series races.

The Duby’s are looking solid of the Series, and Vince Mack has been just as steady. He finished in the top 30 overall and 16th in Master’s and is building towards a top ten in the Series if he can put together a strong ride at the Dogman Challenge on February 23 and Beard of Zeus on March 2.

Have you given fat bike racing a try? Stop by and we’ll give you pointer on racing, preparing, dressing, and fueling for winter’s most enjoyable sport!